Note: A furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth.
A few sentences need a bit more work, but they're not overly important so I'll add them later.
Chapter 7: Showdown! Diomedia!
Tomoko’s shoot-down count had begun to rise normally. It wasn’t long before Christmas arrived.
“Pilot Officer Anabuki. Flight Lieutenant Häkkinen would like to see you in the command room.”
Before noon…Tomoko, who was returning to base after finishing aerial patrol, had been informed of the arrival of an officer. It was unusual for her to be called all the way out to the command centre.
As she rushed off, wondering why she’d been called out, she noticed someone other than F/L Häkkinen – someone with a face that invoked nostalgia.
It wasn’t someone that she knew, however. Their face was one that was uncommon in a place like Suomus - the reason being that they were oriental.
F/L Häkkinen introduced her to the middle aged man: “A guest from your country, Pilot Officer.”
The man beamed at Tomoko.
“Wing Commander Sakuma, a military attaché.”
Tomoko saluted in a hurry. He wasn’t in uniform, so she hadn’t known he was with the military.
“Please excuse me. I’m currently on civil service related business.”
It seems like this man is a well-informed officer. What on earth could someone like that possibly want with me?
“You’ve done a great deal of good work. I’m very proud. Congratulations on your 50th shoot down. Currently, you are the top ace of Fuso’s European detachment.”
Tomoko bowed out of respect.
Surely he didn’t come all this way just to give me a pep talk?
Just as she thought it odd that a military attaché would use his free time to pay her a visit, the following words that came from his mouth shocked her thoroughly.
“Well then, we can’t afford an ace like that to go without proper recognition, can we? On this occasion, we’ve decided to give you the appropriate decoration. You will be awarded the fourth class Order of the Golden Kite. It is truly an honour, Pilot Officer.”
The Order of the Golden Kite is an award that carries a lot of honour along with it. It is even said by the Air Marshal you can’t receive it unless you demonstrate distinguished war accomplishments. It is the ultimate verification of one’s own potential.
“T-Thank you very much!” Said Tomoko, bowing once more with her utmost thanks.
Happiness was bubbling inside her.
“It’s likely that you will receive official directions from the higher officers shortly. The awarding ceremony is scheduled to take place in Paris. I’ve called for officers and officials alike. It’ll be a splendid party. I hope you’ll look forward to it.”
She was so overjoyed she was practically shaking.
Afterwards, she asked him briefly about current affairs in Fuso; and the war situation in Karlsland.
Looking at the war situation in Karlsland on a whole, it seemed that no matter how well the Karlsland detatchment were doing, nothing was changing for the better.
I wonder if Takeko is doing well?
Tomoko was filled with anxiety.
“How is the squad in Karlsland keeping up?”
“I hear that they’re still yet to report any victims.”
Tomoko was relieved. For now, it seemed like Takeko was safe.
Despite her relief, there was something that she was just itching to ask. There was no doubt that a high-ranking officer would know plenty of detailed information regarding the military.
“Wing Commander Sakuma, Sir. I’ve got something I would like to inquire about.”
“Who was the one who made the decision to have me sent to Suomus?”
Wing Commander Sakuma was taken aback with surprise.
“You don’t know?”
“It was your colleague, Pilot Officer Katou.”
The response drained all colour from her face.
“Yes. We were in the middle of selecting the soldiers that would be sent to Karlsland. There was no doubt that we were going to be sending you off in the detachment. However, Pilot Officer Katou came along to the selection committee meeting one day. She had a request for us – quite simply that we shouldn’t send you to Karlsland.”
“Why would she…why…?”
Wing Commander Sakuma flinched at Tomoko’s growing fury.
“Well…I didn’t hear it from her firsthand, so I don’t know the details myself... but…she suggested that you tended to fall flat during fierce battle. However, looking at your military records and service history that doesn’t seemed to be a problem, so I myself, am a little confused as to why she would say something like that. In the end, the most senior officer present decided that you would be sent to Suomus instead - based on her insistence. It’s nothing to be disheartened by, given your military achievements.”
