Alchemist's fifth laboratory, central tower, top floor.
In a place called level 6, Isuka put a hand on the incubator after she finished speaking with Ikaruga.
"Four years... that was longer than expected."
She said that and covered her face with her left hand.
A memory of a betrayal from four years ago revived in her head.
The place she belonged to collapsed, it was a humiliating memory.
But Isuka's facial expressions didn't reveal it.
She only needed a mind dedicated to research, that is all. That's how she was taught.
She threw away unnecessary feelings.
"With this, my suffering will finally end."
Whether she was crying or laughing, all of it could be hidden with a palm of her hand.
"My hell finally ends."
Isuka muttered to no one in particular, and stroked the incubator.
Peeking from behind her hand, were eyes full of madness, and she wholeheartedly laughed.
"Hey, isn't that right? Ikaruga."
The dreadful sound was like the gasp of the dead from the bottom of the abyss.
"——Then, the uproar in this case is all an isolated action from just the fifth weapons laboratory?"
Inside the chairman's office, Sougetsu lit a rare cigar and spoke to the receiver with a strong tone in his voice.
After receiving report of the mission's failure from Hayato, there were no more problems with Sougetsu's plan. He already received information from the arrested mercenaries.
Sougetsu created the opportunity to strike and brand the Alchemist, and obtain full authority.
After concluding the Alchemist wanted to recreate the elves. Proving their relationship with Valhalla would be a matter of time.
To prevent the restoration in advance, they will seize all of Alchemist's technology.
And the second goal, was obtaining technology of processing first-class anti-magic material. Dragoon's. The elf restoration. All of these could be made by Inquisition at any time.
Sougetsu should be able to obtain all that power.
The raid could turn into war, but he didn't care.
However, not everything goes so well,
Whether it was Inquisition's or Alchemist, people standing on top of those were villains.
The person Sougetsu spoke with, was the Representative Director from Alchemist's headquarters.
《"Yes. If I remember well, we issued a permit for studies on elves, but we don't tolerate research that would go into gray zone."》
"It's not just elves. The Dragoons used in attack on the tournament, they were something you guys developed as well, right? The evidence obtained from the wreckage points makes it obvious that Alchemist was involved in this uproar."
《"So you say, however. We are a company. We continuously sell merchandise, also we're legally selling Dragoons to private sector. We're not responsible for what customers do with the Dragoons after we sell them."》
"Don't stray away from the topic. The ones that were invited to the opening ceremony wasn't some other company, but your Alchemist."
《"Even though you say that, we have no knowledge of such thing. Where did you order the Dragoon's that were unveiled at the tournament?"》
"............it was close by, so we ordered them at fifth weapons development laboratory."
He could hear a sexy laughter from the receiver, Sougetsu became angry. It was bad, he clicked his tongue in secret.
At this rate, they will push all responsibility on the fifth laboratory. The headquarters will be able to get off by saying they didn't know anything.
He won't let them. Sougetsu went on a counter-attack.
"Even so, if you look at it from another perspective, even if that was an arbitrary decision of fifth weapon development laboratory, you cannot escape from taking responsibility. That won't pass. So how do you intend to take responsibility for it?"
《"Hmm, mm. We acknowledge that as well, yeah. That's for the inconvenience we caused this time, you have my apologies from the bottom of my heart."》
"Only a verbal apology, is it."
《""No, no such thing. As an apology... oh that's right, we'll provide you 250 of the latest model Dragoon "Enkidou" free of charge."》
Humbly... it seemed like they kept low profile.
He caught something valuable. But the other party was a snob, which irritated Sougetsu who was a snob as well.
"Are those dragons going to have that weird remodeling as well?"
《"Safe and secure, our motto we say with a smile."》
《"With our pride on the line, we assure you that there will be no such thing."》
Pride. Saying that was a foul play. Thought Sougetsu.
"I acknowledge that you really do feel sorry for that. And I accept the token of apology. However, we will undertake all necessary actions to crush fifth weapons development laboratory."
《"I am aware of that. We shall deliver the required machines. Please crush and kill them all until there's nothing left."》
It was said lightly and with confidence, causing Sougetsu to narrow his eyes.
There was no need to restrain themselves anymore. In order to cut the chase, Sougetsu let out.
"After we're done with crushing it, we will of course thoroughly check your headquarters. If we find anything there, we will immediately prosecute you."
Sougetsu declared while peeling off the façade from before.
《"Yes. Do as you please, we don't mind."》
《"We're fine with it, we hope for Inquisition Board's patronage in the future. That is why this is a good opportunity to prove our innocence and get along better. You're welcome to do a thorough investigation."》
And with that said, the call was immediately ended.
Sougetsu was dumbfounded, and froze.
After hearing the sound signaling the end of the call, laughter raged, welling up from his throat.
"I expected that from the very beginning. That female fox... even if we searched we wouldn't find anything."
He threw away the handset and stood up.
"Considering the way they talked back, it seems like there's nothing that would point at the involvement of Valhalla with their headquarters left there."
The schedule went crazy, well that's fine. We'll get a lot anyway.
He walked up to the hanger by the desk's side, and wore an exaggerated white uniform of Inquisition.
"...did it go well?"
A secretary in a suit came bringing tea and asked.
"Immediately have all available Dullahans gathered at the front gate."
"...what does this mean?"
"Also, in about thirty minutes Dragoons should come from Alchemist headquarters, adjust them as soon as possible, tell Reginns to be ready for sortie at any time."
"Umm... that's, where to?"
The secretary asked.
Sougetsu opened a black case, and took out a beautiful musket decorated with silver from inside.
He strongly rotated the musket with a bayonet attached, and strongly gripped it.
"Just for a little war〜"
Wearing a white uniform, Sougetsu said that as if he was going shopping.
Somehow, he looked like he was having fun.
Fifth weapons development laboratory, fantastical creatures reproduction testing site.
In this place, there were many humans and fantastical creatures collected as materials for biological experiments.
It was illegal. Over the few recent years, the fifth laboratory studied chimeras in secret from the Inquisition. In cages made of crystal, there were a lot of gremlins and goblins raising their voices.
In one of them, there was something that stood out. Inside, there were three girls.
All three of them were stark-naked, they were sitting while embracing their bodies.
The three were Ouka, Mari, and Usagi.
"W-w-ww-what... will become of us."
Usagi asked as she trembled and hid her chest.
"I wonder. We might be stuffed into a potato-washing machine and turned into food for fantastical organisms, or as material for chimeras... I have no idea."
Mari was sitting cross-legged by the wall, and told Usagi about the danger. Usagi trembled like a rabbit suffering extreme cold.
"Uuu...*sob*... stripped naked, having every corner washed like an object... this is first time being treated like that. I can no longer be a bride..."
"Eeh, is that what you're bothered by? First we need to get out of this alive before you talk about being a bride."
"This is humiliating... it's shameful... even though, I decided that my first time will be with the person I love."
"You didn't lose anything yet! You didn't lose your first time yet! Where are you going Usagi-chan!"
"...just how much of a pure maiden are you."
"Ni-Nikaido-san is just lacking delicacy. Why are you sitting cross-legged when you're naked?"
"No... there's no men here anyway, it's just us girls. Why don't you stop hiding yourself? Be more dignified you know, dignified."
"*sob*... don't lump me together with slutty girls..."
"I'm not slutty! And you're pissing me off! If you hide that much your belly will stand out!"
In response, Usagi stared back at Mari with tears in her eyes.
Certainly dignified. Although it was dignified.
Usagi lowered her gaze and looked at Mari's chest.
Truly, they were tiny.
"If I was that small... if I was that small I wouldn't be ashamed either. Uuu..."
"What do you mean by that?! Size has nothing to do with it right?! Don't go crying after looking at someone's breastsss!"
Mari got angry and started ranting, and Usagi continued to cry.
Next to the two, stood Ouka with a firm attitude and glared to the side.
"You guys are noisy. If you have time for idle talk, think of a plan for escape."
