Wings of Unity
It’s been a month since the school year started. Ever since then, I’ve taken up the mantle of being the guardian of the Divine Weapon known as Danketsu, I’ve become the leader of a team of students called Blue Team, and I’ve begun using majutsu.
With all those things in place, I’ve since become one of Yusa’s aides on the Student Council for whatever she needs, and it’s helped our relationship for the better. However, word spread among the student populace that I somehow gained majutsu from Danketsu, and ever since then, everyone has been looking at me much differently.
Training sessions after the school-day began, and the same teachers who taught us in the classrooms also trained us in the Holographic Arena – and thus beginning our transformation into ASC Troopers.
I found myself in the Holographic Arena with the Blue Team, where they recently began to learn how to get acquainted with their new military lifestyles by testing themselves in combat simulations.
Before even engaging in combat simulations, they would first have to get accustomed to using the equipment that any ASC Trooper would be armed with. After acquiring their weapons and armor, it was now time for them to be taught how to properly use them.
“Listen, Kitaru-senpai!” Ayano screamed at the top of her lungs. “I joined to be able to fly a jet, not to bounce around as if I’m a grasshopper! I am not doing this!”
I looked down and found Ayano standing on a platform with the rest of the Blue Team, suited up in their combat armor.
“I didn’t know you were scared of heights, Ayano-chan…” Tomoko teased as she stifled a giggle.
Ayano glanced over to Tomoko. “I do not need to hear that from you, of all people!”
I let out a sigh and shook my head, before I jumped off the platform I stood on top of. As I neared the ground, a small burst of air deployed from a jump-pack around my waist and softened my landing.
Landing in front of Blue Team, I took a glance around the Holographic Arena and found the rest of the school divided into their respective teams training in different aspects.
In order to properly accustom every student to their equipment, there were different types of training activities incorporated by the teachers at Miyamoto Academy that would help them. Ranging from performing laps around a circuit, training their aim by shooting at holographic targets, or practicing Construct abilities – it was a daily thing to do in the Holographic Arena.
Chizuru was over by the shooting range with the rest of Purple Team, and I caught a glimpse of her shooting a Runner in the head with her M22 Assault Rifle, while I hid a small smile at her success.
I saw Yusa in the distance training with Black Team, seeing them effectively eliminate a Harvester Brute – a student in her team got into position by using their jump-pack to shoot it down while the rest distracted it. I let out a small frown and sighed.
Of course, the elite team of the school is able to do that a month in…
Then there were us – still stuck on jump-pack usage.
“Alright, everyone…” I pointed up to the platform where I was a moment ago. “As I said before, we’re supposed to use these jump-packs to get up there.”
The Blue Team nodded their heads, except Ayano, who shook hers.
She raised her gloved finger and pointed back at the platform. “Don’t you even dare, Kitaru-senpai! There’s a total of eight platforms… and some of them… are way…”
“So, is this what you get for making fun of Yukino-chan all the time, Ayano-chan?” Mika grinned.
I looked up and she was right – with each platform there was another one hovering higher than the previous one, the last platform being a total of over a hundred feet from solid ground.
“One platform at a time!” I nervously chuckled.
“Sir,” Nobu raised his hand. “What if we’re to go ahead of the others?”
“We do this as a team, Nobu,” I nodded my head. “This exercise isn’t finished until we’ve all reached the last platform together.”
“… Guess we’re staying here forever…” Ayano mumbled.
“You know, whether you whisper or not, they can still hear you through the helmet,” Erika said with a cold tone.
“How do you know!?” Ayano exclaimed. “You don’t even have a helmet on! You chose not to wear one apparently… to uphold your ninja way?”
“Because,” Erika sighed. “I’m standing right next to you, idiot.”
We were all wearing the Mark I Combat Armor, the standard-issue armor of everyone within the Alliance Space Command. Able to withstand small-arms fire from weaponry and a few slashes from the claws of Harvester Runners before being compromised proved the armor to be durable in combat.
In addition, the Mark I was outfitted with a jump-pack built into the waist of the armor that would help the user traverse the Void by improving their agility. Enabling the occupant to boost twenty feet in the air in a multi-directional fashion, the jump-pack was a difficult piece of equipment that even some of the more experienced Troopers had trouble mastering.
“Ayano-san, I believe you’ll be fine!” Sayaka spoke up. “We’ll make sure nothing happens to you!”
“Did you know that Ayano-chan has a fear of heights, Yukino-chan?” Tomoko asked the girl, who nodded in reply.
