There was no sorcerer in this world who would possess perfect immortality.
Those who pursued immortality always stuck to one theme, and one goal. Undead, vampires, puppeteers, devil worshipers, alchemists. Those who aim to acquire immortality generally pursue these fields.
The representative of the Alchemist, Suginami Suzaku who had achieved immortality through gene inheritance. Elizabeth who had used magic in order to fake herself as a true ancestor possessing perfect immortality. Kusanagi Orochi who embedded vampire cells in order to make himself a Dhampir. They were all wicked heretics.
All of them not only left the path of humanity, but were also unable to acquire perfect immortality.
Of course, this man too——
"——HAHA! As usual, your strength's like a joke!"
Using Dáinsleif intrinsic performance Haunted left slashes behind himself as he retreated by sliding on the ground.
Stretching something like a spider web of slashes, he desperately tried to open distance between himself and his opponent.
Haunted's head was covered with sweat, it spoke of how cornered was the man who called himself to be the one who manipulates death.
Even during the brief moment he was moving away, Hayato with the black gun in his right hand and the silver gun in his left had easily crushed the slashes remaining in the air.
——He completely ignored the slashes. Having his body completely clad in armor, Hayato didn't attempt to avoid and plunged straight into the slashes left behind by Haunted.
It was as if they had no effect at all. Hayato's defense was abnormal as he used two Relic Eaters at once.
After crushing the last slash, Hayato slipped underneath Haunted.
There was a eerie glint in his eyes as seen by Haunted from above. Haunted made a twitching smile and increased his reaction speed by inserting magic power into his brain.
The brain processing speed acceleration magic equivalent to that of Soumatou's was magic ordinary sorcerers were unable to use. The very action of passing magic power through your own brain was very dangerous and required caution because of the vital points inside. Even a slightest mistake led to the user's certain death, so there weren't any sorcerers who would use it.
Most likely not even a first-class sorcerer would attempt to trigger it during battle.
The reason Haunted used this magic wasn't because he was a first-class sorcerer.
It was because he wasn't afraid to die. Even if he didn't succeed he still had his stock of lives so one or two deaths were nothing to him.
Whenever he uses this magic, he dies.
Hayato who slipped below had raised Caligula's muzzle against Haunted's chin.
Haunted who accelerated his brain processing speed had avoided Caligula's shot at the very last moment.
And although Haunted increased his speed slightly,
——This was Hayato's normal speed.
Hayato's silver gun, Maximilien was already pointed ahead of where Haunted avoided to.
The silver magic bullet fired from the Maximilien hit Haunted's abdomen.
The bullet Haunted received had scattered all the magic inside his body, including the magic that was increasing his brain processing speed.
Haunted clicked his tongue and faced forward.
Caligula's muzzle was pressed against his forehead.
"——Two thousand and thirty."
The meaning behind that count was the amount of times Hayato had killed Haunted over this short period of time.
At the same time Caligula's hammer was released, Haunted's head burst into atoms.
Losing his head he fell onto his knees and blood gushed from his neck like a fountain.
"Two thousand and thirty one."
Hayato let out a kick on the body right away.
Haunted whose head quickly reappeared was unable to react and received the attack.
He was blasted away from below.
"2032, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37."
Hayato's rapid attacks didn't stop. He continued to kill Haunted without giving him time to recover.
Mixing shooting and melee attacks, he delivered death without pause.
His countermeasure against Haunted's immortality was simple.
Continue killing him. To kill Haunted more times than Haunted has killed humans so far.
Caligula and Maximilien. The characteristics of those two Relic Eaters were nothing but a nuisance to Haunted.
First, Maximilien was able to diffuse the magic power inside Haunted's body and cancel his brain processing speed acceleration magic. Next, was Caligula which caused a storm of mayhem. It was impossible to recharge it directly and immediately, but once it was fully loaded it took quite some time for it to be depleted.
On the other hand, Haunted's magic immediately recovered his body whenever he lost his life. Death reset his body to a perfect condition.
His atrocious immortality was possible thanks to the "Despair" ancient property allowing him to contract with certain magical organism. The magical organism requested a human soul instead of magic power in exchange for its support. Whenever Haunted lost his life, the magical organism provided him with a new body in exchange for a soul.
But whenever he was reset, he had no way to respond and was killed again.
Without Hero form he was unable to bear Hayato's attacks.
Hayato fired the fifth bullet from Caligula.
The total number of bullets Caligula held were five and Maximilien had to be reloaded every shot.
Continuing attacks with his body Hayato attempted to reload Caligula.
However——his attacks were stopped just for a second by a rose variant that appeared beneath his feet.
"Don't get full of yourself, monster."
Haunted had quickly recovered and let out five consecutive thrusts with Dáinsleif.
He didn't thrust at Hayato himself, but at the magic bullets he was trying to load.
The magic bullets received the thrusts, were blown away and turning into magic power particles they disappeared.
Hayato tried to switch to reloading Maximilien, but the prepared magic bullet was also blown away by a thrust.
The initiative in the offensive had changed.
Haunted immediately activated Hero form and attacked Hayato with 《Berserk Enchantment》 triggered.
The next moment, along with a growl Hayato had burst out of the roses constraining him and headbutted Haunted.
Hayato's headbutt with the full body's strength behind it caused Haunted's head to burst, despite the fact Haunted was in Hero form.
Haunted backed down unsteadily having lost his head.
By the time his Hero form was cancelled and he fell to his knees, he had already recovered.
He shook his brand-new head and stared at Hayato displeased, meanwhile Hayato had leisurely reloaded Caligula and Maximilien.
《"...You should try harder, Haunted."》
"...No, he's just too strong."
He ended up saying what he actually meant.
Although only mere five seconds passed ever since they locked in combat just now, but he was easily killed over a hundred times. These engagements between the two repeated many times already and Haunted lost over two thousand lives.
