'No plan survives first contact with the enemy'
Aoba Suzamiya had heard that somewhere before. It was probably something she learned from school or a video game. She never thought she'd ever have to make use of it herself.
An eruption of dirt less than a foot away from her head, a shower of displaced mud pelting down on her. She was huddled in the bottom of a ditch, the wet earth seeping through the back of her clothes and running down her spine with an unsettling chill. The unfamiliar cold press of the metal rifle in her arms proved little comfort she wondered how she was ever-
"Hey, kiddo" Aoba felt a sharp slap against her shoulder, probably harder than had been strictly necessary. "Don't go to sleep on me now, I need you here"
That was right, she was one of the only few left. They'd lost Hifumi in the initial ambush. Hajime had to practically drag Aoba to follow her, her delay leaving her open to the inevitable attack. Despite the fray she had been determined to save at least one of her team. Aoba thought she saw Yun behind her but when she looked back she was already on the ground. She was drawing the enemies' attention, she was protecting the others.
That was how they found themselves here, crouched together in a ditch, the irregular eruption of dirt a lingering reminder that they were still out there waiting for their chance.
"Kou, we've lost over half our team" Rin said, sitting on the other side of Kou Yagami, their defacto leader in crisis. She could hardly recognise her two senior teammates dressed head to toe in camouflage gear and helmets.
Kou simply turned to Rin and returned the same upbeat smile she always seemed to manage no matter the situation. How exactly she could keep that up at a time like this was beyond Aoba's understanding.
"I assume that smirk means you have a plan?" Rin asked, having known Kou the longest in the team she had developed a seemingly uncanny sense for when she was up to something.
"Just watch this" seemingly as brazenly as she thought possible Kou stood up from her crouch, rifle raised and unleashed a burst of fire over the lip of the hole towards the enemy position. "Hey bozos, you want a piece of-"
A single shot struck the centre of her chest. Despite her size Kou fell to the ground with barely a flutter and without a sound.
Aoba and Rin called out together "Kou!"
'Inhale, count to four, exhale'
Ahagon Umiko readjusted her grip on her rifle as she peered through the scope at the open valley laid out before her. Her enemies starting point lay atop the peak at the far side of the valley to match her own. Dividing them was valley pockmarked with depressions, trenches and manmade emplacements.
She'd taken the strategy used by the great General Oda Nobunaga when faced with the Battle of Okehazama and adapted it to her needs. When faced with superior enemy numbers, employ a bold offensive strategy of positioning and unconventional tactics and see if numbers matter then. Some would argue that her enemies relative lack of experience negated the need for such a strategy, but Umiko was never one to leave things to chance.
To that end, instead of charging straight into the fray like an overeager rookie she'd remained at her elevated position where her long rifle would prove most effective. From there, she could support the rest of her team as they'd ambushed the enemy when they had begun to ascend their side of the valley. The resulting losses had forced her enemy into the cover of a deep hole at the base of the valley. The loss of stragglers and martyrs along the way only further sealed the fate of those few who remained.
With Kou, the only one amongst them who could pose a credible threat, now out of the way all that remained was to deal with the ones left in that hole before her team could declare victory. Yet despite the flawless execution of her plan so far Umiko knew that an entrenched and desperate enemy could still pose a threat if given the opportunity. Peppering their position with irregular rifle fire was concerned more with keeping them from moving rather than actually removing anyone from the fight. Catching Kou out in the open was merely a stroke of bravado induced luck.
As Umiko kept the enemy pinned the rest of her squad advanced through their blind spot preparing to take action. The net had been closed, it was time to catch some fish.
Rin cradled Kou in her arms like a mother to her child, fighting to stifle her weeping cries. The round had hit Kou in the chest, she wasn't going any further.
"Rin" Kou wheezed through quivering lips. "I'm not… I'm not going to make it"
"Kou" Rin pleaded. "You have to-"
Kou reached out to grasp Rins arm tightly. "Rin, there's something I need to say to you"
Rin leant closer to meet her lips, Kou whispering her final words before finally succumbing and falling to the ground beneath her.
Rins expression changed in an instant. Without hesitation Rin grabbed her discarded rifle and charged over the cusp of the hole to face down what awaited her. What she faced was Nene, Tsubane and Momiji, each armed with the same standard issue rifle waiting for her.
Nene was the first to react. Her weapon fired but her panicked shot went wide, barely missing Tsubane standing next to her. Tsubane turned to chastise her teammate for her near fatal error. The confusion allowed Rin a clear shot at Momiji, she fell without a sound. Before Tsubane could turn to react, she fell in quick succession.
