“Kurisu is a spy from Tokyo??” The three stared on in disbelief.
In the central headquarters room under Kangawa Academy, Aoi briefed them on the information they had so far. The three couldn’t believe that Kurisu, a Divine Pillar, would go against Maihime to further the ranks of another city’s head. She even went as far as to take Maihime and even the city hostage to do it.
“Kurisu Nabariya, huh?”
“I can’t believe it Kurisu is a spy what’s going on…” said Zakuro.
“Plus,” said Ginko. “You said she set up the bombs around the city, and taken everyone, including Hime-sama, hostage? Taking advantage of Hime-sama’s kindness like that… what a damn coward…”
The two angrily grunted at the thought of Kurisu betraying them. She was a longtime friend of theirs, yet she committed the ultimate sin of betrayal. She even had the nerve to do it during a massive <Unknown> attack, making the situation ten times worse.
“I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s the truth,” Aoi said bitterly.
There was a brief pause before Zakuro and Ginko spoke up again.
“In any case let’s search of Hime-sama.”
“Yeah. But… Since I can’t smell her, she probably isn’t in the city. And if she’s outside the city… things become difficult… she may even be taken to Tokyo…”
Shino shook his head. “No, that’s not it,” he interrupted. “Other than Zakuro’s <World>, I find it hard to believe that she would be out of the city already or any place outside Sajihara’s scent range. Instead, she probably erased her scent somehow and is hidden somewhere within the city. If that’s the case, looking for her outside the city is just going to be a waste of time.”
“Ughhhh…” grunted Ginko.
Zakuro nodded. “I’ll look for her I do have a marking on pretty much every place I’ve been to so I can look within the city or even any point from here to Tokyo pretty well…”
“That may be true, but the chance of you finding her like that is extremely low,” explained Shino, “and it’ll take too much time. The <Unknowns> are coming, and it’ll be tough to have both you and Tenkawa away from battle. We can’t leave Kanagawa for dead just to save her.”
Zakuro winced and hugged her panda.
“How long until the <Unknowns> reach their first target?”
“A-About fifteen minutes.”
“That is indeed not a lot of time well then I guess I’ll fight off the <Unknowns> then look for Hime-sama since it makes more sense that way.”
“That might work too… But in this case, Tenkawa’s presence is necessary to raise everyone’s morale for battle. Without her leadership, the battle could be a disaster. Also, even if we repelled this attack, I’m sure Kurisu will be long gone by then. It’s a lose-lose situation…”
Ginko and Zakuro just stared silently back at him.
“So in other words, there’s only one option, right?” Ginko finally ended up saying. “We save Hime-sama in fifteen minutes, and then defend the city right after…?”
Zakuro butted in nervously. “We still have to worry about the bombs placed around the city too…”
“Yup, that about sums it up,” nodded Aoi. She spoke briefly but desperately.
She wasn’t the only one like this— far from it. All the students in the room were nervously fidgeting around as they groaned in despair. They needed a plan immediately… right now they were already wasting precious time. However, as time started to run out, their anxiety went through the roof. It was evident just from looking at them that they weren’t in their best mental states.
Shino rubbed his chin. He was probably the calmest person in the room. Maihime Tenkawa had much more of an impact on the city than he had previously thought. Many of the student’s faces were filled with confusion and disarray, and it was amusing to think that they probably weren’t even capable of rational thoughts at the moment.
In reality, Shino had found a much simpler way to resolve this mess.
“There is a way here,” he said, catching everyone’s attention.
“W-What do you mean?”
“We’ve been all wrapped up around the notion of saving Tenkawa that we haven’t been seeing the bigger picture. We need to think about Kurisu Nabariya… which I’m sure you all have at some point. That’s why… we need to rethink our approach. It’s okay if we don’t save Tenkawa.”
Ginko’s face tightened up. “What are you saying? Saving Hime-sama should be our first priority!”
“Exactly that shouldn’t even be up for debate do you even know how important she is right now,” muttered Zakuro.
Shino calmed them down and continued to explain. “Just hear me out on this. Besides, what do you even mean by saving her? Is it finding out where she’s been taken to, taking down Nabariya, and freeing her?”
“But seriously, is that even necessary? Do you really think mere steel or anything like that can hold her down? Is she that weak that she can’t break out by herself?”
The others finally seemed to see what Shino was getting to.
“Exactly. What we should be doing is taking care of what’s really holding her down. Once we can do that, she can easily break away by herself.”
“S-So you’re saying that we need to disarm the bombs around the city within fifteen minutes? That’s not doable…” Aoi stopped midsentence as she caught on.
A second later, Ginko and Zakuro did the same. Everyone must have realized it now… Right now, that sort of thing was doable.
Shino nodded. “Let’s go, Divine Pillars. It’s time to teach her a lesson.”
Shino, Zakuro, Ginko, and Aoi left headquarters and headed up to the roof. Since the academy was in the middle of the city, they were able to get a good view of the coastline.
