Chapter 4 - New Model Ki-44

Chapter 4 - New Model Ki-44

January 22

One week after the first successful bombing raid in response to the Slussen enemy ground forces...

A closed elementary school was being utilised for the temporary Mikkeli air base. The command room was situated in what was once the principles office.

Squadron Leader Häkkinen sat behind an antique mahogany desk, with her eyes fixed upon a report that had been filed, she sighed deeply.

“Results of the bombing raid, have been insubstantial due to...” hmm?

That was the truth of the matter.

Once every three days, the bombing raids on Slussen had continued, but clear results were not being attained. The number of Neuroi had not fallen in the slightest.

Flight Lieutenant Rudel was filling in the gaps of that report.

“It's the same as Karlsland. Through the destruction of towns, those things multiply using the obtained metals, wood and other materials. It seems to contradict my purpose, one is unable to say whether bombing urban areas has much effect or not. And besides the Neuroi, building's are also completely destroyed. So it's like we're granting those things the materials they need...”

Sqn Ldr Häkkinen shook her head, “On the other hand, we can't possibly just discontinue the bombing raids.”

F/L Rudel nodded, “That's true. If we were to interrupt the raids, the enemy would just keep on multiplying.”

“So when it comes down to it, we have no choice but to hold back the enemy's increasing numbers by keeping it up... They're not increasing but, neither are they dropping. It's like doing the same thing over and over again isn't it.”

Bombing the Neuroi occupying built up areas, was little better than prolonging the life of a patient on the verge of death. It would not provide a fundamental solution.

“Besides the raids, if we could find a way of eradicating the Neuroi...”

“Somehow or other, we have to discover such a method. Until then let's keep up the bombings.”

The telephone on the desk rang.

Sqn Ldr Häkkinen picked up the receiver. With a few words, and an unchanged facial expression, she replaced the telephone receiver.

“Is it good news? Bad news?” F/L Rudel enquired.

“Unusually, the former. New equipment has arrived for the Independent Volunteer Air Squadron.”

The new equipment had arrived in a huge airship, and been taken to the hanger. Consequently, the maintenance crew had begun lining up the striker units for installation and testing.

Seeing that situation, the witches of the Independent Volunteer Air Squadron smiled cheerfully.

“Uuwa~! This engine, it's amazing right~!” Katherine cried out upon seeing a new model of magic engine installed into her own Buffalo.

The aircraft mechanic explained with a smiling face; “Pilot officer, this new model of the cyclone engine is incredible! The magic output is thirty percent higher. Ascending power, and speed too can't even compare to what they were before.”

“That's wonderful isn't it~! With this, I won't get left behind in the sky anymore~!”

Beurling and Ursula held new machine guns that had been dispatched from their respective home countries.

“Is this, a 20mm?” Beurling said, pointing at a heavy machine gun placed upon an oil cloth.

Opening the ammunition box beside her, the mechanic replied with a smiling face, “That's right Pilot officer Beurling, it's a Hispano-Suiza. The heavy weight bullets aren't the same as an Oerlikon's. Have a look at them, they're Just like beer bottles.”

Beurling nodded as she was handed an enormous 20mm round taken from the ammunition box.

“If one of these guys hits the mark, something like a Laros would be ripped apart!”

Ursula was also holding the machine gun she had been sent, and was tampering with it here and there.

“This, what machine gun is it?” Katherine stuck her face over, to which Ursula responded.

“...MG151. 15mm auto-cannon.”

“15mm? That's a subtle calibre~” Katherine teased, F/L Rudel who was watching everyone with folded arms shook her head.

“I hear that the Mauser 15mm is the favoured calibre of top aces. They say it flies accurately to the point at which one has aimed . But since I fly a Stuka, I don't know the full details.”

“That's great isn't it! With this you'll become an ace too~”

F/L Rudel was fixedly staring at Ursula's face, with a puzzled expression she eventually enquired; “You're... Pilot Officer Hartmann? Are you not Pilot Officer Erica Hartmann of 52nd Squadron?”

