It was curious if it was her words that tipped the impostor off, or he merely noticed the approaching shadow, but regardless, he turned his gaze in that direction. But even then, it was doubtful that the impostor understood what it was that approached him. After all, what was there was—an enormous fist.
“It’s a damn shame we have to make our debut at a place like this, ‘Endeavor’!”
The voice of a young boy covered from head to toe in white armor resounded. That armor was none other than the customized exoskeleton known as “Endeavor” that had been given to Ryou.
It was as simple as the mass-produced models used in school in terms of color, what with a white base with black lines.
Unnecessary equipment have also been removed, perhaps because they were indoors, so the only thing that stood out on it was its giant arms.
The fists, which were almost enough to fill the space between the floor and ceiling, were a wall unto themselves.
Propelled by the exoskeleton’s enhanced propulsion and limb strength, the pressure exuded by those fists led the impostor to instinctively extend both of his arms to receive them.
The resulting power was great enough that the impostor kept going despite that, but in the end, the impostor could only be pushed by a step or two.
“So you need an exoskeleton just to fight me?” The impostor said.
“Yeah!” Ryou said.
With an indignant shout, Ryou launched his giant fists.
They might have been shaped as a fist, but at the end of the day, they were weapons – a pair of colossal gauntlet-like blunt weapons.
As Ryou launched them, the propulsion system kicked in and photon flames spewed out.
Even the impostor couldn’t help but briefly marvel at the unfamiliar attack, but even with such a function, Ryou could only push the impostor by another half step.
However, the impostor noticed the presence of another girl, so he turned to her and said that.
There, Tomoe could be seen standing half turned with her left arm extended, then as her right arm slowly retracted, her fingers abruptly let go.
What was released could not be seen by anyone else, but regardless, an arrow of spiritual energy shot out.
In a battle such as this, where only Ryou and Tomoe could see that arrow, and normal people couldn’t even so much as pick up on the sound it made, that attack shot out right at the moment the impostor resisted Ryou’s attack, in that very moment when the impostor had paused.
That’s why Tomoe was so sure of it – that she’d gotten the impostor.
But what awaited her was not the reality she’d drawn but something completely unexpected.
The impostor had used two hands to catch Ryou’s attack, and supposedly that was out of necessity, but in the next moment, he took one of his hands and caught Tomoe’s arrow, then that arm went limp.
If only that arrow could have hit the impostor on the body, the damage would have been much greater, but alas…
“I see… This is definitely a problem.”
“No way! You blocked it with one arm!? You can see!?”
“I couldn’t see it, but I can more or less gauge where it is based off of your arm’s position and where you’re looking.”
When the impostor pointed that out, Tomoe frowned and grit her teeth.
For some reason, she was reminded by what Shinichi told her during training.
‘Whether it’s your sword, your bow, or your magic, you’re just too precise. That’s why you’re so easy to predict,’ he had told her.
Regardless, Tomoe’s efforts weren’t meaningless. One of the impostor’s arms was now gone.
And as though to say just that, a flash of photons shot out.
Approaching from the side of the immobilized arm was the Sword Saint, Frire, clad in her armor of white and silver.
That was a straight charge of sheer power, an unstoppable tempest that blew away any and all that dared stand in its path.
Yet the impostor showed no fear and just defiantly smiled as he grabbed the giant’s fists, then with all his might, swung Ryou around and easily sent Frire flying.
The impostor laughed fearlessly, but…
“Checkmate. That’s what you say at times like this, right?”
Three independent floating weapons equipped with Gatling guns suddenly appeared under the control of Aristel.
By this point, everyone knew that firearms didn’t work.
Despite that, Myuhi readied a new spear and leaped forward, while Frire picked herself back up and kicked off against the wall, Ryou gathered spiritual power in his palms, and Tomoe threw her talismans to make up for the gaps in their encirclement.
It was curious what the impostor thought of all that, but regardless, he glared at the bit weapons, and as soon as he released his hold on the giant fist, everything was consumed by white.
An overwhelming flash of violence flooded all of their visual input.
The impostor found himself saying something, but even that was overshadowed by a deafening explosion.
That attack was none other than a Stun Grenade skill.
Just one grenade had been launched by a Gatling gun bit, yet the result was tremendous.
Being in the same room, Aristel’s allies could have been debilitated by the blast as well, but by coordinating beforehand through their Foster and the use of skills, exoskeleton’s flash defense function, and sound-blocking, they were able to nullify its effects.
With their enhanced senses, they were able to continue targeting the impostor even amidst this white.
This was a level of cooperation made possible only because everyone was equipped with weaponry from another world.
The impostor was bewildered and disoriented. He seemed to struggle after experiencing the intense flash and explosion from so close.
But Frire and Myuhi weren’t about to pull their punches now. As the closest ones to the impostor, they readied their weapons and attacked.
Yet the moment they were about to strike down the impostor, an eerie and malevolent grin spread across the impostor’s face, and an undeniable chill crawled down their spines. Alas, it was already too late.
They simultaneously noticed the abnormality in the situation, and they found that their bodies have suddenly been immobilized.
