Leaving Takeru behind, Ouka dashed in the school's direction.
Screams have sounded from all over the city. It was easy for Ouka to determine what was the enemy.
The variants rampaged in the city. They looked humanoid, were skin-colored and extended long tongues. They had no eyes or noses, the only thing they possessed were ears and big gaping mouth.
Necromancers. Filthy witches specializing in summoning spirits, who use earthen puppets and corpses as soldiers.
These variants were without a doubt corpses. She could tell by the putrid smell and their behavior. Necromancers manipulating corpses often seal organs not necessary to fulfill the purpose. The reason for that, is said to be because corpses retaining all five senses have a sense of self.
Since eyes and nose were sealed, they used auditory sense.
It was much more troublesome than vision. The enemy has expected the city residents would run away screaming loudly.
"——I'm an inquisitor! Try not to make any sounds as much as possible! If you scream you'll be assaulted! Try not to make any sounds!"
Ouka's voice was drowned in everyone's screams and didn't reach everyone.
"The Spriggans aren't here yet...!?"
After hurrying to the intersection Ouka stopped her legs, pulled out the gun in the middle of the escaping mob and directed it into the sky. She fired several bullets one after another. By doing so, she had the corpses change their target to herself.
The corpses had saliva hanging down from their mouths, they lowered their bodies and assaulted her. Judging from their bodily abilities, the material was definitely still fresh.
Ouka's pupils were dyed with anger.
At the same time as she roared, Ouka pulled out a spare gun from the holster.
With all the hatred she had for the necromancer, she poised the handgun horizontally and shot a corpse. When her bullets ran out, she jumped and hit it with a powerful roundhouse kick.
The enemy didn't seem to go down. Ouka switched between her legs and retaining the momentum she had dropped her body low, kicking upwards. Meanwhile she discarded a gun and pulled out a magazine attached to the gun belt on her thigh, reloading.
Until her attacks have stopped, she was like a storm showering enemy with bullets and kicks.
All the corpses going rampant at the intersection were wiped out in no time. Ouka replaced the magazine again and without lowering her guard, she looked at her surroundings.
There was no one there. The corpses' bodily functions stopped and the only thing that remained were corpses of the victims.
The enemy had gotten up again, raising groans as if they were suffering.
It wasn't the corpses Ouka had taken down. It were the corpses of the victims that had risen.
The nasty thing about necromancers, was their magical power's contagiousness. People bitten by those monsters called corpse-devourer demons, become the very same corpse-devourer demons.
A scene like that from a B-grade horror film had spread around Ouka.
When she once again was about to enter battle readiness.
From behind her, along with gunfire bullets have swept down on the corpses
The reinforcements, inquisitors from the "Spriggan" have finally arrived. Armed with the newest models of Dragoon and assault motorcycles they moved in front of Ouka.
The inquisitor leading them had stopped the engine of the motorcycle and stopped in front of her.
"A student from a test platoon, huh. This place's fine now, hurry up and return to school."
The man who looked like a captain blurted that out after coming so late.
Ouka was tempted to complain to him, but instead asked a few questions to grasp the current situation.
"The alarm has been sounded, so besides Spriggan, Dullahan should also have been dispatched, right? Where are they?"
"No clue. We received orders to get rid of the Corpse Devourers from the city, that's all."
The inquisitor got off from his motorcycle and holding a gun in his hand he gave instructions to his subordinates. He didn't seem concerned with Ouka.
"The enemy isn't just the necromancer and the Corpse Devourers. There wouldn't be any explosion with just this much. Just what is going on here?"
"No idea. But one of my subordinates has come in contact with it. From what he said..."
After he finished giving orders, raising his gun, he turned with his back to Ouka.
As he was leaving, he left behind these words.
"——It seems like an 《Einherjar》 appeared."
Hero. That word turned Ouka speechless.
——The AntiMagic Academy chairman's room.
Overlooking the hectic school grounds from the window, Sougetsu turned on the radio device the desk was equipped with.
"So, how does it look like?"
《"We have been contacted by the Spriggans in the front. Or rather, we're hearing their screams of agony, would you like to hear it?"》
*bshht*. The sound signalized the communication switch and a terrible noise had entered Sougetsu's ears. it took some time to recognize a person's voice mixed in among the screams.
《"This is the eighth Spriggan squad! Enemy isn't just Corpse-Devouring Demons! I repeat! Enemy isn't just Corpse Devourers! Send support immediate——"》
Right after that, a scream sounded.
The communication was switched again, this time there was a sound of building collapsing and a faint breathing.
《"Quickly...requesting Dullahan's...support. Anti-magic...firearms...aren't working. We think enemy is...a product of summoning magic..an 《Einherjar》. ...he...uses a Magical Heritage..."》
《"I saw...its...intrinsic magic. Eleven...knights...at once...that hero is...surely......———"》
A ringing sound. As if something was charging.
The inquisitor words could no longer be heard and the next moment, the communication was disrupted by a roar.
Sougetsu stood with eyes wide open, frozen stiff.
《"That, was the last communication from Spriggan troops. Next I'll display on the monitor."》
The person he was speaking with, the secretary had displayed an image on the monitor built into the glass window.
Displayed on it was an image of something like a giant wearing a golden armor... an artificially-created monster that looked like a mechanical doll.
《"What do you think, Chairman?"》
"...yeah, there's no doubt. The body seems different, but the enemy's an Einherjar. Moreover, a really powerful one."
After saying "hero", Sougetsu shuddered.
—— 《Einherjar》 ——
A magical organism that had been considered by Inquisition as something of the past.
It was a certain summoning magic that had been used by the enemy witches in Witch-Hunt War era.
Among the high-level summoning magic, exist three impossible to use in the current era.
《Hero Summoning》, 《Legend Summoning》, 《Myth Summoning》.
One of them, the Hero Summoning, was a magic used once 150 years ago. Even among witches it was a treated as a forbidden, heretical magic.
In the past magical organisms were rampant all over the world, it was an era where magic was treated as something natural. It was an era where many warriors holding power comparable to gods have existed. Their feats of valor were handed down after their death and remained in the modern as the stories of heroes.
During the war, the cornered witches revived and used them to further their outrage. This summoning could only be used at expanse of tens of thousands innocent lives, which resulted with many precious lives being lost.
It wasn't magic that could be used by ordinary people. And yet, it was once again revived in the modern times.
Sougetsu's shoulders trembled... from laughter.
"——Kukuku, kuhahahaha! To think they'd pull out something like a Hero again! Just how in hell did Valhalla summon that thing I wonder!"
There was no report recently that would imply tens of thousands dying.
Having no idea what method did they use, Sougetsu held his belly and laughed.
"...nice, so nostalgic, it's getting interesting. I wonder if they're going to start it again, a war where a ridiculous amounts of people are going to die ."
Madness dwelled inside Sougetsu's eyes.
The secretary with whom he was speaking seemed to be confused.
《"...umm, Chairman, what are we going to do? While it's slow, the hero is heading straight for the academy."》
"Their aim is the tower with sealed Magical Heritages... no, it's area witches are held in, I guess... well, what to do. Against a hero, Spriggans are quite lacking in power..."
That's when Sougetsu narrowed his eyes, making his usual smile like that of a Cheshire cat.
"Ahh... that's right. There is one, a fellow perfect for this. I see, now that I think of it... it's a good opportunity to for that fellow to awaken."
"We'll have a broadcast to all the students. Connect my microphone to all the speakers within the grounds."
《"Y-yes. Is it going to be evacuation orders?"》
As the confused secretary asked, "Evacuation? Don't say such foolish things!" Sougetsu answered wildly.
"We don't want to shave off such a fighting potential. We've got them, right? So much human resources we could build a wall! "
Hearing Sougetsu's response, the secretary had realized what he was trying to do.
《"Chairman, that's too much!! We should immediately give permission for Relic Eaters usage and dispatch Dullahans!"》
"Of course, I'll dispatch them. But I'll dispatch the Dullahan bunch only in case it gets out of hand. What, it's just one hero. High ranking witches are much more scary. With Relic Eaters they would easily smash it."
《"Then why... why is there a need to use the students?! They aren't regular inquisitors yet, right?!"》
The secretary's screams didn't reach Sougetsu.
"...well theen, I wonder if he'll properly contract with her."
There was no longer anyone who could stop his laughter.
"Damn it! That Ootori... leaving me and going off alone like that!"
Takeru borrowed a bicycle that was lying on the road and headed towards the school with all he had.
It was only his guess, but Ouka had headed in the direction witch was in. In other words, where the explosions were occurring.
Since the explosions were slowly moving towards the school, inevitably Takeru had gotten on the road to school.
"...I've got a bad feeling."
He couldn't let Ouka head towards the witch alone like that. That's the feeling he had.
It seemed like something would happen that cannot be undone, an eerie impatience hurried Takeru.
"Don't die, Ootori...!"
Scattering droplets of sweat, Takeru rushed to the place smoke was raising from.