Ursula shook her head. “...That would be, my older sister.”

“I see. The more I look at you, the more I think you're a splitting image of her.”

“You had someone like a big sister all this time~?”

Ursula gave a sudden little nod. “Twin sister...”

F/L Rudel gazed at the intermittently talking Ursula, “It seems you have a very different nature from that of your sisters reprehensible disposition. However your older sister is an excellent mechanized air infantry woman. If you're also a Karlsland Luftwaffe pilot, with that MG151 your performance won't lose out to your sister's conspicuous achievements.”

With a superior officer of her country's air force saying so, Ursula bit her lip slightly, then gave a sharp little nod.

What has been lain out for Flying Officer Elma, was a Messersharf E Striker unit that had been transported from Karlsland.

“Wo, Wow! It's so shiny!”

Considering that it was the same equipment as 1st Squadron used, F/O Elma looked delighted.

Tomoko surveyed the area restlessly, I wonder what I've been sent?

However... she could not find any writing from the Fuso Empire's army printed anywhere on the lined up boxes of components.

Have I not been sent anything? Well, I guess that's fine, Tomoko nodded to herself.

With this Ki-27, I have all I need. If I'm handlin'g the aircraft that I'm most familiar with, I'll show that I can deal with any kind of enemy. Satisfying herself with that thought, her eyes met Haruka's, who was standing in a corner.

Thinking about it, we haven't spoken since she ran out on the squadron.

Because it would be impossible for their relationship to break down for good, Tomoko tried to feign a composed voice as best she could. “Yo. What have you been supplied with?”

Haruka simply turned her back on the forcibly smiling Tomoko.

Wha, what's up with this kid... is she still sulking?

Tomoko was highly offended, but managed to control herself. Once again Tomoko spoke out to her. “What were you sent, I wonder

Tomoko moved closer, but was quickly obstructed by F/L Ahonen.

The comparatively tall F/L Ahonen looked down at Tomoko, and while twirling her curly hair with a finger, she triumphantly declared, “That's enough, will you please stay away from my little sister?”

“Huh? Why!”

Ignoring Tomoko's yell, F/L Ahonen put her arm around Haruka's shoulders, and brought her lips close to Haruka's ear. “Pretty–little–my–sister. What is it that you've been supplied with? Tell your big sister.”

Haruka picked up the huge aircraft auto-cannon that had been placed on the floor next to her.

“This is it. Big sis.”

“Oh my! It's a magnificent gun isn't it! Explain to your big sister how good it is.”

F/L Ahonen began caressing Haruka's hair as if displaying it to Tomoko, who was scowling at them from behind. Tomoko honestly did not have that kind of preference, but Ahonen's behaviour made her very angry.

“This is a Type 99-2 auto cannon. Compared with the Type 99-1 that I've used until now; it has a longer barrel, the muzzle velocity is... aah,” in the middle of her explanation, Haruka let out a somewhat coquettish noise. F/L Ahonen had given Haruka's ear a gentle nibble, and slipped her hand into the opening of her shirt.

“What's wrong? Can you try to fully explain please?”

“Ye-ahu, Yes... Wh, where was I... Nn! Umm, the drum capacity has increased from sixty rounds... hya, to one-hundred... Nn!”

“That's excellent. You explained very accurately,” F/L Ahonen said while fondling Haruka's small chest with her slender fingers.

“Ye, Yes... It's an honour to receive your praise... Nn!”

Ahonen slid her other hand up Haruka's skirt, overcoming her with an outrageous feeling.

“Fu, Flight Lieutenant... What are... Yha...”

“Shall I give you your reward? Little kitty...”

Haruka stole a glance in Tomoko's direction with flushed cheeks. Tomoko's face was blushing as red as a lobster.

While trembling all over, Tomoko's outstretched finger wavered up and down.

“Wait! You two! This is an aircraft maintenance hanger, a sacred place! Wha, wh, wh,wh, wh, wh, wh, What the hell do you think you're doing!”

“Because of the scary Pilot Officer here, shall we go somewhere else? Fufu, fufufufu.”

