Chapter 1 - Prelude to Collapse

The Witch-Hunting Festival has ended peacefully. Currently, it's the winter season.

As for the normal schools, it was the time where they approached the end of the second semester.

Because the students were cold in just their uniforms, the number of people who had additional protection against the cold has increased. Colorful leaves were covering the ground and frustrated cleaners were tidying it.

The students' movements also changed together with the season, they started to show a variety of different responses.

Those who belonged to superior platoons; there were many students who have already fulfilled the quota and had lively, carefree expressions.

On the contrary, the students who didn't have good enough results couldn't allow themselves to feel carefree.

There were three months left until the deadline, four months including the vacations.

The winter in AntiMagic Academy was a turning point for all the students.

On such a winter day, in the residential area at dinner time.

At this point of time, students and office workers were still on their way home.

A girl was running with a fierce momentum through the moderate pedestrian traffic on the road. TMG_v05_021

"YOU WON'T GET AWAAAAYyyyyyyyyyy!!"

As the girl, Saionji Usagi, was sprinting through the road, her hair seemed to raise up due to her anger.

Ahead of her, ran a man who looked like a delinquent , one could see him boarding a remodeled sedan car. Its engine was already warmed-up and it suddenly accelerated.

"——That is a point get!"

Usagi knelt on one knee and shot the car's tire with her semi-automatic sniper rifle.

Without missing, the single bullet punctured through the rear tire and the sedan's huge body shook. After swaying to the sides unsteadily, it bumped into the guardrail.

Three men came out from within the car and started shooting at Usagi with sub-machine guns.

The civilians in the vicinity started escaping while screaming.

Despite being shot at by three men carrying sub-machine guns, Usagi calmly responded taking one down with a single shot.

The remaining two took a motorbike parked nearby and immediately escaped, after they passed the crossroad, Usagi saw that and let out a "Wha...".

"O-Otoriii〜〜〜〜!"

《"I know!"》

As the men slipped away from her, Ouka's voice reached her from the intercom.

Immediately after that, from the right alley of the crossroads the heavy sound of an engine resounded, then, another motorbike has suddenly accelerated. Its driver was Ootori Ouka, it was one of the Inquisition's machines nicknamed 'blue bikes', Ouka followed the two who were running away.

The two who were turning into an alley looked back and screamed.

Approaching them from behind with incredible momentum was a woman with sunset-coloured hair.

With a loud sound of a siren ringing out, Ouka further approached them.

《"Stop those motorbikes. You're charged with four crimes. First, illegal trade of D-Rank Magical Heritage. Second, obstructing the Inquisition's enforcers on duty. Third, illegal firearms possession. Fourth, riding a motorbike without helmets on."》

Through a loudspeaker the motorbike was equipped with she told them what they were guilty of.

"You're the one without a fucking helmet!"

The man who was riding in the rear turned around to show her his middle finger and shouted.

Surprised, Ouka touched her head with one hand.

《"...it's an emergency so it can't be helped."》

"Stop making it friggin convenient for yourself!"

《"I'm reflecting on it. I'll pay the fine. I don't care as long as it doesn't decrease the amount of points."》

"If you want us to forgive it, then stop chasing us!"

《"This and that are two different things."》

Ouka's motorbike further accelerated.

The driver who looked back over the shoulder took out a piece of paper that had a magical circle engraved on it from his waist pocket.

"...no helpin' it. Gotta use the charm."

"That's something we're supposed to sell...! We don't have too many of them!"

"It's all for nothing if we get caught right? We need to lose them here."

The driver said so, and attached the charm to the motorbike's body.

Magic power leaked from the charm with a rumble and began to erode the motorbike.

The engine's sounds turned clearly abnormal, the front wheel was raised up and the motorbike the two criminals were riding rapidly accelerated.

"Unlike nitro, on top of acceleration this doesn't put any burden on the engine!"

"Ahhh... what a waste... we could have sold this expensive charm to a racing's sponsor..."

"Adieu, test platoon! You fail at following through!"

He laughed mockingly as his motorbike accelerated.

The 《Highway Fairy》 charm's spell was originally used on horses, after being improved by modern witches, it was possible to use them on machines now. The spell didn't put any burden on the machine and magic power has compensated for the fuel, it was very easy to use. Moreover, the maneuverability is improved by threefold, without having to make curve turns which required skill from the driver one could turn around freely.

There was no way a normal motorbike could catch up with it.

