Wings of Unity
“We live in a time of utmost beauty.”
If only the time we lived in wasn’t filled with war, would that be true.
There was a time years before the world’s powers, the United States and Russia, were on the brink of war. Sides were drawn by the nations to see who would win, but one man stopped the entire world from destroying itself – and his name was Hisao Kotobuki.
Hisao Kotobuki proposed an initiative to colonize the stars so other countries would be able to have their own territories beyond what was theirs on Earth. But for that to happen, they would have to unite together as one to explore the darkness of the galaxy. Fortunately, everyone agreed to his plan, and this became known as the Star Harmony Plan – the utmost preservation and survival of humanity at all costs.
The Alliance Space Command was the organization created to be the symbol of the Star Harmony Plan, becoming Earth’s most unified military force. Hisao Kotobuki became the first leader of the Alliance Space Command, acquiring the role of Prime Commander. He began his path for space exploration by leading the development of space-faring technology and creating starships that were able to traverse through the atmosphere and into the void of space.
Humanity had thrived and the founding of new technology skyrocketed. With majutsu still being a staple in the world, the ancient power became a rare sight as time passed. People born with majutsu slowly dwindled. This led to the creation of Constructs (hard-mattered material that would function the same way as majutsu), which were not quite as powerful as its predecessor due to relying on a device that ran on power for usage. The Divine Weapons that were crafted by the ancient majutsu user known as the Blacksmith were recovered by the Alliance Space Command and kept in many museums to honor the world’s past.
Prime Commander Hisao Kotobuki organized the Alliance Space Command into five major fleets where personnel and the space-abled starships would be. The Northern, Southern, Western, and Eastern Fleets were designated to stay in the vicinity of Earth to patrol and safeguard the planet. Meanwhile, a fifth fleet, known as the Outer Fleet, was given the most important role – they were instructed to voyage out into space and colonize the stars for future settlements by humans.
In the year 2105, ten years after the founding of the Alliance Space Command, the Outer Fleet set course for the stars. After steady communication from the Outer Fleet to Earth for five years, the messages came to an abrupt stop. The last successful message the Outer Fleet sent was their encounter in deep space with a dark enigma.
With the loss of the Outer Fleet during their voyage in space, Prime Commander Hisao Kotobuki became paranoid at their last message. In a quick and timely reaction, he created a list of safety precautions for any type of extraterrestrial threat to the planet. This list included the construction of the Storm Cannon Defense Systems – defensive batteries that were able to fire missiles far past the moon – and the expansion of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, fortifying it with eight large walls that were enforced with defenses capable of both ground and air combat.
As the Alliance Space Command reinforced Earth due to their everlasting paranoia of not being the only ones in the galaxy, an internal coup stirred. On December 21st, 2176, long after Prime Commander Hisao Kotobuki passed away, the Insurrection made themselves known to the world.
At first, they were just a group of rogue ASC Troopers with the intent to rebel against their former companions. These newly-dubbed Operatives of the Insurrection became widely known as terrorists throughout the world. They successfully infiltrated a supposedly abandoned and decommissioned nuclear missile silo in France and launched three nuclear warheads towards Japan, Russia, and the United States – with the intent to create massive devastation and reignite the world war that was supposed to happen a century ago. Fortunately enough, the Operatives were defeated and the missiles self-destructed in orbit before any harm could be done.
The Insurrection then went into hiding, only emerging once in a while to cause small damage to the Alliance Space Command when possible. With the lingering threat of the Insurrection present, the Alliance Space Command had no idea what was about to occur – and the presence of the dark enigma encountered by the Outer Fleet had resurfaced.
The Harvesters appeared on the edge of the Solar System in the year 2190, and many people thought welcoming them with open arms would trick these aliens into sharing their technological advances and ideas with humanity. To their surprise, they thought wrong. The Harvesters annihilated any vessel that set course for them within seconds and advanced on Earth with the intent to invade it.
With preparation, humanity defended Earth with every weapon in their arsenal. Fleets were sent to orbit in order to crush the Harvester’s invasion, and every able-bodied man and woman were immediately drafted into the Alliance Space Command. Confidence and perseverance were what they had against this threat, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
The Harvesters broke through the defense of the Fleets, and with sheer precision, landed on Earth during evacuation procedures – catching the Alliance Space Command’s ground forces off-guard. Millions of civilians in major cities were slaughtered in a day by the Harvesters. It was called the Day of Darkness.
Along with annihilating millions that day, the Harvesters spread a mix of an infectious disease and their technology to resurrect the humans that they killed. These undead zombies became the backbone of the Harvester force and were given the name Harvester Runners.
