A vessel with advanced stealth and optical camouflage hid itself from the prying eyes of humans and machines.
The hidden vessel looked like a small, hackneyed tanker, but the interior couldn’t be further from that.
Save for the container meant to transport people, the shape of the vessel was strange.
It gave off an alien feel, as though it was thoroughly devoid of anything from earth, be it in its design or in the feel of its material.
The world that owned the technology didn’t have seas, so the result was a strange mismatch where they faked Earth’s tanker and floated it on Earth’s seas.
Perhaps they found it strange as well.
Because the main personnel were all gathered on the bridge.
To be more precise, they were gathered at a place that should be the bridge.
But with steering equipments and probing equipments different from any ship of Earth, the way they piloted and guarded the ship while armed and dressed in uniform gave off the impression of a battleship instead.
“…Suspicious,” muttered the man standing in front of the captain’s seat.
This big man with bulging muscles and slightly darker skin was Omega 1 AKA Joyce.
In the face of the reports coming from the various areas in the battlefield and the images projected on the screens, a feeling akin to the back of his neck being burned attacked him.
“Is there a problem, Captain?” Asked his red-haired aide from beside him.
Omega 2 AKA Cherry
She didn’t find anything amiss about the reports coming from the field.
Alpha Team, which was playing the role of bait, was showing signs of defeat as expected.
They’ve been repeatedly requesting for reinforcements, but there was little reason to save them.
So long as the other teams were still active, there was no reason to have Alpha Team withdraw.
Although they’ve essentially abandoned them, they’d already predicted that it would come to this.
Of course, it wasn’t as though they wanted to be rid of Alpha Team, but it wasn’t a big deal if they lost any one of them either.
Beta Team entered through the hole in the barrier that their spy had prepared, and they’ve also successfully installed the skill inhibitors and completed their sponsor’s request.
They were scattered all over the fields, so they’d lost some of their forces, but their casualties amounted to only 10%.
They’ve also succeeded in keeping the teachers and the special class in various places in check, and they’ve also captured some others outside those.
Delta stirred things up, but unfortunately happened into Frire, and were wiped out, but Gamma was still in standby, and were presently waiting for Captain Ronan’s orders.
Sometime during the operation, however, contact with their spy, Aria Banslet, was lost.
“It is unlikely for Omega 3 AKA Lieutenant Banslet to reveal our location. Even if she’s been caught, she’s not the sort of person to tattle us out. And besides, she doesn’t know how we’re transporting our people or the route we’re taking,” Cherry said.
The moment they lost contact with her, they considered the possibility that she’s been caught.
She was a spy, though, so they’d already taken measures to protect themselves in case her identity was compromised.
“I know… But that’s not the problem,” Joyce said.
Something was off, but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what.
Things weren’t going perfectly well for them, and from the bigger perspective, victory or defeat was yet to be decided, but…
“Are you perhaps worried that we’re taking more time than expected?” Cherry asked.
A clear problem that they had right now was that their operation still hadn’t ended.
Although they were indeed carrying out their operation in such a vast area, there was still no denying that more than 5 hours has elapsed.
Perhaps that much time wasn’t too bad in a battle between soldiers, but it was certainly too much just to suppress some students.
“Well, that’s definitely a problem. Who would’ve thought that the defending forces would immediately hide themselves and resort to ambushes?” Joyce said.
“It’s likely that’s just how it ended up being,” Cherry said.
The students were much more scattered than they’d expected, so they couldn’t find them.
And then the special students that they needed to secure no matter what gathered together and fought back.
They’d predicted that everyone would gather in an emergency, but things turned out differently.
“Apparently, their lack of communication during an emergency worked against us…” Joyce said.
Because of that the normal students scattered and hid themselves in the vast fields, and the special class students that they wanted to make hostages of gathered together and gave Beta a hard time.
“Captain, if I may offer my opinion as your aide, I believe we should retreat here. Being greedy and incurring casualties would be foolish, to say the least,” Cherry said.
“I know, but… Retreating in a situation like this will be a hindrance to our goals in the future.”
Had this been a normal battle, he would’ve already given the order to retreat.
The more time they took, the worse their chances of victory became with their inferior numbers.
But this was the first mission of the Gaen Volunteer Army that gathered to appeal to the world.
Perhaps just the achievement of having attacked Kutoria would be enough, but it would be too shameful to be known as an army that failed to properly suppress some students.
If word were to get out that they couldn’t even defeat normal people despite being warriors, any credibility to their principles and position would immediately hit rock bottom.
“Such a thing happening would be no different from us losing. No one will listen to a group that can’t even defeat a group of non-combatants. They won’t listen, and they won’t expect anything from us either…” Joyce said.
Although that was a perspective born from formerly being associated with Garesto’s military, it was because of that that he couldn’t afford to move even Gamma Team that had the mission of supporting other teams.
With the total number of students suppressed too low, it was difficult to support the other teams and destroy the campus.
The other squads have already been discovered by the defending forces, and now that beta team was scattered, there was a chance that they picked out one after another.