Their acceleration has paid off, and the distance between them and Ouka has gradually increased——or it was supposed to.

"W-wha?!"

Even though they had used a Highway Fairy charm, the blue bike was keeping up with their speed.

《"Who's the one who can't follow through here."》

After saying that along with a sigh, Ouka's motorbike explosively accelerated with its front wheel.

In an instant, her motorbike lined up with the culprits'.

"Our blue bike underwent devilish remodeling of our mad scientist. The insides are completely different from the regular bike's."

As Ouka indifferently said the truth to the two, Ikaruga's voice sounded in her ears saying "Could you correct what you just said?", but she ignored it.

"Gimme a break... we're using instant charms here?!"

"The basic specs are just different. That motorbike of yours which uses a charm can be at most comparable to a racing motorbike."

"Then what's up with that motorbike of yours!"

"No idea... don't ask me."

Really not knowing, she looked away.

But even though she was looking away, she still aimed her muzzle at the driver.

"By the way, if I shoot you in this situation, you will surely die. Of course, my bullets are anesthesia ones, but it won't matter when you fall."

"!!"

"Will you surrender, or be shot which will result in you hitting the guardrail and turning into a slab of meat."

With her inborn ruthless gaze, Ouka gave the two grace time to decide.

The man in the rear seat grabbed the driver's shoulder feeling uneasy.

"...w-what do we do."

"Haa, you've no sense of danger at all. If we're shot, we die. There's no merits in being held responsible either, that's why, we have to outrun her like this!"

While saying so, the driver took out a new charm from his pocket.

"I still have twenty charms here! The boost is supplemented by magic! No matter how good your damn motorbike's performance is, it's gasoline! With that much horsepower let's see how long will your fuel last!"

"............"

"If you want to shoot, then shoot! Unlike you, it was decided that there's no future for us right from the moment we were born! We're always prepared to die!"

As the driver displayed a sympathetic attitude, Ouka stared back at him coldly.

Were it the Ouka from before, she would shoot them on the spot without hesitation.

However, she was different now.

Letting out a small sigh, she dropped the speed of her motorbike.

Taking the chance, the two escaped.

Ouka called out to the intercom with a cool expression.

"I have led them on the scheduled course. We're switching to plan B... Kusanagi, I'll leave it to you."

《"...you serious. I can't guarantee it'll succeed though?"》

"If I shot them at this speed, I would end up killing both. If you want that, I'll do so."

《"R-roger, roger that! I'll do it!"》

As Ouka heard Takeru's voice, at her own pace, she followed the two that were escaping.

 

"Hehehe, seems like she gave up."

"She has no guts. If folks like that can join Inquisition, then we'll make it real high in the future."

They kept accelerating using the Highway Fairy charm.

Like a water strider running through the water, the motorbike bent at an acute angle.

No one could keep up with them. Once they get out to the highway in this state, they'll definitely get away.

The two were sure of that.

"Hey! In front!"

The man in the rear seat yelled.

Far ahead of them right in front of the highway's entrance, a lone boy was standing there.

"...is he insane?"

"That test platoon's comrade huh. Fine, let's have a chicken race, motorbike against a human."

"Won't you avoid him?"

"He's going to come at us anyway!"

The motorbike accelerated. Fortunately, the road was straight, it was perfect for a chicken race.

The boy increased the motorbike's speed and could clearly see Takeru's figure at the moment.

Takeru opened his legs wide and stretched both of his hands out to the left side.

Despite being in front of Takeru who was making a strange stance, the driver dropped his vigilance and headed straight for him.

Although he felt that it's eerie that Takeru didn't move away, he continued to step on the accelerator.

It was the very instant they were about to clash, at that time.

Takeru activated Soumatou to match the motorbike's charge.

He released his twisted upper body and swung his arm to match the rotation of his hips, he grabbed the collars of the two people riding astride on top of the motorbike.

Of course, the motorbike left the two held by Takeru behind and continued to move forward.

"——Ha!"

Without killing the momentum after grabbing the necks of the two, he rotated his body.

Naturally, Takeru's body swayed because of the motorbike's passengers' momentum as they were traveling at high speed, and he continued to turn round and round.

Spinning like a top, he continued to rotate.

The rotational speed was gradually lost.

"Aaand there...we go."

Although Takeru staggered just a little, he was able to stop the rotation somehow and put down the two he grabbed with his hand.

The caught two were trembling and their faces were pale, they knelt on the ground not letting even a voice leak out.

