Chapter 13:

Chapter 11 - Leave Nobody Behind

Wings of Unity

“Impact of the Meteor Shower spotted, estimated time arrival is two minutes,” the voice of the pilot informed over an intercom. The sound of the engines of the Crane we were riding in roared as we were heading to the city of Urasaki.

The Kawasaki XC-10, nicknamed the “Crane,” is a high-speed military transport aircraft. It’s mostly seen as transports of ASC Troopers to their destination, able to carry 40 Troopers at maximum. Although the XC-10 wasn’t as mobile as other aircraft, the heavy armor plating and extra jet engines made up for lack of maneuverability.

We were divided into two separate Cranes upon departing the Miyamoto Academy, with half of the Blue Team that included the more combat-experienced members such as Shadow, Erika, Nobu, Yukino, and Sayaka. They rode with Yusa and I as we were the only students in the Crane, with the rest being Troopers and Zenko.

The Troopers had their own talks going on about checking their weaponry and what they were being assigned to do upon entering battle. Many of them had grief and nervousness in their voices, as this was the first time ever in history that the Lightkeeper Forcefield had been breached by a Meteor Shower.

I glanced out the window of the Crane we rode in and saw the other Crane carrying the second half of the Blue Team. I took a deep breath, feeling Danketsu strapped to my back.

Okay, Danketsu… you’re going to have to work with me here, buddy.

“Alright, listen up,” Zenko boomed and the dozens of voices came to a sudden stop, leaving the Crane quiet except for the engines roaring and the sound of air flowing by. “At around 1850, Meteor Shower broke through the Lightkeeper Forcefield, and with blitzkrieg tactics, Harvesters overpowered the Military Police in Urasaki. We’re one of the first waves of Troopers going in.”

“This isn’t the kind of music I like…” one Trooper spoke up.

“They’re getting killed down there,” another one said.

“Urasaki’s being hit hard. Troopers already stationed on the ground have set up an evacuation area where civilians are being flown out of the city,” Zenko replied with a firm sigh. “We’re going to be splitting up in three separate teams with different objectives.”

“What are we looking at, sir?” a random Trooper asked.

“Alpha Team will be deployed to support the Eastern part of the city while Bravo Team is tasked to support the efforts of rescuing trapped civilians in reported areas with Military Police,” Zenko then turned his glowing eyepatch towards the Blue Team, Yusa, and I. “The Blue Team will be under the command of Kitaru and Yusa – they’re going straight for the Harvester Core.”

“The.. H-Harvester Core…?” Sayaka questioned.

“It’s a device implanted into the ground,” Zenko replied. “It’ll be the source of the energy coming from the Harvesters – we eliminate that and their energy supply is shut down. Or, at the least, that’s how it worked in the Void.”

“What happens after we shut down the Harvester Core?” I asked.

“Rescue Troopers will deploy into the city via Orbital Defense Platforms above, where they will immediately provide care and assistance to relief efforts where we weren’t able to evacuate civilians on time,” Zenko responded. “This means that time isn’t something that’s on our side. The faster we accomplish the mission, the more lives we’ll be able to save. Questions?”

Yusa raised her hand.

“You said Ozaki and I will be going to the Core?” Yusa asked. “What about you, sensei?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Yusa,” Zenko nodded. “I’ll be around.”

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Nobu’s deep voice said before patting his M213 Minigun. “But I am definitely ready for this.”

“If we fail… you do know what this means, correct?” Erika spoke up. “This could mean the end of humanity for all we know if we don’t stop the Harvesters here at Urasaki.”

The atmosphere of the Crane changed drastically and everyone grew silent at the thought. I felt my heart begin to race at the amount of pressure that had been targeted for me and my breathing grew louder.

Time slowed as I could feel every single beat of my heart with each breath I took – it was as if something was ripped out of me and shoved back inside in a manner that wasn’t the same. Then, it all clicked with me – I’m possibly the only one who can stop this.

What if we fail?

“If we fail,” Zenko spoke up. “If any Harvester makes it out of Urasaki today, the infection of the diseases that creates Runners will spread all over the Haven – that’s the reality of the situation. That’s why we’re here right now, to make sure nothing like that will happen. We’ve already lost so much on the Day of Darkness, but… we didn’t have Danketsu back then.”

Zenko gestured towards me and everyone’s attention shifted towards me, while I widened my eyes. The Troopers began nodding their heads in approval and I could see that they were inspired by my presence.

The Blue Team each gave their smiles and nods, and I saw Yusa join in with them.

They all believe in me? Danketsu, please, I’m going to need you.