Humanity was pushed back far enough that the Harvesters controlled a little over half of the world, wiping out humans in those areas. The Prime Commander at the time enacted the Lightkeeper Forcefield contingency plan – this plan consisted of large towers that, when activated, formed a giant wall of energy to separate areas. The Lightkeeper Forcefield segregated humanity from the Harvesters in a small portion known as the Haven, and the section of the world controlled by the Harvesters became known as the Void.
Now, the year is 2255. We stand here united, on the brink of annihilation, striving to fight against the Harvesters and to reclaim the Void for humanity.
A white owl soared through the night sky over the dark blue sea.
“You were the one everyone thought wouldn’t make it. You lost the memories of your past, but I still remember it all.”
With each flap of its wings, the white owl continued to fly faster.
“Just like the others, you were brave – filled with courage. But… There was a reason why we, I, picked you over the others. You had the one thing the rest of them lacked.”
As the moon shined down upon the dark night, the owl continued its flight through the sky.
“I’ll let you take a guess.”
The owl ascended high into the night sky towards the glowing, bright moon.
I’ve never really thought much of myself as a leader. I’m just here, trying to do the right thing.
It was my first day back to school as a second-year at the Miyamoto Academy, and the only thing that stopped me from enjoying the ride to school on the monorail was the lingering thought I had in mind ever since I boarded earlier this morning.
I’m late to class.
The monorail car was empty beside me and four ASC Troopers dressed in their combat armor sat on the opposite side of me. They were all geared up with the standard M22 Assault Rifle of the ASC, one of them having the exception of a two-handed cannon that would fire explosive energy.
I looked at the squad of four ASC Troopers that sat on the other side of me and I opened my mouth to speak to them. “I’m sure you guys aren’t late to class either, right?”
“We just graduated from Miyamoto,” the blonde-haired man said with a soft smile. “It’s our first mission out into the Void.”
What was once the other part of the world where other countries were, is now a long and forgotten wasteland filled with the undead.
“Into the Void…” I said with interest. “You guys must be the best to be able to go into the Void by yourselves!”
“We try to be,” the blonde-haired man said. “Even though we’re just fresh out of Miyamoto, we had the highest scores on tests in the Holographic Arena, and were top of our year. Since you’re a second-year, I’m sure you’ve heard of us. I’m Hayato, I led the Green Team to victory in all of our combat tests last year.”
No way… It really is them. Last year, the Green Team came out to be in the top percentage of all the Academy’s combat teams. Overall, their win-rate was at an all-time 97%.
“Whoa…” I smiled with respect for them. “You guys really are the best.”
“We’re going straight for the Void because I think my team and I are more than ready for it,” Hayato chuckled. “Maybe one day, we’ll be able to take the Void back from the Harvesters and make it ours again! I’ll make sure of it myself!”
“I really hope you guys make a difference,” I declared. “You seem like you want to be the first to make the difference we need.”
“People need hope,” he replied with a small nod. “And we’re going to be one of the first to deliver it.”
“Delivering hope?” I laughed. “I like the sound of that, Hayato-senpai! Maybe one day I’ll be able to join you out there in the Void!”
“You just might!” Hayato smiled. “When we finish our mission in the Void, and if we are truly the best, we’re definitely bound to become certified Void Clearers for the Alliance Space Command.”
Void Clearers. Anyone and everyone who aspires to be successful within the Alliance Space Command always shoot to become Void Clearers, the elite Troopers who declare their lives to clearing the Void.
“You hold more than just hope,” I said to him, “You seem to hold your luck high as well.”
“I do,” Hayato nodded as he produced a golden medallion with an eagle on it. “You can call this my lucky charm.”
“Awesome!” I felt a large grin form on my face. “Do you think you’re ready for the Void?”
“I always try to keep everyone accounted for, and there’s no way I’d leave someone behind,” Hayato said. “The Void will be our true test, but me and my team will make it through together – as one.”
I looked at the other members of Hayato’s squad as they began to introduce themselves.
“I’m Noriyama, our squad’s scout,” the red-haired girl said to me with a smile. “I do my best to get ahead of everyone else to make sure there’s no trouble for the rest of them. I’ve done so well at navigating, sometimes I don’t even use the map!”
“My name’s Rin,” the raven-haired girl with teal eyes spoke up. “I make sure everyone else listens to Hayato-kun and I’m our squad’s medic. I always try to keep myself on the same level as Hayato-kun here – and during our tests in the Holographic Arena, I was always by his side.”
