After hearing sounds of battle, Takeru had finally reached the fountain square.
Out of breath, Takeru put his hand on his knees.
Holding Lapis prepared he had looked into the rubble's shade in the fountain square.
At a glance, it could be seen that a large-scaled battle had taken place there.
Takeru walked on the rippled ground, approaching the square that was the battlefield's center. In there, was just one person.
The man who looked up straight at the sky, Kurogane Hayato.
Beside him lied a destroyed Dragoon. The Dragoon's wreckage shone slightly tinged with magical power before it eventually had faded away becoming particles.
Remaining in the location of the disappeared Dragoon, lied Jougasaki Mamoru's corpse had become ugly, distorted and bloodied.
The corpse was covered from the top with Hayato's coat.
Takeru didn't think Hayato would kill Mamoru.
At the very least, Kurogane Hayato wasn't a person who would kill a comrade.
Clenching the document with one hand, Hayato just continued to look at the sky.
Takeru stopped to hide and walked towards him.
"...Kusanagi Takeru, why do you fight."
Being questioned, Takeru answered without stopping to walk.
"For my little sister. For my comrades. And for myself."
"...for your comrades? There should no longer be any need for your comrades to fight."
His voice was low, there was no intonation.
What Hayato said was correct. But Takeru dared to deny it.
"To them, I am a comrade. They believe in me and try to save me. I don't want to betray those feelings."
"If I'm not saved, my comrades won't be saved. And above all, if the world isn't saved, everything won't be saved. That's why——I will believe in myself and fight."
Takeru stopped his feet and stood a little bit away from Hayato.
"One for all, all for one huh. It's a self-centered idea. For me, if I can save everyone at expanse of just myself, I choose that as the captain."
Hearing those words Takeru felt they had a meaning of "I'll sacrifice myself to protect everyone".
"But isn't it selfish to sacrifice yourself?"
"I don't know what you burdened yourself with all alone, but you had comrades. They desperately wanted to convince you and to know what were you trying to do. Your ego is the reason why you haven't told them about it."
"I will no longer burden myself all alone. Unlike you."
Hearing Takeru's words, Hayato lowered his head and turned towards him.
"So that's why you turn Ootori Sougetsu into your enemy. You involve your comrades and turn the world into your enemy."
"I just want stop him from using my little sister. But, if that person's final goal is to destroy the world, I'll stop him."
"Will you kill him?"
"If necessary, I'm willing to."
An instant answer. He didn't have a speck of hesitation when it came to killing that man.
He had no intention of forgiving what has been done to his little sister and comrades. But if that man had a reason to perpetrate all that, Takeru wanted to know it.
Whether he kills him or not can be decided afterwards.
"——In that case, I need to stop you at all costs."
Hayato pulled the jet-black revolver, Caligula.
And one more, he pulled out the silver revolver on the low holster on his waist, performed a gunspin and aimed it at Takeru.
Takeru furrowed his eyebrows.
"Why? There should be no meaning in us fighting each other. Since you have betrayed and chased after this document, Kurogane-san also considers Chairman as your enemy, right?"
"Yeah. But, I changed my mind after reading this document. I can no longer allow you kill to Ootori Sougetsu."
"I will judge that man in a method other than killing. Don't put a hand on him."
Saying so indifferently, Hayato raised silver revolver's hammer.
Takeru held the sword forward and asked.
"...what is written in that document?"
"I cannot tell you that. If you want to know, you have no other way but to take it from me."
Wind had blown between the two.
It seemed like there was no other way but to fight for the two who had taken a different path while aiming for the same place.
"I don't want to fight you. You have saved us."
"I'm acting in accordance to my own law. I had until now and will in the future."
"Can't we cooperate here...?"
"As long as you are contracted to Mistilteinn, it's impossible. In accordance to my law, I will stop you here."
Somewhere in his heart, Takeru thought that this will happen.
Ever since he had come back from Magic Academy and had declared in front of him that they will join Heretic Alliance, he thought so. He couldn't bring himself to aim the blade at the man who had saved them twice.
However, Takeru couldn't yield in here.
Takeru raised his sword and resolved himself.
"If you stand in my way, I'll defeat you!"
Hayato standing against him set up Caligula in his right hand and spoke quietly.
"I will not acknowledge your law."
An azure-colored magical circle had appeared beneath Takeru's feet.
A jet-black and silver magical circles had rotated violently under Hayato's feet.
" "Summis desiderantes affectibus——" "
" "——Malleus Maleficarum!" "
Before the armor had wrapped around their bodies, the two kicked off the ground.
Takeru had lowered his upper body to the limit and headed for Hayato with the sword in his sheath.
On the other hand Hayato had aimed Caligula's muzzle at Takeru and rushed to him at full speed.
The two's bodies were wrapped around in the armor on the verge of their clash.
Takeru thought Kurogane Hayato was strong. He could see it at a glance. Most likely his strength was on the level equal to that of his master, Orochi.
That was why it wasn't a good idea to prolong it nor hold back.
There was no other chance than to hit him with all he had right from the start——
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——Heavenly Evil Spirit!"
He instantaneously invoked Soumatou to the limit and using sword drawing technique's repulsive force he released a high speed slash.
It was Takeru's maximum speed. An attack that had surpassed the speed of sound.
——However, that slash had been repelled with a single magical bullet of Caligula's fired by Hayato.
