I came back but the world is still a fantasy!? – School Field Trip Arc – Act 1: This Is What Happens When I Go on a Trip – 04-104: Defend the Concert! 3

The Cursed Barrier that the Mask had erected was strange even from the perspective of exorcists. Not only could it immediately corrupt and render all enemies immobile, it also extended everywhere, encompassing the ground, the air, and even the ground beneath; however it did not cover all of the Second Line.

It had a height limit of 500meters, and there were two other blind spots. One was the designated space within and around the venue. After all, it wouldn’t be possible to hold a concert if the barrier extended there too. The other was the path to the venue. To facilitate the smooth entry and exit of the audience, the event organizers had placed the front gate of the venue along the extension of the road, so as powerful as the barrier was, it was open inside, above, and from directly in front. However, the air above being open was only so that the live could be held, really, there was a barrier there too, and even if someone managed to get past Myuhi and descend onto the venue, they would be trapped within the barrier to join the ranks of the other fallen enemies. Moreover, they wouldn’t be able to fall into the venue, as the barrier was designed to deflect anything coming from outside.

In the end, the only opening was really the one from in front, but the Snake didn’t know that, and there was no way for them to know that until they confirmed it themselves, though Six did think it a plausible assumption. However, they did know that there was an opening in front. There were security personnel on patrol, but there were also fans that couldn’t get a ticket gathered before the gate. For these fans, just being able to feel the atmosphere, hear faint sounds, or be able to obtain limited edition live goods was enough. That’s why a couple of Snake members were able to easily infiltrate to verify the range of the barrier. They were able to get in so easily that they found it anti-climatic.

Alas, the Snake didn’t want to send in troops from in front. The reasons differed for Venom, who wanted to assassinate the songstress, and Six, who had another agenda. The former believed that a frontal assault would cause the most commotion, making it easier for the target to escape. Given the high likelihood that Masquerade was hiding inside the venue, a frontal assault was a risky move too. If it were to be found out that it was them behind the attempted assassination of the Songstress, not only the Countermeasure Department, but also Japan’s public safety department, various international intelligence agencies, and Garesto’s regular military and intelligence departments would act.

Although the existence of the Snake was so thin that they were treated as a rumor in the underworld, there were organizations that have been keeping an eye of them and naturally saw them as a threat. If those organizations were to be alerted, not only would the difficulty of the assassination increase, the reason behind why the Songstress was being targeted would also come into question, potentially leading to the revelation of the weaknesses of the Apostle Weapons.

But Six had a different agenda. He didn’t want to ruin this opportunity where they might be able to get rid of the threat that was the Mask once and for all. He believed that if the situation were to become chaotic enough for the audience to notice, and the live performance was ruined, Masquerade would flee with the Songstress.

Despite Six’s outward attitude, he was really choosing strategies that would lead to his side’s failure. By deliberately attacking the Mask’s defense network, he hoped to wear him and his allies down while buying time until “that moment” came. He also suspected that there would be another trap waiting for them in the case of a successful breakthrough.

However, those were issues that would be a problem when attempting to break through militarily. Being able to easily reach the front of the venue was indeed a big boon for the Snake. That’s why, Six positioned him there.

The walls of the venue were tall, preventing anyone from peeking over. It was also a live venue, so there was a soundproof system in place despite the upper part of the venue being open, no doubt a feat that could only be achieved thanks to otherworld technology.

However, perhaps as a treat to the fans, the soundproof system was actually weakened in certain parts of the venue, allowing those gathered near the main gate to catch a faint glimpse of the excitement inside the venue and hear her singing.

Those congregating near the main gate included those who couldn’t get tickets despite knowing about the concert, as well as those who only found out about it after coming for the merchandise.

The live performance seemed to be at its midpoint, and a ballad with poignant lyrics sung by Monica could be faintly heard. The audience was captivated, their earlier excitement and commotion now nothing but silence. One man among them kept his distance from the fans that were either immersed in her song or shopping for her merchandise at the stalls.

He wore a rapturous expression as he looked at his phone. He appeared to be in his forties with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was Venom. Without any disguise or holographic camouflage, while deliberately wearing the same outfit as yesterday, he stood there with confidence.

His casual demeanor gave off the vibes of a father waiting for his family that were participating in the live event. Perhaps those around him thought the same. It was an era where Garesto citizens seamlessly blended into the city, and with all the translation devices, foreigners were no longer intimidating figures for the youth. Nobody minded him.

Venom was also known as Poison and specialized in infiltration operations. Blending in seamlessly was his expertise. While he appeared to be casually browsing his device as if to kill time, in reality, he was mentally going over the instructions he received and was quietly getting excited.

──『Venom, I’ll give you a role for this operation.』

Six had told him that in a solemn detached manner. His orders could largely be categorized into three types.