Takeru let out a breath and spoke into the intercom.

"Securing complete. I managed somehow."

《"...I saw it from here. W-what was that, just now."》

"Oh, if had I just caught them their necks wouldn't handle it right? That's why I've been going around in circles to slowly reduce the speed."

《"As usual, you're full of unexpected and exaggerated ideas."》

"I don't want to be told that by someone who drops out of air vents and stops a Dragoon with just a pistol."

After he responded to her frankly, Ouka came over on the motorbike at a steady speed down the road ahead.

She stopped the motorbike in front of Takeru and got off, she handcuffed the two men and secured the charms.

"Hmm... the points will decrease because of the number of the same-type Magical Heritages, but the number itself is high. There's roughly fifty of them. This time it's a big win."

"It's thanks to the Student Council President. Despite having this many ranked Magical Heritages the enemy organization was small, and we knew what kind of charms they had beforehand."

"There were a lot of preparations. Were it our the usual selves, we would just suppressed them forcefully and wouldn't think of what to do if they ran away. Certainly, without information it won't go this smoothly."

We need to thank the President, Ouka said.

Takeru touched the intercom once again, this time communicating with Usagi and Ikaruga.

"It succeeded. Cheers for the good work you two."

《"Fuffuun♪, it's thanks to the great trap I laid isn't it〜."》

《"Is that something to say after letting them escape?"》

《"Wha!!"》

After hearing Ikaruga's words, Usagi cried out.

《"Even though you were confident about taking out seven people which was in fact your duty, you missed and had to chase after five of them didn't you?"》

《"T-that was within the predicted range of error! Also, I've p-properly stopped the car right?! In the end only two of them escaped!"》

《"So, you let them escape right?"》

《"GRrryaa!"》

Takeru smiled wryly as the two played around.

"You did really well, Usagi. You too, Suginami, you did well improvising."

《"Messing around with motorbikes is my hobby too."》

《"...is messing around with weapons a hobby for you as well?"》

《"Don't be stupid. Weapons are my reason for living, not a hobby."》

《"W-why are you the only one who has not changed at all!"》

《"I'm just being my usual self. In contrast to that, you sure have changed haven't you, Usagi."》

《"Ah? Is... that so? W-well, even I, in the olden days..."》

《"Your boobs have grown even bigger."》

《"I'm not happy about it at all!!"》

As usual, they continued to bicker loudly.

The noisy parts like this didn't change, but Takeru felt that everyone had grown. Since the incident during the Witch-Hunting Festival, Usagi was no longer overcome with tension during battles. The problems with Tenmyouji Reima and the Saionji house have settled down to a certain degree, and finally she started to notice what she was capable of. For her, who thought that she's someone unnecessary, rather than her effort, being told that she's needed by someone else was the most important thing.

Ikaruga too, even though she continued to develop and modify peaky weapons, she started doing it with a clear purpose in mind. Even if just a little bit, she started to rely on the other platoon members. She noticed that there are things that she can't resolve by herself.

The most remarkable change was in Ouka.

At first she repelled everyone, lived believing that she shouldn't rely on anyone, and now she was moving together with her comrades like this.

Before, she shot heinous criminals that should be arrested not listening to any explanations. The remnants of these days during which she was despised as 《Calamity》 have faded away considerably.

It could be said that her sharp edges have rounded, and as for herself, it seemed like she allowed herself to relax as well.

As for Takeru himself... I wonder if I changed, he thought.

Have I grown stronger? Have I grown more mature?

..................I wonder.

He stared at his palm, but he couldn't feel anything.

Even if he's gotten stronger, that would be Lapis' strength. His own performance might have not improved. Although his self-control and situational judgment might have improved, his skills haven't. In the first place, Takeru's swordsmanship skills have reached the limit of how far he can improve them alone. Because there was no other swordsman with skill comparable to his, it was difficult for him to improve.

Then, how about the mental aspect? Has his heart grown stronger? Was there any growth for him as a person?

Suddenly, he felt like his palms have blurred.

"...Kusanagi...?"

"............"

"...hey, Kusanagi!"

"Sorry, what is it?"

Seeing his reaction which indicated he didn't listen at all, Ouka made a stern expression.

"I-I said I'm sorry. You don't have to get angry about that..."

Although he said so with a fake smile, it seemed like Ouka wasn't particularly angry.

With the stern expression still on her face, Ouka intently looked into Takeru's face.

"...Kusanagi, you're tired aren't you?"

"He?"

