Two days after the fight with West Side's students.
It was about 2 o'clock past midnight.
As a matter of course, there was no students nor teachers remaining in Magic Academy.
In the cold air of Magic Academy, rang out the sounds of sword strikes.
Scattering sparks, two blades collided. Slash after slash has been exchanged at a rate impossible to follow with the naked eye. Two swordsmen, Takeru and Orochi crossed swords for the first time in a long while.
Both of them used real swords rather than wooden ones. During Double-Edged style practice neither bamboo nor wooden swords were used. Because in life real swords were used, they drilled accurate movements into themselves as they were not allowed to ever fail.
A practice in a situation where a single wrong step would result with either of them dying was scraping off their spirit. With that said, they were not allowed to hold back. If your opponent faltered even for a moment, one of the commandments said to cut them down mercilessly.
No matter the state and posture they had taken, they were to use all their strength to cut down their opponent.
That's the essence of the Double-Edged style.
As their sword techniques met each other releasing sparks, Orochi smiled happily.
"You move pretty well for a convalescent don't ya."
"However, that's all the praise I have for you. Everything else is poor. Because of you using half-assed Soumatou on top of your moves being slow, you're taxing your body too much."
He was unable to refute to Orochi's sermon. Whereas Takeru's body was covered with sweat and was screaming at him, Orochi's breath wasn't even out of order.
"When you went at it with the West Side bunch you didn't move at all either."
"?! You were watching...?!"
"Yah. There's no way I can leave monitoring you to Diluted can I?"
"! Then you could have helped us, you're a teacher aren't you?!"
"Bullshit.You are the one who should reap the seeds you sowed. Well, I wanted to see how your skills have improved too."
"Surely, since back then——ya haven't grown at all. Your master was really surprised."
Seeing a lack of response, "kishishi" Orochi laughed teasingly.
"Hey hey Takeru, who do you think are exchanging blows with? Your master it is. Why won't you go at me with full force? Waiting for opportunity? Were you waiting for an opportunity?"
"Wrong... if I move any faster my body will——"
"Spoiled small fry. Like that you won't defeat my great self, dumbass."
As Orochi spoke in arrogant heavy voice, Takeru shuddered.
The blade Orochi was pressing against Takeru's disappeared, carried by momentum Takeru plunged forward.
Orochi was nowhere to be seen, however before Takeru could realize that fact——
"——Opportunity came. Full force."
Below. Beneath Takeru's bosom Orochi sheathed his sword and took a drawing stance.
Even before he could think of it, Takeru's consciousness completely concentrated on defense.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——Ghost Light Firefly."
Immediately after that, Takeru saw a flash. The sword-drawing technique was released from the opposite side of what the stance suggested.
The flash cut from the bottom until the top like a guillotine. If he took it on like that, he would have been cut in two from his crotch to his brain.
Takeru raised the speed to the limit in an instant, he put a hand on the sheath on his left hip, and received the blow when it was near his feet.
However, Orochi's blow was a flash. Even though it was received by the sheath, Takeru's body was blown backwards grandly.
The opportunity created after that drawing technique was large. The distinctive blow has come as the sword was withdrawn from the sheath, and the blade jumped. Therefore, if he blocks the attack he'll be safe——no such thing.
Ghost Light Firefly wasn't the name of that single attack. It was the prototype of True Light style's Shark Blade. This technique never defied the flow, riding the flow it's characteristic was a release of continuous attacks.
Orochi's figure was already beside Takeru who was blown into the air. Rather than pressing down the sword which has jumped out forward with strong momentum, Orochi jumped riding on it.
Pivoting, Orochi changed the trajectory of the blade that was soaring up, and swung it further down as momentum carried it downwards. Takeru hurriedly defended.
His body was thrown to the ground. Although it could be said that he received it well, the bones in his legs creaked as he was unable to kill the impact. He had no time to even raise a groan, as Orochi landed right in front of him.
Riding on the momentum Orochi sprang out from the legs he just placed, flew like a swallow barely grazing the surface and swung his blade up while increasing his speed.