Having his sword blown away strongly, Takeru bent backwards.
He was surprised to lose in power, but what was even more astonishing was the fact Hayato could fire at the blade moving that fast.
The shockwave had raised Takeru's hair and raised the dust up.
《"For Caligula to be this powerful...!"》
Takeru utilized the recoil and with his bent posture he was about to take another step forward.
However, before he could do it, Hayato closed the distance between them.
Hayato kicked. Even though Takeru knew that, he couldn't see that attack at all.
Soundless. It was so fast there wasn't even any sound of cutting through the wind.
A single blow hammered into him had broke Takeru's body into a く shape.
A sound like an earth's tremor had rang out, followed by a sound like that of a thunder.
He couldn't believe it.
Hayato's kick alone had speed equivalent to that of Takeru's Heavenly Evil Spirit.
Although it seemed like he would be blown away, he had stood firm and with the leg still on his belly, he had pushed forward.
It wasn't the time to care about the stances. He just recklessly swung his sword to deliver an attack to the opponent.
Still maintaining the posture he used for the kick, Hayato fired a magical bullet. The bullet once again hit the blade directly.
This time Takeru was unable to withstand the recoil and his shoulder was disconnected.
The arm disconnected from the shoulder had fluttered from the impact like a flag fueled on the wind.
The moment he heard Lapis' scream, Takeru's face that made an anguished expression was grasped by Hayato's hand.
Hayato removed his leg from Takeru's belly and this time bent his knee.
And he slammed Takeru's head onto his knee.
The impact had penetrated to the brain. Although the skull wasn't cracked, the damage was more than serious.
Takeru shown the whites of his eyes and his consciousness faded.
And then, furthermore——Hayato had aimed at Takeru's chest from zero distance.
With Takeru losing consciousness, Lapis moved independently. She had made the armor thicker at the place of impact and in addition to that, she had ejected magic from the gaps in the armor on the chest.
The ejected magic had struck Hayato's body, making him momentarily let go of Takeru's head.
Hayato fired a Magical Bullet at Takeru who was escaping by ejecting magic.
Lapis had adjusted the magic ejection to change traveling direction, moving in a zig-zag which spared Takeru getting a direct hit.
The magical power ejection had blown Takeru's body away backwards and he rammed into the debris.
After having his back hit the rubble, Takeru woke up.
"? ...damnn, my consciousness... I lost it, huh..."
Shaking his head, he stood up weakly.
《"Host... it's unfortunate, but the opponent is clearly better. It can be said that even in close quarters combat we're at disadvantage."》
While relocating his shoulder, Takeru listened to what Lapis said.
At disadvantage in close combat. He didn't want to admit it, but that's how it was.
In such a short amount of time he had realized how skilled Hayato was.
Involuntarily he was reminded of the everyday training with Orochi. The difference between their strength was clear.
He was so strong Takeru felt like laughing. It has been a while since he had fought someone far beyond him.
At times like these, there was no way he could win unless he used his head a little.
《"Host, I have absorbed a lot of magical power in the battles so far. In current state I have the excess magical power absorbed so far by God Hunter form."》
"...what should we do?"
《"The amount of ammo that can be loaded into Caligula has a maximum of five. In other words, there are two bullets remaining inside. Because of its characteristics, Caligula cannot be reloaded until it exhausts all the bullets. In other words, if we do something about remaining two rounds, he will have to reload."》
That's when there'll be an opening, is what Lapis meant.
That was the reason why Hayato fought in close combat and suppressed the magical bullet usage.
《"However, if we approach from this distance the opponent will most likely finish reloading."》
In other words, if he approaches the opening will disappear.
There was a need to finish him off from this distance.
That's when Lapis autonomously expanded a magical circle and had wrapped Takeru's body with a magical film.
《"Let yourself get shot. I will surely protect you from the remaining two shots with the stored magical power. After protecting you I'll turn the blade huge, please defeat Kurogane Hayato with it. I'll also use the remaining magical power for enchanting it."》
Slowly walking, Hayato had aimed the muzzle towards them.
Takeru resolved himself, believing in Lapis.
"——Let's do it, Lapis!"
He took a posture raising his sword high and gathered his strength to the limit.
"...I see. You thought it through. Protecting yourself from magical bullets with magic, forcing a reload."
Hayato had completely read their thoughts.
However, he had played along with it.
"In that case——let me pay my condolences."
Immediately after speaking contemptuously,
"I'm serious, take it on."
Hayato put a finger on the trigger and fired the magical bullet.
A black lightning had burst out.
It's size was completely different from the one fired earlier.
"W-what's with this size...UOOHH?!!"
Immediately after Takeru let out a surprised voice, the huge, jet-black magical bullet had landed on the protective magic.
Scraping the ground, the bullet surged on him.
《"Hhh...! Kh...uu... so he was holding back...until now...?!"》
Raising a surprised voice, Lapis maintained protective magic.
Protective magic wasn't a strong point of Lapis. To begin with, Relic Eaters are mostly unable to use any other magic than their intrinsic magic.
And that's why right now Lapis had supplemented it by using a high amount of magical power she had absorbed so far. Rather than using a carefully built operative procedure the protection magic used a high amount of magical power to effectively ensure its strength and endurance.
However, the protective magic Lapis could use was very basic. It had continued to rapidly consume magical power.