Even though she said that, she hid her chest just like Usagi did.
Seeing that, Mari said "Those damn big breasts..." with envy and enmity.
"...what, then did you come up with anything?"
"I didn't, that's why I keep thinking."
"That's no good〜... when thinking doesn't help it's better to be at ease〜"
"I refuse. Rather than that you, you were trading information in the border right? Why is Alchemist trying to catch Suginami, do you have any idea?"
She inquired, Mari deliberately looked at the prison's ceiling.
"Yup, that's because Alchemist is pitch black."
"They were always sitting on the borderline, to think they were this rotten. Experiments with fantastical organisms are prohibited by law."
Ouka made a bitter face and hit the crystal wall.
"There is definitely some relation between this facility and Suginami... but why."
Ouka turned around because of Mari's suggestive attitude.
"When I decided to side with Inquisition, I told them all information I had right? Among the information I told them, there was some about Alchemist plotting to restore the elves. They were just rumors, but Chairman persistently dug for information about that."
"Yup. Just like during the Witch Hunt War, about wanting to use them as a weapon just like back then."
"How foolish, elves are an extremely dangerous existence, it won't go like the alchemists want it to. They're underestimating the reality of it."
"That's why I told you it's just an urban legend right? If it was possible Valhalla would have restored them already. Even Necromancers cannot revive fantastical organisms. This is just a dream——"
Just when Mari was saying that, unexpectedly.
"——No, it's not just a dream. Restoration of elves is possible."
There was a woman standing outside of prison before they noticed.
It was a very aloof person dressed in red lab coat, she looked familiar to Ouka and the others.
They let out surprised voices.
"Indeed, I am Suginami. But, I'm slightly different from Suginami you know."
The dark red woman brushed her hair away and told them calmly.
Just as she said, after looking closely her appearance was slightly different from Ikaruga's. Even though their style and faces were similar, there were differences.
Her hair color wasn't obsidian black like Ikaruga's, but red-brown. The color of her skin also seemed darker than Ikaruga's.
"Who the hell... are you."
Ouka glared at the girl with great hostility. The girl shrugged it off, and continued with indifferent voice.
"I am Suginami Isuka. Ikaruga whom you know is one of my compatriots."
"? Suginami is... an Alchemist's employee, you mean?"
"Not an employee. Existences called "Suginami" are Alchemist's "results". Humans call us "Designs Children"."
"Designs Children", Ouka heard about them.
Using eggs and sperm of excellent humans, systematically and artificially producing geniuses by manipulating the genes. Magic is not involved, but it broke the balance of the world and was forbidden as a technology inducing discrimination.
But that it really existed, not even Ouka knew that.
"You guys will be used as bargain chips. I guarantee you won't be killed, so don't worry."
Because of Isuka's indifferent attitude, Mari snorted annoyed.
"Do you think we will believe you after we were stripped naked?"
Isuka ignored Mari's protest and looked at the three of them.
"I've heard you are Ikaruga's schoolmates. Is that true?"
Ouka glared at her.
"I was curious. I'm surprised that someone with such a bankrupt personality managed to interact with ordinary people like you."
"What really are you? Are you her friends? Or are you pawns used by her?"
Ouka and Mari frowned sharply.
They didn't know Ikaruga long, but both of them were angered by Isuka's words.
And, there was someone who was enraged even more,
"——We're best friends, and we understand her more than you do."
It was Usagi.
She was trembling because of anger, and with a weird voice she clearly stated they are friends.
Isuka tilted her head.
"You understand Ikaruga more than I do? Are you serious?"
"You know nothing about her."
To avoid laughing, Isuka breathed through her nose.
"She is not as simple as you guys think. She's the same as I am. Just like me, a moving mass of madness only seeking research."
Isuka put one hand on the crystal, and the other on her forehead.
"She's not interested in anything that's not sharp. If it isn't sharp, it's worthless. She pushes forward, forward, forward, aiming at the very tip. Ethics. Humanity. From the very beginning such concepts weren't integrated into us, Suginami. Unnecessary concept. The mind for research is all we have, that's the only thing moving Suginami. Influence from world outside of research and development makes no difference. We only care about the results. Only results make us climax. That's the kind of woman she is."
"——Don't lump her together with you!!"
Although Usagi yelled at Isuka, she was unfazed.
Isuka released her hand off her forehead, and glanced at Usagi through the crystal with her dark pupils.
"I get it. I'll tell you what kind of human is she. What kind of path we Suginami follow. I'll tell you all of it."
Isuka spoke quietly, she was so intimidating it was choking.
Ouka and the others learned the madness of Suginami.
When he opened his eyes, he saw an unknown ceiling.
Round and round, the ceiling fan was spinning.
Before he thought about where was this place, he dedicated himself to remembering what happened before.
He couldn't remember too well. Although that was probably because his head still didn't work too well. He felt that half of his body was strangely warm (especially his right arm). He felt as if he was about to fall asleep again.
"...did you wake up?"
And, he heard a voice from his right side.
Takeru moved his head to the right with his blurred consciousness.
Right beside him, there was a familiar beauty.
The beauty was embracing Takeru, it seemed like they were hugging each other while sleeping.
For some reason, she had only black underwear, and was covered with a blanket.
His right arm that was felt very warm for a while already, was sandwiched between her large breasts.
"...u-uu-u-umm, d-d-did I, b-b-by a-any c-c-ch-chance..."
"Good morning. Yesterday... it was pretty intense."
She made a sexy smile while blushing, the beauty, was in fact Ikaruga.
Unable to comprehend the current situation, he stood up from the bed.
Need to apologize. For now he needs to apologize.
Severe pain ran through Takeru's waist, he moaned as he tried to get up.
He put a hand on his hip nearby, there was a gauze and bandages on the wounds.
And then, he finally remember what happened earlier.
As he writhed in severe pain on the bed, Ikaruga was by his side lying face down, and looked at Takeru with an expression of amusement on her face.
"It's obviously a joke. If you move you'll start bleeding."
"......this, did you do this?"
"That's right. The one who dragged you all the way here, and performed surgery on you was me."
After being told that, Takeru raised half of his body and confirmed his location.
It was a hotel room. A queen bed, refrigerator. Wall with strangely excessive decorations, yellow and pink lamps.
It felt like... a clearly suspicious hotel.
"I used it before I enrolled in school, my hideout. Quite pleasant isn't it?"
"...I'm not really sure but, you, you have a lot of medical knowledge."
"It's not really knowledge, just basic know-how. Your internal organs didn't seem to be hurt, but you didn't have enough blood. Fortunately, because there's electricity here, the refrigerators were running and it was a nice place to store transfusion packs. I had one set of equipment."
Ikaruga hit the bed with her feet repeatedly, then put another mint candy in her mouth.
"Umm... by the way Suginami-san, why are you naked?"
"Oh? You're happy with me wearing this? You're unexpectedly maniac."
"...because you didn't have enough blood, your body temperature was too low. That's why I slept while hugging you."
After giving him a mocking glance, Ikaruga obediently said the real reason.
Takeru confirmed his own equipment lying by the wall, and tried to stand up.
Tried to, *clank*, something pulled his body back.
After looking at it, he saw handcuffs on his left wrist that were connected with the bed's railing.
"This is not a part of the play. Because Kusanagi wouldn't listen to me go to help Ouka and the others as soon as he woke up, that's why I tied you up."
"...... You've foresaw everything haven't you."
"You will die if you go outside with these injuries. You better give up."
Ikaruga raised her naked body, and put a hand on his shoulder after crawling on all fours.
Thanks to that, the blanket fell off Ikaruga's body, he couldn't bear it and looked away.
Since he couldn't help it, he lied down on his back quietly.
And Ikaruga nestled herself right beside him.
"I can guarantee that Ootori and the others are alive... so you don't have to worry."
She said that like a mother to her child.
A serious expression, Ikaruga was completely different than usual.
"...that's my line. We came here because we were worried about you."
