"Saionji! Hey! Can you hear me? Wake up, Saionji!"
Pushing aside a piece of rubble. Ouka dragged Usagi's out put her body down on the ground, then slapped her.
She was breathing, there was no problem with neither her heart nor lungs.
As for injuries, a fractured left foot, a cut near her left eye. They couldn't be called light injuries, but sustaining just this much injury was a miracle. Fortunately, Ouka only dislocated her shoulder as well.
"How's Usagi? Is she waking up?"
Ikaruga who was on the bench ahead walked towards Ouka while dragging a gun case. She was sitting on a bench with a pained expression, but she only suffered from the cloud of dust.
"No good. There's no response no matter how much I call out to her. It might be... that her head received damage."
A worst case scenario crossed her mind, Ouka bit her lips chagrined.
"Move aside for a sec."
Ikaruga pushed Ouka aside, and leaned towards Usagi's ear.
And with her lips right next to Usagi's ear, she whispered.
"Noo——, it's the useless sniper——. A sniper who always blunders when it counts. Wake up you big breasted potato. A bunny who's only good for her big boobs. Shall you? Shall you? Or shall you not?"
"Hey Suginami... it's not time to play ar——"
After seeing that Ouka tried to stop Ikaruga but,
"Who's a useless sniper———!!!!"
Suddenly, with a loud sound Usagi jumped up completely fine.
"I-i..it hurts, hurts!! Wh- what is it? What happened?"
Usagi suffered from raising her fractured foot and started looking around, raising a pained voice.
Apparently she was alright. Ouka was relieved, and so she switched attitudes immediately.
"Explanations will come later. Also, from now on you guys leave this fight to me."
Right after she told them that she heard a voice from the intercom, she pushed the button on it. After that she clicked several more times, it connected a few seconds later.
《"Hey hey Ouka, Looks like you're safe. Daddy is happy to hear that."》
The one who connected was Sougetsu.
《"How is it on your side? Is Kusanagi-kun working hard? Is the Sorcerer still alive?"》
《"I also wanted to see it. Whether he properly performs with Lapis or not, I'm kind of anxious about it. Can you tell him to neutralize the Sorcerer-kun without destroying his body? Because the signal doesn't reach to where he is."》
"Chairman——It might be sudden but I'm going to prosecute you."
Hearing Ouka's sudden statement, Sougetsu fell silent.
《"...prosecute? Me, Ouka will?"》
"Yes. I investigated the matter of Nikaido Mari's arrest last night."
《"Investigated? But isn't that matter already over? thats no good, students like you shouldn't go to a crime scene. I don't remember giving a permission for that."》
Ouka ignored his preaching and continued indifferently.
"I passed everything on the site through an analysis-filter, the examination of residual magic found just a few traces of magic. Using Regin facilities I analysed small amount of dust affected, the indexing result of the particle... is weird no matter how you look at it."
"Nikaido Mari's magic power has the ancient attribute of "Aurora". However, the ancient attribute taken from the same samples before was "Despair"."
Ouka narrowed her eyes, and continued to reveal the evidence in order to corner Sougetsu.
"As you probably know, these attributes are not compatible. Dual attribute holders do exist but having "Aurora" and "Despair" is scientifically speaking impossible. What excuse will you make now?"
"In other words, the one who killed the 15th test platoon student that rushed in, was not Nikaido Mari. This is the evidence that says it was an unjust arrest."
《"She's a witch, and a member of Valhalla... is that not enough to arrest her?"》
"Is imposing a false accusation, enough to prosecute someone?"
《"Well then, let's hear it. Who are you going to prosecute? I'm the Inquisition Board's chairman, an existence standing on the top when it comes to laws concerning magic. Who shall judge a someone like me?"》
"Then I will send a report to the Ethics Committee."
Hearing Ouka's words, Sougetsu fell silent again.
"You have allowed the Hero other day to walk freely and you had the students enter the battle against him, now you imposed false charges on a witch, I think Committee will not stay silent."
Even when threatened, he laughed happily.
As if he predicted it, he used a subdued tone of voice from the beginning till end.
"I see... Ouka wants to do business with me? My daughter's in trouble huh? Fine, let's hear it, what kind of favor my cute daughter wants."
Saying it in an unthinkable, roundabout way, Sougetsu asked Ouka.
She closed her eyes, and answered.
"...there's only one thing I want."
Her request surprised Sougetsu quite a bit.
He loudly laughed without thinking.
The first strike with their swords, was evenly matched.
Takeru's diagonal cut to the shoulder and Haunted's thrust cancelled each other.
A shock wave was born and the ground split up with a loud sound. The impact of the blows had nullified each other.
Takeru reversed the blade and attempted an upward diagonal slash from below without losing momentum.
He wasn't convinced, but he was positive as he tried to cut in a shape of half moon at Haunted's neck.
However, his sword met enemy's blade set up for defense.
A unique sound of metal blades hitting each other could be heard.
Haunted's sword bent extremely as he guarded his neck.
The shape of the sword that Haunted was using was close to that of a rapier. Its a slender, western sword that specializes in piercing. Rapiers were originally used for duels and self-defense, they weren't made for combat.
They are easily deformed, since there rather small. It's compatibility should be the worst versus the current form of Mistilteinn which was one that specialized in slashing. Completely parrying it was impossible.
If he tried such a thing, the sword would surely break.
