"Hey, Kanata-san〜. Did you ever think 'this kind of world should just be destroyed'〜?"
Under the tree on the courtyard, while looking up at the cracked-up sky, Hoshijiro Nagaru muttered absent-mindedly to Oonogi Kanata who came up to her from behind.
Kanata was no longer surprised that her approach was noticed.
"Many times. When I was asked for unreasonable things by my boss, when I was scolded by my boss, when I was told to do overtime service, at times like that I wish everyone would just die."
"That's just like you, Kanata-san〜. Captain Kurogane was a really strict person wasn't he〜."
"Yeah, he really was, just how many times I muttered in my heart that he should die."
"Ufufu. But you see, that's an evidence you were trusted〜."
Told that she was being trusted, "I wonder about that..." Kanata responded and stared at Nagaru's small back.
Ever since they met, Oonogi Kanata learned just how mysterious this girl was.
When she was still a rookie Banshee, she followed the Red Butterfly Insect Cage, and when she started examining Mineshiro Kazuma's footsteps, Kanata met Nagaru.
Back then Nagaru told Kanata "If you step any further into this, someone will go after your life, so how about we cooperate for the time being?".
Since then, it could be said that the relationship between Kanata and Nagaru began. After Mineshiro Kazuma's death, Kanata didn't know how did Nagaru become the Heretic Alliance's leader and what happened afterwards.
She didn't understand Hoshijiro Nagaru's identity too well in the first place.
The person herself had said that she had an elder sister with Overflow Complex who was used as an important sample for Inquisition's experiments and that she lost her life that way. Without a doubt there was a girl who had the same, Hoshijiro surname. Nagaru's sister was listed in the family register and the documents said that Nagaru was a daughter of Hoshijiro household.
It was a lie. There was nothing but her biography in the documents. Hoshijiro's house was indeed built, but the inside was empty and felt like papier-mâché.
In fact, this girl's background was nothing but lies.
Birthplace, age, everything was a lie.
Most likely, the only people who know anything about her are the early members of Heretic Alliance.
"...Hoshijiro-san, did you ever thought that it would be better if the world just perished?"
It was an immediate answer.
While looking up at the cracked-up sky, in a rare for her, indifferent manner and clear tone of voice, Nagaru said.
"I didn't think even a single time that it would be fine for the world to be destroyed〜. I love that world from the bottom of my heart."
"That's why, I need to protect it no matter what. That chaotic world, you see"
Does a person like this really exist?
While it was simple and easy to understand, it was also creepy. There are people who have the motivation to protect a country or the world no matter the price. Whether it's Kusanagi Takeru who wants to protect his little sister and comrades, Kurogane Hayato who wants to protect the law and order, they are people who put their efforts into protecting the world for their private reasons and ideals. Kanata was also the same.
But Nagaru was different.
She protected the world because she loved it. Although it was a reason, it was by no means compelling.
"To me, that world is a paradise you see〜."
Everyone in the Heretic Alliance knew of the Hoshijiro Nagaru's mental defect.
She didn't have negative emotions. She couldn't feel sadness and hatred.
Thus she was unable to empathize with others.
Did she not find it hard to live?
Although Kanata knew that she was unable to feel such a thing, but was this world not far from being happy to Nagaru?
Whenever she looked at Nagaru's back, Kanata thought of such things.
Of course, even now she did think so.
Kanata couldn't find a reason why was she trying to protect the world.
She couldn't find a reason why did Nagaru love the world.
"I don't think it's a good idea to give up on our home base."
"Once we end the war, kill Ootori Sougetsu, the reason for Heretic Alliance's existence will disappear. We'll need a place to go to."
Everyone member of the Heretic Alliance that was in this space called the "Fragment of Mythological World" had returned to their original world.
Now that the war had broke out in the outside world, the reason for Heretic Alliance to hide was gone. It was probably natural for everyone to go to stop the war with all they had.
Inquisition, Valhalla... the Heretic Alliance was too small and weak to be called the third power. Although they excelled at information warfare, they were overwhelmingly inferior when it came to simple war potential. Using the information they had in full, the only way left to Heretic Alliance was to go for the both armies' leaders' heads.
