"——Research target's cardiac arrest is imminent. Entering preparations for injection of hihiirokane."
In the forbidden area within the prison's deepest special experiment control room, there was a girl shown on the monitor's screen. One of the Regins has reported to Ootori Sougetsu.
The one reflected in the monitor was a restrained Kusanagi Kiseki. A number of tubes were connected to her and dozens of light-emitting chains were wound around her body.
"Hmhmm... today's Kiseki-chan seems quite tenacious, doesn't she."
While staring at the monitor from staircase that was near the middle of the control room Sougetsu smiled as if it has piqued his curiosity.
Around him there were the chosen Seelies who were busy operating the room's computer, suddenly the control room has gotten busy.
"It's been more than thirty hours ever since the medication was applied. It has exceeded the lethal dose of a normal human being by over a hundred times. The poison seems unlikely to be effective... or maybe it's just the demons... what do you think, Kurogane-kun?"
Sougetsu placed a hand on his chin and called out to Hayato who was right beside him.
Hayato didn't even look at him, and just stared at the monitor.
"Something's different from usual... I've got a bad feeling. I've heard that she met with Kusanagi Takeru, did anything happen?"
"Nope? Not really. Kusanagi-kun was just a little distraught, Kiseki-chan was docile as she listened to him. Whenever she meets with him, her mental status mysteriously stabilizes and her power's activity also dulls. Honestly, holding her is quite costly, so it's a great help having them meet."
Hayato silently glared at Sougetsu.
"Got complaints? This treatment has been continuing for five years already. I don't mind if you tell me some about the ethics, but we don't have a way to control her so it can't be helped right?"
"Even for me, having to kill an innocent girl time after time again is painful. But if we don't do it, that alien thing won't come out. We must drag out that alien thing out of her and kill and kill and kill it until its exhausted. If we fail to do so, the world might perish."
Sougetsu smiled thinly to Hayato.
"The one who caught Kiseki-chan five years ago was you, you should know best just how dangerous is she right?"
"............I am aware of it."
"Don't worry. It will end soon. Geez, Alchemist sure does work fast on the things that interest them, it's a great help. In just two months... even though we were working on it frantically, they accomplished it in such a short amount of time, there's a lot to alchemy isn't there."
Sarcastically, Sougetsu praised the Alchemist and looked merrily at Kiseki who was displayed on the monitor.
"Haa, if there's a God out there that isn't one of the magical organisms, I wonder why would he drop such an organism here. Is he trying to eradicate human race for arrogance? Geez."
《"The observation target has entered cardiac arrest. It will re-awaken soon. Transitioning to first-class alertness. All Inquisition officers are asked to move assuming any possibility."》
After that report was transmitted, the people who were moving around busily all stopped moving all at once.
Sougetsu and Hayato stared at the monitor in silence.
Kiseki went limp and bowed down. All the vital signs displayed on the instruments have stopped. Starting with brain, everything has died completely.
The change happened immediately after.
Although she should have died, Kiseki faintly opened her eyelids.
Her opened eyes were hollow, drool was dripping out of her mouth.
Sougetsu went down to the bottom from the stairs of the control room and grabbed the microphone.
"Ohh, Kiseki-chan. Good morning. How's your mood after waking up?"
He greeted her as if it was a refreshing morning and smiled like a Cheshire Cat.
Kiseki, who was surrounded by black walls looked up at the speakers from which sound flowed.
Her hollow pupils were unchanged, unfocused. Her lips were trembling and drool flowed without stopping.
The person in question herself didn't understand what kind of situation she was in. Only the discomfort after having her heart forcibly restarted echoed through her.
A lifeless voice began to leak out, it was like a meaningless moaning of a baby.
Inside of her there were only restless thoughts and a vague sense of fear.
Large. Way too large. The flesh her soul was settled in was 『way too wide』.
Its size intimidated Kiseki and urged her.
Open open open.
You're not fit for this vessel. It's too large for you.
It wasn't a voice, the whereabouts of her soul was screaming.
This place is too cold. It's too wide. That's why open it, release it all.
Intimidated by her body, tears have spilled from Kiseki's pupils.
This compulsion always came after she died.
——— Kusanagi Kiseki ———
The power she held was extremely alien. Whenever that power is released outside, whatever she touches is converted into a part of Kusanagi Kiseki. The erosion spreads endlessly, and it is assumed that it will spread endlessly swallowing the world were she left alone.
Kiseki herself couldn't control this power, it was referred to as an undetermined ancient property called 『Demon』. The reason it is undetermined whether it is an ancient property, is the fact that Inquisition has concluded that she holds no magic power inside her. Whereas magic power is naturally composed of particles, Kiseki's power was a substance that forms flesh and blood.
So to speak, Kiseki's power itself, was her body.
Because of that, Kiseki was unable to die.
Even if she temporarily dies, she will surely revive. Even if she's strangled, corrupted by poison, her heart is pierced, her head blown away, or burnt to cinders——Kiseki will definitely revive herself. Her power rejects death.
The reason Inquisition regularly kills her every month is to release the power that is accumulating inside of her.
If the power isn't released on regular basis, it overwhelms her soul and she runs out of control.
