When The Cute Kunoichis Spied on Their Teacher's Secret -
Volume 1, Chapter 3
Volume 1, Chapter 3
1: Captivating Beauties Behind the Scenes
“Hm, Sensei will always be Sensei, won’t he? Maybe I should have gone with those two.”
A small girl leaned against the railing on a building rooftop while restlessly pulling some fries from a paper takeout bag.
She was about 10 and her glossy black hair was worn in a bob cut, so she might have looked something like a Japanese doll. Except she was wearing a pure white military uniform with a tight skirt. Add in the long boots and she provided a strange mixture of Japanese and Western.
She focused on the earphone that was linked to her phone.
“I never got to say it because he would have gotten after me for it, but Sensei is so cute. He looks like he’s cool and sharp, but he’s a softy on the inside.”
The small-faced girl slowly narrowed her eyes as if thinking back on some memory or another. That proved that she too had memories that she liked to indulge in.
But it did not last long.
A voice reached her from the rooftop instead of over her phone. She had not heard a door opening and the emergency buzzer for the emergency exit had not sounded, yet the speaker was there all the same.
Unlike Asagao in her white military uniform with the tight skirt and baggy sleeves, this girl wore a ninja outfit that showed off her figure. In what looked an open-backed one-piece swimsuit plus the baggy pants of a male ninja, Hoozuki was a fusion of extremes in a different way than Shizukuma Asagao.
The cool beauty tightened her various belts and straightened her beautiful back.
“Bara screwed up and we’re on to the next phase. You need to get ready.”
“I just received a call about that. And Bara can hear everything you’re saying. Want to get on the line? She’s pretty mad about you saying she screwed up.”
“But it’s the truth.”
The silver ponytail girl gave a bitter look. Hanasawa Bara was older than her, but this girl was certain she was older mentally.
Nantou Hoozuki was wearing something like a student bag on her back, but when she tossed it to the side, it assembled an off-road motorcycle similar to some kind of spring-loaded 3D puzzle. That was Countless Calamities. Its engine normally produced a loud roar, but the internal components could be directly covered with soundproofing materials on the level of a gun’s silencer, so if she shut off the headlight at night, she could sneak up behind a target in almost near silence and end their life.
“The shogunate’s dogs should catch on soon and lock things down. We’re going to be a lot busier now, Asagao.”
“Sensei won’t sell us out. I mean, he’s so cute deep down!”
“We have to prepare for the worst. Besides, I would prefer it if he gave them an honest report. I don’t want him getting hurt trying to protect us while surrounded by those dogs.”
“You sure sound confident you can handle this.”
“Of course I am,” spat out Hoozuki while leaning forward a bit and curving her back to climb aboard Countless Calamities. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take back our precious teacher’s life. I intend to win this no matter what, even if it means making an enemy of that very teacher.”
2: Further Problems
The twins wearing cheerleader-like ninja outfits made from a combination of a sleeveless white kimono and a miniskirt were hurriedly working within an ambulance.
“Suiren, prepare the blood test. I want to see what he was given.”
“Understood, Guren. I will also prepare the stomach pump and the full-body dialysis. If this is slow-acting, there’s still time.”
Sugiyado Souha in his short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants had been taken aboard an ambulance they had called instead of heading back onto their tanker truck. He was lying on an electric stretcher, his shirt was opened, and several electrodes attached to cords were pasted to his chest. The truck likely had the equipment for this sort of thing, but they probably did not want anyone associating it with something that stood out so badly.
All three of them left the international airport aboard the ambulance.
At this rate, they would discover he had been given an antidote for the poison. That could lead to suspicions about collusion between him and his students.
He briefly considered what was going to happen.
If the antidote was discovered, no matter what reason he gave for it, he would be removed from the team since he clearly still had some kind of favorable connection with the targets. That would be an option here. In fact, it would be the best option if he wanted to avoid fighting his students. He might be confined for a while afterwards, but he would be freed soon enough.
But that would prevent him from having any involvement in this incident.
Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, Nantou Hoozuki, and Shizukuma Asagao.
They had not grown corrupt and they were not abusing their ninja skills to cause some major incident. They were obeying the conviction in their heart and attempting to find the truth of the final mission that had so greatly influenced his life.
At this rate, they would never return alive.
So he could not sit idly by and let it happen.
He knew all too well that taking on a burden beyond his abilities would come with a terrible price, just like it had back when he lost everything. i𝑛𝗻rℯ𝒂𝒅． 𝓬o𝘮
It was their time with him that had raised them to feel this righteous anger toward what had happened during that final mission. If he did nothing as they walked toward the precipice, he would have as good as murdered them himself.
His actions here were restricted, but it was still the best place for him to gather information related to the threat those girls faced.
He could not let himself be kicked out.
Ouka’s group did have to be stopped after stealing the modular nuclear reactor and abducting a top idol, but he knew nothing good would come of letting things play out according to the scenario drawn up by the shogunate’s darkness.
He had to outdo them.
He had to use them.
And what did he need to do that? What could he do to avoid suspicion, acquire information on their quarry, and sow confusion within the investigation team?
He focused on that.
His options here were limited, so he materialized the smallest of the hurdles he had to clear.
(First, I need to stop them from analyzing the antidote or researching where it came from. I need to trick them. If I don’t, I won’t make it any further. I can’t let them think the antidote came from Ouka. If I’m kicked out of here, I can’t stop those four.)
He wrinkled the scar on his nose while groaning and twisting on the stretcher. He rolled from his back to his side and used that movement to catch some of the tape between his body and the stretcher and peel it away to lift up an electrode. Then he only had to place his phone on it and have it vibrate by setting off an alarm in silent mode.
The unnatural vibration messed with the contact between electrode and skin to create an abnormality on the EKG monitor without the need for an outside electrical source.
“His heartrate is abnormal! The amplitude pattern is fluctuating! He’ll go into shock at this rate!!”
It was a little more complicated, but the idea was not all that different from a small child in the school infirmary messing with the thermometer to get an excuse to skip class. Everything had its uses. Even silent mode was fairly loud in quiet places, but it could go unnoticed when there was a lot of other noise around.
Shirazaya Guren gulped and quickly grabbed his shoulders to roll him onto his back again, but he gathered his strength to fight it and kicked his legs in a way that would not put pressure on his damaged back. It would look a lot like he was convulsing as deadly poison circulated through his body. Forcing your way through with brute strength was not the only way to do things. A ninja needed ways to make themselves look weak as well.
If he was rolled onto his back, the phone’s presence would be discovered, so he ended that trick and reduced the intensity of his feigned convulsions.
“Has he stabilized?”
“No, we can’t know that for sure. He could deteriorate at any moment. Prepare the stomach pump!”
While the twins were focused on the monitor, he snuck a hand behind his back and pulled one of his Fierce Fang air pressure kunais from below his untucked short-sleeved dress shirt. He may have been able to aim for defenseless Guren and Suiren’s throats, but he that would mean wiping out the investigation team he needed to use.
(The stretcher uses electric assistance. That means it has a large motor…and a magnet.)
The kunai’s tungsten steel was not the most magnetic of materials, but that was not what he was interested in. He used the pointed tip to unscrew and pop off the cover and then he pulled out the powerful neodymium magnet used for the motor.
The preparation was simple.
With an extra large “convulsion”, his back and the rest of his body hopped up and he pushed his palm against the side of a piece of precision machinery in the cramped ambulance. No, he pressed the neodymium magnet against it.
Needless to say, pressing a magnet against a medical computer would cause a malfunction.
Shirazaya Suiren’s white hair extension swayed as she cried out and Guren quickly reached for the wiring behind the device, but he used that moment to slip the magnet behind his hips and then return it to the stretcher’s motor while they were not looking. His phone, the air pressure kunai, and the neodymium magnet were all like balls he was juggling. But right now he needed a certain type of courage more than skilled fingers. He was redirecting the attention of more than one person right in front of him while performing tricks right out in the open. This was the standard method of stage magicians, of con artists, and of ninjas.
He had taken out the EKG. There was no more need for restraint in his performance. He shook his body, breathed erratically, and let his eyes crawl around unnecessarily while grabbing at the chest of Guren’s white dress.
“Oh, no. The convulsions are back. Suiren, restart the device immediately! Sugiyado-san, I do apologize, but I must strap down your arms and legs.”
“No…wait…my breast pocket…”
“My school’s…antidote. If they used the poison…I taught them…”
Guren sprang into action. What she found in his short-sleeved dress shirt’s breast pocket was a small bottle of commercial eye drops, but not many professionals would walk around with a set of bottles actually labeled “poison” and “antidote”.
She removed the cap, and…
“Please open your mouth, Sugiyado-san. Suiren, help me! Hold his hands down!! I’ll pry open his mouth!!”
It was said bitterness was the sign of a good medicine.
Now he only had to swallow it.
Blonde Suiren actually gulped louder than him.
Of course he had.
He had been given the real antidote quite a while before. But he no longer had to fear the medical equipment recovering and then discovering an antidote in his body. He had created a reason for it to be there.