The crowd was already gone. Glad there was no people, Takeru rushed with the bicycle through the shopping mall, taking a short cut. The Spriggans must have already evacuated the civilians from the combat zone. Therefore, the mall was empty.
When left the residential area and rushed through the big shopping hall on a bicycle, suddenly four naked people have come out jumping from a corner with children's clothes.
Takeru pressed brakes and stopped at verge of crashing into them.
He tried to apologize in a hurry, but immediately realized the enemy wasn't human. Heck, its obviously strange that they're naked, he retorted to himself.
Takeru confronted the eye and noseless monsters and hurriedly got off the bicycle.
Monsters have suddenly jumped at him from all directions. They were either hiding in the stores or feasting on flesh.
"...these guys are...!"
Corpse-Devouring Demons, he didn't say these words, instead Takeru had sharpened his senses and clenched the sword's handle.
Front, left, right and from behind, one each. All of them closed on him with the same timing.
He was at an overwhelming disadvantage.
Now wasn't time to hesitate.
After understanding the enemy wasn't human, Takeru allowed the blood of his family boil in him.
To begin with, the Kusanagi-style's originally wasn't something made for fighting against other people.
That's why it could be said, this situation was perfect for Takeru.
For him, it was an ideal battlefield.
Takeru shifted the sheath attached to his waist towards his back, then twisted his body and pulled out the sword at the same time.
Kusanagi's Double-Edged style——《Single Wheel》. A sword-drawing skill that could be called heretical even among other heretical skills. He slid the sheath up to his coccyx and clenched the sheath with his left hand. And then he released the twisted upper body, matching the rotation of his hips he pulled out the sword all at once, drawing a circle.
It was technique people of the Kusanagi household once used during a siege, it was only effective against large numbers of enemy attacking and was an unusual in swordsmanship wide-range attack.
It reached 180 degrees in front. Then, without losing the momentum with sword in front, he withdrew his held out leg, swinging behind him to intercept. What he required was timing, strong hips and above all, an ability to nullify the strain on his lower body.
He released the strain without thinking, that was the Double-Edged style's irregular technique. Even though he had trained it, the burden on the waist was large and there was a chance it could miss the target. However, the Kusanagi-style had achieved 100% hit rate while bearing that burden.
Takeru took down four Corpse-Devouring Demons within one breath, stopped the momentum of the technique with his legs and sheathed the sword.
"Are these guys familiars? Their flesh is fragile like a human's but... these numbers."
As he looked around, he felt as if he was being surrounded by a pack of wolves. The Corpse Devourers have appeared from all over the mall.
He judged that it would be reckless for him to challenge the witch alone. If they were manipulating this many corpses, then it wasn't an opponent for a mere student.
However, he can't do anything at all unless he breaks through.
Whether he was to chase after Ouka or to rejoin his comrades.
"——Even if you used to be humans, I'm not nice enough to show mercy!!"
Takeru dropped his body low and kicked off the floor. He moved forward bent to an unbelievable extent. On the very verge of falling over, Takeru sprinted through the mall.
"You're in the way!!"
Going in the direction of a corpse devourer ahead, he released a slash from a sheath. Meanwhile, his legs didn't stop. The attacks released from 《Battle Driving》, a running technique handed down the Kusanagi-style had no basics the footwork was. Since he slashed while being bent forward to the limit, his entire body weight was always behind the slashes, it was more like he crushed his enemies this way rather than cut them down as he headed towards his objective.
A single point breakthrough. Since he slashed time after time using his entire body, he should be afraid of the counter, but people who have mastered Kusanagi-style had trained themselves so that they could move their upper and lower bodies independently. No matter how his legs moved, his upper body was always undisturbed and flexible.
Moreover, having unintelligent monsters as his opponents was very convenient.
It was because Kusanagi Double-Edged style was the swordsmanship that had gone against this low level magic.
Takeru crushed the attacking Corpse Devourers and broke through the mall like a fierce tiger.
He finally started to see the way out. He had only glanced at it as he ran, but couldn't find any signs of people. The enemy had senses Takeru's movements through their auditory sense and have all come rushing at Takeru, at the very least there shouldn't be any living humans nearby.
He felt relieved for the time being... but.
For an instant, Takeru felt like he heard a bell-like sound.
He looked towards the sound source through the gap between the monsters.
And saw something unbelievable.
Standing in the mall, was a girl who looked really out of place.
Her appearance looked like an illusion, Takeru couldn't help but to doubt his own sight.
Azure hair, azure dress as well as eyes of azure color.
"...why in such a place?!"
And of all things, while surrounded by Corpse-Devouring Demons the girl stared at Takeru.
The mysterious girl's line of sight had met Takeru's.
Along with an illusion as if the world had stopped, Takeru's thinking also stopped.
Muscles moving Takeru's body stopped and losing support, he fell forward.
Unable to even take a proper posture Takeru rolled on the floor, covering himself with abrasions, he rebuilt his posture and leaped towards the girl.
At the same time, the Corpse Devourers surrounding her were about to pounce at her.
Takeru threw away his sword and in the nick of time he raised the girl in embrace. Barely avoiding enemy, he dashed towards the exit.
"What are you doing in such a place?! Didn't you hear the alarm?!"
From his chest, the girl just looked up at him with an innocent look in her eyes and didn't say anything. Maybe because she was scared of strangers, but not to show any sign of fear during an emergency like this, she must have had nerves of steel.
Takeru exited the mall and ran to a safe street before putting down the girl and dropping on his knees.
Not concerned with the fact Takeru had a hard time, remaining expressionless, the girl stared passionately at Takeru.
In front of this wordless girl, Takeru was at his wit's end. It wouldn't be a problem if he entrusted her to the Spriggans, but the emergency shelters should be already closed and he had no way to contact the Spriggans from where he was. Were he alone he'd have no problem, but could he survive this pandemonium with a child?
As Takeru pondered about it with a hand on his chin, suddenly, the hem of his jacket was pulled.
When he looked down, he saw the girl look up at him while pulling his clothes.
As he wondered what is this about, the girl slowly opened her pale pink lips. He could feel a faint breath leak out from these lips and she let out speech.
Wrapped by mysterious atmosphere, finally he heard the girl's voice for the first time.
Hearing the incomprehensible sound, Takeru was stunned.
Certainly the tone of the girl's voice made it seem like a fanfare, hearing that Takeru felt exhaustion assault him. Despite her mature appearance, it was a very innocent voice. She mimicked a fanfare with such a voice and even clapped as a bonus.
"...what...are you doing?"
Takeru came up with a question.
While he remained stunned, the girl continued as if nothing happened.
"——Congratulations. Kusanagi Takeru-san, you have been chosen as the second contractor. To commence the contract, please answer the questions."
The girl said that without intonation and with a mechanical tone of voice. The wording was similar to the scam sites advertisement that was going rampant on the net.
"Question one. Do you have an intention of becoming an inquisitor?"
"Yes............heck, you, w-what happened? What are you saying?"
"Question two. Do you have an intention of exterminating witches?"
As expected, his head started to hurt. Takeru put a hand on his forehead.
Without a doubt, she's gone insane out of fear. It was no wonder, even though she was this small she saw Corpse Devourers attack people. It must have been terrifying and hard for her. As he thought so, tears appeared in his eyes.
He needs to escort this child to a safe place somehow. Moved to tears, he looked into the girl's eyes and was going to put a hand on her head
"Question three. For the sake of your own goal, will you discard yourself?"
Takeru unconsciously stopped his hand, speechless. For some reason, this time he was unable to ignore this cryptic question that had come from her mouth.
The screams and explosions in the distance did not calm down.
Feeling the noise very distant, Takeru was unable to take off his gaze from the girl's pupils.
The azure, deep, deep pupils.
"......? A call?"
While he was in daze, suddenly a call had entered his watch-type device.
The caller was... Ikaruga
《"Kusanagi? Where are you now?"》
"Suginami, how's the school? And I'm... well a lot happened, I was chasing Ootori, but on the way——"
《"More importantly, it's getting terrible over here. Listen to this for a sec."》
Ikaruga suddenly switched the communication.
Soon after, something that seemed like the Chairman's speech had entered his ears.
《"——My dear students, right now the Inquisition is at verge of an unprecedented crisis. I think you already know, but a target to be judged that has appeared in the city is a 'hero'. You might have read of it through the educational materials, but the hero's might is far beyond our imagination——"》
Sougetsu continued with an exaggerated tone of voice.
"Is this a school-wide broadcast?"
《"Shut up and listen, important part starts here."》
《"——Many civilians and inquisitors have already become its victims. We believe the hero is heading for the academy's forbidden area. It's a matter of time before he reaches it. While it might be shameless to say such a thing... right now, we're not strong enough. It will take some time before reinforcement from other branches arrives. Therefore... therefore I implore of you, lend us your strength. I want us to fight together. Against the detestable witch that took lives of innocent people, in order to strike them with an iron hammer... I want you to stand against it! Rank nor certification no longer matters! You are inquisitors, you are Dullahans! Let's subjugate it together... the time to hunt witches had come! Let's deliver rightful judgment to heretics!"》
As Takeru listened to the broadcast, unconsciously his expression cramped up.