"I've told you before you collapsed, it's not your business. It's my problem and I will solve it on my own. You guys might die if you get involved."
He was stubborn, but Ikaruga was even more stubborn, Takeru knew that.
That's why he didn't intend to talk about the fact they chased her and remained silent.
However, to know the current status, he had a lot of questions.
"We have already thrust out necks into it... tell me, about yourself."
"Oh? Even though you didn't ask me even once, you do at a time like this?"
"Even I don't want to intrude on your privacy, unless something happens. If you felt like telling me, I would gladly listen."
"But now, it's not time for such things."
He frowned and glared at the ceiling.
"I'll tell you... I'm already prepared to carry that burden."
"...I, I liked the old Kusanagi who wasn't bothered with the affairs of the others."
"The old me is the past. That's no longer who I am."
As he said that, Ikaruga tightly hugged Takeru's arm.
"...if possible, I wanted to keep it a secret until I die, but it seems no longer possible."
Ikaruga slowly closed her eyes, and started to talk about herself.
How was she born, and what miracle had led her to the academy.
She spoke of her everything for the first time.
People called Suginami had no fathers, and no mothers.
Made thanks to genetic engineering, they were literally made in incubators.
For a long time, alchemists and scientists working in Alchemist have always left their sperm and eggs for future generations, in order for them to inherit the knack for technology.
What alchemists feared the most, was losing knowledge and skills.
The facility for training "Designs Children" was simple and harsh. In a room surrounded with white walls, those who inherited several hundred people developed superior weapons together. Single-mindedly, just that. Completely unlike humans, they single-mindedly aimed at technological advancement.
Those who didn't achieve the results were thrown out to the outside world as defective products. In order to survive, the geniuses were working day and night.
Ikaruga and Isuka stood out among Suginami.
All the weapons the two of them developed always had a high performance, and it was so peaky it ruled out the balance.
『""I'm not interested in anything that isn't peaky.""』
When asked by the Supervisor, they answered like that together.
The Supervisor looked at such individuals, his mouth wrinkled, and he made a distorted laughter.
At that time, Ikaruga and Isuka were six years old.
The two of them were officially welcomed in Alchemist corporation, and dispatched to fifth laboratory.
And had many achievements there.
『"——Today I succeeded making a transplant from a human into a griffon, amazing isn't it?"』
Ikaruga and Isuka reported the news as happily as usual.
『"Today I made a gas that killed fellow humans and showed their spirits. Praise me, praise me?"』
That was because, if the girls had achievements, they were given rewards.
『"Look, look. I made a bomb that only destroys human genes. It's very kind to the surroundings. Amazing? Hey, is it amazing?"』
And their rewards, were permissions for developing new weapons.
To make better ones, to kill humans more efficiently.
You are worth as much as the weapons you produce.
The two of them were taught so, they had no hesitation nor mercy, they produced inhumane weapons while remaining completely innocent.
Just like they were taught, producing was the meaning of life imposed on 『Suginami』.
『"Let's create a weapon that can kill more humans with a smaller budget."』
That was, the Alchemist's education policy.
Their talent, shocked even Alchemist.
『"Hey, Isuka. What's a "mother"?"』
In their room, Ikaruga was reading a book as she sat by the wall and asked Isuka.
Isuka stared at something through a microscope, and answered with a difficult expression on her face.
『"Isn't that provider of the egg?"』
『"Hmm. Can I meet that provider?"』
『"She should have already died decades ago. Because the egg provider for both of us was the same, that makes us half sisters."』
『"Sperm donor for me was Trismegistos, yours was Paracelsus. I've heard they died a few hundred years ago."』
『"Why did you ask about that? That doesn't matter right?"』
Isuka asked after separating herself from microscope.
Ikaruga was reading an old picture book. On the cover, there was a picture of a smiling child holding hands with people who looked like their father and mother.
That book wasn't something that would be normally brought into lab. It was with the body of a child that was sent in for studying.
The title of the book was "Canary's house", it was a book for teaching morals.
『"I was wondering for a while now, what is that book?"』
『"Nn? Just before, it was in the backpack of the sample."』
『"...hmm, it's good that it wasn't found before, interesting. What's the content?"』
『"It's a story about a canary bird becoming human."』
『"Ooh, that's truly interesting. Is it a book about genetic engineering? Or a pattern on how to transplant a bird's brain into human?"』
『"That's not it. The bird was lonely because he had no mother since birth, he became a human and created a family. A fairy tale, in other words it's a book to learn morality."』
When she heard that, Isuka's complexion changed.
『"This is bad. Hurry up and throw it out, if they find it, it won't end with a beating."』
Isuka furrowed her brows and tried to confiscate the book from Ikaruga.
As Isuka tried to steal the book, Ikaruga distanced herself from her by rolling away.
『"Isuka, I want to become a sea urchin."』
『"A sea urchin. It's not only sharp, but it's pointed in all directions. Cool."』
『"Does that mean you want to become knowledgeable in many fields?"』
『"I want to know a lot of things."』
『"...those who have a mind of a researcher focus on one thing. In the end, we who are called geniuses are only humans. Our talent would scatter. The only thing we need to do is to develop weapons."』
Ikaruga looked away from the picture book, and stared at the ceiling.
『"What is it?"』
『"What's a family? What's a friend? What is love? What's a companion?"』
『"I don't know. It's outside my specialty. But I think they are concepts we don't need."』
『"This canary bird, in the end he was separated from his human family, he turned back into a bird and died alone. What he thought about before he died, wasn't his mother who was a bird, but his human parents. I wonder, why?"』
『"What is it."』
『"Because this bird's mother was Passeriformes Fringillidae, it was a bird right? I don't understand, why did a bird think humans were its parents?"』
『"I don't know. It seems like newborn chicks have a habit of believing the first thing they see is their biological parent, but there's no basis for that. In the first place, it's impossible for a bird to become a human being. That book must be wrong."』
『"I wonder. For some reason I'm not so sure of that. It's interesting, this book."』
『"Don't read any further. You will be thrown out if they find out. It's a concept you don't need to know."』
『"Rather than not knowing, it's more interesting to know about it."』
『"I'm fine as long as you're here with me. I don't need anything else."』
Isuka thought Ikaruga was in a weird state, and looked at her.
With her eyes gazing at the ceiling, it seemed like Ikaruga was looking somewhere far away.
『"...Isuka, this place is too small for me."』
There was longing inside of Ikaruga's pupils as she said that.
『"It's an amazing concept. I want the two of us to realize it."』
In response to the request for the restoration of the elves, Ikaruga and Isuka happily started to work on it, and were already praised in the conceptual stage.
Isuka studied only seeking to restore the elves, and undertook the research. And as for Ikaruga, she looked forward to studying something else.
All because of that picture book.
The fact that alchemists were forbidden from contacting the outside world.
They shouldn't learn feelings. Genius dies when they obtains a human heart.
Having interest in the outside, was enough to disqualify her as a Suginami.
When she was about ten years old, Ikaruga was more interested in people than research.
Alchemist taught her attitude to seek results. They didn't to teach her ethics and humanity. Just, she started to gradually lose the happy feeling every time she made something.
That's why she thought about going outside.
She wanted to go outside. She wanted to see the world. She wanted to know what kind of humans are there. Wanted to know how the scenery is there. And so on.
"Designs Child's" researcher's mind already left Ikaruga.
She could no longer stand it, and she thought of a way out.
That's right. I just need to be thrown out.
Ikaruga orchestrated it. The resurrection of elves, if it turns out to be a failure, she will be branded as trash and thrown out of Alchemist.
She will be able to get to outside world.
A year later. As Ikaruga intended, the restoration of elves resulted with failure.
By messing around with gene sequences, employing human sperm, half elves were being born. The eggs used weren't ones of a Dark Elf, but ones of Wood Elves who had astounding physical ability, but didn't possess magic. Knowing that Ikaruga continued experiments.