"You have dark circles under your eyes. It's obvious that you're lacking sleep."

He was astounded.

Just as Ouka said, Takeru was lacking sleep. However, he didn't feel tired anyhow. If anything, since him lacking sleep was a daily occurrence, he was accustomed to it.

He wanted to explain that but... before he could, Ouka placed her hand on his forehead.

"It's not hot, but you shouldn't force yourself. Since a lot happened recently, you need to spend some time to rest a bit."

After placing a finger on Takeru's lips, Ouka scolded him lightly.

Somehow, being restrained by that gesture, he felt like he was being scolded by an older sister.

As for Takeru, 'not bad', he thought, and his cheeks were lightly dyed red.

He was relatively weak against older people.

Though, she wasn't older.

"I ain't forcing myself. Don't worry."

"But you... you've got a part-time job until morning as usual right? During the daytime you're studying, platoon activities in the evening, then a part-time job at night... with such a daily life, your body will eventually break down."

"I'll be careful not to have that happen but... well, if I rest myself once, won't I struggle to rebuild my life cycle afterwards? On the contrary, I'll end up tired because of that."

"Mgrr" Ouka growled.

It seemed like she puffed her cheeks a little bit.

Cute, he ended up thinking.

Ouka looked up at him from below with a worried gaze.

"...I have no intention of interfering with your privacy but... that's... I've heard that your household has a debt. Your parents too... are no longer there, right?"

She asked, Takeru scratched his cheek.

"Well, yeah. But it's not a big deal."

"W-what?! It is a big deal! Having to suffer through debt when your parents are no longer there is not a big deal?!"

"As compared to some other things... it's quite a dangerous world after all."

"...it can't be, but haven't you noticed your miserable upbringing yet? Even I think of myself as of unfortunate, but it doesn't go that far you know?"

"Unfortunate... I never thought of myself as of unfortunate. Although I'm not blessed, I think I live quite well. Look... hehe, I'm a man, and to be in a platoon with so many girls it makes me kinda hap——"

"I'm talking seriously here!"

She got angry again.

Ouka's attitude was different from usual, making Takeru confused.

Noticing the inconsistency as she raised her voice, Ouka averted her line of sight.

"No... I'm not really angry. It's just that I..."TMG_v05_037

She folded her hands in front of her chest and entwined her fingers.

"There's been many difficulties recently and... even if just for a little, I wanted to tell you... that you should rely on me."

"? Rely you say, for what?"

"That's... umm, if there's a debt, then let me do a part-time job to help..."

So what Ouka wanted to say, is that they should have a fund-raising.

While Takeru appreciated the offer, he shook his head rejecting it.

"I'm happy to hear that, but could you quit that kind of talk?"

"W-why?"

"Nn... it feels wrong to rely on comrades to help with money problems. Also, this is a problem I need to deal with myself somehow."

"...that's..."

"Sorry. But thanks."

With a smile, Takeru started walking and stretched. A sound of a siren could be heard from a distance. After hearing the report, Inquisition would come to recover the criminals.

When he looked back at Ouka, it seemed like she was worried again. This is where I have to reassure her, he thought.

"Well, it's just as you say though, I do need a little rest. I'll take a break from tomorrow's platoon activities, I'll take time off the part-time job as well."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I'd feel bad if I worry you any more than that. It makes me happy, thank you."

Takeru said as he faced Ouka with a smile on his face.

Probably relieved, strength left Ouka and she relaxed her shoulders.

"I see... not just one day, it would be good to rest two or three days. Oh, how about you go visit your little sister?"

"............yeah, that might be good."

"Is she living away from you?"

"Yeah, she's going to a normal school; a school in the north that has scholarship."

"I see. I too once had a little sister. Family is a great thing, it's good to cherish it. Oh right, do you have a photo or something? If you're not against it, I'd like to see her by all means."

"Sure, when there's a chance. I'll probably be called siscon again for saying it, but even I, her brother think she's very cute. A bit clumsy though."

"Hmm. Is she similar to you, Kusanagi?"

"Not much, I guess? I'm similar to our old man, and she's similar to our mother."

"Is that so... I want to meet her someday."

Ouka put on a rare, carefree smile.

Takeru felt faint guilt.

 

 

The next day.

Takeru who was resting from the platoon activities was greeted by the student council president, Hojishiro Nagaru and entered the kotatsu.

