150 years ago. A single witch had caused a large-scale Akashic Hazard because of which majority of human race was killed. The aftermath of the Akashic Hazard was still ongoing and the non-habitable contaminated area called Sanctuary had spread around the entire world.
The only salvation was that the Sanctuary no longer expanded. Currently, after 150 years humanity was able to restore itself thanks to that.
"............I hate...this city..."
While looking at the neon lights shining vividly, a girl holding a convenience store bag muttered to herself.
On her semi-long hair she had a casket hat. Her height was slightly below average. She wore a woman's jacket, a racy miniskirt and long boots. For some reason, even though it was still autumn, she had a scarf wrapped around her neck.
The girl quickly ran up the stairs of a apartment built around 20 years ago and stopped in front of the doors of the middle room.
She took a key out of her pocket and casually opened the door. Then she took off her shoes with a kicking movement and walked directly to the living room. It was a simple room with nothing but a table and refrigerator in it.
Without switching the lights on the girl had left the convenience store bag on the table and glared at the sliding door in the back.
"...it smells, Haunted."
She called out towards the sliding door and displeased, sat down in the chair.
When she did,
"——Oh? You have come back. I haven't noticed at all."
A man's voice had come from the other side of the sliding door.
The girl remained sitting for a while, after which the sliding door had opened and a single man had appeared.
The man was dressed in a very strange manner.
A butcher's apron used when dismantling meat, a mask and rubber gloves of a surgeon, in his right hand he held a machete and a sawtooth in his left hand. Most likely, the clothing that used to be pure white when first equipped, was now stained with dark red blood.
Clearly uncomfortable, the girl had clicked her tongue.
"Ooh, forgive me for appearing like this. The materials went on a little rampage. Ha ha ha, I'll change now so don't make that face."
"...I don't really mind... I've no intention to stay for long."
The man went "oh", then blinking slightly disappointed, he tossed the mask on his mouth in the trash.
His face was uncovered. He narrowed his eyes, with a big smile and a refreshing expression facing towards the girl. The man's bloodied body was truly mismatched with his good young man's face.
The girl glared at him genuinely disgusted.
He responded to the hostility with just a smile.
"You're quite late aren't you. I was really worried that you might have failed."
"I'm already being marked, how about you understand that."
"That happens. Aww, you have been cooperating with us for a year now... have you gotten used to it yet?"
"...I'm not cooperating with you cause I like it."
The girl once again made an uncomfortable expression and clicked her tongue in response to what the man said.
The man, satisfied after seeing the girl's face distort in chagrin, looked towards the table.
"Has it gone without a hitch?"
"I have properly acquired the fragments."
"I have heard that the school's test platoon had intruded on you, were you all right?"
"......!! Where did you get that info?"
"Whaat, it's not just you who's cooperating with us."
"Disgusting... no problem. My face wasn't seen and no traces of the cult were left. I was being vigilant but..."
"That is most important. It's all right, other members are causing more noticeable incidents. Also, this is too high level to keep secret with just vigilance. Current Inquisition is blinded by peace."
The man said so and glanced at the plastic bag on the table.
"...oh, it seems like you bought me a boxed launch. Sorry for being a bother. Thank you very much."
He said his thanks, grateful from the bottom of his heart and after removing the apron and gloves, he started to greedily devour the lunch on spot.
Very happily he ate the lunch from convenience store.
"Drop the act, you've specifically asked me to buy it..."
"Aww, I'm really fond of this convenience store's lunch, these preservatives and coloring agents are wonderful, truly a taste I'm well acquainted with."
Mmm, he took a deep breath, enjoying the after-taste.
At this sight, the girl's expression had turned very steep.
"Rather than that, what's up with these fragments. What are you going to do with it?"
As the girl asked, the man immersed in eating his lunch had stopped his chopsticks.
He extended them forward until he swallowed what he had in his mouth.
"Yeah. From what I've seen it has no magical power in it and barely any operative procedures remain inside. It's just scrap metal that can't even be used as a converter."
When the girl said that, the man had smiled very happily.
"Kufu, you don't know? It's something that a great legendary person had been using, pieces of a Magical Heritage. You should know him... the boss of those monsters surrounding the table."
"So what, It's worthless debris. A Magical Heritage loses it's value once broken, doesn't it."
"No such thing. I'm a necromancer, an alchemist and a summoner... aren't I? 《Eienherjar》 needs a weapon to fight doesn't he? That's what this fragments are for."
"............you really intend to summon such a thing?"
Seeing the girl anxious, the man made a smile.
After placing the lunch box on the desk, he wiped his mouth with a towel.
"Thanks to your bringing in these fragments we've aligned enough forces. The guy I finished off there was the last one. The custom of cremating people after death is very strong in Japan. The sympathizers have had a hard time collecting the materials. These were mainly procured locally."
"...how many people did you kill for this operation?"
"Around fifty. Don't worry, half of them were just criminals. Of course, we've borrowed as many as possible from the morgue, but as I thought fresh muscles are necessary. To make them move properly it's..."
While the man spoke with a smile and eyes looking like that of a dead fish, the girl turned a gaze full of murderous intent at him.
He only noticed her murderous intent only when he finished talking.
"Oh? What happened? That's a scary expression."
"...if not for consequences, I'd kill you here and now."
It wasn't a lie nor a joke, in a low voice she spat out what she really felt.
Hearing that, the man narrowed his eyes with satisfaction.
"Even if you want to you won't kill me, right? What kind of fate awaits if you kill me... you know that, don't you?"
"Wouldn't that be troublesome? O' daughter of a great witch, Nikaido Mari-san,"
The man spoke the girl's name.
A moment later, he could hear the girl grind her teeth.
"Drop the pointless talk...! Know your place, damn necromancer...!!"
When the girl called Mari tried to grasp the man, something had wriggled by the sliding door in the back.
The girl stopped moving and clenched her teeth.
Pairs of eerily glittering eyes had appeared from the darkness one after another.
Something was there. There was a large amount of something that wasn't alive behind the sliding door.
"It's all right. In the event of the VIP rescue being successful, I intend to accept your request. But if it fails... I'll have you lend me a hand providing information again."
The girl couldn't tell whether he was lying or not.
However, there was a reason because of which she was absolutely unable to go against him.
"The operation shall be carried out openly."
"............make sure to keep your promise."
"Don't involve civilians... was it. No need to worry. Ours, Valhalla's enemy is Inquisition alone. Sacrificing the innocent civilians is against our guidelines."
"We will surely win and eliminate the discrimination and prejudice against the witches. We have battle maidens and heroes on our side. Inquisition's dictatorship won't last much longer."
When the man finished saying that, he gentlemanly placed one hand on his chest and outstretching his left hand he bowed.
"Well then——your blessing, battle maiden."
After the girl left, the man, necromancer Haunted had sat down in the chair and greedily devoured the lunch.
The room had a strong odor filling it, an ordinary human would end up vomiting because of how bloody it was.
However, Haunted nonchalantly ate the lunch in such a situation.
He rest his body weight on the backrest and sipped tea from the cup.
And when he let out a deep breath,
"——Haunted's such a liar."
From the darkness behind the sliding screen sounded voice like a bell.
Moving just his head, Haunted smiled towards the darkness.
"Were you listening? Nacht."
"With that much noise I'll hear it even if I don't want to. I'm in a really bad mood after my sleep was disturbed."
It was a drowsy voice. Judging by the voice itself, it was clear it had belonged to a girl.
Haunted played around with the teacup in his hand as if it was a glass of wine.
"So? Just why am I a liar?"
"What you just told Mari earlier. About responding to her request after it's over, or about not involving civilians."
Ku ku ku, Haunted's mouth distorted and he let out a laughter.
"Indeedly, it was a lie. ...do you know why I lied? Nacht."
Being asked, she responded after a short pause.
"So you don't know, I'll tell you then."
"No, I somewhat kno——"
"The reason why I lied to her... you see."
This guy wants to say it... feeling that, the owner of the voice fell silent.
The next moment Haunted opened his eyes wide,
"——See, it's cause I want to see Mari-chan's frustrated face!"
A bizarre and ecstatic expression of his had burst out.
"That girl's so cute. She grew up persecuted in many ways, so she acts strong but in fact her heart is very feeble. Ahh, I can't bear it. You ought to have such a girl taste shame and humiliation, right? Not physically, but mentally."