Tomoko was appalled.
The one that decided that I would get sent to Suomus was…Takeko.
Why? Tomoko whispered under her breath.
Even though Takeko and I could have been fighting together as rivals…
We could have been competing together for military achievements…
Tomoko shuffled back to her own room and let her body drop onto her bed. She knew she had to write up a report for the aerial patrol she was on earlier, but her hand wouldn’t budge.
If I think back…Takeko had been a little odd. I guess she was jealous of my military prowess after all. Of course! That’s why she sent me to Suomus – a place where it would be impossible to achieve military greatness. Even though we were such good friends, I’m just alone now.
Just as Tomoko's thoughts slipped further and further into depression, the siren roared throughout the base.
“Air raid warning! Air raid warning!”
It’s the Neuroi.
The enemy sure knows how to beat me when I’m down.
Tomoko stood up, biting firmly on her lip.
As she ascended into the sky, she could hear an announcement from F/L Hakkinen.
“The Neuroi bomber formation of 20 units is currently at co-ordinates B-3 with an altitude of 5,000 metres and rising. Be careful. Today’s Neuroi is unlike anything we’ve faced before.”
She spoke in her usual cold tone. However, Tomoko was off with the fairies and paid the warning no heed. She felt her body moving automatically to the assigned co-ordinates, and the correct altitude.
The 1st squadron, who by now would usually be attempting to take the enemy down - were instead circling in the air space above the enemy.
What on earth were they doing that for?
The reason hit Tomoko in the face in an instant.
The Laros were circling around a much bigger beast…
It wasn’t the usual Kefalas.
The silhouette was three times as big.
Despite being one single unit, it had an overwhelming presence.
“This is ‘Snow Woman’ to fighter squadron. The large Neuroi bombing unit approaching is a new model called Diomedia! It’s a monster that took down an entire naval aviation unit in Karlsland! It’s equipped with a weapon that shoots hedgehog-like spikes. Coming close to it without careful thought would be dangerous!”
Upon closer inspection, it stood out from the Kefalas in relief.
The shape of the four engines it was towing along resembled that of a huge aerial fortification. It was definitely very unusual looking. The wings that extended horizontally from the body gave off an aura of ill fate. Both the fuselage and the wings were thick, and powerful. It was very likely to be suitably fortified, and bombproof.
Understandably, it seemed even F/L Mika Ahonen’s experienced 1st squadron had no idea how they should go about attacking the thing. They drew close to it, shot at it with their machine guns, then made evasive maneuvers.
Tomoko focused her courage.
It was scary.
She had a gut feeling that she couldn’t win.
That didn't stop her from beginning her approach.
Elma yelled out over the wireless: “P/O Anabuki! It’s too dangerous – don’t get any closer!”
Tomoko didn’t stop her charge.
Next was Katharine's protest: “P/O! Don’t go any closer! That thing’s deadly!”
And finally she heard Haruka’s voice: “P/O! Please stop! Stop and think about what you’re doing!”
She didn’t listen, and steadily drew closer.
The Diomedia began to fire defensively from the infinite number of turrets attached to its huge body. Blue metal bullets that looked like ice-pops flew relentlessly in Tomoko’s direction.
F/L Hakkinen’s previous words were burned into her mind:
It took down a Naval Aviation unit in Karlsland huh? That means Takeko couldn’t defeat it. To put it simply, if I can take down this thing, then I’ll be one better than Takeko. That would be better than any award – better than getting praise from the people of this country.
Watch and learn, Takeko. Tomoko whispered to herself.
I’ll prove to you that you will never be better than me!
The distance between them was now 200 metres.
The Diomedia’s defensive turrets began to hit at Tomoko.
If this is all it’s going to do, then I can probably survive with a simple magic shield.
She spread around the figure of the large bombing squadron, keeping it in her sights all the while. She began firing at it with her 7.7mm machine gun.
It’s difficult to get that bulk out in the open.
