|<< Prev||Table of Contents||Next >>|
Chapter 178: Fated Fight – Introduction
Monday – August 8 XX29.
A perfectly normal day. A day like any other. Like every other Monday, teenagers would wake up to the morning sun as they prepared themselves to face a new week.
Some, like usual, would be groggy and annoyed at the fact that their weekends had come to an end. Others would start their routine of feeling disheartened by the coming onslaught of boring classes, and so desperately wished that the week would end before it had even begun. There were those that, as per the norm, would be excited to spend time with their friends, and there were a select few who, as always, were eager to approach their studies with a diligent vigour.
Needless to say, to the average person going about their daily business, today was but the same as every other day.
However, that did not hold true for everyone. Especially for the group of youngsters that had gathered here.
After all, today was the day. The day that signalled a month after Saito Junichi and Gabriel Gaston had started their bet. And it was the day where said bet would finally be settled.
「The day has finally come.」
「Long time no see, Major.」
Saito Junichi spoke, returning Gabriel Gaston’s comment with a lighthearted greeting. Despite the military man’s height and muscle mass towering over his own, the youth did not feel threatened in the least as he leisurely walked up to him. As a result, Junichi’s relaxed expression contrasted starkly with the officer’s rugged features, which had twisted into a stern countenance.
Nevertheless, despite each of the men’s differences, both of them knew that, regardless of today’s result, they would become allies united against a common cause. Thus, neither side aggravated the other too much at this juncture, exchanging pleasantries with their future comrades.
「I see that they’ve been well taken care of.」
「Heya, Mister Gaston!」
Prompted by the Major’s comment, Yoshino suddenly interjected as she greeted her boss(?) with her usual energetic demeanour. She, along with the other ［Scarlet Ashes］, was tagging along behind the dark-haired youth as they met Gabriel Gaston in his private office.
Naturally, the purpose of their visit was to settle the bet that had been decided upon a month in advance. A match up between the ［Scarlet Ashes］, who had been trained by the mercenary of blood and iron, and the 【Organisation’s】 top team of agents to decide determine whether or not Junichi would be allowed to have free reign upon entering Gaston’s fighting force.
That aside, however, the girls were less focused on the stakes of the match and more about the battle that was to come. After all, they had spent the past few weeks training their butts off, all of which was done for the sake of today’s fight. It was only natural that a flame of anticipation had been ignited within them, anxious to put their newly attained skills to the test.
「U-Um, good morning, Gaston-san.」
The other two members of the ［Scarlet Ashes］ also followed after the green-haired frontliner in greeting Gabriel. Mayumi, although a little high-strung due to her nerves, bowed as she paid her respects to the Major with a slight stammer. Rin, on the other hand, mostly kept to herself, nodding quietly as she remained within Junichi’s shadow.
The unique character quirks that each of the girls displayed during their salutations aside, Gabriel noticed that there was something……different about them. He could not pinpoint what it was exactly, nor did he have the time to mull it over, but if he were to put it in a single word, then he felt that they were……assured.
The accuracy of his evaluation aside, there was no doubt that something about the ［Scarlet Ashes］ had changed. And, while it was debatable as to whether this difference was beneficial or detrimental in nature, it was clear that the source of this transformation was none other than the man who stood before him: Saito Junichi.
「Well then. There’s no need to delay this any longer. Shall we?」
Dismissing this train of thought for the time being, the major stopped scrutinising the group as though he were appraising new recruits back in his army days, instead urging the teenagers to follow as he lead them out of the room. In doing so, the others similarly departed the office, leisurely traversing the modern terrain of the 【Organisation】 as they trailed behind their masculine guide.
And, while the dark-haired youth adopted a rather apathetic stance throughout the journey, he noted that his fellow teens were anything but. Yoshino, despite seeming as energetic as usual, possessed a stride somewhat shorter than usual, betraying her hesitation. As for Mayumi, her strange behaviour manifested through her excessive jumpiness and constant low mutters.
Out of all the ［Scarlet Ashes］, Rin was probably the one who hid her true feelings the best. Yet, a closer look would reveal that her facial muscles were on the stiff side, a detail that Junichi’s keen eye did not overlook. In the end, even the prideful 〚Assassin〛 was unable to keep herself completely calm.
But then again, it couldn’t be helped that they were anxious. After all, the anticipation of coming face-to-face with the adversaries they had been training for a month to overcome would set anyone on edge.
And it was highly likely that, at the end of this walk, these opponents–the ［Alpha Team］–would be standing right before their eyes.
Having been guided by the stocky military man, Junichi and the girls found themselves in familiar white room. The reason why it was familiar was because it was the 【Organisation’s】 command room, the one and the same that the mercenaries had raided during their previous visit.
Of course, even though a month that had passed since they were last here, the command room’s appearance had not undergone any drastic changes, if any at all. There were still staff members manning the various consoles strewn about the chamber, and the large monitor that loomed over all of them was also faring no worse for wear.
