Despite being man-made, even this forest would turn a different face once the sun sets. After all, the dark of the night could only grow deeper under the shade of the trees, making the forest even scarier and more confusing for people. If anyone were to enter it without any preparation, he would surely lose sight of the way back and be attacked by raybeasts.
But in truth, it was the forest that was covered in darkness, and the trees the victims – as giant bodies that reached toward the sky took even the light of the moon and the stars away from them.
It was not just one or two giant as well, but enough to cover the forest as they strutted about.
These were not raybeasts, as shown by the lack of glowing organs that all raybeasts possessed. The only lights that could be seen here were the flashes of light from the ongoing battle.
With a roaring sound, the giant bodies crashed. With a high-pitched sound, they crashed into the surrounding trees.
Their feet – which came in all manners of forms from multiple legs to wheels to caterpillar tracks – left a heavy mark on the land.
Steel smashed against steel. Pieces of metal scattered about. Muzzles shot out fire. Iron trampled underfoot.
Already, the word nature had lost all meaning here, and this squabble between machines had transformed a part of the forest into a wasteland.
“…Which movie company is shooting this?” Shinichi asked.
It was curious if he was joking or not.
They watched the battle between giants from an elevated area away from the battlefield.
The girls with him weren’t surprised to see the machines, but Shinichi was confused.
“They’re not shooting a film, Nakamura-san. Although such requests have been applied for as soon as the Floating City (Kutoria) was constructed, as far as I know, none have been entertained.”
“Ari-chan, he’s just joking. You don’t have to answer him so seriously.”
“…Actually, I was 10% serious. I’ve seen a lot of robots since coming here, but never something like those.”
The reason he thought that someone might have been shooting a film here was because of those giant machines.
The moon and the stars did provide light, but it was still nighttime. Moreover, they were quite some distance away, so it was hard to make out the details.
Anyhow, since they weren’t shooting a film and the girls weren’t surprised, then these giant machines were probably products of the technology class.
Moreover, given their large figures that were bigger than the trees, they were probably made by the upper classes.
This area should be the designated area for the B Class of the Technology Class.
That’s why it was so strange.
If these were creations of the students from the same class, then they should be more or less similar to each other.
In fact, Shinichi has seen the life-sized versions of these during his tour of the academy on his first day, but it was his first time seeing them so big.
There were many multi-legged guard robots in Kutoria who looked just like these.
But no matter how he looked at it, the robot they were surrounding was clearly human-shaped.
Moreover, it was flashy just like a super robot.
“…This suspiciously looks like a reenactment of a main character’s robot surrounded by a group of hostile mass-produced robots.”
That was something that didn’t appear in Kutoria’s or in Garesto’s materials.
As for why, the two girls beside him gave a brief explanation.
“The trend of pursuing human-type robots is purely Earth culture. That’s why the authorities had humanoid heavy machineries created when the two worlds interacted for the first time. You know since it was popular and all. At the academy, I hear that the kids from Japan like to make humanoid ones too, but it’s my first time seeing one that big. As far as Garesto is concerned, though, it’s a lot cheaper to just hire someone rather than to go out of their way to make a humanoid robot,” Myuhi said.
“Scouting, investigating, direct combat, security, from civil works to cleaning, there are all kinds of robots, but they are all given shape according to their purpose. There’s also the cost issue, but either way, explicitly going out of one’s way just to make a robot humanoid doesn’t make much sense,” Aristel said.
Other than situations where it’s too dangerous for people to enter and the robots have to be humanoids, humanoid robots aren’t needed.
“Exoskeletons became popular first, so there was never much of a need for life-sized humanoids. Most situations could also be dealt with just by strengthening the exterior,” Myuhi said.
“At that size, it is indeed easier to imagine how a machine would move when made humanoid, but numbers are needed when it comes to mobile weapons, so it still loses out on the cost aspect. The money and labor spent to build just one unit could probably build more than 10 guard robots,” Aristel said.
Although it was technologically feasible to build giant humanoid robots, they were a lot harder to build than the mobile weapon groups that were currently in trend.
The more economical option that would result in more units for the same price and labor was simply too attractive.
Another reason was because the dream for humanoid robots that could be found in Earth culture didn’t exist in Garesto.
“I get why I haven’t seen any until now, but… In that case, what is that?”
But despite what the girls were saying, there was clearly a giant humanoid robot in front of them.
The two girls wryly smiled.
“I’m just guessing, but… There are a lot of kids in the Technology Class who want to do things their own way. But they’re all studying the same technology, so they split off into their respective specialties and do their best there,” Myuhi said.
“Among the people good at researching on their own are those with a unique subject. I’m not quite sure how to put it, but… Basically, from time to time, you get ones who take their hobbies a bit too far,” Aristel said.