Whenever she is killed by outside factors, the power rejecting death overflows from inside her. The overflowing power is then dissolved by an anti-magic material, hihiirokane and quenched all at once.
Her older brother, Takeru, didn't know this. He knew that Inquisition is experimenting to find a way to control Kiseki. But he didn't know that she's been repeatedly killed and revived.
Kiseki herself didn't want to tell her brother this. Were she to tell him this, he definitely wouldn't forgive Inquisition and go back to how he was before. Were he to rebel against Inquisition... he would definitely be killed.
That's why Kiseki has chosen to endure the suffering.
Unable to articulate properly, Kiseki called her brother. She called for her only ally there was.
With all of her hatred, with all of her love.
Wanting to meet her brother. Wanting to touch her brother. If he is there with her, Kiseki can withstand the suffering. She can endure the life that's more painful than death.
She wanted to be by her brother side. This place is too wide, it's too cold. I want to feel that person's warm fingertips, hear that person's voice.
It's all right, he will come to meet me again.
Because, for Onii-chan I'm the only one——
Unexpectedly. In her mind floated an illusion of a woman with sunset-colored hair.
Beside the woman whom she never seen, there was a figure of her brother.
The two joined hands, and started walking together.
Kiseki tried to stretch her hand towards the figure of her leaving brother, but since her hands were restrained she couldn't move.
She called in vain, the illusion Kiseki saw has mercilessly disappeared.
In silence, Kiseki's soul sank into the darkness of loneliness.
Inside of that darkness, what wrapped around her soul was her own heresy. That heresy told her, 'open'.
Kiseki made a wish.
She wished to go outside and meet with her brother.
And that wish, was fulfilled by the power she held.
——From Kiseki's body, an unstoppable power overflowed.
"The Gleipnir fractured! The observation's target has torn off the Iron Maiden!"
"Hurry up and inject the hihiirokane into her! Stop her movement somehow!"
"...not good! The amount released is much higher than usual! ...why did such a thing..."
In the forbidden area's deepest prison's special experiment control room a loud siren resounded and warning light has shone from the lamps.
A number of Regins were running around in a hurry, one could see in just a glance that it was an abnormal situation.
"——The second, and third partition wall erosion has started! It's the first time it's been eroded at such speed."
"The partition walls are 10 meters thick, for them to be eroded in such a short amount of time...!"
"Chairman, we won't hold out any longer!"
Ootori Sougetsu stood right in front of the monitor in the control room.
He looked at the cause of the chaos reflected in the monitor, and gave orders to his subordinates.
"Two Dragoon-equipped platoons are to hold back the target, after that you are to work on reconstruction of the partition walls."
"It's not someone we can do anything about...! Like this they're just going to die in vain!"
"We can't afford letting her go up there. It is a necessary sacrifice."
"It's for times like this that you have the underground facility right?! Open the hatch and drop her down to the mantle!"
"No can do. We can't let that thing die yet. In the first place, that monster isn't something that will die just by being dropped into magma. We absolutely need to recover it."
With a cool expression, Sougetsu coldly stared at the monitor.
In the back, Kurogane Hayato stared at the monitor as well and pulled out a Relic Eater from his pocket. Sougetsu moved his line of sight to Hayato, and narrowed his eyes.
"Kurogane-kun, the situation is completely different from five years ago. That thing has without a doubt grown."
"...I'll kill it until it stops going berserk."
"You might die?"
"I don't care."
Making a prompt decision, Hayato confirmed the remaining bullets and turned around on his heel.
His feet has stopped in front of the door and Hayato called out to Sougetsu without turning around.
Even in the noisy control room, the unpleasant and sombre voice could be clearly heard.
"If by any chance you use that monster for anything else other than a deterring force, I'm going to respond to that firmly."
"Depending on your thoughts, and how you use it I might regard you as a heretic."
"I'll be prepared."
After that sentence, Hayato left the control room.
He walked down a simple corridor made out of anti-magical material.
As his footsteps echoed in it, Hayato wirelessly connected to the control room.
"All Spriggans are to fall back. After I rush in, everyone is to weld the partitions. Don't let anyone in, don't let anyone out."
At the same time as he turned off the wireless, he arrived at the first partition wall.
One after another, the moment countless walls have opened, the variant has flowed from the back of the corridor.
It seemed like a living, red tsunami. The tsunami wasn't a liquid, and had a meaty texture. There were mouths and eyes in the numerous places on the meat, there were teeth and horns growing all over, it seemed like a stirred mass of various organisms mixed into one.
The moment that tsunami attacked the wall's anti-magic material, it has changed into part of its own meat.
However, the only place it avoided was around Hayato, as if it was frightened of him.
Hayato proceeded into the waves of irregular shape without any hesitation, and confronted it.
The source of the tsunami itself lowered its hands lifelessly and faced towards the ceiling. Its throat moved, and an eerie sigh leaked out.
After experiencing hell many times, confronting various threats before, Hayato was prepared to die as he confronted the presence in front of him. His mind was calm, his body didn't tremble, his skin was tingling and felt a stabbing pain. The air that wrapped around him was crying, and the atmosphere itself let out a horrible scream.