《"It's not a conscription, it's completely voluntary. I've looked around among platoons and there are many who want to participate. There are some who are already participating in the defense deployed around the school by Spriggans."》
"...is it an enemy only Dullahans can do something about?"
《"I don't know. The only documentation on the heroes is from Witch-Hunt War era. At this rate, before the reinforcements arrive the school will be breached. While it's been said in the broadcast, the enemy's aim is forbidden area."》
——Takeru opened his eyes wide.
Forbidden area... it was a district in the deepest part of the school that had housed the witches.
From petty criminals to heavy offenders, they receive different treatment. A prison for witches.
《"Kusanagi...what do we do?"》
《"You're the captain. Usagi is here as well. Running is fine, fighting is fine. ...at the very least I will follow your decision."》
Hearing Ikaruga's intent to leave everything to him, Takeru fell silent for a moment.
He shut his mouth tight and clenched his fist.
"About the enemy this time... I think, it's better to run away."
"We, who were unable to seize a single F-rank Magical Heritage so far are unable to do anything against something like that hero. It would be best to wait for Dullahans to be dispatched and evacuate. As the captain, I can't let you die for naught. "
It might seem cowardly, but it was a very decent conclusion. Ikaruga didn't object either. It was a legitimate choice to take as a captain.
《"Even though it's like that, you intend to go right?"》
Hearing Ikaruga say that along with a sigh, Takeru nodded.
He said what he wants to do, not as a captain, but as a human called Kusanagi Takeru.
"Right now, Ootori is... returning to the school to defeat the hero. She definitely won't listen to my orders. Hatred for witches is all that exists inside her. Hatred for witches is her everything."
"To me, Ootori is already a member of the 35th platoon. Just like I don't want you to die, I don't want her to die either. But... she can't be stopped with a normal method."
"That's why in order to stop her I..."
He stopped speaking and shut his mouth tightly.
This decision of his might be wrong. A captain taking the situation in consideration would never make such decision. Even if he went alone.
"——That's why, I think of going on a hero hunt."
Takeru said so clearly.
He understood even without thinking calmly. It was impossible.
What was the probability of him winning? 10%? 1%? 0.01%?
No, it might be zero from the get go. Even if Kusanagi style was swordsmanship for slaying things that were not human, the fact it was outdated didn't change.
That's why it was extremely reckless. It was certain he would be defeated right from the very start.
Even so, Takeru would subjugate it.
He declared that, vowing over his sword.
《"............Kusanagi, you pulled out your sword, right."》
《"When you were talking about hunting or whatever, most likely. I don't know why, you wanted to pull it out but couldn't ? You've snapped there, right?"》
"No, we're talking right? Certainly I pulled it out, but I'm different from my past self."
Ikaruga heaved a sigh. Takeru fell silent not knowing how to excuse himself.
《"Fine already. We've already started preparations. The remake of your sword is also ready. I'm not a sword smith and I specialize in guns, so don't expect too much."》
Preparations to fight are ready. Is what Ikaruga said to Takeru.
Takeru opened his eyes wide at this unexpected development.
《"Ah, don't misunderstand, I don't care what happens to Ootori Ouka. But, I am interested in this Einherjar thing. It's not something of this age so I can't worship it, but it's a precious sample. If you're going to collect some data, I'll lend you all strength I have."》
In the end, Ikaruga was being herself. Not even a little bit of embarrassment had revealed itself in her words. She really seemed to move according to her own desires.
《"Exactly so! I am not interested in what happens to Ootori Ouka, but the honor of subjugating that legendary magical organism 'hero' is appropriate for me to take.. there is no better opportunity for my name to resound throughout the academy!"》
Usagi spoke, interrupting with a high-pitched voice.
《"...it's not convincing when you say that all pale and trembling."》
《"Whuaa?! I-I am not trembling! I might be shivering with excitement though!"》
《"For a while now, your rifle's being helluva noisy as it clatters."》
《"I-It is a lie Kusanagi! I am not scared at all! Ikaruga is just envious of my courageous self!"》
《"She's run to the restroom four times within the last 20 minutes——"》
《"Wha! Even though I told you so many times not to tell Kusanagi!"》
He could hear clattering sounds come from the device's speaker.
Takeru laughed at the two acting like usual.
"Captain's orders, listen."
Listening to his comrades voices, he muttered.
"...thanks, both of you."
They didn't listen, but he finished the call with words of thanks.
"Sorry for making you wait, by the way you——eh?! Where did she go?!"
He couldn't see the girl that was in front of him and looked around in a hurry. Although he looked for her nearby and tried to calling out to her, she was nowhere to be found.
She should have been standing here... where did she go?
"Speaking of which, that girl... why did she know my name...."
Takeru felt a chill on his back as if he met with a ghost.
AntiMagic Academy, main gate.
The ones protecting the first line of defense was a small group of Spriggans and a large number of students from test platoons. They were leaning over from the barricade and firing from their rifles to intercept the Corpse-Devouring Demons.
"Easy. With just this, we alone are enough."
"Right? I don't know about that hero, but this is a piece of cake. S-rank or whatever, it's just an outdated weapon. It's not an opponent for us who are armed with modern weapons."
The student shouldered an assault rifle and had responded agreeing with a comrade from the same platoon. They have responded to Chairman's request for help and have bravely come out in front, but Corpse Devourers were unsatisfactory. While the students have seized Magical Heritages on daily basis as part of the test platoon system, they weren't going against the threat from the Magical Heritages themselves but instead fought against darkness armed with guns.
After hearing the opponents was a genuine witch, the challenge made them quite nervous, so this ended up being anti-climatic. Corpse-Devouring Demons were no threat as compared to a man with a gun. The Corpse Devourers were more like hard to kill stray dogs. And even their resilience was nothing great when Inquisition's anti-magic bullets were used.
Hit by the bullets, Corpse Devourers turned into ash and were swept by the wind.
A student looked as a Corpse Devourer turn into ash and smiled relaxed.
"At this rate Hero won't be a big deal either. That too is just a product of witch's magic. That makes it no opponent for u——"
The moment he said that towards the comrade beside.
In front, from further behind in the direction Corpse Devourers attacked from a dazzling light had been emitted.
The student heard a sound as if something was evaporating beside him.
When he looked that direction in daze, he could see nothing in there.
No barricades, no Spriggans, not a single comrade from his platoon.
Everything was blown far in the back and had turned into a mere mountain of rubble.
His thinking stopped. The comrade he was speaking with just now, had disappeared in an instant. An empty scenery. Nothingness spread beside him.
Just, a right hand of the comrade that was still breathing a moment ago rolled on the ground like that of a mannequin's.
In front of such an abrupt massacre, the student had looked up at the sky to escape the reality.
A cloudless sky stained orange by sunset had spread in his view, feeling refreshing autumn wind on his cheek he devoted all his nerves to escaping.
But, naturally it didn't work so well.
From the toes upwards an extraordinary shivering had spread. Because irresistible dread, all he could was to stare at the attacker who had stole everything from him.
Standing at the slope in front of the school gate, in the middle of dancing ashes of Corpse Devourers was a leisurely-approaching big shadow.
The figure covered with platinum and gold looked divine, but its form looked ominous and evil. It was neither a shell nor armor, it was unknown what should it be called, but it was clad in some kind of armor-like equipment.
But that was all.
No one had imagined that the figure of a hero who had emerged through 《Hero Summoning》 would be that irregular.
An outdated weapon summoned with ancient magic.
That was how the student perceived the hero.
However, the thing walking in their direction was far from what could be call obsolete. It had an incredibly futuristic appearance.
As it approached its steps let out a heavy metallic sound.
Raised in its hand, was a large sword——no.
It was aiming a huge gun in the student's direction.
Ouka stole a motorcycle from the Spriggan without asking anyone and after returning to school, was stunned by the devastation.
The once-beautiful AntiMagic Academy.
The clean school buildings, maintained courtyard. Multiple buildings that looked like western palaces.
All of it had disappeared without a trace.
The school buildings were partially destroyed, the courtyard had become scorched earth. Everywhere lied fallen students with heavy injuries. Clearly, there were dead among them.
Seeing that everyone had a guns in their hands, she understood that they participated in combat.
"...what happened... why... why did students participate in battle?"
She hurriedly approached the students who have fallen on the roadside and checked if they're breathing. Unable to contact the Seelies or Sougetsu, Ouka bit her lower lip.
Why wasn't the Dullahan dispatched. Why are the students participating in battle. What on earth does this plight mean.
Ouka didn't have enough information to understand the situation.
But——one thing was sure.
Far ahead of her, walked an enormous armor.
It was the reason for this devastation,
It was a product of magic,
It was certain that it was being used by a hateful witch for evil purposes.
