Authors: Shiden Kanzaki
There was nothing more tedious than patrolling on a hot and humid night. The man had already been walking for two hours, the rifle sling hanging from his shoulder digging in. Even if this was something that he did every day, he had long lost his ability to concentrate.
Sweat kept pouring out no matter how much he wiped with the towel around his neck, and although the undergrowth swayed occasionally with a small, viscous breeze, his skin under the thick cotton camouflage did not feel the slightest bit cooler. The smell of hot earth filled his nostrils.
He was alone, jungle boots crunching along the ground as he walked. Sergeant Yoshifusa Sato of the Ground Self-Defense Force was on patrol again today. This was the third time he had been made to go on patrol after losing a card game against his seniors.
As he walked, he hit his flickering flashlight to make it work properly. Finally, he hit it with all his strength and it suddenly
turned on full blast.
, he thought, shining the light on his surroundings.
Tokyo Area Outer District, District 40. Yoshifusa was patrolling at the border between heaven and hell of his cramped world. From his perspective, on his left-hand side, forest continued as far as his light could reach, and on his right-hand side was the face of a jet-black wall that stood straight up, blocking the way.
Yoshifusa stopped, looking at the sky for just a minute. But the wall towered over him, piercing the sky, and he, standing near its base, could not see the top. Of course, this wall did not really reach the heavens, but that didn’t matter to Yoshifusa, who was at most 180 centimeters tall.
In any case, it was outrageously large.
The Monolith. Standing 1.618 kilometers high and 1 kilometer wide, it was an enormous rectangular Varanium structure. It was a lump of metal that shone deeper than the darkness.
Yes, it was more than 1.6 kilometers tall.
Low-flying clouds could come down to an altitude of six hundred meters, so at times, the Monolith pierced through the clouds. Even Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, was no more than 3.8 kilometers high: Two Monoliths on top of each other needed only a little more added to them to equal the sacred peak. Even its width—an entire kilometer—could easily take Yoshifusa fifteen minutes to walk.
Looking at something so outrageously large, it at times gave him the illusion of being lost in a land of giants. Who could easily accept that this was the work of man, not God? These Monoliths had been built every ten meters, stretching for hundreds of kilometers to surround Tokyo Area like the Great Wall of China. In a sense, they were as advanced as the ancient pyramids, and could be called a modern-day Tower of Babel.
Yoshifusa raised his arms and pointed his light at one end of the Monolith, and the ring of light drew up the stenciled words
from the darkness. The Monoliths could also be called a kind of curtain that protected mankind. Outside of them spread a
terrible hell, with monsters that caused one to cower in fear clamoring around—monsters that used to be human.
Yoshifusa kept walking, and when he finally made it past the edge of the Monolith, he gazed silently at the darkness that spread into the outside world.
Yoshifusa once had a wife and son, but now they were probably living in eternal suffering on the other side as Gastrea. Or, they may have been reduced to beings who did not even care about that.
While he was lost in thought, there was a sudden rustling in the bushes, and he reflexively pointed the light in that direction. As he did so, something flew by in front of his eyes at high speed. Right before it plunged into the thicket, he was just barely able to tell that it had been a mouse. His heart beat loudly, and he gasped for a moment as he forgot how to breathe.
Yoshifusa shook his head.
This is stupid. What am I afraid of?
In the ten years since the Gastrea War, there had never been an instance of a non–Stage Five Gastrea successfully infiltrating the Monolith barrier.
Just as his line of thought shifted, a pungent stink suddenly reached his nostrils, and he covered his nose. It stank like a gutter.
Where in the world is it coming from…?
Just then, Yoshifusa heard the ragged panting of a carnivore above his head, and his whole body stiffened.
The type of sweat pouring out of him changed. Earlier, he had been sweating because of the heat and humidity, but now, it was because of extreme chills. He even had nausea from feeling completely alone. He took a deep breath to keep himself from panicking and slowly turned the light toward the sound.
A body, slimy and glittering, reflected the light that was projected onto Yoshifusa’s retina. His light fell from his hands, and immediately after, he felt the strength leaving his legs. He almost fell to his knees.
There was a gigantic being about fifty meters directly above
Yoshifusa, who was near the base of the Monolith. Its massive body spread throughout his field of vision, covering the sky, and it was clinging onto the Monolith. In the darkness, the silhouette of its thorax rose and fell. The breath it expelled gave off an intense heat while it made the air vibrate with a low-frequency sound. From where Yoshifusa stood, it was hard to grasp the scale of it, but it looked to be about as big as a jumbo jet.
“No way… Is that a Gastrea…?” It was impossible. How? When in the world did it get here? But the situation grew only stranger while he remained clueless.
Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot echoed in the night sky. Immediately after came a chain of angry roars and screams while gunshots continued intermittently. The assault had come from the self-defense-force residence directly in front of Yoshifusa—a place constructed near the inside wall of the Monolith where Yoshifusa and the others in the self-defense force lived.
“An enemy attack?” Yoshifusa stood stock-still, in a daze. He didn’t think that there was something wrong with his head. However, with all the strange occurrences following one after another, he was unable to give his brain a reasonable interpretation.
Suddenly returning to his senses, he ran toward the residence hall with all his might, throwing his body against the door and rushing inside.
The bodies of his fellow squad members were being devoured by monsters.
The monsters were shaped like ants. However, they were no ordinary ants: Their bodies, which had been enlarged thanks to the Gastrea virus, came up to Yoshifusa’s chest even when all their legs were on the ground. They were the giant-ant Gastrea, Model Ants.