Therefore, Heretic Alliance required a place to return to.
Standing behind the scenes of each organization with a purpose of balancing the world, they required means for continuous survival.
"...unfortunately, it doesn't seem like it will go like you're saying it will〜. The reason for everyone withdrawing from here, is not because the war has began〜."
"...then why? To us, there's no safer place than this."
"You see, I consider it only a possibility but... if Ootori Sougetsu's identity is what I think it might be, this place is no longer safe, you see."
While Kanata tilted her head, Nagaru turned around with a smile and started walking towards her.
"And that's why〜, Kanata-san should also go ahead and return to the other side."
"There's no way I can leave you behind, Hoshijiro-san. Please have more awareness of yourself as a leader. My work is to prote——"
When she tried to speak, unexpectedly Nagaru clung to Kanata.
Kanata was upset by this surprise attack.
While hugging onto Kanata, Nagaru happy breathed in.
"Kanata-san, thank you very much for protecting me until now in place of Shizuka-chan〜."
What are you saying——when Kanata was about to ask, she felt her back heat up.
As she hurriedly tried to touch what was attached to her back, light had wrapped around her body.
"Transfer magic's instant charm...?!"
"Rejoin with others on the site. Strategy change to plan C. Cover Kusanagi-kun with all you have and stop Kusanagi Orochi and Mother Goose."
After giving her brief instructions, Nagaru waved her hand in a bye-bye gesture to Kanata.
The magic had activate. It was too late to stop it.
Kanata gave up on thinking of the meaning behind Nagaru's word's and asked what she needed to know while she still could.
"And what's ahead?! Kusanagi-kun is still chasing after Mineshiro Kazuma's document you know?! What do we do about Ootori Sougetsu?!"
"I'll buy us some time. What's ahead... sorry, we can only leave it to Kusanagi-kun and Lapis-chan."
Nagaru furrowed her eyebrows and spoke while scratching her cheek.
Kanata tried reaching out towards her.
"Hoshijiro-san... what are you——!"
Before she could finish speaking, Kanata's body turned into magical particles and suddenly disappeared from spot.
Left alone, Nagaru's hair had been carried by the wind that blew from nowhere and she looked up at the sky.
The cracked-up world. Fragment of a broken world.
Nagaru didn't know the reason why has this world remained.
Why have the worlds collided, what happened before the collision, she didn't have any conclusive evidence.
The only one who knew everything was that man.
That's right. The one who held the truth of the world was——
"...let me ask something, Ootori Sougetsu."
There was a presence of a person on the other side of the tree.
His back leaning on the three as he stood, a man with white hair wearing a white suit.
"I'm surprised. To think that you would predict my coming."
The white man, Ootori Sougetsu said so with a big smile on his face.
Nagaru and Sougetsu both leaned on the trees and confronted the broken world.
"Just a hunch you see, a hunch〜. Once it was found out that we're trying to find out what's your identity, the possibility of you finding our home base wasn't too low."
"And then you had all the Heretic Alliance members to evacuate? That's quite something. Which would mean, that you have predicted to an extent what my identity is."
In silence, Nagaru faced downwards and heaved a sigh.
"I had no conclusive evidence. That's why I had Kusanagi-kun and the others chase after Mineshiro-san's documents that would be one."
She kicked a pebble on the ground and still facing downwards, she scratched her cheek.
"...but a god, huh. I wished it wasn't so, you see〜."
"Right? I think the same."
Sougetsu shrugged with a bitter smile.
"When did you notice the possibility?"
"Since your objective was destruction, the moment I started to think your objective is your own death, when you tried to use Kiseki-chan to try turning Kusanagi-kun into a God Hunter."
Nagaru picked up a leaf from under her feet and while playing around with it in her fingertips, she continued to speak.
"You have relied on the Kusanagi household for 150 years now. And, you really wanted to get your hands on a son of the Kusanagi house, not their daughter. 150 years ago your true target was Kusanagi Orochi... Kusanagi Mikoto was only a trigger to make him enter God Hunter form."
