Lily blinked as she tried to process the sight of the creature. Its shape was clearly serpentine, but the gleam from its skin was clearly the same as the glint from the metal that coated the Warden, back in the wasteland. As she stood, carefully watching the point where it had submerged, it again emerged and drew an arc over the ship. Lily frowned. Was it just going to keep jumping over them? Was it going to attack? Uncomfortable, Lily felt like there was something unusual. Something felt like it was missing, but what…
Tate dashed out from behind her, taking up a stance on her left, with a giant shield three times her size materialising on her arm. Just as she got in position, a loud sound resounded from the point where the creature struck the shield, pushing Tate back several steps.
Lily blinked. That strike was fast. Too fast to see. For a brief moment as it veered from the impact with Tate’s shield, Lily caught a glimpse of the creature’s head. There was no mistake, it was modelled after a snake. Its metal skin, glistening with water, housed a pair of large, slitted emerald eyes, one on each side. Its maw was open, revealing a cavity large enough to swallow Lily whole. It possessed two sets of sharp fangs, each as long as Lily was tall. In the centre of its head was a large red circular gem, about three meters in diameter, which seemed to pulse and throb.
Taking advantage of the creature’s temporary state of vulnerability, Ragneil sent a large number of mana swords at it, but they all dissipated upon coming into contact with its metallic skin. Recovering its balance, the creature submerged beneath the surface of the water again, eliciting curses from Ragneil. Meanwhile, Lily frowned in confusion. Normally, she would have felt the thing coming through her <<Probe>>, even if she couldn’t see it…
At that moment, she realised that she felt nothing from her surroundings. She searched deep within herself, found the switch for her <<Probe>>, and flipped it. Immediately, she felt the movements of the waves, the structural composition of the ship, the contents of the junk and debris that floated in the waters. It seemed that while she had been feeling unwell, she had shut off her subconscious <<Probe>>. That was dangerous. She made a mental note to keep this occurrence in mind. Concentrating, she sent her <<Probe>> downwards and outwards, quickly locating the creature. Or rather, not locating it. Instead, what she found was a long, serpentine space where she could feel nothing, currently circling around several hundred meters below the ship. Lily groaned in annoyance. She recognised this sort of reaction. She placed a hand on Tate’s shoulder.
“Good save. Thanks. You okay?”
Tate nodded, but kept her lips tightly shut, her eyes watching the water carefully. Lily turned to Iris, who was on full alert, similarly keeping a close watch on the surface of the water.
“…I can take maybe two more hits.”
Looking closely, Lily could see sweat beading on Tate’s brow. Her breathing had gotten a little heavier. Just from a single hit. This was a dangerous foe.
As Lily expected, Iris had an answer. Their opponent was likely a relic of the same era as Iris.
“Well? What are we fighting?”
“Autonomous Weapon Series ASPMPAMAPAAIGST. Model Designation <<Serpent>>.”
“And? Anything we should know? Why is it attacking us?”
“Covered in Anti-Mana Plating, designed for naval warfare. Non-sentient AI, has backup subroutines to search for sources of mana in the interest of self-preservation. I believe it is attacking us due to the high amount of mana concentrated upon this ship.”
Lily clicked her tongue irritably. Anti-Mana Plating, in her experience, was an immensely troublesome opponent. Furthermore, they were the reason the ship was being attacked, meaning that even if they escaped, the creature would pursue. In that case, the most prudent course of action would be to eliminate it.
“The red crystal on its head is the power source. However, it is made of pure mana, and surrounded by an Anti-Mana field. If we can remove its head, or minimally its upper jaw, <<Serpent>> should cease to function.”
“And how do we do that? Does the Anti-Mana Plating have any vulnerabilities?”
“…Accessing files… Decrypting… Located. The inside of its maw is free of Anti-Mana Plating.”
“…That’s a tall order.”
Lily’s face creased in thought. The ideal opportunity to strike was just after an attack was repelled, but then it would be directly over the ship, and it might collapse into the ship, destroying it anyway. However, any point after that, and its maw would not be in an optimal position to attack. Lily shut her eyes, thinking about what she knew about the opponent. Anti-Mana Plating only neutralised mana at the point of contact. Therefore…
She opened her eyes, face showing resolve. Ragneil nodded at her.
“You’ve thought of a plan, then? What can I do?”
Ragneil knew not of their party’s actual capabilities, but as the determination on Lily’s face was clear, he could not help but answer in turn.
“The moment you see an opening, attack the inside of its mouth as hard as you can. Try to sever its upper jaw.”
“The inside of its mouth, eh. I suppose you have a plan to expose an opening?”
Lily gave no response and turned to Iris.
“Iris, prepare your Varia to make me a platform. You’ll know when.”