The Crane flying next to us shifted its gears, causing the sound of the engines to drastically change. I looked at it again and it began to turn towards a different part of the city. Meanwhile, I felt worried for the others.

Where are they going?

I felt a gloved hand on my armored shoulder. I turned and saw Zenko nodding his head.

“The rest of the Blue Team in that Crane will be assisting in the evacuation procedures,” Zenko said. “It’ll keep those that aren’t yet up to par with the rest of us safe, and they’ll be fine.”

Tatsuharu… Tomoko… Ayano… Mika… be safe.

“Sensei… you know how you said the Harvester Core will fire a beam of light into the air?” Yukino asked Zenko before pointing out of the window. “What’s… that?”

All eyes turned to the outside of the window and the clouds dissipated. I could see the destruction that the Meteor Shower had caused to the city of Urasaki – multiple areas were lit up in flames as the city burned and I could see all the bursts of light from the massive amount of gunfire happening in the streets below.

But most notably, rather than just one light of energy coming from below – there were more than one – with a larger light coming from the center of the city where the crash site of the Meteor Shower was.

“There’s… more than one Harvester Core…” a voice from a Trooper said in a hushed tone.

“What do… we do, Zenko-sensei?” Yusa asked him.

I looked back at Zenko and I saw that he was taken aback by the sight.

“I… don’t know,” Zenko muttered. “This isn’t normal at all. But, we keep to our assigned missions – most importantly, no Harvester gets out of Urasaki. That giant Core in the middle seems to be the heart of the Meteor Shower, and we do everything we possibly can to get Kitaru and Danketsu there! Do you hear me, Troopers!?”

“YES, SIR!” The Troopers all shouted in unison together.

“We can do it, senpai,” Yukino nodded with a small tilt of her head.

“Kitaru-senpai, we’ll do everything we can to help you,” Sayaka said defiantly.

“You can count on us, sir,” Nobu saluted.

“I’ll make sure my blade will light the way,” Erika said as she dug her face into her scarf, and Shadow nodded behind her.

I looked over at Yusa and she loaded her M22 Assault Rifle.

“Usually I don’t help idiots, but if this means the fate of humanity lies in your hands… then I’ll lend my experience for a little.”

Glancing around at everyone’s faces inside the Crane, I felt a small smile form on my face. Smiling, in the face of possible destruction, just how fortunate could I be to end up like this.

And here I wanted to just live a normal life…


Barrages of explosions rang in my ears as everywhere around me gunfire erupted. The sound of the hatch of the Crane opened and I followed everyone else out of the dropship. I looked around the city that was under attack and saw buildings torn to pieces with fire spreading everywhere.

Beyond the buildings there were a multitude of the Harvester Cores shooting into the air and I could see that there was an immense battle between the ASC and Harvesters going on.

Around me the area was littered with the bodies of dead civilians and Troopers, with a few Runners in the midst. I watched as Alpha Team and Bravo Team split up from the rest of us, leaving Blue Team, Yusa, Zenko, and I behind.

Zenko took a knee next to a deceased Runner and examined its body.

“It turned recently…” he said in a low tone. “If you’re killed by a Runner, the infection in its claws will spread. Eventually your body will then succumb to the infection and… you’ll become a Runner.”

“How long does it usually take, sensei?” Yukino asked.

“On average… about four to five hours, give or take,” Zenko replied as he stood back up. “But, Urasaki’s only been hit by the Meteor Shower three hours ago. The infection is spreading, and fast. We need to get to that Core and destroy it as soon as possible.”

“This isn’t good… none of this is…” Sayaka muttered.

“But it’s happening,” Erika replied.

“Turn your radios to the all-channel,” Zenko ordered us. “It’s a channel that’s connected to all of the current Troopers in the area, so you’ll be able to request any type of assistance and hear if anyone nearby needs help.”

We did so by tapping a button on the device on our armored wrist and I heard a few beeps before being followed by a type of rhythmic pattern of sounds indicating that we were connected.

“This is Foxtrot 2-3, we’re under heavy attack by Runners along with Raiders! They’re targeting the civilians and our position’s about to be overrun, requesting immediate assistance!” the worried voice of a female Trooper shouted over the radio.

More explosions sounded in the near distance and the gunfire grew closer.

With instinct-like reflexes, Zenko turned towards the sounds.

“We should go help them, sir!” Nobu exclaimed as he turned his attention towards the sounds as well, reading his M213 Minigun.

“Negative, Nobu,” Zenko said with the wave of his hand. “Get Kitaru to the Core, I’ll meet you there soon enough. There’s others out there that are going to need my help.”

“But, sensei,” Yusa took a step towards him. “You trust us alone to bring Ozaki?”