For the first, Venom discreetly released several thumb-sized autonomous machines from the hem of his slacks while ensuring that no one around noticed. The black-colored machines that resembled small reconnaissance drones blended into the dim space despite all the people thanks to his exquisite timing. Half of them attached to the walls surrounding the venue, while the rest crossed over the walls to infiltrate inside, but alas…

“Sigh.”

Venom looked at his terminal and sighed. All the machines lost signal right at once. Those that stuck to the walls in an attempt to explore the interior through sonar or radar, as well as those attempting direct entry to assess the situation, all of them, without question, were made useless. They’d expected this, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

『For the first job, you are to boldly go to the front of the venue, blend in with the fans, then put on a show of sending reconnaissance drones. Success would be ideal but unlikely. Regardless, if we try multiple times and continue to fail, it will give the impression that we still haven’t figured out anything. We’ll use that to convince them that we’ve used up all our cards while hiding our real cards beneath our sleeves.』

This was just a move to prevent suspicion until the main method could be employed, so Venom wasn’t actually that disappointed; however, his expression carried a bitter undertone for the sake of the mission. To further fuel this misconception, he released the next reconnaissance drone, this time crafted with an entirely different technological system. Naturally, these too were neutralized. After repeating such actions several times, he moved to the next objective, exploring the shops with eager curiosity, and actively bombarding the staff with questions.

『For your second mission, you are to serve as a decoy to attract the attention of Masquerade. The both of us are already known to them, so while they’ll notice you easily, and perhaps even realize that you’re just a decoy, they still won’t be able to help themselves but pay attention to you. Especially with so many ordinary people around. In a sense, you’ll become an additional burden to them.

Those guys are critically short on manpower, so increasing the places and people they need to pay attention to is painful for them. After that, we’ll activate the device we prepared to accurately grasp the target’s position. Despite everything, you might not still have much leeway, but we just need a moment, and it’s your job to give us that opening. Afterward, we’ll immediately attack the target based on the obtained data. We’ll show them that our hidden ace is not just the Apostle weapons.』

To that end, he intentionally made himself standout, reacting flamboyantly and purchasing several items, while engaging enthusiastically with the fans and seamlessly blending into the crowd. It was a showcase of the skills of the infiltrator known as “Poison,” capable of infiltrating any place, using the surrounding people as shields while asserting his presence.

Though there were countless ways to deal with him, for those trying to protect the concert itself, eliminating Venom in a rough manner with all those people present would likely cause a commotion. Moreover, Crimson and her subordinates were busy dealing with the relentless attacks from their adversaries. They had no manpower to spare, but leaving him unattended was also risky, so they had to keep tabs on him, but that in and of itself pressured them. Even if the impact was minimal, in this ongoing situation, that “minimal” would accumulate and eventualy weigh heavily on them. In that, he fulfilled his role diligently.

『But even then, this is Masquerade we’re fighting against. Despite his power and abilities, he’s really cautious, so even our attack might end in failure. When that happens, you’ll be our trump card.』

And it was precisely the third task that was the reason for Venom’s internal turmoil.

『I have a plan to get him away from the songstress. When this pattern occurs, you need to act as if you’re in a hurry to retreat. That way it will be easier to lure him in. He possesses some kind of teleportation ability, and having a certain level of uncertainty dispelled should make him less hesitant to move away from the target. We’ll exploit that. At my signal, you’ll return to the venue and use our trump card.』

Despite knowing what kind of punishment awaited him, he felt an inexplicable sense of excitement. After all, even though the aftermath of failure has already been discussed, he, or rather, his bloodline, was about to be granted the honor of directly eliminating the pest clinging to the masterpiece of their organization that they’ve sacrificed everything for. But it was also because of that that the voices whispering at his ears of the possible failure wouldn’t stop. Especially, as this would be their second attempt. It didn’t even matter that he was guaranteed to die. After all, he genuinely believed that this was a much better way to die than simply being disposed of later for disobeying, but of course, he did not let any such thoughts show on him while he played the part of a cheerful Briton as he eagerly awaited for this third mission to begin.

──He’s skilled, but he’s easy to understand.

Such was Six’s impression as he observed Venom’s demeanor. The issue at hand was that Venom became uncontrollable when something touched a certain chord, making him challenging to handle. However, Six didn’t care about his shortcomings, as he knew that he was just a pawn about to be finally used up.

Shifting his gaze from the surveillance footage of the main gate, where the reconnaissance drones have been deployed, Six redirected his attention to another monitor. The interference from the second-line and the venue’s walls did not completely obstruct “everything.” General communication like phone calls, emails, and messaging apps such as Line, could still seamlessly connect to the outside world. On his monitor, there was a switch-like icon in the center, with complex branches extending from it, leading to several small icons at their endpoints. Though there were roughly hundreds of them, there were no signs of disconnection.