She was glad there was a precedent of his attempt to use Kusanagi family, allowing Nagaru realize Sougetsu's identity.
"For destroying the human race, Hyakki Yakou was enough. And yet, you tried to create a 'God-Hunting" existence. That's not power to destroy the world, but power to kill a god, right. You purposefully went out of your way to make Orochi-san and Kusanagi-kun hate you, because you desperately wanted to get your hands on power for killing a god."
"Even though your goal was destruction, I thought it strange for you to be obsessed about god-slaying power."
"...using just that to make your judgment... you're amazing."
It probably wasn't a compliment. There was none of his usual playfulness in his voice.
Praising the enemy must be a very complex thing, Nagaru thought.
She didn't really think herself to be amazing. It was just something like a delusion, an organization's top duty was to think of various possibilities and move people accordingly.
Since she was moving an entire organization, she had to make her bet.
Even though she noticed that Ootori Sougetsu's goal was to kill the god and destroy the world, she could only rely on her intuition as for whether he himself is the god or not. Even though there was a possibility of that, she couldn't move the organization without any evidence.
That's why, Nagaru gambled this time.
The reason she evacuated all members of the Heretic Alliance, wasn't for challenging the war with everything they had.
It was because she expected this man to come over to this world.
"That's correct. I am that world's god, you could call me that world's life itself. Of course, it's not like I wanted to be one."
"...then, is it fine to say that you are an existence from before mythological world collided with the real one?"
"I don't mind if you think so. It's more correct to say that in the world I was living in there was no magic. Magic, is something like a bug that was the result of the world's reconstruction after the collision with mythological world."
Nagaru smiled curiously.
"I'd like to hear more about that〜."
"It's nothing interesting, really."
"If possible, I'd like you to tell me〜."
When Nagaru asked, Sougetsu responded with a shrug.
"From your point of view, this would be the mythological world. An old, old tale. At the time when magic didn't exist in real world, it had science and technology developed to a much higher level than now, and thus they were able to do things that were like magic."
"Everything had changed when they attempted to make contact with a different world. The different world, was the space you call Mythological World."
It could be said that the feelings she could sense in his voice, were nostalgia.
From the words that felt like they had a human touch to them, her evaluation of the existence that was Ootori Sougetsu had changed in her mind.
They should have... but Nagaru felt something was wrong. Thanks to the defect in her emotions, she had become sensitive to feelings of the humans, so she was able to recognize what was it.
"And when they succeeded in making contact, everything went wrong. Eventually a war between gods and humans had broke out, the worlds collided and as the world of gods and humans mixed, everything overflowed with magic... it was a really unfortunate thing to happen."
Only at this moment, hatred overflowed in Sougetsu's voice.
But it was weird. Strange.
It reeked of lies.
What he said might have been the truth, but his emotions were all lies.
Was the reason Sougetsu wanted to destroy this world because of hatred?
The reason magic overflowed in the human world was because of gods, if magic itself was the heritage of the gods, it wasn't weird for a human of the old world to hate magic.
But he was a god. Was there any reason for a god to hate magic?
"That's the reason I call magic a bug. Magic is a bug born because of the world of the gods."
It wasn't that big of a story, but she understood his reasoning.
In order to make sure of the essence of the topic, Nagaru asked the last question.
"Who are you?"
An existence that is a god, yet hates gods.
Nagaru recalled there was one such existence in the Nordic Mythology.
Sougetsu answered. Quietly, indifferently.
"I'm an artificially-created god. Half-human, half-god. That kind of existence."
"Among the modified myths spread around this world, there was one about Loki or something. Actually I was never called that and I'm not such an exaggerated existence."
Loki... an incredibly famous devil.
In any mythology, there was an existence that was classified a devil. In the first place, when god's good properties were exchanged for evil ones, they turned into devils. It was one of hypotheses erected on the topic of the parallel worlds.
In short, Sougetsu was a devil of the Norse Mythology's world.
Therefore, it wasn't wrong for him to hate the gods.