“They call me Daitō,” the other man with navy-blue hair said with his deep voice as he crossed his arms over his chest. Using his eyes, he pointed at the heavy two-handed cannon that sat at his feet. “I’m the squad’s heavy weapons expert. Keeping enemies at bay from afar has always been my specialty and sticking together is what matters the most to me.”
“And what’s your name?” Hayato questioned me with a smile.
“Ah, me?” I raised a brow.
The squad of four nodded their heads.
“My name’s Kitaru Ozaki.”
“Hmm… Kitaru Ozaki…” the bespectacled teacher known as Toyosaki-sensei uttered as she stared at the screen in front of her. The glasses she wore gave a reflection of the long list of names of students. She finally came to a stop and so did the list. “Ah, found you! Yes… It says here you’re supposed to be in Class 2-1 on the second floor with your homeroom teacher being… Akane… Ozaki?”
My eyes widened and I felt sweat drops form at the top of my forehead. “My sister? There’s got to be a mistake, and especially if I’m late… She’s going to kill me!”
“Well,” Toyosaki-sensei adjusted her glasses and propped her elbows up on the desk. “My best piece of advice for you right now, Ozaki-kun, would be to rush to class, hoping she doesn’t see that you’re late… And if she does, tell her I said hi and let’s get lunch later!”
“Uhhh! Thank you, Toyosaki-sensei!” I shook my head rapidly, bowing towards her and began to run down the long corridor towards the staircases.
“Bye-bye, Ozaki-kun!” I heard Toyosaki-sensei’s voice behind me as I began climbing up the staircase.
If Akane-nee sees that I’m late, she’s going to kill me! Then, she’s going to tell dad! Then, she’s going to kill me more!
I ran with speed up the flights of stairs to my classroom, hoping that my sister hadn’t begun attendance yet. As I made it to the peak of the second floor, I felt someone brush against my shoulder. I turned to see a girl with silver hair and golden-yellow eyes. A look of anger formed on her face and I gave her a slight grin before continuing to run to my class.
“Whoa, sorry!” I shouted back to her. “I’m a little late for class!”
“Watch where you’re going!” the golden-eyed girl yelled after me before turning away. “Hmph, idiot…”
I made it to the classroom and watched as the door slid open to let me in. I peeked into the room and found all the students in there staring at me. I looked to see if my sister was at the front of the classroom. To my fortune, there was no teacher present.
“Phew!” I let out a heavy sigh. “I made it just in time before Akane-nee found out I was late…”
Could today be my lucky day?
I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around, and there before me, stood my sister. Her grey eyes were narrowed, and I could see her face was filled with anger.
“Kitaru…” she said in a hushed voice. “You’re late.”
Akane Ozaki, my older sister. She’s the golden child of my family, and my dad praises her for being one of the most honored students that attended the Miyamoto Academy. After she graduated, she became one of the highest-decorated teachers on campus and has won many awards to prove it.
“Aheh…” I rubbed the back of my head. “Hey, Akane-nee… What are you, uh… What are you doing here?”
“Don’t you play dumb with me, Kitaru! You’re late to your homeroom class, are you serious!?” she shouted before raising her fist high in the air. She slammed her hand down on top of my head and I felt a bruise begin to form. “How could someone be that stupid to be late on their first day back to the Academy?”
“Ow! C’mon, Akane-nee, I wasn’t that late!” I rubbed my head.
“It’s ‘Ozaki-sensei’ when we’re in class, Kitaru,” she narrowed her grey eyes. “Now, get to a seat before I give you another one of those bumps on your head.”
“Ye-yes, Ozaki-sensei… Oh, uh, Toyosaki-sensei wanted me to tell you she said hi,” I nervously bowed before I turned towards the class, who sat silently watching me and Akane-nee’s encounter the entire time. I let out a nervous grin as I made my way up the couple stairs there were to the back of the classroom, and I took my seat next to a familiar face.
“Ah, Ozaki-kun,” the girl sitting to the right of me said. I turned to face her and found a pale-faced girl with jet-black, short hair. Her purple eyes blinked as I stared at her. “It’s good to see you again, Ozaki-kun.”
I met Chizuru last year in the Holographic Arena during one of our finals against Harvesters. She was separated from her squad, Purple Team, and fending off against a horde on her own. I assisted her in the Arena, and while we were heading back to meet up with the Purple Team, she twisted her ankle. I ended up carrying her the rest of the way back.
“Yamamura-san, it’s nice to see you too,” I said with a small smile.
Maybe this class won’t be so bad after all.