(Will that allow me to stick around for the time being?)
He was finally released from his tension.
But the end was not in sight yet.
The ambulance’s radio received a transmission.
“This is Azure Dragon 01. You say those runaway ninjas have made their move? Then hurry up and tell us where to aim and who to shoot. I’m so bored I swear my entire body is gonna rust.”
“Azure Dragon? Who’s that?” asked Sugiyado.
“The armored samurai handling our firepower support,” replied one of the twins.
“This is Yellow Dragon 00,” the other twin said into the radio. “Azure Dragon 01, please remain on standby until you receive further orders. Unnecessary transmissions have a chance of hindering progress of the mission.”
“Sorry, Little Miss Doll, but I’m not good at all that awful sneaking around.”
For once, the calm and composed twins clicked their tongues.
But not at what was said over the radio. They had both looked out the white smoked window.
A heavy gust of wind blew in as a large moss green shogunate truck pulled up alongside them.
This was clearly a military vehicle.
The back had no canopy covering it, so the giant forms curled up in two rows were exposed to the elements.
Instead of adding armor to human silhouettes, these looked like their silhouettes had been remade into those of carnivorous dinosaurs. They were masses of artificial muscles and full-body armor with sinister Gatling guns and grenade launchers worn over the shoulders or back.
These were the armored samurai.
Unlike Sugiyado or the twin kunoichis, this high firepower did not know how to hide. The crests of their samurai families were emblazoned prominently on their chests to identify themselves and these physical manifestations of death would not hesitate to reduce anyone to a puddle of blood in their efforts to uphold the law. These were the berserkers of an insane world that heaped on praise when they heaped on the killings.
This kind of firepower was not meant to be used for domestic criminal matters. These were weapons of war meant to stand up to the extraordinary knights and musketeers arriving by sea and air to steal the nation’s technology.
Guren audibly gulped before responding.
“Azure Dragon 01!! Know your place in this! If you trip us up by practically announcing our presence, you might as well be destroying your own eyes and ears here!!”
“That’s more like it. Do you shut-in cowards need a nice spanking now and then to keep you on your toes? I mean, I’m sure it hurts to kill some fellow kunoichis even if they did run away.”
“Do you question our professionalism!?”
“You know what we call a so-called professional who hasn’t fought in a real war? A virgin. Oh, but I guess virginity makes you more valuable when you’re a girl, huh? Heh heh.”
The sexual turn of the conversation seemed to actually calm the twins down. Using such things to lower a target’s defenses was a kunoichi technique, so this must have put them in work mode.
“But don’t you forget, blondie. You might be working on that Dejima-like reclaimed land, but a doll with those looks is only allowed to strut around working as shogunate spy – instead of being hunted down by them – because you do the work we give you. You won’t like to find out what happens if you can’t manage it. You can guess what might happen if you lose the shogunate’s backing in this isolationist age, can’t you? No one from overseas can ever be truly trusted and there’s not going to be a formal investigation. We’ll have you sit down, place heavy stones on your lap, and keep doubling the weight until you confess to letting the criminals escape.”
“Get the picture now? You call yourselves kunoichi? Don’t make me laugh. That’s just a fancy word for gloomy cowards without the guts to make a frontal assault. Ninjas have no honor. At best, you’re the gofers for us samurai. If you get it, then work like a workhorse and guide us to our prey. We’re using someone for target practice – you can decide whether it’s them or you. So please, even I’d find it a little distasteful to slice up my formal colleagues and make mincemeat out of them. Gya ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
…Sugiyado Souha could not abandon them.
That was the honest thought on his mind as he clenched his teeth and saw those two bite their lips while pale in the face. This would have been so much easier if they were soldiers pursuing his students after being manipulated by the shogunate’s darkness. But now that he knew the reality of the situation, he had one more hurdle to overcome. He could not just fool these twins and rescue his students. That would place a great debt on the shoulders of these twins who had done nothing wrong. And in the most unfair way imaginable.
So he made up his mind.
He had one more burden to carry, which put him one step closer to death. Just like during that final mission, he was surrounded by an unpleasant atmosphere that seemed to be leading him toward a major failure.
Nevertheless, he did not break. He only quietly updated his list of objectives.
He had to rescue both the pursuing twins and his runaway students.
And he had to escape with them all.
3: Battle Preparation Delivery
A smooth rustling sound could be heard.
It came from Hanasawa Bara, a girl with a curvy body and overly-bright red hair worn in gorgeous ringlet curls to increase the volume. She had brushed her hair back from a face of such beauty that it would have looked at home awash with a spotlight on center stage, not as a ninja who lived in the shadows.
Her red dress and the ample figure showing through were enough to steal away the starring role in this space.
This elicited an exasperated comment from Nantou Hoozuki, the cool beauty with a long silver ponytail who was riding her lightweight but powerful off-road motorcycle called Countless Calamities. She had never changed out of her ninja outfit.
“That’s quite the weapon you have there.”
“I could say the same about you.”
Bara had woven coils in to her ringlet curls to transform her hair into a sort of linear motor and coilgun. With a total of 18 of those, she could cover all directions around her, but they were also hidden in a blind spot that let her slip past ordinary checkpoints and police searches that only thought to check people’s pockets and bags. It truly was the ideal form of a ninja.
They could fire the Candy Needles made from melting sugar and letting it harden with poison mixed in or the Final Cannon that used an armor piercing needle of depleted uranium alloy, and the entire weapon was known as the Serpent Monster.
“Sensei got mad when I named it the Gorgon. He said I had to go with mythological names for everything or nothing.”
“You made him mad on purpose for some fun, didn’t you?”
“How is that any different from the way you make him grimace by naming each of your bike’s new transformation gimmicks Technique 1, Technique 2, Technique 3, and so on?”
“I just want to make it harder to come up with a countermeasure based on the name, but he’s more of a stickler for aesthetics than you would think.”
“He’s a romanticist. The way he makes it so obvious despite refusing to admit it out loud is so unbearably cute.”
“You mean like that scarf he always keeps around his neck? Well, at least I’ve never seen him stick a scroll in his mouth and hop onto a giant toad.”
“You just know he wishes he could, though.”
“I’m glad he isn’t the type who accepts genetic tampering as ethical. I mean, he gets so obsessed he’d take it way too far once he got started.”
The teenage girls chuckled together in a way that no one would have guessed was part of some dangerous criminal plot.
The four of them had not come from the same place before seeking out Sugiyado Souha’s ninja instruction. They each had their own reason for leaving their peaceful lives, moving into the shadows, and aspiring to be ninjas who got by with trickery. They relied on each other in battle, but they had not seen everything of each other’s lives.
The only one who had done that would be Sugiyado who had gently gotten them to open up their scarred hearts.
Hanasawa Bara came from a noble family and never should have found herself in the shadows. But in order to prop up the samurai families, the shogunate had ordered the number of noble families to be reduced. When her family had been crushed and she had found herself under Sugiyado’s tutelage, she had wondered how she had ended up stripped of her former status and asking a younger boy to teach her.
But when he had noticed she was not committing herself to her studies and training, he had not jumped straight to scolding her. He had instead smiled and told her she did not have to change who she was.
He had simply told her to get the job done. If she could become a ninja who could use her dazzling beauty as a weapon, then she could stay true to herself. So he told her to think up a way to do that.
In a show of that mature sex appeal, she crossed her arms and alluring lifted her large chest from below, but she narrowed her eyes like a pure maiden daydreaming.
Believers in sports engineering might laugh it off as silly idealism and wishful thinking, but that rose who stood on the front line could tell. The more harsh the scene, the more important and reassuring it was to have a solid sense of “yourself” as a central pillar.
She was certain she had him to thank for not becoming a machine that had missions mechanically inputted and did nothing more than spill blood with blades and shurikens. When her heart had felt in tatters and she had given up on any path other than throwing it out, it was undoubtedly Sugiyado Souha who had held onto it, gradually picked up the pieces and repaired the cracks, and restored her into someone who could find friends and laugh with them.
He had saved her.
No amount of money filling her bank account as payment for missions would ever have fulfilled her heart. She never could have restored herself with that. But he had shown her the way. She was willing to say that her current life was even more fulfilling than life in that luxurious estate before she had become a ninja. She no longer thought of it as a fall or a collapse. She had used those empty days of nothing but wealth as a stepping stool to reach an even greater place.
So now it was her turn.
He could call it insolent if he liked and he could raise his fist and tell her not to do this, but she still wanted to save her master. She wanted to give him the life-saving thing he had taught her. That was the whole of her motivation here.
She toyed with her precious hair and showed off her beauty to the world while holding her head high and asking a question.
“Is it time for the next step?”
“Yes. Let’s get this over with.”
4: Buried Ninja Sword
After transferring to a different vehicle in an underground parking garage, they arrived at Sugiyado Souha’s apartment in an ordinary car.
He had been accepted onto their side, so he would be sleeping in that tanker truck from now one. But first, he needed to pack a bag with clothes and whatnot.
