She had seen him fight only twice.
But that was enough to leave a powerful impression that fascinated her to no end.
If it was him, how would he respond to this situation, where even their one advantage, their numbers, was gradually decreasing?
“What’s the matter, ladies!? Where did all that power from before go!?” The female soldier said.
“KU!” Aristel said.
Aristel couldn’t even think in peace before the hammer-wielding female soldier returned and attacked her, forcing her to turn her attention.
Her characteristic dark red visor was all smashed up, so her face could be seen now, but her attack was as loud as ever.
She was the woman responsible for bringing the enemy team back together, and the impact from her attack went past the exoskeleton and reached the very core of Aristel’s body. Even the desert itself seemed to shake.
“If we just had more people!” Aristel cried out as she parried that hammer.
Even if the enemy was stronger than them individually and had better equipment, if they just had more people, then they would still be able to suppress them.
Even without such overwhelming numbers, there would at least be a way to win.
But that was ‘something they didn’t have now’.
───But is that really true？
That question flashed through her mind, and she blanked out for a moment that allowed the enemy’s hammer to hit her directly.
As she flew into the air, she landed back on the surface, and sank into the desert sands.
The impact wasn’t as bad as it looked because of that, but the sand tangled itself around her, preventing her immediately getting back up on her feet.
As a shadow was cast on her, Aristel looked up in surprise.
“You’re not supposed to be thinking in the middle of a battle, you stupid girl!”
And while she was still on the ground, the female soldier raised her hammer and leaped at her.
Aristel immediately pulled her arms back up and crossed them despite the sand to protect her face.
“AH, GU, UUuu!!”
But the attack released by the female soldier went past the barrier on her gauntlets and buried her deeper into the sand, leaving her hands hands numb and in pain.
“Ari-chan!” Myuhi said.
“Aristel-sama!” Her servants said.
“Sorry, kids, but I’m gonna have Padyuel continue sinking!” The female soldier said.
The students tried to help Aristel, but the other soldiers wouldn’t let them.
And Myuhi was the only one who could face the soldiers directly now, so she couldn’t leave her post.
“As expected of someone who’s inherited the blood of the Ten Great Nobles. Your reactions are pretty good, but my Strength is greater!!”
As the female soldier smashed her hammer into Aristel’s arms, her swings gradually grew stronger, and Aristel’s arms cried even louder.
Aristel’s Strength was A Rank, but after clashing with this enemy, she knew that the female soldier’s Strength was AA+.
When the boosts from the skills and her exoskeletons were added on top of that, the difference between them became even more pronounced.
The sand helped mitigate some of the impact, but it was a trivial difference.
To add insult to injury, Aristel’s position couldn’t be any worse. Even hell freezing over was more likely than her victory.
“Obediently surrender now while your pretty face is still unblemished. You’ll make for good negotiating material, so I’ll guarantee you everyone’s lives,” the female soldier said.
There was an implication there that she should’ve realized the difference in their strength already.
But although Aristel’s face was twisted in pain, her powerful fighting spirit remained.
In fact, the moment that weapon was moved out of the way, something clicked in her, and her fighting will within her blazed so brilliantly it was doubtful that she’d even heard the enemy’s demand for surrender.
“──can’t lose!” Aristel said.
“What?” The female soldier said.
“I can’t lose,” Aristel said.
With her arms still crossed, Aristel pushed back with all of her strength against the hammer, but it was a vain struggle.
The female soldier thought something was off, but just to be safe, she pushed down harder.
“Don’t you understand!? you can’t win in a contest of power!”
“He asked me for help! He entrusted me with a mission! That’s why!”
Aristel hadn’t been listening to the terrorist from the start.
But this was different now. She wasn’t ignoring her intentionally anymore, her consciousness had completely moved on to something else altogether.
When Aristel was slammed into the ground, and she saw herself losing, in that moment, she realized why she didn’t want to lose, and that reason filled her mind and her heart.
“A pampered little girl dares!?”
“That person trusted me! He put his trust in me! Shinichi-san asked me to! That’s why I can’t possibly lose!”
It wasn’t just because he’d saved her and reminded her of what she admired. No.
This young maiden, Aristel, was just elated that he’d entrusted her with a mission.
It didn’t matter what kind of thoughts or strategies were behind that decision – because that was all that she wanted.
She also thought proudly of that moment when he matter-of-factly praised the efforts that she’d been making as though they were a given.
That’s why she wanted to respond to his expectations. She didn’t want to betray him. She didn’t want to disappoint him.