F/L Ahonen, who was still wrapped around Haruka's shoulders, left the hanger with her.

“Wh, what's with those people...” Without the willpower to pursue them, Tomoko took a deep shaky breath. Her chest was pounding strangely.

They're complete lesbians, even though I shouldn’t be myself...

Grrraah, I've never dated anyone myself, so seeing their involvement with one another might be a little too stimulating for me. Even though they're both girls.

What the heck was that, thrusting her hand up Haruka's skirt; grr, groping her breasts like that, to think that flight lieutenant would do all those things to Haruka!

...Tomoko became intensely irritated. At any rate, It seems that Haruka has been corrupted by that complete pervert Ahonen.

“Even if you come crying for forgiveness, you won't get it!”

With Tomoko yelling as such, a voice called out from behind her.

“You seem angry. Pilot Officer.” It was a firm, but gentle voice.

“Haa! I, It's not that I'm angry.”

“I wonder if you're mad about your sweetheart getting stolen?”

“What do you mean sweetheart!”

Tomoko whipped around about to slap them with a scythe-like hand, But that hand was firmly seized. Standing before her eyes, was a young man. Moreover...

“...A Fusan?”

Like Tomoko, the man in front of her was from the Fuso Empire. He had carefully combed black hair, and his black eyes radiated an intellectual light...

He was clad in a pretentious white business suit, and wore a matching plaid hunters cap. The man looked like a playboy from the upscale Ginza district in Tokyo. But the strong light in his eyes was drowned out by his show-off atmosphere.

It was the first time a young man had brought his face so close to hers like that, Tomoko once again blushed bright red.

Seeing Tomoko like that, the man gave a smile. “I'm surprised. Tomoe Gozen of the Fuso sea is a truly beautiful woman.”

Sw02 000e.jpg

At having her physique admired, Tomoko's heart leapt for an instant. But at the same time she also felt a rush of anger at being regarded like that, and what conceited praise that is!

“Wh, What did you just say!”

“Calm down don't be angry now. Your beauty will be ruined. No, you're three times more beautiful than in the film.”

The man reached out a hand towards Tomoko's chin. Tomoko slapped it away.

What a simpleton!

“Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. Itokawa Mamoru of Nakajima Striker Units.”

Nakajima Striker Units, was one of the companies manufacturing the aircraft for mechanized air infantry pilots like Tomoko. Nakajima Striker Units K.K. was boasted as the largest among them. Tomoko's own Ki-27 was one of the aircraft they had developed.

“So that would mean, you're a civilian employed by the military?”

“That's right. I've brought a new model, just for you. Your gratitude is welcome, Pilot Officer Anabuki Tomoko.”

However, even though it was a common occurrence for new models to be sent, an engineer coming along with it was not.

“For what purpose did an engineer like yourself come with it?”

“The new model I brought is the result of a newly developed engineering concept, it's undoubtedly a restive horse of higher speed, and greater power. As we both know, it takes some time to analyse and adjust a new technology. Which is why I was sent along with it,” Itokawa finished his explanation with a wink.

Although his behaviour was rather affected, Itokawa couldn't possibly have meant that sarcastically. On the other hand, Tomoko couldn't stomach it if he were being serious. She felt somewhat suffocated, and turned away from him.

“A restive horse? That kind of aircraft, I do not need.” Tomoko icily declared, turning to face this unusual and discomforting kind of man.

To which Itokawa just bowed his head and gave an earnest request. “Not at all. By all means put it to good use. This new model undoubtedly has the potential to completely revolutionise aerial combat from here on out. I also took part in it's development.”

