The soldiers in exoskeleton floated in the sky as they watched on in shock.
Joyce had given the order to abandon ship too suddenly, but his subordinates were indeed former soldiers, and despite the abruptness of his order, ‘most’ of them were able to immediately activate their exoskeleton and fly out of the ship.
“…Tsk, omega 2, how many are missing?”
Not everyone was present.
They had been taking turns in resting and performing their duties, so there were people that were asleep in the ship, but regardless, his orders should’ve reached everyone through their terminals, and yet despite that, not everyone was present.
“Including ourselves, 27 people all in all made it out,” Cherry said.
“So, three men, huh… Wait, three!?” Joyce said.
“Yes, it’s the three people on patrol duty. They’re probably the ones the black mist was talking about.”
“I see… Answer me! What did you do with them!!?”
Before Joyce and his men was a shadow that was floating just like them.
But yell as Joyce might in anger, the only response he got was that of a baffled voice.
『Who knows? Perhaps I knocked them out and bound them, or perhaps I threw them unconscious into the sea.』
The black mist said as though he had forgotten his own actions, even smiling as though he found the question amusing.
Joyce never expected an answer, but the black mist’s response just irritated him even more.
After all, given the situation, none of the things the black mist said guaranteed his subordinates’ lives.
Joyce banished the faces of the three soldiers in his mind.
“The reports say you once broke into Kutoria and dealt with the terrorists from Earth. I also hear that you’ve saved some students from the bombing incident too. Given all that, I take it you are indeed someone from Kutoria?”
『Fu fu, in a broad sense, you’re not wrong, but your imagination is lacking, former lieutenant, Joyce Ronan. If there are people such as yourselves, who yearn for the world to fall into chaos, naturally, the opposite also exists. And such people won’t be limited merely to the publicly known legal forces. 』
That was an implicit confession that the black mist was an illegal party that did not wish for the world to fall into chaos.
At a glance, one could simply take that as any other claim.
But because it held another meaning, the captain and his aide both paled.
“All forces, assume formation GM4! Permission to use all weapons granted! Do anything it takes to defeat this enemy here!!” Joyce said.
“This enemy must die here! His existence itself is a threat! He must be erased!” Cherry said.
Although the soldiers hesitated for a moment, they kept their questions to themselves as they spread out and immediately surrounded the black mist.
GM4 was originally a formation meant to deal with small type high-ranking raybeasts.
Because of that a wave of tension washed over the soldiers, knowing that they were about to face a foe on that level.
『A wise decision, Joyce Ronan. It would indeed be too dangerous to leave me alone. 』
“This isn’t funny! Just one of you is already enough to turn this whole situation over its head!”
A black mist that could infiltrate without being noticed by any security system or person.
And at the same time, also be capable of destroying a ship in a single blow via an unknown light.
Since they could talk with him, they figured the black mist must be someone using some kind of equipment, but the revelation of an illegal third party possessing such power was simply too terrifying.
Intelligence gathering, assassination, subversive activities… Never before has there been someone so capable of such operations.
Normally, illegal organizations couldn’t move as they pleased, but it was doubtful that the monitoring and security of nations would hold any meaning in the face of someone like this black mist.
To make things worse, there was no telling if he would one day bare his fangs against Garesto.
That was the reason why Joyce and Cherry paled.
『As a reward, I’ll answer your earlier question, the question pertaining to what business I have with you.』
A soldier in exoskeleton was positioned in every direction, 25 soldiers all in all, and yet despite that, the black mist spoke arrogantly without the slightest hint of tension. Audacity at that level was no longer just irritating but ominous.
『You see, I’ve recently made the decision to become famous, so I’m sorry, but… I’ll need you to become my stepping stones. 』 Said the black mist with a huge smile.
Though they could not make out even the contours of the black mist, the tone of his voice clearly painted the expression behind the mask, and the people that could see the mask felt as though they could see a crescent moon smiling beneath it.
With the target completely surrounded, the soldiers simultaneously attacked.
Not a single soldier was clumsy enough to overlap with another.
In a situation like this, only an amateur would be fool enough to still hit a friendly.
『…So you can act like former soldiers. 』
The black mist chuckled, and then as the rain of light bullets descended on him, he passed through unaffected.
Yells of surprise and bewilderment resounded here and there as the soldiers found themselves unable to conceal their agitation.
As though the enemy they were facing was truly a black mist, none of their bullets could land.
“Focus! He’s taking advantage of the fact that we can’t see him properly, and he’s actually just dodging everything by a hair’s breadth! Keep shooting!”
It was curious if he actually came to that conjecture because he sensed it or if he was merely saying that to calm his soldiers, but regardless, the black mask happily confirmed his conjectures.
『Hmm, although you did get a report about me, it’s still impressive that you were able to see through me in our first meeting. That being said, why are you in such a hurry? Are you that desperate to keep me here? 』
The mask chuckled.
The eyes underneath the one thing that they could see, the white mask, seemed to have gotten wind of something.