Unlike Alpha, Beta was made up of personnel with above average abilities, and it was also the biggest squad, so as much as possible, the volunteer army did not want to lose them.
Moreover, Gamma was also smaller, so they couldn’t serve as reinforcements to the much bigger Beta.
Besides, from the sound of the voices they were picking up, Beta’s morale was still up.
If he were to retreat here, there was also a chance that he might lose the support from inside the volunteer army.
“I get what you’re saying, but I knew all that already. The problem I’m talking about is something else. It’s not just a feeling, but if you line things up, this whole situation reeks as though everything has been arranged by someone,” Joyce said.
“Arranged? Now that you mention it, the situation does indeed make it hard for us to make a decision,” Cherry said.
“I don’t like this feeling. If I’m remembering right, I’ve felt this before already…” Joyce said.
For some reason, he could feel invisible hands and eyes above his head, as though he were a pawn in a war simulation program.
The situation of the battlefield was just too balanced, as though everything had been arranged to stall them.
“…Right, I remember now! I had a similar feeling when I fought against General Ortis in a mock battle before. It’s the exact same atmosphere, the kind that feels like I’m dancing on someone else’s hand! But just what could possibly…”
He was finally able to put into words the artificiality of the situation.
─────Oh? This guy is pretty sharp, or at least that’s what I’d like to say, but he’s too late.
But the moment he was finally able to understand what that uncomfortable feeling was, a mysterious, indiscernible voice suddenly resounded in an eerie manner.
At the same time, someone’s pained voice also resounded, and everyone was able to grasp its location.
『…Hmm, I see you’ve automated a lot of the jobs around here. No wonder the crew is so relaxed, and I only met three guys on patrol on the way here too. 』
“Ah, gah, gu… Cap, tain!”
In front of a terminal in the bridge was a black mist in the shape of a man, holding and constricting a soldier by his neck with what appeared to be that black mist’s arm.
The man cried out in pain, and reached out his hand as though he was asking for help.
“Who are you!?”
The commander asked with an angry yell as he and his men shot at the black mist with their light bullets.
It was a reflexive response to a mysterious existence that has attacked one of his men.
Due to his actions that prioritized the removal of the enemy rather than the wellbeing of the terminals or the gauges──
──the situation ended with his man crying, and then the next bullet never came.
The black mist had used his own man as a shield to block against their barrage of light bullets.
Although the soldier did have a barrier from his terminal, the attacks were on the level of an exoskeleton’s attacks.
In the face of such power, the terminal’s barrier was nothing more than a thin plate, and before long, the extended hand limply fell.
『Such a cruel thing to do to one of your own men.』
In one instant, the man was covered in holes, and fresh blood spilled to the ground.
He was still alive, but he needed immediate treatment.
Unfortunately for him, the black mist acted like it wasn’t any of his business and just fiddled with the terminal in front of him.
Joyce reined his soldiers in with his hand, and asked the black mist calmly.
“You’re that guy that appeared four months ago during the bombing incident. What business do you have with us? And what are you doing?”
『Don’t ask more than one question at a time; otherwise, I won’t know where to start. Oh, right. I’m copying your data. You have to do this ahead of time, or it’ll be troublesome later. 』
“What!?” Joyce said.
“A-Ahh! Captain, he’s telling the truth! Everything is being copied! …It’s no good! I can’t stop it! This terminal’s functions aren’t working at all! Why is this happening!?”
A female operator said from another terminal.
She was desperately fiddling with the terminal to stop the data from being copied, but it was in vain.
At that, the red-haired aide quickly made a decision and gave an order.
“All personnel, prepare for hand-to-hand combat! Destroy whatever you need to stop him!”
Out of consideration for the ship, they switched to knife-type weapons, and then ran toward the black mist.
But the black mist didn’t panic even a little as he threw Mike at them.
“Gu, are you alright, Mike!?”
“Uu, ah, ahh…”
『Oh, right, you should know, but… Earth’s seas are made up of salt water. So, it’s probably gonna really hurt with all those wounds.』
While the man at the head of the group attacking had caught mike and was checking his condition, the other soldiers behind him passed him and approached the black mist.
When the black mist turned to them, they saw the white mask for the first time, but it suddenly said something out of the blue.
“What are you talking a— !?”
Joyce couldn’t understand what the mask was getting at, but in the next moment, he swallowed his breath.
Didn’t that mask say that he needed to copy the data first or it’ll be troublesome?
And then he suddenly started talking about the wounds hurting in salt water too.
At that, a certain possibility suddenly flashed through his mind.
“All personnel, activate your armor! Abandon ship! Hurry!!”
“What are you saying, Captain!?”
『Good read────Unfortunately, this is also too late.』
The black mist that became blurrier the more one looked at it.
Suddenly, the part of it that resembled an arm, was covered in light, and then it swung down.
Various colors mixed as a flash burned their sight, and in the next moment, the ship was cut all the way from the bridge to the bottom.
The surface was so smooth it was as though the ship had always been cut, but regardless how pretty the cut was, salt water immediately came pouring in, and the newly derelict ship quickly sank.
With a thunderous roar, the otherworldly ship sank into the sea and became scrap.