Told he was too strong, Hayato stretched his neck soundly, as if he was still just warming up.
"How many times more left, monster?"
Haunted made a bitter smile hearing Hayato's question.
"No matter how many times you repeat this, it won't work. How many people do you think I killed so far?"
"The only people that count to your stock of lives are probably those you killed directly with your magic."
Hayato must have been correct, as Haunted's smile cramped up.
"Moreover, you should have been killed countless times so far. Toughness is your only merit, I look forward to seeing how much death given by me you can you withstand."
"B-being told that by a musclebrain is a bit... Still, this is unusual, it's the first time I see you so motivated."
The black rose that was restraining Hayato was torn apart and as he finished reloading, he performed a gunspin with his both guns.
"Of course. I'm angry now."
The word "angry' had completely shocked Haunted.
"That's unexpected... is that so, so you're angry."
"It's not just my anger. It's two people's worth of anger."
Two people's worth.
Just like Hayato told Takeru——"I will take your anger on myself".
Haunted recalled that and a happy sparkle appeared in his eyes.
"Aww, here I treated you as a mere hindrance, actually, you are a hindrance, but is thaaat so! So you're angry for Kusanagi Takeru's worth! This is the first time an interest in you had sprung inside me!"
Delighted by Hayato's anger, Haunted happily raised his sword.
"——If it's you of now, there might be some worth in killing you!"
And his hair was ruffled as he expanded an enormous magic circle never seen in the past.
Generating lightning around himself Haunted spoke in language of another world.
【"Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young! O' Black Goat of the Woods! Receive my sacrifice!"】
It was the despair magic property's chant from a mythical world evil gods were dwelling in.
Hayato anticipated an alien threat to crawl out from the magic circle so he immediately fired Caligula's bullet.
However, the bullet was blocked by a barrier that was erected. It was the same magic barrier that was expanded during mock battle tournament – the 《Number of the Beast》.
He tried firing with Maximilien, but only one piece of the barrier could be scattered. It was difficult to release as the magic circle and the operative procedure constantly flowed, moreover to break through it one had to take fire at all six hundred and sixty six pieces of barrier. It was difficult to break using Caligula that focused firepower in single blows, and Maximilien that had only a single shot.
The magic circle's class was that of great magic's. Most likely a type of summoning magic.
Hayato gave up on interrupting it, instead he reloaded his bullets and prepared himself to fight.
Whether it's a demon or a snake that'll come out, he was prepared. When the despair magic swept away and the chant of black blessing was complete, Haunted's appearance in the center of the magic circle was revealed.
His form had changed.
He had the Hero form's armor and on his head, he had an ominous mask reminiscent of a skull.
Furthermore, viscous magic power had filled his surroundings and let out eerie voices.
"Sacred Treasure Summoning, huh."
With heavy tone of voice Hayato spoke the name of the magic triggered by Haunted.
There were three great summoning magics, the Hero Summoning which was impossible for a single witch to achieve, Legend Summoning, and the Myth Summoning. What Haunted used was a quasi-Myth Summoning.
Sacred Treasure Summoning, just as its name stated, allowed summoning of Sacred Treasures such as Mistilteinn, Lævateinn or Gungnir. While it was impossible to summon a Sacred Treasure completely even at expanse of the entire human race, it was possible if only temporarily.
With that said, although there was a time limit on it, it was said to require over ten thousand souls.
So how did Haunted devote that many sacrifices?
A foolish question.
《"Aaa-ah, you've used it... now there's no going back, Haunted."》
"Nhah! It's fine! I need to pay respect to his anger and respond to it! Whaat, I just won't be able to die any more, that's all!"
In extremely high spirits, Haunted knocked the mask lightly with Dáinsleif's blade.
Hayato squinted sharply.
"...So you used your stock as sacrifices."
"I have concluded that it's a price worth paying in order to knock you down to the depths of despair now that you're angry! You have acquired qualification to become part of my dinner!"
Haunted spread his arms and made an exaggerated pose in his bone mask.
Nacht muttered "why the hell are you acting so high and mighty", but it didn't reach Haunted whose tension was maxed out.
Raising Nacht in front of his chest and taking a knightly stance, Haunted glared at Hayato.
"Think of it as of an honor. You are the first one in this world to fight against me in this form——"
"How convenient——now die."
Interrupting Haunted, Hayato pulled Maximilien's trigger.
Having his declaration interrupted as he faced forward with an exaggerated pose Haunted saw the magic particles floating around him converge.
Maximilien's intrinsic magic, re-condensing the diffused magic power.
——And causing an explosion from it.
"Oh fuck, I forg——"
Light filled the place before he could finish.
All the magic power that was diffused so far had assaulted Haunted.
The silver explosion was so concentrated that the ground beneath had melted. Destruction as if that of a nuclear reactor core's explosion had enveloped Haunted.
Maximilien's empty shelling fell to the ground before it turned into magic particles and disappeared.
Although the scale was very small, the power was comparable to that of a nuclear explosion.
If one received such a thing and survived they would be——
Hayato growled, lowered his waist and at the same time the explosion had subsided, plunged towards where Haunted was.
At the same time, appearing from inside the muddy melted ground——
And raising a mad roar, Haunted jumped out from inside the molten ground.
Haunted's sword and Hayato's gun clashed in mid-air.
The fight between the superhuman and the monster still continued.
Although it wasn't clarified how does a soul manifest in a Magical Heritage, but sometimes materials holding magic power appear to have personalities.
There was no one who knew the mechanism behind it. Even Magical Heritages themselves.
However, although not many, there were records of some Magical Heritages converting their souls into magic power.
The amount of magic power acquired in exchange for Vlad's soul was unimaginable.
