Crimson tried to struggle out of the chair, but the broken exoskeleton was no different from a strait jacket or a heavy stone.
With the armor being what was practically a heavy rock, Crimson couldn’t even lift a hand much less get away.
“Calm down! Listen to me!”
The old man was the first to recover himself after Crimson started panicking.
He shook Crimson’s shoulders and called out.
“There are no monsters here! Don’t be fooled by an illusion! Listen only to my voice and calm down!”
“Uwaa, no… Aa… aa.”
Perhaps his voice was able to reach Crimson, as the struggling Crimson stopped moving.
Crimson’s eyes couldn’t be seen because of the helmet, but they appeared to move so that they could get a good look at the person in front.
“A, haa, haa, haa, haa… Your, excellency… I…”
Crimson still spoke in stutters, but it was evident that Crimson was now awake.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. Can you tell me what happened?” The old man asked.
“Your Excellency!? Didn’t you see what happened just now! We need to treat—” A concerned Nameless member said.
“It’s fine… I’m sorry for putting on such a shameful display. Please allow me to make my report, Your Excellency…” Crimson said.
Crimson firmly refused the suggestion of his worried comrades, then started talking about what happened.
A mysterious enemy covered in black mist. The ability to weaponize everything touched. An unknown attack. And Crimson’s failure to land a hit despite removing all of the outer armor.
“And then, I don’t know what he did to me, but I ended up in that state. It was as if a powerful fear was forcefully planted into mm… Ugh. N-Now that I think about it… Not one of my attacks really did manage to reach him.”
Although they both appeared to be equally stumped by each other’s equipment, it felt as if that black mist had just been toying with Crimson.
Other than the old man who’d already foreseen this, everyone’s faces paled as they listened.
But that was only a given, after all, the top member of their combat division came back utterly crushed.
“…What do you think, Doctor? Any ideas?”
The old man quietly listened to Crimson, then he suddenly called out to an empty space.
At that, a black screen appeared before him and a voice resounded.
“—Of course, not. That exoskeleton may be experimental, but it’s still custom made.”
The voice seemed to belong to a young man, but there was no way to confirm for sure since he refused to show his face.
But then again, that was true for the both of them. Nameless hasn’t shown any of their faces to him either.
Voice-only communication like what they were doing now was the only thing they’ve permitted Doctor.
Still, considering that Doctor was a technical expert from outside, the treatment he was getting was still exceptional. It was also a part of his compensation for his work this time.
“According to my calculations, it should at least be able to fight against a company alone. Are you sure that black mist isn’t actually a monster among monsters?”
The old man asked the new exoskeleton’s creator for his opinion, but it would appear that finding the culprit might be harder than expected.
There was some annoyance mixed in with Doctor’s words, but that was only a given.
After all, the exoskeleton and equipment he painstakingly built without sleeping were broken. On top of that, he couldn’t even get much data.
He wanted to say that the culprit was a monster among monsters.
“No. I’m sure of it, that black mist was human. I only saw his eyes… But those were the eyes of a human… Eyes full of emotion.”
But the person who fought him strongly argued otherwise. The black mist was a person.
Shocked by Crimson’s insistence, Doctor started calmly analyzing.
“…That is an alarming situation in and of itself. Someone who could defeat you in a one on one battle. Either it’s the equipment that made that possible or the pilot… Maybe even both. Either way, I don’t have the slightest clue who it could be. You?”
“None. Even without the strange equipment, it was my first time fighting someone like that. He was completely unlike anyone I’ve fought. The way he fights is different at a fundamental level. At least, it felt like that to me.”
“I thought so too. If we were just talking about combat capabilities, then I do have some suspects in mind, but based on what my Spear has said so far, none of them seem to coincide with our unknown enemy. Doctor?”
“…There’s that genius (idiot) isolated in the academy, but that idiot’s been taken with Dimension Science. If it’s just the specs we’re talking about, there shouldn’t be anything that could so one-sidedly make sport of my new model.”