The students had taken up their formation along the coast. Not long after, a low rumbling sound could be heard as platforms, belonging to the students in the beach unit that had been tasked with preventing the <Unknowns> from going ashore, started to rise from the ocean. The forward units went out as well, but they went much further out into the ocean.
The <Unknowns> were now so close; their shadows were much larger than what the students had seen before. Judging from their distance, it wasn’t long before they reached the predetermined engagement area.
“Sajihara, do it!” shouted Aoi, holding her hair down against the sea breeze.
Ginko slid her scarf off down her face, closed her eyes, and sniffed all around her. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. She was like a wine taster enjoying the fine fragrance of the different flavors.
“How is it, Sajihara?” asked Shino.
Ginko poked her face a few times before opening her eyes.
“Yeah… East twelve units, west ten, south eight, and north ten. There are three inside the school, which makes a total of forty-three of them. These really shouldn’t be a problem, but I did catch Kurisu’s scent and the lingering smell of explosives… So she really did set this up, huh…” she said irritatedly. She reached a hand out to Aoi. “Well, let’s share the locations.”
“Sure!” She grabbed onto Ginko’s hand.
“What are you doing?” asked Shino.
“Just wait a bit,” replied Aoi. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her inner spirit.
A few seconds later, strange visions started to appear in Shino’s mind. “What…?” he said in awe. He was seeing a bird’s eye view of the city with multiple areas marked with a red dot. He glanced at Aoi, who nodded in return.
“I can take the things from Sajihara’s head and share it with everyone,” she explained. “This way is so much faster than trying to describe it with words, right?”
“So this is your <World>…” Using this, information could be sent to the front lines in an instant. Shino finally understood why she was worthy of the title of a Divine Pillar.
“In that case since we know where the areas are I’m going,” said Zakuro. She kicked the ground and took off.
“Otonashi, wait!” Shino tried to stop her, but it was already too late. Zakuro had already disappeared.
A short while later, she reappeared back to her original spot. “It took a while to find it actually but is this what it is?” she asked. She held out her hand to them without even a glance in their direction. Despite doing so, they didn’t see anything in the palm of her hand.
However, Shino felt something like a solid box the moment he reached for it. It was no doubt one of Kurisu’s bombs.
“That was close, Otonashi,” said Shino as he kept feeling around the box.
“What do you mean?”
“If this was a pressure activated bomb, you would have died right there on the spot.”
In any case, these were bombs that had been set up quite a long time ago within the city. Shino knew that it wouldn’t be wise to have them detonate just from something as simple as a touch. He knew it, but he decided to scare her a bit for her own good.
“But hey, it’s nice that we know it’s not pressure based since you just touched it. It would take so much longer if we actually had to analyze it. So excellent work, Otonashi,” he said sarcastically, “I commend you on your bravery.”
“S-Shut it,” replied Zakuro. She awkwardly pulled her hood over her eyes.
Ginko sniffed at the object. “Ah, I see,” she said. “Smelling it at this distance… I can tell there were a few that I missed. There are well over forty of these around the city… Still, I can’t believe I didn’t notice her setting them up…”
They didn’t know how long Kurisu took to place everything, but it was strange that Ginko didn’t notice any peculiar scents during that time.
“Perhaps Kurisu’s <World> isn’t to make things invisible,” said Shino. “But rather, she can make things unperceivable.”
“It’s not that she has the ability to make things camouflaged, so to speak…” he reiterated. “It’s that she can literally take away our ability to recognize them. Of course, it’s not limited to just vision… I’m sure she can fool our other senses as well.”
Ginko angrily clenched her teeth. Shino had a very reasonable explanation, and it didn’t seem far from the truth.
“If that’s the case, then how come I can see it right now?” asked Ginko. “There’s a taste of Kurisu’s scent on it, too.”
“In the end it’s only a hypothesis… Though, I’m sure there’s some sort of time limit, or even her <World> itself may be limited. If that’s the case, then she could be using her <World> to hide something else right now… something more important than these bombs.”
Aoi’s eyes lit up. Right now, there was something that Kurisu wanted hidden from Ginko… That something had to be Maihime herself. Going by that logic, if Kurisu wanted to hide Maihime, that meant that they were still within Ginko’s search range and thus still within the city.
Their eyes lit up upon figuring this out.
However, this wasn’t the time to get careless. “In any case, we must get rid of all the explosives— fast,” said Shino. “Yaegaki, share this information with everyone in the city, and have them split up and collect the easy to get ones.”
“Sajihara and I will find the explosives in the school. And also, Otonashi… you’ve got markings in the city, right?”
“Of course not a place is out of my reach,” replied Zakuro.
“Nice. Ten of them are in places that are relatively hard to get into, so it’s your job to collect them.”
“I don’t like that you are giving instructions but roger that since it’s for Hime-sama’s sake.”
Shino locked eyes with Aoi, Ginko, and Zakuro’s panda. Once he gave the nod, they all dispersed to do their respective duties.