Activating 《Vampire》, Ouka chased after the smell of her comrades' blood.
They were nearly a hundred meters underground and separated, she wrapped each of them in a barrier and brought them back to the surface.
What she received in exchange for losing her partner, were lives of her comrades.
Since her comrades were also connected to Hyakki Yakou, Kiseki immediately realized what happened. It was thanks to the fact that Ouka's feelings have passed through Kiseki onto the entire Hyakki Yakou.
Extending her hand, Ouka didn't smile nor was angry.
She just stared at Kiseki seriously.
Kiseki took a step backwards while making a scared expression.
"...Protect Kiseki... that's a lie..."
"It's not a lie. You should know me already."
"...I don't believe it..."
"I might be a foolish and shallow person, but I will never betray your feelings. It's because I already know you."
Kiseki knew it already as well.
There were no lies within Ouka's feelings, there was no resentment nor dislike towards Kiseki in them.
What there was in her, were compassion, empathy and desire to save Kiseki.
Seeing Kiseki scared of Ouka, Mari stared at Ouka.
"Foolish, shallow and impulsive at that."
"...Don't poke fun at me at a time like this."
Ouka's serious expression cramped up a little.
"How about you add that you're stiff and cannot read the mood."
"Even Saionji... could you stop that?"
Ouka rebuked Usagi who also jumped on the opportunity.
"............And she loves anpan?"
"——That's no bad point of mine, c'mon, what's wrong with you all!"
Back to normal, Ouka yelled at her comrades.
I'm trying to convince her here so stop getting in my way, while Ouka said that, Ikaruga took a step forward.
"Let me tell you this, I still hate you. I have no intention of protecting you."
Ikaruga squinted and glared at Kiseki.
"I won't forgive you for what you did. The world's a mess thanks to you, and what I prepared for you is also a mess. I think it's natural for you to be hated by the humans all over the world."
She lifted her bangs and put in a mint candy in her mouth, then exhaled lightly.
"...But... well... I won't laugh at you, I'll spare you from that. The pain you felt was honestly, really harsh. I wouldn't be able to withstand it if it continued for whole fifteen years."
"...It might have been unavoidable that you ended up this way."
Ikaruga rubbed her right arm and averted her gaze from Kiseki.
What she experienced when she tasted Kiseki's pain in the dream world, must have been unimaginable. Ikaruga didn't apologize, but she did acknowledge Kiseki's suffering.
"Suginami is just clumsy. Surely in the dream she must have instigated you, Kiseki-san, but she actually wanted to know more about you."
"No, that didn't happen."
"You don't have act all bashful now〜."
Usagi poked Ikaruga's cheeks, resulting in Ikaruga taking revenge on her by crushing her cheeks with both hands.
While the two messed around with each other, Mari stood beside Ouka and poked her with an elbow.
"So she does do good things from time to time."
"Who the hell do you think you are..."
Ignoring Ouka who glared at her, Mari smiled gently to Kiseki.
"...This is how we are, we might not be reliable but no matter how much the world hates you, Kiseki-chan, we will never betray you. Most likely you are the most important person to Takeru, and we too... well, we like Takeru. We love him."
Mari as she said that honestly and smiled with embarrassment, Ouka stared at her a little enviously, but did not try to stop her.
"But that's that and this is this. Just like Ouka said, humans aren't all about love There's lots of other fun things. There's as much painful things out there, but it's not all bad things."
"That's why first... well, um..."
She scratched her cheek and then put a hand on her chest.
"...be my friend."
Blushing slightly, Mari stared firmly at Kiseki.
Kiseki's shoulder trembled slightly.
"Yup, friend. You don't have any yet, right? Let's become friends and talk plenty! Let's do plenty of things together! I want to know more about you!"
Hearing Mari's straightforward words, Kiseki's lips trembled as she tried to say something.
But soon she calmed down and then spoke.
"...With Kiseki? When she has a body like this? It's impossible."
"It's all right! There definitely is a way to return you back to normal!"
"Kiseki killed a lot of people, there is no way she can live a normal life... she turned the world like this..."
"——Even so, we can become friends!"
Mari said with her voice turning slightly rougher.
Her pupils shook as she spoke further.
"You probably know about me already, Kiseki-chan. Many people died because of me. And yet, I can be together with everyone like this... the dead probably won't forgive me, but I put an effort to use my power to save people..."
"It's not like you will be forgiven if you die. And it's not like everything you destroyed will return. Certainly you did something terrible. But you had a proper reason for that. That's why... that's why there's no reason for you to be alone."
"...Even if the world doesn't forgive you for being happy, I will."
Overlapping her own sins with Kiseki's, Mari let out all she had to say.
Kiseki had remained silent until now, but tears started trickling down her cheeks.
Considering it was Mari, who had committed crimes in the past, what she said must have reached Kiseki. Being told by someone else other than her brother that they'll be by her side, had made her happy.
While Mari seemed to have been overcome by emotions seeing Kiseki's tears, Usagi had popped up forward.
"If you become our friend, Kiseki-san, then how about I teach you how to cook? Do you know maybe what food Kusanagi likes best?"
"...I don't... know..."
"Theeen〜, I will teach you once we become friends. Let's make some home cooking for Kusanagi together!"
Usagi joined her hands as she proposed that and then made a broad smile.
Although she was still facing downwards, Kiseki embraced her shoulders more strongly.
Even Ikaruga who kept averting her gaze from Kiseki, had stood beside the others.
"...You don't have to worry about your body. We can turn you back into normal human, but there's an even better method. If you could continuously control Hyakki Yakou like you are now, that is."
Kiseki slightly raised her head in response to Ikaruga's words.
Ikaruga stared straight at Kiseki and while turning around a mint lolipop in her hands, she smiled.