He gave a self-deprecating smile while propping himself up on the shoulder of Suiren, one of the twins in white dresses with bold slits.
“So this place was already being monitored, huh?”
“Yes. But only by other spies. Do not worry; none of those samurai were spying on you.”
“Ha ha. Yeah, I don’t want to see one of them hiding behind the vending machine.”
Guren went in ahead of them to make sure the place was safe and then the other two entered the rundown room.
It felt so terribly nostalgic now.
It was a lot like returning home from a trip. The furniture was in the same place and the amount of dirty laundry had not changed, but it did not smell like home.
“I checked around, but there is an awful lot of laundry and trash bags piled up in here.”
It had gotten this bad in just the few days since Ouka and the others had cleaned up for him.
“This cluttered world is unbefitting of an instructor. You will be away from home for a while, so it would be best to clean this up now.”
He was just about to beg them not to expect much from a guy living on his own, but then the twin kunoichis got to work on the towering mountain range themselves.
“Hold on. I can’t have shogunate spies do this kind of work for me.”
“Our duty is to fulfill whatever task is required of us, regardless of what it entails.”
“Oh? What is this? Um, a value pack of Happy Churn???”
“Oh, if you ladies are not prepared for the difficult path that awaits you, I recommend stopping here. You must keep strong or you will be dragged into the abyss before you know it. Don’t blame me if you try one and are addicted for life.”
Meanwhile, they split into a trash bag team and a laundry team and got to work. Having those composed girls emitting a silent pressure while observing what brand of underwear he wore was unbelievably awkward, but he had been placed on the trash bag team. He could not approach them, so he could not use his ninja techniques to surreptitiously obstruct their work.
“Garbage pickup is tomorrow morning, but we cannot wait until then. We can report a tree branch cut down on the roadside out front and have them send in a truck now.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
Eliminating those mountains made the space feel a lot bigger.
He was reminded of how Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, and the others had paid him a surprise visit, rudely said he would get sick living in a place like this, and cleaned everything up for him.
Also, the better view of the room had brought something into view.
A sword in a black scabbard and wrapped over and over by a very long decorative cloth sat in a corner of the room. Unlike ordinary Japanese swords, this one had no curve.
Instead of simply cutting down an enemy, it could be used to create footholds while climbing tall fences, it could be used as a grappling hook for scaling walls by unwrapping the cloth that had a weight at the end, and it could be held out ahead in the dark to check for obstacles.
Shirazaya Guren gulped, sighed, and spoke in an impressed tone.
“Is that a ninja sword?”
“It’s called Salvation & Punishment. It’s too much for me now, but I never had a chance to get rid of it. I’ve just kind of held onto to it even though I have no use for it.”
“That alone shows how much you once relied on it. I see nothing to be ashamed of there.”
Normal(?) ninja swords were made shorter than the average Japanese sword for easier use indoors, but this one was actually longer than average. All of his personal idiosyncrasies must have been woven into its design. It was obvious to everyone that he was fond of the blade.
Guren narrowed her eyes while carrying the last trash bag to the front door.
“Can I ask your story?” said Sugiyado while leaning against the wall.
“It is not a pleasant one.” She toyed with her beautiful blonde hair and let out a slow breath. “We were in an airplane crash. We never had any business with this isolationist country, but once we were swept onto the shore here, we had no choice but to stand on our own two feet. Fortunately, we had talent. Talent at hiding in the shadows and laying out strategies. That has allowed us to avoid the horrors that you heard the samurai mention.”
“I will not lay all blame at the feet of this era or this nation’s system. There are times when I am so engrossed in a mission that I forget all else. I have enjoyed using the shogunate’s power to act as the hunter. Some of those we have hunted down were blonde-haired girls younger than me. But this is the life we wanted because it suits us. That is all there is to it.”
It was true that most everyone who dedicated themselves to the shadows had some kind of circumstances leading them in that direction. Sugiyado Souha did and so did his students.
But there was something different about Shirazaya Guren’s story that she told with a tremor in her small throat.
They had not chosen this.
The bracelets on the sisters’ wrists likely tracked their location.
It was like they were given money and forced to make more and more high-rate, high-risk gambles with it, but if they screwed up and ended up in the red just once, they would be sold off themselves. Pointing at the losers of those gambles and telling these sisters they had destroyed those people’s lives seemed wrong somehow. At the very least, those samurai, who had grown fat on taxes, were in no position to say it.
“Have you ever wanted to return home?”
“I dream of it every night. But it simply isn’t possible anymore.”
She seemed to be referring to more than just the country’s isolationist policies.
Normally, other countries wanted Japan’s technology badly enough to repeatedly send in scouts and take military action against the isolationist country. They should have rejoiced if some of their own people returned after infiltrating so deep into Japan.
So why would it not work that way?
“Didn’t I say we have already cut down several people with this same hair color? The knights across the sea have us on a list of dangerous individuals, so we could never live a normal life even if we did make it back to our homeland. Without the government’s backing, we would be branded traitors and I imagine we would actually be in even more danger than staying here.”
There had to be more to it than that.
The higher ups had almost certainly intentionally sent those twins to hunt down their compatriots. Both to test their loyalty and to leave the shogunate as the only place they could ever hope to survive, thus making them easier to control. It was a lot like a gang initiation ritual in which the initiate had to shoot a police officer or teacher to cut off any hope of help and isolate them from society.
These were victims.
No matter how much power they might have, Sugiyado could not think of any other word with which to describe these twins.
5: Smokey Maze
Once all the necessary preparations were complete, Sugiyado Souha was finally invited into the tanker truck that acted as the investigation team’s headquarters.
(Now, then. It’s 3PM – time for the banks to close.)
He checked the wall clock while losing himself in thought.
He had already gotten himself involved and taken a sympathetic view of the twins, but he could not forget that Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, Nantou Hoozuki, and Shizukuma Asagao had no future if the twins captured them.
He had to prevent the investigation from making any progress while still allowing Guren and Suiren to save face.
That would be the best plan. Perhaps it was best described as allowing them to fail gracefully.
He toyed with the large scarf over his mouth as he thought.
(Ouka’s group is headed to the stock exchange’s server room now that they have a copy of Top Idol Shitou Kyouka’s biometric data. They’re after the classified information secretly stored there because the shogunate is afraid to keep it too close at hand. A normal bank wouldn’t have the capacity to store that. Ouka’s group thinks the secrets of my final mission are hidden there.)
That much was correct.
But he could not allow Shirazaya Guren and Suiren to discover that answer.
How could he create a convincing false answer on top of that?
(Ouka’s group made an appearance at the airport and Shitou Kyouka has gone missing. That much is already known.)
Since the entire event had been fixed and the top idol was planned to win from the beginning, she would not have left early. That would normally be seen as a slight to the sponsors who had paid a lot of money setting it all up.
Also, the twins knew about the poison Sugiyado had been given there. At this point, trying to claim he had nicked himself with his own poisoned blade would only arouse suspicions against him.
If anyone could not put two and two together here, he would honestly be impressed.
(I suppose the best option is to send them in the wrong direction when deciding why my students abducted the idol.)
But only if saving his students was his only goal. If he set up a spectacular failure for Guren and Suiren, who could say what those cruel samurai would do to them.
He had to send them in the right direction but have Ouka’s group stay just one step ahead of them. Also, the reason for the delay had to come from the armored samurai, not the kunoichis. And the failure had to so obviously be theirs that they could not possibly shift the blame.
That was no easy task, but that was why it would win him a reward as great as the survival of both sides. It was worth doing.
(Those girls clearly wanted to abduct Shitou Kyouka badly enough to use the modular nuclear reactor as bait. What reason can I invent other than the real one? Or to put it another way, what answer would I find a surprise yet still accept as legitimate? Can I up the scale to a level above a nuclear reactor?)
He breathed in and then out.
And he began speaking.
“There may not have been a real reason for it.”
Both twins wrinkled their brows.
He himself was unsure if this would hold water, but right now he had to gather speed, like he was pushing a minecart down a sloped track.
“Shitou Kyouka is known even outside the country, right?”
“Y-yes. The Shogunate must think a talented entertainer will help give them a good name because they have taken the unusual step of releasing her songs overseas. Similar to how we can see Hollywood movies and Western action movies here.”
“That makes her the perfect target that even foreigners would recognize.”
He chose his words carefully.
He used the lag in conversation as a “gap” to draw the twins’ attention.
“I don’t know what led those girls to strike back at the Shogunate, but I doubt even Elite Ninjas could last long against an entire nation while on their own. They need someone new to back them.”
“This was a demonstration. By abducting a world-famous idol, they’re advertising that their skills can help anyone hoping to attack this isolationist nation. For that matter, the original modular nuclear reactor may have been intended as a souvenir. Those people circling the archipelago’s skies in their giant flying aircraft carriers must be dying to get their hands on some new ‘made in Japan’ merchandise.”
“You’re saying they did all this not for some physical cash or diamonds, but to create intangible connections!?”
“I doubt that’s their only objective, of course. You two should know all too well how much a powerful backer increases your options. They could flee overseas and enjoy themselves there, or they could use all the new equipment and funding to continue sneaking around Japan and cause trouble here.”