However, The enemy's sword, Dáinsleif, was not broken nor cracked.
Being pounded, making loud noises one after another, Haunted's rapier kept bending one time after another but didn't show signs of breaking.
"——How thoughtless. Your attacks are too honest."
The next moment, Haunted subtracted his hand and parried Takeru's attack.
But it was too violent to be called just a parry.
The moment Haunted parried backwards, Takeru was loudly repelled together with his entire body.
Takeru was blown away behind Haunted, unable to stop the momentum he crashed into the control tower's debris.
Creating a gap by parrying and using enemy's strength against them was swordsmanship basics. However, Haunted's sword bent back which added repulsive force to the parry.
The enemy's swordsmanship was much better than what Takeru expected.
《"Switching from a soft blade into a hard blade seems to have made the repulsive force terrifying. Host, if you're against a Magical Heritage, please throw away common sense of ordinary swords."》
"G-got it... that guy's swordsmanship isn't too bad either."
While spitting blood, Takeru rises up from the rubble.
Haunted without showing the elegance western swordsmanship should have, took a stance while making a distorted thrust.
At the same time, Dáinsleif's blade glittered for a moment.
It wasn't reflecting light. It emitted light by itself.
《"Please be on your guard. It seems to trigger its intrinsic performance."》
Haunted tightly gripped the sword in his right hand, he raised his left hand to his face and gouged his own flesh with fingernails. His canines peaked out from his open mouth and his teeth chattered.
He released a thrust at super speed.
Takeru intuitively understood, that it could not be perceived visually.
He triggered Soumatou and the world slowed down.
Even with this——it's fast!
Immediately after he rolled away, Haunted's thrust exploded.
The control tower's rubble was blown off, resulting in a huge hole.
"Lapis, block the hole in the lung with armor or something!"
《"It's possible, but it will cause intense pain. Will you withsta——"》
"I can withstand pain...! It's lack of air that's a problem...!"
Right after Lapis confirmed it, the hole in Takeru's chest healed up with a *pikipiki* noise, it looked as if the armor eroded the body.
Takeru was hit by a wave of tremendous pain.
He could breathe again, but there was no time to rest.
Haunted was coming with another thrust.
"Ihi... ihihihihi! Kishishishishi!!"
He made continuous thrusts as he laughed.
Even though he triggered Soumatou, their speed was extraordinary. While Takeru avoided them somehow, he was being pushed further and further back.
"It seems like your trump card is to accelerate your brain processing speed, but that kind of thing is easy for me, since I know everything about the human body! What a shame, Witch Hunter!"
"How dare you Sorcerer...!"
"Don't think too highly of yourself for being able to accelerate without magic! You're mistaken if you think you can match a sorcerer because of that, how ridiculous!"
Being insulted, although he prevented blood from rushing up to his head, anger could be seen in Takeru's expression.
But there was something in his words. His swordsmanship wasn't just a bluff. The accuracy and speed of his thrusts was faster than Takeru's.
Takeru moved forward while in pain, and he held out his sword to the side.
Haunted avoided it by jumping backwards.
Got him. He can do it. If it goes on like this, he'll hit him with a counter-attack.
Takeru tried to hit Haunted's chest by sliding at high speed.
The space Takeru rammed into, was empty. The moment Takeru jumped with his shoulder first.
Suddenly, Takeru's right shoulder was torn up and started bleeding.
Not knowing what happened, his body staggered to the left.
Then, it was Takeru's left elbow that was torn up, blood started flowing the same way as his shoulder wound's.
"Wh-what's happening... nghh!"
Every time he staggered, Takeru's body was cut.
Takeru rapidly drew back, and Haunted's form materialized suddenly.
A gap was made between them, and he stood like that for a moment.
"What is it? Aren't you coming at me? Come, dash straight into me in high spirits."
Haunted with space to spare, looked down on Takeru.
With that gap, it was the first time Takeru felt uncomfortable.
《"...it can't be."》
"What's going on...!"
《"Host. I will paste the analysis-filter results into your retina."》
After he was told that by Lapis,Takeru's view turned slightly bluish.
The thing that wasn't visible until now, became visible.
Between Takeru and Haunted, something, something like red needles floated in the air in large quantities.
"Looks like the intrinsic performance of Dáinsleif' is to have the residue of a thrust remain in the air after the thrust was made."
Takeru understood and clicked his tongue.
Certainly, the place Takeru jumped at before was one that Haunted thrust at. When he was with Mari, he jumped at invisible residual thrust.
After being hit by the bonus slashes, the healing capabilities weren't there. The wound on elbow and shoulder were still bleeding.
"Oho! It's been exposed! It's a quite wonderful Relic Eater! I want it more and more!"
《"I'll kill you."》
Hearing Haunted say something hilarious like that in middle of combat, Takeru felt anger towards him.
As if he felt Takeru was too weak for him, and his strike didn't come.
《"...it's quite an outstanding Magical Heritage. It's intrinsic magic is enough to become a threat to me."》
Suddenly, Lapis said in his head.
Usually monotone voice of Lapis, sounded a bit unusual.
《"I hate it. I deserve certain death for allowing my host to be hit by the residue of a thrust."》
Could it be, that she was in a bad mood.
Lapis whom you couldn't guess what was she thinking of, was actually angry.
《"Host, have you forgotten my performance?"》
《"I mentioned before that I am first class goods when it comes to countering magic. Those thrusts, that residual magic so to speak. You can clear it all out."》
Lapis continued to advise Takeru.