"Who do you think I am? Just believe in the number one among Suginami, the outstanding Ikaruga-sama. I will surely convince the world."
It was also the first time the platoon members had seen Ikaruga be this reliable.
When Ikaruga also accepted her, Kiseki's trembling stopped.
Once again, Ouka took a step forward and extended her hand in front of Kiseki.
"——You are no longer alone. We're with you."
"I promise we won't let you feel lonely."
——So take my hand.
The hand Ouka extended was white, warm and seemed very soft.
Kiseki stared at her own palm as she shed large tear droplets.
The activity of Hyakki Yakou around the world had already ceased.
The giant demon tree tower over the city started wither and turned into ash starting from its leaves.
And the ash covered the city like snow.
Kiseki looked up at the rain of ash in the sky.
She looked at the world for the first time.
She felt that her field of vision which was only focused on Takeru, had expanded a little. People other than Takeru were willing to help her. They were willing to accept the abnormal existence Kiseki was.
She was happy. Very happy.
Why hasn't she noticed earlier?
Why hasn't she tried to learn more about them earlier?
She looked only at Takeru, sought only Takeru, and drove the world to this.
She should have looked around her more.
She should have tried to learn more, much more about the world.
That this world——was not only cruel.
I was so foolish, Kiseki ridiculed herself.
While staring at the hand Ouka had extended in front of her, Kiseki has——
Moved away from Ouka.
Ouka looked at her questioningly.
Kiseki raised her head and showed everyone a smile on her tearful face.
"...Thank you... but..."
Momentarily, Hyakki Yakou had converged beneath Kiseki's feet.
Although confused, Ouka had moved away from the gathering Hyakki Yakou.
Ouka looked questioningly at Kiseki, asking what is she trying to do, in response to which Kiseki said,
"Kiseki... shouldn't stay alive after all... she can't live."
Horrified, Ouka aimed Vlad's muzzle——at the gathering Hyakki Yakou.
And without hesitation, she squeezed the trigger.
However, the stake was blocked and shattered by highly-concentrated Hyakki Yakou's tentacles.
No matter how much of it was blocked, Ouka did not stop shooting.
The members other than Ouka had also realized what Kiseki was trying to do.
The gathered Hyakki Yakou would wrap around Kiseki, all the tentacles would turn sharp——then Kiseki would turn all of them against herself.
Kiseki had wished for her of death..
She, who wouldn't accept death from anyone but her brother's hand no matter how much pain she was in, had wished to die by her own hands.
And Hyakki Yakou had fulfilled her wish.
"This is for the best... I don't want to hurt anyone else..."
Anyone else. Kiseki knew that these were just some pretty words.
It wasn't "anyone else", but "myself".
It might have been just as Mari said, and the world wasn't all painful things. If she had other people by her side, she might have been able to bear the weight of her sins.
But Kiseki was different from Mari.
All of this devastation was something she herself wished for. There was a crucial difference between Mari who didn't want to kill, and Kiseki who wished to kill.
The weight of their sins was way too different.
It was too difficult for her to live on. She endured a variety of things, gave up on various things, gave up on everything. Kiseki was grateful to the comrades who gave her one more chance
But she couldn't bear it.
This was Kiseki's escape from her sins.
The one who understood that best and was furious, was Ikaruga.
In anger she tried to moved closer to Kiseki.
But Ouka had grasped her shoulder.
Ouka shook her head and stared at Ikaruga.
"Let's stop. This is all we can do."
"What are you talking about now! If we let that brat die now——"
"——No. I'm saying we should leave the rest to him."
She said and looked up to the sky.
Following her, Ikaruga and others also looked up.
Ouka smiled bitterly and welcomed the person coming from the sky.
Leaving behind a twilight-colored rainbow made from magic power, he descended making lots of noise.
"Geez... he always comes late."
The man descended from the sky.
He must have flew in a hurry. Spreading magic power he recklessly swung his arms to gather strength and then——
He finally arrived in front of Kiseki.
The man landed in front of Kiseki while retaining his momentum.
That was when the magic was released.
At the same time he landed, the flames of magic power have enveloped the city with him as the center.
Flames emitted by 《Ragnarøkkr Enchant》 have absorbed Hyakki Yakou in the surroundings in the blink of an eye, and erased it.
It was instant.
In an instant Takeru had purified Kiseki's surroundings.
It was so bright and powerful, it seemed as if it had wiped Kiseki's sins clean.
All of it happened so fast, Kiseki could only stare at the sudden visitor in shock.
In an instant everything was taken from her and made as if it never existed, causing her head to turn blank.
The man clad in twilight flames had stabbed the sword into the ground and slowly stood up.
Unable to see his face behind the armor, Kiseki timidly called him.
The next moment, Ouka who stood behind him fired a stake that forcefully canceled the knightly armor.
Standing there, was without doubt Takeru.
Her brother stood up and in front of Kiseki.
"——Sorry, I'm late."
And Takeru apologized to her with a serious face.
It was always like this. Whenever he visited her he apologized with "Sorry, I'm late".
The situation was completely different, she was trying to commit suicide just a moment earlier and yet,
Just by hearing those words... Kiseki was relieved.
Right after apologizing, he looked down at Kiseki with anger.
"I don't know what were you tryin' to do, but don't disappear in the middle of a quarrel. I still haven't told you everything I wanted to."
"And I didn't get my answer yet, so stop running away, dumbass."
And he lightly chopped her head.
There was no pain, but dumbfounded Kiseki naturally raised her hands to her head.
No matter what she tried to say, no words had come out. There was also no Hyakki Yakou around her to reflect what she wanted to say.
Her head was empty, blank.
She couldn't think of anything.
She could only stare at Takeru's face, dumbfounded.
While Kiseki dazed off looking as if she had just woken up, Takeru frowned angrily, but soon his expression changed and he smiled bitterly.