Zenko glanced over his shoulder at us. “With my entire soul, Yusa. Now, go! Summon: Dawnblade!”

Blue wings made up of flames instantly sprouted from Zenko’s back and a large, two-handed sword constructed of the same majutsu energy appeared in his hands.

“Sensei?” Yusa asked.

“We’ll rendezvous at the Core,” Zenko replied before he quickly took off and the wings on his back took him to the darkened skies. He disappeared behind some buildings and I now found myself alone with half of the Blue Team and Yusa.

Jet engines roared above us and I found a pair of fighter jets zooming past us heading towards the Core. The Mitsubishi FV-15, nicknamed the ‘Fang Zero’, a multirole high-speed fighter aircraft that represented a huge presence in ASC skies.

“Fang Zeroes…” Nobu gasped. “Amazing…”

Beyond them in the dark skies above I could see that there were dozens of Fang Zeroes in combat with what seemed to be monstrous beasts that were the Harvesters aircraft. Clouds of smoke rose high into the air where I saw that Cranes were deploying more and more Troopers into combat against the Harvesters.

This was it.

Real combat.

The real test that would prove if the training we all went through would finally pay off.

Yet, Danketsu wasn’t functioning.

Why now? Why is this happening?

I brought my hand over my shoulder to feel the holstered Divine Weapon.

I can’t let the others find out about Danketsu…

“Well, Ozaki,” Yusa sighed. “What’s the plan?”

I looked at those around me and pointed to the Core. “We’re going in. Get ready, everyone! This is where we prove ourselves! Let’s get a better look at everything.”

I ran towards where the Core was in the distance and I activated my jump-pack to soar onto a rooftop of a nearby building and they all followed suit behind me.

With everyone on top of the roof, we examined the huge battlefield before us and I felt my heart sink.

Beyond us, we could see bodies littering the streets of Urasaki that belonged to humans and the undead, with ash covering the ground from explosions that happened. Dozens of rising smoke in the distance with massive amounts of fire covered the buildings that continued to stand, as many buildings were now rubble.

“We should go,” I muttered in a deep voice.

Everyone else agreed with me and we activated our jump-packs, beginning to use the rooftops to our advantage by maneuvering on top of them to get to the Harvester Core as fast as possible.

“If we keep taking this route towards the Core,” Sayaka explained in between pants as she ran behind me. “We’ll be able to get to the Core in ten minutes!”

“The sooner we get to that Core, the sooner we’ll be able to end this invasion, sir!” Nobu shouted.

“I wonder how Ayano and the rest of them are doing…” Yukino said in a soft voice. “I hope they’re all safe…”

“They’re fine, Akiyama,” Erika reassured as she ran with quick speed and pointed to her right to the distance. “The evacuation center is far away from where we are, they’re all out of trouble’s reach.”

I glanced over my shoulder to the right side and saw where the evacuation center was on the edge of the city. Five bright lights shot towards the sky from where the evacuation center was and I raised a brow.

“What’s happening over there?” I asked as I came to a sudden stop with everyone else atop a roof.

“Artillery,” Yusa replied in a serious tone. “Harvesters gained ground, and fast. I’m more than positive that there are parts of the city that are under full control by them. They’re using artillery as a means of wiping out as many Harvesters as possible.”

“But… they’re going to destroy the city by doing that… people’s homes…” Sayaka said.

“They don’t have a choice,” Erika spoke up. “This is war, Takimoto, there aren’t too many choices in war – we were trained for this.”

“We weren’t trained for that,” Yukino said.

We watched as the artillery that was fired from the evacuation center landed way beyond us, creating massive amounts of explosions that rocked the ground.

“Come on, everyone…” I said to them, “We need to keep moving…”

“Kitaru-senpai’s right!” Sayaka exclaimed as she began walking ahead of us. “Let’s go! We can save all of these people and their homes before they’re destroyed!”

As she began running ahead of us, she leaped off the top of the building and activated her jump-pack and we all followed after her with haste.

“Takimoto-san!” I shouted to her. “Don’t get too far ahead of us!”

“Come on, senpai!” she shouted back.

As we leaped onto another building, Shadow suddenly began to run faster with massive amounts of speed towards Sayaka – eventually catching up to her. I watched as he jumped in front of her and pushed her back with force and she landed in the arms of Yukino.

From where Shadow was, he leaped into the air and out from the rooftop emerged a Stalker, breaking through the tiles and sending debris flying everywhere.

Sayaka gasped loudly as the Stalker locked her in its sights.

Shadow soared into the sky by activating his jump-pack and aimed his SR1 Sniper Rifle at the Stalker, firing a fatal shot that sent its body back into the hole it came from.