At least, it looked like a human. At least it looked like an organism.
Be that as it may, the nature of that existence could only be called a distortion. Calling it "chaos" would be fitting. It could be called to be personification of all the hatred, all the violence in this world.
Hayato remained expressionless, he only stared at the presence that hasn't noticed him and tilted its neck towards the ceiling.
"It's been five years huh, since we last confronted each other."
As an extremely rare occurrence, complexity has colored Hayato's voice.
He probably didn't expect a reply, it was as if he was speaking to himself. He put a finger on the trigger.
"I'm fine with you hating me, fearing me, despising me."
"I won't apologize to you."
"That's why you too, have no need to apologize for trying to killing me."
Hayato closed his eyes, and quietly spun the words of power.
"Summis desiderantes affectibus..."
The Relic Eater that was bearing the name of a tyrant has started emitting light, under his feet appeared a jet-black magical circle clad in lightning.
Jet-black particles covered Hayato's body.
The main body of the tsunami in front of him faced towards him. The meat tsunami stopped moving at the same time, and the number of variant's eyes embedded in it creepily focused on Hayato.
And then, all mouths moved at once, articulating a voice.
『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』 『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』 『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』 『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』 『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』 『"Onii-chan"』『"Onii-chan"』
"...where is... Onii-chan?"
The chaos laughed. It looked at Hayato and laughed.
Chaos forced into a human, with a human-like sad expression and shedding tears, it laughed.
A few hours later.
"Ohhh... this is horrible. I'm glad I made a basement. The things above are too important."
Sougetsu walked carefully over the wreckage of the partition wall, speaking to himself.
The innermost prison was in terrible condition, many-layered partition walls have all collapsed, the instruments on the wall and anti-magic material have all turned into garbage.
As he walked through the facility that looked as if a large disaster happened in it, Sougetsu discovered a certain person.
"Heeey, Kurogane-kuun. You alive?"
Because there was no reaction to his call, Sougetsu tried to wait a few seconds.
A huge tile moved heavily and was raised up.
From the bottom of the rubble, Kurogane Hayato's head appeared.
He seemed to be in Witch Hunter form. Dressed in a jet-black futuristic armor.
His armour was in tatters, and he himself had wounds all over his body.
"As expected of the strongest Dullahan, tenacious aren't you."
As Sougetsu cheerfully applauded him, Hayato's pupils ran amok and glared at him.
"...what's Kusanagi Kiseki's current location?"
"Oh, I was surprised. To think she could grow wings and fly, even I didn't expect that."
"I apologize. I allowed her to escape."
Hayato dropped the tile and apologized to Sougetsu in low voice.
"What are you saying, it was great, splendid. Thanks to your struggle her going berserk was somehow suppressed. When she got out, it seemed like most of her sanity has returned."
"However, if we don't find her as soon as possible, this town... or rather, the world will be in danger. As expected, even I wouldn't let such an uncontrollable thing go. You need to hurry and chase after it."
"Also, Kirigaya-kun is also chasing after her, go together with him. For the Kiseki-chan as she is now, the two of you should be enough, right?"
"...it's too early to use Kirigaya in actual combat. His Relic Eater isn't a docile one. It's trait to act by itself is too strong."
"Whaat, I have no intention to make him fight so don't worry. Also, he's excellent when it comes to investigation, isn't he?"
Sougetsu didn't seem to put up a hard stance, but Hayato squinted giving up.
After that Sougetsu closed the topic, and raised his arms high up.
"Hee〜, even so."
"...HAHAHA! What to do... with this. I need to consult with the Budget Committee."
With a strangely refreshing expression, he turned towards the partially-destroyed facility.
"Well, we plan to move her to a Alchemist's new facility anyway. This vast solitary confinement will become useless then."
Thinking of the future policies, Sougetsu put a hand on his chin.
Although the platoon activities generally started at the same time as the morning lessons ended, everyone was free to either rest or do the activities.
It was Saturday. The entire city was crowded.
Since the Christmas was nearing, red and green decorations could be seen all over.
Because of the regulations, religious practices have been banned, but things like Christianity or Buddhism which were strongly rooted in people from ever since old times were allowed unless magical rituals, or missionary solicitation work has been performed.
Even though the amount of churches and temples have decreased and there's less than there were before Witch-Hunt War, not all was lost.
Nevertheless, the old Japan's customs weren't directly inherited intact.
"...this is Ootori. Waiting at the target's predicted emergence point. Everyone, status report."
Staying in the shade of a leading restaurant's sign, Ouka communicated with her comrades through the wireless device attached to her neck. She wasn't in uniform but dressed in a winter coat similar to a female suit like that of an OL. Strangely, that suit suited a high school student making her seem like a capable woman.
Currently, the 35th Test Platoon was performing something undercover. They trailed the target while making sure they aren't found out. Since they would be most likely noticed in AntiMagic Academy's uniforms, not only Ouka but all other members have disguised themselves as well.
《"Haa, haa... nice, amazing legs... a bit more like this, won't you bend over? I want to see your breasts peek out."》
"...Suginami. Do it seriously."