That kind of overly self confident mannerism just compounded Tomoko's irritation. If this kind of simple guy developed something like an aircraft, it certainly can't amount to much. That being the case... trying to employ it in combat would be an utterly stupid thing to do. A broad grin spread across Tomoko's face. “Hmm. What do you call this aircraft?” “The Ki-44, Type-2 Single Fighter. The designated pet-name is 'Shouki'.” 'Shouki' was the name of a grim bearded god. That icon was considered to be a ward against evil spirits. “That's an extremely austere name isn't it.” “Indeed. A malevolent god to exorcise the Neuroi.” “I hope it can live up to that name. Alright. If it's only for a trial I'll test it for you. However, if I'm not pleased with it, you'll take it back with you in it's current state.” “I expect that you'll be completely satisfied by it,  and by me also,” Itokawa said with a grin. Tomoko blushed once again. A truly detestable guy! Equipped with the Ki-44, Tomoko approached the front of the Hanger to commence the trial. Outside of the hanger, she continued down a gentle slope towards the lake that served as their temporary airfield. For her flight uniform, Tomoko had changed into a short length Miko outfit that was entirely inappropriate amid the fiercely blowing winds of icy Suomus. However, she was not as cold as she might appear to be. From Tomoko's body, there emanated a magic field. With one's legs integrated into the Striker Unit, a faint magical aura provided the wearer protection from the open air. Using the Ki-44, Tomoko was shocked at how that magic engine amplified her power. “Sure enough... it has a huge output at the very least.” Next to Tomoko, Itokawa stood up from his chair and nodded in apparent satisfaction. “How do you find the Ma-41 engine? It has one-and-a-half times the output of the Ki-27's. In terms of horsepower, it won't be outdone by the West's leading aircraft. “But, this Striker Unit is rather large though isn't it,” Tomoko complained. The new magic engine certainly had great horsepower. However, in exchange for that, the engine's diameter had increased. Consequently, the Striker Unit's silhouette had also become unfavourably wide. That thickness was not on the level of Katherine's Buffalo, but felt hard to handle for Tomoko who was accustomed to the slender Ki-27. “That can't be helped. By perfecting one thing, another has to be compromised. In any case, if it raises you to the heavens there's no need to worry about the the thickness,” Itokawa said in a detached manner. That was certainly the case, things like appearance had no relation to aerial combat. What was worrying Tomoko, was just the performance and handling of such an aircraft. “First of all, I'll test the rate of ascension.” “Pay attention to the throttle. If you treat it like the Ki-27, you'll crash.” Tomoko huffed indignantly. “Do not make light of me. How many years, do you think I've been a mechanized air infantry-woman?” Itokawa replied in a jesting tone; “Sorry-sorry. Was that needless advise for 'Tomoe Gozen of the Fuso sea' I wonder?” Taking action, Tomoko suddenly opened up the throttle. “Who'll crash... hmpf! Uwa!” About to be left behind by the acceleration of the Ki-44, Tomoko hurried to stabilise herself. It would seem that he wasn't just boasting by saying it had one-and-a-half times the power of the Ki-27. The speed couldn't even compare to usual, as the surrounding scenery rushed away behind her. ~GaGaGaGaGa! an intense vibration engulfed Tomoko's body, she frantically adopted a take-off posture. Am I going to crash? she asked herself as bits of the frozen lake surface were thrown up. With a whoosh! the Ki-44 easily rocketed towards the heavens. Giving it full throttle, the Ki-44 began a sharp climb. Itokawa's voice came through on the wireless radio. “Test test. Can you hear me?” “Unfortunately, I can hear you just fine.” “By the way, in terms of ascending power the Ki-44 is currently the top ranking Striker Unit for the Fuso Empire's Army and Navy.” “That certainly seems to be the case.” With frightening speed, the Ki-44 continued to push Tomoko towards the heights of the skies. It certainly passed the mark for ascending power, but... Tomoko was a fighter pilot. In the case of an interception mission one couldn't remain idle at low altitude, but while while moving to engage, ascending power was not of great importance. “However, even with so much power, if it's poor in combat then it's all meaningless isn't it.” “Test it first.” To begin with, Tomoko tried several barrel-rolls. The ki-44 responded to her will, and