“Ayano’s always been like this… I don’t even know what she means by flying a jet either,” Yukino looked away. “… We couldn’t even ride roller coasters together when we were younger because of it.”
“YUKINO!” Ayano screamed. “HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THIS!?”
“… I really have homework to do, so if this will make you reach the top of the platforms faster, then…”
“What if I fall!?”
“Idiot,” Erika scoffed. “There’s a safety mechanism that softens your fall. Did you not see Ozaki-senpai’s landing earlier?”
Shadow slowly nodded along with what the midnight-haired girl said.
“I wouldn’t mind getting into the technicalities of everything,” Tatsuharu spoke up finally, having been quiet the entire time. “I must agree with what Kyōyama-san has said.”
“Listen here, four-eyes,” Ayano pointed a gloved finger at the bespectacled boy. “I don’t need to hear that from anyone here, especially from you!”
“You speak only to join in on talking bad about Sasaki?” Erika narrowed her crimson-red eyes. “Sour… and very distasteful of you to do.”
The Blue Team began to break out into their own conversations once more, and they started overlapping one another. Ever since I met these first-years, controlling them has been one of the hardest things for me to get adjusted to, but I’ve realized that in comparison to the other teams at Miyamoto – we were the most unique and diverse.
Here we go again… please someone help…
“Ozaki?” I heard Yusa’s voice. I turned around and saw her standing behind me with the entirety of the Black Team, who stood in silence and in formation behind the silver-haired girl.
I noticed that the Blue Team was now silent.
“Ah, Tachibana-san! He-hey…” I grinned.
“Your team’s still working on jump-pack usage?” Yusa raised a brow, and a few members of the Black Team stifled a giggle. She turned around, and they were back to complete silence, apparently frightened by Yusa.
“U-uh… ye-yeah! We’re just getting started, y’know?” I nervously chuckled. “What, uh… brings you guys here?”
“We’re done for the day, Ozaki,” she pointed to the exit of the Holographic Arena, which was just a few dozen feet away from us.
“What? Already?” I raised a brow.
“Tachibana-san, may I provide some input?” someone on the Black Team raised their hand. Yusa nodded and he stepped forward, clearing his throat before beginning to speak. “Hello, Blue Team. My name is Senji, and from what I’ve seen… you’re all highly inexperienced.”
“Eh?” I tilted my head to the side.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Ayano scoffed and stepped forward, her face red with anger. “Excuse us?”
“He isn’t wrong, Ayano…” Yukino whispered and tugged her friend back.
“Your dynamics are all over the place! You’ll need teamwork, and more importantly, trust,” Senji said before he bowed and took a step back in line.
“Ozaki,” Yusa said. “This is Senji, my newest advisor on Black Team. Trust his words, as if they were coming from me.”
Yet they aren’t as demeaning as what you would have said…
I could sense the tension between our two teams. On one hand, you have the Blue Team – filled with first-years who still have a lot to learn and come off as a bunch of misfits led by me, the most unfortunate second-year at Miyamoto. On the other, you have the entire Student Council led by the President herself, along with the most top-ranked students on the entire island.
“Tachibana-san, if I must say, this gives us plenty of time to go over our success in today’s exercises before going to dinner,” Senji said in a mocking fashion, and I could see a small hint of smug written on his face.
“You’re correct, Senji,” Yusa said. “Well, Ozaki… good luck. I guess I’ll be seeing you later tonight in the dorm.”
I nodded to Yusa, but I felt my chest sink in disappointment.
Together with the Blue Team, we watched in silence as the Black Team filed out of the Holographic Arena in an orderly fashion, and a few of them made distasteful faces at us on their way out.
“I… want to kick their asses… so bad…” Ayano said. “’Our success in today’s exercises’… geez, what a tool! He was clearly instigating…”
“Agreed,” Erika nodded.
Shadow nodded his head along, and the rest of the Blue Team agreed with Ayano in their own way.
“But, we can’t,” I said. “But… we can, by proving them wrong.”
“Er… what?” Tomoko piped in. “Even I’m confused, Kitaru-senpai.”
“You’re always confused, Tomo-chan,” Mika said, to which the brunette nodded along excitedly.
“We can show them we’re not the inexperienced team that they think we are,” I nodded and smiled. “One-hundred percent focus, everyone. Then, we finish the jump-pack platforms today and see them at dinner!”