《"It's fine it's fine, side benefits. It took time to prepare such outfits. You don't need to monitor me for things like this, instead you should be grateful."》
"...are you properly looking for the objective?"
《"It's okay. The field of view is wide like this."》
Ouka raised her line of sight, and stared at someone standing near the middle floor of the building across the street.
Ikaruga was standing on the gondola used by window cleaners, she was clad in working clothes and had a yellow helmet on her head. She stared through the binoculars, drooling.
She totally looked like a pervert.
Steeling herself, she spoke through the communication device at the nape of her neck once again.
"Saionji and... the bonus. Are you two ready?"
《"Aren't I one of the main members?!"》
Immediately after, Mari's harsh voice sounded making Ouka's ear start ringing.
"Don't yell like that, people around you are going to get suspicious."
《"Come onn! Why do only Usagi-chan and I have to wear such outfits?!"》
With that said, Ouka looked towards Mari and Usagi who were standing in front of the smartphone shop. The two were right in front of the store dressed in Santa outfits.
It was the so-called mini-skirt Santa.
"...it can't be helped, can it. My gaze is too sharp and Suginami would seem like a bar hostess."
《"Who the hell is a hostess."》
"I haven't said you are."
After Ikaruga's voice retorting, Usagi's trembling voice could be heard.
《"I-it is-s coldd... w-why is the skirt s-so short...?"》
Despite feeling cold, Usagi was giving away tissues to passer-bys.
The Santa outfit Usagi was clad in had exposed a lot of her body, and on top of it, the size was a bit too small for her, especially the parts around her breasts.
The men who passed by her all without exception have taken the tissues from her, and after moving away they still turned around to look at her.
After that, she stared at Usagi's body.
《"...? What is it, Nikado."》
《"——This is... inequality!!"》
Mari fell on her knees on spot, suffering a huge setback.
Ikaruga who perfectly saw it through the binoculars shouted joyfully.
《"It's all okay, there's a demand for that! You're properly handing the tissues out!"》
《"That's not the problemmm! It makes me seem miserable!"》
《"You have my guarantee! The guys who've gotten a tissue from you will properly use the tissues with you in mind!"》
《"Uwaann! That's disgusting, stop it!"》
"You three, cut this out and stop taking actions that make you stand out!"
Involuntarily Ouka herself has yelled and somehow managed to silence her comrades.
"Geez... Kusanagi, can you hear me? Are you all right? You haven't moved for a while now."
She took a breath and looked at Takeru.
In the back, behind Mari and Usagi who were handing out tissues.
There stood someone in a costume of something unknown which looked like a bear or an anteater.
While the two girls were approaching customers, the costume didn't move from under the shop's window. Ouka glared at the costume for a while, then said in undertone.
"...Kusanagi! Can you hear me?!"
The costume twitched and bounced up, after which it started looking around restlessly.
After reminding itself where was it, the costume showed Ouka thumbs up in a hurry.
"You should be the one giving instructions to your subordinates in the first place, what's up with your lack of spirit?"
After hearing her angry voice, the costume... Takeru bowed his head in what seemed to be an apology.
"Good grief." Ouka shook her head.
Today's target was relatively dangerous.
The target was drying plants that had magic dwelling in them, and was dealing with them as drugs after processing them into powder.
A natural Magical Heritage narcotic, having small amounts of magic mixed in one's body gives one a large amount of pleasure, it's dangerous stuff that induces disabilities caused by magic power. The trade with it has become more active in recent years, turning into a major problem.
In order to catch the one behind the Dealers, they can't act alone, that's the information Nagaru had provided them with. They didn't know how many people he'd bring, but they had to act smart and concentrate to make sure there were no sacrifices.
She felt a touch of uncertainty considering everyone's lack of ability to concentrate.
《"——He came. Just as we've been informed, black limousine."》
"?! Are you sure?"
《"Yeah. The plate's number has changed but... fufu, it's been replaced just recently. Such amateur tricks won't deceive me."》
Ouka caught her breath and spoke to Mari, Usagi, and Takeru.
"First, I'll be the one to approach... you three, be careful. Make sure not to act suspiciously."
《"I know I know."》
The costume too, has shown her thumbs-up.
Ouka mingled with the passer-bys and walked towards the car.
People have come out from the luxury car.
There were two of them.
Two people... less than we expected.
While approaching the car, Ouka glanced sideways, taking a glimpse of them.
One of them was the Dealer who was their target. He was wearing the clothes that suggested he was being lucrative.
The other man seemed like a subordinate. He seemed like a thug you can find anywhere.
However, as Ouka passed by the car, one more person – a man appeared from inside. After grasping the door swiftly a man dressed in black has come out.
A two-meters tall man who wore a silk hat on his head and held a stick in his hand.
He looked like a magician.
Ouka thought that he was weird and was about to look away, at that moment.
She saw something on the man's wrist.
A blood red tattoo depicting a butterfly.
In the center of the tattoo a D letter could be seen.
Ouka was familiar with this tattoo.