Whether the attack misses, or it's blocked, Ghost Light Firefly flew with all its momentum, recoil, and rode on the impact instead of defying it. Ghost Light Firefly is a technique that never stops to flow and allows to continuously release attacks.
Utilizing the power flow of the enemy, it allowed the user to achieve even greater speed. Not stopping the power, it left the user's body to the flow, rotating one time after another looming like a razor storm.
A metallic sound echoed through the courtyard.
The light left behind by the slashes trajectory looked like fireflies flying through the night at high speed.
The number of scratches on Takeru's body was increasing more and more, and before long he was covered in blood.
"For a while know it's only ding ding ding ding, is your swordsmanship for kids sword fights?"
"What's wrong, if you need to avoid then use the impact to avoid. I'll be increasing speed again."
"You've been moving only on Soumatou for movements. Soumatou isn't something that super convenient. You're stupidly forceful, what will you do if you destroy your body."
Orochi's attacks had tremendous speed, and their power was also considerable.
Takeru hadn't received any fatal wound because he was able to shift the blade's trajectory slightly, but at this rate Takeru will be defeated even before reaching his limit.
"Ride on the flow, Takeru."
"Your movements are too inefficient. It's obvious that your body will get worn out. Don't avoid, don't withdraw, don't exchange blows. Use your opponent's strength against him. Ride the flow, manipulate the flow. That is all you need."
"Until now you've been living carried by the flow. It's your specialty right?"
Provoked by Orochi, Takeru released the power in his body.
Although his body was attacked by heaviness, his head has regained composure instead and his brain circuits have firmly connected.
Don't avoid, don't withdraw, don't exchange blows! Receive it——
The slash Orochi has released met with his own blade.
A simple concept. Parrying. So far, it's the very basic of all basics. However, ahead was something he experienced for the first time.
——Ride on the flow!
Takeru rode on the aftermath of parrying Orochi's slash.
Momentarily, his body did an automatic, vigorous rotation. He adjusted it with his foot without killing the momentum, and turned it into a blow of his own.
In front of him was Orochi. And in the exact same moment.
The two swords overlapped again, and once again parried each other. Both of them used the recoil to further increase their speed.
"Don't leave Soumatou active like that. That thing isn't necessary to read your own and enemy's flow."
"Use it only for the starting point of your moves. As long as you have instantaneous force as origin, after that you can use the flow to move your body. Like that, both burden on your brain and your body will decrease."
The two swinging their swords looked as if they were dancing.
Ghost Light Firefly is a type of technique that applies sword dance into combat. The human maximum power output is limited, an attack from a demon or a different fantastic organism would easily overpower a human.
That's why Double-Edged style has developed a technique utilizing the enemy's strength.
The shrill tone of slashes meeting has gradually changed into something beautiful, like the sound of a bell.
Even with Soumatou's minimal output, I can move this fast...!
He only invoked Soumatou's for a little, only at the starting point of his moves, and rode on the flow.
Takeru's speed was going up easily. It was too fast which made him anxious, or rather, he was having fun. It has been really long time since he enjoyed swordsmanship like this.
And, the moment sword dance has reached its maximum speed.
The sound of sword strikes ceased to rang out.
Takeru and Orochi stopped their blade's at their opponent's neck.
A draw... no.
The one to vomit blood was Takeru. Rather than with a sword, Orochi pierced him with the sheath he held in left hand.
Unable to stand it, Takeru fell on his knees. Even if it was attack with a sheath, it still pierced his internal organs.
This kind of strength despite being blind. It was on a level where Takeru started doubting if Orochi is really blind.
Orochi said once, that him being blind doesn't mean him being unable to see. It was possible to sharpen his hearing, and be able to sense the reflection of sound and flow of wind. He was able to sense the target's movement and position, and he was even able to read their expressions. He was powerful enough to be called a monster.
"Your flow is stupidly honest. Although it's good to ride on the flow, try not to leave any gaps in defense. If you can't sense the change in my flow, you'll be struck off guard."