“Awh, dinner…” Tomoko frowned. “I can’t miss dinner, Ayano-chan…”
Everyone looked over at Ayano, and I myself also stared at her.
“Wh-what!?” Ayano looked around. “Fi-fine! I’ll try… just, promise me that we can rub this in their faces, that we can do what they think we can’t do, but better!”
Glancing at everyone, I saw that they now had determined looks on their faces, seemingly ready for what was to come.
“Well, then,” I nodded. “Let’s go, everyone!”
I ran towards the platform and activated my jump-pack, soaring into the air. I landed on the platform and watched as the rest of the Blue Team followed my moves, with Tomoko and Yukino tagging an unwilling Ayano along with them.
The day continued to move on, and we tackled each platform one at a time and I could feel the Blue Team putting in their best effort to be able to conquer this exercise. As expected, both Shadow and Erika led the way for everyone else as they were the most agile and seemingly experienced out of Blue Team.
Sunset came, and we finally reached the top. Looking back down, you could see that the Holographic Arena was now completely empty, except for Masahiro-sensei who began to clean the floors. I looked around, sensing that the majority of the Blue Team was completely exhausted, but I could tell they felt more achieved than they were earlier.
Well… it’s not much… but it’s a start.
“Well, good job everyone…” I said with a heavy sigh, seeing the sun setting in the distance. “We did it. Now, it’s time to go down.”
“Wh-what…” Ayano’s eyes twitched underneath her helmet.
I heard a combined groan from the Blue Team, and I smiled.
I wonder what’s next for us now?
“Incoming Runners, get to your defensive positions!” I shouted to the Blue Team. I gripped onto my M22 Assault Rifle and I fired all of my shots at the incoming undead, whose blood spewed out into the air with each bullet that hit them.
The Blue Team took positions around where we were, a barren wasteland condensed in thick fog. Snarls and growls erupted before us and I found a wave of Runners heading in our very direction.
Combating the Harvesters in the Void relied on setting up Construct and majutsu perimeters where the majority of firepower would be concentrated on the hordes – effectively creating a chokepoint.
“Here they come!” Ayano shouted as she took position a few feet away from me behind an abandoned car, firing her M22 Assault Rifle at the undead – but her aim made her miss most of her shots. Yukino crouched next to her, firing a shot every few seconds that missed her targets.
Nobu was closer to me, in his hands was a two-handed, six-barreled M213 Minigun that he had picked to be his weapon. Erika laid in wait nearby, a katana clutched in her hands.
Nobu fired his M213 Minigun, whose hail of bullets quickly cut down the Runners that Yukino and Ayano failed to kill.
“I’m loving this, sir!” Nobu exclaimed as he continued to bombard the undead with blizzards of bullets.
“Keep it up, Nobu!” I said as I reloaded my M22 Assault Rifle, injecting a new magazine into it and watching my ammo counter go back up to 30.
Our objective was to properly fend off against the Harvester horde before moving up towards our designated area to set up a communications device to allow ASC units to communicate while in the Void. Ayano had been the sole volunteer to carry the device – which upon being placed in the right area, would send a beam of light upwards to create a signal frequency.
I placed the Blue Team in a defensive position in the area that Erika and Shadow had scouted out, while Ayano, Yukino, Nobu, and Erika defended the left perimeter. Tatsuharu, Mika, Tomoko, Shadow, and Sayaka covered the right perimeter – with an overlook of the entire wasteland from a two-story building.
“Senpai, I’m going for it!” Ayano yelled as she propped up from her position. “There’s a clear path right in front of us! I can set the device up, so give me some covering fire, everyone!”
“Sasaki-san, stick to your area! It is not clear, yet!” I shouted sternly in between firing shots at Runners. I watched as she jumped over her cover and began to advance towards the Runners, gunning down the ones in her way. She disappeared into the mist and I shook my head.
“Ayano!” Yukino called. It looked as if she was about to follow after her, but Yukino quickly hesitated.
“Akiyama-san, your position is going to be overrun! Fall back to me!” I said to her, and saw her running towards Nobu and I – with a group of Runners that appeared out of nowhere stalking her. I shot the undead down and Yukino was by my side. “Damn it! Everyone, our left side defenses are deteriorating.”
“Senpai, I’m not too sure if we can get through this!” I looked over and Mika ran up to the three of us. “I left Sayaka up there with Shadow, I think they’ll be fine!” she explained as she loaded her M22 Assault Rifle and aimed at the Runners, firing at them.
“Eat lead!” Nobu heartedly laughed.