rotated her around the longitudinal axis. The rate of rotation was not bad, or perhaps one should say it was actually quite good. Tomoko was astonished at that performance. “The rolling capabilities don't look bad. The tailplane response is also above average.” The Ki-44 responded sharply to Tomoko's will. If anything, it felt a little overly sensitive. “The reaction might be too sharp. Don't you think it's a little bit dangerous?” “That aircraft is not intended to be handled by a spring chicken just out of flight school. I want Ace's like yourself to utilize it, and designed it with that in mind.” “What an honour. However, the problem is regarding actual combat. Even if the response is that sensitive, it'll come to nothing if it fails on the battlefield.” If this were a mock battle, the aircraft's performance could be ascertained at once... while worrying about that, a different voice cut in on the wireless radio. “Tomoko. Shall I play the role of your opponent?” Looking around, Beurling was ascending from below. Her real strength was not outmatched in a mock battle, so it seemed that Tomoko would be able to measure the Ki-44's true value. “Thanks, I'd appreciate that. Would you like to move to an equal starting position?” “Nope, my disadvantage is fine. You're not familiar with that aircraft right? A Handicap.” Tomoko huffed at Beurling's disregarding reply. Not that Beurling was actually making light of Tomoko, it was just in her nature to speak like that. “Well I expect you to go all out then!” To keep Beurling under her control, Tomoko Swooped down upon her from above. Beurling easily evaded Tomoko's assault, and left her back open as if inviting Tomoko in. “What was that! Are you even trying!” She yelled, and moved to pursue Beurling. Thereupon, Beurling entered a right turn as if to tempt Tomoko. That completely amateur manoeuvre just enraged Tomoko all the more. And then, when she tried to follow Beurling's turn, 'that' happened. “Hah?” Fuwosh! Together with a strange roar of wind, Tomoko's Striker unit suddenly entered a stalled condition. "Kyaaaaaaaa!” Without warning Tomoko's body dropped like a rock. She became disorientated for a moment, falling head first; regaining some airspeed, before somehow managing to recover her posture. If this were an actual battle... I would have been shot down for sure. “Wh, what the heck is this... It's outright unable to turn.” Itokawa's voice resounded from the wireless radio. “Ah~, Pilot Officer. You mustn't make such unreasonable turns. Please turn slowly and carefully while keeping an eye on the control surfaces.” “Unreasonable? What's that supposed to mean! That would mean things like close-quarters combat aren't even possible!” Tomoko once again tried to follow Beurling. However... if she was forced into close-quarters combat, she would be at a disadvantage. The Ki-44 was completely outmatched by the Hurricane's turning circle. Three times... Tomoko stole Beurling's tail three times, and was utterly defeated each time. If it had been her familiar Ki-27, she was confident that those three matches would have been winnable. By the end of it all, Tomoko had long since decided that the Ki-44's performance was inferior to the Ki-27's by far. That's enough already! With her rage burning brightly, Tomoko put a stop to the mock battle. “What's with this Ki-44! It's completely useless!” “Ah~ Pilot Officer Anabuki. I want you to be very careful when landing...” “It can't even turn, it just stalls immediately, it can't possibly have been manufactured by the same company that produced the Ki-27!” “Pilot Officer, Pilot Officer, listen to me for a moment.” Tomoko had been enraged to the point that Itokawa's warnings did not get through to her. It just entered through her right ear, and exited out of her left. Consequently, Tomoko ended up making a fatal mistake in her landing procedure. While approaching the airfield, she steadily dropped her airspeed for touchdown, but... “Huh? Isn't this stll too fast?” Tomoko was genuinely frightened by the high landing speed of the Ki-44. “Hol! Hold on! Landing at this kind of velocity is... but I'm not slowing down... Kyaaaaaa!” Having totally misread her landing speed, Tomoko over-ran the airfield. In the blink of an eye she had passed over the frozen lake surface, and plunged into a grove of trees on the shore. “Crash! I'm gona crash! Iyaaaaaaaaaaa!” ~Thunk! Tomoko just managed to stop herself from colliding head on with a tree trunk. But the crash still caused the accumulated snow on the trees to come falling down with a *fwoosh, burying Tomoko's body. The Independent