The bullet didn't disappear, it had continued to bite into the protective magic endlessly.
It wasn't magic, it was just a magical bullet.
It was just a mass of magical power with this much power.
Even Lapis' enchant would be unable to absorb it.
《"Consumption is higher than...at this rate...!"》
"Do your best Lapis... a little bit more!"
《"!!...the magical power for bearing next bullet is...!"》
"I'll somehow manage to avoid it!"
《"If magical power of this mass explodes we'll be involved in the impact anyway..!"》
Lapis said that it was impossible to avoid a magical bullet of this magnitude.
Then what should he do? What should he do about the opponent's attack?
After continued blocking the magical bullet had finally disappeared, it seemed impossible to maintain protective magic for any longer.
There was one more bullet remaining.
About to fire another bullet, Hayato squinted.
Suddenly, a green shadow had descended, aiming for Hayato.
Takeru changed his desperate expression and cried out towards the shadow falling from the sky.
In order to respond to the surprise attack, with eyes wide open Hayato had pointed his muzzle at the attacker in the sky, then fired a huge magical bullet.
"——As if it'd hit!"
Kyouya had avoided the attack at the last moment by ejecting magical power.
Hayato's bullet had ascended far into the sky and caused a large explosion in there.
Because there was a large distance between them, the explosion didn't reach Kyouya.
"Kusanagi! Match me!"
Hearing Kyouya's shout, Takeru released his own strength.
"Lapis! Put it on."
《"Understood. 'Twilight Enchantment', enchantment reversal, flexible material release."》
The sword held by Takeru had been morphed into a 50 meters long zweihander and shone, tinged with azure-colored magic. The surrounding air had changed completely and a storm of magical power had swept down from the blade.
He attacked just one moment after Kyouya.
Hayato could either take on Kyouya's attack or avoid it. In this situation he couldn't afford to reload. In other words Hayato was defenseless the moment he avoided or intercepted. That's where Takeru aimed.
——I definitely won't miss!
To cut down with everything he had!
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——"
He had clenched the handle of zweihander as if trying to break it.
At the same time, Kyouya's blow assaulted Hayato. Adding falling speed and ejecting magic from behind, rotating, Kyouya had delivered a blow with a tonfa.
Hayato raised one hand upwards——and caught it.
In the middle of the shockwave, Kyouya pushed forward using the magic booster.
Hayato's strong arm didn't budge at all.
On the contrary, while holding Kyouya's fist Hayato aimed the silver gun in his hand at Takeru.
But it was already too late.
Takeru didn't stop. Not missing this opportunity, he attacked using his entire body.
The accumulated strength was released now.
"——Yamata no Orochi!"
A series of eight attacks at super high speed.
At Soumatou's maximum speed, the six slashes surpassing speed of sound——
"I told you to give up."
Hayato's voice didn't reach Takeru.
And yet, chills ran down his entire body.
Something is coming. Hayato's calm and collected expression, the silver muzzle, all of it told Takeru of this truth.
But he didn't stop. Yamata no Orochi released at maximum speed couldn't be stopped.
He had no choice but to blast it before Hayato fires!
Increasing the speed he swung it all at once.
However——soundlessly, the bullet was fired.
Silver-colored and pea-sized light.
It directly hit the zweihander Takeru held.
A sound similar to glass cracking had echoed.
He had no idea what happened.
Takeru just stood there, stunned.
He stood there, that was all.
The sword he was about to swing down had returned to its original shape of a Japanese sword.
The blade releasing magical power had returned back to normal state as well.
He had no clue.
The moment the silver bullet shot by Hayato touched them, everything had become as if the attack didn't happen in the first place.
The attack was cancelled? Reset?
What remained was a fog around him, just the diffused silver particles.
《"Impossible... all the magical power I built up... was diffused?"》
This phenomenon was named a diffusion by Lapis.
He had no idea. Just what did Hayato do?
Grasping Kyouya's fist, Hayato had flung him with abandon towards Takeru.
Bouncing on the ground, Kyouya rolled next to Takeru.
"Shitt! What, just what happened?!"
"What the hell you doin' Kusanagi?! Why didn't you attack!"
Kyouya raised his body and angrily questioned him.
Despite being asked that, Takeru couldn't explain what he didn't understand.
Hayato pulled the silver gun back and opened the smoking cylinder.
"...Maximilian's intrinsic performance is to enchant its magical bullets allowing it to diffuse all attack energy. Magic, magical power, physical force, all energy is instantly converted into magical power and diffused into the air."
What Hayato said, meant that the silver particles floating around them was the energy itself spread by Maximilian.
He loaded a bullet into the cylinder and pulled the hammer back.
"It was used only three times before. It is no wonder Mistilteinn doesn't know of it."
Slowly, once again Hayato turned Maximilian's muzzle at Takeru.
"Maximilian's power is not just spreading."
"It can condense the diffused energy——and to detonate it in any point."
Hayato soundly pulled the trigger to the limit.
In an instant the particles scattered around them have begun to converge right in front of Takeru.
Small silver particles continued to concentrate at one point.
Beautiful, even though what he could see was just a small light, for some reason that light looked to him more brutal than anything in this world——
Takeru desperately shouted.
Hearing Kyouya's voice who was right beside, Takeru turned to look at him.
Kyouya aimed Nero's muzzle——right at Takeru.