Iris stared into Lily’s eyes, then glanced at Lily’s hands. Then she smiled.
“Oh, that’s your plan? That’s more than a little reckless, but I guess it’s very like you.”
Lily returned the smile. Now they had to wait for the creature to strike again. It continued circling, arcing over the ship several times. A long while passed with nobody moving, all their senses raised to their limits. Lily carefully tracked the movements of the empty space in her <<Probe>>. Then…
The moment she felt a slight disturbance in the pattern, she shouted out, but Tate was already in position, shield at the ready. With the impact on the shield pushing her back once again, this time she was pushed down to one knee, but she held steady. At the moment the <<Serpent>> exposed its maw from the recoil, Lily leapt towards it, releasing the wires from her palms. Moving in close at a blinding speed, assisted by the boosters, she formed a pair of large loops with the wires, one in each hand, grasping their ends. As she flew past the creature’s maw, she tilted to the side, sliding the two loops along the upper and lower jaws, behind the fangs. At the points where the loops touched the <<Serpent>>’s maw, she lost her Extended control over the wires, but the wires retained their innate tensile strength. Supplementing her momentum with continuous bursts of air from her boosters, she pulled the <<Serpent>>’s maw away from the ship, planting her feet firmly on the midair platform of Varia which Iris had prepared about eighty meters from the ship.
The moment she made contact with the platform, she Extended into them, allowing her to freely move and hover midair. Turning around, she yanked on the two loops in her hands with all her strength, pulling them apart. As she did, the <<Serpent>>’s ensnared maw was also pulled apart, exposing the inside of its jaw, a mass of black metal which had none of the lustre of its exterior coating. As soon as she opened the maw to its fullest, mana swords began flying at it, piercing through the upper jaw. As the <<Serpent>> struggled to break free of her snare, Lily struggled to keep it open. Swords continued to pierce the black metal, but the <<Serpent>> seemed to grow only slightly weaker. Lily cursed. The meagre amount of mana in each <<Spellsword>> was unable to do enough damage to sever its head. She felt the wires straining, threatening to give way. Then, Iris’ voice, magnified by either magic or more of her strange technology, carried to Lily’s ears.
Without hesitation, Lily repositioned herself, from behind the <<Serpent>>’s maw, to beside it. The pull of the wires loosened slightly, allowing it to begin to close its maw, but before that could happen…
A single ray of red, concentrated mana lanced through the creature’s open maw, exiting on the other side of its head. The creature went still. A moment passed, then an explosion blanketed the point of impact, blowing the upper jaw cleanly off from the rest of the <<Serpent>>. Its body fell powerlessly into the sea, while its eyes flashed rapidly, before becoming black. Lily released her wires, allowing the <<Serpent>>’s head to fall into the water with a splash. As it did, the still-glowing red jewel detached itself from the rest of the <<Serpent>>, falling a good distance away. As Lily, using the Varia as a means of propulsion, began to head back to the ship, the jewel caught her eye. It was rapidly dissolving, the mana that formed it dissipating, and it gradually disintegrated, exposing the contents within. Lily’s eyes opened in surprise as the exterior of the jewel disappeared to reveal…
…a girl. She looked about Tate’s age, and had pale white skin with pale white hair. She was stark naked, with short, messily cut hair. Her small pink lips slightly open as she stayed in a state of what looked to be deep sleep.
As Lily watched, the rest of the jewel dissolved, and the girl, still unawake, began to slowly sink into the ocean. Alarmed, Lily sent her wires towards the girl, gently wrapping around her and picking her up, slowly bringing to girl up to Lily’s arms. She cradled the body softly in a princess carry, using her wires to confirm the pulse of the girl. As she slowly approached the ship on the Varia, with the girl in her hand, she smiled slightly as she spotted Iris watching her curiously, resting an impossibly large variation of her shooters on her shoulder. Ragneil and Tate were mainly preoccupied with gawking at said shooter.
Lily’s smile changed into a wry one. She seemed to have a penchant for rescuing little girls from giant machines.
A/N: Enter Loli Number Three! In case anyone hasn’t caught on yet, this story is now officially a loli yuri harem \o/
Also I feel like I wrote a lot for what is actually a much less epic battle than the one against the Warden, because really, there’s three of them now.
…and before anyone comments, Ragneil isn’t weak!!! It’s just that the Ancient Civilisation’s warmachines are a bit too ridiculously strong.
And Lily didn’t name this skill because it’s something she came up with on the spur of the moment. I guess she’s probably call it something like <<Extend: Bind – Fishinghook>> or something. And in case anyone wanted to know, ASPMPAMAPAAIGST stands for <<Automated Self Propelled Mana-Plated Anti-Mana Anti-Personnel Anti-Armor Incursion Guardian Snake Type>>.