“STALKER!” Mika shouted at us. I gunned down more of the undead before glancing up and finding a tall, slender Harvester making its way towards us.
A quick shot from above took down the Stalker. I looked up and saw Shadow cock his SR1 Sniper Rifle, before turning back to the other Runners and firing at them.
“There’s too many of them, senpai!” Tomoko’s voice over the radio shouted. “They’re coming!”
“Nobu, give them some help!” I said to him. Nobu looked over at me and tried aiming his M213 Minigun towards the Harvester horde coming. Before I knew it, a Runner jumped at him from out of nowhere, and I watched as Nobu was taken down. My eyes widened, and I fired at the Runner – killing it. “NOBU! Takimoto-san, get down here! We need a medic!”
“Roger that, senpai!” Sayaka shouted back – I watched her come down from the building with her jump-pack, and in just a moment she was at Nobu’s side. She produced a scanner from her waist and began scanning Nobu’s large body. She shook her head and looked up at me. “He’s gone, senpai…”
“I’m coming down to support you, senpai!” Tatsuharu said, and I watched him leave his position from above.
“Negative! Hold your position, Tatsuharu!” I told him, but saw him using his jump-pack to come down.
We’re not going to make it through this… I haven’t even heard from Ayano since she left us… damn it!
“Se-senpai! The… the monsters are getting closer! They’re… they’re on the roof!” Tomoko said over the radio. I looked up at the building and saw gunfire come from there. I watched as the Runners overran their position, and I felt my heart sink.
After shooting down the Runners that appeared before me, I glanced over at someone who had appeared in my peripheral.
Shadow limped towards us, carrying Tomoko in his arms. He dropped to his knees, and laid Tomoko down on the ground before collapsing. Sayaka let out a gasp and ran towards them, checking on Tomoko first.
“She’s going to make it… she’s just been knocked unconscious,” Sayaka frantically mumbled as she took Tomoko’s helmet off, revealing the brunette’s unconscious look. She glanced over at Shadow and shook her head. “I’m going to have to stabilize Shadow-san first before anything else. Medical Construct: Stabilization.”
Sayaka’s white gauntlets glowed with a green light and she held it over Shadow’s chest.
“We might not have enough time for that…” I muttered. “Blue Team, fall back! We’ve lost the vantage point from the top!”
“Where’s Ayano-chan!?” Mika shouted.
“I… I don’t know!” Yukino’s frail voice replied.
“Incoming!” I heard the mature voice of Erika shout. Out of nowhere, she appeared, having been absent up until now. I looked at her as she dashed past all of us towards an incoming group of Runners.
She produced throwing knives known as kunai from her waist and threw them all at the Runners – killing a few of them before she met head-on with the group. “Summon: Darkness Blade!” she shouted, and I watched in her right hand a black katana materialized out of thin air.
That’s… summoning majutsu…
She unsheathed her other katana and held it in her left hand, clashing with the Runners with both swords. The black katana emitted a type of black aura with every swing she took at the undead and lit them up in black flames.
I turned back over to the remaining members of the Blue Team with me.
“Mika-san, can you get a defensive wall up?” I shouted over to the blue-haired girl. She fired another staccato burst from her M22 and nodded.
“Defense Construct: Guardian’s Wall!” Mika shouted and a purple shield formed in front of us that came from her glowing palms. It blocked off a section that the Runners could have attacked us from, but I heard another loud combined screech that sent shivers to my ear.
“Senpai!” Yukino screamed.
More Runners appeared, and I felt my heart sink.
There’s too many of them… we’ve already lost the range advantage…
“Damn it!” I rushed a bit forward ahead, and I pointed my fist at the incoming Runners, and out from my fist a blue beam emitted – and I annihilated as many Runners as I could before they grew closer to me.
One by one, the undead fell to the ground – burnt by my majutsu. As I was about to aim for the next one, a different Runner appeared from my side.
“Gah!” I was pushed back by the Runner. I held it back as the undead tried to claw and bite at me, seeing the blood on its teeth lash towards me. I winced at being this close to a Runner, and I felt myself fall to the ground with the Runner on top of me.
On the side of my eye, I saw Mika and Tatsuharu a dozen feet away from me fending off other Runners. One of the Runners brought Mika down to the ground, and she was doing her best to hold it off – and Tatsuharu brought his M22 towards the Runner on top of her, but I watched as he shook nervously in place, unable to bring himself to shoot it.