Ouka had firmly grasped the sight of her enemy and directed the brunt of her overflowing anger at it.
Her sworn enemy, the huge armor had calmly walked through the courtyard that's been turned into an inferno. It was the first time for Ouka to see a hero's figure. She knew it was a summoned human who had once become a legendary hero, but she didn't think it would be that inhuman and monstrous.
She didn't feel a shred of intelligence from the hero. It looked to her like a machine that only killed enemies in front of it.
"...you...want to...fight it...?"
A voice had come from the shadow, Ouka moved her line of sight there.
Hidden behind the pillar of the corridor that connected school buildings, was a trembling male student who hugged his knees. There was a number of other students hiding in the school buildings or behind the trees in the same manner.
The enemy's might must have been too great and they had completely lost the will to fight. Everyone seemed to regret sticking their heads into this without thinking it over.
Ouka ran over to one of the students as not to be noticed by the enemy.
"Tell me what's the situation. Didn't Dullahan come? Why are students participating in combat?"
"Don't fight...run away...that thing isn't something students can go against..."
She grasped the frightened, trembling student's collar and pulled him to herself.
He exhaled painfully and said.
"N-no idea... we participated because we were told we'll be Dullahans if we defeat that...!!"
"...that's insane...! The enemy's is a product of magic designated as S-class danger, isn't it? Who told you that."
"...didn't you hear... Chairman's speech...?"
Told the content of the speech from the student, Ouka started to grit her teeth.
"...to bait in the students like that..."
"If we know it was a monster like that we wouldn't even try fighting it! R-run, you can't win!"
She slapped the student who held his head and seemed to be going crazy. When the student fell silent with tears in his eyes, Ouka asked with a relatively calm tone of voice.
"You, did you see the intrinsic magic of the Magical Heritage the hero is using?"
Intrinsic magic, it's magic concealed within a Magical Heritage. Magical Heritages can only hold one type of magical power within themselves, but Magical Heritages of A-rank and higher danger classification and higher can activate intrinsic operative procedures embedded into them without relying on the owner's magical power.
The reason the Magical Heritage that could be used by people other than witches was classified so dangerous, was because of this intrinsic magic existence.
"I don't know, but from the very start it had a barrier that repelled everything, not letting us even scratch it.."
"...a magical barrier, huh."
Magical barrier. Certainly, for a magical barrier to be able to repel Inquisition's anti-magic bullets, it must have been very powerful. Most likely, to expand such a barrier one would require an enormous amount of magical power a modern witch would be unable to generate. If that had been achieved, then it was doubtlessly created by a Magical Heritage.
However, the school's students aside, would it be able to annihilate that many forces by using just a barrier?
Moreover, the shape of Magical Heritage it was using was that of a gun.
It's basic body was used for attacking, would it be granted an operative procedure for a defensive barrier?
Ouka felt there was something more about it.
"Enemy is a hero. It wouldn't be strange if it used multiple Magical Heritages. Did something else change about it? With this many people killed off, there should be something else, right."
As she questioned him, the student's face turned pale all at once.
He saw something. Ouka realized that instinctively.
"...we couldn't beat it anyhow, no matter how much we fired at it we could do nothing. That's why we tried to temporarily withdraw, a-and then..."
"Suddenly, a magic circle appeared beneath his feet...and... momentarily, the inquisitors in the front line were blasted away. In an instant... they turned into pieces of meat."
"What did you see at that moment. Tell me, if we know the intrinsic magic, it'll be a clue to defeating the hero."
Holding his head in his arms, looking at the ground with bloodshot eyes, the student said.
"Knights... eleven of them... I saw them just for a moment inside blinding light. That guy multiplied and attacked...!"
After saying that much, he stopped speaking and started to cry.
Ouka's face had suddenly displayed dread. A magical barrier and summoning eleven knights.
"...the hero is Arthur Pendragon... and the Magical Heritage is Excalibur...?!"
At the same time as she guessed that, is it possible? She wondered.
The historical Excalibur had originally a shape of a sword. However, what that hero had possessed didn't look like a sword, but a gun. It's shape was similar to a railgun, which wasn't produced yet even in modern times.
There was no precedent for magical power dwelling inside modern weapons like a railgun. The lost type Magical Heritages in shape of a gun were relatively few at most, only firearms manufactured and used during the war had existed. Although irregular types existed, they hardly were able to exert such destructive power.
And above all——
Excalibur should have been destroyed by Inquisition over a hundred years ago.
Something that no longer existed should not be here.
However, no other Magical Heritage in existence possessed intrinsic magic that could summon eleven knights.
What has been traded during the "Trackless Psalms" were fragments of a Magical Heritage.
If they were fragments of Excalibur, that possibility couldn't be ruled out. Restoration of a destroyed Magical Heritage was said to be impossible at the present... however.
——If 《Valhalla》 was involved, the possibility is no longer zero.
Ouka shut her mouth tightly to hide the slight fear she felt and closed her eyes resolved, she borrowed a small assault rifle and a magazine which lied next to the student.
After confirming the amount of ammunition, she pulled the cocking handle.
If that gun is really Excalibur and the documentation isn't wrong, I can understand the barrier existing. Excalibur is not just the sword itself, it should have been a complete Magical Heritage along with its sheath. The reason King Arthur had boasted of his invincibility was thanks to the sheath rather than the sword itself. So, the sword for attack and for defense... the sheath.
She raised the gun and faced forward.
Well then, first sheath... unless I destroy the holster...
Ouka couldn't let that monster go unchecked like that. The hatred inside of her didn't allow her to.
She raised her waist, intending to chase after the hero.
"Hey, aren't you going to run?!!"
"I'll buy some time... you guys treat the wounded."
The student probably wouldn't forget the expression he saw on Ouka back then for his entire life.
With an unfounded guess and poor equipment she went against an opponent even entire battalion would be unlikely to win.
Despite going against a monster of an enemy, Ouka was undaunted.
On the contrary, it seemed like she was laughing.
Ouka hid in the shadows and just peeking out, she had checked up on the hero's waist.
There, certainly was something like a holster for the gun.
"............can only bet on it, huh."
She raised her gun and braced her spirit for battle. Then she pressed the gun to her forehead and closed her eyes, as if praying.
And the moment enemy's legs stopped, Ouka had jumped out of shadow with a gun in her hands.
Firmly locked on the target spot, she approached firing bursts of three.
Just as the students said, the bullets were stopped by invisible barrier before reaching Hero's body. Ouka concentrated on aiming at a single point in the barrier forcing a heavy load on it.
The hero has already turned in her direction. His height was nearly three metres. Holding Excalibur in one hand, he pulled half of his body backwards and aimed the muzzle at Ouka.
——Thirst for blood. Ouka instantly jumped to the side.
With an impact powerful enough to form a huge crater in the ground——a mass of magic power passed right beside her.
She was struck with terror. If she remained in the same position she was in before, she would have become a mere piece of meat. But that wasn't the reason for her fear. It was the fact that the shockwave was not Excalibur's intrinsic performance nor magic.
The strike seemed like a shell. It wasn't a bullet made from magic, but a huge lump of magical power itself. It matched with how original Excalibur had worked. In the olden days King Arthur had used Excalibur's magical power to release extended slashes from his sword and boasted of having no equal. Even when it was used by a witch before it was destroyed, data of similar usage were left in the records.
And that, has now changed its shape to a cannon, making it perfect for firing from range.
"I can't fight against such a guy for long...!"
In front of such outrageous destructive power, she displayed her fear for just an instant.
That chance was not missed by the unequaled hero.
When she had looked away from him.
The moment Ouka had landed on the ground after jumping to the side, she saw the hero in front of her, swinging the Excalibur sideways.
Ouka forgot that his Magical Heritage could be used not only as a gun, but was also made in a shape that allowed it to be used as a sword as well. Before the blade had hit the ground, she had once again kicked off the ground jumping away.
No good too low! Like this I'll——
She had barely avoided a direct hit, but the pulverized ground had broke into huge fragments and assaulted Ouka.
Along with the debris dancing in the air, she was flung high into the sky.
Ouka was alive, immediately after the ground was broken she kicked off a large piece of debris, using her legs like a spring she had negated the impact. Her adaptation abilities and her motion nerves were exceptional. The numerous battles she had experienced so far had allowed her to survive through this situation.
As she was falling, Ouka had fired blindly. Her aim wasn't fixed anywhere, she just fired bullets downward from the sky.
Of course, all of it was blocked by the barrier.
Ouka landed on top of the barrier. She immediately reloaded and showered the barrier with bullets at zero distance.
Along with a loud sound at impact, all of the bullets were repelled. No matter how she concentrated fire on one spot, it wouldn't budge. Even with mithril coating that had anti-magic effect, it was impossible to break through this powerful wall.
The hero swung up gun's barrel trying to shake off Ouka clinging to him. The moment she exhausted her ammo, Ouka performed a backflip. At the same time as she landed, she rolled on the ground further taking distance from the hero.