What Alchemist was seeking, was a magic-using weapon. And as a half, its capacity was halved as well.
Therefore, the experiment was a failure. They should have already noticed that the rapid development stopped. And even though they wasted a tremendous amount of money and time, the research ended up being a failure, the higher-ups were greatly disheartened.
With this I'll be able to go out. I'll be able to stretch my wings outside, and find even more interesting things.
She obtained the result she wanted.
Well then, let's go see the world. Let's stop being a bird in a cage, let's learn more things, let's aim at something even sharper.
With a heart full of hope, Ikaruga foresaw tomorrow.
Just when she was packing luggage in her room,
After being suddenly called, Ikaruga raised her face. Isuka threw something at her.
Ikaruga caught it with both hands in a hurry.
That was, a baby with long ears.
The baby didn't cry, the baby was looking up at Ikaruga silently.
It appeared to be a year old. Ikaruga moved her face closer and touched, checking it.
『"What are you planning! Making half-breeds like this...!"』
Isuka was shaking in anger and moved closer to Ikaruga.
Ikaruga looked at both Isuka and the baby, she was upset.
『"T-this is, the Wood Elf I made?"』
『"I took it out of incubator in the middle of rapid growth. So you did this didn't you?! Why did you do such a thing?!"』
Even as she was being questioned by Isuka, Ikaruga stared at the baby. It was her fist time holding a child.
Because its head was bending, she needed to support it?
Not knowing why she hurried, Ikaruga embraced the baby just like it was in her picture book. When she embraced it properly, the baby laughed.
It was an unknown feeling.
Something, something hot inside her chest...
『"Are you listening, Ikaruga!"』
『"Y-yeah. I made it like this on purpose. The reason was, because I want to go out to outside world."』
『"If the experiment fails, I'll be thrown out, right? Thanks to that, I'll be free."』
Ikaruga looked at Isuka's shocked face, and tilted her neck.
『"Even though your head is better than mine, what kind of stupid thing are you talking about, you...!"』
It was unusual for Isuka to show that much emotions.
Not knowing what's she talking about, Ikaruga erased any expressions on her face.
『"You might end up sharing that half-breed's fate...!"』
『"What do you mean?"』
『"Come and look for yourself."』
Isuka waved beside her neck, and rested her head after sitting on the bed.
Ikaruga wanted to let down the baby she held, but as the laughing baby touched her cheek, she wasn't able to move.
Same fate as this elf?
She learned what did that mean a few hours ago.
Just as Isuka said, Ikaruga headed to treatment facility in the lab.
Originally, it was a facility that handled dissolving the bodies of fantastical organisms that became obsolete by dissolving them.
Ikaruga sneaked into control room, and looked into the processing facility through glass window.
『"...so that's what she meant."』
There was a large amount of lab coats floating in the solution.
They were all small sized, children sizes. Name tags floated together with the coats.
The names given to Suginami's were uniform and based on birds. Heron, Parrot, Cuckoo, Kuina... It meant owners of the coats floating there, were all "Designs Children".
Of course, that's right.
Even if they were failures, they were Suginami's who held Alchemist's technology, there's no way they would throw them outside.
"Designs Children" were Alchemist's results.
That meant, for Alchemist, that Ikaruga was the same as an experimental body.
Just like Ikaruga sacrificed experimental animals until now, the people above will dispose of Ikaruga when they decide she's incompetent.
The day before she was supposed to be disposed off, Ikaruga went in front of the baby in a cage.
Probably, Ikaruga will not avoid disposal. She made a mistake that's normally impossible.
Isuka was trying to wisely trying to persuade the higher-ups, but the decision wasn't overturned.
In the end, she became a bother to Isuka, and will be killed.
But she didn't feel sad. Ikaruga still couldn't understand that feeling.
Just, she thought it's a pity. She won't be able to satisfy her curiosity any more,
What a shame.
She came here not knowing why herself, Ikaruga came to the crystal-covered cage.
Inside of it, there was a baby elf walking on all fours.
『"You will be killed now. Together with me."』
Ikaruga said to the baby.
『"Hey, what kind of feeling is sadness? The experimental animals, what do they think as they die?"』
Even though she asked, the baby only answered with 'aaa' and 'uuu', just that. What a boring living being. Ikaruga was about to leave that place.
The baby uttered those words. Ikaruga's feet stopped.
After interrupting in the middle of rapid growth process, the learning should also have stopped. To remember the word mother, and even recognize Ikaruga as mother by instinct. She didn't even provide an egg, she wasn't even genetically related to it, the fact that it was Ikaruga who created it... it acknowledged that.
Mama. Mother. She read it in the book. She didn't understand it well, she just knew those words. Something in her chest tightened.
She turned her body, and glanced inside the cage with a complex expression.
The baby showed her body in front of the food inlet, and laughed merrily.
It stretched a small hand towards her.
Unexpectedly, she felt a sense of guilt.
——what have I done.
Although her feelings were still immature, a concept of sin rooted itself inside Ikaruga.
——Despite not knowing what a mother is, I became a mother.
In the end, Ikaruga was a Suginami.
She sought a result which was going out, failing on purpose, for that purpose she used materials given by Alchemist.
She wasn't worthy to be called a mother. She didn't know anything about mothers.
But that it was an incredible sin——she knew. For some reason she knew that.
Ikaruga reached out to the elf in the food inlet, she didn't know what to do as after she contacted it. If she's a mother, then what does she have to do? What are parents?
What can she do?
That's right, a name... she read it in the picture book, first, parents give a name to the child. She needs to give it a name.
Ikaruga said what came to her mind at the moment.
『"That's right. Kanaria. That's your name."』
It said Kanaria with a trembling voice and laughed happily.
Ikaruga didn't know what did she seek in Kanaria.
Just, while thinking of something, she removed the mints from her pocket, and put a hand inside of the food inlet.
Kanaria extended her small hands towards the candy.
That's when, just for a moment, Ikaruga and Kanaria touched.
A warm feeling. Ikaruga immediately withdrew her hand.
Unable to withstand Kanaria's gaze who stared in wonder, Ikaruga ran away from the spot.
When she was running, she heard a cry from behind.
It was a voice calling Ikaruga.
She blocked her ears, and just ran.
She couldn't deny she did something bad.
Everything she did up until now, was her responsibility.
『"You can't sleep? Ikaruga."』
Just when she was about to go outside from her room, Isuka came out of the bed and showed her face. Ikaruga instantly hid her luggage, and glanced at Isuka.
Isuka silently stared at Ikaruga in response, and said expressionlessly.
『"It's alright. I tried my best to make sure they didn't dispose of you. The higher-ups are not as stupid as to dispose of someone as talented as you are."』
『"You are my other half. I need you, and you need me. Right?"』
Ikaruga chewed her lower lip in response.
And she stretched her hand to Isuka who was lying down.
『"Hey, Isuka... will you run away from here together with me?"』
『"...w-why do we have to do something like that?"』
『"It's alright. I've planned this properly. Leave it to me."』
『"...why run away? Do you want to live in outside world?"』
『"There's that... but the main reason is, that this place is... wrong."』
『"What have you been talking about for a while now...? The one who is wrong is you, right? Doing such... like failing on purpose... I have no intention of running away from here!"』
Isuka distanced herself from Ikaruga.
Ikaruga kept reaching out to Isuka with a serious expression.
『"If we stay here, we will wither. I am sick of this bird cage already. I want to get out, think what I want, live as I like."』
『"It's alright if we just stay here! In here we can research as much as we want, and there's no discomfort at all! What are you complaining about?!"』
『"............Isuka, you still don't know. But surely, one day you will."』
『"Shut up! You don't understand me! Even though I put so much effort to save you, why are you separating yourself from me?!"』
『"That's not it, I——"』
The moment she was about to say that, suddenly sirens rang from the room's speakers.
Then, there was an emergency announcement.
Hearing it, Isuka made a questioning look.
『"The Lost Matrix was stolen? Impossible, authentication for the vault——"』
Isuka glared at Ikaruga.