"I'm paying you back."
Without even looking at him, Kyouya fired a shell from Nero.
Takeru was blown away and had slammed into a building a few hundred meters away.
He knew it the moment he was shot.
He received no damage. That shell just blew him away. Raising his upper body Takeru looked at Kyouya.
Stared at the appearance of Kyouya who kicked off the ground at his full speed to get away from the condensed light.
At the same time Takeru tried to shout his name, the world has been shrouded in silence for just a moment and his vision was stained with white light.
What had come afterwards was just a roar and impact.
Ten minutes before the explosion.
Sougetsu spread a sheet inside of the Chairman's room and practiced with a golf putter.
《"Currently, Kurogane Hayato and Kusanagi Takeru are in combat. Kurogane is overwhelming but... what should we do?"》
Holding a handset between his shoulder and cheek, Sougetsu listened to the report of the detached force.
"I don't think Kurogane-kun will kill Kusanagi-kun, but assist Kusanagi-kun if it looks really bad."
《"Un-understood... but, um..."》
"What? You're not going to say he's already dead are you?"
When Sougetsu asked with a slightly cramped smile, the subordinate responded with "he's alive".
《"It's just... I wondered... if we're cable of assisting him. Honestly, whether we're able to deliver any damage to Kurogane Hayato is..."》
Hearing that, Sougetsu smiled wryly and responded with "don't worry".
"You have been assigned Guillotines, haven't you. There's no need to worry as long as you have them."
"The future of EXE depends on you, I have high expectations."
After the call finished Sougetsu flung the receiver towards the sofa. Pulling himself together he returned to practicing with putter.
"As if I'd expect anything of them...woops."
Holding the handle, Sougetsu gently hit the ball.
The ball rolled on the green sheet, then with its momentum it had reached the hole, but did not enter it.
"Grrrr.", he loudly growled and *bam*! He hit the floor with the sole of his foot.
The ball had entered the cup soundly, Sougetsu made a gut's pose with a loud 'YES!".
"...what do you want?"
With a watery sound, red meat had overflowed from the floor. Kiseki had emerged from its center.
"——Woahh?! Y-y...you surprised me. D-do something about the way you appear, it's bad for my heart."
"I don't care. What do you want?"
When Kiseki said so disinterested, Sougetsu put the putter on his shoulder with a smile.
"Actually, there's something I want your help with. Kurogane-kun... you know, the inquisitor who had caught you at first, do you remember him?"
"I see. Well, that absurdly powerful person seems to be fighting your Onii-chan now. And, while it's always like that for your Onii-chan, he seems quite outmatched. He might actually die."
Hearing it, Hyakki Yakou at Kiseki's feet had bristled.
It must be because she heard her brother is in danger and felt like going there.
I will be the one to kill Onii-chan.
She didn't say it, but her eyes complained so.
"Ah, wait wait. Going there directly is NG. You can't."
"Shut up. Don't order me around. Kiseki is going to save Onii-chan."
"You won't make it in time if you go there directly. Calm down, the mass-produced Relic Eaters that were sent to the detached force have your cells embedded. It should be enough to awaken those. After all, you can manipulate the cells."
Kiseki stared at Sougetsu with the embedded eyes, he stood up with a grin, raising his index finger.
"See? It's good to have me as your ally, right? And here your Onii-chan was nearly killed."
She fell silent for a while and after a moment, she closed her eyes.
Instead, a number of eyes had appeared on the Hyakki Yakou below his feet and wriggled around.
It must have been sensing for the whereabouts of the cells inside mass-produced Relic Eaters.
Sougetsu nodded satisfied and returned to practicing golf.
A cloud of dust had rose up from the rubble, Takeru had forced his body to crawl out from below.
《"Host, are you injured?!"》
"I'm... fine. I can still move somehow."
Although the damage he received from the explosion was minor, the damage he received to his abdomen at first was very large. If not for Lapis' body strengthening, he would have burst into smithereens.
"...Lapis, can you find Kyouya's response?"
《"There is a biological response. Southwest, right around the corner."》
When Takeru turned around towards southwest, he saw a hand protrude from the debris.
He immediately rushed in and pulled Kyouya from below the rubble.
Kyouya opened his eyes with a groan.
His body was beat up far beyond how Takeru's body was. The armor on his entire body was blown off and the Tyrant property magical power had covered almost his entire body with burns. Although thanks to armor he didn't have broken bones, it was probably impossible for him to fight any longer.
"Nero, was it? Can't you fix it with your power?"
《"...shut up...I'm doing it..."》
A sulky voice had echoed in his head.
《"Your healing ability should be high, why are you dawdling with just this much."》
《"Shut up, idioot! I can't heal him even though I want to! It's your fault damn it! I can't go all out if Master's heart ain't set on revenge!"》
When Lapis interjected, Nero had become furious.
《"What are you doing Master! What paying back, don't screw around...! Don't you go saving this fool.. you disappointed me! My own revenge is undiminished yet!"》
"The one...to shut up is you, shitty gun... in the first place, don't you go worryin' 'bout me."
Kyouya forced a voice out.
When Takeru attempted to lend him a shoulder, Kyouya had shaken his hand off.
"If you've got time to bother yourself with me... go fight."
"Shut up. Be silent. I've repaid you what I owed. The rest is up to you...!"