While Orochi checked if his sword settled well in sheath, Takeru bowed his head deeply.
"...thank you...very much."
Takeru was the one who volunteered for practice. For a while already, he felt that he reached the limit in improving his swordsmanship by himself, and sought out his Master for practice.
After being passed this technique in super short amount of time, Takeru thought that if he remained beside Orochi, he would be able to grow further.
However, there was one problem to deal with first. Orochi still hasn't instilled the entirety of Double-edged style in Takeru. He was not ready to be granted the skills, he learned this just a moment earlier.
"It's still early to learn techniques, but it's your lack of growth that's at fault... learn some diligence."
Orochi fixed his kimono.
"Go ask Mother to take a look at you. If you want to do this again, come here at the same time."
Without looking back, Orochi faced slightly to the side.
Wavering, Takeru asked him if he knows the truth.
"You know about Kusanagi Mikoto, right?"
"Please tell me... I have already guessed that you aren't human five years ago. Your name was on the family tree in our house, but you were among our ancestors 150 years ago prior."
Orochi stood quietly, unmoving.
"What happened during the war... and what was Kusanagi Mikoto, is what I want to know."
Takeru once again lowered his head, pleading Orochi.
Orochi looked up at the night sky looking at the moon he couldn't see, and spoke with a parched voice.
"You heard from Mistilteinn."
"I see. I knew that this subject will come up one day. I don't really mind."
"——Mikoto was my elder sister. I killed her in the Witch Hunt War."
Takeru was unable say anything.
He was unable to ask "why?".
Because he tried to do the same thing once.
"Sis... Mikoto had a younger twin sister. Although they were monozygotic, most of the "Hyakki Yakou"'s curse has been poured into the younger sister. Thanks to that Mikoto was spared from being disposed of, and grew up in the confinement box."
"I spoke with her only once. I located the box in the forest by a coincidence, and had a short chat with her. Since then, I didn't know what happened to her for another ten years. There was a war happening after all."
With his usual aloof attitude, indifferently, Orochi spoke of the past.
Orochi seemed peculiar even among Kusanagi's, he had a wilder temperament than Takeru.
He was a naive person who acted according to what he thought was right.
After mastering Double-Edged style, he left his little brother at home and joined the army on the witches' side.
"At that time I did lots of stupid things. I have embedded experimental stage vampire cells in myself, I stopped aging and my body has become many times stronger than that of a human. I've been entrusted with a Twilight Type too, and conceitedly thought that what I do will affect the result of war."
"...then, Master was..."
"I was the contractor of the other Twilight Type, Lævateinn. And Mikoto was Mistilteinn's contractor. After I left Kusanagi house, it fell victim to war and was burned down. And among that turmoil, Inquisition took away Mikoto. After that, I guess you can imagine what happened."
Probably wanting to spare him details, Orochi didn't say any more than that.
But even without it being said, Takeru knew. He too, had a beloved little sister called Kiseki.
"Mikoto's body was tampered with severely, given Mistilteinn as a weapon, and appeared in front of me like that."
"And Mikoto was no longer herself. God Hunting form's negative effects... her soul was eroded by Mistilteinn, and she went out of control."
"...I killed her. The latter outcome, was just as history states. Two Twilight Types clashing caused the Akashic Hazard, and ended every〜thin'."
Orochi was seriously injured in the fight against Mikoto, he must have lost his sight back then.
He didn't say anything about what he felt during that fight. And when he finished talking, he started to walk once again.
"Wait a moment...!"
"What I don't know yet, is why Master won't take Mistilteinn from me, instead you leave me to my fate? You could kill me and destroy Lapis, and everything would settle down nicely right...?"
It didn't seem like he had a speck of intention to kill Takeru, but if that was true, that's how it should have been.
"I don't really mind doing that but——you... you want to save everything right?"
Suddenly, Orochi spoke with a sharp tone of voice.
"I can roughly tell what was your reason for discarding your sword in front of Kiseki. You were unable to discard anything, so you discarded the sword. Your little sister, your comrades, even yourself, you wanted to save every little thing. You turned selfish, and threw a tantrum like a brat. Despite being unable to do anything, you clung to the ideal."