『"Ikaruga, it can't be, you."』
Obviously hostile, Isuka hit Ikaruga's hand away.
『"...don't touch me, I won't save you any more... that was stupid."』
Ikaruga stared at the hand that was hit, stunned.
She slowly turned towards the door, and looked at Isuka only once more.
『"I'm sorry——bye bye, Isuka."』
Ikaruga told her these words of farewell, and ran away just like that by fleeing through the hallway.
Among the ringing sirens, Ikaruga ran away breathlessly.
For a time like this she prepared a way out of the laboratory, but she didn't anticipate such a commotion.
It was probably because she took the Lost Matrix.
The reason she stole it, was because she had felt horrible. She wanted to do something to atone, when she touched Kanaria she was perpetrated by the feeling that said 'you've done something unforgivable'.
When she thought about that she felt sorry again.
While hiding in the shadows, Ikaruga rushed to her target location.
After making sure there was no one in there, they were the cages fantastical creatures were held in.
Kanaria called for her mother, Ikaruga.
For the sake of convenience, Ikaruga became Kanaria's mother.
It was written in the picture book. That parents protect their children.
That's why wanting to protect her was normal. Protecting her, was responsibility of the one who created her. She wasn't convinced completely, but she shouldn't have been killed yet, she should be still here in 'clean'.
That's why, Ikaruga decided to bring Kanaria with her.
It was lonely without Isuka, but at least she can finally escape from the prison, to the outside world.
Even if she fails escaping, that's better than staying here.
But, the prison Kanaria was supposed to be in, it was already empty.
She stuck her hand inside the crystal, but she couldn't find anything.
Looking closely, by the end of the prison, there was the mint candy she gave her.
She was too late.
Waking up to the guilt. Learning ethics. The regret. Everything, was too late.
It was the same in the picture book. No, Even worse than in it. The canary in the picture book was able to spend happy days with its parents, even if they were fake. But Ikaruga's Kanaria died without knowing anything, and alone.
This ending was too unreasonable, Ikaruga could understand enough now.
She recalled how on the cover illustration they held hands with a smile. And she tasted a tremendous sense of loss.
Definitely, she yearned for that.
Laughing happily, like the people in the picture book.
And die happy, like the canary in the picture book.
Right from the beginning, happiness spilled out from her hand, Ikaruga submerged herself in regret.
She hit the wall once while chewing her lower lip, and ran away shaking everything off.
Ikaruga couldn't explain what feelings she held in her chest.
While feeling like she wanted to cry, she followed the escape route.
Isuka's words passed through her head, what a canary feels.
She left those two, and ran away.
Without knowing anything, she discarded those two who had nothing, and she was the only one free. In a new world, she decided to look for her new self.
Ikaruga threw all of it away.
Forgot everything. She blocked her ears, to live only thinking of herself. Then, Ikaruga took off to the outside world.
She spread out her newborn emotions.
"...with this, you know everything about me."
While snuggling beside Takeru, Ikaruga told him everything.
She spoke with an indifferent tone, as if she didn't have any emotions.
Takeru also didn't show any reactions, he just listened in silence.
"For the sake of escaping from that place, I made half elves. I've toyed with life. Well, it wasn't just elves. There was some variation before that."
She acted as if there was nothing wrong with it, and she saw Takeru made a difficult face.
"I enrolled in the academy, because I didn't want to give them the Lost Matrix. Even Alchemist wouldn't dare to enter the Inquisition's base."
Hearing that, he was convinced. So that's why Ikaruga never left the academy, that was the reason.
"...it was first time I've heard you talk about yourself."
Takeru said quietly.
Ikaruga raised herself and opened one eye.
"You didn't ask. Even if you asked I wouldn't tell you though.
"I knew a lot about you, I even thought it was unfair too, you know?"
Takeru shook his head in response.
Ikaruga supported her cheek with the palm of her hand and stared at Takeru.
"Well, with this you know now, right? What kind of human I am. About the humans known as Suginami."
"Ever since long time ago, I live for myself, I do what I want to do. Nothing has changed."
What Ikaruga said didn't seem like a lie.
"Things like guilt, atonement... truth to be told, I don't understand them. I wasn't taught it you know. I took away the Lost Matrix because I mimicked the ethics from the picture book, surely."
Ikaruga acted masochistic towards herself, an artificial existence.
However, Takeru couldn't help but object. It was absolutely impossible that she didn't feel guilty.
"So what, you came to a place like this all alone.
"If alchemists tried to restore the Dark Elves again, why did you want to make a deal using Lost Matrix?"
"...what was your real objective?"
As Takeru questioned her, Ikaruga made a wry smile.
"I, unlike like Kusanagi, don't try struggle to change for better. I didn't come here with any admirable goal. I didn't come here for someone's sake, I came here for myself."
"Don't dodge the question. I want to know what did you come here to do."
"And what will you do if you know that?"
"And what if it's something bad?"
"Then stop you with all my strength."
Even if he wanted to learn more details from her, he would fail. It would just repeat.
"Hmm. You, treating me the same as you did with Ootori and Nikaido, even though it's me."
"...you're same, right. You're one of my comrades."
"But I, am not satisfied with being the same. Equality is no good, being on top is fine. Because I want to be on the very top."
Ikaruga suddenly approached Takeru's face.
Her body and face were right next to his, it was breathtaking.
"Hey, a while ago, I've told you I like you right? Why don't I teach you the reason."
"...what, all of a sudden."
"The old Kusanagi was similar to me. That's why I was comfortable being together with you. Still mentally immature, comrades lacking proper emotions, we met together in that shelter. You understand what that means?"
"Even though that was my ulterior motive, I was relieved when I was by your side. For me, Kusanagi was a cornerstone in the outside world."
Takeru was sure, that Ikaruga acted just like she always did.
However, her expression remained the same as always, her eyes didn't indicate a lie, nor it did a smile.
"But Kusanagi has changed. Because of Ootori."
"...it's not really her fault. I just used the fact that I lost to her as opportunity..."
"Is that so? Well, I'm fine with either."
She placed a hand on Takeru's chest, and her face approached him further.
She moved her big breasts, turning around and she clung to Takeru's arm.
"F-for a while now you are somewhat close? My body is already warmed up, what is this situation..."
"Hey, about Ootori, do you like her?"
"Why did a serious talk turn into that?!"
"This is serious talk."
Being stared at with glossy eyes, Takeru stiffened.
"I hate Ootori. I don't mean her as a human. She is a bit naive, but serious and likeable. I like people like her. But not as much as I like Usagi."
"Yy-you, ww-what are you."
"But I hate her. Do you know why?"
Being questioned, Takeru looked away and wondered about it.
He didn't know. Being told that suddenly like that, there's no way he would know. In the first place, what kind of situation was this? It's not time for this, right? Even though Ootori and the others were captured.
But he couldn't face the reality now, it would be rude, and above all he didn't want to.
He wondered about it endlessly, but didn't find a reason.
Ikaruga's sweet scent that felt slightly like mint tickled his nose, his consciousness turned unsteady.
Suddenly, Ikaruga rose up, and mounted Takeru.
"Wh-wha-what are you doing?!?!"
"As you can see, right?"
"I don't get itt!!"
"No, it might be the end, so I thought I might put an effort to experience it."
Takeru's body was stiff like stone, shivers ran through him.
What is this person doing.
He repeated in his mind like a small baby.
"I don't really know much about things like love, but I know just a little about sex. I'm interested."
"I-if you don't know then don't get horny!"
Even though he retorted, Ikaruga unhooked her bra.
Two big bulges bounced like balls in front of his eyes.
Takeru instinctively covered his eyes with a hand.
"Horny, that's rude. It's my first time after all, it's not like anyone is fine you know? I thought if its Kusanagi, it would be okay. That kind of feeling?"
"That's being horny!"
"Don't babble, if you're a man then embrace me already. You're a virgin, right?"
