When they finally got to the boarding gate, a female crew member was there waiting for them.
She had been waiting for a long time, so she ended up mouthing a few words of complaints before letting them aboard, but she managed to keep those words well within the range of decency.
“Finally, Teacher Doneju. How long were you planning on making us wait!?”
Inside was an unhappy middle-aged man.
He was the year head for the second years and the organizer of the teachers leading this field trip.
The year head of the third years that had fallen sick during the comprehensive exams has already returned to work, but he was assigned to manage the teachers left behind instead.
“Up until this very moment, evidently.”
Frire was about to apologize, but Shinichi interjected and dropped that line without any shame, then ignored the two dumbfounded teachers and asked Frire.
“So, teach, where is my seat? Let’s not waste time idly talking and hurry up and depart already.”
“I-Idly talking!? …Whose fault do you think it is we’re behind schedule!?”
“N-Nakamura, you come here! I’m going to give you an earful until we get to our destination!”
“Kyu kyu kyu.”
Fearing that Shinichi would just keep provoking the year head, Frire hurriedly grabbed Shinichi by the arm and dragged him to the seats near the front cockpit. Shinichi didn’t resist.
The year head tried to follow, but he was ordered to sit in the passenger cabin and had to reluctantly comply.
The structure inside the aircraft wasn’t that much different from Earth’s aircraft.
There were three seats on the window sides and four seats along the middle, but the aisles and the seats were bigger than your regular plane.
“That was being way too blunt.”
“What can you do? That guy was really hopeless.”
Frire said in dismay, and Shinichi too similarly shook his head in dismay.
It was true that Shinichi was at fault for their delay.
After all, the terrorist incident wasn’t the only reason behind the delay, and the person responsible for those reasons was Shinichi, so he’d prepared himself to receive any blame no matter how misguided, but that year head looked like he was about to raise hell with both Frire and Shinichi, ironically making him the next person responsible for further delays.
That’s why that smile that had provoked the year head had already disappeared from Shinichi’s face.
“He’s just mad because we made him wait. There’s no point in entertaining someone like that.”
Not a hint of interest was left in his voice. In fact, he even started yawning.
Shinichi had a tendency not to care what people he had no interest in thought of him, something that Frire seriously worried about as a teacher.
“Sigh… As a teacher, I really don’t know what to say about that sharp tongue of yours and the way you draw a clear line between you and people. Look, people are looking at you.”
The gazes that fell on him as they walked through the aisles were clearly that of displeasure.
That was not merely because they were late, but also because he was a bottom ranker. What right did he have to be here?
This was originally a special plane meant for the high achievers that were in classes B and above.
But of course, Shinichi was not the sort to cower because of that. If anything he just found their gazes to be amusing and laughed.
There were those that wryly smiled as well, but that was limited to the people acquainted with Shinichi.
Fortunately, his siblings were sat near the boarding gates and galleys, so they were unaware of the commotion he caused.
And of course, it was precisely because he noticed that that he said this.
“You young’uns sure are inflexible. Have you been taking your calcium?”
And then he laughed with a ‘ku ku ku’ to further fan the flames.
At that, Frire told him to stop talking and dragged him to the frontmost room – to a special seat beyond even the seats where the teachers sat side by side.
“Uwaah, this humpty dumpty even comes with private rooms. How luxurious.”
While Frire locked the door, the interior of the room shocked Shinichi.
Unlike the earlier rooms where there were only rows of seats, the space before him was big enough for five or six adults to be comfortable, and it was even furnished in such a way that it could be mistaken for a room in a luxury hotel.
“Short and stout… Well, I suppose, it does have that kind of shape. Anyway, this is a VIP seat. VIPs occasionally ride this plane, so it was prepared to accommodate them. This time around, however, it’s been prepared for me, who’ll be monitoring the teachers.”
As she said that, she flicked her fingers, and suddenly, several monitors appeared, showing every part of the passenger plane, from the students and teachers to the crew and the cockpit.