He landed and cocked his SR1 before peeking down into the hole and firing one more shot to ensure it was dead.

“Sha-Shadow-san…” Sayaka muttered. “Th-thank you…”

“That’s why you don’t go ahead,” Yusa scolded as she looked at Sayaka. “Are you okay, Takimoto-san?”

“Ye-yes…” a shocked Sayaka nodded. “I’m-I’m fine…”

“Blue Team, do you copy?” an unfamiliar voice spoke up over the radio.

“This is Blue Team, we copy,” I said into the radio. “Uh… who’s this?”

“Dagger 3-1. We’re going to be assisting you to get to the Core,” they replied back. “We’re on the way towards your position. Estimated time of arrival, twenty minutes.”

“What do I say back?” I asked Yusa.

She scoffed and shook her head towards me. “The Blue Team copies, Dagger 3-1, we’re on route towards the Core,” Yusa turned to me and nodded. “We need to get a move on. No more stops, and no more breaks.”

We agreed with her and continued on towards our journey towards the Core. With each step we took I could feel the tension grow. Taking glances around us at the streets below, I could see that it was a complete massacre, that the Harvesters certainly were able to get their hands on civilians before we arrived.

Blood and bullet holes littered the walls, ripped clothes lay waste amongst the bodies, and the foul stench of death proved evident of a battle not too long ago.

“It’s a disaster...” Sayaka said in a hushed tone.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before...” Yukino gulped. “Do you… do you think… they’re at peace?”

“To get away from a world like this?” Nobu responded as he shook his head. “One can only hope, Akiyama-san.”

We continued on, soaring through the air with our jump-packs.

“Threat detected!” Sayaka shouted. “We have incoming Runners!”

I looked over and saw a humongous horde of Runners approaching us from the streets below.

“Brace yourselves!” I yelled. “Immediate defensive positions, now!”

Their red eyes looked up and I knew they had us in our sights, but a loud scream drew their attention away from us.

“They’re… avoiding us...” Sayaka mumbled.

The horde redirected itself and I saw where they were heading to – dozens of civilians being escorted to safety by ASC Troopers in the near distance. I felt my heart drop and I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Ozaki?” Yusa asked as she looked back at me. “What are you doing? We have to keep moving!”

“We can’t just leave them,” I pointed to the civilians and Troopers. “They’re going to be slaughtered if we don’t help.”

“We have a mission,” Yusa sternly stated. “We are not taking any chances to risk your safety.”

“I’m not going to leave them behind to get killed, Tachibana-san.”

“I’m right by your side, sir,” Nobu said with the nod of his head.

“Tachibana-senpai has a point,” Erika affirmed. “Those Troopers have a job to do, and so do we. They’ve been trained to handle situations like these.”

“But it doesn’t exclude the fact that they could use any help they could get,” I remarked.

“I agree,” Sayaka nodded.

“... So do I...” Yukino added.

Shadow nodded his head and cocked his SR1 Sniper Rifle.

Yusa let out a deep sigh and nodded her head with hesitation as she had no choice but to give in.

Erika nodded her head as well. “By your word, senpai.”

“Let’s get moving!” I shouted. “Akiyama-san, Kyōyama-san, and Shadow… do you think you three could buy us some time so we may be able to set up a defense and coordinate with those Troopers?”

“We’ll thin their ranks and do our best to buy you time,” Erika declared with a nod. Her, Shadow, and Yukino then headed off with speed towards the horde – ready to combat against them.

Yusa, Sayaka, and Nobu followed behind me as we activated our jump-packs and descended to the ground, where we then ran as fast as we could towards the Troopers and civilians.

We passed by more rubble and dead bodies across the streets of Urasaki, eventually making our way to the rear of the civilians and Troopers. I looked around and noticed the significantly low number of Troopers there were that were safeguarding the civilians.

“There’s barely anyone...” Yusa uttered. “You’re right, Ozaki… they wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

“But we’re here now, and that’s all that matters, Tachibana-san,” I stated to her with a nod.

She returned the nod and we continued.

“Who’s in charge here?” I asked as we arrived. Sayaka and Nobu aimed their weapons towards the unknown behind us, in case any Runner had arrived at our flanks.

“Corporal Saori...” a young Trooper replied.

“Corporal Saori!” I shouted her name and ran up to her. I found her at the front of the evacuees, and she turned around.

“Cadets? What are you doing here?” she angrily asked us. “Ugh, never mind that! We’re getting these civilians to the nearest clear sector! What is it you need?”

“There’s a huge horde of Runners headed this way,” I informed her. “We need to set up a defensive perimeter while we can in order to prepare for them.”