Pa! Pa! Pa! The bullets dissipated across the surface of the Diomedia’s fuselage like fireworks but…it had as much impact as a small rock tumbling off a mountain.
It seems to be completely fortified against bullets and bombs. I’ll never take it down with just a 7.7mm machine gun!
“Get down already!”
Tomoko shouted at the top of her voice as she continued to pull on the trigger. The bullets just continued to ricochet off.
The relative distance between them was now only 100 metres.
I can’t get out of its line of sight…it looks like my magic shield is reaching its limit.
In an instant her engine was hit. Smoke was pouring from her beloved Fuso made machine. She felt her body begin to fall down with rapid velocity.
If I don’t slow down soon I’m in big trouble!
Tomoko desperately tried with all her might to get out of the line of fire…but it was too late.
A bullet hit her in the arm. Next she felt excruciating pain in her leg.
Just as she thought there was no hope left…She could vaguely make out a brown shape fall down from above, spreading itself over her.
The bullets that should have been hitting Tomoko were now hitting that shape instead.
Tomoko was gobsmacked. She had become Tomoko’s shield…taking all the fire by herself... with a pained look on her face, was P/O Beurling.
“What on earth are you doing? Let go!”
Beurling didn’t let go. Her shield was beginning to reach its limit from the battering…her body was dented with bullet fire, and Tomoko could hear the sound of padding as her shield started losing power.
“Do you have a death wish or something!?”
Even still, Beurling would not separate from Tomoko. As she continued to hold Tomoko in safety, she unsteadily began to fly closer to ground level.
Just when they were out of the range of the Diomedia… Tomoko felt a burst of strength from Beurling’s body. She collapsed, and began to glide straight towards the floor.
Tomoko screamed. She made an effort to chase after her, but her body wouldn’t do what she wanted out of sheer pain.
Her vision blackened out…and she lost consciousness.
When she came to, Tomoko was resting in a bed in the base’s medical bay. Next to her, F/O Elma, Katharine and Haruka were peering down at her with great concern.
“You’ve finally regained consciousness.” Katharine whispered.
“Thank goodness…you’ve been out for an entire day.” P/O Elma informed Tomoko.
As Tomoko whispered, “... Where am I?” Elma responded, telling her that she was in Kauhava’s medical bay.
She made a futile attempt to move her body, but agonising pain shot through her as soon as she tried.
“Ahhh! You really should rest!”P/O Elma suggested.
“But Beurling…Beurling is…”As Tomoko continued to mumble to herself, Katharine made a movement with her lips.
“Well um, about that…that is…”
Haruka and Ursula looked towards P/O Elma with pleading eyes.
She hesitated for a while, and then bit down on her lip. Eventually, she mustered up some courage and raised her head.
“…She took fire all over her body and her magic shield subsequently failed. And then-”
Tomoko’s skin became pale.
Before then, she’d been so scared that she couldn’t speak. After shivering for a while, Tomoko struggled to muster up the strength to squeeze out a few words.
“…Why? Why would she do that for my sake? Even though all I ever did was say horrible things to her…”
Elma continued her sentence this time in a more apologetic tone: “P/O Beurling said that P/O Anabuki is a very important person to this squad…that’s why…”
“That’s why she said she’d use herself as a shield!? What kind of reason is that!”
P/O Elma shook her head. Tomoko was completely inconsolable.
“Please just relax and let your wounds heal. Don’t worry about anything else.”
“But…but…without me and Beurling…”
“I-It’s totally fine!”Katharine nodded with an optimistic smile.
“Next time we’ll try out that new thing that Ursula made! Uh, what was that again, anyway…? Ursula?”
“Air-to-air rocket.”Ursula responded in a quiet voice.
“Yes! That’s it! That rocket! If we hit it with one of those, it’ll go down no matter how big it is…”
Tomoko was apprehensive.
A rocket, huh? You’d probably have no choice but to be fairly close to hit it with a rocket.
P/O Elma grabbed Tomoko’s hand.
“Things will definitely work out! We’ll find a way. So please, just relax and let your wounds heal up.”