Kyouya hit Takeru's chest and clenched his teeth.
"I won't die with just this... Akira is waiting for me...! I'll definitely go back...!"
"Buy some time until I recover... if you can't do it, I'll do it then...!"
Takeru looked into Kyouya's glaring eyes, and was relieved.
While Nero said the revenge in his heart had declined, this man's obsession didn't change in the least. He won't die. Even if he has to crawl, he'll survive.
"You have my thanks, Kyouya."
"Stop! That's disgusting!"
Smiling at the reply, Takeru stood up.
Passing through the rubble he walked towards the square that no longer retained its original form.
Kurogane Hayato stood in the same place as before.
"He's a man akin to a stray dog, but Kirigaya managed to withstand it, huh. Not bad."
Walking towards Hayato, Takeru had poised the sword to the side.
"Of course. I can't show myself to Kyouya like this. It would be another case if Kurogane-san passed me the document though."
"Can't do that. I decided that this information cannot be disclosed to anyone. Kusanagi, you have no reason to fight Ootori Sougetsu. Leave that man's treatment to me."
"It's same for Kusanagi Kiseki. There is no need for children to fight."
Although these were one-sided and authoritative words and he was called a child, strangely Takeru didn't feel a discomfort or sense of inferiority.
Just how long has it been since he was treated as a kid.
Fighting against Hayato, he understood one thing.
He had clearly realized it when he saw wounded Kyouya.
Kurogane Hayato, this man——from the very beginning until now, hasn't fought seriously.
In this fight until now he had plenty of opportunities to finish Takeru off. Takeru alone counted at least ten, Hayato should be able to take his life.
It was the same with Maximilian's particles explosion. Despite the fact it had hit Kyouya at zero distance, Kyouya was alive. His armor was just blown off and his skin burned. Lapis too had called referred to his injuries with "just this much", it meant that Hayato had suppressed that explosion's power.
This man didn't have any intention of killing them since the beginning.
What he tried was to show them the overwhelming difference in their strength, to make them give up on their rebellion and rescuing Kiseki. Killing Takeru wasn't his objective in the least.
Surely, he was trying to stop Takeru and others from fighting.
He was trying to make Takeru and others realize just how powerful the enemy is.
——Even if I hold back, you can't win.
That's what Hayato wanted to make him realize through combat.
In that case, what should he do?
I too——will make you understand.
I too have strength required to defeat you.
As to say, the one to back off is you.
This man wasn't his enemy.
To Takeru, he was a wall.
Unless he breaks through this wall here, he won't be able to save Kiseki or defeat Ootori Sougetsu.
"...you sure talk whatever you please, I too, have something I want to say."
"I must save Kiseki. No one but me——can save her!"
These were words of Takeru who believed in himself.
There was no need to look for a reason to fight.
He was her brother, he had hurt her, he was unable to protect her.
That's why he'll save her. She might hate it, but he'll continue to outstretch his hand. She might escape, but he'll continue to chase after her.
That was all he could do.
Takeru stopped walking, taking form of a demon he readied his sword.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style initiate, Kusanagi Takeru——I'll prove it to you! That there are things only I can save...!"
Hearing these words Hayato slightly furrowed his eyebrows and closed his eyes.
However, only for a moment.
When Hayato opened his eyes the next instant, in them there was a resolve not to show any mercy.
"Very well. I shall teach you, just how powerful are those people you intend to face, how abnormal they are. And then, give up——there is no need for you to know the truth of the world."
And, crossing the revolvers in both his hands he had expanded magical circle.
The jet-black and silver armor overlapped, Hayato's head was covered with steel.
"Inquisition's Zeroth Extermination Dark Riot Police's captain, Kurogane Hayato. Come at me——Kusanagi Takeru."
The pupils clad in armor had flashed with blue light.
In that moment, battle of the two had began.
The one who attacked first was Takeru. He assaulted the strongest EXE.
Tricks won't work. It'll be all diffused with the silver gun. I can only challenge him with my swordsmanship!
Bring it on, Takeru jumped horizontally in the middle of the run.
He pulled half of his body backwards, twisted his entire body and had released a thrust.
Unicorn's Destructive Lance.
A blow concentrating on one point had approached Hayato.
And Hayato——had stopped the thrust, catching the blade with one hand.
Immediately after hearing the voice, Takeru noticed he was in the sky.
The armor on his abdomen had cracked.
What was done to him? Was he kicked upwards?
"Whatever you do——is too slow!"
Before he realized Hayato had jumped and appeared right beside him, in the air.
As he tried to confirm his appearance in surprise, this time he was thrown into the ground.
Takeru got up instantly and triggered Soumatou, then reading ahead Hayato's next attack he avoided to the right.
Immediately after that, Hayato's kick had burst into the ground. The ground had broken off and pebbles splattered all around.
He's fast, even if I use Soumatou!! I should raise my speed furth——?!
Even though the scenery around him was in slow motion, Hayato had approached Takeru at speed he was unable to follow.
——This is too slow too?!
Caligula's muzzle was pressed against his head.
——Raised Soumatou's power even further.
Momentarily he reached the limit of speed and avoided before the bullet was fired.
Lowering his waist, he tried to deliver a blow to Hayato from below.
But——in front of him, once again was a gun's muzzle.
The silver barrel was that of Maximilian's.