"......yup, I thought it was something like that. What a pervert you are."
"You think so too, Nacht?"
"No, I find it difficult to agree."
"You too want to see that girl bit her lower lip in chagrin, right? You want to see her, glaring in my direction with tears in her eyes and bright red face, don't you?"
"No... I said..."
"I see I see I see, so you do, don't you."
...it was pointless to say anything.
"One day I'll tell her... 'you won't ever escape from Valhalla.' AHAHAHAHAHA."
Knowing that Haunted won't stop once he talks like that, the owner of the voice sighed half-resigned.
The voice's owner was full of anxiety on the future.
She still couldn't get it.
This pervert gentleman in front of her who spoke about a very special type of moe was one of the upper echelons of "Valhalla", the only magical association capable of competing with Inquisition. She was still unable to believe the reality she'd rather pretend not to see.
"AHAHAHA-HA——GEHOGEHH!! Gufu-khyu, fuhihihihi!"
A necromancer, alchemist, summoner and to top it off a former priest of the church, a blasphemous human. Valhalla's Haunted.
There was almost no one in the Valhalla who knew his age, real name and upbringing.
"............makes me uneasy."
The existence Haunted had called Nacht.
An S-ranked Magical Heritage, the magical sword "Dáinsleif" felt a physiological discomfort as she watched her owner and muttered.
One week had passed since the operation's success and the 35th platoon's results have dramatically changed for the better. Since securing "Trackless Psalms" they had already seized three D-ranked Magical Heritage. The rumor of the famous Small Fry Platoon getting so many achievements had already reached the members of the other platoons.
With that said, the one being evaluated wasn't the 35th platoon as a whole but Ootori Ouka alone.
The other members were thought of as even more miserable than before.
As Ouka walked down the corridor in which first years' classrooms were lined up, the students' gazes were glued to her.
"Hey look, isn't it that person, the one who joined Small Fry Platoon as part of their special treatment."
"Why is the ex-Dullahan not speaking at all? It's the first time I've seen a real Dullahan."
"All alone she seized three D-rank's, hasn't she? Amazing... as I thought, Dullahans are awesome."
"She's a beauty, has nice style and is strong on top of that. I admire her."
"But why did she have to enter the Small Fry Platoon I wonder. If she came to ours, it would be easy to reach promotion the quota."
"The rumor is that the Small Fry Platoon was so bad, the chairman called a pro to help them out. Inequality, eh?"
"Isn't it, it's a waste of talent to put her with that bunch. Look at that dull bunch, especially the captain! Look at his evil eyes and that sword hanging at his waist! He's absolutely no good!"
"That person, doesn't he have absolutely bad grades outside platoon activities? Seriously."
Behind Ouka walking briskly. Seeing the 35th platoon's trio, the students looked at them enviously and with contempt.
Originally they were used to being quietly laughed at, but it was first time envy was directed at them. It was granted that a completely no-good platoon receiving help from a top-notch helper would be receiving a lot of complaints from other students.
In even worse manner than usual, the platoon members other than Ouka trudged down the hallway.
After the morning classes had ended, Usagi hit the work desk in the platoon's room with both hands as hard as she could.
"What is the meanings of this, how about you explain?! Ootori Ouka!"
Questioned, Ouka who was performing a maintenance of her weapon had tilted her head with a cool expression.
"Your attitude day after day! Are you making fools out of us?!"
"I had no such intention, if I did something rude, I apologize. Sorry."
Seeing Ouka's honest attitude, "kiiiiiiiiihhh" Usagi had further raised a loud scream.
"Do not apologize! I'm telling you to explain!"
"I said, about what?"
"Why aren't you letting us participate in the investigation?! Always act selfishly and bring back Magical Heritages on your own! We're completely losing our face here!"
"Isn't that fine. You can get the points you wanted but couldn't get without doing anything. What are you dissatisfied about?"
"We do not want a automatic point-making machine! Do you even know how miserable do we feel because of your one-man play?!"
"If you guys want to work, do it by yourselves. I'm fine alone."
Ouka has been like that the entire time since the "Trackless Psalms" incident.
It was no wonder Usagi was angry. Even Takeru still wasn't convinced by it, but "how about it?" he wondered.
Usagi's face was so red it seemed like steam would come out from her head, it seemed like she would grasp Ouka's collar at any moment.
"Such an insult... it is the first time since I was born...!! Who do you think you are?!"
Takeru stopped Usagi who was about to rush at her. He tried to appease the unruly horse by rubbing her back.
"Quit it. Whatever you say to this woman is a waste. She's interested only in her own goals."
Ikaruga, who for some reason was indulged in reading an erotic magazine on top of the maintenance desk said to Usagi.
In response to these words Ouka quietly sighed.
"I'll say this, this is the best way for you 35th platoon to go about."
"Hee, the best way for us? Let's hear it. Just how did you think to come up with such conclusion."
Ikaruga put the book down, crossed her arms and smiling fearlessly inquired.
"...in that case I'll state this clearly."
Said so, put her favorite gun down and stood up.
All the members have raised their faces.
The gazes had gathered on Ouka and the room had become dead silent.
Ouka had indifferently spat out the following words.
"Your best choice is to do nothing."
Ikaruga squinted, Usagi stood up wanting to say something. And as a expected, even Takeru frowned.
"What... do you mean?"
"I mean you should not dispatch. Simply put, with your abilities if you involve yourself with organizations and cults dealing with Magical Heritages, you will very likely die."
"Wha... what a thing to say."
"If I'm alone the success rate and survival rate is higher."
"First, Saionji. There's a fatal flaw to your sniping. A sniper often becomes a cornerstone of a mission. The vanguard believes in your cover as it acts in hostile territory. And yet, because of your catastrophic stage fright you shoot in a completely wrong direction and ended up accidentally taking down an ally. I don't want to leave my back to such a person. If possible, I don't want you to hold a rifle ever again."
Tears have appeared in chagrined Usagi's eyes.
Next, Ouka looked at Ikaruga.
"Suginami, you too. I acknowledge your maintenance skills. It's amazing as usual. However, you're remodeling too much. Don't go modifying my favorite gun arbitrarily. Don't add full auto in it. Don't go making it possible to fire powerful ammunition. They're clearly illegal modifications."
...so she did that.
Takeru didn't use guns so he didn't know that, but he was still amazed.
"The powerful ammo isn't a problem right? I've properly made it strong enough that it doesn't decompose from the recoil."
"Instead of making it so it doesn't decompose try mitigating the recoil. And what kind of excuse do you have for making full auto?"
"It can fire a barrage?"
"The magazine only holds nine rounds. Test platoons aren't allowed to use anything other than the goods from the Alchemist Corporation. The parts used in the modification were clearly ordered from the outside. "
"It's compensation for romance. You can tolerate that much——"
Ikaruga's romance was pretty twisted, she had pouted with a "boo". Ouka decided it's no use to say anything else, she pulled the chair back and soundlessly stood up.
Then she moved towards Takeru, who was standing right next to a greatly shaken up Usagi, and she looked directly at him.
"For the last... Kusanagi."
She pointed out the faults of the other two emotionlessly, with just Takeru alone it was different.
Takeru on top of the chair had stretched his back and soundly swallowed saliva. It was because disgust was clearly visible on Ouka's face.
"You shouldn't continue to be the captain. What I just told those two, should have come out of your mouth instead. Do you want your team members to die?"
She was right. He really had no way to respond.
Takeru too was aware of that point. But could he act bossy towards his subordinates despite his own lack of skill? He always ended being nervous about that, he felt very miserable.
"Or maybe you don't want to act bossy because you are no better?"
He was seen through completely.
"...that's what disqualifies you from being a captain."
A smile of contempt and harsh words.
He had nothing to say in response. Someone like him who couldn't do even that, didn't have the mental attitude to become captain from the start.
It wasn't self-depreciation, that's what Takeru thought about the current situation.
"............that's true, maybe."
When Takeru said that, having his usual stomach pain,
For some reason, Ouka's hair stood up on its ends and she opened her eyes wide.
Her expression had become even more steep.
"You're not qualified to become an inquisitor...!"
Revealing her fury, Ouka closed on Takeru and strongly grasped his jacket.
Unable to react to her sudden action, he was pulled to her without doing anything.