Haruka piled her hand on top of Elma’s.
“D-Don’t worry! The Neuroi definitely won’t come anywhere near here!”
Everyone hurriedly lowered their heads at Tomoko: “P/O Anabuki Tomoko, thank you.”
Tomoko stared at her bandaged arm.
I…I wonder if everyone will forgive me for what I’ve done?
…I’ve been nothing but selfish. I get the feeling that I’ve been far too enforcing.
That night… Just as Tomoko was about to succumb to tiredness after everyone had left, there was a knock at the door. As there was no answer, the door creaked open.
It was F/L Häkkinen.
As she spoke, she was handed a single sheet of paper.
“…And this is?”
“It’s a leave order.”
“…A leave order?”
“Exactly. I received word from Wing Commander Sakuma that we couldn't possibly have a soon to be decorated ace die….”
“A ship has been called for - it’s due to arrive tomorrow. you should take it as far as Brest Naval Base in Gallia.”
After F/L Häkkinen had left, Tomoko lowered her face.
“We could’t possibly have you die…”
F/L Häkkinen’s words echoed in her mind.
They reminded her of the heavy burden she was carrying... Beurling's death.
Lowering her voice, she began to sob quietly.
Beurling’s death was…my fault. 'It’s all because I rushed in to get my glorious military victory…'All because I was pursuing the title of ‘ace’…'I killed an important comrade.
No, I killed a person who acknowledged me as a comrade.
I shouldn’t think of this as just another burden. 'But it looks like it’s become my scapegoat.
“Why did you have to protect me... Someone like me who is only interested in my shoot down count…”
Tomoko wept until morning.
The following morning…
Wing Commander Sakuma arrived in the medical bay, followed by a subordinate officer. This time was different – he was clothed in his Fuso Imperial Army uniform.
“Today I’m here to give you formal orders. Pilot Officer Anabuki Tomoko of the Fuso Imperial Army and the Suomus Independent Volunteer Air Squadron, I order you to return home.”
After that, he smiled broadly.
“You did a fine job. You’ll surely be greeted with enthusiasm from the people of Fuso as soon as you return.”
Tomoko lay down on the stretcher that had been prepared for her, and was wheeled outside. She looked out at the place she had been living for the past two months.
The tattered warehouse…
It’d taken a smattering of machine gun fire during the first air raid, and as such the wall had been left scored with bullet marks.
I used to wonder why they’d left the building in such a disastrous state… but as I’m passing by it on my way home, I can’t help but feel strangely nostalgic…and lonely.
“Where is the rest of the squad?”She asked the reserve officer who was beside her.
“Ah, they’re ready and waiting to go on a sortie.”They answered.
My war may have ended abruptly… but for them it still rages on. I wonder if they’ll be all right?
She began to feel worrisome feelings welling up insider her again.
But…perhaps I don’t even have a right to be worried about them anymore. 'I didn’t co-operate with them not even one single time. 'I called them hopeless, good-for-nothing nuisances… and completely disregarded them.
Just as Tomoko was about to get in the car that would drive her away from the base…
The siren began to sound.
It wasn’t long before F/L Häkkinen’s voice echoed from the speakers near the airfield.
“Air raid warning! Air raid warning!”
Wing Commander Sakuma’s subordinate, who had been pushing the stretcher up until now, tutted.
“And we’d just arrived! It would have been better if they hadn’t shown up right at this moment…”
Tomoko pursed her lips.
They just don’t give up…
“The approaching enemy is the exact same Neuroi bomber formation we saw a few days ago! Its altitude is 4,000 metres! It’s in the middle of preparing for an attack on the base!”
Tomoko bit her lips.
They really have come for us…
She could see witches flying up into the sky from the airfield one by one.
The smart looking units that were gradually propelling them upwards were the Messerscharf Striker units of the 1st squadron.
That tubby looking unit is Katharine’s Buffalo. That waddling flight is something I’m very familiar with.
That small girl next to her looks like Ursula. She’s clutching a large tube with both hands. I wonder if that’s this so called ‘rocket’?