The ants stopped their repulsive feast and pointed their heads toward the newcomer,
-shaped antenna and all. Dazed, Yoshifusa cried a desperate “Why?” for the nth time. Land Gastrea should not
have been able to approach the Monolith. That established theory was being overturned in the most repulsive way possible before his eyes. The only thing he knew now was that he was in the midst of his worst nightmare.
“Get away from my friends…!” Shouldering his rifle, he quickly pulled the trigger. There was a sharp recoil on his shoulder and with a flash of the muzzle, the right eye of the ant next to him blew away, lodging sticky Gastrea bits into the ceiling. Yoshifusa was a diligent soldier; his movements were conditioned reflexes, and they were already after their next target. As consecutive rounds hit, the Gastrea let out dreadful screams. Even so, Yoshifusa showered them with a barrage of 5.56 millimeter bullets as he retreated.
I can win
. Just as he thought that, chills suddenly shot down his spine. He reflexively jumped onto a rock and aimed upward. Through his scope, he saw an ant’s brutal pincers scrape the spot where he had just been. Wondering what had happened, he lifted his face from the iron sight, and there, Yoshifusa froze with despair.
Before he knew it, he had been surrounded by a countless number of Model Ant Gastrea. There had to be more than a hundred of them.
What about the other squad members?
Yoshifusa mourned as he looked around. But the gunshots and screams had already stopped.
It looked like he was the only living, breathing human being left in this building. The Gastrea gave off a beastly smell, completely un-insectoid, as they opened their jaws, sticky with mucus. As the circle slowly closed in on him, he heard the pincers snapping with anticipation.
Yoshifusa closed his eyes. He had gone through mental simulations many times of what he would do when this happened. He was tempted, but as an advance guard responsible for national security, he could not allow himself to become like his wife and child. Instead, Yoshifusa abandoned his rifle and pulled the pin of a hand grenade, hugging it tightly, entrusting his prayers to those who would come after him.
Someone, anyone, please do something. At this rate, Tokyo Area will be in trouble.
In District 1 of Tokyo Area, in the basement shelter of the Seitenshi’s palace, the door of the situation room of the Japan National Security Council, or JNSC, opened roughly, and the Seitenshi hurried in. As she entered, the members of the Cabinet who were already assembled and her aide, Kikunojo Tendo, stood up all at once from the long desk they were sitting at.
The Seitenshi waved them back to their seats with a hand and gazed at Kikunojo sternly. “What is the situation?”
“Ma’am. Today, at 2130 hours, enemy Gastrea appeared in the vicinity of Monolith 32. Their number is unknown. We still do not know the details.”
“Send observation satellites equipped with night imaging, unmanned drones, and nearby self-defense squads immediately. We must understand the situation as soon as possible.”
“I thought you would say that, so I’ve already made the arrangements.”
The Seitenshi rewarded his efforts with a nod.
The direct phone line rang just then and Daimon, the Minister of Defense, jumped for it. After exchanging a few clipped words with the person on the other end, he raised his head to the group. “The main body of the self-defense force that was sent out as support fought with Stage One Model Ant Gastrea. They just reported that they were able to annihilate them before they started a Pandemic.”
Relief and joy took hold of the situation room.
“There is more,” Minister Daimon continued, still holding the phone up to his ear. He grimaced for a moment, and then slowly turned a pale face toward the others.
“The advance troops who arrived before the main force… They’ve been destroyed by a giant Gastrea thought to be the boss of the Model Ants. The boss had already left by the time the main force arrived.”
Kikunojo frowned. “Already left, you said? It did not invade our borders?”
“No, there are pictures of the boss taken by one of the advance troops who was killed. Those pictures are being sent now—Here they come.”
An image was displayed abruptly on the gigantic electroluminescent panel in front of them. The Seitenshi narrowed her eyes. With the camera shake and dark lighting, it was not easy to make anything out in the blurry picture. The photographer must have been in a hurry, so he didn’t use a flash. In the midst of the darkness, the even darker Monolith could be seen faintly. There was a giant Gastrea hanging onto it, its silhouette terrifying enough to cause chills even though it was frustratingly hard to see.
Eventually, the second image was displayed. This one was also too dark. However, it struck something somewhere in the Seitenshi’s memory. Where had she seen this Gastrea before…?
The instant the third image was displayed, the situation room broke out in a frenzy. The Seitenshi’s eyes widened as far as they could go, glued to the panel. The third image was completely different from the other two. A searchlight from the ground had hit the Gastrea, and just its head floated out of the darkness. The repulsive Gastrea was a being that the Cabinet members present could not forget even if they wanted to.
“The Gastrea with the ability to corrode Varanium…the Stage Four, Aldebaran……” The Seitenshi said the name of the infamous Gastrea quietly, rubbing her arms. If this Gastrea encountered the self-defense force, the main force would not get off easy.
However, why was it here? How did it get past the Monoliths…? No matter how much she thought about it, she could not come up with a clear answer. All she could say was that something unbelievable was about to happen in Tokyo Area.
The Gastrea in the picture was wiggling its mouthparts, doing something to the Monolith.
The Seitenshi stood up from her chair and waved her hands. “Investigate the Monolith Aldebaran was on, Monolith 32, right away. Call Varanium experts and have them inspect it. Also, contact the ministries involved to have them give preference to the supercomputer CPU for the analysis. Everyone, this is going to be a long day.”