At that, Joyce gulped. They’ve been found out. The enemy was going to go for it.
The moment he realized that, he gave an order to his soldiers via thought transmission, and his men moved to carry his order out, but…
In that very moment, the black mist vanished.
And then in the next moment, the sound of impact resounded along with someone’s anguished voice, fragments of steel flew into the air.
Joyce watched as his three subordinates were sent flying by a trace of darkness.
“D-Don’t come closer!!”
In the direction the black mist headed was a soldier that spoke firmly and yet fearfully as he shot blindly with his handgun.
On his shoulder was the heavily wounded soldier from earlier.
The wounded soldier was also clad in an exoskeleton, but it was ambiguous if he was conscious or not.
The soldier that was trying to get that wounded soldier away was a medic.
Apparently, the people that had been blown away earlier were the support.
As the medic invoked the Shotgun skill, the light bullets he shot scattered out like buck shots, but the scattered shots were so densely gathered, the resulting attack was better described as a wall than rain.
The medic figured that regardless what the enemy did, whether he ran away or took the shot, he would be able to buy time to flee.
Which is why…
When the black mist charged in without doing anything, he was taken by surprise.
The wall he’d shot out couldn’t even stop the black mist for a moment.
And the black mist just kept heading toward him as though the wall was never there.
And indeed, according to the A.I. support system of his exoskeleton, not a single bullet hit his target.
It was absurd. The target neither defended nor dodged, and yet not a single bullet hit.
But no matter how absurd it was, a hole had indeed been open on his wall of light bullets, as though the bullets themselves had been devoured.
The medic grew frantic, but he managed to keep enough composure to take out a dagger as he threw his gun away.
Already, the enemy was so close that a large weapon or something with a long handle wouldn’t work anymore.
Resigned to his fate, the medic thrust out with his dagger, and the approaching darkness struck out with a hand.
A direct confrontation between two attacks.
In that very moment, a powerful explosion resounded, and the dagger of the medic, no, the arm that was holding it, vanished along with his elbow.
So great was the resulting impact that even the Inertia Control system was helpless, and the medic and the wounded soldier were sent flying like a pair of bullets.
“Kainz, Mike!” Shouted Joyce, not comprehending what had just happened.
The other soldiers nearby immediately flew over to provide aid, but when a finger snapped, a strange light covered the medic and the wounded soldier, and their legs gradually vanished from right in front of their rescuers.
“We’re coming, Kainz!”
“Ugu, ah… W-What, is this…. Uwaah!?”
Without even realizing that Kainz’s arm had already vanished, the soldiers that came to their rescue frantically extended their arms.
They hoped to at least grab Kainz’s arm, but the only thing they caught was air.
“A-AHH!! No! My body, it’s, disappearing────”
Before long, even Kainz’s mouth disappeared, and as he looked sorrowfully at his friends, he and Mike vanished without a trace.
“W-What just happened?” Joyce asked.
“…I don’t know. The sensors picked up photon energy, but they couldn’t analyze anything. All we know is that Omega 9′ and Omega 24’s signal were lost!”
Cherry said while quivering, an unusual display for the ever calm aide that needlessly emphasized the severity and eeriness of the situation.
“So, what, you’re saying they just disappeared before our eyes just like that!?”
It was like a joke, but this sort of disappearing act was the kind of spell that appeared in fairy tales.
In the face of something like that, the people of omega could only freeze up, become fearful, or…
“How dare you hurt those two!!”
“Where did you send them!? Bring them back!!”
Go crazy and start yelling angrily.
The three soldiers that couldn’t catch anything despite extending their arms gave no ear to their captain’s orders to restrain themselves as they threw themselves single-mindedly at the human-shaped black mist.
Despite that the three soldiers drew complicated trajectories in the air as they approached the black mist.
As expected of former soldiers, even though their minds were a mess, their bodies remembered how to move.
As they surrounded the black mist, they took out their lance and thrust out.
But in the face of three lances thrusting from three different directions, the mask only sneered.
As weapons clashed, metallic sounds and anguished voices resounded.
Three soldiers, three lances, three different targets penetrated.
Within that swirl of pain, impact, and confusion, the three soldiers were at a loss.
No matter how angry they were, they had attacked the same target simultaneously.
“H-How?” A soldier inadvertently found himself asking.
And yet despite how impossible it should’ve been to miss, not only did they miss, their lances even found their way into each other. It did not make sense.
『Indeed, the question begs itself, does it not? 』
This was one of the advantages of the black mist that was ever indistinct.
Even the simple act of deflecting a weapon could greatly affect an enemy’s psyche.
And an enemy that has stopped moving from confusion was essentially one giant opening.
With a short breath, the arms and legs – or at least what appeared to be – of the black mist simultaneously struck out toward the three soldiers.
At that, armors shattered, arms bent in erroneous directions, and the visors covering their faces were crushed.
The protection of the exoskeletons meaningless, a single blow scattered fresh blood.