“What? Are you crazy?” she scoffed. “I’m not going to let some cadet tell me what to do! You’re just wasting my time.”

“Are you stupid?” I heard Yusa ask, and Corporal Saori was obviously taken aback. “Why would we be wasting your time? If it wasn’t for this idiot here, and don’t get me wrong, he’s an idiot, we would’ve just let you be slaughtered. Now if you want everyone here to survive, I suggest you start listening.”

“Wh-what?! Why you...” Corporal Saori sighed before looking around at the dozens of frightened civilians and the few worried, inexperienced Troopers. “Fi-fine! Combat positions, get the civilians to an inside area!”

I looked at Yusa and she nodded before running up to the civilians to get them to any intact building nearby, directing the other Troopers on what to do.

“She’s a natural leader, sir,” Nobu whispered to me.

I nodded along.

“What are your orders, Kitaru-senpai?” Sayaka asked me.

“Set up your defenses and get ready,” I replied before looking away towards where Shadow, Yukino, and Erika went off to and I saw flashing lights of gunfire. “And let’s hope we’re ready by the time they get here.”


“Raven’s Mercy!” Yukino shouted as she directed a flight of crows toward the incoming Runners, watching them being dismembered by the razor-sharp majutsu.

Shadow fired his SR1 Sniper Rifle, sending a piercing shot that annihilated the Runners before him. The groans of the undead grew louder as the three members of Blue Team found themselves spearheading an assault on the horde.

“Are you feeling comfortable, Akiyama?” Erika asked as she sliced her katana down on a Runner and swung at another, cutting its head off in the process.

“I...I...” Yukino exhaled. “I never have been this close to a Harvester before… ah!”

She screamed as a Runner swung its claws at her but was instantly gunned down by Shadow.

“The more Runners we kill, the better chance the civilians will have at survival,” Erika spoke. “Don’t lose focus.”

“Ri-right...” Yukino nodded. She aimed her M22 Assault Rifle and fired, seeing to it that she gunned down as many of the undead as possible. Blood spewed from the bodies of the Runners

“We’ve got some Raiders,” Erika said. Yukino looked over and saw the monstrous Raiders with their overgrown arm-cannons, aiming towards the three cadets of Blue Team.

They fired wildly towards Blue Team, the devastating blasts remarkably missing them by nearly a foot, for that was the pros and cons of combating against Raiders – a powerful beam that was missed by a longshot, but if you were hit – you're dead.

Yukino aimed her M22 Assault Rifle and gunned down the Raiders, the undead letting out a vicious roar before their bodies fell dead.

Yukino looked up and saw blue Construct walls beginning to form where the others had gone to.

“Construct walls, Kyōyama-san!” Yukino declared.

“It must mean it’s almost time to pull back towards everyone else!” Erika replied as she cut down another Runner before slicing the head off another. “We were running out of time anyway!”

“The-there’s so many!” Yukino shouted. “How are we going to be able to make it through this if there’s so many of them!”

“We won’t!” Erika shouted back as she cut down a Runner with her katana and sliced another one instantly with her majutsu blade of energy. She looked over at Shadow, who knocked a Runner back with his SR1 Sniper Rifle before letting out a thundering shot to kill it. “We need to move, now!”

They activated their jump-packs to get out of the middle of the horde and onto the rooftops of nearby houses, finding themselves at a height advantage against the Runners. With a hive mentality, the Runners resumed their original attack on the civilians with speed.

“What’s the plan, Kyōyama-san?” Yukino asked.

“Hit and run tactics,” Erika replied coldly. “We need to get rid of as many as possible while we retreat to everyone else. Watch your step and follow me.”

Erika began running towards where the rest of Blue Team took defensive positions, seeing that in the near distance Construct walls of light were formed. She pulled out an explosive shuriken, a new weapon to her arsenal, and threw it towards the Runners below, with the shuriken stabbing a Runner in its chest and exploding.

The explosion caused a tiny rift in the middle of the horde, and Erika saw it as a nothing but a small dent in their forces.

Yukino fired her M22 Assault Rifle down into the horde, mainly due to her majutsu requiring her to stand still in order for her to cast. While Shadow did the same with his SR1 Sniper Rifle. They continued to run and fire their weapons, while Erika threw a few more of her explosive shuriken into the masses.

Seeing that they were nearing the Construct wall, Erika looked over at Shadow and Yukino and nodded.

“We have to go around… we’ve done what we could for now,” she said in a disappointed tone. “It’s up to everyone else until we get there.”

“Ri-right…” Yukino said with a small tilt of her head.