"Vv-v-virg... that has nothing to do with it?!"
"I am a virgin as well. Good for you."
"Good or bad, that's not the problem!"
"Or maybe you don't want to embrace me? Am I not attractive?"
She tilted her neck slightly, and asked with a straight fight. She was slightly anxious, or rather she felt a bit afraid, fearful.
With such expression on her face... that question was unfair.
"Eh, no, um, that's... umm."
"Bufuu. You're embarrassed."
"You're teasing me after all?! Or are you serious, which is it?!"
Instinctively he responded like normal. Takeru's heart was more delicate than expected.
"Sorry, I'm not teasing you. I'm serious, that's why I..."
When he heard from Ikaruga she was serious, he was puzzled once again.
"I'm making fun of you because I'm nervous."
Nervous? Ikaruga was Nervous?
Unable to believe those words, Takeru stared intently at Ikaruga's body.
"Then... what do we do? Hug and see?"
She averted her eyes and asked with confidence. She was beautiful, that's what he thought. As a man, he couldn't deny it.
Between wanting to embrace her, and not. It was obvious he wanted to do it.
But, just like Ikaruga said about herself, Takeru didn't know what love is either. Even though he was fond of Ikaruga, he never looked at her this way before.
Is it alright to embrace her in a situation like this?
Takeru was very calm, and he suddenly remembered Ikaruga's words.
——It might be the end.
That's what Ikaruga said when she straddled him.
...what did she mean?
The moment Takeru thought about that, the relaxed atmosphere was blown away.
He suddenly heard a shrill sound from the distance. It was sound of helicopters rotor.
It was followed with lights entering the window, Takeru covered his eyes from it.
"...oh, thirty minutes ahead of the schedule. She's impatient, that Isuka."
While riding on top of Takeru, she looked at the shadow of the machine on the other side of the glass window.
"Unfortunately, my first time is postponed. I might not have another chance, so I wanted to be done with it."
"I was the one who called them here. This is where you and I separate, Kusanagi."
"I've told you right, that it might be the end."
Ikaruga grinned and suddenly,
She overlapped her lips with Takeru's.
The kiss was just a light touch, but Takeru stopped thinking, his eyes were wide open.
It only lasted for a moment. But the soft sensation firmly burned itself into Takeru's brain.
When their lips separated, Ikaruga stuck her tongue out and laughed mischievously.
"Thanks for the meal."
"For us who have no experience this much is fine."
"I like you, Takeru. A bit more than I like Usagi."
Ikaruga put a hand on his neck, and turned it around, she stared at him lovingly.
Right after that——he felt a bit of pain on his neck.
Surprised by the pain he looked at Ikaruga, she had something.
That's, a syringe?
Before he noticed, he could no longer move. No matter how much power he put in, his muscles only trembled.
"Y...ou, what... did you do..."
"It's just a neurotoxin. You'll be able to move soon."
Ikaruga stood up, wore the clothes placed on the sofa and lifted the bag.
"I am going to destroy the fifth laboratory now."
"...you... what are you saying?"
"I'm not like Kusanagi, but even I have some regret left in me. In order to get rid of it, I am going to destroy that place."
"If you guys didn't come it would have already been done... but it was just a detour."
Takeru couldn't believe it, he was astonished.
Ikaruga went up to the door, and looked back at Takeru.
"I won't let Kusanagi to carry it. This is my problem."
"............you, can't do... such a thing... alone...!"
"You know already. If I say I'll do it then I will, I'm a capable woman aren't I?"
Ikaruga opened the door.
"I wrote where Ootori and the others will be released on a memo, and put it in your clothes. Go back to school together with those girls."
"Don't get any more involved in this matter. I'm the cause of it, and I don't want to involve you any further."
"Bye, bye. Takeru."
In the end she called him by first name, then closed the door.
She went out of the hotel, in front of it stood a dark red woman, Suginami Isuka.
Ikaruga squinted, and stopped in front of her while laughing though her nose.
"Isn't this a lot faster than promised? It's too late for a date so it's NG, don't you think its too early?"
"Arriving before anyone else is in Suginami's nature. The one who should be here first is you."
The two of them stared at each other expressionlessly.
"You turned really bossy, Isuka. You were much cuter in the past."
"You're exactly same as before, Ikaruga. Just like when you betrayed me."
Immediately after Isuka returned those words to Ikaruga, from the transport helicopter hovering in the air, four new Dragoon's dropped down on parachutes, and crushed the asphalt as they landed.
There were also snipers waiting in the helicopter, their scopes reflected the light.
"That's really exaggerated. This much for one weak girl?"
"Weak? Who are you talking about? What are you talking about this late into the game. You're someone equipped with grief."
"You say that even though you don't understand grief."
"Same to you."
Ikaruga got tired of restraining herself, and spat out sigh.
"...the promise, you're going to fulfill it right?"
"As soon as you——"
*rinn*... a bell-like voice sounded, and the air shook.
Isuka stared at Ikaruga.
While her hair danced in the wind, Ikaruga caught a glimpse of Isuka's black pupils.
"If you break your promise, I'll dedicate my entire existence into bullying you. I'll have you taste endless hell until your life is exhausted."
At that time, Ikaruga didn't flinch even with Dragoon's surrounding her.
Isuka was unfazed. Unfazed, she narrowed her eyes.
"...don't worry. I have already released the hostages. Also, it's fine if you come with us together with Lost Matrix. Inquisition is preparing the troops... soon the laboratory will be under attack. Hurry up."
"That white haired bastard moved really fast... can it be that you were forsaken by the Alchemist?"
"In the end, Alchemist is just a company. I have almost fulfilled my objective. So it doesn't matter."
"Ah, that's right. As long as we finish the experiment on elves it's all good. Well then, let's go."
Ikaruga said that and tried to board the small helicopter that landed in the alley.
In the doorway of the wasted hotel, there stood a boy.
Although he still had handcuffs attached to his left wrist, the chain has been torn off.
He escaped by force, blood was dripping from his wrist.
Ikaruga didn't look back, and Isuka looked towards him with much interest. The surrounding Dragoon's were also wary of him.
"...I won't let you go."
"Captain's order. Don't go."
Ikaruga didn't turn around. Takeru was standing there holding a sword, he forced his uncooperative body to move, and his pupils were dyed red.
The brunt of his anger, was directed at Ikaruga.
"You're not suited for self-sacrifice If you're going, take me with you."
"I definitely won't let you go alone."
He poised his sword, and let out a strong fighting spirit.
Sensing hostility, the four Dragoons prepared for battle.
《"What should we do?"》
"Fight back. We don't have time to be bothered."
Isuka instructed the Dragoon pilots and boarded the helicopter.
With a slight delay, Ikaruga followed her.
"Didn't you hear I told you to wait?!"
At the same time, Takeru started running, and one of Dragoons moved.
《"This guy is insane, he goes against a Dragoon with a sword!"》
The Pilot underestimated him completely, and instead of using the heavy rifle which was the standard equipment, he tried to slam him with an arm.
A gigantic figure raised its arms in front of him.
He was almost stunned by the pain in his back, but he remained calm.
He was furious——and calm.
He poised his sword above him, and put it on collision course with enemy's attack.
And the newest model of Dragoon's arm soared into the sky together with a high-pitched sound.
It was an impossible scene. Even lightweight Dragoon's had a considerable amount of armour. It was impossible for a flesh and blood human to cut it with a sword.
His body wasn't strengthened by Relic Eater.
It was Soumatou mixed with all his heart and soul and using the "cut to the hand".
The Dragoon lost its arm and unable to kill the momentum of its attack, it slammed into the wall.
As the cloud of dust raised in his background, Takeru was in state of relaxed alertness.
He exhaled deeply, and calmed himself in order to soothe the convulsing muscles.
When he was young, he was taught what he should do when he's been poisoned.
The pilots of the Dragoons recognized Takeru as a threat.
Takeru raised his spirit to the maximum, and rushed towards the helicopter to catch Ikaruga.