The white unit that just took off was Haruka’s A6M3 Model 22. Hey, if you don’t look ahead of you whilst you fly you’ll get separated from the rest of the squad!
P/O Elma was the last one to take off. Even though you’re the squad leader? What are they supposed to do without you! 'Look, the G50 doesn't have a lot of acceleration power so you really ought to have taken off sooner…
It was as shaky as start as ever. Tomoko stared up at the Suomus Independent Volunteer Air Squadron.
A bunch of ‘misfits’ thrown out from their own countries… my friends.
My friends, who have nowhere but here to call home.
My friends that I’ve been nothing but a nuisance to.
My friends… that said ‘thank you’ to me…
I…I might have just lost those friends.
It’s not a contest. It’s co-operation. 'If I can co-operate…Then we can become truly good friends. Then I can…
Just like Beurling…
They told me I could count on them.
“B-But…” Tomoko muttered.
“There’s no way I can count on you lot to do this alone!”
“Eh?” The officer who was holding the stretcher mumbled to himself in confusion at her outburst.
Tomoko felt her body awaken, and she leapt from the stretcher. She grabbed her furoshiki wrapped katana from the officer who had been her chaperone.
“W-Wait! Pilot Officer! What are you doing!”
Tomoko ignored him and began to walk away.
My leg hurts. My arm hurts. 'But…that won’t stop me from continuing.
No, it won’t stop me from flying!
Tomoko forcibly started to run, hobbling awkwardly on one leg. Wing Commander Sakuma began to give chase.
“Oi! Pilot Officer, where do you think you’re going!”
“I’m going to where my friends are!”
“Now now, what do you think you can do with injuries like that? You were issued an order of leave!”
“Well then, I refuse to follow that order.”
“What do you mean you refuse!? It’s an order, you can’t refuse!!”
Wing Commander Sakuma drew closer, until Tomoko pointed her katana close to his nose.
“I’m sorry. This means I won’t be accepting that award.”
As she burst into the aircraft hanger, the maintenance crew looked at her with wide eyes.
“P/O Anabuki!? We thought you’d returned to F-“
“Just get my Ki-27 ready, hurry!”
Threatened by Tomoko’s demand, the maintenance crew gathered Tomoko’s recently repaired Ki-27.
They equipped it onto Tomoko’s legs as she rested on a chair. Tomoko felt her legs get sucked into the Ki-27.
They were soon engulfed in the glowing blue light of her magic field.
“Are you sure you can fly with those injuries?”One of the maintenance crew asked, looking at her bandaged arms and legs.
“It’s not a matter or can or can’t. I will fly.”Tomoko shouted.
As she took off from the airfield, all of her magical power pumped into the Ki-27’s magic engine. The engine roared, and Tomoko sprung off the airfield and into the sky.
“Ugh!”Her body rose up to the sky in the midst of the engine’s roar.
“I can’t believe an old thing like that can ascend so well.”A maintenance crew member murmured - watching the sheer power of the Ki-27’s ascent.
“It’s probably because of her fighting spirit. The magic engine moves with magical power – right now she’s got that in bucket loads.”
The maintenance crew watched as Tomoko’s figure got smaller and smaller, waving their hats at her disappearing shape.
“Take down the Neuroi, ace!”
It was the same huge Diomedia that had come a few days ago. Quite frankly, the members of the Suomus Independent Volunteer Air Squadron were shitting themselves as they stood in front of it.
When you look at it up close like this…this thing is huge.
It really is huge.
How is it even possible to have something this huge?
With its wings extended, it was about the size of an entire school’s grounds.
The massive four engine bulk was being pushed forwards by a gargantuan propeller - which was rotating with a horrible sound similar to a car revving up.
The grubby grey paintjob made it look like some kind of ferocious whale.“Somehow… it’s like Moby-Dick.”P/O Elma murmured.
All the member of the ‘misfits squadron’ were in range of the huge bombing formation, staring at it.
On the opposite side of the Diomedia, the 1st squadron were doing the same thing, surrounding it at a distance.