Shadow looked over at her and nodded his head before they took off with haste to regroup with everyone else.


“Corporal Saori!” I shouted over the radio. “Is everything ready?”

I looked around and saw the blue Construct walls in the near distance.

“We’ve set up Construct perimeters around the areas you gave us,” she replied. “Are you sure this is going to work? These are simple tactics we used during our time at the military academies...”

“As simple as they might be… it’s what guarantees us the best result. It’s what the Void Clearers use in the Void,” I replied to her. “... And it’s also pretty much the only thing we know that works...” I said under my breath.

I looked over and saw Troopers around me dig into any type of cover around me – whether it be vehicles, craters, or behind buildings. Yusa ran over to me as I kneeled behind a car, propping her M22 Assault Rifle on the hood of the car.

“The civilians have been moved to a secure location,” she announced to me. “Are you sure what you have planned is going to work?”

Jeez, is everyone going to ask me if this will work?

“It should work when we need it to,” I insisted to her.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, Ozaki,” she let out a small laugh. “I did not expect a plan like this from you at all.”

“Neither did I… hopefully it works...”

“And if we’re in trouble, we have you and Danketsu to help,” she affirmed. “I’m surprised you haven’t used Danketsu at all yet.”

Nobody knows that Danketsu isn’t… working...

“Uh...” I gulped. “Well, we should just hope it works!”

“Right,” she nodded. “Well, I’d better get to my position. Ozaki… thanks for making the decision to come here. I know we’re being faced against an immediate danger, but I have a good feeling we’ll be okay.”

“Thank you for being by my side throughout all this, Tachibana-san,” I said to her.

“After all of this is done… I want to talk to you about something, Ozaki...” she responded.

“We can talk now, Tachibana-san,” I said.

“Well… I’ve been feeling as if...” she began, before gunfire erupted in the near distance.

“The horde’s inbound! They’re passing by the walls now!” Corporal Saori shouted over the radio.

“You have to go, Tachibana-san,” I whispered to her in a serious tone. “Good luck, and… be safe.”

“Y-you… too...” she nodded before taking off.

I glanced behind me and saw the towering building of a church tower, where I had Nobu take a position up there to be able to provide more of a supporting fire role with his M134 Minigun. He began firing countless bullets from his weapon, due to his sight from above letting him see the entire horde before the rest of us could.

“I’m counting lots of enemies, sir! They’re looking pretty hungry!” he yelled over the radio. “And they’re all eating bullets for dinner!”

I heard footsteps running closer to me and Sayaka took cover next to me where Yusa once was.

“Senpai...” she panted. “I don’t know how to put this… but there’s a little over a dozen of us against… a horde of...” she gulped before continuing. “Nearly three hundred. That’s way more than we’ve encountered before in the Holographic Arena.”

Gunfire around us ensued, and I saw that the Troopers were now firing at the horde that was on its way. I peeked over my cover and saw that there were massive amounts of the undead running towards us – bloodlust and death in their red eyes.

They let out shrieks that sent shivers to my veins.

For it being similar to what we did during the simulations, seeing it in real life made it ten times nerve-wrecking.

I started shooting my M22 Assault Rifle at the masses before us, seeing Runners fall to their deaths by our bullets. With each Runner that was gunned down, it was as if two more appeared where it once was – it was as if it was a never-ending barrage of the undead.

“Senpai!” Sayaka shouted over to me as she fired her weapon. “They’re getting closer!”

“I know!” I shouted back, feeling the kick of my weapon against my shoulder. “We just have to wait until the right time!”

“O-okay!” she stammered.

Troopers around us threw grenades towards the Runners, which caused explosions that thinned their numbers and sent debris and limbs flying through the air.

We continued firing into the horde, and they grew closer by the second

A mix of radio chatter and gunfire enveloped my hearing, and I couldn’t think of anything but surviving this.

“They’re inching towards us!” a Trooper screamed.

“I’m running low on ammo!” a Trooper shouted.

“I’m out of explosives, we need something done here!” another one said.

It’s now or never… hopefully this works...

“Now!” I shouted.

Troopers from Corporal Saori’s unit, along with Yusa, appeared on the rooftops above the Runners. We held our fire and watched as their fists lit up with electric Construct energy. They jumped off the rooftops and activated their jump-packs before descending with immense speed into the horde.

Their electric Constructs decimated the Runners and caused a massive earthquake that shook the ground violently. The limbs and blood from the undead showered the skies around them – causing an effective attack against the Runners.

“Pull back! Regroup on me!” I yelled into my radio. Yusa and the other Troopers retreated from where they struck the Harvesters with haste, and we did our best to cover them as they did so.