The psychological scars of their past experiences helped make it sound all the mor real to them. Anyone other than those twins might not have fallen silent like this.
He did not let it show on his face, but he apologized to them in his heart.
“So once they have made contact with the knights and musketeers waiting out at sea and in the skies, they hope to throw a big party. This is going to be much bigger than what four individuals can do. They will invite those bored foreign berserkers into the country to start a legit war. Guren, Suiren, give me a list of the important targets those heavily-equipped knights will likely attack first. If any of those are facilities or people that Ouka’s group would want to see attacked, then that’s probably what they’re after.”
He upped the scale again.
The modular nuclear reactor was a nuke, but it was still small. Even if it was made to explode, its destruction and contamination would only cover a diameter of a few hundred meters. The word “nuke” held a lot of power, but when looking at the actual number of people who would be harmed, there were other, crueler ways it could be used.
Now he only had to wait for the enormity of the threat to sink in.
In his short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants, he peered into the twin kunoichis’ eyes. It took more than a deluge of words to convince someone of something. At times, silence could be a powerful weapon.
“Understood. We will take that into consideration for now.”
“Of course you will. The more options you’re looking out for, the better.” He shrugged while hiding his joy inside. “Then could it be possible they’re after money? Like having the idol agency pay a ransom or something? Or do they have some direct connection to Shitou Kyouka? This might actually be a cheap grudge or jealousy. If not, maybe we should consider the possibility of it being an attack on the airport or idol festival management.”
He rattled off possibilities in quick succession to keep their minds off of any more attractive possibilities than the wrong one he had given already. If Shirazaya Guren and Suiren came up with a list of better theories and even arrived at the stock exchange answer he had to steer them away from, it would sound a lot cheaper if it bordered on the variety of answers he had already given. The weight of words had more of an effect than people thought. It was hard to rid yourself of an impression you had already arrived at.
“I still don’t see why it had to be Shitou Kyouka, but I suppose we should follow the foreign backing theory for now,” said Guren.
“If we narrow our focus down to the front line in New Yokohama Domain, the options look like this.”
While toying with her right earlobe, Suiren added several pins to the map on her laptop.
The water services, the power line in from the mainland, the communication cables, the New Yokohama Aeromonolith broadcast tower, New Yokohama Station, the various Shogunate facilities, and the people given VIP treatment – from samurai to wealthy merchants. The aforementioned stock exchange was even on the list. Seeing it there was enough for his heart to leap in his chest.
But he could not back out now. If he was going to work with the twins to stop his students, he had to guide the Shogunate almost all the way to the goal.
He boldly pointed at one option himself.
It was a location across the street from the stock exchange he could not have them discovering. It was a mere 20m away.
“New Yokohama Mint. Now that new ATMs can detect the Ultra 8 counterfeit money created by the Kingdom, they lost one inroad to gathering foreign capital. But if they gained one of the real printing presses, they could turn all that around. The profit from that would far surpass a black market deal over a mini-nuke. Hand that over when they’re in their time of need and Ouka’s group is sure to earn their praise.”
“But those supposedly have three different tracking devices installed. Even if they gained the plans to the mint and located one, could they really remove all three of them on the spot?”
“Good point. That just means they need some way of instantly destroying all of the sensors without dismantling the device. What the Kingdom wants is the hardware made by expert craftsmen, not the programming inside.”
The twins both tilted their heads, making their hair extensions sway, so Sugiyado winked and told his biggest lie yet.
“The modular nuclear reactor. Powerful radiation should be able to destroy the circuitry used for the transmitters. If you’re after the components rather than the circuitry, you can wipe out the tracking devices with a burst of radiation. No light or noise necessary.”
6: Offline Strategizing
The underground mall was as complex as a spider web and it connected one giant train station with an entirely different subway station. Extremely-small Shizukuma Asagao groaned at a café there.
The small-faced girl in a white military uniform with a short tight skirt used the fingertips sticking out from her baggy sleeves to operate a handheld game system capable of ordinary internet browsing.
“Alert: a stir is running through the crowds around the stock exchange. They seem to be noticing an oddity in the flow of traffic.”
“Roger that, Asagao. Keep watching via satellite,” said Nantou Hoozuki over the radio. “I’ve confirmed some things while walking around outside. There are an awful lot of vehicles with large enclosed spaces, like a delivery truck, a hot dog stand, a TV broadcast van, and a refrigerator truck. Nothing conclusive yet, but there must be dogs hiding out here. Be on the lookout for heavy equipment they can’t let out in the open.”
“They might all be Shogunate jack-in-the-boxes,” said Hanasawa Bara, also over the radio. “But isn’t their formation odd? They are scattered around the building, but they don’t seem to be surrounding the stock exchange.”
Financial institutions closed even earlier than the schools. Even regional banks closed their general teller windows at 3. Maintenance workers like cleaners and electricians might still go there, but it seemed unlikely a hot dog vendor could do business there in the evening.
“Maybe they intentionally left a hole in their security because they figured we would leave after scoping the place out if they were too obviously surrounding the place,” suggested Asagao who was acting as the host of this chat.
“It might be Sensei,” said Ouka.
“If so, why? To capture us? Or to let us escape?”
Either way, it was rare to find a complete answer on the scene. More often than not, there was no correct answer. They could only use what information they had to search out the most likely candidates and make their choices based on whether they had the upper hand or not, whether they could take an optimistic or pessimistic view, and whether they were on the offensive or the defensive. Instead of using the flexible thought processes of a human, the best way to survive was to use simple, insect-like thought processes: did they smell anything sweet or not, was there light there or not, was the ground wet or not, etc.
“It doesn’t really matter. This isn’t enough to get rid of ush!”
“Hm? Is there something wrong with your tongue, Ouka?”
Small Asagao frowned, but there was no response for a while. And when one came, it was from Bara instead.
“Oh? Having a flashback, you dirty girl? Was kissing Sensei that much fun?”
Hoozuki and Asagao had not heard about that and shouted on reflex, but Ouka remained silent and Bara must not have understood the power of the bomb she had unleashed.
“Okay, technically she gave him the antidote mouth-to-mouth. Besides, greeting him with a kiss is perfectly normal. I do it all the time.”
“What!!!???” “What!!!???” “What!!!???”
Ouka snapped out of her confusion to join the shouting this time. Bara was referring to how she would surprise him with a touch to the cheek, forehead, or top of the head while gently biting his neck, but she intentionally left that part out.
Bob cut Asagao trembled in her seat.
“I can’t believe this. Now I want to know how Sensei has been interpreting my ‘I’m going to marry you when I grow up’ magic spell!”
“You’ve been abusing your cuteness to seduce him too?” “You’ve been abusing your cuteness to seduce him too?” “You’ve been abusing your cuteness to seduce him too?”
Based on this, it seemed likely that Hoozuki, the impeccable cool beauty biker girl, had prepared a special helmet for a certain someone and wore a special perfume when letting that certain someone ride with her.
The four girls began seriously thinking they should have gotten to the bottom of those questions before leaving him, but what was done was done. They would have to ask him after solving this problem and reclaiming his honor.
They were willing to fight against everything to do that.
Even if someone they respected from the bottom of their hearts was included in that. They had to figure out whether this formation was meant to rescue them or meant to trap them.
Kuhou Ouka made a decision on her end of the radio.
“It doesn’t matter what it was meant to do because we can slip past this either way.”
7: Hidden Battle
Sugiyado Souha left the tanker truck’s maintenance hatch and entered the evening financial district.
He hid his mouth behind his largish scarf and immediately commented on what he saw.
“That is way too conspicuous.”
“Believe me, it’s a miracle those Azure Dragon armored samurai went along with their ‘sit and stay’ command at all.”
“They do not understand why they should ever have to hide themselves. Words are meaningless with someone who uses their heavy equipment to brute force their way through frontal assaults.”
The blonde twins in white dresses remained expressionless, but there were obvious barbs in their words. He hoped these apparent complaints were proof that they were opening up to him at least a little.
(The vehicles everywhere are partially blocking the flow of foot traffic, but nothing has happened to cause a panic yet.)
That was good news. Not even he could hide the true target if there was an explosion in front of the stock exchange.
He glanced across the road at the square smart building that was the mint.
“Where are the presses?”
“Thanks to the Third Economic Measures, they apparently must print a trillion yen by the end of the month, so they rejected our request that they stop the presses and remove them to a safe location.”
That was the policy that had been deemed a disaster even by the sports newspapers sold at the train stations. While it was true foreign exchange rates were of secondary importance given the nation’s isolationist policies, this was still taking it much too far. It was a miracle hyperinflation had not already set in.
“Good grief. So we’re stuck defending the place against four of the shogunate’s Elite Ninjas?” he asked. “Our cutting-edge equipment can’t exactly run or hide.”
“They might be former Elite Ninjas, but they are on the run now. Do not forget that,” said one twin.
“Officially recognized spies are on a different level from those unrestrained dangerous elements,” said the other.