“…Are there people who’ve built giant humanoid robots just because?”
Garesto’s more advanced technology brought both hope and despair to the scientists of Earth.
The things that were impossible then could be possible now with the new otherworldly technologies.
Hence, what appeared before them now was not something that was pursued out of need or practicality, but purely the result of a man’s romance.
“Is it really okay for the Technology Class to do something like that?” Shinichi asked.
“It would depend on the person’s grades. Even if it’s someone from the B Class, it’s probably someone high-ranked,” Myuhi said.
“That’s probably it considering how the academy doesn’t normally give permission to build something that big,” Aristel said.
While the girls were explaining with a wry smile, the boy alone looked at that robot with an indescribable but complicated expression.
“Anyway, we can’t really tell much from here. There’s a chance that their afternoon exam has been prolonged, but we’re too close to their area,” Aristel said.
“Normally, an examiner would already be warning us to keep our distance. And honestly to me it just looks like that humanoid robot is being lynched,” Myuhi said.
The girls became wary as they realized that something was off.
What they didn’t know was that the man between them had ordered 1 – D to do something similar just this morning.
The person in question was acting like the topic had nothing to him whatsoever, though; he didn’t react even the slightest.
“…There’s no way anyone could warn us when they’re like that.”
—He had already seen through the abnormality of the situation.
“I can’t see too clearly, but isn’t there something like a cage past the area where they’re fighting?”
“No way… ‘Zoom'”
As Myuhi said that, she used the Night Vision skill and the Far-sight skill.
Past the battlefield of the steel giants was an iron-barred cube in which several adults were imprisoned.
“Those are the examiners for the technology class! But why?” Aristel said.
“…I don’t know what’s going on, but that’s clearly a foul. If they’ve gone this far, then obviously this isn’t just some kids’ squabble,” Myuhi said.
“Am I only the one here who thinks it wasn’t just some kids quarreling the moment giant robots entered the fray?”
So that’s why these two were so calm, Shinichi wryly smiled. It was the difference between the common sense of their respective cultures.
Because of Shinichi’s former modern Japanese common sense, he couldn’t immediately come to terms with this reality.
“Ruona-san, you help the teachers. I’ll stop the students. Exoskeleton (Armor), Activate!”
“Yeah, that’s good and all, but… There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now, do you mind?” Myuhi inadvertently asked the girl who’d immediately put on her exoskeleton and flew up.
“I don’t mind, but please hurry.”
She had no problem with their division of work. The same was true for Myuhi.
When considering the ‘perspective’ of the students, Aristel was clearly the more popular one.
There was no better candidate to serve as an arbitrator than her, and even if the other party refused to cooperate, she could simply suppress them with brute force.
That’s why what Myuhi wanted to ask about wasn’t anything related to that but the circumstances that led to them going here in the first place.
“Don’t you have anything to say about being tricked by Shinichi to come here?”
“…Is this really the time for that?” Shinichi asked.
She was so flustered and happy in his arms, and yet now she’s so calm.
Myuhi found that hard to swallow, but Aristel readily replied to her.
“Ah, so that’s what you wanted to know. It’s true that I’m frustrated for being toyed with again, but at the same time, didn’t he bring me here because he believed that I could do something about this situation? Compared to the honor his trust brings, my frustrations aren’t anything to speak of.”
After saying that, Aristel smiled happily and flew away.
It was a small armor that flew toward the battlefield of machine giants that already resembled an explosion crater, but not a hint of eagerness or carelessness could be seen in her.
Considering what they’ve seen so far from the machines and the difference in height, it was doubtful if those machines could even do anything against her exoskeleton.
That was also why Aristel wasn’t the slightest bit anxious.
But despite that Shinichi and Myuhi were speechless.
“I know I was the one who brought her here, but is she going to be okay? I feel like she’s going to be tricked and taken advantage of by some outrageous guy in the future,” Shinichi said.
The fact that Aristel appraised his actions the way she did showed that she was dangerously pure and good-natured for her standing.
She was too positive toward the people she’s acknowledged.
Because of that Shinichi was seriously concerned about her future.
“Future? Why wait? There’s one right here… Activate.”
Myuhi wryly smiled, then after telling him off, she put on her exoskeleton and flew, but when she looked down at him midair, her expression turned pleasant.
“But I understand how she feels. It feels great to have someone you acknowledge trust you. I’m off!”
After saying that, she too flew away, but in her case, she avoided the battlefield.
Shinichi made a bitter expression as he saw her off and groaned.
“That Hina… She wasn’t being too obvious about it, but she was clearly trying to make me guilty.”
Shinichi muttered out some begrudging words but they reached no one and just faded meaninglessly.