It wasn't that Hayato had predicted Takeru would avoid Caligula and enter below him. Certainly, Hayato held Maximilian prepared after Takeru had avoided.
Not enough speed.
A silver magical bullet was fired. Were it be a direct hit, it could possibly even diffuse Witch Hunt form itself.
He twisted his neck, twisted his body, avoiding the silver bullet.
In order to increase his speed beyond the limit Takeru had overused his brain.
Takeru rolled on the ground after having the magical bullet graze his cheek.
Although it was just a fraction of a second during which he triggered Soumatou, his speed had far exceeded speed of sound and a shockwave was generated just from his movement. The recoil from the momentum was fierce and it took time to stop.
Hayato looked coldly at Takeru who had avoided and reloaded Maximilian with another bullet.
Maximilian must have needed to be reloaded after one shot.
"...so you raise your speed further, huh. However, that's not speed I can't keep up with."
Takeru stood up and when he tried to raise his sword,
Along with a shockwave, Hayato had appeared in front of him.
Seeing Hayato look down on him from right in front, Takeru was speechless.
"What can you do with just this much? You're a man who can't do anything unless you rely on Mistilteinn."
"The ones you want to stand against are enemies of this level....! I'll have you comprehend it...!"
The moment Hayato's face distorted with anger——it had begun.
One-sided violence. One-sided destruction. One-sided show of power difference.
Attacks surpassing speed of sound have assaulted Takeru's body.
The attacks themselves were simple. Moving his body like whirlwind, using both hands, both legs, head, and firing magical bullets with Caligula.
It was as if Takeru received a barrage from all directions at once.
He couldn't see them. He couldn't catch up with them. He couldn't comprehend them.
His entire body was breaking.
《"Host! We can only activate God-Hunter form now! At this rate you will really die! The magical power to maintain Witch Hunter too is... no longer...!"》
In the middle of the storm of violence he couldn't even feel pain from, Lapis' voice had echoed.
He knew that ever since Hayato had started his continuous attacks, Lapis had focused on strengthening defense and nerves in his entire body. The only reason he had survived these sonic attacks was thanks to her. Were he in the ordinary Witch Hunter form state he would have died long time ago.
Kurogane Hayato's brain had the same processing power Takeru had when he used Soumatou.
Moreover, for Hayato that was a normal state. This high-speed world was the world Hayato was seeing.
There was no way to beat him. There was no other way to overthrow him other than to rely on God Hunter form's power.
However, Takeru's will had firmly denied it. Unable to speak out in his mind, he shook his head in response to Lapis who wanted to trigger God Hunter form.
We can't. God Hunter form isn't something to use out of desperation. That really is the last resort. It can't be used unless they are confident of their victory with it.
Now, it still isn't the time to use it.
The continuous attacks have ceased and Hayato grasped Takeru's collar.
Glare, clenched teeth, Hayato hit Takeru as he pleased.
"Go hide together with your comrades and don't come out until war is over. That's the correct choice you ought to take. Your life is not just your any more. You have comrades who want to protect you, don't you. Why can't you understand that the best way is for you and your comrades not to fight...?! You fighting on, means forsaking everything!"
"I have nothing else to lose! That's why I'll shoulder everything!"
"If you think about your comrades, about the world——don't fight any more!"
With contradictions and ego, hopes and request, a blow with entire body weight behind it had pierced into Takeru's cheek.
Takeru's body was blown away like a meteor.
Deciding it's settled, Hayato was about to close his eyes.
However——placing his feet on the ground Takeru had stopped by scrapping the ground.
He didn't fall over. After receiving a merciless blow, Takeru stood firmly.
His consciousness must have been fading away already.
His body and spirit weren't in a proper state. He should have been ragged out.
And yet——Takeru stood firm.
A breathless groan had spilled from Takeru's mouth.
His beat-up body attempted to naturally sheathe his sword.
In his head, there were only remnants of thought.
His thinking had moved away from that of a human, from that of a beast, making him become an existence only seeking one desire.
It was as if he had become an existence like a ruthless demon continuously fulfilling his desires.
What he sought.
It wasn't enough. His speed wasn't sufficient. The factor required to defeat the man in front of him was pure swordsmanship. Out of it, it was just the swordsmanship's speed.
——Soumatou. The prohibited technique of Double-Edged style.
After Takeru had learned Soumatou, his Master, Orochi had said.
『"See, humans have their movement restricted by the limiter in their brains. It's there so that their bodies and brain doesn't break. That's something you can't do anythin' about with your will. It's same for Soumatou, that too has a limit. That limit, is so to speak the last limit. It can be said that this limit is the proof of being a human."』
If the limiter is the proof of being a human.
——Then, what happens to a human once it's exceeded?
『"He dies. Humans can't withstand it."』
Takeru from the past wondered about it after hearing the story from Orochi.
Why is it that ceasing to be a human meant the person would die, he wondered.
Was it possible, if one would obtain a body that's not of a human, he wondered.
In that case, what should I do?
It wasn't that Takeru recalled memories of the past now.
Like a beast, he just sought speed.
The speed to reach the monster.
Faster faster faster faster faster faster faster.
Faster faster faster even faster————not enough————not enough not enough not enough————reach reach reach reach reachreachreachreach.
Nowhere specific——just, faster, single-mindedly faster. Faster and ahead, faster.