"You see this—, I've found it in a shop in downtown recently〜. Somehow—, it's a shop that tries to recreate old sweets—, apparently they reproduce them by finding recipes from old Japan〜. Inquisition also seems to be cooperating with them, they've been working on cultural conservation recently〜."

"...haa, is that so."

*munch* *munch* *munch* *munch*...

"Culture's a mysterious thing isn't it. In the past there were countries called China or America, but right now people can only live in sanctuaries. The people who survived passed down the culture of the land they lived in to make sure it survives, just like we are now. Things like ramen, or hamburgers? It's interesting."

"...indeedly."

*munch* *munch* *munch* *munch*...

"Is it tasty?"

"...well, yes. The feeling there is after drinking tea with it..."

"Yay, great〜. Kusanagi-kun loves anpan, so I thought you'll definitely like this one too—. Ouka-chan liked it as well right? Here〜this, a souvenir〜."

She said so, and handed him a paper bag with fried dough cakes with a huge smile.

Takeru accepted it in silence and held it in front of his chest.

"Haa〜that was delicious. Let's eat these together again sometime〜."

"............"

"Then, with that done〜."

Nagaru raised her hand swiftly and said goodbye to Takeru with a smile.

"——Hey, wait, you midget."

Still under the kotatsu, veins appeared on Takeru's temple and he smiled. He gripped Nagaru's head strongly with one hand.

"Hoee—?"

"I didn't come here to drink tea with you dammit...!"

Takeru glared straight into her eyes.

"it's a joke, joke〜. I was just playing dumb〜."

"You definitely wanted to leave just now...! You've made us help with cleaning up after the Witch-Hunting Festival... don't think you'll escape now...!"

"Y-you shouldn't use such a tone when speaking to your senpai☆."

"Even if you act cutely, don't think I'll let you escape...!"

Takeru rotated Nagaru's head, and she let out "Aaa〜" as if air was coming out of her. After he ground her head for a while, they got down to business.

The 35th Test Platoon which resolved the problem with Mephistopheles was entrusted with post-processing after the Witch-Hunting Festival on behalf of the student council, and was unable to perform platoon activities for nearly a week.

But in return, they were promised a wide variety of information by Nagaru.

Nagaru sat on the opposite side from Takeru, and sipped her tea.

"The fact that Relic Eaters are Magical Heritages as well, you already know that right? Kusanagi-kun."

"Yeah. But the detailed circumstances and story are confidential..."

Hearing Takeru's words, Nagaru narrowed her eyes.

"Then, do you know why Mistilteinn is called a 'Twilight-Type'?"

"She... isn't it because Lapis' magic attribute is "Twilight"?"

"I too thought so at first. Other Relic Eaters are named after tyrants and criminals, I thought that her being different was weird. Have you ever heard the legends about Mistilteinn?"

"Does she have a history just like other Magical Heritages?"

"...it's just a fairy tale, for now. You know a little about the world of myths from your studies right?"

The mythical worlds. A different dimension in which magical creatures called "Gods" were living in.

Summoning magic allowed to temporarily call magical organisms from different dimensions at the cost of magic, and even God-level magical organisms were not an exception.

Greek mythology, Indian mythology, Celtic mythology, even Japanese mythology. The stories about the mythical worlds that have been passed to modern times, have been confirmed to exist.

Summoning gods to this world is currently impossible because of the overwhelming amount of magic required, but witches familiar with summoning magic are said to be able to feel their presence.

In the past, the ancient witches from all over the world have succeeded in communicating with the world of the gods, and it could be said to be the origin of summoning magic.

The names from the mythologies depended on the regions, and the anecdotes themselves differed depending on the regions, that's because the mythical world they contacted differed depending on the region.

The witches of the old were said to be able to hold conversations with the otherworldly gods.

Thanks to that, different beliefs have been born and spoken about. People of the old believed in their own significance because of the otherworldly gods existence.

Even for the same mythical worlds, different anecdotes and stories exist. After the means of conversing with the mythical gods has been lost, the lore has been crooked and changed in various ways.

Because of the inconsistency in faith, wars have broke out in various places. However, faith in those mythical worlds has been prohibited by Inquisition in modern times.

The lost-type Magical Heritages that remain, have strong relationships with the mythological worlds. Allegedly, things that have been created thanks to interference of the gods from mythological world aren't that rare.

"Mistilteinn is a weapon that appears in a Nordic mythology's fairy tale."

"...p-please wait a second. Umm, in other words, she's the same type of thing as Excalibur or Dáinsleif?"

