Upon seeing his three subordinates shot down, and another a frantic mess, Joyce yelled angrily at the black mist.
But the black mist showed no timidity and brazenly retorted.
『 Hey, hey, I’m not the one who pulled the trigger. That guy did. All I did was to defend myself. It was legitimate self-defense. 』
“As if! You meant for that to happen!!”
“Stop screwing around already! Betty wasn’t in any condition to fight anymore!!”
“You’re a villain, and you know it! There was no reason to attack them! She was incapacitated already!”
Anyone could tell that the black mist had done it intentionally, and this was the second time too. That’s why the soldiers became furious and started raining abuse on the black mist.
Part of it was because they’d lost their comrades, but it was also because the black mist’s fighting style was just too shameless.
They may be rebels now, but their heart was ever with
They would never throw away their pride as warrior guardians.
In fact, they were still fighting for Garesto. That’s why it was just too much for them to see their wounded brethren, who was fighting for the same ideals, be killed like that.
『…So what? I’m still much better off than some terrorists who attacked kids with zero combat experience. 』
Those words were all that was needed to shoot down their cries of injustice.
Not a hint of the earlier jovial attitude could be felt from the black mist’s tone as it uttered those words in that cold, monotonous voice.
Of course, everyone here knew that the black mist was referring to them as well.
“What did you say!?”
『 It’s about time you soldier wannabes stopped putting on airs. The moment you abandoned your duty, and turned your weapons to the very people you were supposed to protect, you became villains───Shame on you!』
“Brace yourselves!” Joyce said.
The moment the black mist said those words, the 12 weapons stuck onto it turned, and with the swing of its black arm, they shot out like bullets.
“Don’t look down on us!”
The soldiers were shocked, but they still braced themselves.
Some tried to intercept the weapons with their prized weapons, some tried to use advanced defensive skills, some struck out with their shields, and others tried to dodge.
The responses of the soldiers varied from person to person.
But regardless, the 12 shooting stars all too easily broke through them all.
Steel were crushed, flesh were torn, anguished voices resounded… At almost the same time, twelve different sounds resounded, and they reverberated through the airspace in a crescendo.
It was as though the weapons could not wait to return to their rightful owners, and they bolted through the air and impaled themselves into their masters.
Any and all that sought to impede their path met a tragic end. Skill shields were shattered, physical shields were broken through, and those that dodged could not.
Blades struck shoulders, lances pierced through legs, and axes were buried into bellies.
Their weapons had overcome not just the defenses of the exoskeleton but even their own resistance stat.
They belonged to them, and yet they were defeated by them just like that.
The moment the weapons bolted toward them, dense pure photons had covered the weapons, but precisely because it was pure photons covering them, their exoskeletons judged them to be irrelevant.
“Ooooooo!!!” Joyce yelled.
With the soldiers petrified by confusion, Joyce let out a loud war cry to rouse them awake.
“C-Captain! No! Come back!!” Cherry said.
But Joyce ignored his aide, and bolted off with a knuckle-type weapon that could be mistaken for a giant’s.
With his exoskeleton’s propulsion at max speed, and the great mass of that weapon, the resulting blow would surely be a powerful strike.
Moreover, the surface area this time was much bigger than a giant hammer’s.
『 Your decision isn’t wrong, but… 』
“Guu, damn it!!”
But the indistinct black mist stopped it just like that.
It didn’t feel like he’d hit anything. It was as though his knuckle was met with the exact same force, canceling the two forces out.
But just like with his hammer, he could tell that his attack had been caught by an arm.
“We may be outlaws, but we’re no monsters! We had to rise up for the sake of the world!”
『 That’s nothing more than your misunderstanding. There was never a need for you to take action. 』
“Shut up! …Found you!!” Joyce said.
If he could just figure out the location of the arm that stopped his attack, he figured he could extrapolate the rest, and extrapolate he did.
It was nothing but a rough estimate, but it was still much better than relying on his eyes.
With that image in his mind, he swung his combat axe with his other arm.
『 It’s futile… Or not. I see, so that’s what you were aiming for. 』
But even that was blocked with what felt to be the black mist’s other arm.
Joyce was certain now that the black mist was human, but because it looked so much like he was being devoured by the black mist, he couldn’t help but wonder if the black mist was actually a monster that had simply taken the shape of a human.
“No, it doesn’t matter! Soldiers, take our wounded and retreat!! I won’t let this guy get past me even if I have to die!”
Joyce ordered his subordinates to flee, and invoked several skills.