《"Also, there's a perfect solution against that man's parrying. Host, I can change into any type of sword. It will not make that degraded product go all limp anymore."》
She was displeased after all. He caught on the points he was advised by Lapis.
"A sword receiving the flow...? I see!"
Takeru stood up and looked at Lapis apologetically.
"Sorry... for being such a stupid host."
《"The one who chose the Host is me. The only one who can use me is the Host. I compensate for the parts host is missing, and Host compensates for the parts I am missing. That's how the weapon and the owner are, is what I think."》
《"Please rely on my performance more."》
Incredibly surprised, he didn't think he would hear those words from Lapis. He scratched his cheek happily and grasped her tightly.
"If that's the case——I'll rely on you with all I have!"
Declaring that with confidence, he charged at Haunted.
He cleaved the residual thrusts, as he went straight at him.
Haunted took a posture for intercepting with a smile on his face.
Takeru released a single cut with his sword.
"No tricks again."
Haunted received the blow with his sword again.
*gigigigigi*, the rapier receiving his blow bent again, and by using the repulsive force of the attack Haunted tried to counter——at that moment.
Takeru's nodachi changed it's shape in an instant.
The blade of the nodachi that bended Haunted's sword abruptly disappeared.
The sword's body changed shape and shortened, disappearing. The nodachi's blade was 150cm long, and the blade of the kodachi was 60cm long. After 90 cm of he blade disappeared, Haunted's sword lost the force that was pushing it and a place to hit, fanning the air.
And——a sound of slashing could be heard.
With his chest cut, Haunted stepped back.
Despite being hit, he still had a smile on his face.
"Ufu, ufufufu... I see, you've put some thought into it."
《"Using a shape change... to nullify the parry... how annoying, that azure one."》
A laughing Haunted, and a surprised Nacht.
Takeru didn't stop. He readied his sword.
"Next! Two-handed sword!"
Sword changed it's shape again, forming a huge two handed sword.
Haunted wasn't an idiot. He prepared his next residual slashes immediately.
However, the residuals were useless against Lapis's blade. They were not that scary when they could be seen.
After slashing one time after another, he swung down the blade at Haunted.
Haunted lowered his defense in advance, and poised to accommodate the shape change.
However, Takeru's blow slammed in, and cut from Haunted's shoulder to chest without changing shape.
Intentionally using a decapitating strike without changing shape. Although it was a simple feint, it was a blow that drew the most out of Lapis's characteristics.
Tremendous amounts of blood spilled from Haunted's body.
"Gebohh...kuha...hahahahaha! Not bad! It's gotten a bit more fun!"
As his sworn enemy was still laughing, Takeru felt his creepiness.
Why he had made a gap. The reason, has already appeared on Haunted's body.
《"Host, enemy is healing at extremely high speed. Follow up fast."》
"I won't let you recover!"
It was one-sided for Takeru from that moment onward.
He changed the shape of his sword after every attack, and continuously dealt blows to the enemy.
Uchigatana. Claymore. Gladius. Falchion. Kunai. Flamberge. Seiryuutou. Shotel. Kukri. Ring Dagger. Warabitetou.
There was no sword that's not included in Kusanagi style teachings. Ever since the child was born, the art of swordsmanship was imprinted in its body.
Rotating his body, his sword danced wildly without stopping the momentum. Repeatedly accelerating he overwhelms Haunted like a storm.
It seemed like a very beautiful dance.
Haunted's body kept getting cut to shreds, and its regeneration couldn't keep up.
The largest sword there was, an extra large two-handed sword, zweihander.
Takeru raised it high up, to next swing it down on Haunted's brain.
It will end with this. And it will be a next step to Mari's salvation.
With all of his heart and soul, Takeru hit the strongest blow fueled by his anger.
——At that moment.
Below Haunted's feet, a shadow appeared.
Out of the shadow, something shot towards Takeru together with thorns.
It was Yoshimizu Akira who was supposed to be dead.
Yoshimizu's body was ejected from the shadow, straight at Takeru. She had an unfocused face not knowing what happened. Why was she here, why was Takeru in front of her, without knowing that.
Takeru let go of the sword for a moment, and held Yoshimizu's chest.
"Gyahaha, gyahahahaha! You really are something, to empathize with a clone!"
Haunted's loud laughter echoed.
Even though he knew it now, it was too late. The only thing he could do was to face away from Haunted as he held Yoshimizu.
That's when he was slashed.
Takeru's large back was torn up, and he was blown far away.
As he cursed, a large amount of blood flowed from his back.
Takeru could no longer move. He confirmed Yoshmizu's... clone's safety, and sank into the mountain of rubble.
"Boy, this is what you call a fight. It's not a place for playing fair and square. You take advantage of psychology and emotions of the opponent, and cleverly land your blows. You are too soft. Even though the original of that girl has already left this world, you only helped a stupid doll. Really, this is why humans are so interesting. That's why I love them, haha, uhi...uhiihihihihihihihihi."
Haunted scooped up his hair while laughing loudly.
Takeru tried to stand up as he listened to his laughter.
《"Host, you're at your activity limit. Any more and..."》
《"......that's too reckless."》
"If I'm not... reckless here... all will be... lost... I won't... save anything..."
Takeru's heart reached her, and Lapis's plugged the wounds with armour in silence.