Someone who could make an exoskeleton with the same specs. Or someone who could produce an exoskeleton that could deliver that degree of combat ability.
Unfortunately, neither Doctor nor Nameless could think of a person or organization that could accomplish either feat.
As such, Doctor decided to put the question aside for now and change the topic to his main objective.
“Either way there’s too little information. No matter how much we think about it now, we won’t get any results. More importantly, I believe it’s about time we spoke business. General Ortis?”
“I know. We’ll take responsibility for this mess and make proper reparations.”
They have been entrusted with a unit to gather data, but due to their circumstances, it got thrown into battle instead and came back a piece of rock.
The recorded combat data has all been damaged too. This was past the point of their endeavors being merely a waste of time.
Nameless had a contract with them. They were to verify research results and collect data in secret.
Since they failed, reparations now had to be made.
In the underworld, where there were no laws to bind people, everything revolved around ability and reputation.
Of course, there were people who ignored such rules, but it’s precisely because Nameless pays well that they are trusted.
“If you want, we can also give you priority for materials and machine parts. We can also make it convenient for you when it comes to collecting data.”
“Hmph. You know full well that I can only rely on you. Whatever. I’ll just have to accept those terms. I’ll send you the list later.
But for a technical expert like Doctor without any connection or funds or public position, the cold hard truth was that there was no organization other than Nameless that could be trusted.
After that the call was closed.
The old man, known as General Ortis and the leader of Nameless, turned to the operator, who nodded to indicate that the call has been closed.
“…My apologies, Your Excellency. This kind of blunder—”
“Don’t say anymore. It was my mistake for being overconfident in ourselves. We shouldn’t have been greedy and properly made sure our equipment was in order before sending reinforcements.”
With this he couldn’t laugh at Ryubin anymore, the old man smiled.
The atmosphere within the room has finally gotten peaceful again, but the Spear couldn’t reply.
Was that really true?
Could they really have won against that if their equipment was in perfect condition?
The general himself noticed that, but he didn’t mention it since he didn’t want to destroy the atmosphere.
“Please be still for a moment. I’ll remove your helmet now.”
As the mechanics started removing the helmet to analyze it, the Spear called out to the general.
“Your Excellency, can I just say one thing?”
“What is it?”
“This is just an impression, just something I vaguely felt, but when I was fighting that black mist, although everything was different, I felt like it was the same thing. There was nothing at all about it that was familiar, but I feel like I’ve felt it somewhere before— I feel like I’ve felt the same thing from you, Your Excellency.”
That unexpected report caught the general unguarded for a moment, but he quickly calmed down and muttered, “I see.”
Upon saying it out loud, Crimson finally realized what it was that was so exasperating.
Crimson had unconsciously been treating them as the same. Because of that Crimson couldn’t forgive being denied by him.
“…Thank you for your report. Rest up well today. Either way, you’ll have to go back to Kutoria tomorrow.”
“Yes. My permission to go outside only extends until tomorrow afternoon…”
“We’re taking it off now,” one of the mechanics said.
The mechanics disassembled the headgear in the background while the two spoke with each other.
When they were finally able to remove the headgear, the face of the one known as ‘Spear’ and whom Shinichi referred to as ‘Crimson’ was finally revealed.
If there were anyone here other than Nameless, that person would surely be shocked at the figure’s appearance.
“There’s no one here who can infiltrate the place other than you. I’m sorry, but I’m counting on you, Myuhi Ruona, my Spear.”
“Leave it to me, Your Excellency.”
Though exhausted, her fox ears still nodded and her pink hair swayed.
As this adorable girl nodded with a face that no one from the academy knew, she finally reached her limits and lost consciousness.
As the old general’s hands lovingly patted her on the head, for some reason, she remembered the eyes of the mysterious enemy that she saw in that one moment.
—Why do those eyes look so much like a lost child’s?
…Even though he’s so strong. Why?
She found it curious, but as she pondered on it, slumber finally took her, and she fell into that peaceful darkness born from exhausting one’s body and mind.