Da-damn it, Tatsuharu… shoot it! Save her!
I was brought back to reality by the Runner on top of me. The look of was once a young girl dressed in a school uniform with similar features to Yukino, now turned into an undead monstrosity by the Harvesters.
“HRAAAAAGGGHH!!” it shrieked at me. I held it back by its neck with my left hand, reaching for my H45 Pistol with my right. I unholstered my weapon and fired it three times at the Runner, weakening it to the point where I could push it off me with a grunt. I aimed my pistol at its head and fired, watching blood burst from the Runners head.
Glancing back over at Tatsuharu and Mika, I found Mika laying on the floor unresponsive, and Tatsuharu finally gunning down the Runner that was on top of her.
“Mika-san…” I gritted my teeth in anger. In a split second, I watched as another Runner tackled Tatsuharu to the ground and prepared to end him.
I heard another scream and found Yukino nearby, with three Runners charging at her. Her M22 was on the ground, seemingly slapped away from her grasps by the dead Runner at her feet. She held her hands up in terror, and I could see the true amount of fear glued onto her face.
Before the Runner could swing its claws at Yukino, it froze in place. The Runners began to explode into crystal fragments one by one before it was just the Blue Team in the wasteland.
“Ah… Ozaki-kun?” I heard Chizuru’s soft voice over an intercom. In a second, the wasteland around us shattered into millions of crystal fragments and I found myself laying down on the steel floor of the Holographic Arena. I propped myself up and found Chizuru Yamamura sitting on the bleachers above us.
“Yamamura-san…” I said as I put my M22 Assault Rifle on my back and took my helmet off, breathing in the fresh air. I glanced behind me and found the fallen members of the Blue Team standing up and they began to form a side-to-side line behind me. Ayano was in the near distance away from us and jogged over.
“Your team was eliminated… once again,” she muttered in a sad tone. “This is your fifth encounter with this simulation for the day, and I’ve been doing my calculations. There are… many things wrong with how your team is going about eliminating the Runners…”
“May we be reminded why Yamamura-senpai is picking on us again?” Ayano frowned.
I chuckled as I turned to face the Blue Team. “Yamamura-san isn’t picking on us, Sasaki-san. She’s a great tactician, so I asked her to spectate us for the day since… well… the progress we’re making isn’t at the same pace as the other teams.”
“So, we suck… sir?” Nobu asked out of the blue.
“Sounds like it,” Ayano said.
“Since we all were eliminated again, Ozaki-senpai!” Tomoko spoke up. “Does this mean we can go to dinner now? I’m starving! I’m running out of reserves for my mochi…” she produced a strawberry mochi ball and began to dive into it, her face lighting up with happiness.
Tatsuharu scoffed. “I wonder why… it seems a majority of our team can’t even seem to land the shots they fired – Akiyama-san and Hirasawa-san specifically. Sasaki-san over here seems to always break formation to do her own thing, and Kyōyama-san can’t even seem to be found anywhere until we’re all eliminated!”
Erika raised a questionable brow, with Yukino frowning and looking away as Ayano’s face lit up with fury.
“Why you…” Ayano gritted her teeth in anger. “Don’t even forget the one who got too scared to even save Mika over here! You could have saved her from getting eliminated, but you choked!”
Mika stood quietly, not looking up at the mention of her name.
“Wh-what!?” Tatsuharu was visibly taken aback. “I-I… I didn’t have an open shot! I didn’t want to accidentally shoot her! It was either the Runner eliminated her, or it was me by accident. Satō-san, you must understand.”
Mika looked away from Tatsuharu, her face filled with sadness. I scowled and let out a sigh.
He did let her get eliminated… I’m sorry, Mika-san.
“You did choke,” Erika spoke up to Tatsuharu, her arms folded across her chest. “You’re out here blaming others for the problems we had as a team, yet… you let one of your own teammates get eliminated.”
“There’s a difference between ability and the strength of your heart, Watanabe-san…” Sayaka added with a small frown on her face. “What we have right now isn’t the best, but there’s room for improvement. Although, I can’t seem to say the same for you.”
Tatsuharu was agitated by their comments towards him, and his face reddened. “We-well… maybe if we didn’t lose momentum by making all of these mistakes, I wouldn’t have made a mistake of my own!”
“You don’t seem to learn at all, do you, four-eyes?” Ayano sighed, and a few girls from the Blue Team giggled. Tatsuharu’s already angered expression increased as his eyes began to twitch.