《"Host! That's enough! Please fall over! Please gi——ve———u———————————————————"》
Lapis' voice echoed in his head had distorted.
No, it fell behind. He couldn't hear it any longer.
Her voice had slowed down. The sound had slowed down.
The clouded over world he could see had stopped.
Speechless Hayato had stopped.
Takeru could see the moisture in the air. He could see sound echoing in the space. He could see a single grain of light moving in the air.
Everything other than light had stopped, it was a beautiful and fantastic sight.
Seeing this scenery, his thinking of a monster just seeking speed had returned to sanity.
——Ahh, this area isn't one humans should reach.
——I can't go there. I need to go back.
——I need to save.
——I need to survive and come back.
When he finally noticed, Takeru had moved in the unmoving world.
He clenched the handle, grasped the sheath. Sunk low on his leg, his body falling forward.
He pulled out——the sword.
"Kusanagi, Double-Edged, style——"
In a world he couldn't hear his own voice in, Takeru,
——Had released the strike.
That attack he wasn't aware of hadn't been written about in the Kusanagi Double-Edged style's book of secrets.
The reason for that was, because it's inventor was Orochi. He had been dissatisfied that there was no secret moves in Double-Edged style and had devised it by himself.
Desiring speed alone, going beyond human limits, leaving the sound behind, simply aiming for the "light" that had boasted of it's ultimate speed.
What was born in the process. was this technique.
Kusanagi Double-Edged style's secret art——Kusanagi Sword.
The time had returned to the world the instant he had pulled the sword out of its sheath, aiming for Hayato.
No one in the location knew what had occurred.
Slowly, Hayato turned around to look at Takeru.
He had turned around to look at Takeru who imperceptibly, instantly moved behind him.
And, the moment he saw Takeru's back——armor on Hayato's chest had crumbled and blood burst out.
At the same time a loud roar had resounded from tens of meters of ground, crossing the point Hayato stood in.
Moreover, the arm of Takeru who had swung the sword was hit by the blast of air and turned into a horrible state.
A roar after roar, destruction after destruction had lagged behind Takeru's strike.
The world had regained its silence a five seconds later.
"...gha...kghh...hh! What, just now...!"
Having a great tear in his chest, Hayato fell on his knees. Even though his head knew that he had received a godspeed blow, he still couldn't believe it.
It was a miracle he was still alive.
When he punched Takeru's face and saw him stand firm without falling, Hayato had a bad feeling.
One could say he had a foreboding, he felt Takeru wasn't being sane and had concentrated both Maximilian's and Caligula's magical power on his chest to devote himself to defense.
The premonition was right on target.
Even Hayato could only see Takeru disappear.
An attack at impossible speed. Not only it had surpassed the barrier of sound, it had reached further, further and further. An unavoidable slash.
An inhuman technique devised by Kusanagi Double-Edged style... that was an attack on a completely different level from what Kurogane Hayato could catch up to.
"...so he surpassed me...in that instant."
Squinting, Hayato had realized he was defeated by Takeru.
In that instant, the height Kusanagi Takeru's existence had been elevated to, was immeasurable. Whatever was ahead, whether it was just temporary or not, Takeru had surpassed Hayato.
Although Hayato intended to have him submit and surrender, the tables were turned and he had ended up surrendering.
Closing his narrowed eyes, Hayato exhaled.
He was unable to stop him.
This defeat, could be called the first step towards on the road to destruction of this world.
Hayato, who had read the through the document was convinced of it.
"I... have nothing more to say."
He released the Witch Hunter form and stood up.
Although he received more damage than he imagined, it wasn't enough to stop him from moving.
Moving his aching body, Hayato walked towards where Takeru had been. Takeru was lying down on the ground, beside him was Lapis who had used the remaining magical power to heal his body.
It was the first time he had seen a Relic Eater protecting its Master this desperately. Caligula and Maximilian rather than trust Hayato, have sworn allegiance to him instead. Making a contract with "Hero Vessel" was just a natural instinct of a Magical Heritage. They didn't show any human reactions like this azure-colored girl had.
It was a mystery. The sword that led to ruin alone behaving just like a human would.
This girl and this boy... maybe, possibly. Hayato thought.
"...I have no intention of attacking him any more."
"Protect him to your best. So that this man doesn't go down the wrong path... not as a god-slaying sword. but as a human."
Hayato took out the document from his pocket.
And, at that time he heard multiple sounds of footsteps come from the other side of the rubble.
He could tell by the footsteps. It was the 35th platoon bunch.
Ouka had shown herself first, seeing fallen Takeru she had turned the muzzle at Hayato without any hesitation. Next was Mari who expanded a magical circle, entering battle readiness.
After that came Ikaruga who glared at Hayato and Usagi who snuggled up to Takeru.
"...p-please stop, no more than this...!"
Usagi had clung to Takeru as if to protect him.
At the same time, a presence behind him appeared.
"...made you wait, bastardd...! Who the fuck is a stray dog...?!"
Hayato could tell that after being healed to an extent he could move, Kyouya had poised Nero behind him.
In this situation, Hayato calmly looked up at the sky.
Closing his eyes, he imagined their fate.
He imagined Kusanagi Takeru's fate.
With this sword... and these comrades... possibly... Kusanagi Takeru might move on without inviting destruction...
He had slight hopes of that.
Possibly, maybe... it was the first time he used such words.