“Now, to begin,” I heard the voice of Akane-nee talk. “Since you’re all second-years, you’ve got only two years left before you graduate from the Miyamoto Academy. In a few moments, the entire school will be meeting outside to begin your Introduction Day. Before we go, we’ll begin our own self-introductions to the class. Your name, what squad you’re in, and your goal.”
The Miyamoto Academy was one of the ten academies across the world that trained students to become fully-fledged Troopers of the Alliance Space Command. Miyamoto was located on an island off Japan’s Eastern coast, and the only way to reach the island was via the monorail or by air travel. The Miyamoto Academy has gained high recognition as one of the top academies to be enrolled in, making us one of the most prestigious and honorable schools a student can attend. Attending the Academy is a complete blessing, considering most of the students are the sons and daughters of important figures in the Alliance Space Command.
“Introduction Day?” I heard Chizuru ask me. “I don’t seem to remember what Introduction Day is from last year. Do you, Ozaki-kun?”
“Hmm…” I thought to myself. “Oh, that’s right. Introduction Day is just meeting in the courtyard with the Headmistress, and then being dismissed to tour the campus, which is especially helpful for first-years, and then we gather in the Holographic Arena with our assigned combat teams.”
“That is right!” Chizuru smiled softly. “I can’t believe I forgot, the break we had from school completely drew me away from everything. Did you enjoy your break, Ozaki-kun?”
Apart from nearly doing nothing besides sleep and eat during break…
“I guess you can say I did!” I chuckled.
I took a glance outside the window to see the ocean in the distance, with many towering buildings within my view. The island we were on was a very beautiful place, with a plentiful mix of scenery combined with society.
“It’s a beautiful view,” Chizuru spoke up. I turned around to face her and found her staring past me out the window. “Living here while attending school is the dream… But, uh…”
She pointed back towards the ocean. I swiveled back around and saw an orange, wall-like forcefield in the distance – the energy wall from the Lightkeeper Forcefield.
“When you think about it,” Chizuru continued, “We’re still trying to survive against the Harvesters.”
“I met a team of four Troopers this morning,” I beamed. “They were headed to the Void for their first mission. They seemed really… Hopeful, that they were going to make a difference. That they were going to succeed – they happened to also be really nice people.”
“Ozaki-kun,” she frowned. “I hope you know that in the Void, the percentage of dying is 94% - survivability in there is… I don’t know.”
“Maybe they’ll be a part of the 6%.”
“Hey!” I heard my sister call. “It’s your turn, Kitaru!”
My attention was turned towards the class and I found many pairs of eyes staring at me, waiting for my introduction. I stood up out of my seat and cleared my throat.
“My name’s Kitaru Ozaki. I was on the Blue Team last year. My one goal is to…”
I looked to my left at the Lightkeeper Forcefield, thinking about the squad I encountered earlier on the monorail and the influential words they said to me.
“Is…?” my sister raised a brow.
I faced myself back to the class.
“Is to make a difference in the Void.”
“Was it really a typical response!?” I whispered to Chizuru as we stood in line. “Is that why everyone was laughing at me after I said it?”
“Ozaki-kun, if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that over half of the class had the same response you said!” Chizuru let out a small smirk. “I think what you said was the most basic version of it because everyone else gave reasons why!”
“Well…” I frowned. “It’s true.”
We stood in line with the rest of our class at the center of campus, with buildings towering around us. To begin our Introduction Day, the entire academy was divided into three separate groups for an announcement at the center of school, with the groups pertaining to what grade you were in – the first-years, second-years, and third-years.
“Students, welcome to the Miyamoto Academy!” an older woman standing on the podium in front of us hollered into a microphone. She was dressed in the school’s staff uniform and smiled. “I’m the Headmistress of our beloved school, and I want to personally thank you all for attending!”
We applauded for the Headmistress and she raised her hand.
“This year, we have a lot to look forward to,” the Headmistress continued. “We had many of our past third-years graduate last year, so we have a bit of a smaller student population compared to the other academy’s. Along with that, we have a total of twelve combat training teams this year, with some new changes to how they’ll run – you’ll find more information about that in your team meetings after.”
A girl walked onto the podium, her uniform bearing a difference between the rest of ours – her blazer was white instead of the normal navy-blue and stripes of navy-blue ran down the side. Her golden-yellow eyes and silver hair bore a resemblance to earlier in my day.
That’s the girl I bumped into earlier…
“This is Yusa Tachibana,” the Headmistress said as she pointed to the girl, now known as Yusa. “She is your Student Council President, Head of the Disciplinary Committee, and leader of the Black Team! She will be helping the staff run the academy by engaing with the student body!”