The Laros who were guarding the Diomedia didn’t even come close to begin attacking. They were focused on staying by the huge figure instead.
If they could get in closer, they could sweep in…. But there was no window for opportunity with those Laros surrounding it.
“So, it’s like we’re Captain Ahab about to grapple with Moby-Dick, huh?”Katharine said with a touch of self-derision.
“Wasn’t it Captain Ahab who ended up dying in the end?”Haruka’s words did nothing to brighten the mood.
“Don’t go and say something scary like that!”
“But… is there really a way we can take that thing down without dying?”
They all stood in collective silence.
“Ursula, how’s the preparation for the rocket?”P/O Elma asked Ursula.
Ursula’s reply was short: “OK.”
In her hands she held two cylinders. Inside were air-to-air rockets that Ursula had developed herself. The weight of the explosives was about 20 kilograms.
“Can we shoot it at the same range as a machine gun?”
Ursula shook her head: “Impossible.”
P/O Elma let out a sigh.
“We’re not going to accomplish anything standing around like this… why don’t we at least try and launch some kind of assault?”
As soon as they got closer… the Laros reacted. The Suomus Misfits Squadron drew back as quick as a fly being swatted away by a cow’s tail.
It was impossible for them to get close.
It was the same for the 1st squadron. They would draw close, before being pelted with defensive fire from the Laros and would then have to make evasive maneuvers.
P/O Elma seemed to have reached a resolution. “Now that it’s come to this…”
“I wonder if we can at least do a body-count on the enemy…”
“What’re you talkin’ about!?”
“If things carry on like this Slussen will get bombed again… We’re witches. We’ve got to protect everyone. That’s why…”
After speaking, P/O began to move gradually closer towards the enemy.
“You shouldn’t go alone, P/O Elma!” Haruka added.
“Now you wait here! You’ll get fried!” Katharine shouted.
Suddenly…The voice of someone shouting could be heard over the wireless.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!? Just stop trying to do a body count already!”
She appeared from a gap within the clouds - her striker unit glowing with a magnificent white light. Tomoko surged in front of the members of the Suomus Misfits Squadron, both her hands outstretched.
“Pilot Officer…”Haruka had already started weeping.
“Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be sleeping in the medical b-“
None of them knew that Tomoko had been issued an order of leave. Right now, there was no time to explain anything.
“I couldn’t possibly leave this for you to do alone now, could I?”
“The wounds don’t mean anything!” Tomoko shouted.
“I’m an ace. An ace can’t do anything if they’re asleep – can they?”
“Tomoko…” Katharine said. She grabbed her and hugged her from behind.
“You really are the best ace!”Having heavy Katherine hugging her, Tomoko lost balance and the two of them began spinning through the air.
“Why don’t we save the praise for later? Anyway, just follow my instructions.”
Tomoko called for the leader of the 1st squadron, Mika Ahonen, on the wireless.
“What is it? Shouldn’t you be resting in bed because of injury?”
“I’d like you to do me a favour. Please distract the Laros.”
“What are you planning to do about that damned Diomedia?”
“Leave that to ‘us.’”
After a brief while, she heard Mika Ahonen say ‘roger’.
“Follow me. I’ve got a strategy.”Tomoko told her comrades, who were lined up in front of her.
“So this is your idea of ‘tactics’ huh?”
“I can’t do anything about it! You’re the one with the toughest striker unit!”
Katharine was making a fuss, and Tomoko was trying to calm her down.
I’ve been thinking of this strategy since I started flying up here… We can go on the offensive in a single line.
The witches of the misfits squadron formed a single line behind Katharine which resembled a centipede; and facing the direction of the Diomedia; started their offensive.
The Laros who had been guarding the Diomedia were being kept busy by the 1st squadron.
However…if the Laros can so easily leave the Diomedia in the open by itself…then that means it’s got nothing to worry about without them guarding it.
Its bulk was covered in an infinite number of turrets. As soon as you drew close to it, it spewed out so many bullets it was similar to having a rather deadly shower.