"I've heard from Chairman about your motivation. It seems like you're aiming for the job for money, aren't you...you snob...have some shame! "
"Don't think you can judge evil out of your selfish interests... how about you realize Inquisition is rotting because of bastards like you!"
Takeru fell silent.
Momentarily, his vision was stained red and it seemed like he would return to his old self.
You have no right to say that to me.
What do you know about me?
What do you know——about us?!
He felt like saying that, but put up with it.
Looking at the surface alone, it couldn't be helped it'll be taken in this way. Ouka knew nothing about Takeru. Conversely, Takeru knew nothing about Ouka either.
That's why he endured it. Endured and swallowed it.
"You've aligned quite a few opinions there, but do you have the right to say that?"
That's when Ikaruga, sitting in the chair said so.
"Since you're saying Kusanagi isn't qualified, how about you? In the first place, Ootori, haven't you come back to the academy because your inquisitor's qualifications were stripped of you?"
Quietly, indifferently, Ikaruga accused Ouka.
Being told that by Ikaruga, Ouka fell silent and faced downwards.
"I know all about it. What inquisitors call you among one another."
" 《Calamity》 . Killing criminals on your own accord even when not ordered to, like a plague turning every scene into a sea of blood, they say. That's not an opinion someone from the top would end up with."
"...you... investigated me without permission."
"That's not something you can accuse others of, can you. I just imitated you exploring Kusanagi's motives."
Ouka spoke, then swallowed her words. Her strongly clenched fist had made a loud sound.
In the end she did not refute Ikaruga. She just quietly closed her eyes and turned around on her heel.
"As for myself, I have no intention of denying. But I didn't lie about the platoon's activities nor have any intention to withdraw it. As it is Kusanagi is clearly disqualified from being the captain.."
Ouka switched her feelings, turning back to normal.
Turning her back towards them, she walked to the exit.
"Same for the others. My prediction that you all will die is correct. I'll pass on falling down together with you."
" " "............" " "
"That's all I wanted to say."
Leaving those words behind, Ouka left the room.
......the room fell silent and an awkward atmosphere had filled it.
"...that damn super meritocrat. Does she believe in nothing but herself?"
"Well, what she pointed out was roughly correct."
"About that, it seemed like she was extra thorny when it came to you Kusanagi. Did you do anything to her?"
The event from a week ago had passed through Takeru's head.
Recalling the softness filling his hand, he blushed.
Ikaruga stared at Takeru's face intently, then put a mint-flavored candy that was lying on the work desk into her mouth and looked up at the rooms ceiling.
"...this perverted brat."
He looked at Ikaruga with a startled expression. Could it be, since the wireless' switch was on that she heard everything that happened in there, he wondered.
Takeru's shoulders slumped.
"Her reaction against criminals and witches is clearly abnormal from what I heard. She clearly holds hatred for them."
"So you really did investigate her... so you were looking for a way to get along with her as well, huh."
"No, I thought of looking for her weaknesses."
Takeru instantly reproached himself for looking at Ikaruga in a different light.
"But it didn't take long. Her 《Calamity》 nickname is quite famous. Her number of arrested criminals and confiscated Magical Heritages is a big deal, but to a surprising extent there's a huge number of people shot dead."
"Probably, it's about something that happened in the past I guess."
Not interested in it though, she added and sucked on a mint chupa-chups.
A huge number of people shot dead. Takeru too, happened to know something of it. In the "Trackless Psalms" incident the other day he had become aware of Ouka's dangerousness.
『"...I'll exterminate you. You bastards, witches too... everything...!"』
Certainly, hatred did dwell in these words.
Honestly, since she was a comrade from the same platoon it would be a lie to say he wasn't worried.
"That fellow, she was always alone. Because of her creepy behavior no one wanted to work with her, even when they invited her privately to join her, she always responded with NO . There was some reason... or maybe her personality is just bankrupt. Anyway, what's certain that her personality is poor."
" "............" "
"? Why are you two looking at me?"
" "You're not one to talk!" "
As the two spoke in unison, whaat, Ikaruga added and pouted with a mint candy in her mouth.
Since the atmosphere calmed down quite a bit, Usagi who was being timid during the quarrel with Ouka——she was vulnerable to unexpected fights——had outstretched her back arrogantly and had entered the conversation.
"Good grief, that woman is just dishonest! Why can she not do it better?!"
"...? What's that about, Usagi?"
"It is about Ootori Ouka. There is a limit to being clumsy. She should say what she feels more honestly."
"Hmm... you know something about her?"
How about you tell us, he asked Usagi beside her.
Usagi snorted and puffed her chest grandly.
"Of course I do. I am a model maiden after all."
"It's simple. Listen, okay? That woman has no friends and can't help wanting to join us, but since she's clumsy and cannot do it she got obsessed with you who is the captain 'I am superior to you so let me be your comrade', exuding a roundabout aura like that to make you invite her! She acts strong but just can't be honest, that is definitely it. That woman has absolutely no friends you see."
"It rather looked to me like she bluntly refused that."
"Therefore——Ootori Ouka is definitely lonesome!"
"Fufufun", how about it? Making an expression saying just that, Usagi puffed her chest proudly.
Coincidentally, at this time Takeru and Ikaruga had the same impression.
" "Isn't that about you?" "
And the two voiced their impression.
"Whaa?! Are you saying I seem lonely?!"
"You didn't have a single acquaintance in middle school, left out and lonely, it was written on your face."
"I-I w-wasn't really... lonely or anything!"
"But that matches the fact you haven't had a single friend.."
"I wonder if bunnies really die when they're lonely〜?"
"Nguhhaaa Suginami Ikarugaaa!!"
Steaming, Usagi had lunged at Ikaruga, but was held by the head at a distance she was unable to reach.
In the noisy platoon room Takeru wondered what to do next.
What Ouka said was correct. If she works all alone, she'll earn points.
However, that would make the platoon lose its meaning. It could be said that it was a wrong choice as the captain.
To act like a captain... what Ootori said was reasonable, I need to think seriously about the platoon's future.
Involuntarily, he made a wry smile.
...to be somehow acknowledged as the comrade from the same platoon, huh.
Helping each other, if they could cooperate it would lead to overall improvement of their abilities. Previously, they were unable to cooperate. But since they had Ouka in their platoon, her abilities alone were added.
Like this, even without cooperating, just by interacting together with her they could surely produce a good result.
"...to make her our comrade. At this rate, it'll turn real bad."
Takeru muttered to himself, then stood up from the chair.
He quietly put both his hands on the work table and closed his eyes.
After coming this far, I can finally use the knowledge I got from the books I read, it won't go to waste. Takeru roused himself in his mind.
"——I have a proposal."
When Takeru opened his eyes, in his expression dwelled self-confidence and sense of mission.
A few minutes later. The three had clung to the wall by the cafeteria's entrance and peeked inside.
They looked inside with a scope, observing something intently. From the rear they looked like perverts. The students passing by whispered to each other commenting on it.
The three had ignored their gazes and monitored the appearance of their target, Ootori Ouka.
"...as expected, she's eating alone."
"The lunch menu? What's her lunch menu?"
Ouka was sitting alone in the seat by the window, her expression was a grumpy one.
And placed on top of the table was...
"...anpan and milk... Why anpan and milk?!"
"Anpan and milk... that fellow is just like Kusanagi."
"What! Don't make fun of anpan and milk! It's super tasty! It costs only 160 yen including milk! It's tasty and easy on the wallet; the strongest combination!"
" "You're too loud!" "
Takeru who couldn't stay silent because of his extraordinary obsession on the point of anpan and milk combo had lowered his head, protesting.
They continued to observe Ouka.
She had opened the milk bottle's lid, took out the anpan from the bag and stopped moving. Then suddenly, she looked around restlessly at full alert.
The three hid in a hurry.
"Why is she so vigilant during a meal?"
"...there's something for sure."
"T-there is something special about anpan and milk...?"
They waited until she lowered her guard before appearing again. Even though she was just eating a meal, why was she being so tense.
The three of loudly swallowed saliva as Ouka finally brought anpan to her mouth.
And then... *mofunn*
"She's eating." "She is eating." "Eating."
She was just eating an anpan, but the three's hands started sweating. Their strange gestures had attracted gaze from surroundings.
Continuing, Ouka reached out for the milk bottle and drank a mouthful of it.