However, as she tried to escape, the hero grasped her leg with his burly hand.
Held by a hand as big as her head was, Ouka's leg broke like a dry leaf and bent to the side.
She endured despite feeling like screaming in pain and pulling her favorite gun, she had showered the hand grasping her leg with bullets.
If he has come in contact with her, the bullets will reach. She thought so, but to no avail.
The barrier changed it's shape upon contact with enemy and had covered hero's body with a thin layer. The bullets were completely blocked and the hero didn't receive a single scratch.
There was no way for Ouka to escape any more. Still grasping Ouka's broken leg, the hero has flung her at the school building's wall with all his strength.
Smashing into the wall with a tremendous momentum, she spat out blood.
Her body slid down to the ground like a broken doll.
Exhaling painfully, Ouka desperately focused on keeping her life.
"...I won't... die yet...!"
She had squeezed the voice out from the back of her throat.
What had forced her to move, was the vision of a witch that had taken everything from her.
The slaughterer laughing loudly with a distorted smile.
Ouka didn't forget that absolute fear.
Maintaining that vision, she had looked at the approaching hero..
"...this degree of...fear...!"
Ouka forced her aching body and tried to stand up.
"Accepting death from a threat of this level——is unforgivable!"
She breathed roughly, holding her knees with her hands. Looking at her appearance, her uniform was in tatters and her underwear was mostly visible.
Not even trying to hide that appearance of hers, Ouka stood on the broken leg.
She exhaled out, her breath tinged with scent of blood and slowly held out both her hands in front of herself.
That gesture looked as if she was trying to grasp something that wasn't there.
She muttered in a fading voice and closed her eyes..
"...if possible, I didn't want to use it."
Resolving herself, she slowly opened her mouth.
„Summis desiderantes affectibus——”
Along with the words she spoke, the world lost its sounds.
The atmospheric pressure had rapidly dropped and the oxygen in the air was depleted.
A spark was born in the air and tinnitus had covered the world.
In the space like a prelude to hell, Ouka opened her eyes.
At that moment, beneath Ouka's feet who shouldn't possess any magical power, appeared a magic circle.
The space screamed as if singing a requiem and then soundlessly, something like a black coffin has appeared from the magic circle beneath.
The coffin has stopped in the mid-air in front of Ouka's held out hands.
In the instant she squinted, the tombstone-like exterior cracked, scattering.
And what appeared from inside——were two handguns.
The barrel measured ten to fifteen inches. Its exterior's features had suggested it was an automatic pistol rather than a revolver. Women and children aside, it looked like it would be hard for humans to handle it, a weapon of unknown application.
They were way too large to be called a handguns, it was a completely original gun that didn't exist in either past or the modern.
On their exterior there was a distorted crest displaying a distorted wingless dragon and 《The Malleus MaleficarumIV "Vlad III"》 was carved onto them.
Ouka picked up those huge guns from the air, and crossed them in front of her body.
"I didn't intend to use you but... it's an emergency. Lend me your power, Vlad."
She spoke, as if to herself.
When she did,
《"——As always, I hurry to respond to thine call."》
A voice suddenly sounded in Ouka's head.
A thick and heavy voice of a man. Beside her, there was no other human.
Hence, it was clear that the voice had come from the handguns summoned by Ouka.
The Relic Eater, 《Vlad》.
One of the anti-magical weapons only inquisitors from "Dullahan" were allowed to use.
It was Ootori Ouka's exclusive Relic Eater.
《"For thou, indeed are provisional contractor of mine."》
Although there was no intonation, Vlad spoke with a somewhat condescending tone of voice. The existence of Magical Heritages with their own persona capable of speech has been confirmed before. All of the Relic Eater series had a personality dwelling inside of them.
Irritated with Vlad's all-important attitude, Ouka's face distorted.
"You just shut up and listen to me."
《"Ultimately, it's provisional. I hast nay intention of responding to all thy requests. Thou still haven't accept'd me yet."》
"Shut up. Who would accept a product of magic like you."
Ouka refused Vlad and raised the guns, aiming the muzzles at the hero.
Using Vlad was humiliating to her. Being unable to defeat magic without using magic herself, to Ouka it meant that she was already defeated by magic.
Even so, Ouka wanted to defeat her hateful enemy.
Losing personally was something trivial. Defeated or not, as long as she defeated the enemy, Ouka did not care about it.
It's because that's how she thought, she held Vlad.
The enemy aimed his muzzle at Ouka.
"——Vlad, fix my leg!"
Just before the magic bullet was fired, the crushed leg had been rewound to its original state as if regenerated and Ouka immediately leaped to the side.
She succeed in avoiding the magic bullet. But not only that, unlike her previous movements, she had leaped into the sky with inhuman speed and jumping ability.
《"Body enhancement is minimal. If thou wish for more, accept me."》
《"Stubborn woman. But, that's what makes you good."》
"Cut it, it's creeping me out!"
She landed from several meters of height without receiving any shock, taking distance from the hero.
《"Our foe is a hero... King Arthur and Excalibur, huh. He lacks nothing as our opponent."》
"I told you to shut up. Hurry up and release the trigger."
《"Trigger, for the first? Or the second?"》
《"Thou intend to face a hero without 'Witch-Hunter form'?"》
"I would have to accept you, right? I refuse."
《"Such obstinacy. Your will. Tepes released. Do you have the operative procedure for enemy's barrier in your head?"》
"Of course. Who do you think I am."
《"Very well——let us start then, the witch-hunt."》
A voice that seemed like a mass of intimidation had declared in Ouka's head.
At the same time Ouka rushed out. Towards her own enemy, the hero.
The hero had also shown movement. He aimed Excalibur's muzzle and tried to fire a magic bullet.
《"A simple mass of magic is outside my specialty——avoid it."》
"Don't need you to tell me!"
Ouka jumped far into the air. The magic bullet had passed below her feet soon afterwards.
She danced high, high into the sky and the moment she started falling, she had aimed the muzzle at the hero.
Outstretching her arms, she pulled the trigger to the limit.
Momentarily, the gunshot akin to a human scream had resounded.
An overly powerful recoil had lifted Ouka's body further into the air against the gravity.
What was fired, was a stake of light——no, magic itself engraved with an operative procedure.
A magical stake with an incantation etched into it. Sharp like a needle, it headed for the hero at speed of light.
However, the enemy's, King Arthur's absolute defense——
A sound like that of glass breaking had rang out the very instant the stake had hit the barrier. The moment the stake had come in contact with it, the barrier had broke partially like glass opening a hole in it
The stake directly hit King Arthur's shoulder.
His large body staggered.
Each Relic Eater had a special non-standard performance and intrinsic magic.
Ouka's guns, 《Vlad》's performance allowed it to penetrate all magic that was understood.
Required for that was having the process for using magic in the user's head.
That meant even without a phantom instrument, even without ability to cast spells, as long as the instructions for the magic's usage are in the user's head 《Vlad》 was able to reverse the operative procedure and make a hole in the magic.
The stakes released by 《Vlad》 were like an eraser that wipes away the scribbles from the walls.
The number of magic she had secured at the moment were tens of thousand. Moreover, operative procedures were very difficult to understand for ordinary people, it required tremendous intelligence and memory, as well as imagination.
And Ouka had forced almost all of it into her head.
To defeat the enemy, you need to know them first. The inside of Ouka's head was filled with tens of thousands operative procedures used for magic.
——Ouka didn't shoot just once.
Still being lifted by the recoil, she started rapid fire with 《Vlad》. All the stakes have headed for King Arthur's body and hit it directly.
When the barrage ended, Ouka landed. Although her landing looked splendid, her face had distorted with pain.
《"The recoil is same as always. Even as thy arm broke thy aim hasn't shift'd in the least, how dreadful."》
"It's fine... hurry up, heal it...!"
Bearing the pain, Ouka checked up on the damage dealt to enemy.
The hero, King Arthur was still in good state.
《"Damage the foe had receiv'd is min'r. The amount of magical power is far too low, affecting the quality of stakes. If thou complete the contract this will be resolv'd though?"》
"...don't make me... repeat myself."
《"But at this rate thou shalt be defeat'd by him. The barrier is a persisting type, the Excalibur's sheath automatically repairs the damag'd portion of the barrier right aroint. It's all f'r naught unless thou destroy the sheath. 》
It was as Vlad said. Even if she pierced through the barrier, without enough magical power she wouldn't deal much damage. Far from reaching him, only defeat awaited her.
"...we'll use intrinsic magic and make an opening."
Ouka said that as if that was the last resort and clicked her tongue.
《"Oh? Thou hast finally accept me?"》
"Wrong, I'm not going to accept you. I'm telling you to take more."
《"Hmm. So you'll give me blood instead of contracting. Very well... let's partake in the compensation."》
Immediately after Vlad gave his consent, a chill had assaulted Ouka's body.
Her vision blurred, her body staggered.