It was true that he trusted Aristel, but it wasn’t something so amazing that she should think of it as an honor.
He’d brought her here partly because she was qualified and partly because he wanted to tease her.
Really, he was such a bad man. No one was here, so he laughed his heart away.
“I don’t have any intentions of becoming a pure-hearted young boy, but it sure sucks when I realize just how black-hearted I am. It’s pure black.”
Even though he was raised to become the exact opposite of that…
“…Well, whatever. I should get going too.”
He shook his head to snap himself out of his self-abasement. Just watching from the sides without doing anything would leave him guilty.
He was the one who brought those girls here, so at the very least, he too should be involved.
Not sparing a moment to ponder who it was that planted such a troublesome mindset into him, he turned his attention to the humanoid.
Just a moment ago fire shot out from the steel muzzle and sent that giant flying. Shinichi looked at it and smiled.
“Who would’ve thought that I’d still have such emotions left in me!”
Somewhat happy, Shinichi jumped off that elevated area and vanished into the dark forest.
Just before Aristel reached her destination, she saw the humanoid robot sent flying, causing her to stop.
The other robots bombarded it, but it didn’t receive much damage since there was a distance of over 200 meters between them and it was still in midair.
It tried to get up as soon as it fell to the ground, but it struggled.
Aristel judged that the pilot must be safe, so she called out via an open channel.
She didn’t know which side was the assailant here, after all.
“The guard robots over there and your pilots, stop! I am Aristel F. Padyuel, class representative of special class 3 – A. You are to cease all hostilities and are to show yourselves to me. You are presently under suspicion of imprisoning the teachers and engaging in combat for private reasons!”
Aristel commanded firmly from above the giant steel machines.
From a distance, these robots all looked the same, but now that she was close enough, they could be distinguished from each other.
They were all land-type machines, though their manner of movement varied from multi-legged to caterpillar tracks to hover.
They did have one thing in common, though. That thing that allowed them to lay waste to the woods here, that thing that could be called the real body of the robot guards that looked just like an armored vehicle with a gun battery attached.
Were Shinichi here, he would have probably said this, “You’re not supposed to put legs on a tank!”
With a yell, the gun turret of the legged-tank guard robot shot out, but it was not bullets that it shot out. Just as it moved with photons, it too shot out photons.
The energy bullets sprayed toward the sky and split the air.
Aristel was shocked to see them attack so suddenly without any warning, but she didn’t move, as the calculations of the exoskeleton showed that none of the energy bullets could hit her.
Moreover, what she was shocked about wasn’t the fact that they attacked her, but the fact that they fired at her.
“A small platoon of guard robots is trying to shoot down an exoskeleton? That’s ridiculous…”
Seeing them take such mindless actions, she couldn’t help but become suspicious.
Even the guard robots developed at this academy didn’t have the capabilities to fight against an exoskeleton.
In the first place, these guard robots were designed to defend against raybeasts.
They were outfitted with only the bare minimum needed to deal with human opponents; hence, they didn’t stand a chance against exoskeletons even if it were only a single unit.
If they were to barrage her, then that might still not be a bad idea, but the guns from 10 units just isn’t enough to shoot enough bullets to cause anything that could even resemble a barrage.
No matter how unlearned the Technology Class students may be when it comes to combat, they should still understand that much.
“Calm down! Do you realize who you’re fighting!?”
“Don’t get in our way! We’re the ones in the right!”
“How dare you mock me! How dare you!”
“A trash like you that just plays around! I’ll blow you away!!”
Although she wasn’t so optimistic as to believe that anything would be solved if she just gave her name, she didn’t expect that these people wouldn’t listen to her even a little.
At this point, Aristel judged that the pilots have lost their sanity and stopped attempting to negotiate.
“We’re not getting anywhere like this… Search for life signals. Where are the pilots!?”
The small display that took on the form of goggles on her eyes searched the area for life.
These machines could be operated either directly from inside the cockpit or remotely, but all the silhouettes that appeared were inside the guard robots.
“So they really were being piloted from inside. In that case!”
Amidst the relentless crossfire of energy bullets, she dropped down from the sky.
The uncoordinated rain of energy bullets was full of openings to her, and with the predictive ability and mobility of her exoskeleton, the guard robots were not an opponent on her level.
She left a flash of lightning in her trail as she fluttered freely in the sky, and the guard robots were clueless to deal with her.
Although in the first place, their shooting was so messy it was hard to tell if they could even see her.
“With shooting like that… Even unmanned units are better off!”
It was strange how bad their aim was, but it wasn’t the time to think about such things.
In her descent, all sorts of weapons flashed through her mind. From those, she picked one, and a sniper rifle with a long gun barrel and a large muzzle appeared in her hands.