If anything, the only aspect that could be called different about this visit and the last was the 3 distinctly unique people gathered before the commander’s seat. A trio who, for better or for worse, possessed their own set of varying idiosyncrasies.
And in the instant that he had set his eyes upon this ragtag party, Junichi judged this triad was, without a doubt, the group that his trainees would have to fight against.
「［Scarlet Ashes］, meet the ［Alpha Team］.」
Having his suspicions confirmed by Gabriel Gaston, who introduced the trio of unique individuals that would be the girls’ opponents, Junichi sharpened his narrowed gaze, scrutinising the newcomers with a critical eye.
The three each possessed varying heights. One was tall like an adult, one was short like a child, and one boasted an average size. Of course, these judgements were used with himself as a base, and so the dark-haired youth’s focus naturally fell upon the one in the middle.
He was a male, and had hair tinged with pink which closely followed the nape of his neck. With features that looked neither too flamboyant nor too mundane, his lean stature and neat locks all contributed to the ikemen aura that he exuded. Yet, despite his external beauty, the dark-haired youth surmised that he effectively played a frontliner role with mid-range attack capabilities for this team.
Of course, he judged this not on his appearance, but rather on the basis that he had seen this youth fight before against 〔Carmine〕 using a whip. Well, that and the fact that he had a good grasp on this boy’s character.
The pink-haired teenager—Yukino Yuuta spoke, greeting his girlfriend with a slight smile while making quick, cautious glances towards the dark-haired youth every now and then. Needless to say, Yuuta was incredibly wary of Junichi, considering what had happened during their last encounter. It was also because of that incident, however, that the 〚Rebel〛 was already somewhat familiar with the man’s character, and hence could make such a judgement about him.
Though of course, not everyone was as analytical as Junichi in the face of Yuuta’s entrance.
「Yuu-chan! So you really are—Eh?! No waay!?」
As Yoshino was returning her boyfriend’s greeting, she suddenly paused halfway as she let out an expression of unhindered bewilderment. In the face of this astonishment, Junichi quickly followed the defender’s line of sight, leading him to understand the cause of her surprise.
What entered his gaze was the person who had the stature of an adult. Unlike Yuuta, this person’s gender was female, the length of her orange hair making this fact painfully obvious. Another thing that differed between Yuuta and the woman was their attire, the former wearing a navy blue school uniform while the latter was shrouded in a garment of white.
Rather than a garment, however, it would be more appropriate to refer to the cloth as a coat. A lab coat that resembled the kind doctors or scientists would wear at hospitals and labs. And, with such a striking combination of orange hair and a white lab coat, it was easy for anyone affiliated with 【Phoenix Gakuen】 to discern this woman’s identity.
「Arara~ What’s wrong, Yoshino-chan?」
Shizuka Mayumi jumped, surprised at the fact that her older sister was standing in front of her eyes—or rather, what her presence here signified. Naturally, the other ［Scarlet Ashes］ were similarly shocked upon realising that the 〚Witch Doctor〛 was a part of the ［Alpha Team］, considering she had been acting as something like an advisor to them all this time.
Yet, unlike them, Junichi was not perturbed in the least. After all, he had already gotten her file thanks to his resident hacker Cocoa’s dive into the 【Organisation’s】 database, so he was vaguely aware of the fact that the 〚Witch Doctor〛 was on the ［Alpha Team’s］ roster. In fact, he already knew the identities of all the opponents that his team would have to fight today.
And amongst all of them, it was not Shizuka-sensei but this final participant that Junichi found to be the most surprising addition to their team.
「*yawn*……be quiet……too noisy…」
The child-like figure shuddered slightly, opening their mouth in a huge yawn as they rubbed their eyes with stubby hands. In doing so, their grey locks lightly swayed in the air, shifting just enough to expose the drowsy face of a girl about the same age as Rin. Wrapped around the young girl’s body was an ever familiar uniform with a crimson red colour scheme, making it quite obvious that she, as well, also attended 【Phoenix Gakuen】.
That being said, out of all of the students that could possibly be hosting an otherworldly entity within their bodies, the sleepy-headed leader of the 【Middle-School Division】 was one that they didn’t expect.
Shocked at the fact that Kurusu Karen–her close friend in middle school–had appeared before her in this setting, Rin couldn’t help but leak out a stammered voice, her usual cool and calm facade having been all but broken. While it wasn’t certain whether or not she felt betrayed by Karen keeping such a large secret from her, it was clear that she was experiencing emotions strong enough to throw her off-balance.
「Don’t hold it against her, Minamoto Rin.」
Noticing the ponytailed 〚Assassin’s〛 features distorting due to the intensity of the emotions that were raging inside of her, Karen furrowed her brow in–what appeared to be–an expression of guilt. As she did, an unsettling tension had arisen in the air, one which could not be simply ignored.