"No, they are different. King Arthur's Excalibur and Högni's Dáinsleif are both Magical Heritages born in this world."

Unable to understand well what Nagaru said, Takeru could only tilt his head puzzled.

"What I want to say is, she's not something that used to be a Magical Heritage. The weapon called "Mistilteinn"... is something from a different world. It's a weapon that should exist only in the Nordic mythology's world."

............

Ha? That's what Takeru's face relayed.

"...t-that's impossible...right?"

"I think so too. If that's really Mistilteinn out of the legends, then she would be one of weapons Gods themselves used. A "Sacred Treasure"."

Nagaru was someone who wouldn't tell him an unconfirmed guess.

As she said that, Takeru felt confused.

"Certainly, it can be just something out of my delusions. But, anyhow... I can no longer afford to treat it as such."

Her eyes that usually made it seem like she's sleepy, have been sharply narrowed.

Takeru loudly swallowed his spit.

"I know what's the current situation of the world... and what's the Inquisition hiding. I'm prepared to disclose that information to you. In exchange, there is one condition."

She sipped her tea and grinned.

"...umm, can I ask something before that? President said that in exchange for 35th platoon's cooperation, you will provide a vast amount of information right?"

He directed the flow of conversation back to the original topic.

Nagaru made a gesture as if she was thinking, and soon said "Well, fine."

"I want to take over the Inquisition one day."

Bluntly, she stated her ambition.

He knew that she was ambitious from Mephisto's case, as well as from what Ouka said, so he wasn't that surprised. Still, he was astounded to hear her say that ambition of hers so bluntly.

Coincidentally, it was the same ambition Takeru once had.

"I have nothing against the forceful approach of Inquisition in order to confront the threats, our opponents are also very dangerous."

"............"

"However, currently in the forbidden area, there are excessive actions directed towards the witches and that is the problem I'm concerned about. In particular, the Iron Maidens... these are past inhumane."

After placing a hand on her mouth, Nagaru observed Takeru's expression.

He unconsciously looked away from her.

"Why do you think Inquisition doesn't execute uncontrollable criminals, witches, and has them fall into sleep without any dreams?"

Takeru looked below, but Nagaru continued without regard to that.

"They're research subjects... it's a case of human experimentation. You can tell that just by thinking about it. The Witch Hunt War from 150 years ago... just how many witches have been put inside those Iron Maidens? The witches that were remnants after that war, the irregular-born witches, can you imagine just how many of them are there?"

He couldn't imagine it. However, Inquisition must have caught an unbelievable amount of them.

The Inquisition's facilities were scattered in various places. There were lots of places called 'forbidden areas'.

However, even for 150 years, there was no reason to make criminals sleep continuously.

Although Iron Maidens were devices that reduced the costs, the funds required to support each prisoner's life functions were not small.

Adding on to it, the same could be said about the innocent witches living inside forbidden areas.

Food, clothing and bed weren't all, medicines were also required. Even though the number of witches decreased in the modern times, around a thousand witches a year are sent to the forbidden area.

Thinking normally, they should be bursting, but in reality – that didn't happen.

In other words, the possibility that witches are being treated as experimental material is high.

That indicated it's been continued for a long time. The Ethics Committee has been inaugurated, and has finally denounced them. The Inquisition that's been always staying silent, reached a point where they could no longer work around it.

Even Takeru knew about that. His little sister was in that position as well.

"I believe that unless we overcome this situation, the coexistence between witches and humans will be impossible."

Nagaru smiled wryly towards him.

"In fact, my older sister was an irregular witch."

"?!"

As expected, even Takeru was surprised.

"At the time, my sister was ten years old. Her Phantom Instrument had suddenly appeared, and her magic power ran wild. Overflow Complex, I'm certain you've heard of that?"

He knew that disease's name.

Unlike those who were born from a witch's lineage, there was about a 20% probability that failures will occur with irregular witches.

One of the symptoms that was very rare, is Overflow Complex.

The internal organ called 'Phantom Instrument' is also referred to as 'the second heart', something essential for a witch to generate magic. It continues to emit magic which will course through the body just like blood, and does not overflow.

However, if there's a defect in the Phantom Instrument, it will release magic from the body mass regardless of the intention of the person in question. Although it's often harmless for witches, it's nearly poisonous to normal people.

"Because of that disease, my sister caused a magical disaster... a lot of people died. She herself tried to stop it, but the Phantom Instrument was damaged and she who just turned into a witch couldn't do anything about it. She was still a child after all."