Having just enough to maintain her life, Ouka exhaled painfully.
《"It was delicious. For the reward, do as you please."》
At his voice, Ouka raised her face in irritation.
And, grasping the guns strongly in her shaking hands, she spread her legs and lowered her upper body, taking a special stance.
She aimed one gun at the sky, the other at the ground.
She spoke the magic name as she squeezed the triggers.
Unlike before, nothing had come out from the muzzles and instead huge magic circles appeared on the ground and in the sky.
Seeing 《Vlad》's intrinsic magic, the hero turned vigilant.
He took a defensive stance and poised the gun like a sword for interception.
——But, such defense was useless.
That was because the attack, had come from the sky.
A rain of stakes had poured down on the hero from the magic circle in the sky.
Like meteorites, the stakes fell down and broke through the barrier. The hero tried to avoid and knock them down with Excalibur at the same time, but there was enough stakes to fill the sky.
Even so, he managed to endure through because he was a hero. King Arthur entered gaps between the stakes and repeatedly intercepted them, trying to survive through the intrinsic magic 《Tepes Rain》.
But 《Vlad》's intrinsic magic didn't end with just that much.
First was the sky——next, was the ground.
Breaking through the asphalt beneath his feet, thick stakes have protruded the ground.
His footing collapsed and the King Arthur staggered. The stakes have pierced the hero binding him and inflicted light damage.
It was far from being fatal. Although she dedicated her blood, it wasn't enough to bring about a complete intrinsic magic. In order to use intrinsic magic without a contract, an offering of hundreds of lives would be required.
Ouka's contract wasn't complete. She still hasn't accepted it, thus she couldn't use all of 《Vlad》 power.
——However, it was enough for her at the moment.
While hero was distracted by intrinsic magic, she had closed the distance between them down to one meter.
"——At this distance there'll be enough power! It will pierce without being impaired!"
She slid her handguns from above and below, protruding the muzzles forward and fired anti-magic stakes.
The stakes had penetrated the barrier——and hit the Excalibur's sheath directly.
The sheath got blown off from King Arthur's waist and rotated, dancing in the air. Although there was no damage to the sheath itself, the operative procedure countering magic that was in the stake had successfully activated. Pierced perfectly through with the stake that operative procedure etched into it, the sheath soaring through the air had gradually lost its shine and fell to the ground.
——The barrier disappeared.
I can do it! If I continue showering him with stakes——I'll win!
The confidence in her heart boiled.
She aimed the muzzles at the hero's body and squeezed the triggers with her fingertips.
There was no way she could miss at this distance. Her body somehow managed to move. There was no factor that could make her lose. The decisive attack was ready.
Ouka had no doubts about it.
About her own victory.
《"Forgive me, the hunt was suspend'd by order of the King. "》
At the same time as she understood the voice resounding in her head, the magical power she was clad with was lost and 《Vlad》 whom she held in her hands disappeared.
She was unable to get a grasp on the situation.
Why? She couldn't even ask that question. Just, with the victory right in front of her lost, she entered a daze.
The chance she had for an instant had disappeared and thirst for blood assaulted Ouka. Unable to avoid, she was blown far away by the hero's kick.
She smashed into the ground unable to raise a scream or even a groan, had vigorously bounced a few times before finally stopping.
Feeling pain throughout her body, barely maintaining consciousness, she understood it was her defeat.
............it's that man, huh.
Breathing faintly, she wondered why did she lose 《Vlad》's power, finding the answer.
Ouka was disqualified from being an inquisitor and had been relieved of the responsibility as a Dullahan. In other words, she was prohibited from using a Relic Eater. Still, since the restriction on all Relic Eaters was released when the emergency alarm sounded, she summoned 《Vlad》 believing he can be used.
But in the last moment, she has been forcibly deprived of the right to use it by Ootori Sougetsu's chairman authority.
And of all things, with such timing. In such a crisis situation Ootori Sougetsu had abandoned Ouka. Why did he do that, what did he gain from it. Ouka knew that trying to learn the truth was pointless. That man's intentions were not something that could be understood by ordinary people.
There was no method of fighting left to her. Her body wouldn't move. She had several broken bones and just breathing made it so painful she couldn't move.
The hero walked up to Ouka and aimed his gun's muzzle at her forehead.
Light had condensed and at any moment Excalibur's magic bullet was to be unleashed.
Yeah... it's over.
Regretting the fact she was unable to defeat her hateful enemy, magic, Ouka looked up at the red sky.
In the end I... didn't accomplish a single thing.
She has thrown away everything for the sake of the revenge, but ended up dying without fulfilling it. How pathetic. How disappointing. She thought. But, inside of her heart there was relief.
With this I'll finally be free, Ouka noticed that she was relieved.
Even though she knew that, after becoming this comfortable she thought that was also fine.
She had forced herself a whole lot until now. Even though she wasn't all that strong she put on airs, remained stubborn, bearing everything while living for the sake of one goal.
That burden had weighted heavily on her heart.
That's why, she could no longer stand.
If the afterlife exists, she'll apologize to her family
I wonder... if they'll forgive me.
You did your best, she wondered if they'll praise her like that.
Ouka felt that herself who wished for that was really pathetic.
As if to end everything, she lied on her back with eyes closed.
The world's curtain's were lowered. Darkness arrived.
But the bell marking the end did not ring, instead——
——Who'll let it end like this.
Hearing a faint voice from somewhere, Ouka faintly opened her eyes.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——"
Reflected in her eyes, who had abandoned everything, were pieces of glass and a heroic figure.
That figure overlapping with twilight moon was in mid-air.
"That idiot..." Ouka muttered.
With a tearful voice she had muttered in her heart.
Why did you come, is what she said.
The right shoulder of the hero who was about to fire Excalibur was powerfully slashed by the person falling from the 5th floor of the school building, dutifully naming the technique's name. The person had rotated forward right after jumping out and delivered the blow while rotating like a wheel.
The sharp slash, weight of a person, Zanbatou sword's weight and the centrifugal force from the rotation during free-fall were added up.
As expected, even the hero had staggered backwards hit by this blow and fell over.
Faintly conscious, Ouka looked at the idiotic swordsman's back who ended up doing something absurdly outrageous.
It was a really big back. That's why, it looked incredibly dependable, enough to make her feel she can leave everything to it.
The idiot in question held a sword as if to protect Ouka, confronting the hero.
"Ouka, you okay?"
Without turning around, Takeru asked.
Why did you come, asked Ouka.
"Obviously, not to let you die. Rather than die, you better watch how I cut this guy up."
Turned with his back, Takeru said so forcefully. Ouka frowned painfully.
"Run...it's impossible for you."
"We won't know until I try."
"Are you retarded...a mere... sword, what can it do."
As he heard Ouka's response, Takeru's mouth drew an arc.
"It's a promise. If I defeat this guy, let me help you out with your revenge."
He poised his sword horizontally and said that full of confidence.
And——as his sworn enemy was standing up, he glared at him with a furious expression.
"Yo... it seems like one of my members has been in your care."
"It's been a long time since I felt like this. I've forgotten already, but going against them is sickening."
He slowly pulled back the horizontally-poised sword to match his line of sight.
Holding the handle even more strongly, he accumulated it to the very limit.
"But you have my thanks, Mr. Hero. You reminded me of my old instincts."
Takeru's accumulated anger along with the words he said,
"Beating up my comrade... I won't let you off cheaply...!"
Adding in his real nature,
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style's initiate, Kusanagi Takeru. Present at the battlefield——"
"——Without mercy, I shall subjugate you!"
And so, Kusanagi Takeru's fight that had slept for a long time, had restarted.
Hearing the roar, Ouka had a feeling as if she had come back two years in time.
Yeah... that's right... I remember now...
An image from the past was revived.
The first lesson after raising to the second year of middle school.
A team deathmatch against other classmates.
The last one versus one duel.
An oddly confident swordsmanship nut.
"...so it was that guy..."
The blow Takeru had dealt earlier was an explosive greeting.
《Mantis Slope》 was a technique performed by rotating forward after jumping from a high place allowing the user to achieve destructive power of an average cannon by using one's body weight and centrifugal force. While death awaited those who miss and fail to land, it exerts a tremendous destructive force if it's a direct hit.
The opponent was a hero. Moreover, he was covered in metal armor that was either made from steel or gold. Obviously, only a small crack remained on his shoulder.
Hard, tremendously so.
Still, Takeru felt a certain response from it.
No matter how small a scratch it was, no matter how trivial the crack was.
If it was possible to scratch him——it meant that it was possible to cut him.
The hero rebuilt his posture and had already raised the gun.
He retracted the half of his body and fired from the gun. The tiles beneath him were lifted up soundly as the accumulated magical power was released.
Takeru immediately avoided by leaping away. It was easy to understand the hero's actions just by looking them. It took enough time for the gun to charge so it was easy to predict the move. he didn't need to use "Soumatou".
However, the bullet speed was odd. It was equal or even greater than that of a real railgun.