When they had nowhere else they could go, their pride in that position would naturally grow. It was sad once you knew how it worked. That samurai may not have just been talking about their looks when he called them dolls.
“By the way, why are you acting like my bodyguards or something?”
“Have you already forgotten? At the idol festival, those runaway ninjas went out of their way to attack you, their old teacher.”
“It is unclear if they were afraid you would share information with us or if they simply felt betrayed, but that set a precedent. If you show up on the scene, they will attempt to contact you separate from their plan’s timetable. Thus, we have deemed it best to work with you this time.”
He could not criticize the plan, no matter how much he wanted to.
If not for the fact that he wanted to end this without either side going down, it was a decent plan.
But as accurate as their reasoning was, their presence still restricted his freedom, effectively checkmating him.
He had heard records related to his final mission were hidden in the stock exchange’s server since the Shogunate wanted to keep that at arm’s length. Letting Ouka’s group find that would be devastating. They would be hunted down and eliminated by the Shogunate. It was important to prevent those four from encountering Shirazaya Guren and Suiren, but he also had to stop them.
“Seems like overkill, but I won’t say no to a double date.”
“That is not what that means. Joke if you like, but try to use your romance terms correctly.”
Just as Suiren said that while flicking at her right ear, Sugiyado walked forward and kicked up a small rock with the heel of his shoe. He moved his hand behind his short-sleeved dress shirt’s back to silently catch it, hold it tight, and make up his mind.
With a snap of his wrist, he chucked it toward a large window nearby.
The twin ninjas would not know how deadly an attack it had been, but they would know that a reinforced glass window had loudly shattered right next to them.
So if he added some dramatic flavoring, they would buy it.
“Sniper! Get down!!”
He shouted a warning and shoved Suiren behind a car. She was a lot lighter than he had expected, so she gained too much speed and her dress’s skirt flipped up, but it was too late to redo that now. Guren gulped nervously and leaped in the same direction to support her sister, but he dove the other way to hide behind a convertible parked on the curb.
Still behind cover, the boy in a short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants pointed toward a random building. The blonde twins looked that way to check almost on reflex, but the instant their eyes were off him, he used the air pressure kunai in his hand to break the door window of the convertible he was hiding behind.
Suiren ducked down and spoke.
“I did not see any light or hear any noise. They may be using subsonic rounds.”
“Gunfire makes Ouka the most likely suspect. Her hunting gun doesn’t use any rifling, so she uses fletching to stabilize the rounds when firing long distance. I want to capture at least one of them, so I’ll head that way through the alleys. You two are too far from the next viable cover, so just ask those heavily-armored samurai to rescue you. Their full-body composite armor should be able to deflect anti-materiel rifle rounds. Once they’re with you, make your way to the sniper’s building along a clockwise route. I’ll approach with a counterclockwise route.”
“Shouldn’t we send one of the samurai with you?”
They let him reject that idea with a simple wave of his hand. They did not want to be indebted to those samurai any more than he did.
With his mouth hidden behind his scarf, he followed his supposed plan by diving from behind the convertible and into the nearby alleyway, but he ignored the plan after that. One wall of that alleyway was the stock exchange. If he was going to use the confusion to get inside, he would have to do it now.
The back entrance was a steel door with a heavy-duty electronic lock, but he ignored the keypad altogether. He instead focused on the thick communication cables running vertically along the wall. He used a Fierce Fang to slice through a few of those and attached them to his phone.
The inside the of the building was naturally filled with security cameras, but if he cut the footage, the dark screens would tell the security room something was amiss. The general solution seen in movies and dramas was to play an endless loop of the same footage, but that was not as easy as fiction made it seem.
(I’ll set the brightness to maximum.)
Modern pros would take this route.
The footage would continue to be recorded, but he secretly altered the settings. By changing the contrast between the bright areas and the dark areas, he made it impossible to see anyone lurking in the shadows. That would leave no unnatural changes in the length or number of video files.
Once the necessary preparations were complete, it was time to head in.
He stuck the Fierce Fang’s tip between the door and wall at the upper end of the knob and released the power of nitrogen. He could pry open the thick hatch of a military tank with this thing, so it neutralized the lock by physically breaking the thick latch.
The door slowly opened inward.
There was no need to discuss something as basic as fingerprints at this point. Even without gloves on, coating your entire hand with a thin layer of clear nail polish was enough to deal with that. You would be sorely mistaken if you assumed everyone working shady jobs wore thin rubber surgical gloves or black leather gloves. Wear something like that on a midsummer beach or in a sauna and the police would be asking you a lot of questions.
He glanced down at his fingers.
(The trick is finding a good product that properly eliminate your fingerprints without losing the feeling of your fingertips.)
As soon as he set foot inside, he could tell there were still people here.
All trading was done for the day, but that did not mean everyone immediately left and the building’s lights were shut off. This was when the real work began in maintaining the giant communications system used to perform ten thousand transactions every second. There were a lot of actual maintenance workers and a lot of security personnel keeping an eye on things to ensure none of them inserted malware on the system or swapped out a circuit board. Allowing a malicious device to be hooked up here would cause far more confusion than at a pachinko parlor, so this much security was to be expected.
(How will they actually go about this?)
Sugiyado thought to himself while carefully staying in the darker parts of the staff corridors and set up some traps along the way.
He quietly reeled in some fishing line as he continued.
(They stole the biometric data of Top Idol Shitou Kyouka, but word can get around fast and someone might already know she went missing. Especially people who deal with stocks and trading. If they strut in wearing a disguise, they could find her account has been frozen and have metal bars drop down to surround them. So how will they avoid that risk while assuming it’s already known she’s gone missing?)
He knew where he had to go.
In addition to the normal reception area occasionally depicted on the TV news, this kind of stock exchange also had a VIP dealing room. The primary advantage was not needing to go through a public server, which increased the transaction speed up by a thousandth of a second. That was too small for normal people to even be aware of, but to reiterate, computer-controlled financial transactions were carried out at a rate of ten thousand per second. So by obtaining one of the small glass-encased booths in there was enough to perform ten transactions for every one a normal person was capable of. In terms of a turn-based RPG or TRPG, that would be like getting ten turns for every one turn the enemy received. That would obviously make you unbeatable.
And again, the end of trading for the day did not mean everyone left the stock exchange. In a world where a system malfunction could mean the loss of billions in a single day, it was not uncommon for people to only allow their own hired workers to work on the machinery in their booth.
This was where it got interesting.
It was also not uncommon for the VIPs arriving at the exchange to not be the best with computers. For example, with an idol who was not all that knowledgeable in the fields of finances or computer science, the exchange workers would salivate at the chance to “assist” and put their precious client’s mind at ease.
(There they are.)
“Yes. Like I said, I would like to know what is going on with my money.”
He heard a girl’s voice that was not all that loud but traveled oddly far.
But this was not Bara who excelled at disguises and camouflage.
“My mother usually handles this money, but the account is in my name. Just in case, I thought it would be best to know the basics of how all this works.”
In fact, this was not even a disguise.
Hanasawa Bara and Nantou Hoozuki were there.
The two ninjas were waiting behind her in work jumpsuits with baseball caps pulled down to cover their eyes. Their young age was no reason to suspect them in an age of meritocracy where people often dropped out of school to get a job when they had the talent for it. Going after a stock exchange server from the outside would be difficult, but the hurdle was much lower when you physically snuck inside. With some advice from Shizukuma Asagao who was skilled at cyber attacks, they would be able to work their way in pretty deep. Perhaps even to the secret Shogunate data that the actual exchange workers were unaware of.
In other words…
(Instead of copying her biometric data, they manipulated her into bringing them here herself?)
Word would have gotten around that Shitou Kyouka had disappeared, yet here she was in the flesh and not just someone pretending to be her. Even if the exchange had received word already, they could not afford to be suspicious here. Customers were the top priority even at a stock exchange, so they had no possible excuse for turning her away if she was the real one.
The most they could do was view her companions with suspicion, but if no weapons were drawn, no threats were made, and Shitou Kyouka herself introduced them as her trusted engineers, they could not kick them out either.
The entire point of the VIP dealing room was to use money to trample on the entire concept of fairness. Just like an F1 driver would get mad if they were given a pit crew other than their personal team and a businessman would be furious to receive some unknown court-appointed attorney instead of their personal lawyer during a major trial, finding fault with someone’s engineers could be seen as an attempt at obstruction.
Finding a way to control a specific individual or group through external means was apparently a romantic ideal on the level of immortality, time travel, and world domination. Various scientists had worked at that one for over 3000 years. The list of attempted methods was endless: incense, drugs, parasites, bacteria, bioelectricity, magnetism, nutrients, sleep deprivation, subconscious stimuli using low-frequency waves or vibrations, patterns of color or sound, etc.
And Sugiyado Souha could make an educated guess as to what his students had done here.
(Is this a form of shadow binding?)