With his large back turned towards Takeru, Orochi gave him an advice.
"Takeru. Saving everything is not an easy task. Because I was unable to do it, I threw away many things. It was the same with Mikoto. Comrades, family, friends... even now, I don't regret that."
Heavily, his voice stabbed in Takeru's chest.
"You don't want to turn out like that right? Then you need to become strong. You need to become strong to an unbelievable extent. As you are now, you can't save anything."
"I'm different from Mother. I won't stop you from fighting. I don't like killing when there's no worth in it, I kill when there's worth in it, so it's more benefit in letting you go. Also, since you have made the choice to save everything, I don't think it will no longer go as others want it to."
Takeru didn't say anything, he could only listen.
"Grasp the sword again, Takeru. Get Mistilteinn under control and become strong. And don't hesitate even if the world is to be destroyed."
"Saving everything, is the only path left to you."
Cutting short there, Orochi left the place along a loud sound of his sandals. Takeru tried to chase after him, but his body didn't respond to him and he once again fell on his knees.
In the end, Kusanagi Mikoto's case didn't lead to saving Kiseki. Because their situations were completely different, it wasn't so whatsoever. Takeru looked up at the moon on the night sky and closed his eyes in silence.
"...I know that."
He had enough of living a life of being used, decided to save everything... and came this far
And yet, he didn't have any results. Even now, he continued to live out his days in peace.
He didn't find a way to save Kiseki, nor a way to return to his comrades.
He knew. What was he lacking. And how much of it was needed.
He was overwhelmingly short on strength.
Takeru needed to become strong in every aspect.
The only comrade he could rely on was Mari. They had to confront the status quo just the two of them.
They are done getting a grasp on the situation. All that's left was action.
First he has to reconcile with Lapis, and become true partners with her. Next, he has to elicit a way to save Kiseki from Orochi, and——
"...return to our comrades."
Opening his eyes he reached out to the moon seen on the starry sky.
Takeru decided to return to AntiMagic Academy after all.
He was already standing on the startling line.
All that was left was to run.
Takeru overlapped his palm with the moon, and clenched it strongly.
Four o'clock at midnight, Takeru who fell asleep after coming back from practice faintly opened his eyes in the bedroom.
It was because he felt something like a pressure on his body.
At first he thought it was sleep paralysis. It wasn't uncommon for him to have muscle stiffness.
However, he was horrified by the figure reflected in his blurry sight.
Before he could turn wary, he was able to discern who is it by that figure's color.
While her azure-colored hair swayed, Lapis rode on top of Takeru's body.
Moreover, she was naked.
She was naked.
When Takeru tried to raise his upper body, he was pushed back down with both of Lapis' hands.
Surprised, Takeru looked up at Lapis' body.
Although immature, seeing her body Takeru understood she was a woman and blushed. She didn't breathe at all and was cold like a sword. However, her softness gave him supreme bliss, and the parts that touched her immediately heated up. The moonlight with an unique tint entering through the window illuminated Lapis.
He couldn't find any other words other than "beautiful".
"Be silent. Right now, I will respond to your request."
"I-I d-didn't remember making such a request though?!"
"In this form my link with you is too weak."
Telling me something with a deep meaning, Lapis moved her face in front of Takeru's.
The moment he tried to stop her, Takeru's and Lapis' lips overlapped.
Unable to let out any voice, he remained as he was.
Lapis entangled her fingers with Takeru's, and sank in slowly pinning him down on the bed. In his mouth, he could feel their tongues intertwine.
NONONONononono this is bad right!
In contrast to his expectations, Lapis' tongue was hot and it gently stroked inside of his mouth.
He intended to resist, but for some reason he felt strength leaving his body. Even if he resisted inside of his head, body didn't listen to him. Gradually his consciousness grew dim. As if they were melting together, senses of his body and mind have turned ambiguous.
Takeru experienced it before. He had this feeling during the re-contract with Lapis.