He belonged to an organization that she devastated when she was in EXE, it was called "Red Butterfly's Insect Cage". It traded with people who were holding magic power in them, a trafficking organization. In order to nurture them, it bred the witches and sorcerers they caught. They were nasty guys who did it in order to mass-produce children that held magic power in them.
The tattoo of a butterfly was a proof that he was one of that organization's members.
She didn't think that one of the survivors would be in contact with the drug dealers.
the Dealer took out a cigar after coming out and had his subordinate light it for him. The man in the silk sat who stood standing next to him quietly made a thin smile and spoke to the Dealer.
After passing by their side Ouka spoke in undertone.
"Everyone raise your vigilance. The man in the silk hat has a B-class danger designation."
《"...know any details about it?"》
Usagi was surprised, and Mari asked calmly.
"He's called 『The Magician of Hamelin』, he's purchasing people for 『Red Butterfly's Insect Cage』. There's no doubt, he has a D character on his tattoo. Although he isn't a big deal as a witch, he has a bizarre way of fighting where he adds the modern weapons to the equation."
《"...『Red Butterfly's Insect Cage』 eh. That den of scum, is it."》
"You know about it?"
"It can't be... did you work with them before?"
《"...you might mean no offense, but even now, I'm gonna get angry."》
《"The only contracts I undertook were ones for sabotaging their facilities. Also, they were selling people by using Valhalla's name... Valhalla might be heretic, but there are lines they won't cross."》
As Mari spoke in a dispirited voice, Ouka only added "My bad.".
Hearing the apology, Mari immediately fixed her attitude.
《"If the Dealer is in contact with the remnants of that, I can't overlook this either. I joined Inquisition in order to bring judgment to guys like that."》
"Agreed. The risk is high, but I'll pass on retreating after seeing this."
《"Araa, how rare to see you two agree like that eh? Then I think you should release the Gleipnir's controls."》
《"If you do that, then I'll forgive you for the remark earlier?"》
"...... I get it, fine. The strategy is as planned. First we'll locate their base. If it happens to turn into a battle, cover us with the defensive magic. Rather than platoon members, focus on protecting the civilians."
I wanted to say that at least once, said Mari. Ouka spat out a sigh.
"Are there any problems, Kusanagi?"
After hearing Ouka, Takeru clad in the costume shook his hands and legs exaggeratedly and shown some shadow boxing.
Let's do this, is what it seemed to mean.
Ouka turned right in silence. Immediately after, she glanced at the target's present state from behind a building.
After finishing a cigar, he seemed to start moving.
I leave it to you three.
Encouraging herself, Ouka clenched her fist.
As Ouka monitored the target from behind the building, the tension of the people wearing Santa outfits and animal costume reached its peak.
Target was coming in their direction.
Their job was to put a transmitter on the target. With traffic like that, it was possible that the civilians might suffer casualties, and so, the plan was to have him guide them to their hideout with a transmitter.
According to the information from the Student Council President, other platoons seemed to have followed the Dealer before, but they were lost in the middle and was unable to find the hideout's location.
It was unknown whether a Magical Heritage was used, but it must have been advanced derangement.
If it came down to that, although the approach they used was retro, it was the best method to use to find out the hideout's location.
——— Operation Start ———
Costume-clad Takeru started handing balloons to the children.
Since there was a large shop nearby, three children who were passing by with perfect timing have ran up to him.
"Waaa! Anteaterbear costume! Ahaha what an annoying facee!"
"Everyonee, there's an anteaterbear here!"
"Waaii! Kick him hard! Send him rolling!"
Even as he was being kicked, Takeru was fooling around exaggeratedly and got in the way of the traffic. The place had suddenly gotten noisy, and the passer-bys started staring at Takeru. The target too, has faced towards him.
Although it seemed like a good distraction, the Silk Hat alone wasn't distracted by Takeru. It would be hard to put a transmitter unnoticed like this.
Hence, they switched to plan B.
"You're the one from whom men take them, come on, hurry."
With a smile Mari handed the tissues to passer-bys and somewhat casually forced the work on Usagi.
With no choice, Usagi was pushed in front of the Dealer.
Usagi approached the target.
the Dealer looked away from Takeru and stared at Usagi.
"E-eh, w-we're c-currently in the middle of a campa..."
After being glared at by the Dealer, Usagi was frozen stiff.
Although she had overcome the tension that appeared during battle, she was still getting tense when experiencing this kind of thing.
It was a wrong choice to have her try.
However, Usagi had a different weapon.
《"——Now! Offer it to him!"》
Ikaruga's voice rang out in Usagi's ears.
Usagi closed her eyes, and stretched both of her hands holding a tissue to the Dealer.
Inevitably, Usagi's chest was sandwiched between her arms.
It was an attack no man could avoid.
the Dealer saw it, Usagi's pointlessly large boobs.
"This... please take it!'
With a momentum as if she was passing a love letter and a bright red face, Usagi held out the tissue to him.
——With this, he fell!
Everyone thought so, however.
the Dealer let out a "hmph" and passed by Usagi's side.
《"Suginami! It didn't work!"》
《"...such a thing, it can't be."》
Both Ouka and Ikaruga were horrified. At this rate the Dealer would leave just like that.