“Four-eyes?” Tomoko’s high-pitched voice chimed in, and she lowered the mochi ball she had been munching on since the simulation ended. “I like that nickname for him!”
“I… I have grown stress wrinkles ever since I met you all!” he shouted, gritting his teeth in anger.
“Old man!” Tomoko replied with her tongue stuck out to him.
The Blue Team began to all chime in with their voices and their opinions on what happened during the simulation, and it seemed as if there was an imaginary line drawn to pick sides. Ayano continued to argue with Tatsuharu, and it quickly turned into back-and-forth insults about each other. Everyone included their own views, except Shadow, who stood silently at attention.
If this keeps up, we’re going to get nowhere.
“Alright, everyone,” I cut them all off, and they all gave me their attention. They stood in silence and I walked up to them. “I hate having to repeat myself almost every day, but we are a team. Whether someone messes up or not, it’s up to the rest of the team to have their back. We’re not here to call out others for their flaws, we are here to learn.”
“You’ve become such a great motivational speaker, Kitaru-senpai,” Ayano rolled her eyes at me.
“Kitaru-senpai is just trying his best, Ayano-chan,” Mika said with a frown. “He does have to look after all of us by himself every day, you know.”
“I, for one,” Nobu spoke up, “Believe senpai is doing great!”
Here we go again…
I heard footsteps and turned around.
Chizuru was walking towards us with a blank face. She had a tablet in her hands and showed me the statistics she had from observing us, and then turned to face the Blue Team.
“While… it’s all off-put, you’re all correct in stating what your flaws are,” she explained. “The defensive formation Ozaki-kun put you all in is one of the most basic formations we were taught.”
“Eh?” I looked at her and raised a brow.
She looked at me and nodded her head slowly, but still gave me a small smile. “You have to take in account the skills of your team and see which weapons they’re most accustomed to using – it’s been one month.”
“Huh?” I still looked at her, bewildered.
“The formation that you put them in only works effectively when the entire team is using the M22,” she said. “Nobu-san and Shadow-san have the M213 Minigun and SR1 Sniper Rifle, respectively. And I see what you tried doing with placing Shadow-san on the building, but… as unorthodox as it sounds… he belongs directly on the front. Nobu-san should be on the building, because due to his M213, he can provide maximum output to cover a wide area.”
“Is… is that so?”
“I'll take that back,” Nobu said. “Maybe he’s not doing so great after all… sorry, sir.”
“So, it’s my fault?” I asked.
Chizuru formed a small smile on her face. “You do remember I’m all about strategy, Ozaki-kun. No, it’s not your fault – it’s nobody’s fault. I simply did what I usually do, and I analyzed what was incorrect about your situation, and I formed a solution.”
“You’re amazing, Yamamura-san…” I said to her, overhearing the rest of the Blue Team converse about Chizuru in a respectable way. “We can try your strategy the next time we get the Holographic Arena to ourselves!”
“This new strategy better work,” Ayano said. “Or else, Tomoko over here’s going to be bugging me for snacks.”
“Huh?” Tomoko looked up at Ayano, her mochi ball in her mouth.
I heard someone clear their throat, and I turned around to find Masahiro-san, the custodian for the Holographic Arena. He looked at us and blew a puff out of his mouth, stroking his walrus-like moustache.
“Ah, Masahiro-san!” I bowed to him, with Chizuru and the Blue Team followed suit. “Have we… been in the Holographic Arena for too long?”
He put one of his hands on his hips, with the other gripped onto his mop and nodded his head, letting out a stiff grunt before pointing towards a sign that had said the Arena had been closed.
“We should get going, everyone,” Chizuru chimed in. “It’s time for dinner.”
“Dinner?” Tomoko’s gaze shot up, and her brown eyes flared. “Yes, yes, yes! Dinner time!” she began to run towards the double-doors to head to the locker rooms. The rest of the Blue Team followed her, although at a slower pace.
“Make sure you change out of your armor first, Hirasawa-san!”
“Don’t worry, senpai!” I felt someone punch my arm and found Ayano scurrying past me. She gave me a glance back before beginning to lightly jog after Tomoko. “I’ll make sure she’s fine!”
“… And I’ll make sure Ayano is fine…” Yukino said to me as she walked by. “We’ll see you at the cafeteria, Kitaru-senpai.”
I gave Yukino a smile before I turned to Chizuru, her purple eyes looking at me.
“Would you want to join us for dinner, Yamamura-san?” I offered. She gave me a grin before nodding her head.