However, no matter what, it seemed like Takeru already lost.
Mari saw everything.
She saw Takeru fight desperately. His figure struggling. His strength. She saw everything.
Right now, Takeru was in middle of the rubble and tried to stand again.
But Mari as well, wiped her tears and stood up from the ground.
『"If you desire redemption... rather than continuing to blame yourself, use your magic to save the people."』
Remembering Takeru's words. The words carved into her heart, she remembered them.
Her consciousness came back, she was no longer in daze. Pupils that lost their light, once again lit up.
...the thing that....I can do...
What she could do, there was only one thing.
There was no other choice for Mari. The magic she learned from the Chairman, is all that Mari had.
Magic that heals wounds, magic that restores the mind, magic that relieves the pain, magic intended for defense.
The magic Mari was bad at and didn't want to learn, the magic the Chairman who was her adoptive mother taught her without giving up.
And the one she was taught the very last, attack magic.
『"Listen Mari. Use this magic only when you need to protect a person that's important to you."』
Mari betrayed those words, she hurt people. Twice, she couldn't protect her promise.
"But, I won't make any more mistakes."
She lifted her hand, and aimed her fingertips at loudly laughing Haunted.
"This time... I'll save him."
To repay the people whom she couldn't save, it was the first step.
In order to protect her important person, she'll use this magic.
To save this person who burdens half of her sins, she'll use it.
Device attached to Mari's neck, wasn't a normal Gleipnir. It was one that's not supposed to be originally used, a type that causes an explosion. In other words, it explodes in response to magic from phantom instrument. Sougetsu, in case Mari tried to use magic or was taken away by Valhalla, put this collar on her. Her lost memory also told her that making a normal Gleipnir that seals magic of a witch as powerful as Mari was too costly. It was unthinkable to use a normal one in such case.
It was a gamble, but if Takeru could live a single second longer at cost of her own life, she was willing to do it.
In order not to involve Takeru, she couldn't use overly flashy magic. She aimed at one point, a perfectly straight line.
There was enough magic power. She remembered the operative procedure. Fast emergence of the magical circle was also perfect.
She built the operative procedure in her head, envisioned the magic in her head, and completed the chant in her brain.
She suppressed activation of it. And finally, after she had everything she required,
Before the collar could explode, she'll prove that she can take Haunted down.
"This will be my last spell...!!"
She opened her eyes in order to shoot her last spell.
She concentrated on her fingertips, as if they were a gun.
"Pierce him!! "Aurora Bullet"!"
At that moment, a supreme bullet that enclosed all of this world's light was released.
A concentrated seven-colored light.
Ancient magic, "Aurora Bullet".
The unstoppable arrow of destruction flew straight at Haunted's head——
——Just before he was pierced, Haunted lit up and dodged it.
"Isn't that a terrible surprise, Mari-san? It's no wonder if you'll get exposed if you release that much killing intent."
Haunted smiled gently.
Combat experience, is what he meant. That was the crucial difference between Mari and Haunted. In addition to that he had the same capabilities as Takeru's Soumatou. Avoiding Mari attacks was an easy thing to him.
That's how her enemy was.
Seeing him avoid it, Mari was at a loss for words, she clenched her teeth, chagrined.
She gently closed her eyes, but the expected end did not come.
She touched the collar to check. It was certainly attached to her neck, but nothing in particular was happening.
A question mark appeared above her head, wondering why didn't the end come.
"Don't worry——that collar will not explode."
A youthful voice sounded from behind.
On top of the collapsed control tower's wall, there stood a girl with sunset-colored hair that had a gun and a shield made out of blue crystal.
The girl was——Ootori Ouka, as their eyes met, Ouka leaped from the rubble and landed near Mari.
"I intimidated the chairman to release the explosion-type Gleipnir. I used the false evidence that you were charged with."
Ouka said something unbelievable after suddenly appearing causing Mari to stand in daze. Why did that woman do such a thing for her? Even though she hated her so much...
"It's not for your sake. I did it to help Kusanagi."
Ouka glared at Haunted and set up her shield.
"You told me before, that magic can also save people."
"In that case, show it to me. Prove that magic isn't there only to hurt people."
"If you don't, I will never acknowledge it."
"Hmph," Ouka said those words as if she was disgusted.
Mari opened her eyes hearing Ouka domineering speech, and thought.
Yeah... this woman is really——annoying.
What is she thinking? Who does she think she is? She suddenly appears, and asks her to use healing magic? Who the hell is she to ask her something like that? It can't do anything but hurt people? That's a horrible insult! Who does she think she is to come in like that without explanation? What the hell? Did she think she looked cool appearing by standing on top of the rubble? Is she an idiot?! It wasn't cool at all! I think it wasn't cool in the least. I'm not going to fawn over her just because she saved me from a pinch!
Thanks to the strange emotions surfacing within her, Mari noticed that negative emotions like sadness were blown away.
"What the, bossing me around. You can't do anything yourself and want to rely on me, huh?"
"...don't get full of yourself. The one to release the collar in the first place was me."
"I-I didn't ask you to. Also you told me it wasn't for my sake."
"Such an insolent mouth... don't you want to help Kusanagi?"
"I want to help, and I will help him. But I'm annoyed by your attitude!"
For some reason, the two of them started to argue.
Even though they had the same goal, they repelled each other like magnets.