With the scope displayed in her goggles, she set her sights and pulled the trigger.
Several shots were fired, and when the bullets reached the guns of the robot guards, it sealed them.
“Ku, I can’t move!”
“Fire, fire, fire!!””UOOO!?”
“We’re the diligent ones, so why!!?”
“I won’t forgive you, you bastard! I won’t!!”
“…Just what in the world happened here?”
It took her less than 5 seconds to render the guard robots useless, so it should come as no surprise that she couldn’t understand the pilots in that time.
But even then, the pilots have been acting strange from the start. They didn’t have the slightest bit of composure to them.
They didn’t even remember the obvious functions and special traits of the machines they themselves built.
But in any case, since the pilots were currently incapable of reason, they should immediately be bound.
Aristel dragged them out one after another and put them to sleep, then she bound them using a binding skill.
“Fuu, there’s just 10 of them, but it sure is a lot of work when I have to do everything myself.”
Just to be safe, she took away their fosters. After that Aristel rested for a short while, then she looked down at the Technology Class students bound by energy rope.
This whole thing probably started with a conflict between the students, and then things got out of hand.
But considering the imprisoned teachers, the student with the unique robot being attacked, and the abnormality of the pilots, this was not a situation that could be kept under wraps.
“Why did something like this…?”
“Ring, ring… You have a call. You have a call…”
“…Can you not mess around when a person is trying to think seriously?”
Just as she was about to ruminate, someone called out to her in such a ridiculous manner that she couldn’t help but snap back harshly.
When she opened the communication line, the face that appeared was just as she expected.
“Don’t get mad. I waited until the sounds stopped, you know!”
When Aristel saw that ever smiling fox girl with moving ears, she sighed.
If she understood that much, then she should have been more considerate with her call.
“I’m not mad. I’m just fed up.”
“Wow, Ari-chan, you’ve been so honest lately. I’m so happy!”
Just what was so amusing about her telling her exactly how she felt?
But Myuhi’s smile only deepened causing the tension to become even lower and Aristel’s head to hurt.
With Myuhi like this, it actually made Aristel’s impression of Shinichi who could push her around quite a bit higher.
“Sigh, enough. More importantly, how’s your side? Did you find out anything from the teachers?”
“Ahh, about that… I did find the cage and the teachers, but…”
Aristel dropped the topic and went to the more important matter, but Myuhi seemed reluctant.
“Did… something happen?”
“Looks like something happened there too. But then again just the fact they kept on fighting despite you showing up is plenty weird already.”
Myuhi too understood how strange it was for them not to fear the name of Aristel and to fight an exoskeleton.
She was still smiling, but the playfulness from before was already gone.
“The teachers weren’t being restrained.”
“They weren’t restrained? But they were clearly inside the cage!”
“Yeah, but in their case, they weren’t restrained, but—“
Aristel was sure that she saw them in that cage. Myuhi wryly smiled and turned the monitor from her face to show the cage built to restrain criminals.
As soon as she did—
“How dare they make fun of their teacher!”
“As if I could teach these classes!!”
“Raise my salary! I’ll kill you damn it!!”
—The face of the angry adults were fully shown on screen.
And their loud yells caused Aristel to cry out an adorable scream.
Normally, Myuhi would tease her for that, but this time she really was just showing her the state of the teachers.
“—The way I see it, they’re basically in quarantine, no?”
Aristel didn’t say anything, but she acknowledged the oddity of the situation.
She knew they were struggling when she saw them from afar, but she thought they were just trying to escape.
Up close though, she finally realized that they were just angry.
Not one person inside the cage was calm. The people there were like beasts howling, and there were even some who wrestled with each other.
Given that, the cage was less a means to restrain the teachers and more a means to quarantine them.
“The students over here are in the same state.”
“So I guess the one who did all this was the student being attacked?”
“Most likely. Otherwise those students wouldn’t have ended up with that kind of mentality.
After showing that they shared the same opinion, they turned toward the same direction and looked at the giant machine that had finally picked itself back up.
There was some distance between them, but fortunately, he wasn’t going crazy like the others.
Because of that they decided to talk to the pilot.
“Woahh!!! Are you for real!!?”
An excited voice resounded loud and clear that left the two girls dumbfounded.
They’ve never seen him that excited so they weren’t sure, but it sure felt like his voice.
When they thought of how fervent he sounded, they couldn’t help but imagine the worst.
With the cause of the teachers and students going berserk unknown, they couldn’t say for sure that Shinichi wouldn’t be affected.
Perhaps he too has been entranced by whatever it was that caused all of this.
The two girls inadvertently glanced at each other, and then in the next moment, ran off in a panic.
“G-Get yourself together, Icchi!!”
“Shinichi-san, please stay calm!!”