That ninja technique stabbed a short sword or shuriken into the target’s shadow to keep them from moving. It was actually a way of invading someone’s personal space so they felt a pressure that made them hesitant to approach any further – and did so in an instant using the powerful presence of a deadly blade. It was even thought to make people submit to your will on a fundamental level. Anyone would lose the will to fight and fall silent if they had a gun pressed to their head or a blade tip to their heart. This was a lot like a compressed or instantaneous version of that. It affected them before they were even aware of it on a conscious level.
To repeat, this was the same shock that people felt with a gun pressed to their head or a blade to their heart.
And in that state, people would obviously obey any instructions they were given instead of just standing still.
(But this is an awfully long-lasting example of shadow binding. This kind of trick was always the favorite of Asagao since she doesn’t fight directly.)
He was impressed, but his goal was still to end this without losing his former students or the Shirazaya twins.
Unfortunately, he did not have it in him to focus on anything more than that. He had set some things up on the way here, so now he only had to make the decision.
He gave a tug on a long, long piece of fishing line.
As soon as a Fierce Fang was dislodged from the wall, it finished severing a power cable there and the entire windowless floor was plunged into inky darkness.
This was a stock exchange where billions of yen were moved around in transactions made at a rate of ten thousand a second, so they were bound to have backup power. The darkness would last two or three minutes at the absolute longest, but that was enough to engage in a battle without anyone else seeing it.
He ignored all of the presences moving far too obviously in the darkness. A professional ninja would not be that easy to detect. Those were the ordinary VIPs.
He pulled out a new kunai in each hand and leaped more than ran on top of the office desks and reinforced glass booth dividers to take the shortest route toward his students.
The ability to move as easily in darkness as in light was the most basic skill for and true essence of a ninja.
For example, there was an ancient technique of holding your ninja sword’s scabbard out ahead and slowly walking. By feeling the wall before you ran into it, you could quietly avoid it. And if you came across a person, you could finish them off with a thrust of the blade before they could cause a scene.
Sugiyado Souha did something similar here.
By paying careful attention, he could see small flashing lights similar to starlight. Those were the sparks of static electricity that were especially common with long hair. If he focused on what mattered, he could tell where the kunoichis were.
He attacked as if jumping down on them from directly above.
The entire space had gone dark, but he definitely felt the pressure of two gazes looking up at him.
Hanasawa Bara and Nantou Hoozuki kindly explained how they had done it. Then multiple blades intersected. Bara used her hair guns made from the solenoid coils woven into her ringlet curls. The darts she fired were designed to confuse people in a non-visual environment by producing ultrasonic waves with the special grooves carved into them. The sound was similar to a dog whistle and the weapon was known as Ringing Ears.
Hoozuki used a combination cross shuriken given plenty of force by placing it between the tires of her folded-up off-road motorcycle in a process similar to a pitching machine. She was using an engine, but by padding it on the level of a gun’s silencer, she had eliminated almost all the sound.
Their dual attacks crashed into his thrown air pressure kunai in midair, sending orange sparks everywhere. For a brief moment, that blossom in the dark burned the ninjas’ beautiful outlines into his retinas like with a camera’s flash.
(I only threw it with my arm muscles. That isn’t enough for a direct competition with Bara and Hoozuki’s powered weapons!!)
He accepted his disadvantage here.
If he was going to give up just because he did not have the upper hand, he never would have come here in the first place.
(Hoozuki’s attacks can break the sound barrier and Bara’s coilgun can reach Mach 7.5 when she uses the max power of her Final Cannon using depleted uranium alloy. …But what does that matter? I have nothing to fear from a projectile that won’t hit me!!)
He landed and rolled to the side while pulling a kunai from his lower back. He heard a roar of air in response. They too had move to the side, so their paths were drawing a large circle.
There were plenty of simple ways of peeling back the veil of darkness, like anti-personnel radar and IR goggles. Hoozuki in particular could install all sorts of gadgets on Countless Calamities. But Sugiyado concluded that was not the case here. Using the simple enhancements of a machine made you susceptible to disturbance and deception tactics using chaff or flares. He doubted they would rely on something like that in a once-in-a-lifetime battle.
(In the end, they’ll rely on their own senses. That much won’t change.)
There was no obvious exchange of words at this point. Naming yourself before battle could be left to the combat-obsessed samurai who did not have to hide themselves. That could be handled once you had won and secured your safety.
The girls had not forgotten his teachings.
Ironically, that was what made them such a great threat here.
(I should target Hoozuki first. Because she uses that off-road bike as a giant launching gadget, I can get it to destroy itself by lodging a Fierce Fang in there and messing with the transfer of force. Bara detects her target via sound, so the loud noise should affect her more. I can use that to deal with her.)
Bara and Hoozuki could both fight on the level of a tank or fighter craft when at full power, but that destructive force and penetrative power could work against them too. Their job here was to acquire the Shogunate’s unofficial classified data hidden in the financial transaction server, so they could not afford to destroy that device with a stray shot before their work was complete.
(Then again, I’m in similar situation myself since my Fierce Fangs can be used against tanks, but I can’t afford to hurt my cute students with them.)
They had to be finishing their calculations on how to get at him too. After all, ninja battles rarely lasted long. The very next move would change things significantly.
Yet he was interrupted by something else.
It came from his earphone.
“Yellow Dragon 00 to all units.”
(Hm? Is that Guren or Suiren???)
“We cannot find Advisor at the base of the building designated as our rendezvous point. I repeat, we have lost track of Advisor.”
They played by the rules far too much.
He considered risking a transmission during the confusion to invent some reason why he was running late, but things took a turn for the worse.
“All units, please prepare for the worst. We must assume Advisor was attacked like last time, so put together a search team immediately. Select personnel from White Tiger, Black Tortoise, Azure Dragon, and Vermilion Bird Units and follow the path Advisor is thought to have followed.”
“I will continue to the rooftop to secure the sniper there while Guren joins the search team. We must fulfill our allotted roles. Armored samurai, it is time for the combat you so love.”
He thought not just his throat but his lungs had gone dry. At this rate, they would make it in here. Even if they did not think this was the true target, they might search all of the nearby buildings just to be thorough.
That cut off any hope of escape for Hanasawa Bara and Nantou Hoozuki.
What would happen if they were surrounded by multiple armored samurai?
With Gatling guns, grenade launchers, and rocket launchers, those warriors were embodiments of firepower, so if they pushed in en masse, even his Elite Ninja students could be overpowered and turned to mincemeat. It was not an issue of strength; this was an entirely different type of combat.
He had no time.
(It would be quicker if I did something, but that would arouse suspicion. A call from me is a card I can only play once, so I don’t want to use it up right away.)
He had to make a decision.
He changed direction in the darkness and jabbed his elbow in the gut of a wandering civilian guard to swiftly knock him unconscious.
His goal was the radio in the guard’s hand.
He made sure to spray a borrowed bottle of deodorant onto the microphone to alter his voice on the transmission before sending it out on the standard guard frequency that anyone could pick up.
“Alert, alert! Wires and a glass bottle spotted near Exit A4. It appears to be an acid bomb, so don’t touch it!! Even environmental suits can be melted through with aqua regia or hydrofluoric acid!!”
That would stop the armored samurai. Their banana-thick fingers were not suited for precise work and, as well-protected against explosive blasts and bullets as they were, they should feel an almost superstitious fear of chemical corrosion.
The back entrance would garner suspicion and everyone, including the bomb squad, would focus on it, but that was fine.
“We will be activating the ventilation ducts in preparation for the worst, so stay clear of the ventilation ports on the outside walls! Acidic gas could escape from there, so you’ll be killed if you’re close by!!”
Needless to say, those ducts would be Bara and Hoozuki’s escape route. No one would want to check inside there until the presence of an acid bomb had been completely refuted.
Now he only had to take one more step into danger.
He moved up alongside his students in the dark and whispered one quick comment to them.
“Do what is necessary if you want to survive this.”
He could not stay long, so he resumed moving from shadow to shadow.
“(Stop, Bara. Not now!)”
He heard whispered voices in the darkness, but he did not stay any longer.
After slipping out of the dealing room, he discarded the radio.
It did not matter if it was discovered the acid bomb was a ruse as long as it was not revealed who had sent the message. And he had a bigger issue to worry about now.
(I need to invent a reason why I entered this building and I need to let them know I’m safe before they complete their search of the inside.)
His excuse had to be good enough to save him here and preserve his spot on the investigation team. He had to leave them with as few suspicions as possible.
Once out in the hallway, he tugged on the long fishing line to recover the air-pressure kunai he had used for the blackout trap. Then he escaped to the emergency stairs. He was mostly focused on his earphone as he made another transmission, but as himself this time. He put together a few different response patterns in his head because he could not afford a mistake here.
“This is Advisor. Can you hear me, Yellow Dragon 00!”
“Yellow Dragon 00 here. Where are you?”
“In the stock exchange across the street. My route was cut off by their line of fire and I couldn’t make any further progress that way, so I decided to climb atop a nearby building to pursue the sniper on the rooftop level. Play the rest of this by ear!”
“Are you sure you can do that on your own? How do you plan to deal with the sniper even if you do reach the roof?”