But for some reason, it all reeked of lies.
He didn't match the emotion that was hatred.
"Then can I ask a question too?"
"On the other hand, what are you? What kind of existence?"
Hearing the question, Nagaru shrugged with a wry smile.
"Actually I don't know myself〜."
"You don't know?"
"You see, I... was apparently born in this fragment of Norse Mythology's world. I have no memory nor any knowledge, I just was here right from the start."
Sougetsu squinted slightly. Nagaru continued with the story of her life with a smile.
"I learned there was another world when people from Heretic Alliance came here〜. People from the alliance... Mineshiro Kazuma-san and the others raised me."
"...then, that would make you one of the survivors from the world of gods."
"Mmyah〜, no clue. I mean, I can't use magic. My body's structure is that of a human too〜."
"Hmm... same as me then. Then possibly, isn't your soul that of a god?"
Nagaru shrugged once again.
"Who knows? I don't know that either. Unlike you, I'm not immortal."
Suddenly, Nagaru moved from the tree's trunk, then circling around it she stood in front of Sougetsu.
And with wide opened eyes, she peeked into his face.
"You're acting as if you hated that world."
"But it actually isn't so, right?"
Nagaru pointed at Sougetsu with a grin.
He blinked rapidly, astonished.
"The truth is——that you just love destruction, right?"
How about it, Nagaru made a smug expression, causing Sougetsu to laugh involuntarily.
Even though he hid his mouth with a hand, he actually was smiling like a Cheshire Cat.
"...so I've been found out?'
"Yup! You see, I can sympathize with feelings like having fun or being happy. For a while now you didn't feel like you hated anything, more like you were having fun."
"You're really sharp. That's right, what I told you for a while now is all truth, but also just my public stance."
His expression cramped up, he put his left hand on his chest and the right spread out.
"——Actually, I couldn't care less about gods or magic, destruction is my reason for living!"
He said so genuinely happy and then "or was it dying?" he tilted his head, to which Nagaru responded with "as I thought〜" and happily puffed up her chest.
But right after that, she scratched her cheek with a finger.
"...then, you are my enemy after all."
Sougetsu smiled bitterly and shrugged in the same manner as Nagaru.
"If I'm your enemy, what are you going to do? 'Cause I've come to kill you."
She put a finger on her lips and thought of it for a moment.
Then she nodded and made a broad smile.
"I've decided. I'm going to engulf you in this world's destruction."
Wind blew, both Sougetsu's and Nagaru's hair swayed.
Before anyone realized, Nagaru held something like a hammer with a short handle.
Sougetsu's expression turned slightly steep.
"...Mjölnir... the weapon for destroying worlds, huh."
"It was partially destroyed just like Lævateinn. But, I think it's enough to destroy a broken fragment of a world with a single blow."
"...even if you engulf me in this world's destruction, I'm not going to die, you know?"
Nagaru swayed her forefinger with a "non-non".
"I'd be troubled if you died. The world I love so much would perish〜."
"You'll die you know? Most likely, you're this world fragment's God. When the God dies, the world is destroyed. When the world is destroyed, the God dies."
"I don't mind〜. I mean, by dying I'll be able to buy us some time〜."
As Nagaru said so indifferently, Sougetsu heaved a sigh with appalled expression.
"...in the end, let me ask one more thing. What is the reason for your loving that chaotic world?"
When Sougetsu asked, Nagaru made a big smile and spread her arms wide.
"——It's because in that world, there's lots of unhappy people! My reason for living is to save them and make them happy! That's why I can't help but to love it〜!"
Her smile was like that of an angel,
Like that of a goddess,
And——like that of an innocent devil.
Sougetsu chuckled and looked at Nagaru.
"It seems like you and I, really suit each other!"
"Is that really so〜? Ehehe〜."
Then, they said their goodbyes.
"Losing someone I could socialize with... feels lonely."
That really reeks of lies, Nagaru thought, and she swung Mjölnir.
"Sowwy〜, you see, I don't know how does it feel to be lonely and such〜."
——Hoshijiro Nagaru destroyed the world.