Rin turned her attention to Nene, her rifle raised and prepared to fire. Nene fumbled, her last retaliatory volley went wide. Rin fired again, her shot didn't miss.
The adrenaline of the moment left her body. Rin felt her body turn heavy as the overwhelming force of the moment struck her. She had no defence as the shot emerged to strike her down, falling to the ground with only a soft cry lost to the wind.
Umiko shifted her aim as she allowed herself a muted curse after being forced to watch the whole frightful display through her rifle scope. It seems she could always count on a team of amateurs to mess up a perfectly good plan. Still, perhaps it had been a mistake to shoot Kou first, no matter how much of a target she insisted on making herself. People were known to be driven to incredible acts of bravery at the thought of avenging those closest to them. But so long as Umiko could trust her counting, never a certainty on the battlefield, that meant that there was only herself and Aoba left.
Scanning the terrain through her scope she saw something crest the top of the ditch. It looked like, tails?
A sudden burst of fire striking just to her right forced Umiko from her perch into cover. Aside from her rifle she had only her pistol for close range protection, practically useless at this distance. It only now began to dawn upon her that she had allowed her pride to get the better of her. She should have kept moving, let them guess where the next shot would come from. Instead she had maintained her position, she had been sloppy.
Umiko pulled herself back into position and once more searched the valley below for her target. Aoba would have a multitude of cover on her approach up the hill. She was small and fast, she could be almost anywhere by now. Umiko considered firing off a shot simply to coax Aoba into panicking and revealing herself. But she was down to only a handful of rounds, she couldn't afford to waste them.
Some have said that you never hear the shot which kills you. That seemed to be the case for Umiko as her thoughts were silenced by a loud bang and a sudden pain in her back.
Aobas entire body was shaking uncontrollably, she'd never felt like this before. The adrenaline that had been sustaining her fled her body in an instant. Umiko lay on the ground in front of her. She'd shot her, shot her without even giving her a chance to react. An ear-splitting siren erupted across the open valley. It was over. The Art team had won over the Programming Team in the first Eagle Jump Airsoft tournament, held at an airsoft range in the forest just outside Tokyo.
Umiko opened her eyes, rising from her deathless slumber. She had her arms across Aobas shoulders before the shorter girl could even react. "I knew it, I knew you were the one!" tightened her hug with Aoba in a rare outpouring of emotion, practically on the verge of tears. "I didn't even see you coming, you were an absolute master of stealth!"
Kou, ever the dramatic, refused to release herself from her fatal lapse until her heroic act of sacrifice had been sufficiently chewed for all its worth. Hazuki and Cristina, who had been observing from the spectator area, came over to assist.
"What's the matter with Kou?" Cristina asked.
"She's just being dramatic" Rin clarified.
"I think she's in immediate need of need of resuscitation" Hazuki was quick to start work on Kou's jumpsuit even before she had finished.
"You don't need to take peoples clothes off to do CPR" Rin objected.
"Doesn't hurt to be thorough" the production of a pair of clothing shears assured those around her that Hazuki would not be dissuaded from her course of action.
"Not fair" Nene interjected as she approached the victorious team. "You guys only won because you had way more people than we did"
"You had Umiko" Yun countered fiercly. "She's worth like ten regular people"
"She's still only one person" Nene persisted.
"She brought her own sniper rifle!" Yun was quick to reassert.
Eager to diffuse the growing situation Aoba interjected, swiftly changing the subject at hand. "So, what was it like for you Nene?"
"Umiko made us cover ourselves in this, stuff" Nene indicated the constellation of black, green and brown which had been smeared apparently at random across her cream coloured face peeking out from beneath. "I feel so, unclean"
"I think this calls for some refreshment" Hazuki called to her assembled employees. "Who'll join me for a trip to the public baths?"
A resounding cheer was everyone's reply.
As the rest of the team moved off to get changed Kou appeared at Aobas side to give her teammate a friendly nudge. It seemed that Kou had managed to escape Hazuki's attempts at medical intervention unscathed.
"You did pretty good out there, Aoba" Kou assured her.
"A lot of it was down to Rin" Aoba admitted modestly. "What did you say to her to make her run off like that?"
"Oh, that" Kou seemed suddenly less enthusiastic. "I, kind of told her if we won she could dress me up however she wanted" Kou leant in closer, a distinct undertone of bitterness in her voice. "I didn't think we'd actually win"
"Kou" Rin called out, beckoning Kou over to her.
Kou allowed a defeated sigh to escape her lips. "To the victor go her spoils"