Volunteer Squadron members and Itokawa came rushing over to where Tomoko had been buried in snow. “Like I said... be very careful of the landing speed. The Ki-44 is very different from existing aircraft, it's a high speed Striker Unit.” “Enough, already...” Tomoko muttered half crying, her pride as an ace smashed to pieces. “From now on, listen properly to what I say, with practice there's noting to worry about, alright? Firstly, until now close quarters combat using the Ki-44...” Tomoko suddenly stood up and thrust her finger at Itokawa. “SHUT IT! What kind of 'revolutionary aircraft' is that! Imposing this kind of defective thing on me!” “The Ki-44 is not anything like a defective aircraft! Your handling of it was just bad!” “You're saying that I'm just an unskilled pilot then?” “That's not what I meant.” “In any case! I will absolutely not use an aircraft that is so difficult to control!” Tomoko threw off the Ki-44, an set off towards the hanger in long strides. That evening... Tomoko was drinking heavily by herself in the dining hall. It was a local concoction called Koskenkorva. This spirit had an abnormally high alcohol content, the most suitable drink for icy Suomus. Even if there was no heating, it felt as if ones body was being warmed from within. However, even drinking and drinking did not suppress her mood. The disgrace from earlier still tormented her. “That's exactly why I said that I detest using new models!..” Tomoko knocked on the desk with her fist. This idiot failed at landing... By now the maintenance crew and the soldiers protecting the base will be gossiping about it between themselves, that's for sure. Tomoko's face was burning, and it wasn't just from the alcohol. Naturally, on account of Tomoko's abundant pride, she could not possibly allow herself such a foolish mistake. Her self loathing subsequently turned towards that engineer Itokawa. Because of that guy making me take part, I wound up in that such a situation. Itokawa's face came to mind, which for some reason caused Tomoko's cheeks to flush red. Such an uncontrollable reaction just served to irritate Tomoko even further, without thinking she yelled out. “What the hell! That Itokawa guy!” “You called?” Turning around, Itokawa was standing in the doorway of the dining hall. “I did not call!” “Drinking alone in a place like this, in the dead of night? Looks like fun.” Itokawa walked over briskly and sat down next to Tomoko. “What do you want...” “I was thinking I'd like to solve your little misunderstanding of course.” “Misunderstanding? What misunderstanding.” “Why are you so adherent on using the Ki-27?” “Operating the Ki-27 feels just like moving my own body. On top of that, it's almost unrivalled in close-quarters combat. Isn't that enough? Itokawa brought out two cups, and filled them both to the brim with water. “What the heck is that surpposed to be?” Tomoko asked disdainfully. Pointing at the two cups of water he had poured, Itokawa said, “These two cups represent the Ki-27 and the Ki-44 respectively, at an altitude of three-thousand meters. Consider the water they contain as their potential energy.” “Huh? You want to give me a physics lecture at this hour? I did all that stuff at aviation school.” “So let's put it to a bit of practical use. Listen closely.” Itokawa picked up one of the cups. “This one is the Ki-27. Moving to engage one enemy squadron, the Ki-27 immediately enters level close-quarters combat... I'm preaching to the choir here, but a corner stone of close-quarters combat is tight repeated turns. Anyway, at an altitude of three-thousand meters, if the Ki-27 repeatedly engages in close-quarters combat...” Little by little, Itokawa was pouring away the water in the cup. “Whenever one turns, the kinetic energy that the aircraft possesses is decreased. As well as it's speed, the air resistance upon turning also steals away an aircraft's potential energy. So let's say, you the ace shoot down five aircraft while piloting the Ki-27. And yet, that outcome results in you becoming completely drained of energy.” Itokawa pointed at the empty cup. “This, is the Ki-27 after engaging in close-quarters combat. Altitude; one hundred meters. Speed; on the verge of stalling. So, what if a new enemy arrived while you were in this condition?” Tomoko was at a loss for words. That situation would be called a 'Checkmate' in Shougi. “And now the Ki-44. It's different from the light-combat Ki-27, as it is classified as a heavy-combat aircraft. Although it's called 'heavy-combat', it's not actually the Striker Unit itself that's heavy. What we mean by 'heavy' is that it suffers from a high ratio of weight distribution over the surface area of the wings when turning, or 'high wing loading'. Putting it simply, compared with what you're accustomed to, the Ki-44 has inferior turning performance. You are absolutely correct in pointing out that it can't turn.” Itokawa picked up the other cup of water. "Because of that, the Ki-44 has a completely different method of engaging enemies than that of the the Ki-27.  