A few Troopers were caught by the Runners and were instantly killed by the horde.

Damn it...

Yusa and the other Troopers took positions around us and continued to shoot at the Runners.

“Senpai, we’re entering the battle zone!” I heard Yukino’s voice over the radio.

I looked and saw the three of them soar over a building with their jump-packs, and upon arrival, Erika immediately dove straight into the horde with her blade and majutsu powers. Shadow fired his SR1 Sniper Rifle at the Runners that were near us, effectively taking out key targets.

Corporal Saori also rejoined our ranks with whatever other Troopers that were left standing.

I brought my palm up to shoot out majutsu blasts towards the Runners, but nothing came out of my hands. I could feel zero energy flowing in my veins.

Oh, no...

“Reinforcements are here!” Sayaka exclaimed.

Raven’s Mercy!” Yukino shouted as she stood in front of us, letting her majutsu powers take down dozens of Runners.

As I felt the tide of the battle begin to turn in our favor, I felt the ground shake by thunderous footsteps and my heart dropped at what I saw.

A heavily-armored Brute shadowed over the Runners, letting out a vicious roar that announced its presence to everyone.

“It’s a… a Brute…” Yusa said under her breath.

“We have a Harvester Brute in our position with no available heavy weapons!” I said into the radio. “We need some back up, now!”

Nobody replied over the radio, and I could feel my heart lingering below, the anticipation of what was going to happen to us next continued to eat at my soul.

I heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind us, and I saw that the civilians we were protecting had picked up weapons from the already dead Troopers from before, and they kneeled down next to us.

“Wh-what are you doing!?” Corporal Saori shouted at them.

“We’re defending what we have left!” one civilian shouted.


“My children aren’t going to be killed by them… I’d rather put my own life on the line...” another one said.

“We’ve already lost our homes… we’re not going to lose our families either.”

The Brute let out another roar and as if the Runners were ordered to do so, resumed their advancement towards us. The untrained civilians fired their weapons with hesitation, shooting wildly into the horde.

“Civilians are picking up weapons to combat the Harvesters!” I shouted into the radio. “Requesting immediate assistance to our location, we need help!”

“Ozaki, do something!” Yusa screamed.

“I can’t!” I said back to her. “Danketsu isn’t working!”

“WHAT!?” everyone around me shouted in unison.

“What do you mean ‘it’s not working’!?” Yusa yelled. “Then make it work, you idiot!”

“Wh-what!?” I stuttered. “That’s… that’s not how it works!”

“We’ve acknowledged your call for reinforcements, Blue Team,” a familiar voice said over the radio.

“Oh, nice! They acknowledged it!” I said with a frown.

We continued firing into the Runners, seeing the bullets ricochet off the Brute to not affect it at all. The Brute let out a loud roar that sent chills to my veins and my eyes widened.

Damn it… if we don’t get help soon, we’re going to get killed!

“Dagger 3-1 on arrival,” the same voice from earlier said. I heard engines blasting and I looked up, seeing three mechanical Frames approaching us.

They landed ahead of us and one of the Frames grabbed the Brute with its robotic arms, swinging the monstrous Harvester around before slamming it to the ground. Another Frame ignited its weaponry – a giant sword made of Construct energy, and stabbed it deep into the Brute, killing it.

The third Frame produced an arsenal of missile launchers from its back and fired all of its missiles available towards the incoming horde of Runners – enveloping them all in a screen of smoke from the explosions.

“OHO! THAT WAS AWESOME!” Nobu shouted out of nowhere, pumping his fist high into the air in celebration. “Sir, did you see that!?”

“Blue Team,” the same voice from the Frame pilot spoke up. “We’ll secure the area while you take a breather. Direct orders from Strategic Command is to get you to the main Core as soon as possible, so be ready to move out.”

I sighed in relief.

With the area now clear of any threat thanks to the support from the Frames, I looked around and saw the battered, tired civilians and Troopers. Even though they were exhausted, they still had looks of relief and cheered in their own ways for survival.

“We made it...” Yusa said as she walked up next to me. Around us, the Blue Team gathered around along with the other Troopers that had survived the attack.

Corporal Saori approached us and she sighed. Her Troopers began to walk away to get the civilians back in order to escort them.

“Well, for some cadets...” she began. “You really saved us out here. If it weren’t for you, who knows what would’ve happened to us...” she looked over at a mother carrying her young daughter with her. “And who knows what would’ve happened to them...”

“Let’s not think about that,” Yusa said. “We’re grateful enough to have run into you when we could’ve.”

“We’re glad we can be of help, Corporal,” I replied.