He triggered Soumatou and kicked off the ground.
However, immediately after that, an attack came from the sky.
*pashoon*, a dry sound rang out.
The shoulder of Takeru who was trying to jump was hit by a sniper, and another sniper was in the sky prepared to shoot. His movements and senses were enhanced by Soumatou, his operation range was narrow. But if he were to expand it, the burden on the brain would get too big.
The snipers were far in the sky. But he couldn't reach them there.
After Takeru's left shoulder was pierced, he nearly fell down forward to the ground.
On top of that, one of the Dragoons swung its arm at him.
Takeru's body was lifted up, then he fell down to the ground.
The Dragoon aimed the muzzle of its rifle at Takeru who was out of breath.
*zowari*...chills ran down the pilot's spine.
There was something behind him. The pilot turned the machine around cautiously, and behind he saw her.
It was Ikaruga.
She looked towards the Dragoon with eyes that looked like entrance to abyss, she stood there expressionless.
"——Don't get ahead of yourself, underling. I'll kill you."
What was in front of the pilot, didn't seem like a girl.
No, for a moment, she didn't look like a human.
As if she was a dreadful monster, that's what the pilot thought.
"That's different from what was promised."
Ikaruga warned Isuka who had her back turned away.
Isuka raised her hair, and observed Takeru.
"He won't die with just that much. Even so, he's an interesting material, isn't he. He accelerates brain processing speed... Collect it and——"
"I won't give it to you. It's mine. I told you, if you touch him I won't forgive you."
Ikaruga warned Isuka with a threatening tone of voice and looked back.
Isuka changed her attitude, and gave Ikaruga a questioning look.
Once again, Ikaruga headed to the helicopter.
She didn't look back until she boarded it.
And took off to the sky without even glancing at Takeru.
Takeru was lying on his back, and he cursed as his consciousness faded.
Inside the dim interior of a car, Ouka's wariness almost exploded until finally light entered her narrowed eyes.
She was kicked in the back, towards the light.
After she hit the ground, she groaned with pain. Groans could also be heard from behind her.
After looking back in the light, she saw Usagi and Mari lying the same way.
There was a loud bang from the black car they were riding, and after the engine sounded it drove away.
"Are you guys alright?"
"S-somewhat... just scrapped my knee."
Mari answered while rubbing her knee, Usagi didn't answer as she raised her body.
"Those guys, why did they set us free...? We're from Inquisition, we're obviously their enemies."
Ouka murmured while looking puzzled in the direction the car drove off to.
A while earlier, Ouka and the others were given uniforms and then taken here by the car.
"Come to think of it, she told us we're bargaining chips..."
Ouka remembered Isuka's words as well.
Exchange? Is it with Inquisition?
Ouka didn't even consider that they were alive thanks to the Inquisition.
She had to at least report Alchemist' actions to Inquisition no matter what.
That they were plotting to restore the elves.
There's was disadvantages in doing that.
She narrowed her eyes, Alchemist's fifth weapons development laboratory's tower was visible in the distance.
The gray city almost had no power supply, so it was almost completely dark during the night.
Only fifth laboratory was visible.
Ouka couldn't help but see in that light a prelude to something that was about to happen.
When she felt that in her chest, Usagi who was silent stood up completely. Same as Ouka, the direction she was staring at, was fifth laboratory.
As Ouka spoke, Usagi started to silently walk towards the laboratory.
"Where are you going?"
"...I'm going back there, in that place. Suginami is definitely there."
Usagi continued with her back turned to Ouka.
"The one who got us out, was Suginami."
"...how do you know that."
"I just know, that woman knew we will get caught, and requested an exchange for the Lost Matrix. I, I need to go and save her."
Ouka rushed towards Usagi who started walking to stop her.
"Wait Saionji. When you heard that woman's story, what did you think about it?"
When Mari heard Ouka's question, she made a face that seemed to say 'hey, hey'. And say that she can't read the mood, but it was important for Ouka to know it.
Isuka honestly told the three girls about the outrageous experiments they were carrying out. They wanted to hide from the truth, and but they couldn't say anything in response. They learned about the atrocities Ikaruga did once in the fifth laboratory.
Therefore, she needed to hear it.
Whether she believed in Ikaruga who did so many misdeeds.
"...why are you asking me something like that."
"I learned how Suginami was in the past. But, I don't know the current Suginami."
"That's why I want to hear what Saionji thinks. Because you had a long relation with her, I think there's merit in what you decide to do."
"Do you intend to pull everything out of me?"
"I just want to know your resolution."
"Saionji, do you believe in Suginami?
Ouka asked a serious question.
Usagi turned away, her shoulders strongly trembled, she hugged herself strongly.
"Whether I believe... or not... I don't care about that. No matter what Suginami's past is, I am not interested. I'm fine with Suginami as she is right now."
Her slightly trembling voice firmly reached the other two.
Usagi's tears moistened the ground.
"If Suginami is involved in something dangerous, I will go and save her."
"If Suginami is doing something bad, then I will slap her."
"In either case, Suginami has to be by my side..."
She spoke in a tearful voice, and supported herself by embracing her own shoulders.
Hard-heartedly she raised her head, and faced forward.
"I want to protect the 35th Test Platoon."
Usagi told them her true feelings.
"It might not be outstanding, but for me the 35th Test Platoon is... where I belong. There's no other place for me other than 35th platoon. I'm sure it's the same for Suginami and Kusanagi. If even one person is missing from it, we will lose the place we belong to."
"That's why, I will definitely protect it. Just that place... I will definitely protect."
Hearing that, Ouka quietly frowned.
She remembered the words Takeru said when she first enlisted.
When she was still unfamiliar with other members, when she asked Takeru, he briefly told her characteristics of Usagi, and he also added this.
『"Among all our members, I think Usagi is the one who cherishes the platoon the most. Somehow she seems to be the one who thinks about her comrades the most."』
An underachiever and a dunce. She always sought to shelter herself from the crowd, she was unlike the others, but there were times where she felt a connection.
Ouka was envious of Usagi. Ten months has passed ever since the platoon was formed, they had senior bonds.
To the three others, Ouka didn't share a bond with them yet.
She didn't know just how much Usagi loved the platoon. That's because, until Ouka enlisted there were only the three of them.
What's this... subtle pain in my chest.
In order to understand that emotion as loneliness, Ouka still didn't grow enough emotionally.
However, Usagi's feelings reached her.
"I see. Your resolve, it has definitely reached me."
Ouka nodded strongly, Mari came closer while holding her arms behind her head.
"Really, it can't be helped. I'll go along with Usagi-chan. I still owe you guys."
Mari raised her hands over her head while saying "good grief" and smiled bitterly.
Ouka and Usagi stared at Mari with deadpan expressions.
"I the Witch of Aurora will lend you my power, you guys better be gratef——"
""What can a witch who can't use magic do?""
After having that pointed out by the two, Mari fell down to her knees frustrated.
Ouka changed plan, placed a hand on Usagi's shoulder and conveyed her own decision.
"Saionji, I will lend you all my strength. I will risk my life for your resolve."
"——Hey, heeey! I want to complain about the difference in treatment!"
Mari meddled in with tears in her eyes, joining the two.
"Ootori, do you believe in that story about Suginami?"
The story she heard from Isuka, it shouldn't be acceptable for Ouka who hated criminals to the bone.
Designs Children, recreation of elves and other experiments on organisms, Ikaruga was involved with them. If she really intended to give the Lost Matrix to Isuka, should that really be true she would be outraged.
"No, it's my principle to make decision after I know the truth. I won't believe until I see it with my own eyes or hear it from Suginami herself, it's all put on hold."
She spoke stiffly as always, but it couldn't be helped since that was how Ouka was.
"For that sake, I need to meet Suginami."
Ouka placed hands on her hips, and puffed her chest.
Rather than heading towards the laboratory now, there was another problem of what had to be taken care off as a priority.