With a static sound as if power was cut from a TV, Takeru's consciousness flew to a different location.
His consciousness and memories turned into a swirling mass.
A number of voices screaming and blaming have intersected in his head like a tornado.
Inside of the enormous vortex, immediately after seeing the vision of world collapsing, he stood in an enclosed white space. Although he tried to let out a voice, he wasn't even able to breathe.
When he ran his line of sight from one end of the white space to other, in a single point he discovered something red.
It was a woman pinned down. The woman's body was penetrated by something which seemed like needles.
The surrounding area was filled with something that seemed like wriggling meat.
Her appearance overlapped with Kiseki's.
Momentarily, Takeru realized who was she.
Kusanagi Mikoto. Orochi's older sister, Mistilteinn's first contractor.
This was surely, Lapis' memory of the past.
『"The treatment is complete. Halt of unconfirmed ancient property verified. Releasing restraints."』
Along with a buzzer, a sound had come out from speakers and the shackles Mikoto was held with were released.
Mikoto's body fell to the ground. At the same time, the lumps of flesh around her collapsed and turned into ashes. She was unable to move for a while, but then she started crawling and reaching out for something.
It was a small branch of azure color.
Mikoto grasped the branch, and held it dearly to her bloodied chest. Her hair swayed, and Takeru saw Mikoto's face for the first time.
Her face and Lapis' were like two peas in a pod. Mikoto who had the same face as Lapis narrowed her teary eyes kindly, and spoke to the azure-colored branch.
『"Today... it wasn't all that painful."』
While stroking the branch, Mikoto went to the corner of the room and laid down.
And then, happily, joyfully, she continued to speak to the branch which didn't respond.
She looked like a child cradling a doll.
It was as if that branch was her only salvation.
His chest was attacked by a tightening feeling. Anger, sorrow, and emptiness filled his chest. As Takeru was salvation for Kiseki, for Mikoto, that branch was her only salvation.
Takeru's vision distorted, and time started to flow at great speed.
It was repetition of the same thing, Mikoto continued to speak to the azure-colored branch on her own.
Today, let's talk about the first time I saw the outside world.
Today, let's talk about the morning glow.
Today's dinner, I wonder what it will be. I hope I can eat my fill
Today, let's talk about the boy who came to the box.
Mikoto continued to repeatedly tell stories about even the shortest happy moments. Eventually, the small branch she embraced started to tinge with a faint light. As if responding to her speech.
Pleased with just that much, Mikoto smiled broadly and laughed.
However, after many years had passed, Mikoto's heart was overtaken by fatigue.
Gradually her voice turned thin, she became unable to cry in pain, and no was longer able to speak of happy memories. Eventually, Mikoto started to entrust her wishes to the small branch.
The wish for the world to collapse. Her precious wish, wanting for the world to end. Tears ran down Takeru's cheeks.
He was unable to determine if it were really his own tears.
Takeru's vision was interrupted again, and he stood in a different location.
There, was a battlefield full of bullets and magic particles flying all over. Many soldiers and many witches were killing each other in this pandemonium.
In the middle of that hell, a new hell was dropped down.
Mikoto's figure emerged from inside of something which seemed like a coffin which crashed in the middle of battlefield.
She walked unsteadily through the battlefield, like a ghost.
While soldiers and witches watched it not knowing what's happening, Mikoto spoke to the branch she held in her hands.
『"Let's finish everything together... Lapis."』
In response to Mikoto's wish, the branch changed its shape into that of a distorted sword.
At the same time, her body was covered in particles of azure color.
The power to devour everything and slay gods started fusing with Mikoto's soul.
However, a human's soul was unable to stand the erosion.
Mikoto let out a lament-like scream, suffering pain of the soul. At the same time, red meat overflowed from her body.
Kusanagi Mikoto turned into hell. Soldiers, witches, she swallowed them all.
As outrageous slaughter continued, the screams soon changed into sounds of sword slashes.
Looming in front of Mikoto's eyes, was Orochi wearing a fiery red armor.
Orochi locked swords with Mikoto who had turned into a monster.