A moment later
Ouka's grumpy expression melted like ice.
" " "............" " "
Seeing a very cute expression she made that didn't match her, the three were at a loss for words. It looked like the expression one makes right after entering a hot spring, a genuinely relaxed look on one's face.
Moreover, it was just for an instant. Her expression returned to the original one, holding the anpan strongly.
"〜〜〜〜♪ *(*mofu mofu*)."
Again, it had broke off, then turned gloomy. When they looked closely, they noticed she was faintly flailing her legs as she carried anpan to her mouth.
The three haven't seen a scene like this before, where someone's expression could change so much.
"...it's her big favorite, that one."
"S...she is so clumsy, she does not hide her joy at all."
"She... might be unexpectedly normal."
Takeru and Usagi were too shocked by the difference from her everyday self to comment. Ikaruga was grinning like crazy and repeatedly took pictures with the camera.
"Ufu, ufufufufu, I-I can use this! I can use this in many ways against that prideful woman. W-ww-with this weakness here, what k-k-k-kk-kind of c-cosplay should I make her wear."
"Hey, what are you taking pictures for? Come on, we're going back!"
"A-anpanman after all?! A heroine whose only friends are her gun and courage?! Who do I pick?! What if there are problems with copyright, what do I do Kusanagi?!"
"Don't go berserk here, let's go already!"
Grasping Ikaruga by her neck as she panted heavily, the three had ran away from the spot in a hurry.
............an hour and a half later.
"...certainly, I've accepted your proposal, and won't pull out of it but.. couldn't it be more like... wasn't there something else?"
Ikaruga who held scissors and origami in her hands spoke with displeasure by the platoon's work desk.
Even though she complained, her hands didn't rest. Folding origami four-fold, she soundly cut it along the line. The monotonous work during which she connected the ring-shaped pieces with glue to form a chain had continued for roughly an hour already.
The decorations Ikaruga made were hung all over the platoon room. A white curtain was hung from the ceiling and on it "Small Fry Platoon☆ New Member Welcome Party" was written with shabby handwriting.
It was the pinnacle of masochism to label themselves the Small Fry Platoon on their own.
"Yeah! with this Ootori should open her heart to us a bit!"
"That's an elementary schooler's idea.."
"But in this 'How to Bond with Your New Employees' book, it's written that a welcoming party is very effective!"
Truly, an amateur's shallow cleverness. Ikaruga squinted and glared at Takeru.
"Do you think that brazen woman will be pleased with this?"
"We won't know until we try, right?"
"Incorrigibly clumsy... as expected of the friendless platoon's captain."
"............well I don't have any."
"I don't have any either."
Even as she condemned Takeru with an appalled expression, Ikaruga's skill wasn't bad. One could say - as expected of the aspiring Reginn, she had dexterous fingers.
"Even though you say that Suginami, you're properly helping out."
"It's captain's order. I'll do it. Also, while we don't get along with Ootori, her skill is real. I can understand why are you so stubborn about it."
Even though Ikaruga didn't acknowledge Ouka as a person, she seemed to acknowledge her skill. With soft expression Takeru scratched his cheek
"Well, that might not be all the reason."
"It's someone you fell for after all."
"Have you fallen for the girl who gave you an opportunity to change, boy?"
"I'm saying that's not it, it's just something I want to do as a comrade..."
As Takeru tried to deny, Usagi had scurried over from the direction of the kitchenette.
"I'm done, Kusanagi! It is satisfactory even if I do say so myself!"
Holding a dish with a large short cake on top of it in both of her hands and cream on her cheek, Usagi stood in front of Takeru, making a confident expression. Even though she was reluctant to put on the apron provided by Ikaruga, which had a rabbit pattern on it, it has suited her very well.
"Usagi, so you really can cook."
"I learned it from my grandmother when I was a child. Look, it's a short cake with red bean paste filling and cream."
Fufufun, as Usagi puffed up her chest, Ikaruga made a questioning look.
"Red bean paste and cream? Is that tasty...?"
"Hmph... rather than complain, try it yourself. This will win over that woman with ease."
She held small dishes that had portions for tasting which she held out to Takeru and Ikaruga.
Ikaruga was acting as if it was poison, but the two tasted a mouthful.
As they chewed and munched it, a surprised expression had gradually started to appear on their faces.
"...oh? It's delicious, how unexpected."
"Really, it's super tasty. Usagi, don't you really have a talent for it?."
Hearing Ikaruga's honest impression, receiving Takeru's praise, Usagi started blinking astounded. Even though she was confident earlier, a blush had appeared on her cheeks and her line of sight had wandered downwards.
"I am not really pleased with you calling my name... but to be praised like this... I di-didn't expect that."
"No no, it's really tasty. You're amazin', Usagi. I can't do anything outside of my swordsmanship so I respect you a lot."
"...i-is that so. So it is tasty. T-that is great. If people eating are happy then really... it was worth making it."
Although embarrassed, she seemed very happy. In order to cool off her flushed cheeks she put a hand on them and smiled, facing downwards.
Feeling as if her figure had overlapped with his little sister's, Takeru almost unconsciously pat Usagi's head.
But, that's when,
Along with a knock the door had soundly opened, making everyone turn around.
Takeru hurriedly passed crackers lying on the table to the other two.
Completely empty sounds were let out and the timing all three crackers were popped was completely different.
Ouka who had entered showed a slightly surprised look, then displeased shook off coloured paper that covered her hair.
The air inside the room froze.
"...what is this?"
She glared at them with a fierce look.
Even so, despite his face twitching, Takeru made a cramped smile and,
"S-see... we've prepared your welcome——"
And there,Takeru noticed the state Ouka was in. Her uniform was stained with blood and dirt, not just her clothes, her own body was also full of grazes and scratches.
"...you, what are those injuries?!"
"An enemy showed just a bit of resistance. Entering combat isn't something uncommon. I successfully secured a Magical Heritage. There's no problem."
"No problem... aren't you bleeding lots?! Wait, right there."
"Rather than that, what kind of situation is this?"
Narrowing her eyes, Ouka spat these words with slight anger.
Looking through each member, she ended it by glaring strongly at Takeru.
"...a party during platoon activity time. You sure do whatever you want, captain."
"No, this, we hosted it for you..."
"......? F-for me?"
"You see, we still haven't done one yet, right? A welcome party for you."
Then, for the first time Ouka had noticed the curtain hanging from the ceiling.
For a moment she displayed a confused expression.
"We don't know much about you, and you hardly know anything about us either do you?"
"So I thought we should deepen our camaraderie first."
As Takeru made a smile close to what a wry one, Ouka seemed slightly troubled. Her gaze wandered and she didn't know how to respond.
But gradually, a shadow appeared on her face and she breathed in lightly raising her face with her usual cold expression.
"...sorry, I don't have that much free time. You guys can do as you like."
"No, don't say that. Suginami made decorations for your sake, Usagi made you a short cake with red bean paste and cream for you. I... honestly wasn't helpful, but think of what the other two did."
"I have no intention of getting along with you. Also, unlike you... I didn't enter Inquisition to play."
After saying that much, Ouka once again opened the entrance's doors and went outside.
The expression he saw on her face from the profile wasn't necessarily an angry or one full of contempt, it somehow... looked lonely to him.
Takeru grabbed the first aid kit and jumped out of the platoon's room to follow after Ouka's back.
After finding her again, Takeru called out to her and approached in a hurry.
Ouka stopped moving in annoyance and turned around.
"Where are you going?"
"That has nothing to do with you."
"Wait a moment, that's a terrible injury. At least let me perform first aid."
Ouka's left leg was bleeding considerably. It was painfully scrapped as if she had gotten into a traffic accident. Despite that, Ouka didn't intend to cover up her leg and once again started to walk briskly.
"I can do that much myself. I told you before, it has nothing to do with you."
"It does, you're a member of the same platoon and I'm your captain."
"...acting like a captain only at a time like this..."
She coldly glared at him.
But this time, Takeru didn't withdraw.
"Indeed. It's captain's orders. Let me treat you quietly."
Unusually forceful, Takeru protruded the first aid in front of himself.
As Takeru in front of her acted oddly strong, she let out a slightly troubled sigh.
After having Ouka sit on the bench in the courtyard, he took out disinfectant, gauze and bandage from the first aid box.