There wasn't much time. There was no other choice but to enter the institute with just their platoon, contacting Inquisition has to be delayed. Inquisition to prevent the restoration of the elves by themselves. Their own priority was the rescue of Ikaruga, leaving prevention of the experiment to Inquisition was reasonable.
If it is as Usagi said, and Ikaruga made an exchange to release the hostages, if Takeru was also caught, he should have been released.
It might have been wishful thinking, but they needed to contact with Takeru first. That meant, they needed to secure a way of contacting him.
Just when Ouka thought that with a difficult look on her face.
Ouka noticed that the ground she was standing shook slightly.
Pebbles lying on the ground were rolling and making rattling noise.
As the shaking increased and approached her location, she saw something at the main avenue.
Immediately after, from the behind the corner, countless Dragoons jumped out.
"No... look at the shoulder."
A pentagram on top of a cross was drawn on one of the Dragoons.
They were Dragoons owned by Inquisition Board.
The number increased steadily, and a terrible momentum passed by Ouka and the others.
In addition to the Dragoons, there were people who looked like members of Spriggan riding four-wheelers at breakneck speed.
"This number... it's at least a battalion."
In the middle of the rising cloud of dust, Ouka was dumbfounded as multi-layered waves of Spriggans passed by her.
They were unexpected reinforcements. Although she was thankful for them, with this much strength it seemed like they were going to war.
On the very end, there was an out-of-place white limousine lazily moving forward.
Limousine stopped in front of Ouka, and the windows opened quietly.
"——Oh ho, what are you doing here guys! It's dangerous for three girls like you to visit such a place! I don't remember issuing you a permit?!"
A dubious man dressed in white appeared, it was Sougetsu.
Sougetsu exaggeratedly feigned surprise, and smiled towards the three girls.
The three of them gave him a look that said they despise him from bottom of their hearts.
"...what the hell is this."
"——Can't you see? We're going to war."
Sougetsu straightforwardly replied, Ouka's face displayed tension.
"In fact, we found out that the fifth laboratory is performing illegal experiments. We're heading to raid them now."
Since he told Ouka before that it was 『War』, it was too late to call it a raid.
"If Chairman himself has sortied, that means things are not looking good."
"If the boss comes as well the morale will be better, right?"
Even hearing Ouka's sarcasm, he poked the window while grinning.
Ouka felt more and more unpleasant.
"...did captain Kurogane acknowledge this raid?"
"Right now, he is writing a mountain of written apologies. If his men didn't fail the mission, there wouldn't be this pointless battle. He took responsibility."
Ouka thought that if Kurogane Hayato was involved in this matter, he would stop them from using this much force.
If they move as a military like this, it gives the enemy a sense of crisis.
Knowing that this much force was used to eliminate the fifth laboratory, the enemy forces will move to headquarters. If that happens, a war will occur.
Hayato's way was one that tried to minimize amount of lives lost. He would try to avoid collision between the Alchemist and Inquisition.
"...Chairman, do you really intend to go to war with Alchemist? If something like that happens, the innocent citizens will——"
"Don't misunderstand. I've spoken with Alchemist headquarters. It seems to have been fifth laboratory's arbitrary decision, they're taking part in suppression."
"Headquarters...? Chairman, do you believe them?"
"We move because we have their permission, it's too late to pull out now anyway right? I made the decision after learning the truth."
Ouka thought to herself while admitting defeat, that this man was sickening.
The enemy is just the fifth laboratory. Even if someone gets involved, it'll be just the criminals from the gray city. There is no way of the public making a fuss because of it. Also, no matter how much I want to declare war on their headquarters, there's no benefits coming from it, hahahaha!"
Although he was laughing cheerfully, it didn't reach his eyes.
However, if they have an agreement with the Alchemist's top, then problem with the fighting force was resolved. Like this, dominating the fifth laboratory will be completed without starting a war.
She wasn't convinced about not involving people from the border, however people in vicinity of the area are accustomed to carnage. If they see this many Inquisitors, they would have ran away already sensing the crisis.
"Rather than that, I asked before, what are you guys doing in the border? This is no good, you shouldn't perform investigations in the border."
Even though you agitated us to do it, what are you talking about now... is what she thought, but she stayed silent.
"I wonder, what's happening with Kusanagi-kun and Suginami-kun?"
Ouka wondered if she should tell him about Ikaruga. She should check it with her own eyes and ears before she reports to Sougetsu, if the truth isn't revealed there's a high chance she might be arrested.
Ouka absolutely couldn't forgive that.
Probably the one who sent them letter saying that Ikaruga was a traitor was Sougetsu. She vaguely suspected that from the beginning, but she didn't think he would send a letter like that for no reason.
He was even convinced about the experiments on elves, that was probably because Ikaruga was tailed. Sougetsu continued to grin like a Cheshire cat.
Ouka hated that grin.
She hated his secretiveness as well.
"No idea. We just lost our way."
But before she learned the truth, betraying her comrade would be even worse.
"Can't you contact him through radio?"
He said that, and encouraged a passenger who was riding together with him to pass his intercoms. Ouka caught the intercom that was thrown at her by the passenger, and attached it to her ear.
"Should we help you look for them?"
"It's fine. It was our fault in the first place, we'll be fine looking for them alone."
"But if it turns into battle you might get dragged into it?"
"It will be a good experience. Can we borrow some weapons?"
Sougetsu's mouth distorted displaying joy.
"You can borrow what you like from the vehicles in the rear. I also strip the restriction for Relic Eater usage since it's an emergency. Use it well."
"That's to save Suginami-kun, right?"
Because of his attitude that said he saw through all of it, Ouka felt like murdering Sougetsu.
Ouka bowed apologizing, and she returned to her comrades after turning on her heel.
"No time to stand here. Let's go... we need to recover Suginami before Inquisition conquers the laboratory."
Ouka told the two and closed her eyes.
It was an emergency, one of their comrades was in danger, she spread both of her hands.
That moment, a crimson magical circle spread under her feet.
"Summis desiderantes affectibus——"
Usagi and Suginami were startled not knowing what's happening, but there wasn't time to worry about that.
Ouka, in order to save her comrade, sought assistance from the existence she hated the most.
With a reluctant tone of voice, discarding everything, she called out to the heresy.
Sougetsu laughed while covering his mouth with his hand, but it leaked out.
"Wonderful, that's essence of being comrades. Really, they're very useful, those children."
Sougetsu's amused laughter increased in volume, the other passengers showed various reactions.
Driver aside, there were three passengers inside.
They were wearing Dullahans black uniforms, they all had their chests decorated with headless knights.
They were members of AntiMagic Academy's investigator's section 1, Zeroth Extermination Riot Police, the "EXE".
"Chairman is such a bad person. Wasn't there a less roundabout way to do that?"
A member with appearance of a boy said that while combining his arms behind his head.
"If you wanted to have them fight as a vanguard, you could have just ordered them to."
"You're so silly, that would make me look like I'm a bad guy."
"...ha ha, this late in the game everyone thinks about themselves, there's no way they'll save her."
Chairman's the best, said the boy and laughed sardonically.
The other two was a giant man who remained silent, and a woman with red hair who murmured to herself while biting her nails.
Sougetsu looked at them and shook his head while saying "good grief".
"For your information, this is an action necessary for triumph of the human race. We're going to make those villains cry."
"I think the awakening of the Twilight Type will lead to the victory of the human race... right, is that still sleeping?"
Hearing the two of them, Sougetsu brushed his hair away.
"If we try to awaken it by force, it will turn into the second coming of the situation from 150 years ago. Proceeding with slow and careful erosion is an appropriate awakening for Mistletoe."
"Honestly, which one holds more importance, the case of the Alchemist, or the awakening of the Twilight Type?"
In response to the boy's question, Sougetsu looked through the window outside.
The sky of the cloudy gray city, was beginning to shed tears as if implying a grim future.
"Both of them of course, right."
In the shadow, Sougetsu's narrowed eyes shined as he looked at the moon.