“What the hell?! W-wh-wh-what just happened!?”
One of the guards, Shar Berylan, crouched down on the white snowy field as he yelled. In the -20 degrees Celsius environment, this would normally be considered suicidal. However, it was easy to imagine that if he lift his head up, he would die faster than freezing to death. His aim was to hide his body; thus, he couldn’t hide on the road that had melted the snow by thermal effect.
“Didn’t they say that we can match the enemy in power if we use Academy City’s unmanned weapons!?”
Even though he roared into the radio, he couldn’t get a response. He couldn’t get through with a cell phone either.
Then, in front of him, a large block-shaped object dropped. It was the remains of the powered suits that used unmanned technology, the ones that had torn through the Russian tanks and armored vehicles in World War III.
Yes, the remains.
The sturdy complex armor looked like it was cheese eaten through by mice as tens of thousands of holes had pierced through it. It was unknown if the armor became like that because it had approached an anti-tank mine and triggered an explosion. There wasn’t even remains of just one. If Shar could have stood up and looked around, he would have found that even the blizzard couldn’t hide the large amount of the barricade-forming debris.
“…This is completely preposterous.”
Shar blankly muttered to himself.
A large weapon with the silhouette resembling that of a mantis moved forward with broad steps. Its two front legs seemed to have Gatling guns, but the scale of destruction was obviously completely different. Was this scene of disaster caused by the firepower of a tank’s smoothbore gun firing thousands of cannon rounds every minute? To be honest, there was no obvious reason to bind a gun to a set cannon fire rate…unless it was out of bad taste.
Shar didn’t understand the meaning of the writing on the machine, but he could tell that it was a monster. This monster was spewing out a large amount of cannon shells. The monsters were either moving on the snowy plains or flying in the skies, and Shar could identify at least twenty of the machines.
It was blatantly clear the gap in technological might.
It was like using stealth bombers on cavalry.
It was no longer a matter of mere supernatural powers. That was not the only weapon of Academy City. There were a lot of weird people gathered in the Natural Selector tournament, but it was impossible to imagine that they could defeat those large mantises barehanded.
(We can’t win.)
Shar’s immediate thought was that of hopelessness. The idea of trying to take the initiative was wrong. Defeat aside, he was even wondering if escape would be a form of victory. If he were to decide, it was just a matter of whether to resist until death, or not resist and die.
Which path would be more painful?
Which path would gain more honor?
Which path would gain redemption?
Shar felt that it was similar to security software. In a certain faraway country, with a single mouse click, a large number of unmanned weapons could begin to take action to clean up any antagonistic parties—or rather, eliminate them. During this process, the details of actions taken would have no bearing at all. Once it was shown that there were no enemies remaining, everyone would rejoice. It was that kind of war.
They had made a mistake fighting this enemy.
They had made a mistake in how they fought.
If there was an enemy, there would be a massacre. It was that kind of war. Thus, there was no differentiation between Academy City and the Anti-Academy City forces. The moment the virus list in the security software updated, they lost all chance of being spared. Shar and the rest were just elevated to the level in the latest generation of the update where they were to be eliminated.
They were then discovered.
They were then attacked.
They were then killed.
At that moment, Shar Berylan held his breath.
All of the sounds vanished.
He knew what this unnatural silence meant. His teeth were chattering, and he remained prone on the ground as he slowly lifted his head. As the degree of motion was too awkward, his head throbbed, but there was no time to be concerned with that.
The large machine resembling a mantis had flown like a bee or a dragonfly above Shar’s head. The sickle-shaped arm pointed the Gatling gun and aimed at Shar. He watched the cluster barrel spin rapidly, and realized something.
(Ah, it’s not that the sound has vanished, but that there’s something wrong with my head.)
However, the machine didn’t continue.
The monster seemed likely to be linked with a mobile radar as it could even shoot down fighter planes and the air-to-surface missiles. Thus, even if he continued to roll a few times like those action movies, there wouldn’t be any change to the outcome.
It was over.
(Just like how viruses are killed, I’ll be cleaned off and represented with a kill counter of + 1.)
However, right when Shar Berylan thought that, a strange change happened.
The mantis’ behavior suddenly changed. It wasn’t just the one machine that was aiming at Shar from above, as he could see that the other 20+ machines’ guns were pointed at a certain location. It was clearly a precautionary move. The powered suits had clearly gone from eliminating the enemy to searching for the enemy.
(What? What’s going on?)
The sweat on Shar’s body was stuck. He continued to lie on the ground with his eyes being the only part of his body moving. Someone was on the edge of his vision. In this white hell, a silhouette was standing there.
They wore a long coat.
A helmet covered their face.
They had an androgynous profile that made it hard to tell whether they were male or female. Shar didn’t know whether they would improve the situation, but he felt that it was strange for the surrounding mantises to focus on that person.
The person remained silent.
They merely clenched their right hand tightly.