"Oh-ho! This time it's a quite pretty visitor. That makes me really happy. You really have beautiful hair... I want to decorate my room with it."
Haunted declared eerily, as he walked towards them.
Mari stopped bickering, and crouched with a hand on the ground.
"Killing him is not an easy task. Even decapitated, or with his heart pierced he regenerates. You need power strong enough to turn him into ash."
"Hmph. Can you do it?"
"Don't look down on me. If it's the power, my magic will not lose to anyone. I could even destroy his soul."
The moment Mari closed her eyes, a huge magical circle appeared on the ground.
Seven colors flowing, these colors symbolized the ancient magic of "Aurora".
"The problem is, that it can take a while to activate. That's your job, until I complete it I need you to buy time... you won't say you can't do that will you?"
"Having to wipe your ass as you cast your lazy magic is extremely annoying, but it's not like I can't do it. It's fine if you prepare your operative procedure slowly."
They made arrangements in middle of their cat fight, Ouka poised her shield while standing in front of Mari.
The two of them prepared to fight, and devoted themselves to their tasks.
"Let me tell you this, we only cooperate because we have the same goal."
"Indeed. This is all, for the sake of Takeru who tried to save me."
"Oh, that's right. It's all your fault, Kusanagi was hurt because of you."
"That's why definitely——"
"That is why I'm absolutely——"
Mari's magic shined even more brightly, Ouka with shield in one hand, slid out pins from the three grenades she had at her waist.
"——I'm not doing it for your sake!!"
"——Not doing it for you!!
That's how the united front of the two that had the worst compatibility began.
At the same time that Ouka pulled out the safety pins from the three grenades, she threw them into the sky.
The grenades made a big arc, and exploded in the air.
It had nothing to do with damaging the enemy. The instant they exploded, scarlet dust danced in the field.
Haunted muttered seeing the dust floating in the air.
It literally meant that the dust caused the magic to diminish. Various anti-magic materials were used as its content, obviously there was adamantium and mithril, but also a wide range of other materials like damascan steel and orichalcum.
And, the grenades Ouka has thrown were made by Ikaruga. The anti-magic material used was——
《"! ...It's hihiirokane!! A hateful anti-magic material that pollutes organism-based attributes the most!! To use such a rare thing in a chaff... what kind of idiot...!!?"》
Nacht panicked. Of course, it's producer was the Regin of Small Fry Platoon.
Haunted tried to expand "Belladonna Garden" from his fingertip to try, but the thorn that extended had returned to his finger with a high-pitched squeal.
"I see. In that case——what about this?!"
*swish*, just as she heard a sound of wind being cut through, Ouka lost the sight of Haunted.
Disappeared——no, wrong. Ouka spread her legs instantly.
At the same time a metallic sound filled the air, shock hit Ouka's body.
Haunted was in front of her while sticking out the sharp point of Dáinsleif. However, it didn't reach Ouka.
The shield Ouka was equipped with, was similar to the riot shields security guards used. The blue semi-transparent shield stopped the blow.
《"Tch——this time it's the blue crystal! You must be kidding me! This material, it shouldn't have been used outside of alchemist's experiments!"》
Nacht started to fret even further.
The blue crystal, among the modern anti-magic defence-oriented materials was the rarest one. It's anti-magic defence is of the highest class, and it absorbs the shock to the extent no metal can.
But this rare metal is normally unobtainable.
Even if you have contact with higher-ups, it's almost impossible.
A shield and magic chaff, that's what Ouka asked Ikaruga to prepare.
Ikaruga lent her the equipment without asking about the circumstances.
That Suginami... just how on earth did she get this. Obtaining gold was technically possible, but...
She still had many questions, but it was great equipment for this situation. Withstanding a blow from Dáinsleif, aside from Magical Heritage's, the only thing that could do that was the blue crystal.
However, even that. Even that——won't last long.
《"Making fun of us...! Haunted, get serious! I'm in a terribly bad mood!"》
"Don't cry because a shield that's not a Magical Heritage that stopped you, Nacht."
《"I-I'm not crying!"》
"Be more confident. You're the best Magical Heritage there is for me."
Saying that, Haunted continuously delivered blows towards Ouka who was standing in front of him.
Even though the shield had excellent shock absorption, the shock that Ouka felt was still comparable to the one caused by a traffic accident. Her body was blown away many times, causing her to stagger.
Without the shield, Ouka would have been sent flying with a single hit. Probably, Haunted's hits were equal to those of a tank's. His strength was similar to the one Takeru had in his witch hunter form, thought Ouka.
She couldn't avoid, not until Mari's operative procedure was completed.
"Hmm, I'm getting a bit tired of this. You've got pretty good reflexes, but it's not interesting if all you do is defend yourself."
While thrusting continuously, Haunted complained.
"Well then, it's about time——"
Ouka couldn't move for. Her arms were numb and close to their limit.
"——We hear you scream."
It continued the next moment.
Haunted's voice——was heard from behind.
It was high-speed movement, the same as Takeru's Soumatou. As expected, Ouka couldn't match it.
She attempted to defend her back, but Haunted already thrust his sword.
The edge of the blade was next to Ouka's breast.
No good, it's unavoidable.
Just as Ouka gave up and closed her eyes.
Haunted's temple was hit by a bullet of aurora-colored light.
Although she didn't know what happened, Ouka didn't miss the chance. She pulled the gun from her waist and showered the staggering Haunted with bullets.