He desperately called out to her, trying to relay that he was the boy from back then to Mikoto. But his voice didn't reach her.
Her mind was no longer there.
『"Damn ittt...!! There's no excuse... this... such a thinggg——AAAAaAaaaaAaa!!! DAMMMIIITTTTTTTTTT!!"』
Orochi wailed, his face wet with tears.
The armour covered his head with flames, completing his existence as someone who hunts gods.
Two god hunters clashed.
Orochi's wail turned into the wail of the humanity, and eventually, turned into the wailing of the world.
Everything was scorched, everything died.
『Void』 magic covered the world and indiscriminately devoured people.
The two's fight continued several days, and when it came to an end, the majority of the human race was already killed.
An azure-colored sword dropped down beside the fallen Mikoto.
Although the sword fell in a way that made it seem as if it snuggled up to dead Mikoto, when he thought it started vibrating faintly, it turned into particles. azure-colored particles gathered together, and formed a human shape.
Before long, that human form turned into an azure-colored girl and placed a hand on Mikoto's dead body.
『"Host, please wake up."』
『"I have granted your wish. The world was destroyed. There is no one left to hurt you."』
『"Host...please wake up. It should no longer hurt. We can eat delicious dinner now."』
The girl expressionlessly shook Mikoto with her hand.
There was no reply from Mikoto. Decayed up to the ends of despair, most of her body was carbonized. Still, the girl didn't cease to speak to Mikoto. Just like Mikoto used to speak to the girl beforehand, not receiving any reply.
There was no sorrow in it. There were no tears in it. It was as if it was natural thing to do, surely, that's what the girl thought.
Worn out Orochi has appeared in front of Mikoto's body and the girl. Both of his eyes were crushed, he was in a state where meat was falling off his body, he held a broken sword and wobbled a he moved.
The crushed eyeball was forcefully made function with magic, and Orochi saw the girl.
『"The...fuck....why are you... why are you snuggling close to her with that face...! Why are you alive while Mikoto died...?!"』
As Orochi poised the broken sword, the girl turned around.
Orochi took form of rage, suffering and sadness, brandishing the sword.
"That face——don't look at me with that faceeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE!!"
As he swung down the blade, the girl——
——Lapis, continued to stare with her glass-like pupils.
『"...! Da...mn... dammi...t...!!"』
The edge stopped moving before it reached Lapis.
Orochi fell down on his knees and wailed in the extinct world.
Lapis didn't know why was he crying, she just single-mindedly,
Continued to shake Mikoto's body intently.
Feeling shock as if his heart suddenly started to beat again, Takeru opened his eyes.
Lapis moved her lips away pulling a thread of saliva, and Takeru spat out a deep breath.
"I have responded to your request. I want to know more about you, is what you said. Just now it were my memories from the beginning of my personality formation and the God Hunting precedent."
Lapis described indifferently.
Takeru wiped the tears that wet his cheek, and looked at Lapis.
She was totally expressionless.
"God Hunting form required a strong soul. Contractor's soul is essential to the fusion process. However, a human soul is unable to bear it anyhow."
"While Kusanagi Mikoto's body was that of a demon, her soul was that of a human."
"...didn't you know that her soul is human?"
"On top of it being the first fusion without precedent, I did not know what would be the result. However, she wished for it. Whether I knew that or not, I would have activated it. After all, the meaning of my existence is to fuse with the contractor."
Lapis' voice was cold and stinging.
"If human cannot endure it... then does that mean I was in deep too?"
"You do not have to worry."
She breathed out, and spoke with her eyes closed.
"After all, your soul is not that of a human."
"Women of Kusanagi family have bodies of a demon and soul of a human. Conversely, men have bodies of a human and soul of a demon. Have you not heard about it from your kinsmen?"
As Takeru went silent, "Am I wrong?" Lapis asked.
He never heard of that from his parents nor Orochi.
However, he was not surprised.
"For a long time, I vaguely thought that's how it is. 'Isn't the reason my body feels narrow because my soul is too large'... although, I don't know much about souls and such."