"............"

"When the magic power inside her body was exhausted, the disaster finally subsided, the Inquisition Board has designated her as S-class danger and she was imprisoned inside of an Iron Maiden."

"S-class danger designation?! Even though she hasn't killed anyone intentionally...?!"

Takeru raised his voice involuntarily. Originally, no matter how powerful they were, only the ones who are malicious murderers have an S-class danger designation.

And more than anything,

"isn't it possible for modern medicine to address the Overflow Complex?"

"Yup. It's a disease that can be treated and people don't have to be put to sleep. My sister didn't have any dangerous magical attributes, nor did she have an ancient attribute."

But, Nagaru continued.

"It's possible to deal with them, but those are unusual symptoms. Simply because of that, my sister has been treated as material for human experimentation."

She sipped her tea again.

"We received the report that my sister died one year after she was arrested. Her body was turned into ash and released into sea. According to the report, she was sick and died in her sleep, she died because it was discovered too late. Even I, as a seven year old child could see through a lie like that."

"............"

"If she didn't kill anyone intentionally, then the danger evaluation should be low. And yet, she has been treated like a criminal, turned into a guinea pig and killed... it's not just my sister, there are many other witches who end up like that."

"And so, Student Council President decided to change Inquisition."

"Of course, but that's not the only reason. The thing about my sister was just the beginning. Well, I don't care if you either think that I invited you out of sympathy or that I have ulterior motives〜."

Takeru looked as she nonchalantly said that, and spat out a sigh.

He wondered why this person could talk about that past of hers in such a bright tone.

Nagaru's past was similar to Takeru's in many ways. Although her motive and methodology was different, just like Takeru in the past, she wanted to change the world for the same reason.

His little sister, Kiseki.

"The current status of Inquisition is that they have stimulated their enemies too recklessly. The reason their opponents have become more active recently are the inhumane conducts of the Inquisition. That white haired ghost... I think Ootori Sougetsu didn't make it this way for no reason. He has made a provocative situation with an intention to pull us in, is what I think."

"...the enemy. Is it Valhalla?"

She stared at him in silence.

"I'm afraid from here onward there's a fee. I want you to think about what I spoke about earlier and find some resolve. Next, is your turn."

Despite speaking as if she was in daze, she glared at Takeru sharply.

"You still have a secret you haven't told me, have you?"

Her line of sight was piercing through him, his breath stopped for a moment.

"Not just to me. You have something you don't want to talk about with the comrades from your platoon either. I wonder if it's any different with Suginami though... I'm not sure, but I feel that she knows."

"............"

"If I don't hear your secret from your own mouth, I won't be able to trust you. I am prepared to confide all I know to you. Are you... resolved to do the same?"

"............"

"It's not a resolution to bear something. It's a resolution to reveal everything."

A while after that, Takeru opened his mouth.

"...just how much do you know."

"What I know is not the problem here. It's about me, hearing it from your own mouth."

Once again, Takeru fell silent.

"It's not that having secrets is a bad thing. But the relationship I'll be trying to build from now on is fragile enough to break as soon as any of us keeps any secrets."

"............"

"My comrades aren't just the members of the student council. There isn't that many of them, but there's more people than you think, Kusanagi-kun. They are people whose ambition is to change this rotting Inquisition, and they are resolved to do so."

"............"

"I thought of becoming comrades with you. It might be consistent with our current partnership, but please think of our information exchange as the first step to future negotiations. As long as you have resolve to reveal everything, I won't mind disclosing all the information I have."

Nagaru waited for Takeru's reply.

At this moment, they were in the gray zone. Should they join the current Inquisition's side, or join the student council's side.

He grasped his pants in the kotatsu and faced down.

Although Nagaru was similar to Sougetsu, he always felt she was more human than he is. It wasn't judgment whether one was good or evil, it was that rather than leave everything to the Chairman, he could understand everything better with her. Certainly, it would benefit the platoon.

However, the secret Takeru was hiding, Kiseki's case was on entirely different level from normal.

That was why, if it was unknown, it would be better if it remained as such.

"I'm sorry. Can you wait with this for a while?"

"...hmm, I think this isn't something time is going to solve though."

"I know. But before telling everything to President, I want to tell the platoon members first. Also, I think I shouldn't decide it by myself."

As Takeru spoke what he honestly thought, Nagaru blinked a few times and smiled happily.

"You really think a lot about your comrades don't you〜."

She said so nonchalantly and clapped her hands.