He lowered himself and matching Kiseki's height, he brought his face closer to hers.
"Hey, Kiseki——do you love me?"
"It doesn't have to be as your brother. Do you love me as "Takeru-kun"?"
Kiseki didn't know what meaning did that question have.
And yet she felt pain in her chest.
She was in so much pain she couldn't bear it.
Hunching over and squeezing her fist against her chest she answered while bearing her tears.
"............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................I do... I love you..."
Hearing the answer, Takeru squinted quietly.
He didn't smile, he wasn't embarrassed, he just narrowed his eyes sadly.
"I see... but I'm sorry... "Takeru-kun" that you know no longer exists."
That definitely wasn't a rejection.
But it didn't mean that he accepted Kiseki's feelings.
Takeru tried to convey something to her.
"Standing here is your onii-chan. In the past he might have been "Takeru-kun", but now he's your onii-chan."
"Yeah, that's right. You called me that earlier, right. "Onii-chan", that is."
Seeing his gentle expression Kiseki felt really sad.
She wasn't rejected. She wasn't accepted.
However——she was dumped.
"I can no longer be——a "Takeru-kun" just for you."
Tears trickled down from Kiseki's eyes.
While crying, she moved away her hand from her chest, bit her lower lip and squeezed her fists at the height of her waist as she endured the sadness.
"Takeru-kun isn't... here any more, right... he doesn't love Kiseki..."
"He... hates Kiseki now, right...?"
She said while sobbing like a child.
Although she herself wanted to be hated by Takeru, but now despite feeling unsightly, she still said it.
Kiseki's beloved "Takeru-kun" was nowhere to be found.
He won't come back again.
She got what she deserved. She knew that.
Although she knew that, she didn't want to know and thus, she couldn't help but ask.
"I don't know because he's gone, but there is one thing he has to say."
Kiseki raised her face and opened her eyes in surprise.
It was because tears were flowing down Takeru's cheeks.
The tears had come from remembering the past and the feelings he had lost.
"The past me... loved you. He loved you, and not as a brother. There is no doubt about that... my first love... was you, Kiseki."
Takeru too, was Kiseki's first love. As a child, Takeru didn't understand that.
As he matured, he had realized that Kiseki was his first love.
Kiseki was happy from the bottom of her heart that their feelings were the same.
His hand was very warm and gentle.
"Some time ago... I asked you whether you were happy when you learned that I'm your brother and you're my little sister, right?"
"I was happy back then. But I was also sad. Being related by blood with you made me happy and sad to the same extent."
Kiseki understood Takeru's feelings to a painful extent.
When she was told by Takeru that they're siblings, there was only sadness inside Kiseki. Knowing that she shared that sadness with him made her spill even more tears.
"I'm sorry to notice it this late."
"...It's way too late.. but I'm your "Onii-chan" now."
"And now——I love you as your "Onii-chan"."
Takeru's tears also overflowed without stopping.
These were all the feelings he had for Kiseki.
Sibling love towards his sister.
He might not know what kind of emotion was love, but he couldn't find other word to express what he felt towards Kiseki.
They might not have spend enough time together to call it love. Saying that love didn't need time was just a self-deception. Parents and children, siblings, they all spend time together.
——His feelings of wanting to protect this bond couldn't be expressed in any other word than "love".
"I'm sorry, Kiseki... we were quarreling so Nii-chan lied. No matter what you do... I would never... kill you."
"There is no way I could come to hate you. Even if you destroyed the world and killed my comrades, I wouldn't hate my one and only, precious family."
Takeru stroked Kiseki's cheek and continued to shed tears.
"That's why please... don't stop being my "little sister"."
He expressed his feelings to Kiseki.
"Don't die... don't kill... don't go anywhere...!"
He revealed all his feelings and wishes to her.
"——Stay by my side forever... I can't live without you...!"
This was all.
It was Takeru's incredibly selfish, egoistical and obtrusive wish.
Until the very end, he forced his wish on her.
Despite being rejected time after time, he continued to wish it.
Mari said that the one to change had to be Kiseki. That's why Takeru could only continue wishing. Continue forcing his wish on her.
This was Takeru's way to quarrel with her. He might be beaten up, hated and rejected, but he could only continue forcing it on her. He could only continue to wish.
What Kiseki wished for was his past self, knowing that she wants to die with his past self he forced Kiseki to be his "little sister".
He wished that she be his "little sister".
He wished that she lives.
To put it in pretty words——she was his precious and beloved family.
There was no other reason than that.
And this wish——
This wish has finally.
Has finally——reached Kiseki.
Kiseki accepted him not as "Takeru-kun", but as her onii-chan.
In order to retrieve the relationship she thought they wouldn't recover.
Takeru spread his arms in order to embrace Kiseki, who jumped into his chest.
And the moment he clenched his teeth seeing his wish come true and tried to receive Kiseki with tears in his eyes.
At that time, Takeru and the others heard the voice of destruction.
A voice that seemed to be right beside them, although that wasn't the case.
——Now, let's begin the hunt, Innocentius.
Far in the sky. Standing on the branches of the giant demon tree there was a white shadow holding a white gun.
There was no time to act horrified. It was as if the shadow was there right from the start, they never noticed when it appeared.
The bullet fired from the white muzzle was an invisible bullet of exorcism.
An abominable bullet of evil which dominated souls.
Takeru tried to protect Kiseki at the same time he caught her in his arms, so he hid her behind his back.
The invisible bullet slipped through Takeru's body and,
Pierced through Kiseki's chest.
First she backwards, and then hunched holding her chest.
Takeru had her lie down on the side and then touched her back.
Forgetting about the white man who attack from surprise, he slowly put Kiseki down and embraced her.
Her body was incredibly cold.
Cold like ice.