In fact, it was not just them, but even the bits floating in the air and the talismans.
Even those who were in mid-air, like Frire and Myuhi, appeared to have been woven stuck into space.
<Reporting only the confirmed information. A thread-like object has been entwined all over the body. It is an unknown material that appears to be a mixture of some sort of animal hair and photon, but the details remain unclear. It was undetectable until just now.
Presently, I can confirm that the material has covered the entire room… It is incomprehensible.>
“Are you telling me we’ve been bound!? By animal hair!? That’s impossible!”
Try as the group might to move their eyes in search, they failed to find even a speck of those thread-like animal hair and other details that Shirayuki reported.
The two individuals with special eyes were in shock, but the other three were yet to realize the situation to that extent.
From right in front of Frire, where everyone could see, the impostor seemed to regain his composure, and he caressed the empty space.
At that, the group’s field of vision underwent a dramatic transformation.
Threads of gold, that glistened and snaked their way across the room, could now be seen wrapped around their bodies.
When they looked down at themselves, the threads could be seen loosely coiled around their necks.
There was no doubting it – the impostor now held their lives on the palm of his hand.
Ryou and Tomoe had foreseen this situation just a moment earlier and shivered, while the remaining three paled for a different reason.
“…Fudonecchi, you know, I think I’ve seen this before,” Myuhi said.
“M-Me too, Teacher! I think that person might be…” Aristel said.
“Yeah, that’s not something that you can forget about easily… Hey, you— Erm… I mean, excuse me, by any chance, could you possibly be?”
With a faint yet wry smile and a somewhat pale expression, Frire cautiously uttered those words without appearing too confrontational.
However, the impostor remained silent, only extending his hand toward her mouth.
The gesture neither seemed hostile nor a demand to keep quiet. Instead, it conveyed a simple plea that was evident from the pained expression on the impostor’s face.
“You want me to wait?”
But the impostor didn’t react, almost as if he was ignoring them. Then he blinked repeatedly, tapped his ears, and inexplicably pressed his head as he muttered meaningless words.
“Ah, ahhh, ahh, ah… waiyueuo?”
“…Oh, I see, he can’t ear anything because of the earlier attack.” Frire said.
“I specifically chose a powerful stun grenade, so he probably can’t see well either,” Aristel said.
“He’s not a Japanese too, so he’s probably struggling to speak the language too,” Myuhi said.
As they’ve already noticed the true identity of the person before them. They patiently waited for him to regain their composure without making any moves.
Ryou and Tomoe too did not resist. They seemed puzzled but they patiently waited nonetheless and just watched.
Eventually, after some vocalizations and some rubbing of his eyes, ears, and the top of his head, the impostor became able to speak clearly again.
“Aa, ii, uu, ee, oo… There! Wow, that was pretty good just now. I can’t believe being so confident on my eyes and ears would actually cause me to suffer so much. You got me good.”
An unusually cheerful smile surfaced on the impostor, causing the Ryou and the others to twitch.
After all, the person before them still looked like Shinichi, so seeing him smile so cheerfully was just so wrong.
“But you did well. Despite the sudden battle and being an impromptu team, your coordination was decent… So, let’s just say you passed for now.”
“Uh… Thank you, I guess?” Aristel said.
Though they didn’t know what they were being tested on in the first place, Aristel nonetheless said that.
“I’m sorry, but can you set us free? Also, can you do something about the way you look? That face is unsettling… For various reasons…” Frire said.
In fact, everyone here thought so too.
Being bound by these mysterious threads and seeing a different person in an acquaintance’s body was surprisingly unnerving. Fortunately, the impostor was more than happy to comply.
“True. I also wouldn’t that to get attacked by that midget again,” the impostor said.
“Midge—!?” Myuhi said.
As for who the impostor was referring to, that was all too clear when he snorted while looking at Myuhi.
Regardless, the impostor released them.
“You little!” Myuhi said.
“Control yourself, Ruona!” Frire said.
Myuhi bared her fangs, seemingly poised to jump at the impostor at any moment, but Frire restrained her.
Meanwhile, the person in question just whistled as he picked up the hair scattered in the room, though that in itself was an act of provocation.
Myuhi could tell that much, but for some reason, she just couldn’t let this person’s provocation off so easily.
She felt as though she couldn’t allow herself to be mocked by this person.
“Oh, my, how scary. It might be an illusion, but I can’t stand it when my master’s face is targeted.”
Though the impostor yet wore the face of a boy, the way he smiled reeked of femininity, and with a snap of his fingers, the appearance of a boy peeled off and vanished.
When the true appearance of the impostor was unveiled, a breath of admiration left someone’s lips.
That was a beauty. A woman as beautiful as she was dangerous.
But even while knowing that, no one here could take their eyes off her.
She pushed up her long golden hair, as gold as the rice ears in harvest.
At the top of her head could be seen a pair of lively fox ears, and behind her could be seen three giant tails, which she used as her chair.
Then with a flirtatious glance, and a face that could take any soul captive be they boy or girl, smiled bewitchingly at the people before her.
“This would be our first time meeting in this form. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”