With the imminent <Unknown> attack and the mysterious explosions going around the city, Hotaru joined the ranks of the worried students trying to figure out what was going on. Right after the explosions, two of the four Divine Pillars had suddenly met up with Shino. He did tell her not to worry about it before heading off, but that didn’t really calm her down. She knew there was always the danger of having their real intentions exposed.
“That’s why I’ve been telling him to keep a low profile…” she muttered to herself. There was no point in saying it now, but she just had to get it out. Shino was an excellent agent, but he just needed to be a bit more considerate about certain situations.
At that moment, a voice appeared within her head.
Everyone, this is Yaegaki.
“Huh?” Hotaru felt a strange sensation as she heard Aoi’s voice echo inside her head.
In any case, please calm down. As of right now, we have identified multiple bombs placed around the city.
“What?” Hotaru instinctively held her breath. The students around her also seemed to get the same message. Some of the students were in shock while others had frozen in fear.
If you are hearing this voice, then that means you are near one of the bombs. They are invisible, so you won’t be able to see them. However, I’m going to share you their locations, so please retrieve it as fast as possible.
Aoi went on to explain some of the bomb’s special characteristics. She ended by showing them a rough sketch of where it was.
“Oh, is this your first time experiencing Aoi’s telepathy?” said a nearby boy. Hotaru recognized the voice… it was Sugiishi.
“Yeah… what’s going on?” she replied.
“Exactly what she said, I guess. I don’t know the details, but it looks like Kanagawa’s in quite the pinch. We just got the map… so let’s do some treasure hunting, shall we?”
“S-So it really was an explosive? If we mishandle it, aren’t we all gonna blow up? Aren’t you afraid?”
“Of course I’m afraid… is that even a question?” He shrugged his shoulders. “But if I peace out now, I’ll never be able to look Hime-sama in the eye ever again.” He smiled briefly before taking off to the marked spot on the map.
Without any hesitation, the other students dashed to the location as well.
“Ughh… Fine! What’s wrong with you students!” Hotaru said frustratingly. She kicked the ground in disgust.
The great search had begun. From the rear, Aoi kept transmitting the locations of the bombs to the students near them. The students were quite surprised to suddenly hear her voice within their heads, but they understood that time was of the essence. They promptly took up their arms and moved out.
A few minutes later, Shino and Ginko finished retrieving the various bombs placed around the school. They then went back to the rooftop where Aoi was waiting. Once there, Ginko took a big sniff once again.
“Nice, bomb number forty three and forty four had been moved,” she said. “It seemed like everyone found the bombs quite smoothly.”
“What about the last one?”
“Seems like Zakuro’s finding it right now,” she paused, “Yeah, it’s moving right now. She found it!”
Aoi breathed a sigh of relief. “It looks like everyone made it in time,” she said. “We just have to deactivate them and then— ”
At that very moment, a frightening roar came accompanied with sirens all around.
“What the?” Aoi held her breath.
Everyone looked out towards the ocean. The sound seemed to come from the <Unknowns>… Before any of them had noticed, the Triton class came barreling down with its own forces towards the forward units.
“What?? This is way too early!” shouted Ginko. The <Unknowns> were heading to the intercept point faster than anticipated, making her uneasy.
Tsk. Shino glanced at Aoi. “Alright,” he said. “Yaegaki, connect to all the students currently holding the bombs. Tell them to just throw them high up into the air.”
“Huh? But if they do that…”
“There’s no time. Just do it,” he said sternly.
Aoi looked around hesitantly before closing her eyes in a panic.
E-Everyone… I’m going to give a signal in a few moments, and when I do, please throw the bomb you’re holding into the sky!
Aoi paused, but eventually continued.
Alright? Get Ready! Three… Two… One… NOW!
All at once, the students threw up the bombs as if they were in some kind of shotput event. Using their respective auras, they threw them with such power that the bombs went flying up into the sky.
Speaking of which, the bombs were still invisible to the naked eye. Even though all of them were in the air, Shino couldn’t see anything above him but the blue sky. He could make out traces of the bag Zakuro used to carry the bombs in his peripheral vision, though that was about it.
He knew of this from the moment they met, yet he was once again reminded of the fact that Kurisu Nabariya’s <World> hard countered his.
“S-Shinomiya!” shouted Aoi.
Shino narrowed his vision and took up a low stance. He once again grabbed his sword as if he was putting all of his energy into a single swing. It was true that he couldn’t see the things he wanted to cut. Despite that, he didn’t care.
“It’ll be no problem if I cut everything,” he whispered to himself. He thrusted his entire body upwards into a spin, taking in the entire sky into his vision.
Indeed, at that very moment, he “saw” the sky. The blade on his sword let out a flash of light as he pulled it out of the sheath. The moment he finished his swing, the sky lit up in explosions all around him. Yes, it was true that he couldn’t see the bombs, but he knew that they were all up in the air. If that was the case, then all he had to do was to create a “web” that could catch all of them… a web that could cut the sky indiscriminately.
A huge bang soon followed, echoing across the sky as far as the eye could see. It was so loud that even Aoi and Ginko screamed out in shock.
Shino ensured that there were no causalities from his swing before slowly sheathing his sword.