Despite the fact he was convinced that he avoided it, he was instinctively scared by the shockwave.
Takeru sank low and shouldered the sword on his right shoulder. He kicked off the ground strongly and closed on the hero by using 《Battle Driving》. He jumped and at the same time raised his sword above his head, swinging it down at the enemy's shoulder again, using his entire's body weight
The exactly same place the first slash had hit. He ground his sword inside the crack.
The crack expanded noisily.
There was a certain response. Once again, the hero staggered backwards.
Using the momentary chance when enemy had landed on the ground, Takeru immediately took distance from the hero.
He contacted Ikaruga through the intercom.
"Suginami, did you learn anything on about the enemy?"
《"I've seen the records left on the surveillance cameras, it's really interesting. Magic performance-wise, enemy's Magical Heritage is certainly Excalibur and the base body of it is a modern railgun. It was arranged so it could be used as a sword, but other than that it's exactly same as those currently under development of Alchemist corporation. So, its body is a railgun and has Excalibur's performance. It's really interesting so make sure to collect it for resear——"》
"I don't need that info! I need its movement patterns or weaknesses!"
《"It's the same as the prototypes so it should be unable of rapid fire. It has to cool down for a few seconds otherwise the thermal runaway will break. The electrical conductor is most likely using magical power instead of electric current to generate magnetic field. As long as there's an operative procedure, anything can have spec——"》
"So I just have to get close, right. I won't get hit by it if I'm right under him."
《"Be careful. In close combat it still retains Excalibur's original performance."》
"If it's close quarters combat——I won't lose!"
Declaring that confidently, he triggered "Soumatou" .
Not even considering the burden on his body, in slow motion he closed the distance to enemy all at once.
Even though the enemy's reaction time wasn't very fast, the hero had changed from the stance for firing into one for intercepting with a sword and slashed upwards from below.
It could be said to be expected of King Arthur, a renowned knight, his slash was very sharp.
The enemy outmatched Takeru in everything other than skill.
Takeru saw through the upwards slash and with the sword in front of himself he rammed into the enemy.
A shrill sound of swords rubbing against each other rang out.
In a direct clash, the adamantium-made zanbatou wouldn't last long. Even faster, Takeru's body would have been blown away by the impact.
Therefore, Takeru parried the Hero's without wasting strength. He placed his blade as to match the enemy's attack and directed the power behind him.
The impact of the blow itself and the magical power were released behind Takeru.
Inside the fierce wind, Takeru entered beneath the hero, turned around the sword's handle and re-gripped it in opposite hands.
Then using his legs like springs, he jumped and slammed the blade into enemy's left armpit.
The blow that used entire body, although only slightly, was able to raise the hero's body up.
Raising a roar, Takeru rammed into the staggering hero.
With a heavy, blunt sound, the hero fell on his back.
Takeru didn't miss the opportunity. After confirming the hero fell down, he leaped backwards with a strong momentum.
He shouted loudly.
Momentarily, something flashed on the roof of a distant school building.
Three loud gunshots have sounded immediately after that. As Takeru jumped backwards, something had passed right in front of him.
The heavy sound of a direct hit rang out louder than the gunfire itself and the hero's body sank into the ground.
Three consecutive shots, snipe from long distance. Moreover, all three bullets have directly hit the crack on the shoulder.
Roof of the 12th school building. Far away from where Takeru and the hero 's battle to call it distant.
There, in prone position Saionji Usagi had frowned feeling the recoil's impact of Ikaruga's special anti-materiel rifle.
Impatience and anxiety had appeared on her face. At the very last moment, Usagi's bad tendency has started to act up.
She was unable to feel relieved when the next two bullets she fired after the first one have hit the target.
What if the next shot hits Takeru?
What if the next shot misses and the enemy uses the chance to attack Takeru?
What if because of her, they'll be defeated in this battle?
Right now, inside Usagi there was outrageous anxiety and impatience.
《"Usagi, can you do it?"》
The moment Ikaruga cut in, Usagi clicked her tongue.
"What is up with this gun... I thought my body would fall apart from the recoil."
《"The bullets are just a little special. I tried to use rare orichalcum, but it was too heavy and wouldn't fly so far. So I had no choice but to mess around with the gunpowder quality and the barrel itself."》
"As expected, another outrageous devilish modification..."
Angrily, Usagi muttered into the intercom.
《"It's not like I modified it for fun. Without at least this much, you won't hurt that thing. Look at that, the power is bigger than expected thanks to orichalcum."》
Told that, Usagi peeked through the scope of an excessively heavy rifle, looking at the enemy who sank into the asphalt. The enemy's shoulder armor was crumbling and had something like a large crater in it.
However, using a gun with such firepower was the what scared Usagi.
Were she to hit any ally, it wouldn't end at a leg or hand being blown off. The entire body would be blown to pieces.
When she imagined that scene, Usagi's hands trembled violently.
She tried to deny, but gave up. It couldn't be helped if she put airs in this situation. Scary things were scary.
The enemy wasn't terrifying. What scared Usagi when she was sniping, was possibility of mistakenly hitting an ally. It was the same during "Trackless Psalms" case. She ended up doing friendly fire because she was in a hurry to help Takeru who was in a pinch.
It wasn't something Usagi did on purpose. She wasn't screwing around. But that's no excuse. If she fails here, there'll be no one she can say excuses to.
This time was different from back then. She used powerful live ammunition, it'll be no joke if she misses.
It's just as Ouka said, Usagi thought. Who would believe in a sniper who could end up shooting them. Even she, didn't believe in herself.
Trembling intensified and the riffle let out a rattling sound.
《"I know it's scary. If I was in your position, I definitely wouldn't want to shoot."》
《"Kusanagi can only fight in close combat. With him so close, accidental shooting might happen. That gun too, has a lot of factors that reduce its accuracy. So, if you miss the responsibility will be shared equally between us three."》
Because we're comrades. Even though Ikaruga didn't say that, Usagi felt she heard that.
The trembling subsided slightly.
Furthermore, the communication switched and a desperate voice came in.
Despite being in combat, Takeru contacted Usagi out of concern.
Hearing sounds of swords clashing and Takeru's rough breathing, Usagi hung her head.
《"......!! What's up, Usagi."》
"Kusanagi.. are you... not scared?"
《"——Hwp!! Of what?"》
"That I... might hit you mistakenly... are you not afraid of that?"
Imagining herself hitting Takeru by accident and his figure being blown to pieces, Usagi bit her lip in fear.
However, despite her own fears, Takeru,
《"Nooooooope, not scared at all!"》
Said so clearly and with a lively voice.
With tears in her eyes, Usagi raised her face.
《"You will watch over me. You will protect me."》
《"I know your abilities. I know that you put the most effort among us, too. That's why——"》
《"——I can affirm, that there's no one more reliable than you."》
Takeru danced on the ground. Clenching the sword, never moving away from the enemy, he fought boldly and valiantly.
Why did he fight without regard to his own life.
That was because he believed in Saionji Usagi's sniping skills.
What reached her ears were distant sounds of swords clashing and the howling of wind.
Usagi stood up from a prone position and lifted up the rifle. The rifle's weight was 10 kg or more so it was very heavy.
But at the moment, Usagi had to protect the trust he had in her so she didn't have time to be bothered by the weight.
She connected a belt with a hook prepared in advance by Ikaruga with the belt on her waist and wound the belt around the handrail on the roof. It was so that her body isn't blown away by the recoil.
She placed the barrel on the railing and pulled the bolt to reload.
In an unreasonable posture she had looked through the scope, capturing the enemy in her reticle.
"Distance is 200 meters... the wind speed and wind direction... no, at this distance wind speed, temperature and pressure don't matter. Eh...? 200 meters...? It's 200 meters?"
A moment after showing surprise, laughter of amazement leaked from Usagi's mouth.
"What is... this... what have I been doing."
Pathetic, she laughed at herself.
Exactly so. Pathetic. Calling shooting from 200 meters "sniping" was impudent.
Such a thing couldn't really be called sniping.
A veteran inquisitor would make a hole in human's brain using an assault rifle at this distance.
In other words——
"——This is laughable, isn't this easy."
At the same time as she declared, Usagi halted her breathing and fired.
The bullet flew with a momentum as if it broke through the space and hit the abdomen of the hero who tried to stand up.
The visibility was covered with a big amount of smoke and the barrel jumped up strongly from the recoil. The belt sustaining her body made a squishy sound as it endured.
However, she was not blown off.
Usagi forced down the jumping barrel with her guts and pulling the bolt to load ammo at the same time, tearing through smoke she had slammed the barrel against the handrail.
"I am no longer a march hare...!!"
Another shot in rapid succession. Immediately after Takeru attacked, she hit the enemy where he was grazed earlier.
"I am no longer a rabbit chased by wolves...!!"
Usagi's aim did not falter.
The barrel bouncing up wasn't a big problem for Saionji Usagi.