Hayato made a small smile.
Ouka made a surprised expression.
It was the first time for her to see Hayato smiling.
"...fine already. It's my loss. Take Mineshiro's information and go."
After saying so, Hayato threw Mineshiro Kazuma's document.
Usagi hurriedly caught it.
Whether Takeru was to read the document or not, he wouldn't withdraw anyway. That's what Hayato learned in this fight.
He had no idea how Kusanagi Takeru would move after knowing the truth, but in any case, this boy won't stop. Trying to stop him was pointless.
But, it would be best not to let them know.
This fate was too heavy for him. Hayato could tell what anguish had awaited him in the future.
Hayato had taken out one more thing from his pocket and fired it at Ouka.
"Ootori Ouka. This too."
It was a locket.
Ouka caught it with one hand and looked at the locket in puzzlement.
"Inside, I wrote where I hid Mephistopheles' body."
"You probably need it. You can go and recover it."
Despite surprise, Ouka looked at Hayato with complex feelings in her eyes.
Hayato could feel her confusion and gratitude.
"I'm no longer your captain. This guy is your captain."
He looked down at Takeru.
In his gaze as he looked down on Takeru, dwelled something similar to nostalgia.
Hayato thought. This boy, will walk a different path from me or Mineshiro Kazuma.
Having stronger ego, law than anyone, being more selfish than anyone, walking forward more firm than anyone, he would pierce through anything. Hayato didn't know what awaited him at his destination. Of course, if Takeru mistakes his path, Hayato will judge him immediately. He will have to be executed. For the sake of the world.
The information in Kazuma's document, was for the sake of that.
Hayato raised his face, he saw the platoon members look at Hayato curiously.
"Hurry up and escape from this place. Very soon, it'll be swallowed by the Sanctuary."
Immediately after Hayato said that, the watch-type devices on Ouka and others' arms have sounded an alarm.
It was an alarm informing them that Akashic Hazard was going to flow into the time zone.
As told by Hayato, Ouka had held Takeru together with Usagi who was beside him, lending him a shoulder.
Hayato turned around on his heel and attempted to leave the location.
"W-where are you going to go?"
Ouka's voice had come from behind him.
Hayato didn't answer. There was nothing else to tell them.
Just like Kusanagi Takeru, he just had to move forward on his own path. When he thought that and attempted to move forward, something stood there.
It was an EXE member in a mass-produced Relic Eater's Witch Hunter form.
He could tell by a single glance at the steel-colored armor.
It was one of the inquisitors monitoring Hayato.
"What's that...? Isn't he... weird?"
Feeling a strange air, Mari thought of it as eerie.
Hayato sharply narrowed his eyes and glared at the EXE member's body.
Something like dark red blood vessels has eroded his body. And it wasn't just the body, even the armor was dark red and wavy like meat.
At a glance Hayato realized what was it.
Hyakki Yakou. The appearance of a human that had it's cell transplanted into him.
"Hurry and go! Run away!"
Once again he materialized Maximilian and Caligula in his hand, cladding himself in armor.
Ouka and others seemed confused and didn't move.
Meanwhile, the human's form was swallowed in the flesh and ignoring the mass had overflowed with red meat.
With a crackling sound the red meat continued to form a huge human-like shape. It let out a frightened voice like a baby crying at night.
Rather than form a muddy stream like before, it had retained a shape of strong meat.
As if——it was a giant demon. Since Kusanagi Kiseki had become able to control Hyakki Yakou, she must have become able to fix it into a proper shape.
"Go! Don't dawdle! I won't forgive you if you die here!"
After hearing his angry voice, the platoon members had begun to move.
Kyouya had carried Takeru and everyone had moved away from Hayato at full speed.
Ouka alone had turned around to look time after time.
From the distant sky a black storm was imminent. The visualization of Akashic Hazard was reflected in this manner.
There was no time left. If he's not instantly killed by Hyakki Yakou, he will die swallowed up by the Sanctuary.
Hayato smiled and with a "bring it on" he raised his guns.
All of this was contrived by Ootori Sougetsu. He put Hyakki Yakou into his subordinates and activated it when the location was about to be swallowed-up by the Akashic Hazard.
In order to erase Hayato here.
That's why, Hayato laughed.
Try it all you want, it meant.
"I——won't die so easily!"
Wit the black storm approaching, Kurogane Hayato had confronted the menace with all he had.
The reason why Kurogane Hayato didn't want to pass the document to Takeru.
It was because Takeru was the contractor of the god-slaying sword.
Written in the document left behind by Mineshiro Kazuma was the truth of how the world is being maintained and how was it born.
Mineshiro Kazuma had joined Heretic Alliance and in the "Fragment of Mythological World" he had obtained a variety of unbelievable information.
That this world had been completed through collision with mythological world, and is a mistaken world.
That magic of this world, is part of the power once used by gods.
That magic didn't exist before the worlds have collided.
That a world in which magic exists cannot be maintained without a god.
And in the end, Mineshiro Kazuma wrote a mention on Ootori Sougetsu.
Ootori Sougetsu is this world's god.
Ootori Sougetsu is not to be killed.
If Ootori Sougetsu is killed, the world will be destroyed.
Therefore, that man's goal is his own death——
——The god-slaying sword cannot be allowed to form a contract with one that possesses inhuman soul.