This was the real way with which they would investigate. The custom supercomputer used by him, the “Snake,” had clandestine connections to certain apps on the iFosters carried by the audience. Created by developers influenced by the “Snake,” it was one of their “ears” scattered into the world as part of their information-gathering efforts.

The variety of these apps, developed by different individuals and companies without attracting much attention, pursued versatility and convenience for users of such devices. Approximately forty percent of users unknowingly had some app from these developers installed on their devices. These apps were cunningly designed to include a hidden backdoor, allowing remote control of the device. However, due to thorough concealment measures, there were limits to the extent of interference.

Nevertheless, without prior preparation, gathering a certain number of people would automatically bring about roughly thirty percent of devices under the control of the “Snake.” It was a remarkably convenient, low-risk, and involved unconscious spy. However, there was a catch.

──Well, they probably know about it and are just letting us do as we please.

Despite the instructions he’d given to Venom, Six thought as such. Considering the abnormal information-gathering abilities demonstrated by Masquerade and the numerous cutting-edge security measures neutralized within the infiltrated facility, Six suspected that Masquerade possessed hacking and cracking capabilities far superior to their own. Rather than being optimistic about Mask’s ignorance of the hidden mechanisms in the apps, Six found it more natural to assume that Masquerade was aware and deliberately leading them astray.

In fact, he might have led them to do just this. After all, it was nearly impossible to break through with Crimson, the Ladies, and that absurd barrier, so really, they had no choice but to rely on this method to scout. However, relying on it also signaled the preparation stages of their attack.

When Six reached that conclusion, a chill ran down his spine and fear gripped his entire being. There was no way to win this game. The sheer combat prowess alone was despair-inducing. Yet, even without a direct confrontation, it felt like all the pieces were being made to dance in the palm of the Mask’s hand. Despite deliberately allowing himself to be entangled in this situation, Six couldn’t help but shiver. At this point, the direct means of attacking the songstress were limited.

Sneaking in soldiers or assassins was practically impossible. Long-distance attacks were almost meaningless due to the second-line barrier. Conducting a large-scale destructive attack with only a vague possibility of success was a last resort. The risk of failure was too high. Since this was the only chance, Six wanted to avoid taking unnecessary gambles until the very end. However, in that case, what other options were there?

──There was only one.

It was a card that they had prepared right from the start, but the realization that it was anticipated or might have even been manipulated sent shivers down his spine. Once he suspected that the app hadn’t been overlooked, he even went so far as to eliminate the option he had carefully prepared. It seemed pointless. However, as the situation progressed, he judged that it could be used in reverse, so he set Venom in motion. If the priority had been solely on assassinating the songstress, they would have been completely at the mercy of Masquerade. After all, in a sense, that method could be considered Masquerade’s specialty. It would be foolish for them to believe that he had no ways to deal with it.

It was such an unbearably frustrating reality that he eventually found himself saying to himself, “it’s fine since I’m aware and playing along,” but that in and of itself was a blunt acknowledgment that the situation made him uncomfortable.

──If we were really to go after the Songstress, how could they go about it differently?

The answer was that they couldn’t. Despite some differences, ultimately, he found himself making the same moves. At most, he might intentionally sabotage the plan to try and annoy the other side, but the moment he did that, everything would be crushed right at once. Because of how sure he was of that, he couldn’t even play properly.

This was not a competition. It wasn’t a battle. It wasn’t even a game. It felt more like a task to achieve the result Masquerade desired. The humiliation of being forced to play the role of the enemy’s commander, a constant sense of discomfort no matter how appropriately he responded, and the paradoxical feeling of already losing, even though he was supposed to be working with a different agenda.

──Impossible.

No, victory would ultimately be his. The plan had been revisited multiple times, and upon critical verification, there were few issues. Contingency measures had been doubly and triply prepared to cover any potential problems. Even in the worst-case scenario, where everything crumbled, he had anticipated everything and even prepared a last resort. While he might not have the same level of commitment as Venom, he had long since resolved to sacrifice his life. After all, Masquerade posed a significant threat to their organization and was an “enemy” that had to be defeated at all costs.

So, he swallowed the unsettling feeling of the unknown and touched the monitor. By tapping the central icon, information streamed in from hundreds of terminals at once. While the terminals only picked up locational information and ambient sounds, with data coming from multiple points, the differences in sound resonance and the minute time delays for the same sound reaching different points could be analyzed. This allowed him to grasp in near-real-time what, where, and how things were happening.

This highly evolved terminal’s audio collection capabilities, coupled with processing speeds that surpassed conventional ones, allowed him to visualize the current state of the venue in a three-dimensional projection. What appeared before Six was like a moving model meticulously replicating every detail. Colors and facial features of the individuals remained vague, but the movements and the shapes were indistinguishable from reality. From the start, ‘Snake’ had been involved in setting up the venue. Although all the traps had been removed, they had a comprehensive understanding of the venue’s environment and stage structure from the beginning. Adding the information obtained from sound, the reproduction was undoubtedly accurate.