"I understand. Whenever you want, once you come back, I'll listen to your response."

Takeru bowed deeply and stood up from the kotatsu.

"In the end, let me give you a piece of advice."

When he was about to head back, Nagaru called out to him. Takeru turned his body towards her.

"——Be careful with Mistilteinn. If that thing is really one of these so-called "Sacred Treasures", then it's something too heavy for a single person to hold."

"...but...what should I do."

"Up until now it hasn't sought anything from you, but if by any chance something was to happen, don't comply with its request."

She made a slightly stern expression and narrowed her eyes.

"That will definitely... not end well."

What did those words mean, at this time, Takeru didn't know yet.

 

He left the second student council room and closed the doors of the data preparation room.

While feeling a haze in his chest, Takeru looked down.

Under any normal circumstances, Kiseki's existence must be absolutely kept secret, under the condition from the Inquisition that he doesn't reveal anything, he was allowed to visit her.

He stared at his own palm and bit his lip.

If Nagaru's ambition is realized, the treatment of witches will change for better.

He too, agreed with her ideas. She too had a past similar to his, and he could sympathize with her.

But there was a crucial difference between them. Unlike Nagaru's sister that was sacrificed, Inquisition would never let Kiseki off.

Unlike the Overflow Complex, undoubtedly, Kiseki was a real danger.

Going against the Inquisition without any solution that would allow Kiseki to be released was not a good idea.

"..................Kiseki."

Not knowing what should he do, he called out his little sister's name.

That's when he suddenly felt someone's gaze on him.

On the left, near the stairs at the innermost corridor someone was standing there and looking towards him.

A female student wearing a uniform.

"——!"

It was someone familiar to him.

She had a brown tail tied in a pony-tail and a light-hearted, kind look.

Without a doubt. That was,

"Yoshimizu...?!"

Takeru inadvertently rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things.

The next time he opened his eyes, Yoshimizu was no longer there.

Instead... there was a single boy standing there.

"...th..at's..."

That boy too, was Takeru's acquaintance.

Kirigaya Kyouya. The captain of the 15th test platoon... the one that was wiped out by Haunted.

Kyouya glared towards Takeru.

"Kyouya!"

Without thinking, Takeru rushed towards him. After approaching at full speed, he stood in front of him.

"J-just when were you discharged? A while ago when I went to hospital..."

"............"

"...a-anyway, that's great. You look health...y..."

Telling him that he looks healthy was a slip of tongue, it was too rushed.

However, speaking just about his body, he did look healthy.

Kyouya's legs. He lost both them when he was crushed by the rubble.

But no matter how he looked at it, Kyouya had them both.

At first Takeru thought they were prosthetics, but it wasn't so. He knew that those are legs of flesh and blood.

"...you... legs...why..."

As he stared in wonder, Kyouya looked away from him and passed by his side.

Takeru chased after him in a hurry.

"Wait a second, there's still something I want to ask you."

"............"

"What happened to Yoshimizu? I wasn't told anything about her when I asked Seelies. Her hospital room was changed, if possible I want to pay her a visit.——"

He casually placed a hand on Kyouya's shoulder.

It was just a faint touch.

But Kyouya smacked Takeru's hand away.

Involuntarily, Takeru was stunned.

"——Don't touch me you traitor...!"

Kyouya looked towards Takeru with a furious expression and said so. Traitor? What does that mean?

Not knowing why Kyouya was angry, Takeru stood there dumbfounded.

Then Kyouya walked away down the hallway at brisk pace.

Not feeling like chasing him, Takeru watched his back as he left.

"...what was that..."

Unconvinced, he rubbed his hands.

After that, he tried asking the Seelie ward's nurse, but he wasn't told of Yoshimizu Akira's whereabouts. As for Kyouya, not only wasn't he discharged but it was made as if he was never a patient in there, it was a complete blank-out.

Although he couldn't help but think that it's strange, but inside of Takeru a resolution to ask Kyouya himself was born.


The Glossary

Highway Fairy (ハイウエイフエアリー) - It's written as (疾走) meaning "Gallop".


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6 thoughts on “Chapter 1 - Prelude to Collapse

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  1. budz

    Green mythology, Indian mythology, Celtic mythology, even Japanese mythology...

    ...should be Greek mythology?

    Reply
  2. xExorTx

    Man, what a saddening chapter although I really don't know what makes it sad.
    but still it's nice Lapis is something and I'm excited to know what really is she.

    Reply