Without any prior notice, Takeru had gently touched Ouka's leg,
"? What is it?"
"N...nothing, if you're doing it... then hurry up. The time's pressing."
Turning away with slightly red cheeks, Ouka ordered Takeru.
In order to see the wound clearly, first, Takeru washed the blood away with water.
"Good, the injury is not that serious despite all the blood."
"I told you it's not a big deal haven't I. I moved so it bled more than it should have."
"But it would be better to find a doctor or a 《Seelie》 . A scar might remain afterwards."
"That's nothing to worry about, I've had many injuries like this before."
Being told that, Takeru ended up staring intently at Ouka's legs.
"......!! What are you staring at so much..."
"Ah no... I just thought you have quite beautiful legs."
When he spoke directly what he thought, Ouka's face flared up with red.
"Yeah, beautiful enough to make me stare."
"You can't tell at the first glance but, your muscles are flexible and the balance isn't off. They're almost perfect."
"...o-ohh. So that's what you mean."
"? What else could I mean?"
"I-it's nothing. Shut up and finish it."
Ouka looked away blushing, Takeru tilted his neck.
It wasn't that Takeru had no interest in the womanly beauty of Ouka's legs nor that he was insensitive. He just had directed all his nerves towards the first aid and had completely abandoned worldly thoughts. Otherwise, clumsy Takeru would end up worsening the wound with crazy hand movements.
He carefully sprayed the wound with disinfectant.
"Sorry, did it hurt?"
"It's fine. I'm used to pain."
"Haha, you sure say strange things."
"? What are you calling strange??"
"From my own experience, I know that you can't get used to pain. You can only bear it, but what hurts, hurts. Those who cry in pain when it hurts feel lesser mental burden. You could call it the little of knowledge I have? "
Laughing a bit proudly, Takeru continued treatment.
Ouka considered Takeru's words. This man says strange things, is what her expression said as she squinted.
To cry out in pain when it's painful.
These words seemed to lodge themselves in her heart a little.
Until the first aid was finished, somewhat uncomfortable, Ouka's gaze wandered all over.
"All right. It's done."
Takeru clapped his hands, wiped away the sweat from his brows and said so.
Ouka narrowed her eyes and looked at her own leg.
Her leg was wrapped with a crazy amount of bandage which ended up looking like a big lump.
"...I feel like my mobility has fallen significantly."
"A-a-haha... I guess you already knew, but I'm really clumsy"
Scratching his head, Takeru made a good-natured expression and smiled wryly.
After seeing his innocent expression, she gave up on saying things like "it would be better if I did it myself" and was unable to blame him.
Ouka touched the awkwardly bandaged wound on her leg, and stood up with a perplexed expression.
"...I-I won't thank you. it's something you did decided to do yourself."
"You don't have to. We're comrades, isn't it normal to do this?"
Displeased by the word "comrades", Ouka left Takeru and started walking
"Hey, wait. Where are you going?"
Takeru messily dropped the bandage and disinfectant in the first aid box, hurrying to keep up with Ouka.
"Platoon activity. I'm going to resolve another case."
"With your leg like that? It's better to stop... or at least include the platoon in it."
"No can do. The ones I'm chasing are too dangerous for you guys. It's even bigger deal than the case from the other day."
"...even more of a reason not to let you go. What are you chasing, Ootori? A Magical Heritage? Or maybe a witch?"
"None of your business."
"It is, I'm your captain."
Brandishing his authority as the captain again, Takeru forcibly pressed on.
Ouka was clearly irritated, but after being treated by him she was unable to deny him strongly.
Reluctantly, she stopped her legs and turned towards Takeru.
"...do you remember the 'Trackless Psalms' case?"
"It hasn't been resolved yet."
Being told that, Takeru recalled that was certainly the case.
When they rushed in, they missed the person who looked like the trading partner.
"There's too many mysteries about that bunch. They were armed too well to be mere mafia members and after interrogating them, there's no doubt that the 'Trackless Psalms' wasn't the main goods they traded."
"Can it be, that you got a hold of information on the buyer?"
"No, I haven't gotten that far yet. Even though I was given priority for interrogating the people I caught, I haven't gotten much useful information. However, I have gotten a hold of details on the goods traded. It seemed to be fragments of a Magical Heritage. The only thing that could be identified from the fragments was the blade, so it should have the form of a sword."
"Fragments... doesn't a Magical Heritage lose its value when its destroyed, because the operative procedure is also destroyed?"
"Indeed. They were trading something that supposedly had no value, for a large sum. That means the other party was unlikely to be a trader or a collector."
As Takeru was full of questions for a while already, Ouka openly made an irritated expression.
"What would an amateur do with a fragment. The possibility of the trading partner being a member of the magical society is considerably high."
"A m-magic society... a collective of witches and sorcerers? Do these kind of anachronistic organizations exist these days?"
Since I stick to using my sword I shouldn't be saying that I guess, Takeru thought. In the modern times witches are being administered and it was extremely difficult for them to form and act as a faction.
However, as if to say she's not joking, Ouka squinted.
"《Valhalla》. It's mainly shrouded in mysteries, but that magic society undeniably exists."
Takeru heard that name before. It had appeared among the rumors floating around the school, it's a collective said to be an urban legend. According to the rumor, witches and sorcerers that have survived the war teamed up and work together in order to overthrow the Inquisition or something.
If that was to be real, it would be outrageous. It was unknown if the modern weapons could compete with the witches of old. Between the modern and the past days, the witches were overwhelmingly more powerful in the past. There were many witches capable of using magic of a level that allowed them to fire volleys that could erase a city in an instant.
"Recently, strange incidents happen one after another. Since neither witches nor Magical Heritages were involved investigation was handed over to the police, but I don't think they are right. Those guys are gathering and trading corpses in exchange for money. The only ones that would purchase corpses, are witches."
"But... is it related with that case from before?"
"That's right, the client asked that bunch for them. 'We will buy any fresh corpses as well' they said."
Takeru involuntarily gasped. Although it was still premature to assume the other party was 《Valhalla》 with just these similarities, certainly he could see how was it connected to the case of "Trackless Psalms".
He had no idea what was the criminals' goals, but normally thinking,
"I think they are preparing for something. Whether it's 《Valhalla》 or not, the involvement of witches and Magical Heritages is clear. Right now, I'm going to the cult's meeting place I was anonymously tipped of."
"Can it be, that lately you've been investigating that corpse-collecting group alone?"
"Yeah, the seized Magical Heritages were a by-product of it."
What an aggressive woman... Takeru thought once again.
"That should be enough. Now that you know, you can go back to the platoon's room to flirt."
"Nono, wait. If the opponent is 《Valhalla》 and witches, then doesn't it exceed of what students can deal with? Shouldn't you report the information you obtained to Dullahan?"
"Hmph... the Dullahan bunch is working on an entire pile of unrelated cases. And they won't properly take it up. When I took care of it as Dullahan, all I got in response whenever I reported was that it's under police's jurisdiction. Even alone I can resolve this case."
As she said so, a dim light had dwelled in Ouka's pupils, she clenched her fist.
From the way she spoke, it seemed like she was investigating this matter before she was fired. In her eyes something like tenacity could be seen, but Takeru didn't think that was it.
It was deep, deep grief.
Very similar to hatred...
"...understand now? The people I'm chasing are too heavy for you guys, Inquisition won't recognize them as a target for point acquisition. There's no merit in this investigation for you as you're aiming to acquire points... don't come."
Even if you come you'll just get in the way, the way she said that hinted she was worried about the members' safety.
Ouka walked away briskly.
Takeru felt like stopping there. However, knowing that Ouka was going to involve herself with something that dangerous and letting her go alone, would disqualify him from being the captain.
"I'll be going with you."
"Why you ask... there's no way I can let someone this hurt go off alone. Since you won't listen when I tell you to stop, I'll go with you."
Ouka furrowed her eyebrows, slightly annoyed.
"...I said the injury is not a problem."
"Even if you're not bothered with it, it's going to dull your movements during an emergency."
"No such thing will happen to me. In the first place, it doesn't hurt at all."
"Even if you endure it, it must hurt."
"I'm told you, it doesn't hurt."
"It definitely hurts."
"It doesn't hurt."
"Is that something a sore loser should be saying?"
Seeing Takeru not budge an inch, Ouka made a honestly fed up expression.