"Kiseki! Open your eyes... Kiseki!"
He shook her body, but there was no reaction. It felt like an empty husk.
"It can't be..."
Takeru was in shock as he held Kiseki in his hands.
The fact that immortal Kiseki didn't breathe caused Takeru's thinking to stop.
Ouka started acting instead of confused Takeru.
"——Saionji, Suginami, protect the two! Nikaido!"
Ouka spread her wings and Mari materialized the rings on her legs, then the two took off to the sky all at once.
The enemy was that white shadow——Ootori Sougetsu.
The culprit behind everything, who watched over them calmly.
Sougetsu looked at the world while shouldering the Relic Eater "Innocentius".
He put a hand on his chin while the wind had rocked his hair.
"Hmm. The schedule went a little crazy, but I'm glad I made it in time. Still, I'm not there for a moment and this happens, huh. Kusanagi-kun didn't kill Kiseki-chan and didn't become a god hunter."
Sougetsu furrowed his eyebrows and pat his shoulder with the gun's barrel, then opened mouth making a cat-like smile.
"——This won't do. It's troubling me, you guys."
That's when Sougetsu looked at the incoming Ouka and Mari for the first time.
Ouka retracted her elbow and accumulating magic power, she had a pile-firing mechanism appear on it.
Mari accumulated magic in her both arms and bent her body as much as she could.
They fired their magic in a suicidal attack.
Sougetsu didn't try to avoid their attacks, he just stood there calmly.
The two magics hit him directly. The blast and shockwave blew off the entire branch of the demon tree and scattered its remnants in the whole area.
Ouka and Mari stared at the very location they attacked, waiting for the smoke to clear.
There was response, it hit——but they knew that's meaningless.
Knowing Sougetsu's identity, they were certain they can't beat him.
Just as they predicted, Sougetsu was floating inside the smoke as if nothing happened.
And had not a single scratch.
"Woah, that was amazing. To think you'd come at me with full power despite knowing my identity... what would you do if I actually died?"
Sougetsu shrugged and smiled wryly.
Ouka and Mari maintained a battle posture as they confronted him.
He was in front of them, but didn't feel real. It was always like that. He had a presence and they knew he was there, but it felt like a lie.
His presence was dyed with lies.
Ootori Sougetsu had always exuded that kind of atmosphere.
"Don't worry. I cannot be killed by this world's magic. With that said, I can't be killed physically either. And thus, you cannot kill me."
"I would like to praise you for your struggle but... by the way, Ouka, what happened to Vlad?"
Sougetsu asked, mystified.
Ouka didn't answer, she ejected magic power to move and assaulted Sougetsu.
She swung her fist upwards and hit him with 《Vampire》. Then had stake firing mechanisms appear on both her arms and rushed at him again.
Intending not to give him any time to rest she attacked to pierce him full of holes, but Sougetsu not only didn't receive a single scratch, he didn't even receive any impact from the attacks.
Or rather——the attacks had no effect at all.
"Oh, I see. So you used Vlad's soul as fuel."
Ouka's face was stained with anger, she increased the speed of her attacks.
But it was for naught. There was absolutely no effect.
Before long, Sougetsu finally stopped Ouka by lightly receiving her attack with his hand.
Her rush stopped, all of her movements stopped.
"No, I'm not saying you did bad. Well done, if anything. That thing was made from my power... a Magical Heritage like no other, y'know. But it ended up manifesting a soul after receiving influence of its contractor. When I give my power to someone else, it ends up capable of acting by itself under someone else's influence... that's what Relic Eaters are."
He closed his eyes while he pushed back Ouka's fist.
"These things were originally part of my power. Something that was made by having me insert my power into guns I had Alchemist make. That's why I have the control over all Relic Eaters. Of course, Mistilteinn aside."
"That why I was kinda annoyed by the fact they manifested souls. Vlad was especially difficult to handle. Ouka, it was a great help to me that you erased him. You have dad's praise."
"——Shut up! Don't speak of my partner!"
Ouka kicked the side of Sougetsu's head from the right side, but he stopped it with one arm as if it was a fly.
Squinting, he mocked Ouka.
"Partner... so you deepened your bond with it so much. You might not be connected by blood, but you're incredibly similar to Mineshiro."
"You killed him! My father, and Vlad too!"
"Heey, I didn't kill Vlad?"
"It's the same thing!"
The very cause of this tragedy, from beginning to end, was this man.
She had no idea for what reason did this man want to destroy the world, and was not interested. She also knew she can't kill him.
But there was something she understood during combat. What he revealed, was that all the Relic Eaters were part of this man's powers.
There was a need to ascertain what kind of performance did the Relic Eater's prototype, Innocentius have.
They might find a method of saving Kiseki.
Having her right arm and right leg restricted, Ouka looked towards Mari.
"——Nikaido! Aim for the gun!"
While they couldn't kill the person himself, the Relic Eater wasn't an immortal existence.
Mari, who continued to look for a chance while Ouka attacked, had gathered magic power on the tip of her finger.
A magic attack concentrating intensively at one point. Even if its attack range was narrow, it could penetrate through any magic.
The emitted light bullet flew straight towards Sougetsu's Relic Eater.
——Her aim should have been perfect, but Sougetsu who should have been there and the Relic Eater have disappeared in a blink of an eye.
Mari turned around at the same time Ouka screamed.
And there, was Sougetsu's face, laughing like a Cheshire cat.
"Innocentius isn't immortal. Your aim was good... but, you are misunderstanding what kind of existence I am."
Mari instantly gathered magic power in her both hands.
"I'm nowhere in this world, and at the same time I'm everywhere. That's the kind of thing a God is."
Innocentius' muzzle bit into Mari's chest, her body bent forward.
And then, the silent shot was fired from the muzzle, piercing Mari's body with an invisible bullet.