“We can talk more about the strategy for your team while eating dinner, Ozaki-kun. Although… I have one condition since I did help you today,” she let out a small smile. “You walk me back to my room after we’re done?”
I felt my face heat up and I slowly nodded my head.
“You guys should’ve seen it! BAM!” Ayano’s fist slammed down on the table. “The Runner was gone in the blink of an eye! Next one? BOOM! I was on fire over there!”
She grabbed a rice ball that sat on her plate and triumphantly held it in her hands before chowing down on it.
“… And this was after you broke formation, correct?” Tatsuharu grimaced.
“Hey, hey! Even though we failed the simulations today, I still held one of the highest kill counts!” Ayano said with a nod. “I’m basically up there with Erika and Shadow at this point!”
Erika raised a brow before she dug her face back into her scarf and Shadow gave Ayano a thumbs-up from the other side of the table.
“Even though we didn’t pass today,” Yukino spoke up. “We still made it farther than what we were achieving a couple weeks ago when we first started. It feels like we’re getting somewhere, wouldn’t you agree, Ozaki-senpai?”
I looked at her and nodded with a smile. “It definitely feels like we’re making progress, everyone, so keep up the good work. I’m sure with what Yamamura-san has in mind for us, we’ll be able to finally beat this simulation!”
“I simply… cannot wait!” Nobu remarked, with excitement in his eyes. “The anticipation… is overwhelming!”
Tomoko nodded her head. “I’m ready for dessert as well.”
I heard Erika’s palm hit her face.
“There are small things here and there we need to work on, but so far, we’re doing completely fine,” I mumbled with a smile. “It seems you’re all doing well with mastering your Constructs… and those of you who were born with majutsu have yet to fully develop it, but we’re getting there.”
“Not everyone is given powers from Danketsu itself, Ozaki-senpai,” Ayano rolled her eyes. “I think other than you, only Erika and Yukino were born with majutsu… lucky…”
“The shinobi have mastered majutsu for hundreds of years,” Erika spoke up. “It’s one of the most sacred forms of fighting.”
“I… haven’t really used my majutsu…” Yukino said with a nervous look on her face. “I’ve never… found the use for it.”
Ayano held a finger up. “It’s true, everyone. We’ve been best friends for years, and the only thing I’ve seen her do is shoot up a little purple flame through one finger. It’s adorable, actually.”
The Blue Team oohed and aahed regarding Yukino’s majutsu ability, and she shyly looked away.
“Don’t be embarrassed, Yukino-chan! You’re still awesome!” Tomoko exclaimed with a giant grin.
I noticed Shadow with his arm outstretched to point at the aisle beside me. I looked over and saw Chizuru, holding her notebooks against her chest.
“Good evening, everyone. I hope I’m not interrupting.”
“Ah, not at all, Yamamura-san!” I said with a smile. “Please, have a seat!”
Chizuru sat down next to me, and she placed her notebooks on the table. “Do you… usually eat with your team?”
I nodded my head. “Yeah, Yamamura-san. Why?”
She smiled. “You really are something different, Ozaki-kun.”
I raised a brow before I looked around the dining hall, seeing students of different teams mingling with one another. We were the biggest group in the dining hall, and I could see what she meant of us being different from the others.
“I’ll go get you a plate of something to eat, Yamamura-senpai,” Sayaka said as she stood up from the table. “Do you have a preferable dish?”
“A-ah…” Chizuru’s pale face turned red. “It’s okay, Sayaka-san! I’m quite–”
“No, by all means, Yamamura-senpai!” Mika stood up as well. “You’re our guest tonight, and plus, you’re helping us all out by giving advice. I’ll go with her and grab you a drink as well, okay?”
“Oh, oh!” Tomoko excitedly jumped out of her seat. “Yamamura-senpai, I’ll show you what my favorite sweets are here! And if you don’t like them, I have some of my own to share with you if you want!”
Chizuru nodded her head, and the three girls set off towards the food line in the near distance. She turned her attention back to me and she smiled.
“Your team… is very nice, Ozaki-kun. I feel very welcomed by them.”
“Is that so?” I smiled back at her. “Well, I’m glad you feel that way, Yamamura-san.”
“Hey, Ozaki-kun… we’re friends, right?” she asked me.
“Ye-yeah!” I nodded. “Of course we are.”
“Call me by my first name, then,” she urged. My eyes widened at her and I paused for a moment, before I nodded my head and smiled again.