They were weirdly worried for him and it was nothing but a nuisance at the moment. He simply had to interpret it as them treating him with care instead of suspecting him.
“We aren’t being targeted with an anti-materiel rifle in the middle of the desert. The range of a sniper rifle in an urban environment full of buildings, is only 100-150m. Meanwhile, the world record with hand-thrown weapons is more than 200m. I could actually hit them using a curved parabolic arc and they could do the same if we’re talking about Ouka’s unrifled Midnight Tempest. She forcibly stabilizes her sniper shots with dart-like fletching, so we’re on even footing here!”
“I’m not going for a headshot here. I can use a random downpour of blades to pin Ouka on the rooftop while the rest of you climb to her position as planned. This won’t last forever, so I’m only holding your target in place for you. The sooner you secure the sniper, the less time I have to spend being viewed through their multi-purpose sight!”
“Understood. But you need to provide a report on this afterwards.”
“Gladly, if I live to do so. I’m ending this transmission.”
He had arrived at the rooftop.
He threw open the metal door and looked around.
The entire story about a rooftop sniper had been a bluff meant to get him away from Shirazaya Guren and Suiren’s watchful eyes, so he was not going to find Kuhou Ouka up here. And if they found no one up here after he made such a fuss about it, the samurai would likely force him and the twin sisters to take responsibility for the blunder.
But he could not offer them the real Hanasawa Bara and Nantou Hoozuki in the stock exchange either.
At this rate, they would hold an indiscriminate search of the financial district and his four students would be found. That would undoubtedly lead to bloodshed and that was not what he wanted.
He had to get Guren and Suiren to back down as soon as possible.
And he had to get Ouka’s group to give up on the stock exchange server.
What did he need to get both sides to spontaneously back off without anything appearing unnatural? What did he have to do? He wracked his brains in the short time he had.
(That’s the only option.)
After focusing himself so hard it seemed to take years off his life, he looked up once more.
He had reached a conclusion.
(Guren and Suiren are on official duty here. Soldiers will withdraw if they take an unexpected level of damage.)
He breathed in and out.
(Ouka’s group is doing all this to preserve the honor of someone other than themselves. If they lose that person before their very eyes, they will lose any reason to keep going.)
Was that really the right answer?
Was he wrong about this?
He put his thoughts to words as if checking over every little thing in his head.
(I’m on the investigation team and I’m those girls’ teacher, so both sides will quickly withdraw if I die in some spectacular way.)
8: Handmade Diversionary Tactics
There was an etiquette to faking your own death. The most important rule was to prevent anyone from confirming the presence of a corpse until your objective was complete.
If this was an oceanside cliff or a volcanic crater, he would only have to jump in…or throw in a doll disguised as him. But the corpse would not disappear after jumping from a building rooftop. They would quickly check the surface and discover it was a lie.
(I need something that blows up the entire rooftop. It needs to be as flashy as possible. I’m a bit worried on the intelligence front since I’ve been away from those twins, but whether or not I’m going to return to them later on, I need to sow confusion right now.)
Modern buildings had industrial air conditioning units, power transformers, and water heaters installed on the roof. If they shoved all that in the basement, the building would burn from the bottom up if something malfunctioned and no one inside could escape, but if the fire started at the top, the number of casualties would be greatly reduced. That meant he only had to tamper with the gas pipes a little to give him what he wanted.
The problem was explaining who had blown him up and why. Needless to say, he would be framing them for a crime they did not commit.
He had caused enough trouble for Kuhou Ouka’s group already with the nonexistent sniper story, so he did not want to make it even worse. If he took it too far, it could rob his students a chance at returning to their positions as Elite Ninjas.
That meant he had to prepare a different candidate.
(Dammit, I guess I’ll have to get their help with this.)
Some frustration entered his emotions, but his rational mind made a quick decision.
The metal pipe leading to the industrial water heater did not have any kind of valve, so he was forced to pull out a Fierce Fang and stab the tip in to create a small hole. He did not even need to pry it open with the nitrogen. He heard an ominous whistling sound and a unique stench reached his nose. He could sense it clearly even through the scarf.
(This uses city gas instead of propane, so it’s lighter than air. I’ll need to cover it with a sheet or something to gather up enough gas.)
While making that assessment, he spotted a small plastic greenhouse for a home garden on one corner of the roof.
That was when someone else arrived.
The entire rooftop seemed to shake from the weight of all that armor forming a silhouette more like a carnivorous dinosaur than a human.
The standard army grade samurai armor could not fly, but it also looked too large to have fit through the doors all the way up here.
That left just one option.
“Did you use your precious artificial muscles to climb the wall? Not that that means a thing about your own muscles.”
“I don’t care who I’m up against; I just want to get some exercise and fight a real fight. I’m only willing to put up with all these pain-in-the-ass odd jobs if I get a firefight afterwards as a reward.”
The monster with a samurai family crest emblazoned on his chest spoke with a creaking from his giant jaws.
“So what the hell’s all this? I don’t see any sign of the rumored sniper firing on us and I’m detecting the scent of an unnatural gas. …Should I assume this means you’re my reward? As a paper target, I mean.”
Sugiyado Souha did not respond.
More than that, he was honestly relieved. If Guren or Suiren had shown up first, he could not have looked them in the eye.
If he was spotted, he had to do this.
That much was certain.
The worst possible version of that would have been if he had been forced to silence one of those innocent twins.
As long as that was not the case…
The armored samurai finally noticed something was amiss. His datalink to the other samurai had been silently severed.
There was no need to hide it now.
Sugiyado Souha slowly reached to his back and pulled an air-pressure kunai from below his untucked short-sleeved dress shirt.
There was no need for fear.
Ninjas never played fair. They were generally ordered to find a solution when all hope seemed lost. Their techniques had been polished to the point of earning the name Strategic Martial Arts and they were designed to be used in a dire situation. He found himself in such a situation now and that was the only thing on his mind as he faced that great mass of military weaponry.
“A smokescreen full of metal powder, huh? Scattering aluminum powder to cut off my communications counts as throwing down the gauntlet, right? Were you hoping for a one-on-one duel?”
“If you’re going to name yourself, then hurry it up. I’ll go along with it, but I see no value in that tradition.”
“Hah! I have no name so worthless I’d give it to a lowly gofer like you. Besides, what’s even the point of a male ninja?”
“The shogunate takes ‘golden’ kids, poor kids, and kids with certain connections and trains them, but those kunoichis are never worth keeping around in battle. But I do think I can see why those perverts at the top are willing to invest so much money into them.”
A clear change came over the type of silence coming from Sugiyado.
But the soul protected by thick armor and great firepower failed to notice.
“I mean, they’re creating a bunch of professional ‘women’ who’ve had all proof of citizenship erased. I’d love to know how they’re being trained and what they can do for you with that training! Gya ha, gya ha ha!! Come to think of it, you instructed some of them, didn’t you? Did you get to try them out ahead of everyone else!? How was it? I bet you’re glad you get a taste before they’re all wrapped up and sent to the higher ups! Gya ha, gya ha ha ha ha!!”
The samurai’s crude laughter continued without end, but then he heard something odd.
The dried lips in front of him had moved to form certain words.
“Yes. I am glad.”
That berserker, who had lost his human form inside that thick armor, must not have known what those words meant even in the very end.
Sugiyado Souha’s brain felt like it was on fire, so the words slipped out of him.
“I am so glad you aren’t a good person. Now I can silence you without feeling any guilt whatsoever.”
9: Heavy Body, Heavy User
That special combat unit was called Samurai Armor Mk. III – Mountain Beast.
All the necessary armor and motors had been added on atop the human body. That had “just so happened” to make them enormous and it had been declared a success. The wearer’s flesh and blood had gone through a unique change to endure the internal pressure and overall weight, so their body had completely fused with the artificial muscles on the armor’s interior surface and any overhauls or updates to the device literally required major surgery. The armor was not simply removed; it had to be cut off and peeled away. There was no dividing line between flesh and steel and it was the exterior armor panels that divided inside from outside. That was how dedicated they were to combat. Those obsessed freaks had started to forget that they were even human. Protecting their family’s honor and displaying valor in combat was only an excuse at this point.
Those berserkers had so fused with their armor that there were urban legends saying they would produce flesh and steel children if they were to reproduce.
According to their specs, those monsters could instantly move their 600kg weight at speeds exceeding 250km/h. Their bodies had enough power to level buildings and they were also equipped with weapons of war such as Gatling guns and grenade launchers.
Meanwhile, his opponent was a washed-up ninja who could not even carry a 10kg bag.
“Is this some kinda joke? Well?” growled the armored samurai while towering above the boy like a carnivorous dinosaur.
He carefully observed the air-pressure kunai that Sugiyado Souha held.
“Did you think you could dance around my attacks because I’m a big lumbering beast? Well, think again. Do you have any idea how many sensors and radars I’ve got in this thing!? Throw that toy at 10 times the speed of sound and I’ll still shoot it down with 100% accuracy!! Meanwhile, a skinbag like you has no hope of dodging my very first shot!!!!!!”