Needless to say, having the duo’s relationship deteriorating like this would adversely affect their work in the future. After all, regardless of the outcome of today’s match, it didn’t change the fact that these two teenagers will end up becoming allies who would fight against the ［Counterpart］ menace together. Furthermore, considering that Karen had concealed the truth under his orders, leaving things as they were would weigh quite heavily on Gabriel’s conscience.
Thus, the major took the initiative to mend this jeopardised friendship, assuming responsibility for his mistake as he confessed to the reason behind Karen’s silence.
「I am the one who ordered her to keep it a secret. If you must find fault with anyone, then that burden falls upon me.」
As the major solemnly bowed, everyone (with the exception of a certain dark-haired youth) were taken aback by the humbling display. Yet, after quickly recovering from her stupor, Karen realised that Gabriel was giving her a way out by assuming responsibility for her actions.
And, while some may have cynically berated the man for having caused such a predicament in the first place, Karen was not one of them. Thus, after sending an appreciative glance towards the stocky man, the grey-haired child creased her brow slightly, returning her focus to the still-shocked Rin as she extended her hand out to her.
It was clear that Rin was still somewhat apprehensive about the entire matter, seeing how she was still visibly shaken even after moments had already passed. Eventually, however, ponytailed girl gathered herself together, responding as she gazed somewhat hesitatingly at the stubby, outstretched hand.
It was then that the girl with navy-blue hair realised that the Karen before her eyes was the same friend that she had always known during their time together in the 【Middle School Department】. Even though much had changed throughout the years, they were still just that: friends.
And, upon coming to terms with this fact, Rin bit her lip, using the pain to drive away her unease as she steeled herself and grasped the outstretched hand with her own. A gesture of reconciliation which signified the restoration of their relationship. Although it was arguable as to whether it had ever been broken in the first place, the fact that the two were able to hold hands like this showed that their friendship was still as strong as ever.
An ironic affair, considering that they would soon be pitted against each other in the events to come.
「*ahem* Now that we’re all here, I’d like to reconfirm the arrangement.」
Gabriel Gaston cleared his throat, speaking in a loud bellow as his gaze swept across the room. In doing so, he saw that all of the teenagers (and Manami) were looking his way, allowing him to confirm that he had successfully grasped their attention.
「Mister Saito will be represented by the ［Scarlet Ashes］, which consist of the members Shizuka Mayumi, Kurosawa Yoshino, and Minamoto Rin. I, Gabriel Gaston, will have the ［Alpha Team］ represent me, comprised of the members Yukino Yuuta, Shizuka Manami, and Kurusu Karen. Both sides will have a 3v3 bout in our training facilities, and the team that remains standing at the end will be judged as victorious. Are there any questions so far?」
After detailing the setup of the match that was about to happen (primarily focusing on the who, what, and where), Gabriel raised his tone as he probed his audience for any questions. Needless to say, with such a clear a concise explanation, no one felt the need to make any enquiries at this juncture, and so the man concluded that he was allowed to continue his speech.
「Any use of weapons, ［Counterpart］ abilities, and the like are permissible. However, under no circumstances are lethal attacks to be used. Those who do cause fatal damage will be in violation of the rules, and their team will be disqualified.」
「So how fatal is fatal?」
「No killing blows. Anything else is fair game, since we will have a medical team on standby.」
Latching on to the most crucial point of this explanation, Junichi narrowed his eyes as he sought clarification on this point from the officer. And, upon receiving a response, the boy’s mouth curved slightly as a sinister light filled his eyes. Of course, considering he was not a combatant, there was no way that he could inflict such damage upon the ［Alpha Team］ by himself.
Yet, the reason behind his eerie snicker was due to the fact that, thanks to this clarification, the ［Scarlet Ashes］ would not have their capabilities suppressed by an unfair handicap. Especially the 〚Assassin〛, whom he had trained personally in the art of ［No Style］.
After all, a Martial Art could only unleash its true power in war.
「An individual will be judged as unable to continue combat when they’ve either surrendered, lost consciousness, or are no longer able to move. Any objections?」
Gabriel Gaston asked once more, signalling the end of his explanation as he solicited the group for any protests and misgivings towards the arrangements he had laid out. And, while he was half-expecting someone from the opposing side to kick up a fuss, surprisingly no such challenge had been issued.
Therefore, all he could do was fold his arms and shake his head vertically in an exaggerated nod.
「Very well. Then shall we proceed?」
The man muttered a final time, turning towards a corridor before proceeding to walk through it. As he did so, he prompted his audience to quickly follow suit as they trekked through the pathways of the 【Organisation’s】 home base.
And, as they entered an elevator, all of the combatants felt their hearts lurch as they began to prepare themselves for the battle that was to come.
|<< Prev||Table of Contents||Next >>|