I'm screwed. I'm totally screwed. I gesture dumbly at Fate with the bloody stump of Gallant's left arm while my mouth opens and closes like a stunned guppy. There's no pain coming from the wound, so that's a plus I suppose. Doesn't change the fact I'm probably going to die as Fate performs another clumsy swing with her ax towards me. I instinctively slash upwards with the executioner's sword and succeed in missing Fate by a mile. I'm left wide open.
"Move!" The Voice barks from the earpiece and I am dashed to the side by an oncoming rush of metal. A freshly spawned wave of scissor wolf drones thunder out from the hub and barrel full tilt into Fate. As the drones make their furious but futile assault against the goddess, my mind suddenly begins working again and I scamper back towards the wall, jumping over it and huddling under the relative safety of the shadow of the sentry guns.
"Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit." I mutter while staring at the bloody stump while folding my body up into a fetal position.
Didn't The Voice guarantee that Gallant's body would be invulnerable? Isn't this experience a bit too extreme and hardcore for an isekai? Tell me when a hero got his limbs amputated when he fought the demon king. I bet no one can answer that question. Because it never happens. Hero man usually has some kind of overpowered skill that curb stomps the demon king or a waifu that's an ace healer or a battle harem that does all the fighting for him or -
"Transmigrator," The Voice rasps from somewhere far away, "I need you to focus. Focus, you understand?"
- or a cute goddess in his corner that's actually useful and has actual magic instead of relying on dumb ass guns and drones and cameras and actually gives their champions good weapons instead of mundane swords and grenade launchers plus actually arranges for a party of individuals with useful skills not like a scuzzy police chief who only knows how to bitch and threaten from the back of a squad car or a fat, flabby coward who whines like nobody's business and got her husband eaten by lions in a nature park and -
"PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!" The Voice roars angrily, breaking my reverie.
"I'm together! Pulled together!" I shout back over the din of battle, "All together! Together, except for the arm that is."
"Good." The Voice continues urgently, "Listen, we can still carry the day, but I need you on your feet and ready to fight. Do you understand?"
"Fight? Are you for real?" I ask incredulously, "Neither of us can hurt Fate! We can't even hit her! We need to evacuate, like now!"
"Focus." The Voice insists flatly, "I will not say it again. Whether you live or die depends on what happens next."
I take a deep breath as my nerves begin to come down from their previous high. The Voice grunts in satisfaction and continues speaking.
"Transmigrator, there is no retreat from this place." The Voice states calmly, "I have shut down the monorail and will not reactivate it until we have prevailed in this battle. The line will be held, do you understand?"
"Resorting to threats, huh?" I snort while getting back to my feet, "That's low, but par for the course as far as you are concerned."
"Think of it as an incentive." The Voice answers indifferently, "More importantly, the situation is not as hopeless as it appears. I may not be able to injure Fate, but I have an infinite number of drones and bullets to bury it under. I can keep dueling with Fate until the heat death of the universe."
I peer over the wall and watch as Fate begins clearing out this latest batch of drones. Just as she is about to extricate herself from the scrum, the doors of the hub fly open again and another wave of scissor wolves are sent into the fray. Fate might always win each individual fight, but The Voice can afford an infinite number of defeats. Two powers equally matched, neither capable of making headway against the other.
"I sense a 'but' coming." I remark, taking in the grinding fight happening in front of me.
"Good to see your senses coming back to you." The Voice rumbles, "I can keep Fate at bay, but this task requires my full attention. I cannot afford any distractions, not until I have worked out a way to get past Fate's defense."
"And a distraction is on its way, I suppose?" I ask rhetorically, adjusting my grip on the sword. Power circulates from the artificial core throughout my body, strengthening me and bolstering my courage.
"ORPO paramilitaries are rappelling down the Inclinator shaft as we speak." The Voice informs, "I will turn control of the sentry guns over to the on board AI. Coordinate with it to eliminate the threat."
"No problem." I say, more to reassure myself then anything, "I can do this. I will do this."
"Excellent. Because the ORPO strike force is almost here." The Voice states before falling silent.
Men and women clad in white uniforms stream out of the Inclinator shaft like a swarm of enraged ants. The sentry guns immediately begin spooling up and unloading their firepower into the invaders. ORPO officers begin to fall, but I notice the difference in the guns' performances without The Voice's direct control. The volleys are more hesitant and take place further apart. As if the sentry guns need slightly more time to acquire their targets.
The ORPO officers scatter under this onslaught and take cover behind the carcasses of the destroyed mechas, ignoring the battle between Fate and the scissor wolves. The officers then begin pushing the destroyed mechas forward, using them as makeshift pravises. The guns blast away at them and through sheer weight of fire manage to down several of the interlopers, but the kill rate has dropped dramatically. The officers occasionally pop up from behind the mecha carcasses to take pot shots at me with their rifles, forcing me back below the wall. At this rate they are guaranteed to close the gap.