He used all the skills he had to bind the black mist, and then buffed himself up physically as much as he could.
Photon chains, handcuffs, ropes, shackles… All sorts of restraints bound the indistinct black mist, then with the black mist unmoving, he pushed with the weapons in each of his hand.
『 But it’s still futile──── Seal them within destruction、
When untranslatable words were once again uttered, for a moment, Joyce braced himself.
But what reached him next was not an attack but the screams of the very allies he was protecting.
Without turning his gaze away from the black mist, an image of his surroundings projected into his brain, and what he saw shocked him.
The 12 soldiers that had been penetrated by their own weapons were enveloped in a sphere of light.
“Gah, ah, guaah!?!?” A soldier said.
“What’s the matter!? What’s happening!?” Another soldier asked.
“Auu, gu, what is… this, gyaah!!” A third soldier said.
“Hey, are you alright!? Something like this, gu!?” A fourth soldier said.
Within the sphere of white light were their wounded comrades.
The sphere seemed to be filled with destructive
Soldiers tried to destroy the sphere from outside, but it was too hard, and their arms just became numb.
Sparks began scattering on the armor of the people inside, and small explosions regularly erupted.
“Uu, aa, gah… No! Let me out!… Please! Let us out of here!!”
“Agah, my exoskeleton, won’t hol— gu, gahhhh!!”
“Damn it! Break already! Break!!”
It was curious if they were merely enduring the pain or if the pain was that unbearable, but the soldiers kept hitting the sphere of light from inside despite their bleeding wounds.
And yet even as the soldiers attacked the sphere from inside and outside, the sphere didn’t even show any signs of cracking.
As their captain, Joyce was privy to his subordinates’ data, so when he saw their current condition, he panicked even more.
“Let them go! If your goal is just to deal with us, then there’s no reason for you to bother with them anymore!”
The barriers of his subordinates’ exoskeletons were being broken through from every direction.
The light sphere was a cage filled with powerful and aggressive photon energy, and his subordinates were repeatedly being hammered by such destructive energy all over. Already, their armor were on the brink of destruction.
It needn’t be said what would happen if they had to take those attacks with their bare flesh.
『5… 4… 3…』
That’s why Joyce was almost pleading when he asked the black mist to let them go. Unfortunately, all he got in return was a mysterious countdown.
As the count grew lower, so did the sphere of light grow brighter.
“Don’t tell me— S-Stop it!”
When Joyce realized what the countdown was for, his face paled, and he begged in a trembling voice even though the black mist was supposed to have been restrained by him already.
But the black mist didn’t seem to be listening to him, and the countdown just continued without pause.
Nothing should’ve been visible under the mask, but just for a moment, Joyce felt he saw a twisted smile.
“I’m telling you to let my subordinates go!!”
Joyce yelled as he threw whatever weapon and skill he could at the black mist, but even as his blades broke and his skills dispersed, without so much as a flinch, the black mist muttered that last number.
A heartbreaking scream pleaded for pardon, only to be drowned out by the thundering eruption of light.
Twelve large bombs big enough to wrap up a person were there in that air space, and they blew everything away, giving birth to heat and light that could be mistaken for a small sun.
Eyes, ears, even the sensors of the exoskeletons… In the light of that sun, everything proved futile, and as powerful winds were given rise, even the soldiers of another world became powerless.
They didn’t even know if they were being swept away, if they were going up, or if they were falling.
An impact attacked them, and their consciousness grew distant.
“Gu, hah, upu, gaha!?”
It was the cold water of the sea that brought that back.
As she coughed out the water she’d gotten a mouthful of, she floated above the sea.
Her comrades that weren’t caught inside the sphere of light were floating there too.
“D-Dear… Captain, are you alright?”
Cherry endured the pain all over her body to approach her husband and ask that question.
His exoskeleton managed to retain its shape, but it was half-destroyed, and he himself was unconscious.
Fortunately, he didn’t suffer any major injuries.
It came to her attention that some parts were falling from the sky.
It didn’t take her long to realize that those were the same as the armor she was wearing.
It was curious who it was that screamed, but regardless, there was no changing the fact that parts of exoskeletons were falling from the sky, and the people that once wore them were nowhere to be seen.
The only thing in sight was the scene of the black mist slowly descending as though nothing of note had happened.
And yet that was already more than some could handle, as some of the soldiers were so frightened they fell back into the sea, but no one was leisurely enough to mind them.
Whether it was out of wariness or awe, the soldiers could only watch as the black mist descended.
They didn’t even remember to breathe.