Since she would be monitoring everyone, she couldn’t be seated with everyone else.
Officially, she was in charge of everyone’s safety.
“You sure it’s okay to be bringing me here?”
“Is that really something you should be saying when you intentionally provoked everyone so that I’d bring you here? Honestly, even without you doing that, your seat was originally here!”
Frire pointed to the window side, where a high back, comfortable, high-end sofa that could easily seat three or more people was.
Shinichi understandably gave her a look asking for an explanation, so she told him to take a seat first.
As the two sat in their respective sofas, they faced each other.
Frire looked uncomfortable and was a bit reserved, refraining from sitting too deep because of how luxurious the sofa felt, but Shinichi just sat all the way down as though he owned the sofa.
If one were to judge them purely off their attitude, one would be predisposed to presume Shinichi to be some kind of royalty Frire was having an audience with.
Given their social standing and lineage, it would actually be the exact opposite, but there was no one here who cared about that.
『Ladies and gentlemen, we deeply apologize for the delays. We will now be departing from the second internal airport of Kutoria. Please ensure that your seat belts are properly fastened───』
However, as if the confirm that, the takeoff announcer suddenly spoke, and the two were prompted to put on their seat belts.
As the view through the round windows moved downward, it became evident that the plane was rising vertically.
The lack of engine sound or even the slightest G-force astounded Shinichi.
“This was a VTOL?”
But what mostly astounded him was the plane being a VTOL aircraft.
With the overall length of the aircraft being 50m, the height of the toppled-egg-shaped body being over 30m, and the main wings that extended out of it seeming to be a mere afterthought with their smaller size of less than 5m, Shinichi had doubted the aircraft’s capacity for flight, but what really astounded him was that fact.
“Garesto’s aircraft are mostly VTOLs since they don’t need a long runway… Still, the points that astound you sure are as strange as ever.”
“You know that I’m from an older time, right? That’s why I can’t help but doubt a wingless aircraft’s capacity for flight…”
“I see. Garesto’s aircraft utilize anti-gravity equipment and propulsions powered by photon energy to achieve flight, so the principles they rely on are different from those of Earth’s aircraft.”
Though it was also a passenger plane, the technologies behind it couldn’t be more different.
It was only natural that the functions and shape they’d demand from their aircrafts would differ.
“Okay, I’ve more or less gotten the picture, but… What’s with the small wings? Did you guys just add that as an afterthought or something?”
Shinichi could understand what she was saying, but he couldn’t understand why they had to force those small wings into the design.
“They were supposed to be a backup to allow the ship to glide in case of an emergency, but…”
“It’s safer for everyone to just use an exoskeleton to land?”
“Yeah, so at most, they’re there to prevent the plane from falling in a densely populated area. It’s also compulsory to have more emergency exoskeletons than the number of seats.”
The exoskeletons could be stored in the fosters, so storing more exoskeletons in this giant plane than there were seats wasn’t much of a challenge.
The emergency exoskeletons were also cheaper than Garesto Academy’s mass produced exoskeletons because they only needed the bare minimum flight capability and protection.
It also wasn’t a problem to provide that many exoskeletons financially-speaking.
“But of course that’s only true for passenger planes. Wings are still essential for aircraft and exoskeletons expected to perform more intense movements. Keeping your balance and making sharp turns without them is really hard. That’s why targeting the wings is one of the sure-win strategies in exoskeleton combat. But of course, both sides will be aiming for each other’s wing while protecting their own.
『───Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in level flight. You may now unfasten your seat belts and relax. Enjoy the flight. 』
As Shinichi listened to Frire’s explanations, before he knew it, the view outside the window was already moving horizontally.
Kutoria was now but a small dot in the distance and the view outside was now dominated by either the blues of the seas of the whites of the clouds.
Shinichi and Frire unfastened the seat belts they’d put on for safety’s sake and returned to their conversation.
“So, tell me. Why am I sitting in the aircraft meant for the higher classes, and not to mention, in the VIP seat?”