"Prepare to repel boarders!" I shout from gritted teeth as the first wave of ORPO officers pile up the mecha carcasses by the barbed wire, using the wrecks to scale the wall. There are some groans and screams as the barbed wire catches a few interlopers, but the wave of invaders keeps coming. The guns keep firing, but they cannot keep up with the numbers pouring through the shaft.
Going over the top. Its the term used when soldiers try to storm a trench. Now used to indicate extraordinary effort made in a venture not likely to succeed. And its my job to ensure that the chances of the officers going over the top here drop from 'low' to 'impossible'. As the paramilitaries crest the wall with their battle cries, my sword starts swinging, and the blood begins spraying. Rifles are fired from point blank range at me and numerous batons pummel my body, but its all no use. ORPO isn't Fate. Whatever cheat Fate used to hurt me doesn't extend to them.
The more ORPO fights, the more they die. The floor is now slick with blood and my armor is covered in it. Gore has been smeared all over the place. A frantic policewoman draws an automatic pistol and unloads its clip straight into my chest, crying all the while, praying for her goddess to save her. But there's no salvation to be found. I swing my sword, again and again and again, reducing the policewoman into mincemeat. I can do this, I am forcing them back.
Then one of the sentry guns explodes, flying straight out of its firing port.
Blinking the smoke out of my eyes, I see a line of ORPO officers readying rocket launchers while hiding behind the small mountains of corpses and wrecked machines strewn throughout the atrium. With a roar, the launchers are fired, sending their payloads streaking towards the wall. I duck and cover, before remembering that I only have one arm to cover with now. The rockets impact the wall, gouging out huge gaps and sending chunks of concrete as well as stray pieces of metal rebar flying all over the place. The paramilitaries begin to reload, confident that their next attack will vaporize the wall completely.
"Damavand!" I shout as I thrust the stump of my arm out. A wave of pressure erupts and washes over the atrium, pulping the officers or throwing them backwards. I cheer mentally as the threat is neutralized and ORPO struggles to get back into the fight. Just need to keep cutting them down and The Voice will take care of the rest.
Then the red thread slashes outwards again, arcing towards the wall. No way, Fate is still engaged with the attack drones, she can't redeploy her powers now. My eyes desperately scan the area, landing on an empty spot in the corner of the atrium where this fresh set of red thread is being woven out of empty air.
"Transmigrator, what's happening?" The Voice shouts in alarm, "I am losing my connection to -"
The red thread homes in on the gaps in the wall and punches cleanly through, wrapping the entire atrium in its scarlet web. The scissor wolves abruptly lose their ferocity and slump to the ground in stand by mode. Fate taps one of the drones with the tip of her foot, sending the machine flying straight at me. I swing my sword hard, cleaving the drone in two, but this delay is all ORPO needs. The officers bull rush forwards and literally throw their bodies at me. I am sent collapsing to the ground under the weight of the dog pile and the officers beat me mercilessly with their batons while holding my limbs fast.
"Hey, hey Princess." Celeste says in her irritatingly cheerful voice, "Did I do good? I did my best just like you told me to!"
A booming noise in the back of my mind is the only response, but Celeste seems to understand it just fine, continuing the conversation.
"So this is the end of the bad man and Tyrant huh?" she replies, "Wow, its just like those stories about heroes storming the castle of the demon king! Does that mean I'm a hero just like Princess?"
No. I'm not going to die here.
"Yay!" Celeste cheers, "I think Tensei is nice too you know? Maybe we could get together for real after the Tyrant is dead? I would like that ..."
I'm not going to die here!
My strength surges and I rise from the ground, throwing off the ORPO officers all over me into the air. I grab a rifle one of them had been carrying and level it at Celeste.
"YOU LITTLE SHIT!" I scream and fire a shot straight at the Incarnate.
The bullet strikes home and Celeste sinks to her knees, holding her stomach. And in the corner of my eye I see it. Fate flinched and pawed at her own gut the moment Celeste was shot. Before I can make sense of what happened, Fate charges forward with the ax raised high. I swing the stock of the rifle down on to the flat of the ax blade, shattering both weapons in a shower of metal and plastic. I lash out with a roundhouse kick, hoping for a lucky hit, but instead miss again.
Fate responds with a gentle push on my shoulder, which sends me clear off my feet and smashing through the doors of the hub. My momentum is hardly abated though and I am sent flying right into the bank of monitors which explodes in a shower of sparks as my body slams against it. I flop on to the floor like a beached whale and before I can struggle back to my feet, the entire bank of monitors, its mounting to the wall damaged by the prior impact, crashes on top of me.
I can't move. My entire body hurts. Is this the end?
"I can do it Princess. I can undo the Tyrant's protection from within." Celeste's weak, tired voice drifts in from the atrium.
There are footsteps and from a gap in the wreckage, I see Celeste enter the hub. She's holding her bloody stomach and her face has a look of concentration on it. Red thread begins to extend from her body and rapidly spread throughout the hub. There's a sensation of pressure lifting and I understand what has happened. The Voice, blind and unaware, has had its control over the hub severed. Exactly what it had feared.
My vision goes dark. So this is it then.
Its the end.