She swore that with feelings akin to righteous indignation, but the feeling that the female soldier perceived from that passionate voice and look was something else altogether.
“…Y-You can’t seriously be fighting for a man, are you? A person who has entered the Ten Great Nobles is fighting because she’s in love!?”
“No! You dolt, don’t tell her that!”
Normally, it wouldn’t be wrong to call her feelings out for what it was – love.
But when Myuhi heard the female soldier say that through her heightened hearing, she paled for a different reason.
But as for Aristel, the expression that the female soldier used to describe her feelings was simply too unexpected to her, and a strange vacuum thumped within her chest.
With who? That gentleman? With him?
A figure flashed through her mind.
All those images of him ever since they met ‘by coincidence’ rushed through her mind with those words.
They rushed within her heart and her mind, and then rushed out in a tempest.
In the few times that they were together, there was a warmth in her chest.
When she saw him being intimate with other girls, that warmth turned into a feeling of discomfort.
Until this moment, this maiden truly did not understand what those feelings were.
“And isn’t that an Earthling name!? The nobles would be aghast if they got word of this! You’re a disgrace to Garesto!”
“────Ahh, so that’s what it was.”
That’s why when all those memories flashed through her mind and she was finally able to put a name to those feelings, her cheeks loosened, and a cheerful voice left her lips, as though she was filled with 10,000 feelings.
“Damn it! Can you listen to what I’m saying alre— What!?”
And then the female soldier found herself shocked for a different reason.
The hammer that she’d pushed into Aristel’s crossed arms was being pushed back.
“All the more reason I can’t afford to lose then! Because the women of Padyuel must never betray the expectations of the man they love!”
That’s the one thing that we must never do───right, mother?
As a radiant smile appeared on the maiden, for the first time, she was finally able to see the female soldier clearly.
In the face of that out-of-place smile, the female soldier could only make a stupid face.
And then that peaceful smile turned into a snicker.
“GAH!?” The female soldier cried.
“We’re not supposed to look elsewhere while in combat, right?” Aristel said.
A kick strong enough to give rise to the sand landed right into the belly of the female soldier.
As Aristel escaped from the sand, she floated near the surface and gazed at the female soldier.
Surprise was written on the soldier’s face, for
Given that the students couldn’t use skills, her armor should have been akin to a steel wall, and yet Aristel managed to make it crack.
The female soldier and her subordinates believed in their own superiority so firmly that when they saw that impossible sight, agitation washed over all of them.
“What the heck was that!?” The female soldier said.
“Assistant Commandant!!” A soldier said.
“That wasn’t the power of an A Rank just now! What did you do!?” The female soldier said.
Though the enemies asked that question with trepidation, Aristel smiled gracefully.
“For a moment, I’d lost myself in the situation and misunderstood. If I can’t win in a contest of raw strength, then I can just not fight. Sometimes being ‘defiant’ like that is necessary.
That lax attitude and her emphasis of ‘him’ struck a nerve with the female soldier.
“Padyuel! How dare you betray Garesto and wag your tail for Earth!”
“P-Please wait a moment, Assistant Commandant!”
Her comrades seemed to have picked up on something, but the female soldier wasn’t hearing any of it.
She swung her hammer at Aristel once again, but───it shattered.
By a foolishly simple right straight.
Eyes opened wide in surprise, she saw that Aristel’s arms were clad in a golden brilliance, and the female soldier became even more astounded.
“P-Photon? No, it couldn’t be!? Overburst!? Impossible! How could a student possibly know how to use it!?”
The female soldier was in disbelief.
But Aristel only smiled fearlessly as her wings spread themselves.
“My Strength might be one step behind yours, but my Mind stat is definitely number one! Since that’s the case, I can just draw as many photons as I can to forcefully increase my power!”
True enough, in the next moment, the female soldier was sent flying into the sky.
The attack came so quickly that she didn’t even have time to be surprised. Only the warnings of her sensors and her eyes were able to keep up with Aristel.
A sharp acceleration born from releasing massive amounts of photons.
And riding on that was a left straight that broke the handle of her giant hammer, penetrating her chest and delivering her by air straight back to her comrades.
She didn’t appear to be breaking her own fall, so her comrades stepped in to receive her.
Her chest armor was broken, and the cracked armor on her abdomen had been completely shattered by the aftershock.
No external wounds could be seen on her, but the impact had left her unable to stand on her own.
With her exoskeleton too far gone to function, it was a complete defeat.
And it was to a child’s fist, nonetheless, one whose Strength was inferior to hers.
As the female soldier was treated with a healing skill, she looked at the girl that had sent her flying with shock.