It seemed like there was no way out at the moment, that's when Ikaruga cried out in the communicator.
《"Wait... Nikaido! A follow-up please!"》
"Eeeeh, even though Usagi-chan couldn't make it, I still have to try?"
《"It's fine, if my intuition is correct, it'll go well!"》
Ikaruga desperately persuaded her, and Mari reluctantly obeyed her.
Desperate, she focused and moved in front of the Dealer.
With a keen, fake smile she held out a tissue to him.
With a natural behaviour like that made it seem there's no doubt that she had experience doing part-time jobs, Mari attacked.
Just like Usagi did before, she exposed her chest unnaturally (it's not being taken).
Deep inside, Mari thought it wouldn't be received, however.
"...sure, I'll take it."
And somehow, he took it.
"Thank you very muuch〜♪ (why?)."
《"I see——so the target is in the flat faction after all! And to extreme even!"》
"......, i-it's BU〜♪ (I'm not happy about that at allllll!!)."
Even though she felt uncomfortable, Mari still smiled and handed tissues to other people.
The strategy was successful. A transmitter was embedded in the pocket tissue and would lead them to the hideout.
Ouka moved her body from behind the building and started to track the Dealer.
When the Dealer moved a few steps away from Mari after accepting a tissue from her, the Silk Hat has suddenly stopped him by grabbing his shoulder.
Ouka's face turned anxious. The Silk Hat whispered something into the Dealer's ear. the Dealer took out the pocket tissue he was given by Mari and passed it to him.
She started to run, she sprinted through and avoided the crowd.
The Silk Hat's mouth distorted, he has thrown away the tissue and vigorously looked back.
In his hand——appeared a submachine gun he had concealed.
"Nikaido Mari!! Kusanagi!"
As Ouka shouted, the first to move was Kusanagi. While still wearing an animal costume he stood in front of Mari and Usagi, to protect them he spread his arms.
Mari too has immediately perceived an abnormality and has struck the ground.
Immediately after that, the Silk Hat has squeezed the trigger.
A continuous gunfire.
"———, 《"Aurora Field"》!"
Late by a moment, Mari activated her magic.
As to enclose both the passer-bys and Takeru, a space was distorted with colors of rainbow. The bullets that were released from the submachine gun slowed down the moment they reached the rainbow space as if they entered water.
Both the Takeru's and the others' movement has visibly slowed as if it was in slow motion.
Between the rainbow space and the normal space an obvious time difference was born.
Mari released the magic in an instant and exhaled.
At the same time, the people around were surprised by the change in the flow and fell down.
"...Takeru, are you okay?!"
Before she even asked, Takeru showed her thumbs-up.
"You did well, both of you!"
Ouka caught up entering the scene and aimed her handgun's muzzle at the Silk Hat. He looked at her and laughed eerily.
Did he set something up...?!
She found out what was it in an instant, under Takeru's feet she saw the bullets that fell to the ground.
A wooden... bullets?
But that wooden bullet has expanded in no time, a human eye and a mouth appeared on it, and its form has changed into that of a bulb.
Ouka had a rough idea what was it.
"!!! ——Everyone block your earsss!!"
She immediately yelled and covered her ears with both hands.
That moment, a number of distortions ran through the bulb, and with an expression as if it was speechless it has raised a spine-chilling intense scream.
It screamed if pulled out, those who heard it scream in agony receive a significant mental damage, if one keeps listening they would become crippled, this lower magical organism could possibly kill.
The Silk Hat used the wooden bullet's material as a catalyst and triggered summoning magic.
Although alone it's not much of a threat, a number of them was often used.
With this number, the passers-bys would be dead in a minute.
The Silk Hat pushed the Dealer's back and escaped into a black alley.
As cries of agony resounded throughout the main street, Ouka shouted into the intercom loud enough to hurt her throat.
"We'll handle these things! Kusanagi, chase them!"
After Ouka shouted, Kusanagi stripped off his costume.
After giving a lively answer, Takeru followed the three men into the back alley while still plugging his ears.
After running into the dark alley behind the scene, rushed through a disgustingly dark space even though it was daytime.
Weird, it's too dark.
He determined that it was clearly abnormal, drawn the sword from his waist and started to walk carefully.
This abnormal darkness, he must have stepped into the Silk Hat has constructed.
"Everyone, can you hear me?"
Even as he tried to talk into the intercom, it only produced intense sounds, he couldn't tell what's what from that.
Apparently, this barrier had a capability of neutralizing the information-sharing devices.
Realizing that he stepped into the enemy's territory, Takeru readied himself for battle.
He sharpened his nerves and walked carefully through the back alley. He only heard the sound of droplets going down from the pipe that extended from the wall and the sound of his own footsteps. In this space that was isolated from the world, all other sounds have been erased.
Falling to the illusion of circling in the same place all the time, Takeru has gotten even more nervous.
He activated the Soumatou and rather than through vision, he tried to discern enemy's position after sharpening his auditory sense.
Takeru heard a sound much different from that of a normal human and felt faint flow of wind.
Eventually, he was able to pick up certain sound.
This is... gunfire... and screams?