"I am AntiMagic Academy 35th Test Platoon's——sniper!"
At the same as she called out, Usagi fired from the rifle. Impact and pain assaulted her every time she shot, but Usagi's aim absolutely wouldn't shape.
Simple sniping accuracy.
At that one thing, Usagi was a genius.
As long as her heart was calm, the entire world visible in the scope,
——Was Saionji Usagi's domain.
After repelling a blow, Takeru's body strongly bent backwards.
Because he was unable to parry all the slashes, a fatal opening had been born.
The hero who lived through many battles didn't miss it. He instantly moved close to Takeru and slashed upwards with Excalibur.
There was zero distance between them, neither avoiding nor parrying was possible.
But Takeru didn't panic, he met the enemy with confidence.
As if grazing the tip of his nose, a bullet crushing everything on its path passed by.
And that bullet had hit the hero's temple without deviating from course even a little.
The hero strongly staggered to the side, his posture broke.
"Hahaha, she's amazin' after all... that girl."
He did see Usagi do shooting training in the field several times, but he was charmed tasting it in real combat.
Timing was also perfect. Regardless of the distance, there was no other human who could support comrades in close combat this perfectly.
Most likely, as far as accuracy goes she was more skillful than Ouka.
Receiving a rain of armor-piercing bullets the hero's body was severely scrapped all over. Although the armor appeared to be only on the surface, it was fairly thick. However, as they continued to attack in the same manner the crack on the shoulder widened and the armor would without a doubt collapse soon.
At this rate we'll beat him. The possibility of victory that was very slim at first had approached within their reach.
《"I shall reload! Follow up!"》
Hearing Usagi's words, Takeru tried to challenge the hero in close combat again.
There was a change in the hero's movements. The gun that was being raised until now had been suddenly pierced into the ground.
The hero had put both of his hands on top of the stabbed-in gun, the pair of eyes carved in on his mechanical doll-like face shone with red.
【"Our destiny is glory. We shall walk the path of chivalry together. Inseparable companions of mine, knights of mine. in the name of the oath I gather thou hither——"】
An eerie chant was spoken with a distorted mechanical voice. Suddenly, a big magic circle had appeared in the hero's vicinity.
Takeru stopped his feet vigilant.
《"Run away! He's going to use intrinsic magic! We have no countermeasures against it, just do your best to survive!"》
Hearing Ikaruga's desperate voice, Takeru immediately moved.
Retreat. Retreat for now. That was the only thing in his head.
Takeru broke into a run and closed on Ouka who couldn't move. He immediately checked up on Ouka's state. With legs in such a state she would be unable to stand up.
"I'm fine...leave me...hurry and run away!"
Takeru picked her up without saying anything.
"Hyaa?! Wh- y-you!"
"Shut up! You'll bite your tongue!'
"I'm fine, leave me! You can escape alon——"
"——I came here to protect you! So just shut up and let yourself be protected!"
Holding Ouka in so-called princess carry, Takeru started running. With a crimson face she tried to force him to let her down, but as expected she was unable to do it in this situation. Obediently nestled in his chest, she endured through it.
Takeru couldn't afford even a blush at the moment.
In the middle of escaping, his spine was assaulted by a chill.
"...this is bad..."
He had a bad feeling. Uneasiness, foreboding, a gut feeling. Something like a wild instinct cultivated inside of Takeru had sent a signal of danger into his brain.
"Usagi, run away."
《"What happen——what's the situa——"》
Unconsciously he spoke to Usagi and put down Ouka from his arms.
Ouka looked up at Takeru's face.
Takeru's face she saw was devoid of color. It was nearly transparent, it would be appropriate to say there was a shadow of death on it. What she felt from his facial expression was just one thing, one intention - "I have to protect".
A ringing sounded, Ouka tried to call Takeru's name again——and the next moment.
【"——Knights of the Round."】
When the hero finished chanting, the shadows of those who shouldn't be there have emerged.
Eleven knights have appeared.
Sensing a crisis, Takeru raised his sword despite not seeing anything and activated "Soumatou".
A moment. Just a split second of silence.
When silence came to an end, the school building that acted as a wall for Takeru——had burst.
In the slow-motion world, Takeru witnessed it.
The knight thrust with his sword, releasing a furious blow. Even with "Soumatou" activated, Takeru's reaction time was unable to keep up with the speed of that attack.
Speaking of what Takeru was able to do, he thrust forward with a strong momentum at expanse of the bones and muscles in his body and could only avert the enemy sword's point away from Ouka. He just managed to shift the direction of enemy's charge.
Immediately after he succeeded in shifting it, a wave of magical power and the pressure from the sword attack has struck Takeru.
The suicidal attack of the summoned knight of light had caused the collapse of the building, engulfing Takeru.
The eleven knights who have become a mass of light and burst charging into all four directions dealt enormous damage to the school. A number of school buildings turned into rubble and even Usagi on the rooftop was blown away.
Excalibur's intrinsic magic, 《Knights of the Round》.
This magic, called "pseudo-hero summoning" had 【reproduced the mightiest blows of knights of the round table】, the eleven knights of the round table who had served King Arthur.
The first thing Takeru saw after waking up was the sky, dyed with sunset.
Takeru somehow survived through the hero's strongest blow and felt a discomfort in his body. Oddly enough, his body didn't feel pain nor cold.
He moved his head to look at the girl lying behind him.
Ouka seemed safe, he confirmed she was breathing from a distance.
There was no problem with Usagi either. Although it seemed faint and distant, he could hear a tearful voice calling his name from the intercom. All platoon members seemed to be safe.
Powerlessly, he smiled at himself.
Takeru already noticed. His lower body was lying on top of his head.
Even if he wanted to, he couldn't move. His upper body alone couldn't even crawl.
"Damn...as expected...it was impossible."
Thinking of it now, it was unreasonable to think he could win against magic with S-rank risk designation, against an opponent who had come from Hero Summoning. Even if he consoled himself by saying he did well, the frustration in Takeru's heart remained.
It was because originally, Takeru hated losing.
"The worst...way to die...fuck."
His breathing turned faint and his eyes were about to close. The curtains were almost pulled down. The end was around the corner.
He couldn't even spit a curse no longer.
"...I made such cool...declaration...and yet...here..."
In order to dispel the hazy view, he lowered his eyelids.
"............there...was still more...to do..."
Watching the sunset sky blankly, he welcomed the end.
At that time, suddenly.
Suddenly——in his field of vision he saw an azure-colored figure.
The figure looked down on fallen Takeru from above
With an intent, questioning gaze it looked down.
You're in danger here.
No voice had come out as he attempted to say so, his painful breathing had colored the air white.
At this moment, Takeru's life had certainly closed its curtains.
"Kusanagi Takeru-san——I shall resume the contracting."
These were the last words Takeru heard.
——Question two. Do you have an intention of exterminating witches?——
He heard a voice, the contracting began in the abyss.
Takeru couldn't resist the questions. He was already deprived of that freedom.
That's why he answered. He only could answer.
——I promise. I will exterminate evil witches.
——Question three. For the sake of your own goal, will you discard yourself?——
——Yeah, if it's worth it, I will discard myself.
——Question number four. For the sake of the goal, will you discard what you hold dear?——
——Don't screw around.
——The last question. Will you,
——For the sake of defeating the enemy, will you discard your humanity?——
............yeah, I'll discard it.
——The contract has been completed.
——Please pull the trigger.
Just as he has been told, Takeru pulled the trigger.
Before he even realized it, he clenched the sword's trigger.
《"——Host "Kusanagi Takeru" verifying authorization.
——Starting operative procedure.
——Injecting magical power, starting erosion.
——Repairing damaged parts, time required for process construction — five seconds.
——Repair, no problem with compatibility of both. 100% Matching rate.
——'Witch-Hunter form' complete."》
Along with the voice lacking intonation, a bass sound of something starting up had echoed.
Takeru felt his body move in the darkness and raised his eyelids.
《"Host, please wake up————it's time for the witch-hunt."》
The monotone voice had announced that in a manner similar to an alarm clock.
Shut upp... don't need you tell me, I'm getting up now.
Feeling an outrageous discomfort, disgruntled, Takeru raised his body.
„Summis desiderantes affectibus——Malleus Maleficarum.”
Einherjar (エインヘリャル) - Its written as "Hero" (英雄) with connotation "legendary" as opposed to (勇者). It's read both as "Einherjar" and "Hero" with furigana reading appearing only in certain situations.
Summis desiderantes affectibus——Malleus Maleficarum - It's written in with Japanese (限りなき願いをもって——魔女に与える鉄槌を) and read in the Latin version. The meaning in English is "Desiring with supreme ardor——Hammer of [the] Witches". All three versions (Latin, English and Japanese) are retained exactly same as the original reference sources.
Tepes Rain (ツェペシュレイン) - It's written as "Entertainment of Impaling Prince" (串刺し公の余興) and read as "Tepes Rain". A reference to 15th Wallachia's ruler from 15th century.