The Headmistress let Yusa take her place at the podium and everyone clapped for her.
“Miyamoto Academy is the most prestigious academy for the ASC, and that means we will have very specific rules. Which are all expected to be obeyed at all times,” she began, narrowing her eyes. “The Disciplinary Committee this year will have instructions to make sure nobody is to tarnish this school’s name – and if you do, justice will be served.”
What kind of introduction is that!? Establishing dominance already?
Small pockets of whispers circulated through the crowds and Yusa clenched her fists.
“So, it seems that some of you wish to already test the rules?”
“That is better,” she said. “We will now begin to read lists of the available teams, and your respective team leaders. Afterwards, you will all depart to your team locker rooms in the Holographic Arena.”
Yusa began listing the available teams, then names of the leaders after. At the Miyamoto Academy, teams were given color-based names. These combat training teams were led by more experienced students, namely third-years at the academy. It was a great honor and responsibility to be held accountable for a whole team of students. She droned on with the naming and called her own name out for her leadership of the Black Team.
“The Blue Team,” she announced. “Your team leader is Kitaru Ozaki.”
I shook my head and my eyes widened.
M-me!? There must be some type of mistake, I’m only a second-year… I can’t be a team leader!
“That concludes the first part of Introduction Day!” the Headmistress, now back at the podium, said with a smile. “Please, make your way to the Holographic Arena! If you have any questions, please come up to the podium and ask away!”
“Ozaki-kun, congratulations!” Chizuru said with a soft smirk on her face. “I didn’t expect you to be a team leader, but I’m… I’m really happy for you!”
“Gee, Yamamura-san, thanks…” I rubbed the back of my head as students around us began to leave the center of campus. I looked past them and found everyone walking towards a large dome-shaped building in the near distance. “I didn’t think I’d be one either… I’m actually going to talk to the Headmistress, just because it might be a mistake.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure, Ozaki-kun,” she pursed her lips. “I can see you as a leader. Would you like me to come with you?”
“Oh, no, it’s fine, Yamamura-san,” I chuckled nervously. “I’ll see you later.”
She gave me a smile before walking away towards the Holographic Arena with everyone else. I turned towards the podium and found my sister talking with the Headmistress, while Yusa was still standing on the stage.
I walked towards the podium, and my sister looked at me, followed by the Headmistress and Yusa turning their attention to me as well.
“Uh… Headmistress,” I bowed. “I’m Kitaru Ozaki, and apparently I’m the leader of Blue Team? I’m here to talk to you on whether that is actually…”
“If it’s actually true, huh?” the Headmistress grinned. “Your answer is yes, Ozaki-kun – you are the leader of the Blue Team this year.”
“But… Why me?”
“It’s fairly simple, Ozaki-kun,” she chuckled. “Everyone from the Blue Team graduated! Considering last year, you were the only first-year on the team! There’s nobody else left in your team but you.”
“Your father recommended it, Ozaki-kun.”
“Don’t mess this up, Kitaru,” my sister crossed her arms over her chest and nodded. “Dad tells me he’s proud that you’re given the chance to do this.”
My dad? He recommended me?
Colonel Kyōsuke Ozaki… My father. Highly respected in the Alliance Space Command as the leader of the Void Clearers (ASC Troopers that were given the task to venture into the Void to reclaim it for humanity). He was barely around when I was growing up, leaving Akane-nee to raise me by herself, since our mother passed away when I was just a small child – I barely remember anything about our mother.
“You’re going to be fine,” the Headmistress said before ushering to Yusa. “Tachibana-chan here is only a second-year as well, and she has three times the responsibility you have. You and her are the only leaders of the training teams that are second-years. With that, I expect you will have each other’s backs.”
I looked at Yusa and she grimaced.
“Don’t think I don’t remember you from earlier,” Yusa said before taking a step closer to me. “Rudely bumping into me on your way to class, especially because you were late! Take this as a warning… If I ever catch you late to class, again.”
“Nice, Kitaru,” Akane-nee laughed. “You two only just met and she’s already at your throat! World record for someone being angry at you.”
“You two can settle this later,” the Headmistress chuckled. “Anyways, Ozaki-kun, my decision is final – you’re going to be the leader of the Blue Team.”
I felt a huge weight drop onto my chest and I sank, worried at the responsibility that I would be facing.
“You two should head to the Holographic Arena now,” my sister said. “You’ve both got teams to introduce yourselves to.”