It was a large caliber handgun. An evolution of the Desert Eagle gun that was made before the war. A gun Ikaruga probably made for fun, it had recoil strong enough to blow an arm off.
Its power was incredible. Although it wasn't enough to shoot through Haunted's armor, but it was enough to blow him away.
Haunted was blown away without a sound and rolled on the ground.
The light bullet that struck him in the beginning, was floating around Ouka emitting low noise. And not only one, but four mysterious bullets were there, as if guarding Ouka.
"Geez... really a woman who makes trouble for others."
Mari who was building up an operative procedure in a magic circle, let out a pained voice.
Looking closely, in front of Mari's eyes were four small three-dimensional magical circles. Ouka finally understood that those light bullets were made by Mari.
Mari laughed fearlessly at Haunted while sweating.
""Will-o'-Wisp"... a contract summoning magic. Normally they're just fast moving demon lights. But after they attach themselves to the contractor... they change their attribute to same as their owner's."
Haunted's temple had fallen in, his skull had collapsed and was distorted irregularly.
"My magic power... hurts quite a lot!"
Mari laughed after delivering a serious blow.
However, her complexion became pale, and a droplet of red dripped from her nose.
Simultaneous spell usage, is a very advanced magical technique for witches. And Mari performed "Will-o'-Wisp" together with another large magic. It couldn't succeed unless she maintained the highest level of concentration, it's the highest difficulty stuff. An ordinary witch could fail building the operative procedure and be killed by the recoil.
Mari risked combining "Will-o'-Wisp" with her big spell.
"...doing unnecessary things..."
Ouka made a face that looked like she was uncomfortable, and stood between Mari and Haunted.
"I told you... I'm not doing this for you...!"
Mari responded to Ouka sarcastically.
Their enemy, fixed himself soundly restoring his head to normal and laughed happily. It should be a mortal wound, no matter how they looked at it, that guy was a monster.
"It's unbearable, the two of you. It looks like I'll enjoy it. You're a very good combination, ufufuhihihihi."
Being complimented by Haunted, their cheeks started convulsing.
And both of them together,
""That doesn't make me happy at all!""
Both of them responded with hatred at the same time.
Haunted's onslaught and Ouka's defense started again.
Mari supported Ouka with "Will-o'-Wisp", allowing her to barely maintain the balance.
It takes time to activate the large and complex operative procedure that Mari was creating, and its power was accordingly great...
Will she be able to hit Haunted with it?
That was Mari's only concern. His increased reaction speed allowed him to avoid even the "Aurora Bullet" which moved at the speed of light.
Will she be able to apply such a large magic at the target that fast.
Mari didn't control the "Will-o'-Wisp" manually. The magical organisms responded automatically.
And it was just barely keeping up with that villain's speed.
Whether the large magic Mari was trying to cast would hit or not depended completely on Mari's aim and timing.
If she misses, it's all over.
Feeling slightly uncertain, her concentration was disturbed.
《"—...Mari, can you hear me?"》
That's when she heard a voice in her head. It was communication through magic resonance.
She looked far away to the end of the field.
And she saw Takeru trying to get up with his body all covered in blood.
《"Yeah. I asked Lapis to let me talk with you."》
《"You shouldn't move! Try to live through it! I-I still haven't..."》
《"There's no time. Listen to what I have to say."》
After cutting in the middle of Mari's sentence, Takeru said something outrageous.
《"When that guy is in position aligned with mine, fire that magic towards me."》
《"Wha.... what are you saying?!"》
《"I want you to put all of your magic in it, and shoot it at me."》
《"I don't get it! What do you mean——"》
《"Believe in me. I will definitely accept your feelings."》
Hearing him say it with all seriousness, Mari's face reddened.
She blushed after being captured by another meaning of what he said.
She was convinced that Takeru still intended to fight, it seemed like he didn't intend to give up on winning it.
《"...I get it. I don't know what you intend to do, but if you die I won't forgive you!"》
Takeru's wry smile seemed to be inconsistent with her demand, and the communication was cut.
Just as she was requested to, Mari decided to put all of her magic in it.
In front of her, the defensive line of Ouka and "Will-o'-Wisp" continued to stand.
However, the number of "Will-o'-Wisps" was already reduced to two.
They were probably slain with Dáinsleif. Magical organism don't really die, but she couldn't afford to re-summon them now.
Ouka's shield was already approaching its limit. There were many cracks looking like bullet holes in it, breaking it was only a matter of time.
"Just a little more...!"
Mari, while feeling impatient, steadily built up the operative procedure.
Just one more step. Just a little more.
Just 10 seconds more until it activates.
Ouka's shield broke.
Mari and Ouka shivered. Haunted performed a thrust with an insane smile.
Make it in time! Make it in time!
The two of them shouted in their thoughts at the same time.
I don't want to die after coming this far. I don't want it to end here.
It doesn't matter if it's unsightly. It's fine if it is unsightly. I don't want it to end here.
Ouka and Mari prayed to god.
——That wish, apparently has reached him.
It wasn't that magic made it in time.
A dreadful bombardment from afar hit Haunted's belly.
The bombardment——no, A snipe powerful enough to crack the Hero's armor that was created from magic power.
She called out the name into the intercom.
Then, she heard Usagi take a deep breath.
《"...One of my eyes was injured. I was too afraid to shoot until now... I'm sorry."》
"No, I'm fine thanks to you! I really owe you!"