The ‘misfits’ squadron drew close in their single line formation… and were soon pelted with the ice-pop like bullets. Katharine, who was at the front, was taking all the hits.
“I can’t take this!”
“Everyone! Focus your shields at the front!”Tomoko shouted.
They were all protected by their magic fields. The shields that protected them from bullets and the temperature now formed in front of Katharine. The shields that the five of them produced were now out there in front of Katharine, protecting her.
We really haven’t done anything like this before…
“Well then Haruka, I’m counting on you.”
“G-Got it!” Haruka whimpered nervously.
Tomoko’s plan was as follows:
They would leave Katharine safe behind the five magic shields, and the Diomedia would approach…then, they would use Haruka’s 20mm calibre motor cannon to take down its frontal defense turrets. As far as appearances went, it would seem to be lightly armoured at the front. Despite being lightly armoured, there was no way that anything less than a 20mm calibre weapon could rip through the Diomedia’s frontal defense turrets.
Within the misfits squadron, the only unit that came with a 20mm motor cannon was Haruka’s A6M3 Model 22.
“I’m counting on you. Everything in this plan is riding on your motor cannon.”
The Diomedia drew steadily closer. The intensity of the machine gun fire began to increase. It began to feel as if they were in the middle of a blistering storm. The only difference between this and a storm was that it was bullets flying at them as opposed to rain.
“Gah! I’m almost at my limit!” Katharine shouted.
“Now!” Tomoko cried out.
Haruka leant across with the motor cannon in tow. Even though there was an obvious target she was supposed to hit…her field of vision became blurry.
She couldn’t get a good shot in.
She pulled the trigger…and the cannon fired went completely off track. It wasn’t even remotely close to the nose of the Diomedia. Within the blink of an eye, the five of them had passed over the top of the Diomedia.
It was a failure.“How could you possibly miss it from that distance!?”
Tomoko yelled in disbelief at Haruka.
“S-Sorry….” Haruka apologised tearfully.
“You better not miss the next one. It’s impossible to re-do this.”
P/O Elma was the only one to notice something a little strange in Haruka’s doubtful speech. She placed the palm of her hand in front of Haruka’s eyes, and opened it, then closed it. Haruka started at it fixedly.
“Could it be that…your eyesight’s a little off? As in, you’re short sighted?”
Everyone’s mouths dropped wide open at Elma’s realisation.
“Is that true, Haruka!?”
“Y-Yes…”She sighed, in a slightly troubled voice.
“For god’s sake Haruka, put some glasses on!”
“I can’t!” She yelled back.
“When I put glasses on… they make me look really ugly!”
Yet again, they stood there in awe of what Haruka was saying.
“Honestly…Do you have any glasses on you?”
Haruka fiddled around for a short while… “Yes, I’ve got some. I’m sorry,” she answered back.
“Put them on then!” Everyone shouted in time.
“I don’t want to!”
“Listen here, now’s not the time to worry about what you look like! This is a war you know, a war!”
“Be it a war or anything else, it’s simply unbearable to be ugly!”
Tomoko lost it completely at Haruka’s exclamation, and cried out at her: “Please put then on already! This is an order!”
Haruka shook her head in response.
“What the hell is wrong with you!? I’ll cut you if you don’t find a good reason! I really will cut you!”
Tomoko screamed as she gripped her katana with both hands. As she did so…
“Ah! Cut me! Please cut me! Ahh, It’s been a long-cherished ambition of mine to be cut by you, Pilot Officer!”
“Now you listen here…”
Just as Tomoko took a firmer grip on her katana to intimidate Haruka, she yelled suddenly.
“I-It’s because I like you!”
“I like you, Pilot Officer Anabuki! Sorry, let me rephrase that… it’s more like love than like. I yearn for you; I respect you… I’m moving up to third dan with my love for you! Even so, the other day you stopped right in the middle of things, didn’t you, Pilot Officer? It was surely because you don’t find me attractive! Yes…that’s exactly it! If I put these glasses on, then that attraction will drop by half! You wouldn’t even want to look at me… I’d sooner die than have that happen!”