Mari trembled as if an electric current ran through her, and then started falling.
Ouka flew towards Mari at full speed.
But——ahead of there, Sougetsu appeared from nowhere as if he was already waiting there.
She suddenly stopped and leaned backwards.
He was nowhere, yet was everywhere.
As long as they were in this world, they had nowhere to escape.
"She's not dead. Both Kiseki-chan and Mari-kun are all right."
"Innocentius performance is——Order the Soul. As long as you hold a human soul, you cannot escape it."
He bent his waist and peeked into Ouka's face.
"I didn't order her to suicide. You don't have to worry."
"The order I gave her soul is——"
Sougetsu disappeared from in front of Ouka.
Behind where Sougetsu disappeared from, she could see Mari raise her limp body.
However, there was no vitality in her movements. Ouka tried calling Mari.
But then, Sougetsu whispered into her ear.
"——Was to kill you."
Sougetsu's presence had immediately disappeared from behind her.
Mari stretched her body and turned towards Ouka.
She was expressionless, it was as if she was wearing a mask and she looked at Ouka.
Ouka couldn't feel relieved that Mari was safe.
She knew what order Mari was given, but couldn't act.
Mari moved first.
Rotating the flying rings at her feet, she flew towards Ouka at incredible speed.
In panic, Ouka crossed her guns in front of her to guard herself.
Enveloping her fist with magic, Mari smashed her fist into the guard with all her strength.
Vlad didn't have any noteworthy defensive performance, but current Ouka's physical strength and vitality were equivalent to that of a True Ancestor's. A normal attack shouldn't have caused her any damage.
And yet Mari's fist had destroyed the stake firing mechanisms on both Ouka's arms and had enough strength to break her guard.
Mari, who should have no noteworthy bodily strength, had blown away Ouka with a punch. It was all thanks to the enchantment magic's power. That's just how powerful her magic was.
Ouka immediately opened distance between her and Mari, then concentrated magic power in her both hands.
"Stop it, Nikaido! Get back to your senses!"
Her persuasion was ignored. Ouka didn't know whether that was because of Order the Soul, but her voice didn't seem to reach Mari.
Directing her expressionless face towards Ouka, Mari converged aurora magic power right under Ouka's side.
Indifferently speaking the magic name, Mari attempted to release the magic from zero distance towards Ouka's abdomen.
As long it's magic, Ouka's Vlad could pierce it.
Pierce it and diffuse the power——
She realized just how great was Vlad's presence. In order to pierce through magic, Ouka had to know the opponent's operative procedure.
Aurora magic's operative procedure was complicated, but Ouka had it inside her head.
However, what was most important was reversing the operative procedure in her head. And that was Vlad's job.
Ouka built up an operative procedure at high speed and reversed it.
She fired a stake towards Mari who was hoarding magic power.
In the nick of time she was able to blow away Mari's magic bullet. It was possible to stop the magic from activating if the stake hit the gathered magic power directly.
Although she did manage to react in time, Mari was overwhelmingly more proficient when it came to operative procedure construction speed.
"《Eclipse Blade》《Helios Blade》"
Ouka did not know the operative procedures for this magic.
She only knew the data that was left about it in literature. It was an existence akin to a fairy tale, the magic properties of "Sun" and "Moon".
Mari swung her hand wielding the swords made from magic power.
Ouka rebuilt the two pile bunkers on her arms and projecting a stake, she received Mari's swords on it.
She was pushed back by the tremendous power.
As long as Mari used an ancient property different from Aurora, Ouka was unable to penetrate it. And with the similar amount of magic power, Mari's magic quality was greatly higher. Moreover, 《Vampire》 couldn't be continuously rebuilt.
《Vampire》 had cracked and was at verge of shattering.
As a last resort, Ouka kicked Mari's belly with all her strength. Although she restrained the power in order not to kill her, Mari should have several ribs broken.
Staggering, Mari moved away and then held her abdomen with her hands.
She could have screamed in pain, but she was expressionless.
What should I do...! Nikaido will chase after me if I try to escape... she'll continue trying to kill me until she dies...!
If she tries to destroy Sougetsu's Relic Eater, she'll get done in by Mari while she searches for the man.
She was also worried about Takeru and Kiseki on the ground but... still, dealing with Mari came first.
Ouka closed her eyes tightly, then once she determined herself she opened them.
Once again crossing her arms, she made the pile bunkers appear.
It shouldn't have infinite duration... even if her soul received an order, as long as I can knock her unconscious...!
Ouka determined herself——to fight Mari.
"I didn't want to fight you like this..."
Frowning miserably, Ouka entered combat readiness.
Mari expanded a huge magic circle behind herself and took a posture for interception.
"I definitely——won't let myself be killed by you!"
Ouka challenged Mari in order to protect Mari's conviction of not killing people.
After giving the order to Mari, Sougetsu sat down on the giant demon tree's branch and looked down on Takeru and others.
He smiled bitterly while lightly stroking Innocentius.
"That was some splendid destruction... but I didn't think that Kusanagi-kun would manage to persuade Kiseki-chan."
That boy just won't act like I want him to, Sougetsu thought and heaved a sigh.
"I'd like to stare as you act in confusion for a little longer, but it's about time to end this game."
To Sougetsu, war was just a hobby.
Eradicating magic... or rather, eradicating gods was the reason Sougetsu was born.
Half-human half-god, living god.
He was called with a variety of names, but before this world was reconstructed killing gods was the meaning of his existence.
It would have been better if he was just a weapon. After Sougetsu killed the gods, the previous human world would have survived after the victory.
The reason the meaning of his existence has become "destruction", was because half of his body was that of a god. If gods were to perish, then so had the humans.
It wasn't like this conclusion had come from his feelings.
Everything Sougetsu had consisted of was completely convinced that's how it had to be.