“Will do,” Yusa said, before bowing towards the Headmistress and Akane-nee. I followed her cue and bowed as well, seeing smiles on both adults' faces before turning to look at Yusa. “Let’s go, Ozaki.”
“Okay, Tachibana-san,” I replied.
The two of us walked away from the podium and headed towards the Holographic Arena, the dome-shaped building. The building was Miyamoto Academy’s crowning jewel. The Holographic Arena was where the combat teams would train – a simulation would be loaded onto the arena’s floor, and that simulation would then mimic situations we could face in the Void.
“I didn’t expect to be the leader of the Blue Team,” I explained to Yusa, beginning a conversation with her as we walked. “I’m not sure if I even want to be their leader.”
“I don’t think you have a choice,” she said back to me. “And I’m sure the Headmistress must think highly of you to give you the position.”
“Then I can easily say the same for you!” I chirped with a smile, turning to see Yusa facing away and letting out a nervous grin.
“Anyways…” she brushed off my comment. “Grave things happen if a team leader were to abandon their role and nobody was able to fill it in – the entire team is transferred to another, and the team itself is then disbanded. Meaning…”
“Meaning since I’m the sole member of the Blue Team and the only capable one, if I choose to not be the team leader, the entire team is then gone? Like… It’s gone forever?”
“That’s correct,” she nodded. “It’s then replaced by a different team.”
“Say, Tachibana-san, did you want all of the responsibilities you’ve been given?” I asked her.
“Of course, I did, don’t be dumb,” she frowned. “You and I are apparently special cases.”
“What did you do last year? If you don’t mind me asking.”
She looked at me and raised a brow. “I do mind.”
I felt my face heat up with embarrassment. “Sorry! Uh… Well, for me, I didn’t really do much last year. I tried my best to survive the same as any other first-year in the academy.”
“Right, Ozaki…” she looked away.
A shining blue light on the edge of my peripheral vision caught my eye. I turned towards the blue light and found it escaping a window from the Administrative Building on campus.
“Do you see that?” I asked Yusa.
“The blue light, did you see it?” I pointed up towards the Administrative Building. “It came from inside there.”
Yusa looked at where I was pointing and looked back at me. “You know, for first impressions, you’re crazy.”
“I’m going to go investigate it.”
“Wh-what!?” she was taken aback. “There’s nothing there! We have a responsibility as team leaders to make sure everyone in our team is up to date! We’ve no time to be snooping around the Administrative Building.”
“I think they can wait five minutes,” I looked back at her as I began walking towards the Administrative Building. “Do you want to go ahead without me?”
“The Headmistress gave specific instructions for us to watch over each other.”
“I feel like there’s something important in there!” I said. “What do you say, Tachibana-san?”
“… Five minutes,” she firmly said. “You have five minutes to do your ‘investigating’ before I force you to go to the Holographic Arena. I’ll wait here.”
“I’ll be right back, Tachibana-san!” I waved before making my way to the building.
Opening the door to the Administrative Building, I found it empty of any teachers or staff. One of the wooden doors down the elegant hall decorated with awards and commemorations for Miyamoto Academy was cracked open slightly, and I found the blue light from earlier shine from inside the room on the other side.
I walked towards the door, the light shining even brighter. I looked up at the sign that was next to the door and read it.
Divine Weapons – restricted access, authorized personnel only.
“I shouldn’t be doing this,” I sighed, coming to my senses before turning away. I started walking back to where Yusa was waiting outside before the shining blue light behind me grew, to the point where I could see my silhouette on the wall ahead of me.
I raised a brow before seeing a second silhouette appear next to mine. I gasped and turned around, thinking someone was behind me – nobody was there.
What was that?
The blue light from earlier shined even brighter than before – and the door was now wide open. I walked towards the room that contained the Divine Weapons and walked in.
The room was filled with ancient artifacts from Earth’s history – the room itself having nearly a dozen or so glass cases containing different weapons inside of them. The shining blue light dimmed itself down to the corner of the lit room.
I walked past the cases, peeking into them to find weapons of all kinds – swords, knives, archery bows, and all the weapons you could think of – but I continued towards the blue light that emitted from one of the cases. All these weapons were crafted by a powerful majutsu user simply named the Blacksmith centuries ago, and with a special material only he ever knew of – he created the Divine Weapons.
I investigated the glass case and found the Divine Weapon known as Danketsu, rumored to be one of the most powerful Divine Weapons ever crafted. Inside the glass case with the blade was its sheath, and a short description appeared pertaining information about the katana.