The members of the misfits squadron were bewildered by Haruka’s confession.
“Now you’re getting into lesbian territory!” Said Katharine.
“Y-You’ll go to hell!” P/O Elma added.
“You’ve got it all wrong! I am not a lesbian! Right Haruka? This a joke, right!?”
“I’m not joking… If you promise to sleep with me… I’ll put the glasses on!”
As Tomoko stood trembling, Ursula drew close and spoke into her ear: “She told you to sleep with her.”
Tomoko’s trembling intensified.
Why does it have to be me…!? She felt frustrated.
“Just agree to it!” Katharine said.
“Well… given our current situation you can’t really do anything about it.” Elma was next.
“Fine, fine! I’ll do it! I’ll sleep with you!” Tomoko yelled.
“I wouldn’t go back on my word to a girl.”
As she heard those words, Haruka reached into her pocket with a deep breath and pulled out a pair of gigantic glasses.
They were a pair of perfectly thick glasses.
She’s going to put those on? Goodness gracious, they really are huge… They’re so huge you could probably wear them underwater.
Tomoko snickered in a lowered voice.
“… Did you just laugh?”Everyone collectively drew closer to Tomoko.
“What! O-of course I-I didn’t laugh! Well then, let’s get moving!”
The five of them once again began their assault. It was the same plan as before – they would form behind Katharine and use her as a shield for Haruka’s weapon.
The Diomedia drew closer.
400 metres, 300 metres… when it reached 200 metres, Haruka raised her head and placed her 20mm motor cannon on Katharine’s shoulder.
The thick cartridge cases flipped out with a Don! Don! Don! The cannons had been sucked into the turret. The foremost shell entered into the turret, and then exploded.
Haruka lined up her next shot, and that one hit too! She continued to shoot, and took down four of the turrets. There was now space to get above the Diomedia.
The distance was now 500 metres.
Haruka and Katharine withdrew.
“Ursula!” Tomoko shouted.Ursula let out a sigh before launching the rocket she had been holding in both hands. The rocket launched with a dry ‘Schpon!’ noise. The rocket entered the Diomedia’s body with a plume of white smoke. It exploded violently with a Boom! Leaving a clear hole dead in the centre of the Diomedia.
However… the Diomedia was indeed very hardy, and continued to fly.
“P/O Elma! Support me, full speed ahead!”
Tomoko grabbed onto Elma from behind, and used her to increase her acceleration.
Tomoko flew towards the hole where the rocket had burst the Diomedia. She straightened her body up and made the plunge, her katana gripped tightly in both hands.
“P/O Elma, pull off!”
Elma separated herself from Tomoko. With her katana ready, Tomoko flew into the open hole on the Diomedia. In an instant, her figure had disappeared inside the Diomedia…
The bulk of the Diomedia broke off. It burst into flames as bright as strobe lighting. In an instant, the piece that had been broken off heaved, before exploding completely.
The inside of the body was wreathed in flames from the explosion. Afterwards… the space that the Diomedia had been in was empty. Debris flew haphazardly at Haruka and the others, who hadn’t been near the explosion.
“Pilot Officer Anabuki!” Haruka and the others screamed.
The Diomedia had been split into four pieces – all leaving behind a trail of white smoke…
For a second, there was dead silence…Even though it was only for a second, it felt like it had lasted for all eternity.
What had happened to Tomoko?
Everyone stood stunned, staring longingly at the cloud of white smoke.
“No way… and just as P/O Anabuki had promised that she’d sleep with me…”In the instant that Haruka spoke… a white figure shone from within the smoke.
“I’m alright.” They heard Tomoko’s voice over the wireless.
During the explosion… Tomoko had protected herself with her magic field. The remaining misfits gave an exuberant cheer.
Tomoko headed towards where her friends were so that they could return to base in formation.
“Pilot Officer Beurling… we took down our true enemy.” Tomoko whispered as she stared absent mindedly at the trail of smoke.
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