“With the way things have been, I’m sure we’ll run into each other again – and I’ll have the pleasure of fighting beside you and your team again, Kitaru,” she said.

“Until then, Corporal.”

The Blue Team, Yusa, and I saluted her. She returned the salute before dismissing us.

“You have my thanks,” she said with a nod before walking away to rejoin her Troopers and the civilians. We watched as they began to move with a hustle, in order to successfully evacuate as soon as possible.

They disappeared into the night, and I hoped they made it to where they were going to be as safe as possible.

A large ship flew over us, its engines blasting at full power. We looked up and saw that the many guns on the ship began firing towards the ground ahead of us that wiped out the majority of Runners in the blink of an eye with thunderous booms.

“This is Captain Nakajima of the ASC Dawn, we’re deploying reinforcements and paving the way for Kitaru Ozaki to get to the Harvester Core,” a deep female voice said. I felt hope inside of me and I smiled underneath my helmet, feeling a sense of relief at Captain Nakajima’s words.

Fang Zeroes deployed from the hatch of the ASC Dawn along with more Frames descending from the skies.

“So, can we please talk about why Danketsu...isn’t working?” Yusa asked me.

“Oh, Tachibana-san...” I nervously chuckled. “I really was hoping you didn’t bring that up...”

“First off, I don’t forget anything, Ozaki,” she sighed. “Second off, were you going to answer me or just stand there like an idiot? Why in the world isn’t Danketsu functioning? How are we going to even put a stop to the Harvester Core if Danketsu is basically useless!”

“I… I don’t know! When Akane-nee handed me Danketsu earlier I didn’t feel any power coming from it...” I said to her with a small shrug. “I just… didn’t feel anything.”

“Did you even try?” she asked.

“... No...”

“What do you mean you didn’t try!? Did you break it? Idiot!” she shouted. “They trust you with majutsu from the most powerful Divine Weapon in existence and then you break it! Well, just tell me then, Ozaki… what are we going to do?”

“You two sound like an old married couple,” Erika said as she stuffed her face into her scarf. “Could we just get a move on already? My blade’s itching for more combat.”

“That doesn’t exclude the fact that you lied to me,” Yusa continued. “You played it off that you didn’t need to use Danketsu, but instead it was because it’s working… you have no idea what could’ve happened if Dagger 3-1 didn’t arrive when they did. People could have died, Ozaki.”

“But nobody did...” I said to her, “You have to trust me, Tachibana-san...”

“You ask me to trust you after that!?” she screamed. “You expect me to just simply ‘trust you’ when you’ve been hiding the fact from me that Danketsu isn’t even working!”

“She’s right, Ozaki-senpai,” Yukino commented. “We’re here risking our lives… the least you could’ve done was tell us that Danketsu wasn’t working...”

I looked around and saw everyone else on the Blue Team agreed with Yusa and Yukino, and I felt horrible for keeping it hidden from them. It was as if my heart just completely sank because my team was losing faith in me.

“I agree,” Sayaka nodded. “You should have told us from the beginning, senpai.”

“I’m sorry, everyone...”

“What do we do when we get to the Harvester Core?” Nobu asked. “Is there something we can do to… get it… working… I don’t even know if that makes sense, sir.”

“Maybe it’ll start working once we get there?” Sayaka asked.

“Majutsu doesn’t work like that,” Erika chimed in.

What do we actually do?

“You keep going, Ozaki-dono,” the familiar voice from Itsuko said in my head – a voice that I hadn’t heard in nearly forever.

“We… keep going...”

“Huh?” Everyone looked at me.

“We keep going,” I said. “I have a feeling that if we keep going… something will happen.”

“Yeah, like… we die?” Yusa scoffed.

“Trust me, everyone,” I said. “I won’t let you guys down.”

The Blue Team took a second to think before they nodded their heads and after catching their breaths, they assembled around us. They began to walk off towards where Dagger 3-1 stood, indicating they were ready to move on with the battle.

I followed behind them before my attention was taken away.

“Ozaki...” Yusa said my name, with a small hint of worry.

“It’ll be fine, Tachibana-san,” I said to her. “I have a good gut feeling about this, you just have to trust me.”

“Fine...” she nodded her head. “Just remember it’s not just your life that’s on the line,” she gestured towards Blue Team. “And it’s more than just them.”

“... I know, Tachibana-san… do you trust me?”

“I’ll try.”

I looked down at the ground beneath me and I noticed it was beginning to crack, something that wasn’t present earlier. I raised a brow in curiosity and I shook my head, bringing myself back to reality.

I looked at Yusa and nodded, proceeding to talk over the radio.

“This is Blue Team, we’re moving towards the Harvester Core!”

Taylor Victoria