Albeit faint, he heard screams of men and voices begging for help.
Although he didn't know what was the current situation, Takeru went to the sound's source at brisk pace.
? This wall...
The sound has been interrupted in the middle of his progression, but right beside the wall he felt something amiss.
When he tried to cut it with his sword, and saw the space was distorting as the passage has opened.
And when he continued to move further.
A genuinely terrified voice of a man could be heard.
"A witch...?! Are you like me... no... you're different... what is this... what are youu...?!"
A sloshing sound followed that.
And then, a steady sound as if something was walking. The voice, was probably that of the Silk Hat's.
Has he encountered something, and got scared?
With a possibility of a new threat, Takeru's heart started racing.
"Stop! Don't come! Hiii... don't come!"
A frightened voice. And at the same time, a sound of something steadily walking.
"M-monsterrr! T-this... this isn't something of this world! I won't acknowledge something like you exists! If I do then I... I will... aa... God, please——"
——And the voice has fell completely silent.
The silence continued, the last of the screams have completely vanished,
Once again, something has began to move. Takeru exhaled deeply and poised his sword.
That's not good. This one's dangerous. Takeru's intuition has sounded alarm bells in her head.
*step* *step*, *step* *step*, something was approaching.
Takeru's tension reached its peak, and the moment he made a stance for stabbing.
It showed up, the threat's shadow.
From the darkness, slowly, on limp legs, it appeared in front of him and he saw it.
He was at loss for words.
The threat he has been feeling.
The opponent he was about to fight, was his beloved little sister.
Unable to handle this situation, Takeru stood there while holding his sword with a dumbfounded expression.
Why was Kiseki in this place. Why was he meeting face-to-face with her in a place like this.
And why was he... directing his sword at her.
It was as... just like...
Just like five years ago——
"I'm glad... I chased... after the sound of my heart... but was able to properly... meet..."
Kiseki laughed without any strength and took a step with her limp legs.
Takeru stepped back on reflex.
After seeing her brother's reaction, she powerlessly reached out to him and laughed sadly.
"I'm sorry... Onii-chan..."
"Kiseki... did it... again."
She shed a red tear from one of her eyes, and her body staggered.
Takeru shoot out and ran up to her.
He caught his little sister's body and called out to her.
Kiseki was stark naked and she wasn't wearing the Gleipnir she always had attached to her head.
She looked completely released from under control.
In Takeru's arms, Kiseki made a genuinely relaxed smile.
"............always...wanted............to be like...this..."
Happy, Kiseki placed her hand on Takeru's cheek and like that, she lost consciousness.
The back alley was empty.
No bodies. Not a single piece of meat. Not even a single hair.
Only the torn apart silk hat was lying on the ground.
It was obvious what happened. the Dealer and his subordinate, as well as the sorcerer in the Silk Hat – "The Magician of Hamelin"... everyone was erased by Kiseki.
He clenched his teeth in chagrin and wrapped Kiseki's body with his jacket.
Suddenly hearing a voice, Takeru looked up with eyes wide open.
"...that girl...who is she...?"
Ouka showed a stunned expression.
From the alley's corner she poised the gun to the side and asked.
——What to do.
He wondered how did Ouka see this situation.
Kiseki's specified danger level is SS, moreover she has escaped from the prison. It wouldn't be unreasonable for her to shot her dead on spot.
But honestly, that wasn't a problem. Although it was a fact that he didn't want his little sister killed, but the fact was that a mere gun was unable to kill Kiseki.
On the contrary.
His comrade trying to kill Kiseki would spell out danger for the comrade herself. Unknowingly, Takeru has picked up the sword.
Unknowingly to himself, Takeru has——poised his sword in Ouka's direction.
Ouka put on a confused expression.
"Takeru? Are you safe? Is everything all right? What happened to the magician?"
"Shh, don't make so much noise. What if there still are enemies here?"
"Ootori, what are you doing. Kusanagi is there right? Hurry up and proceed."
Behind Ouka, all the platoon members were waiting.
Everyone was worried about him.
Because he knew that, the tip of Takeru's sword was shaking and rattling noisily.
The reason Takeru held his sword, was not only because he didn't want his little sister to be killed.
It was to protect his comrades from being hurt by Kiseki.
Don't come. Please don't come any closer. You can't come.
Takeru's face was distorted by fear. Ouka was completely unable to understand in what kind of situation Takeru was in.
Quietly, he carefully spoke.
"Wait there. Absolutely do not come over here."
Ouka said so to her comrades and has put her gun in the holster. And while standing in the middle of the pathway, she spoke to her comrades again.
"Listen. Absolutely do not move. Stay where you are."
"W-what is it? What's going on?"
"You want to take all the credit for interception for yourself?! Or are you trying to steal Kusanagi?!"
"I beg you. Please."
She spoke with a calm, compelling voice. Understanding only the seriousness of the situation, her comrades fell silent.
Ouka didn't pay attention to her comrades and while staring straight at Takeru, she began to walk up to him slowly.
While strongly embracing Kiseki with one arm, Takeru continued to aim his sword at Ouka, supporting himself with his knee.
From the look in his eyes, it was obvious that it wasn't the usual Takeru.