Danketsu was recovered by Shichirōji Yokumoto at the Battle of the Osaka Plains in 1868. With the tremendous power of Danketsu, he then went on to silence the rebellion made by the samurai and ninja of the time. Long after Shichirōji’s victory, Danketsu sits at rest until it is called for once more.
“Danketsu… The ultimate Divine Weapon. I’ve only read about you in class, but it’s so different seeing you in person,” I said to myself while inspecting the aged relic, analyzing its elegant design. I read off the letters inscribed onto the blade. “Hmm… ‘They who hold together as one, endure’… ‘The blade of unity.’”
I thought back to what Hayato said earlier to me on the train and wondered how they were faring on their first mission in the Void. The words of Danketsu relate to their venture out there, and if they believed in working together as one, they would have no trouble delivering hope.
Deliver hope… Maybe, just maybe… They’ll be able to do that.
Noriyama ran through the foggy field, her panting growing heavier with each rapid step she took. She looked behind her to hear the shrieks and screeches coming from the Harvester Runners that chased after her with great haste.
“Where did everything go wrong!?” she shouted to herself. “Damn it!”
What was originally their first mission into the Void turned into something close to an ambush, with Harvesters rising from everywhere and anywhere to attack Hayato and his squad upon causing any type of noise. After deploying in a city now unknown to what it once was, Noriyama scouted ahead of her squad as instructed. Taking down a few roaming Harvester Runners by herself was no big deal, and Noriyama believed the mission would go as smooth as they had hoped – they would get in, set up a device to establish communications in the Void, and go home – but a wrong turn down the wrong street attracted the attention of an entire Harvester horde.
“Help!” she cried as she aimed her rifle back at her chasers and fired wildly at the undead. Their glowing red eyes shined as blood spewed from the bullets that hit them, and a couple of the dozens chasing after her fell to the ground.
She resumed her retreat towards the unknown, hoping to find anyone who would be able to come to her rescue.
“Noriyama-san, come towards the flare!” she heard Hayato’s voice over her helmet’s radio. In the blink of an eye, a blue flare shot high into the air, signaling her team’s position. Noriyama made haste towards the blue flare as she heard more Harvester Runners join the horde that was already chasing her.
Noriyama spotted the lights coming from her squad’s armor and equipment ahead and picked up her speed, almost seemingly leaving the Runners behind to lose them. She ran faster and faster, and found the rest of her squad taking positions near a broken-down burger store in the suburban district they were in.
“Here she comes!” Noriyama heard Rin’s voice shout.
“Covering fire!” Daitō yelled. The sound of Daitō’s cannon occurred and Noriyama took a quick glance behind her to see the Runners get shot down by her squad. One by one the horde’s strength continued to decrease with every successful gunshot by the others, and for a second, Noriyama felt like she was back to safety.
“Stalkers behind you!” Hayato shouted as Noriyama turned around and found skulking, taller versions of the Runners in pursuit as well. Stalkers were mutations of Runners that had been turned into unrecognizable monsters compared to their human-looking companions.
“We need to stay together, Hayato!” Daitō yelled. “If we separate, we’ll be screwed!”
“I got this, don’t worry!” Hayato said. Harvester Runners neared Hayato as he began to make his way towards Noriyama. With nearly a dozen Runners near him, Hayato shouted, “Elemental Construct: Thundering Fist!”
His right hand lit up with a pulsing red flame that sparked. Hayato slammed his hand into the ground, sending a thunderous quake that evaporated the Harvester Runners that were once there and cracked the pavement below him.
Hayato ran towards Noriyama, Daitō and Rin staying behind to give them covering fire. He drew a handle that was attached to his hip and ignited the energy sword, producing a double-sided blue blade from the top of the handle.
As Hayato swung his sword to intercept the Stalker, the quick reactions from the Stalker caused it to knock the handle out of Hayato’s hand, leaving him defenseless from its attacks.
Time slowed while Hayato watched helplessly as the Stalker swung its spear-like arm at him.
The Harvester Stalker stabbed Hayato through his chest, lifted him high into the air, and jabbed its other hand into his torso. Hayato screamed wildly in pain, sending chills to the rest of his companions as the Stalker tore him in half – throwing Hayato’s split body into the hordes of Runners for them to devour the remains.
“HAYATO-KUN! NO!” Rin shouted as she charged towards the Harvester Stalker while she fired her M22 at it. She shot down the Harvester Stalker and fired at the Runners surrounding her. The loud groans and screams coming from the horde around her wrapped Rin around the middle of the attacking Runners.