However, there was a slight concern regarding the crucial position of the songstress. Being the central figure on the stage, she was constantly in motion. Monica Chantal’s movements were always vigorous. Moreover, there were instances of her incorporating elaborate performances amidst the band and dancers. Nevertheless, this was a solo live performance, and currently, the songstress was strolling along the central runway, singing a ballad, so her location was easily discernible through the voice patterns, but just as he was about to touch the monitor again to relay the attack instructions, along with all this data, to the specialized unit on standby, something happened.

“Hmm──────Hah?”

Sounds that were difficult for the human ear to pick up or were completely inaudible could still be captured by machines. It was precisely because of that that this plan could even be possible, but consequently, it also made him the first to notice “it.” And despite all of his experience, he found himself petrified.

The audience in the live venue experienced an entirely different level of enchantment than before. Just a few minutes ago, everyone was intoxicated by Monica and her song, but then she started walking on the runway while singing. In that moment, she was truly sparkling. It wasn’t the flashy makeup nor was it the reflection of the lights. She was dressed in a one-shoulder blue dress, giving her a beautiful and seductive appearance as she expressed the heartfelt lyrics. It was a simple and pure look, yet it captivated everyone, even those in distant places, as the small drone cameras flying around projected her image onto the giant monitors.

A round of applause erupted. The song ended as she reached the front of the runway, and Monica, lowering the microphone, bowed slightly. Smiling, she received the cheers from the audience. She maintained that expression as she directed her attention to the next step. The gentle spotlight illuminating her would go out, while the entire venue would dim in sync with the song, before she would advance to the front of the runway.

A circular dancing space would have expanded there, featuring a mechanism in the center that moved up and down. She would descend below the runway, rush backstage for a quick costume change, then immediately jump up from the center of the stage to perform a lively song and dance. All the lighting changes ensured that the audience would only lose sight of her for a moment.

“…”

Or at least, that was the scenario they’d planned. Therefore, when the spotlight suddenly illuminated the front dancing space, she momentarily froze. The light illuminating her had not yet gone out, but in terms of quantity and intensity, the light in front of her was superior. Multiple strong lights gathered right there, as if urging everyone’s attention to focus on Monica. Although she maintained her composure without showing any signs of disturbance to the audience, she gasped as the central mechanism suddenly moved. Something or someone was coming up.

“…No way.”

The moment of lowering the microphone led to a lapse in attention. Even the composed Monica couldn’t help but mutter that at the sight of the unexpected figure that had appeared. However, it wasn’t just Monica’s concern; it resonated with those near the runway and even the audience who saw the “someone” through the giant monitor. After all, the person there was a woman wearing a red dress, just like Monica, with pink long hair and tanned skin. A tall and beautiful woman who, indeed, resembled Monica Chantal.

Instinctively, the staff members tried to communicate with discreet earpiece devices, asking what was happening, but the chaotic background noise was the only response. It was a completely unexpected and unidentified intruder, causing confusion for everyone involved.

“Who are you?”

She asked that quietly and firmly while making sure that her voice wasn’t caught by the microphone. Outwardly, she remained composed, but internally, she was filled with anxiety, wondering if this was the work of one of those targeting her, but then she felt something warm and gentle touch her on her shoulder, or at least, it felt that way,

『Relax, look closely. 』

Though the voice reached her, it didn’t seem to have gone through her ears. The woman’s voice was tinged with a hint of laughter, but it nonetheless calmed Monica. Before Monica knew it, she found herself looking directly at the other version of herself. The giant monitor showed the two Monicas gazing at each other, then the other her moved her lips slowly.

“…Huh?”

Monica wasn’t particularly skilled in lip reading. However, due to her work and after seeing and hearing people sing tens of thousands of times, she had naturally become able to read lips.

──The Naughty Brat has arrived──

“Puh.”

When she read those lips, she burst into laughter right at once. The “naughty brat” had appeared indeed. Could there be a more straightforward and communicative introduction between the parties involved? Whether by luck or because of the person in front of her, the only one who noticed was the “other Monica.” Thus, she twisted her face into an expression of satisfaction, mirroring the exact likeness of the real Monica and laughed.


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5 responses to “I came back but the world is still a fantasy!? – School Field Trip Arc – Act 1: This Is What Happens When I Go on a Trip – 04-104: Defend the Concert! 3”

  1. Magnawell Baskus Lardo Kurtzvald Avatar

    Thanks for the chapter

  2.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Thank you !!

  3. Kynn Kysil Avatar

    Thank you for the chapter!

  4.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Thanks for the chapter.

  5.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    a chapter Thanks

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