Altitude three-thousand meters, with the enemy formation visible below, the Ki-44 moves to engage and strikes from a nose dive...” Itokawa emptied the water from the cup into the sink. "By lowering ones altitude, potential energy is lost just like with the Ki-27. However, the Ki-44 is able to replenish that energy. Do you understand why that is?” Tomoko shook her head. Itokawa turned the tap and topped up the cup with water fresh water. "It's the speed, this new water represents the kinetic energy. The Ki-44 does not lose the speed obtained from diving down. Because, 'it doesn't turn'. Instead of chasing the escaping enemies too far, one immediately changes their priority to climbing, and by doing so one can convert that kinetic energy back into potential energy." Itokawa pointed at the cup filled with water. “Now, by repeating the tactic, the Ki-44 has shot down two aircraft. Because it can't pursue at close range, the same shoot down count has not been attained, but in doing so it holds the same energy as it had before the battle. Even if a new enemy comes into view, it can be dealt with at once.” Itokawa peered into Tomoko's face. Tomoko's cheeks heated up at how close he was. “...Even so, in a setting where one is able to shoot down five aircraft, one should shoot down all five of them. Decreasing the enemy numbers brings about a true tactical advantage. For that purpose, the ability to engage in close-quarters combat is essential.” While breathing a sigh, Itokawa muttered. “The air-force also... no, not just them, the navy and the upper echelons of Nakajima Striker Units too. That is to say, the general trend of the Fuso Empire's entire aviation community share the same opinion as yourself on this matter. People such as myself and my team are in the minority. But the reality on the Karlsland war-front, is that the methods I just described are being employed. From here on out, things like close-quarters combat will be unnecessary.” At those words, Tomoko thought of her friend Takeko. She had also been saying something like that. But Tomoko had her own thoughts on her fighting style. “When I can no longer fight close-quarters, I'll consider fighting in a formation.” Itokawa nodded. “I guess you won't compromise at all... Only time itself will reveal which of us is correct.” After a brief pause, Tomoko decided to enquire of Itokawa; “Why did you want me to use of the Ki-44 so badly?” “Are you not a famous ace? If such an ace were to utilise the Ki-44 for us, our concept would be verified as correct.” Tomoko felt somewhat let down. The heck? So he didn't just want me to use it after all... or rather! Why am I disappointed? Inducing a strange burning sensation... Itokawa wrapped his arm around Tomoko's shoulder, and whispered into her ear, “I do have one more reason though.” “What!” “I'm genuinely in love with you.” “Wha? Wha? What? What the hell do you think you're saying! Such stu! Saying such stupid things just pisses me off!” “I didn't say anything stupid. In fact, I fell in love with you at first sight. It took me by surprise.” Itokawa reached out for Tomoko's chin without further preamble. Although she was highly offended by his overbearing actions, Tomoko was unable to resist. “ah...” She was pulled towards him, and her lips were stolen. In that instant, Tomoko was unable to comprehend what was what. A short while after their lips met, Itokawa slowly pulled away. “Wh, Wha, Wh...” Although she wanted to condemn him, the words just wouldn't come out. “Forgive me. You're just too beautiful... your forever graceful, long black hair. Not to mention your dark and honest eyes... you're the epitome of beauty on every count.” Trembling all over, Tomoko struck Itokawa across the face. Tears were now filling those dark eyes. “Oh, I wonder, was that perhaps... your first kiss?” Itokawa said quietly, while rubbing his cheek. Tomoko fled from the dining hall with her hands covering her face. “Despite that childish behaviour, she's still charming... Tomoe Gozen of the Fuso sea,” Itokawa said to himself while watching her back disappear through the doorway.

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