With heavy metallic sounds, the Gatling gun and grenade launcher on his shoulder took precise aim.
Lasers and microwaves had already accurately located his target. No matter what the boy did, he was doomed to be mincemeat.
It was a captivating sight.
By the time the ninja flipped through the air, he had already fully dodged the Gatling gun barrage.
This was not possible.
This went beyond misjudging the distance with the naked eye. The boy was being tracked and automatically targeted with radars and lasers superior to human senses. Missing even once would have been surprise enough, but the machinegun sprayed 6000 rounds a minute without a single one hitting.
“What the- this thing doesn’t need to be defragged, does it!?”
The armored samurai fired the Gatling gun again, but it could not keep up with Sugiyado Souha as he ran right to left in a circle around his foe. His speed was not even the issue here. The targeting reticle could not keep up and the original lock could not be maintained.
(What? That chaff he used doesn’t explain this. He must have some other way of messing with my sensors.)
Then the samurai noticed something sparkling in the light of the setting sun.
“Water spray? Is that the sprinkler for the home garden!?”
Water could reflect radar waves and obstruct lasers. In fact, weather maps used more than just satellite photos; they also used a weather station’s doppler radar to measure the distribution of clouds.
However, pure raindrops would not fully incapacitate a radar.
Fortunately, this was a home garden. It contained chemical fertilizer and other agrochemicals. Mix those in with the sprinkler and the water might gain some extra effects.
But understanding how it worked did not present a solution.
It would be a bad idea for Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, Nantou Hoozuki, or Shizukuma Asagao to take on a fully-equipped armored samurai head on.
But things were different for this boy who had been eliminated from the list of Elite Ninjas when he became a Hidden One.
After performing a flip to dodge the ferocious storm of lead, he landed and raced across the roof. He could not be hit by the wild gunfire of the armored samurai whose targeting system had been neutralized.
Meanwhile, the armored samurai sensed no real danger in the boy’s approach.
His guns did not work on the boy, but so what? That was not his only weapon. He still had free use of his 600kg body that could move at speeds greater than 250km/h. His fist alone possessed the power to break down a reinforced concrete building. If the puny human moved too close, he was the one who would be turned to mincemeat.
True, the samurai’s sensors could not get a solid lock, but that just meant he had to use an attack that did not require a mechanical lock. He would aim by eye and kill that exposed flesh that was getting cocky after taking out just one or two cards in the samurai’s deck.
Thick, heavy metal blades extended from the index and middle fingers of that mass of artificial muscle’s right hand. They were a katana and a wakizashi. Those true samurai weapons could cut right through a bank vault door.
“I’ll slice your spine in two!!”
The attack scorched the surrounding air with friction. A flesh-and-blood human had no chance of dodging or defending against this deadly attack.
Nevertheless, the samurai man clearly saw the ninja holding a Fierce Fang air-pressure kunai in each hand and wrapping them around his attack with a spiraling motion.
Before even seeing the result, he was strangely certain that he had screwed this up.
Then his vision flipped around.
At 600kg, that mass of special steel rivaled a bulletproof European car, but he was twirled as easily as a baton.
Sugiyado had not touched the blades or the armor. The air-pressure kunais’ cartridges had burst and disturbed the air current produced by the blades. Since none of the weight bore down on him, the 10kg weight limit did not show itself here. Yes, that limit was only in theory.
Using those swords had been a mistake.
The samurai could have flailed his arms like a small child to crush that squishy flesh and those brittle bones. He would not even have needed to know any martial arts. But by drawing those swords, he had allowed his enemy to predict their path. When swung at such high speeds, the blades were greatly influenced by the air, so a change there had twisted the samurai’s arm and thrown his entire body around like an airplane flying through turbulence.
Still, was this really possible?
Most modern martial arts were divided into different weight classes because differences in size could be used as a weapon. There were legends of people killing bears or tigers with older martial arts designed for use in actual combat, but the true masters who could accomplish that were few and far between. And most of those were exaggerations made by people hoping to become a legend.
Yet this boy had not hesitated to stand up to a carnivorous dinosaur made of armor and artificial muscles.
Facing a powerful foe required precise movements without the slightest mistake, but that was a lot like performing a tightrope walk between tall buildings. The more it was necessary, the more people’s bodies would freeze up with fear and excitement.
This was a monster.
This boy was a monster.
The armored samurai barely had time to realize that before Sugiyado Souha twisted around and threw multiple Fierce Fangs. They flew true toward the gaps in the joints at the neck and along the torso. They had only been thrown with his physical strength, so they could not pierce through. Only the very tip lightly lodged itself in the gap.
But did you forget about the 600kg weight of that armored samurai? That was twice the weight of a man-eating tiger.
And it was falling.
The Fierce Fangs were caught between the ground and the samurai, so they could not escape that pressure. They were driven further and deeper in. They tore through everything in the way to move from the joint gap and inside the special combat unit.
Just like someone stepping on a rusty nail sticking out of an old board.
“Agwah!? Bwah, gbeh! Ggbgegh!!”
The samurai could only produce a distorted voice and he could no longer get up, suggesting some crucial artificial muscles or nerves had been severed.
“Here’s a lesson for you.” Sugiyado Souha did not bat an eye. “The kunai was not created as a projectile weapon. It’s a ninja tool meant to dig into dirt, snow, or whatever else.”
This time, that “whatever else” was the samurai’s armored body. The kunais played their role perfectly, just like they were digging a hole in a garden.
“W-wipe that smug look off your face. We’re not so different, you know!”
“You ninjas aren’t fighting without assistance either! You couldn’t! Human strength isn’t enough to throw a 600kg weight through the air! I bet you’re wearing one of those spider silk ninja outfits below your clothes. This is all thanks to the program-controlled assistance of those chemical winches made from a high-polymer water-absorbing gel and those electric-potential-elastic belt cylinders. It all comes down to tech! It’s all about the compatibility between branches of the military! Don’t act so tough just because your spring-loaded rock beat my scissors!!”
But the broken dinosaur’s words ended there.
The boy crouched down and collected something: the buttons that had popped off of his short-sleeved dress shirt during all his vigorous movement. As he did, the shirt fluttered open in front of the stabbed samurai.
There was nothing there.
Not a single piece of technological enhancement.
“A-are you- wait- are you kidding me?”
It was all pure martial arts.
This boy had polished it beyond a tactical level to reach a strategic level. He was one of the Hidden Ones who existed outside the standard ninja ranking system and whose total numbers were unknown. Skills like his were known as “ballistic stealth” because sending him overseas would have political meaning on the level of launching a ballistic missile.
“Are we done here?”
“You had nothing? You really destroyed my Mountain Beast with nothing but your body? Are you kidding me!? I have my honor to preserve!!”
“Are we done here?”
He slowly repeated himself as if to end all of this.
Someone with their family crest emblazoned on his chest desperately continued speaking. He might as well have been begging for his life now.
“Do you have any idea who I am!? You won’t get away with treating me like this!”
“Stop. I thought you had no name so worthless you would give it to a lowly gofer like me.”
That exasperated comment stopped that someone’s words. He had lost the ability to resist even verbally.
The items Sugiyado Souha held were not just traditional digging implements.
Those air-pressure kunais were a combination of instant nitrogen foam and a device used to pry open bent doors. By adjusting the time limit using the dial on the grip, they could trigger 15 tons of force, enough to pry open a tank’s hatch and break the lock. These were handmade tools that would blow off the fingers of anyone else who tried to use them and he had never submitted the design to anyone, including the Shogunate.
Everything he had done was for his adorable students.
But once that wolf threw off all the chains binding him and bared his true fangs and claws, this was what he could accomplish.
With his mouth hidden behind his large scarf, he made one final statement.
“You can go to your grave without anyone knowing your name, monster.”
A moment later, the old wolf’s fangs shredded the flesh of that fat pig from within.
10: Pure and Impure
It was all over.
But there never had been a sniper and the scene now contained the dismembered corpse of a samurai who had been monstrous but held a legitimate position in the Shogunate. Everything was going to fall apart at this rate. Sugiyado had to do something and fast. Disturbing the investigation from the twins’ side would have to wait.
(They would have suspected something if I disappeared on my own, but with one of those powerful armored samurai dead, they’ll just assume we were up against someone not even I could handle.)
That enemy would have to be someone with enough firepower to obliterate an armored samurai to the point that the cause of death could not be determined. Not even Ouka could manage that.
But there was someone else who was the perfect candidate for that. Someone who everyone would think of and who everyone would accept as the culprit.
While continuing his work on the gas explosion, he manually dialed a number he had erased from his phone.
“John, are you free right now? I’d like to ask you a favor.”
“I can make time for this. I was wondering how long you were going to make me wait before I could repay you for that old debt. Now, what do you need from this bored knight who was given a court rank by our lovely queen?”
“Please. I’m about to set off one hell of an alarm clock, so can you knights take the blame for me? If it’s known the Kingdom did this, they won’t be suspicious when they find one of their armored samurai was blown up.”
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