The sword's tip was unlike like that of a swordsman, and was trembling helplessly.
"Don't come... you can't...come..."
With a freezing cold voice, Takeru tried to stop Ouka.
However, Ouka hadn't stopped. She approached him slowly and stopped right in front of him.
As the tense situation continued, while being careful as not to stimulate Takeru, Ouka gently grasped the sword with her hand.
If he were to lose himself even momentarily, he would cut off Ouka's finger.
Ouka knelt down, and put the blade she has grasped right next to her neck.
"...I don't understand what kind of situation is this in the least."
"And what is that girl... I don't know either."
Ouka spoke as if trying to calm him down.
"But I am... confident about two things."
"First, that you are suffering now."
Takeru's shoulder twitched strongly.
"And the second."
She put strength into the hand that was grasping the blade.
Ouka's blood has flowed down the blade and reached Takeru's hands.
"That I am not your enemy."
Gently, she smiled. Takeru's trembling faintly stopped.
"You have saved me before. This time, I want to save you."
Her voice was gentle and strong, finally, Takeru took his hand off the sword.
With a high-pitched sound the sword fell down to the ground.
After confirming that he released the sword, Ouka placed a hand and rubbed his shoulders.
"What... did I do..."
"It's okay. Don't mind it. Rather than that, this girl is...?"
Ouka glanced at Kiseki's face.
Takeru chewed his lower lip and resolved himself.
"...she is... my little sister. Her name is Kiseki... Kusanagi Kiseki."
"She has SS-class danger designation... surely... she must have escaped from the deepest prison..."
"...in order to... meet me..."
His words wouldn't settle down and he said them as if spitting them out.
Takeru was afraid, he was afraid of what kind of reaction will Ouka show.
Surely, Ouka would act as an Inquisitor and wouldn't be able to ignore the danger designation. Takeru too, were he to be calm, would made the same judgment.
He understood that was the best course of action.
"...I see. Just as you said Kusanagi, she's a cute girl."
"But you don't resemble each other. Is there that much difference between siblings of different sex?"
Hearing these unexpected words, Takeru looked up.
As he looked, he saw Ouka playing with the hair on Kiseki's cheek, she stroked it and smiled.
With a wry smile, she looked at Takeru.
"I told you I won't do anything bad right? Leave it to me."
Ouka stood up and turned her back to Takeru.
"Take this girl and come with me."
"...what do you intend?"
"Believe in me."
As he was told to, Takeru held Kiseki and followed Ouka.
Ouka went right at a T shaped alley intersection of the alley and joined the platoon members. Takeru too, has followed her.
"Come on what's this! What were you sneakily doing all this while——and hey, who's that girl!"
"N-naked woman?! Why naked?!"
All three showed a different reaction, and everyone's line of sight was concentrated on Kiseki.
Takeru tried to make some kind of facial expression, but all he could muster was a weak, wry smile.
Just by conveying the truth to her being his little sister, everyone fell silent.
Usagi and Mari reacted with 'Eeeeeh?!' in surprise but seeing Takeru's reaction, they didn't voice it.
Ikaruga just stared at Takeru anxiously and without saying anything.
Ouka looked at everyone one by one and closed her eyes.
"First, follow what I am to tell you now. Nikaido Mari, there is something I want you to do."
"Is the barrier in this alley still up?"
After being questioned, Mari returned to herself and replied in a hurry.
"Eh, ah... yeah. It's probably made with use of a Magical Heritage. Because there's almost no magic leaking out, the Inquisition probably won't find it... it's crafted skilfully."
"Then go and explore to find the Dealer's hideout. It should be in this area."
"W-why? Wasn't it all solved? Also, I'm not in the mood for that."
"It's fine, please. We will take this girl and hide there for a while."
Including Takeru, all members were stunned.
Ouka put a hand on her hip and made a difficult expression.
"Explanations later. Move! Our job isn't over yet!"
Like an instructor, Ouka has pushed the back of all members other than Takeru. They followed Mari who was chasing after magic's reaction and started walking.
Takeru embraced his unstable emotions of gratitude and walked beside Ouka.
Ouka looked down at Kiseki who was nestled to Takeru beside her and murmured.
"Kusanagi, is that girl dangerous?"
"............yeah. Probably, she is more dangerous than you think she is."
"...the possibility for our comrades to be harmed?"
After being questioned with a serious look, Takeru closed his eyes strongly and gave a clear answer.
"It's all right. As long as I'm beside her, she definitely won't do such a thing, I won't let her. And if by any chance something happens, I'll show you that I can stop her."
After being told that, Ouka placed a hand on Takeru's shoulder.
"If you're saying something, then it's not 'stop her' but 'protect her'. An older brother should protect his little sister."
Not saying anything else other than that, Ouka started walking ahead of him.
Takeru once again turned towards Kiseki and stared at her sleeping expression.
It was the first time Takeru could stare at his little sister's sleeping face like that. The pain and the joy have come equally, and he,
In a small voice, said his thanks to Ouka.
Mandragora (マンドラゴラ) - It's written as (発狂塊根) meaning "Mad Root" .