Ouka very happily thanked Usagi.
Haunted's elbow was blown off, even though he was hit by a sniper he rebuilt his posture withstanding the shock.
"You're really good aren't you guys! I really love you! By all means, I want to kill you and make you mine!"
With an eerie, mad smile, Haunted cried out his hopes.
"I'm afraid that's impossible. You have underestimated us too much——It will be over with this!"
Just as the cold voice resounded, Ouka that defended the spot, jumped away from it.
【"With the blessing of a Goddess's of Dawn, I become one who embodies the divine will. The end of knowledge and creativity brings about dazzling demise. Ultimate light opens up the heavenly gates——and entices that person to step in nothingness!"】
The trigger activating the magic, was the incantation recited just now.
With emotions she couldn't suppress, Mari walked towards Haunted with her hands joined together.
Towards the hateful enemy. Towards the ringleader behind all of it.
The pinnacle of destructive power, the strongest magic, now——
"This is everything I have! Receive itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!!"
——She released it.
The ground was crushed, the air screamed, a wave of magic stirred up the field.
Suddenly in front of Mari, a glittering gate appeared.
That gate, according to Mari's words vigorously opened up, and like a particle cannon an aurora-colored light was released from it.
The "Aurora Gate", magic that destroyed the world during the Witch Hunt War, destroying aircraft carriers, battleships, ancient magic with the power of a bomber plane that sunk everything with a single blow.
That light flew straight ahead——
"Hahaha, it may look flashy, but it's nothing if it doesn't hit!"
Haunted avoided the light particle cannon, and mocked Mari as he moved around her many times.
"Was it close? A little bit more and it would have reached. If I was just grazed by that, half of my body would be blown off. It's a wonderful magic, let's train together in Valhalla from now on!"
Turning a deaf ear to Haunted's mockery, Mari continued to shoot the magic in straight line until exhaustion.
And after the magic ran out, she fell to the ground.
After she released everything, she had no strength at all left.
"That's no good, Mari-san. Running out of magic during battle is a suicide."
"Now then, after we come back home from the frontier let's study! Don't worry! I don't do anything obscene to my students! Platonic torture is my motto!"
Haunted stood in front of Mari while laughing.
He reached out to Mari who has released everything.
Just as he tried to touch her cheek, at that moment.
"——I've received your everything."
A voice sounded from behind.
For the first time Haunted felt chills run down his spine.
Suddenly, after looking back, he saw Takeru with wounds all over his body lifting up a sword.
Takeru subtracted the right side of his body, making a stance for a thrust.
With a disappointed expression, Haunted sighed.
"Being unable to give up is bad. Honestly, I'm bored of you. Playing with guys is not my hobby."
Haunted pulled the right side of his body as well, and poised for a thrust.
A black magic circle appeared beneath Haunted's feet after his instruction.
"Rejoice, Witch Hunter. Eating this thing, you're the second one."
With a familiar stance, Haunted sneered at Takeru.
【"Too late do you offer to make peace with me——for now I have drawn the sword Dáinsleif."】
An innocent, eerie voice spoke departing words in the language of the soul.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——"
Takeru standing on the other side sharpened his stance.
He systematically contracted all of his body like a spring. Achilles tendon, calves, thighs, waist, arms, shoulders, neck. And put strength into every muscle, he even twisted his bones to produce instantaneous power. He twisted his wrists that were gripping the sword like a screw.
Bones throughout his body creaked, the muscles in his body screamed.
And at the same time, both the skill and magic were released.
"———Unicorn's Destructive Lance!!"
Both of them launched their thrusts.
Takeru triggered Soumatou at the same time as he released the power in his body, leaving the world behind.
Accelerate, accelerate, accelerate——
With his whole body speeding up, faster——
Takeru's thrust reached the limit of speed and crashed into Haunted's thrust.
Originally the thrusts shouldn't meet, there shouldn't be any collision.
However, the two swords were thrust at each other head-on, desiring for them to collide.
At the moment they collided, effect of Dáinsleif's intrinsic magic appeared.
From its blade, irregular distorted magic with black and red mixed suddenly overflowed.
That was Dáinsleif's intrinsic magic, "Berserk Enchantment".
The powerful enchantment not only resulted with destruction, the dark magic polluted the owner's spirit and strengthened the body until transcendence. When the magic is invoked, the body of the owner is pushed forward at cost of both magic and life in order to strike a single blow. The owner's mentality turns into that of a beast seeking gushing blood, losing all reason and thinking.
Haunted became a monster that only looked to pierce someone. Takeru inside of the accelerated world stretched himself to push back that blow.
《"That's amazing. To withstand intrinsic magic with a skill. I don't think there is any other swordsman like you in this modern era. I don't think there was one in the past either."》
Together as shock wave and magic hit, he heard Nacht's voice echo in his head.
《"But it's useless. You can't win against me using such a blunt thing."》
Takeru protested against Nacht's one-sided proclamation.
He showed a glimpse of his canines——and laughed fearlessly.
《"—Twilight Enchantment——Enchantment reversal, flexible material release."》
Under Nacht's voice, Lapis's voice reached him.
At that moment, aurora-colored magic raged from Lapis' blade. Gentle like the light reflected on water's surface, fierce like a star's demise, as beautiful as the illusion reflected in the sky of the far north, the emitted particles hit Dáinsleif's blade.