In the end, the one who gave in was Ouka.
After Takeru and Ouka finished the first aid, they prepared the equipment and have arrived at the site.
Takeru proposed they invite Usagi and Ikaruga, but it was rejected by Ouka. He wanted to tell her she's stubborn, but she said that they are going enter confined spaces and it was better to go with a small number of people this time, which convinced Takeru.
The location was a relatively large prefabricated hut in the harbor of what once was called Tokyo Bay.
The relatively large prefab was standing alone on the grass near the container yard. It was relatively large, standing in the middle of the grass by the container yard.
From looks alone, the hut looked like it was deserted, but there were many strange things about it. Unlike it's beat-up appearance, just the door and the locks alone were new. Also, the chains were coiled around the padlock several times.
It was clear there were signs of people in here.
Takeru and Ouka stood on door's sides, checking up on the lock.
After confirming that it couldn't be opened normally, Ouka pulled out a sawed-off shotgun from the holster on her back
She tried to give it to Takeru. You destroy the lock, is what it meant.
"............*shake* *shake* *shake*!"
Ouka didn't know about Takeru prowess in handling guns that was close to being a curse. In all seriousness, in the worst case scenario he could even hit Ouka.
She made a genuinely disappointed expression, took distance from the door and raised the shotgun.
A deafening gunshot resounded. The lock was blown off and the door was opened.
Takeru immediately kicked the door wide open.
"Idiot, I should rus——"
Ouka tried to stop Takeru, in that instant.
——*piin*, a sound of something being pulled had reached them.
Being called out to, Takeru turned around.
What he saw, was Ouka's figure suddenly embrace him.
Being hit by something that was more like a tackle than an embrace, unable to receive it Takeru had fallen over.
Momentarily, a girl's distinct scent had tickled his nose. Their lips nearly overlapped, making him gasp.
His consciousness was almost overtaken by desire, immediately after, a tremendous roar came from behind the door he was about to rush into.
As he coughed in the smoke, Takeru understood what happened.
"N-no way... a trap?!"
"Stand! They'll run away!"
Before Takeru even noticed, Ouka's figure ran behind the prefab.
When he immediately chased after her, he saw a black van that had just started its engine and started to drive off. It was prepared so that they were able to escape at any time when the trap had gone off
"Damn it... we're too late."
As the van continued to grow smaller, Takeru scowled.
"No, not yet."
Ouka changed the magazine in her gun to live ammunition and poised on knee.
And then, she fired three times in succession, the barrel oddly jumping upwards.
The van that was already as small as a pea.
"As expected it's impossi——"
Just as Takeru spoke, the small-looking van in the distance started to sway. It had directly hit a container nearby and fell upside down. It seemed like all bullets shot by Ouka hit the van's tires.
"............you must be joking."
"It's made really well... but the recoil is nasty."
Ouka said so as she pulled the magazine out of the gun, then stood up with a cool expression.
Even though it was partially thanks to Ikaruga's specially-made gun and ammunition, the enemy's escape route being in a straight line and that there was no wind, with a handgun that had a recoil like that to shoot a tire of a car so far away, her skill was beyond amazing.
Takeru was dumbfounded, unable to believe what happened in front of him.
"Kusanagi, secure the guys in the car. I will check the building."
"...g-got it. Thanks for saving me earl——"
"Don't thank me, hurry up!"
Being yelled at, Takeru ran over to the fleeing car.
He no longer knew which one of them was the captain.
Takeru handcuffed the three men who had lost consciousness in the van, then quickly returned to the hut, entering from the door in the back.
After reaching it, he entered through the door in the back.
Immediately after entering, he noticed an abnormality inside.
A strange smell. A nauseating odor like that of blood.
Remaining wary, Takeru moved through the hut's corridor. His legs carried him in the direction smell was coming from.
At the end of the corridor, there was a room that was probably a bedroom. Behind the wide-opened door, he found Ouka.
Holding his nose, he peeked into her face.
With eyes wide open, Ouka's movements stopped completely.
Takeru tried to say something, but then.
As the intensity of the odor couldn't be compared to how it was earlier, he involuntarily held his nose.
The scent of blood felt as if it had pierced his eyes. Takeru somehow endured what welled up from his stomach and grasped the situation inside the room.
——Inside, there was hell.
Packed in plastic bags, were countless human parts. Hands and legs, heads and torsos. Split in five, there were countless human parts packed the bags segregated by body part.
However, the problem didn't lie there.
Unconsciously, he spilled something like a wail.
The curtain was being swayed by wind blowing through the window. The evening sunlight had entered the room through cream-colored curtains.
The surface of the wall was covered with copious amounts of blood that had splashed over it.
And in the middle of that hell, on top of the bed slept a young child.
The center of the child's chest was pierced with a knife.
Takeru squinted with a chagrin and bit his lip.
The help that comes in the nick of time like in films or dramas was mostly impossible in reality. The probability of rescue coming just in time was equal nearly to none. He knew that. When he had decided to join Inquisition, to an extent he was prepared to see such a scene.
Yes, he was prepared.
But this... was too much.
It was too real.
Ouka had stretched out a trembling hand towards the boy who had become cold.
With unsteady hands she raised the boy's body and hugged him like hugging a baby.
"...I'm sorry...I was too late."
It was a trembling, gentle voice.
"It must've been hard. It must've hurt...but you no longer have to suffer..."
Hugging the boy's dead body. Ouka stroked his cheek.
"Sorry... It's all right now. Onee-chan... will shoulder all of it..."
Takeru couldn't keep looking at this scene, full of affection and incredibly sad.
It was too sad, miserable.
"Onee-chan will... all of it."
"All of it...!!"
That's why, he was slightly late to notice the abnormality in Ouka.
When he looked away, using that opportunity Ouka had put the boy down and pulled out the shotgun on her back.
He had no idea what was she doing for a moment, but when he saw her back as she turned away, he understood.
There were no anesthesia bullets for a shotgun. It was loaded with lethal mithril bullets.
Ouka intended to kill the three inside the car.
As she tried to leave the room and head towards the criminals, Takeru had pounced after her and grasped to hold her back.
"What are you doing!"
"Stop it, you can't! If you kill those bastards here, there'll be no 'again' for you!"
"Stop! If you kill them, everything will be for naught!"
Frantic, Ouka tried to escape Takeru's constraint. Her cheeks wet with tears, murderous intent in her eyes, she screamed.
He desperately hugged her, lowering her gun.
"——I won't let you! Didn't you become an inquisitor to stop people from ending up like this child?! Isn't that right?!"
"I don't know you but... that's definitely it, right?! If you screw up here, you won't be able to save people you normally would...!"
"Are you fine with that?!"
Takeru's voice had probably reached her at last and she had stopped struggling.
She fell on her knees, dropping her gun.
Then, Ouka put a hand on her mouth, vomited and lost consciousness on spot.
A cemetery in a place far away from the bustle of the city.
Because there was a beautiful park full of autumn leaves nearby, it was considerably busy during the day.
The voices of children playing in the park. Lovers exchanging kisses.
In this place, their happiness seemed mysteriously distant.
Here, in the open there was just sorrow. That's the impression the visitors had.
Ouka squat down in front of a single grave, she was staring at the tombstone for roughly an hour.
Standing, Takeru watched her back as she remained like that.
After the incident, Takeru had contacted the Inquisition, calling Seelie troop and Spriggans. After briefly reporting to them, he intended to take Ouka to the hospital.
However, Ouka declined the offer and came to this place alone.
Takeru, not wanting to leave her alone had walked behind her, until now.
"...about earlier, sorry, I lost composure."
With her back still turned towards him, Ouka spoke.
"Why did you come with me?"
"Because I was worried, obviously."
An immediate answer. Ouka's hair swayed in silence as she looked towards him.
A fragile voice. It was completely different from Ouka's usual dignified and clear voice.
He was unable to take off his eyes from the fleeting expression he hadn't seen on Ouka before. When he saw her sleepy, somehow fatigued appearance, an inexplicable urge to hug her had struck Takeru.
"That'd be... cause I'm your captain."
"Despite everything, I want us to become comrades. I-is that bad?"
"There's no way you'd like a person like me to be your comrade."
Denying Takeru's answer, Ouka faced forward again.
"...you've become disillusioned haven't you."
"Disillusioned? By what?"