In the previous worlds Sougetsu had annihilated the gods, but at the same times he incited humans' destruction.
As a result, the human an the gods' worlds have collided, giving birth to this new world.
The worlds didn't perish and had survived, moreover, seeing the "world-view" of the gods and humans mixed together——Sougetsu rejoiced for the first time in his life.
I can continue destroying, he thought.
"Yup. It was fun."
Sougetsu stood up and overlooked the world from on top of the branch.
The red-stained world on the other side of the horizon was beautifully reflected in his eyes.
After taking a huge detour, Sougetsu reached destruction.
The reason he took such roundabout path to destruction, was to enjoy it.
When the worlds collided and the power of the gods scattered all over the world, Sougetsu's powers as a god had also scattered.
——And that was this world's "Magic".
Sougetsu's power that scattered all over the world wasn't almighty. At most, it created some undying witches. Relic Eaters were a remnant of Sougetsu's powers as a god, it could be said they were very diluted. That's why it was impossible for him to use Innocentius to give Takeru's soul a direct order. It was because Takeru's soul was not that of a human. There was a constraint on Sougetsu's powers as a god.
Therefore, Kusanagi Takeru wasn't the one he should drive into the corner of destruction, it was the people around him.
If Sougetsu takes away his precious people, Kusanagi Takeru will surely direct his intent to kill towards him.
For that sake Sougetsu went out of his way to make him comrades, had them experience joy and sorrow together.
However, to have Takeru become a God Hunter and have him kill Sougetsu himself, he could just use Innocentius on Kiseki causing her to destroy the world, then kill his comrades. After being forced into a situation where he had to kill Kiseki, and learning that Sougetsu was the culprit behind all of that, he would kill Sougetsu.
Sougetsu knew that humans were creatures as simple as that.
He knew, because he was half human.
"This is lacking drama... those humans just won't move. If possible, I didn't want to use a tasteless method like this."
This was a magnificent game where he used his restricted powers as a god in order to lead the world to destruction. Sougetsu greatly enjoyed this world which had rules he had no part in making of.
If possible, he would like to continue it forever, but he couldn't do that.
As if to put the world to a closure, Sougetsu raised his bangs.
"If one enjoys destruction, they have to destroy or there'll be no point."
The world's destruction, chaos, he tasted plenty of it.
The only thing left was obliterating it into nothingness, that was the only enjoyment left for Sougetsu.
In other words——destruction.
"Now, mr. Second God Hunter, I need you to kill me without hesitation so——I'll prepare your soul for that."
Like usual, Sougetsu smiled like a Cheshire cat and squeezed Innocentius' trigger.
The order he gave to Kiseki was——devour the world.
After lying Kiseki's ice-cold body on the side, Takeru put his ear against her chest to listen to her heart.
There was no sound of it. She wasn't breathing either.
Takeru paled and single-mindedly tried to give her a cardiac massage.
Ikaruga ran up from the side and caught Takeru's shoulder.
He raised his head in daze, and received a slap from Ikaruga.
"Get a hold of yourself. Look around you, Hyakki Yakou hasn't disappeared. This girl is still alive, and even if she dies she'll just resurrect."
"...b-but she doesn't breathe...!"
"It's that Relic Eater's fault. What you have to do now, is to destroy that scum's Relic Eater."
Scolded calmly by Ikaruga, Takeru regained his composure.
"I don't know what power is at work here, but she'll go back to normal once the Relic Eater is destroyed. There's no time to daze off here. Do what you have to do."
She wrapped his cheeks with her both hands and touched his forehead with hers.
"I don't know how should you fight that damn scum... but what you have to do has been decided. Got it?"
Ikaruga's glaring stare forced Takeru for squeeze his trembling lips.
"Please leave Kiseki-san to us! Kusanagi, you have to go to Ootori and Nikaido now!"
Usagi embraced her gun and ran up to Takeru.
That's right... it's not over yet...!
He stood up and nodded strongly to the two.
Responding to his call, Lapis showed herself by his side.
"Do you know what's the performance of that bastard's Relic Eater?"
"My apologies. Innocentius' performance and personality are unknown."
"What about Ouka and Mari?"
"...It appears Mari-sama has been affected by Innocentius and is in combat against Ouka-sama."
Takeru grimaced and looked up at the sky.
Certainly, he could see red and rainbow light clashing against one another.
Even without being told to, Lapis connected Ouka and Takeru through magic communication.
《"Kusanagi...?! Nikaido was affected by the Relic Eater...! We're in combat now!"》
《"Innocentius' performance is something that gives a direct orders to others' souls...! Nikaido's soul was ordered to kill me...!"》
Hearing that, Takeru decided to head immediately to support Ouka.
《"Leave Nikaido to me! You take Ootori Sougetsu's Relic Eater——!"》
A huge rainbow-colored explosion happened in the sky and the communication was interrupted.
Takeru forced down the feelings that prompted him to head straight to where Ouka was.
She said to leave it to her. What he had to do now, was destruction of the Relic Eater.
Do what you have to do! Everyone had decided that!
"Let's go, Lapis!"
He resolved himself and called Lapis.
"——Kusanagi! K-Kiseki-san is...!"
Called by Usagi, he turned around.
There——was Kiseki floating up as if defying gravity. At the same time as she raised her body in the air, she slowly opened her eyes.
Direct orders to others' souls, is what Ouka said.
In other words, Kiseki was——
Before Takeru could finish yelling, Kiseki's deafening scream had resounded.
Momentarily, Hyakki Yakou overflowed from every part of her body.
What Takeru saw, was Ikaruga protecting Usagi with her own body and Lapis who reached out to him.
At the same time Lapis' voice was swallowed up by Hyakki Yakou, Takeru too was swallowed by the wave of demons.