“Damn it!” Daitō shook his head and continued firing his cannon.
“Rin!” Noriyama called out as she fired the M22 in her hands at every Runner in her sight. She heard the thundering noise of Daitō’s cannon fire as they tried their best to save their squad’s medic.
“Gah!!! You bastards, die!” Rin screamed as Runners fell to her left and right. Rin continued to fire her M22 at the horde and killed as many as possible before one of the Runners slapped her M22 out of her hands.
Noriyama and Daitō watched as the Runners bit into Rin’s armor, then devoured her on the spot before they pulled her down to the ground – Rin’s screams becoming lost in the many Harvesters that covered her.
“NO!” Noriyama shouted as she continued shooting at the Runners.
“Damn it!” cursed Daitō as he fired his cannon at the group of Runners, sending them flying with an explosion. He dropped his cannon and took a step forward in front of Noriyama, holding both his arms out. “Defense Construct: Guardian’s Wall!”
A purple shield formed from his palms, and it blocked more of the incoming Runners, who began to claw their way through the Construct.
“Daitō, what do we do?” Noriyama asked her companion in-between her unsteady breathing.
“We have to leave, now!” Daitō said as he picked up his cannon. “Noriyama-san, follow me into the burger shop behind us! Throw your smoke grenade, we need cover!”
“R-right!” Noriyama said with nervousness in her voice as she pulled out a smoke grenade, pressed the button on it, and threw it into the horde. The horde before them became entrapped within the smoke, enabling them to buy time for their escape into the burger store.
She followed Daitō as he charged into the burger store, breaking down a door with his shoulder as he looked around.
“We need to hold out here until we’re able to get out, “Daitō began as he searched around the burger store. “… I don’t know what happened, Noriyama-san. But we can still make it through this. Give me a hand with pushing these seats to cover the entrance.”
Daitō ushered for Noriyama, and the two of them pushed a large booth into the doorframe, blocking them in from the outside.
“How’s your ammo?” Noriyama asked as she checked her equipment. “I’m running low on everything. I didn’t bring enough because I thought this would have been quick.”
“Me too,” Daitō said with a heavy sigh.
“It’s my fault,” Noriyama shook her head. “If I… If I followed the map correctly and didn’t run too far ahead of you guys, I would’ve been able to avoid that Harvester horde.”
“Things like this happen,” Daitō said as he peeked outside, noticing that the Harvester horde that killed Hayato and Rin began to thin in numbers, due to believing that Daitō and Noriyama were gone from the area. “If we’re silent enough, we’ll be able to escape.”
Footsteps echoed in the large dining room of the run-down burger store.
“Did you… Did you hear that?” Noriyama asked.
“I did,” Daitō picked up his cannon. “If there’s something in here with us, we have to make as little noise as possible to get rid of it. The Harvester horde could be attracted back to us.”
“Okay…” Noriyama mumbled as she gripped onto her M22. Daitō walked forward towards the center of the dining room, and activated his helmet’s lights to be able to see in the lowly-lit building. He checked left and right before turning back to his companion.
Noriyama looked further behind Daitō and found a Harvester Raider, another mutation of the Runner, giving one of its arms a cannon run by Harvester technology. It aimed its cannon at Daitō and Noriyama watched as the cannon glowed with a purple hue.
“Get Command on the radio, tell them we need an immediate evacuation. Tell them everyone else is–” Daitō stopped mid-sentence as the Harvester Raider fired.
“Da-Daitō-san…?” Noriyama’s eyes widened.
“Ug-ugh…” Daitō groaned heavily. A giant hole in Daitō’s chest from the devastating beam left him dead, and his lifeless body fell to the ground with a heavy thud – leaving Noriyama as the sole member left.
Noriyama opened fire on the Harvester Raider, killing it before backing away from Daitō’s body. The Harvester Runners outside let out a combined shriek that attracted the attention of the horde from before, and before Noriyama knew it, heavy poundings on the doors and walls sounded – her gunfire had called the horde back again.
“Th-this is Nori-Noriyama! My squad… My squad is dead… I’m the only one left,” Noriyama shakily said into her helmet radio. “Harvesters… They trapped us and killed us… If anyone is ou-out there… Please! Please he-help me…”
The continuing pound of the Runners on the opposite side of the blockade loudened, and she saw that it wouldn’t hold them for long. Noriyama’s heart sank as fog from the outside sneaked in – indicating the reinforced door was breaking by the second.
Noriyama held her hands up in fear as the horde broke through her makeshift defenses, lunging towards her with their drawn claws and blood-red eyes.
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