"With my outrage earlier. Honestly, weren't you taken aback?"
"...I wasn't taken aback, but I was surprised."
Hearing Takeru's honest answer, a wry smile leaked on Ouka's face.
"I think you know it already... it's absolutely no good. When I'm in front of an atrocious enemy, blood rushes to my head. I forget myself and I squeeze the trigger, executing them. Especially if it's criminals who sacrifice the children."
"《Crimson Princess》... good grief, that nickname really fits me."
The cases she was involved in all ended up with crimson sea of blood.
That's why 《Crimson Princess》.
But, from what Ouka said, he felt like she didn't behave in that manner because she wanted to. Surely, Ouka had carried too much of something inside of her.
"With that as the reason, I was fired from Inquisition. In fact, I'm not in a position to blame you guys either. I'm even more defective than you are."
Ouka said that along with a sigh, took out anpan and milk she had bought in the convenience store on the way, put it down as an offering on the tomb in front of her and joined her hands together.
Once again silence had taken over.
"...this tomb, is it your family's?"
"...it's my parents... and little sister's tomb."
"So you had a sister."
"Yes. I had one."
Ouka poked the milk bottle with a finger.
"...my little sister loved it; anpan with milk."
Her voice unsteady, Ouka said so with nostalgia.
It was the first time Takeru heard Ouka speak so gently.
"Even though I told her such thing can't be delicious... 'Eat it, eat it'... she asked me to try it time after time."
Takeru listened in silence. Not making any sounds, he just focused on listening.
"I was stubborn, I refused many times saying I don't want to. When I did, every time she puffed her cheeks angrily saying 'even though it's so tasty', like a kid, right? Because it was delicious for her, it must be delicious for others, that's how she thought."
"............in the end, I didn't eat it a single time while my little sister was still alive."
"Even though... it's so delicious."
Suddenly, Ouka's hand poking the milk bottle was lowered.
Her sunset hair was swept by the wind, dancing in the cold air.
While watching Ouka's small back, Takeru lowered his gaze.
I need to ask, he thought. If he averts his eyes here, surely, Ouka will once again walk alone. He couldn't help but think so.
"...can it be, that your family was..."
The words he tried to use were stuck in his throat and wouldn't come out.
At a time like this, he couldn't make himself step into Ouka's darkness. Takeru felt he was being pathetic.
But, before Takeru took that step,
"Yeah... that's right."
Ouka stood up and turned around vigorously.
And as if thrusting it at him,
"My family was killed by a witch."
As if to cast it off, Ouka spoke of her darkness.
Ouka was an orphan.
It seemed like when she was a baby, she was discarded in a garbage dump along with her real mother's corpse.
She didn't seem able to open up her heart in the orphanage and was said to be a quiet child who hasn't spoken at all.
The ones who took such a girl in were Ouka's foster parents, now dead.
A cheerful father, a gentle mother.
And a cute little sister.
Ouka's frozen heart had gradually melted as she interacted with family.
But, one day.
Suddenly, a witch came to their home.
『"——Now, kill your dad and mom."』
It was an incredibly gentle, eerie voice.
『"——If you do it, you'll save your precious little sister's life."』
It was something that happened when Ouka finally grown familiar with the family and the time she called her foster parents with "father" and "mother".
Why was it Ouka's house, it was unknown.
The witch had come to their house and held out a knife to Ouka.
And said to her.
If you kill your father and mother, you'll save your little sister's life.
Ouka cried not wanting to. She screamed she doesn't want to kill. But the witch didn't allow it. The witch's body trembled with delight and joy, giggling.
She didn't know what to do. She didn't want to kill her dad and mom. But if she didn't, her precious little sister... she would lose her little sister that always smiled when was with her.
Ouka's heart was torn apart. She become a mere, crying doll.
Unable to hold the knife any longer, she tried to let go of it with her fingers.
That's when, father and mother, as if to embrace Ouka, have stabbed the knife into their chests.
——It's all right...
She felt the disappearing warmth of her father and mother's skin.
While listening to their gentle voices.
——Take care of your... little sister.
『"You did your best... but it's a shame."』
The witch laughed.
『"You were too slow... time is out."』
The witch laughed.
Loudly. Happily. Joyfully. The witch had spread despair.
Ouka felt something depriving her body of freedom. Her legs moved on their own and she had approached the little sister that sat on the floor.
Her consciousness was clear.
The feeling of the knife in her hand.
——I'm scared, Onee-chan.
Her little sister's frightened voice.
——Save me... Onee-chan.
The feeling of cutting her little sister apart.
Retaining her consciousness clearly, Ouka has cut her beloved little sister into pieces.
She wanted to scream, but couldn't. She wanted to cry, but no tears have come out.
Her body didn't listen to her. Her heart shattered like glass. She wanted to end her life right away.
That's right, she wished for it.
In the end, the witch ordered Ouka.
『" Laugh "』
The meat on her cheek convulsed, her mouth forcibly drew an arc.
And in a loud, husky and sorrowful voice.
Ouka, in front of the death of her beloved family,
Had been forced to laugh.
...gruesome, is all he could call it.
Ouka's darkness. Ouka's truth. Her reason to fight. The reason this girl lost control.
It was all too sad.
"I've had everything taken away from me by a witch. I won't forgive that witch. And..."
A dark flame had dwelled inside her pupils, she directed murderous intent at a witch that was elsewhere.
Stopping in middle of the sentence, Ouka stared at her palm.
She squinted and very bitterly, she squeezed her fist.
"...I, I won't forgive it. I will exterminate witches all of my life, I vowed to do so for the sake of their victims. That's what I've lived for until now. From now on as well... until I die."
"That's my everything."
After she finished speaking, Ouka stared at Takeru as if glaring, then suddenly narrowed her eyes and smiled wryly.
"Now you understand. I'm just going to cause you trouble. In the same manner, others get in the way of my revenge."
Ouka placed a hand on her chest and spoke to Takeru apologetically.
"I'm already broken. My going out of control is unstoppable. That's why, leave me alone already."
"I won't become your comrade."
With a clear voice and a clear look in her eyes,
Staring straight at Takeru, Ouka has...
No, that's not it..
Takeru denied Ouka's words.
What he saw two years ago. The image of absolutely strong opponent with sunset hair.
For Takeru, that was the existence that had gave him a chance to change
The person herself who has stopped him.
In the past, Takeru too just like Ouka had rushed forward fueled by hatred. In the past, Takeru too, was broken in the same way Ouka was.
But, he was able to stop. In the wake of his defeat, he was able to turn back.
That's why he denied.
"You will become a comrade."
Takeru denied her loneliness.
"I won't deny your revenge. But a life of only revenge, is too sad no matter how you look at it."
"...even if it's sad, it has to be done."
"I know. I won't stop you from doing it. I won't say pretty words like 'nothing comes out of revenge'."
"But in exchange."
Puzzled, Ouka tilted her head slightly.
Staring straight at Ouka, Takeru pointed at himself with a thumb.
"——Let me carry half of the burden."
With these words, Ouka's facial expressions disappeared.
Carry? Just what did he mean by that?
"I said I'm going to help you. You and I together, let's go all out and judge evil witches. Take revenge for your family. How about it?"
Ouka was speechless.
As if to say she didn't understand.
"Exactly what I said."
Seeing Takeru say that with a straight face, Ouka had finally exploded with anger.
"Don't get carried away! Why would someone unrelated like you help me with revenge?!"
"I told you, because I think of us as of comrades."
Takeru said while tilting his head.
Ouka placed her hand on the forehead as if she had a headache and staggered.
"S-still... how did that turn into helping me...!!"
"There's a limit to being shameless! There's a limit to meddling! My revenge belongs only to me!"
"I'm not stealing it from you. Two is better than one, right? Simple calculation. Even a monkey would understand. That's why even I can understand."
"Ughh?!...nonono! As if I'd involve you with my revenge...!!"
"I don't mind it at all?"
"I do mind it!"
Takeru made a seriously troubled face and tilted his neck again.
Ouka's words didn't get through to him, her irritation coming from the fact it wouldn't turn into a proper conversation was angrily pointed at Takeru.
"What the hell you're saying...! You trample over other's circumstances! Comrades? That's not a reason to involve yourself with someone else's revenge!!"
She said so, her shoulders raising roughly as she breathed in.