“Only if you call me by my first name, Chizuru-chan.”
She smiled once more. “Okay, Kitaru-kun.”
The door to our apartment opened, and I walked inside. I looked around, and Yusa was sitting down on the bed reading a textbook.
“I’m home,” I said as I put my school bag on top of the cabinet, letting out a sigh while I stretched. I yawned and began walking towards the chair at the kitchen table. I took a seat and exhaled, finally finding some rest in my day.
“Welcome back,” Yusa said as she sat on the bed, her focus on the book in her hand. I looked at the book she was reading – Advanced Combat 114 1st Edition, and I thought about the Blue Team in the Holographic Arena.
Well, we’ve certainly made progress…
“How was your day, Tachibana-san?” I asked her.
“Fairly well,” she said, not looking up from her book. “Senji told me about your team’s experience today in the Holographic Arena.”
I raised a questionable brow at the silver-haired girl.
“Do you have someone watch me?”
“I keep tabs on important things.”
“Ah… so I’m important to you, huh?”
Her book lowered and she narrowed her golden-yellow eyes at me.
She brought her book back up and I frowned.
“We’re partners, of course I have to keep an eye on you. Anyways,” she continued, “Would you like to talk about it?”
I was taken aback, as this was the first time she’s ever shown concern.
“Huh? Er… is this the Tachibana-san I know?”
“Fine by me if you choose not to,” she grunted.
“I’m joking!” I chuckled before I let out a sigh. “Well… today, er, I feel like we all took an entire step backwards as a team.”
“Is that so?”
“Tatsuharu let Mika-san get eliminated by a Runner…” I frowned. “He froze on the spot, and… well, I couldn’t do anything.”
Yusa lowered her book once more. “Tatsuharu is… the annoying one with glasses, correct?” I nodded my head and she sighed. “I would expect something like that from him. It does sound like your team would now develop a bit of… trust issues with one another. This isn’t good, Ozaki.”
“I know we’re lacking compared to everyone else…”
“Don’t compare your team to the others, Ozaki,” she sternly said. “They’re yours to command, and yours to protect.”
“I just… sure, I have the power of Danketsu… and I know something eventually will happen where we’re going to be in the Void – it’s simply inevitable,” I looked at her and Yusa tilted her head to the side. “I just want to know if I can protect them.”
“Idiot…” she sighed. “That’s why we’re here, aren’t we?”
“Failure is the only way you can learn. You’d rather have your team learn through failure by going through the Holographic Arena than in the Void…” she looked away for a brief second. “Like those before us that passed.”
I looked at her, and my mood began to shift.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing, Ozaki,” she nodded. “From my perspective, you look like you’re doing fine.”
Who knew she had this side to her?
“Thanks, Tachibana-san,” I felt a smile form on my face.
She nodded her head. “Hirano Nakamura’s been a thorn in my side for quite a while now. Senji’s been doing a better job than the Vice President… it’s infuriating.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Senji before, Tachibana-san,” I said with a quizzical look on my face. “Has he… been here?”
“He’s a transfer,” Yusa simply replied. “I’m not too sure where exactly he’s from… he kind of just showed up and…”
“… You know nothing about him at all, do you?”
She shook her head.
“For someone who keeps tabs, you completely know nothing about your new assistant?” I narrowed my eyes at her.
“First off, he’s not my assistant – he’s my advisor,” she scoffed. “Second off, he’s the one who asked to keep an eye on you for whoever knows why. Third off, you’re an idiot, so I don’t even want to know why he’d want to keep an eye on a cretin like you.”
“Alright!” I clapped my hands together and awkwardly smiled. “Definitely not weird! At all!”
“I wouldn’t think too much about it, Ozaki. Think more about what I said earlier, and utilize it to your best ability.”
“Your words helped out a lot, I feel a whole lot more confident now!” I brought myself up in my seat. “Same thing from Chizuru-chan too! She watched us today, and she gave me a whole lot of pointers to use the next time we take on that simulation!”
“Chizuru-chan?” Yusa raised a brow.
“Yep!” I nodded. “She’s a great tactician, you should see it!”
“As in… Chizuru Yamamura? The girl who lives across the hallway from us?” she asked, her brow still raised.
“Yep! She’s been so helpful!” I nodded my head.
“Hm. Well, I believe we’ve conversed enough for the night,” Yusa raised the book back up, covering her face once more. “Goodnight, Ozaki.”
Did I… say something wrong?
“Ah… goodnight, Tachibana-san…”
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