It was the same power Mari has released and was proud of, the "Aurora Gate".
《"That's... Mari's magic!?"》
《"My intrinsic magic is different from your barbaric enchantment, I absorb magic. Your master didn't really use magic, so I was allowed to borrow magic from one of Host's friends."》
《"...impossible! It's a powerful magic that was released from just five fingers because of it's destructive power! There's no way to absorb such a thing!"》
《"It may be impossible for you, but it is possible for me. I can release it without converting it to my own magic power. That way I can take in greater amount of magic power."》
《"...!! You bitchhhh!!"》
Takeru's thrust started to push back Haunted's.
《"I will return the words you previously said in all of their entirety. A pervert and a dull object like you cannot defeat me and my Host."》
Indifferently, condescending as if she looked down on them from above, Lapis declared.
Lapis said the final words to the loser.
《"It's obvious. Because me and my Host are the strongest."》
Responding to her declaration, Takeru roared.
There was no one who could stand against this strike.
Even if there were two Nacht's——no, even if she had power of three of them they would be pushed back and blown away.
The thrust put everything to avenge the people who regrettably became victims, and pierced through his heart.
Takeru used up almost all of his physical strength, and stood in a state where he already passed his limit long ago.
Because his consciousness was slightly fading, he checked the status.
He looked at his sword that pierced through Haunted's heart firmly up to the base.
"Haa... haa... I-I won."
He wanted to make a suitable expression to celebrate victory, but the muscles on his face didn't move properly.
Haunted was charred from the place he was pierced, his entire body started to become ash affected by Mari's magic.
He's dead. There's no way he survived that.
Thinking that, the moment he wanted to fall down on his back.
Haunted suddenly started moving, with a sword pierced through his heart, he looked at Takeru's face.
"Y-you must be... kidding...?!"
Takeru was speechless seeing this. Even though his heart was pierced. Even though he cannot function like a human anymore. Even though he was crumbling and turning into ash.
Why, why is he still alive.
Haunted's burned face made a different kind of smile than his insane smile from before and said.
"——Boy, your name?"
His voice, unlike the one he used previously, was serious.
Takeru glared at Haunted who was still alive with hatred.
"Kusanagi...? I see. From that demon hunting clan."
"...! You bastard, what do you know about my house."
A laughter sounded from Haunted's throat, his teeth peeked out.
"I'll remember you, Kusanagi Takeru-kun. I won't forget this amazing fight."
Immediately after that Takeru gasped, his legs went limp.
《"Host, please get away."》
Just as he was instructed, he pulled out the sword and distanced himself from Haunted.
At the location they were at just now, the same thing that appeared from Yoshimizu's body, something like a black swamp emerged.
Haunted sank into that swamp as it made a loud watery sound.
At the same time, he completely disappeared, "fuhh", power left Takeru's body and he fell forward as he stood hitting the ground.
Takeru on the verge of losing consciousness continued to repeat Haunted's words in his head.
Demon-hunting clan... Kusanagi.
It was something practically no one knew in modern times, a piece of fairy tale passed around.
When his consciousness returned urged by the voice, the sky was already coloured with sunset.
Takeru looked towards the source of the voice.
Barely being able to leak a voice, Takeru moaned.
Mari not worried, smiled gently towards him.
"Takeru... thank you."
"Thanks to you being there... I will no longer make any mistakes."
Mari's figure dyed in the colour of sunset, somehow looked transient.
As if she was to go far away any moment...
"What Takeru told me before... I will never forget it."
"No matter where I am... even in pitch black darkness... I won't forget."
Takeru tried to reach Mari.
He attempted to lift his creeping right hand, but he had no strength.
Running from behind, another person's shadow appeared behind Mari.
"——Nikaido Mari. I will arrest you for the unauthorized usage of magic."
He heard a voice of an Inquisitor.
Mari had multiple handcuffs and collars put on by them.
Takeru reached out desperately.
...don't take her away...
His desperately stretched out hand didn't feel any pain.
He put all the strength he had in his body and shouted, Mari looked back once.
Mari with tears in her eyes, gave him a sad smile.
"I, I'm really happy that I met you!"
Cheerfully and in tears, she said those words of farewell to Takeru. Pushed from behind by Inquisitor, Mari moved forward again.
Takeru with his misty vision looked at her figure that moved away.
His vision dimmed, and his hand fell to the ground.
Takeru's consciousness fell into abyss, while single-mindedly calling Mari's name.
Aurora Bullet (アウローラ・バレツト) - It's written as (極光の鏃) meaning Auroral Arrowhead.
Will-o'-Wisp (ウイル・オ・ウイスプ) - It's written as (愚者の火) meaning Fool's Flame.
Aurora Gate (アウローラ・ゲート) - It's written as (光の到達点) meaning Light Convergence.
Thou hast made this offer over-late, if thou wouldst make peace——for now I have drawn Dáinsleif (Too late do you offer to make peace with me——for now I have drawn the sword Dainsleif) - A reference to Norse Mythology's King Hogni, slightly modified what was originally written in the novel to make it closer to original (as written on wikipedia). In kanji it's written as (許しを請うのが遅すぎた──最早私は解き放たれている) which means
"It's too late to beg now——I have been already unleashed".
Berserk Enchant (ベルセルク・エンチヤント) - It's written as (ヒャズニングの血戦) which means Hjaðningavíg's Bloodbath and is a reference to Norse mythology's legend.