While breathing heavily as well, Takeru stared straight at Ouka.
"Not just because we're comrades. There's one more, a reason because of which I want to help you."
"Because you seem in pain."
Ouka was taken aback from surprise, she made an expression that said she didn't understand anything.
"Haa?! I'm not in pai——"
"Then, why are you crying?"
"Aren't you crying now. A lot of tears are pooling in your eyes."
"It's been like that since we visited the grave."
For the first time, Ouka had touched her own cheek.
Seeing the tear clinging to her fingertips, she was at a loss for words.
"Tears come together with pain. There's no need to bear with it."
"You don't have to bear with it any longer, Ootori."
He spoke to the stunned Ouka in a gentle voice.
Helping with revenge. Actually, it was just Takeru's ego. He had no intention of denying that.
Still, Takeru was unable to leave it like that.
"I won't let you stay alone for any longer."
He could no longer let go of the crying girl in front of him.
"Not as your captain. As a human being called Kusanagi Takeru, I will walk by your side."
When her revenge is over, having no one by her side would be too sad.
That's why, he thought it would be good if she had another person walk the thorny road together with her.
"No, I'll have you let me walk beside. From now on, we'll cry together, suffer together... and stubbornly, fight together."
If there's no one else, he had to do it by himself,
When they get tired, it would be fine if they rest on each other's shoulders.
Even I should be able to do that much, he thought.
With drops of water spilling from her eyes, Ouka stood in daze.
To be dependent on someone... me...? So the revenge for my family... is painful...?
I won't admit it. I won't admit it. I cannot acknowledge it. If I do that, I'll end up moving on. I'll end up troubling unrelated people.
Ouka wiped her tears and looked at Takeru.
These tears are a lie. They're from her real feelings. She showed a strong look like that.
"Ha...haha, help me with what... ridiculous. What can you even do with your strength."
"...so you're still saying things like that... certainly, my strength may not be that great. But it should be enough to stop your tears."
"S-shut up! I'm not crying! You haven't acquired a single Magical Heritage nor arrested a single witch so far... what use is there of you?! Someone like you who can't do anything but swordsmanship... I... I don't need someone like that!"
"Mere swordsmanship won't be of any use for my revenge!!"
Ouka spoke thoughtlessly. Even though she wasn't bothered about fighting strength, she pushed Takeru away.
She had certainly pushed him away.
"...okaay, I get it."
Had instead lit a fire in Takeru.
Or it could be restated that she had stepped on it.
On Takeru's land mine.
"If you say so, it can't be helped."
As Takeru's tone of voice changed, Ouka raised her face with stunned expression.
He slowly touched the sword at his waist and pulled it out all at once.
Reflecting the sunlight, the sword's blade shone brilliantly.
In that light, stood a demon laughing fearlessly.
"What results do I need to let you help me? A B-rank Magical Heritage? A-rank? or maybe an S-rank?"
"......? W-what... are you saying?"
"Fine, I don't care which one it is. I'll prove it to you. Whether its B, A, S or SS. I'll gather them all up and send them back, just you look."
"Prepare yourself, Ootori Ouka."
With a confident expression, like a demon he declared that.
Ouka didn't know. She hasn't seen it, so she didn't know
For this man, Kusanagi Takeru, calling swordsmanship useless was a taboo.
Once he ends up like this, he can't be stopped.
Since it had come to this, Ouka could only give up.
She could only let Takeru support her revenge.
"M〜〜mm, wonderful weather. It would be nice to spend such a day holed up in a room and work hard at surfing the net, looking at erotic images. 2D ones——you think so too, right, Nacht?"
"I said, I don't think so."
Feeling the cool autumn wind with his entire body, the necromancer Haunted had said something unhealthy while stretching grandly. The black garments have fit his refreshing face to an unpleasant extent and his behavior was inexplicably mysterious.
The sword that was hanging on his waist, Nacht, had brushed off his words seeking consent. As If I'd let myself be lumped together with such pervert, she thought.
The location they were in was on top of a major company's rooftop. Standing on top of the heliport circle drawn on the roof, Haunted overlooked the city below.
"It's really calm, this is a really different sight from when I was alive. Nobody is starving, nobody is scared. The word 'peace' refers to a sight like this, doesn't it."
Deeply emotional, he followed the people in the city with his gaze.
"A scenery like this isn't bad. It does calm your mind. Elementary students' smiles, middle school girls flashing their bras, high school girl's miniskirts... I believe it's all precious."
Nacht threw a quiet insult at him.
Not noticing that, Haunted closed his eyes and spread his arms wide.
His appearance could be called sorrowful, as if he froze with a empty hole in the center of his chest. A sad look.
"But... however. This place is lacking something crucial to people... it's lacking what's indispensable to humans beings... that's right, if I were to name it."
Haunted extended his spread arms towards the heaven, tears appeared in his eyes.
"——There's no love!!!"
He slammed the palm of his hand into the center of the heliport with all his might.
Momentarily, on the brand-new heliport appeared a reddish-brown circle. It was huge and circular, covering the entire roof. Haunted knelt in the center, pulled cross-knife from his waist and has stabbed his palm with abandon.
Again and again.
"No tomorrow!! No hope!! No craving!! No despair!! No screams!! There's no madness of gushing blood and dancing meat!! People living in such penance that is this false peace should entertain themselves, continue seeking enjoyment!!"
A copious amount of blood had flowed from his hand full of holes. The blood didn't spread on the roof but had drawn a mysterious pattern instead.
The circle of light was propagated further by the blood, continuing to form an enormous magic circle.
"Now show it... show me, children of peace... the end of this peaceful era... pull up the curtains of comfort..."
After completing the magic, Haunted had sought the sky, his expression drowning in joy.
Whether it's was coincidence or not, from between the clouds in the sky, light poured down straight at him.
He once again touched the center of the magic circle with his fingertips and closed his eyes, taking out a thick book from his pocket. The book turbulent winds had opened the book and soundly flapped the pages.
【"Time had cometh. The deceased stained carrion, bestowed with blood clot of female goat. With the song of victory sung three times, thou shalt not stop pace of thy march. There is no glory ahead of here, there is no fall. But if thou wish f'r triumphant return, respond——the battle maidens art calling."】
After Haunted finished the chant, he opened his eyes wide and released the magical power in his body towards the magic circle through his fingertip.
The roof's concrete surface waved like water, it was accompanied by lightning. Increasingly, the lightning had become huge and flew in the sky like dragons, lighting it up.
And it had come forth, the variant messenger. That variant's huge body had crawled out from the liquefied floor.
With loud and imposing, metallic sounds the huge body had knelt on spot.
In front of the wordless variant, "Yup." Haunted had nodded with satisfaction.
"Now then... let's give you some work. The target is AntiMagic Academy, the forbidden area the witches that had sinned are being held."
"Rescue the 《Valhalla》's VIP that has been captured and is being held there."
Taking sound footsteps, he approached the summoned variant and hit it with his fist.
"Well then, do your best. Mr. world's most famous hero."
The screams and fumes after explosions have rose up from the city soon afterwards.
Seeing explosions and smoke raise from the distant town center, both Takeru and Ouka on the cemetery were horrified.
The ground below them vibrated slightly.
Their whole bodies stiffened, they have looked towards the city together.
At the same time, the wristwatch-type device sounded an alarm. This alarm meant there an emergency meeting of the Inquisition's entirety and not only the school. There probably weren't many people who had heard this alarm before.
The reason for it, was because it had last sounded 20 years ago.
Explosions and screams sounded in the distance. Their number increased at eerily fast pace.
Because of the huge difference between this calm park and the distant tragedy, it was so unrealistic Takeru stood rooted on spot.
Everyone in the park had reacted in the same way he did.
Among them, Ouka alone had a grasp on the situation and looked over the urgent matters on the stereoscopic display device.
Her expression cramped instantly and she shut her mouth tight.
Ouka had turned around to look at horrified Takeru.
And the girl who had lived on by nourishing herself with revenge spoke just one word.
The screams and explosions were further gaining in the momentum.
Valhalla (ヴァルハラ) - It's written as "Fantasy Cult" (幻想教団) and read as "Valhalla", a reference to a location in Nordic mythology.
Calamity (カラミティ) - It's written as "Crimson Princess" or "Crimson Lotus Princess" (紅蓮姫) and read as "Calamity".