"I see, so my soul is not human..."
He murmured and looked up at the ceiling. Strangely, he didn't receive any shock. Being unable to understand human hearts and going on rampages without regard to where he was were stories of the past. He involved himself with many people and formed bonds. He was trusted by people, and became able to trust others.
Honestly, it didn't matter to Takeru that his soul was that of a demon.
He had no interest in the quality of a soul. He has no memories of suffering because of such a thing.
Until now, he's been looking as Kiseki continuously suffered from the demon body. Takeru wasn't that weak to be shocked by something of this degree. In the first place, if he bothers himself with such a silly thing, he will be beaten up by Ouka.
'You are a human called Kusanagi Takeru' is what she told him, she really would beat him up.
"By the way, what will happen to me after we're completely fused?"
"The boundary between us will be lost. We will lose our selves and gain power to eradicate the threat of gods, become a presence that acts only in order to fulfill our own wishes."
Takeru met her eyes with his and muttered "I wouldn't like that".
"So you don't want that after all. Understood, as soon as our safety is assured, we'll cancel the contract. If it's wounds then do not worry, I'll take care of it as consideration."
"Wait wait, what I don't like, is that I'm unable to grant myself my own wish."
"Even if you say that I can't comprehend that. After all, I'm just a weapon."
With a cold stare Lapis turned towards Takeru.
But, Takeru dismissed that stare with just a single word.
"Where did I lie. I require explanation."
"Certainly, you might have been just a weapon when you were created, but you have a personality that was born in this world right?"
"In the end, that means you are no different from humans. You indeed are similar to me. My soul being a demon's or whatever, because of the environment I grew up in I became human... isn't that the same for you."
Lapis tilted her head puzzled.
Somehow, she was unusually frustrated, or rather, there was a feeling that she was being defiant in front of something she couldn't understand.
Takeru put an appalled expression on his face.
"Why is your appearance and tone of voice just like Mikoto's?"
"............ Because there was no object for reference other than her."
"Wrong. That's not the reason."
"It is not wrong. Fusion with Kusanagi Mikoto's soul failed, it was eroded by me and exhausted. Only the information is left in my soul, and from that information my pseudo-personality was——"
He abruptly stood up and grabbed both of Lapis' shoulders.
Lapis' shoulders faintly trembled.
"Wrong——it's because you loved that person. You loved her very much."
While staring seriously in Lapis' eyes, Takeru said that strongly.
Loved her. With these words, she froze stiff.
"...I cannot understand"
"No, you can. I have relived your memories."
"............my God Hunter form with you was interrupted. Soul link should be weak."
"I can tell even without such a thing. You wanted to save her because you loved her. You wanted to fuse with her, because you wanted to be together with her too. Her, who was suffering... and was always talking to you... you wanted to do something for her. The method was incredibly clumsy and you have inconvenienced to everyone around you, still, you were doing it purely for that person."
"You are wrong. I have killed her with God Hunter form."
"Weren't you the one who said that you didn't know of her soul being human, were you. You had no intention of killing her, and just wanted to become one right?"
"...enough. You are just like me. A clumsy stupid idiot."
As if to interrupt Lapis who wanted to correct it, Takeru threw his arms around her.
Lapis didn't resist, and allowed herself to be hugged by Takeru.
He slowly, gently stroked her azure-colored hair.
"You... were sad when that person died."
"Left alone, you were lonely."
Lapis was in daze as the warm palm stroked her head.
She didn't know the meaning of warmth. She didn't know the meaning of sadness either.
Then she overlapped hands of Mikoto who always stroked her with Takeru's hands.
"I decided, I'm going to stay beside you. I promise not to leave you and die on my own."
"Thank you for trying to make my wish come true. I'm sorry for being indecisive."
He embraced Lapis even stronger.
"But I want to grant my own wishes to myself. There is no need to become one. I want to stay myself, and for you to stay yourself. And I need you, Lapis."
Lapis didn't answer.
Confused by the warmth of having her hair stroked, she buried her face in Takeru's chest.
"I don't know about myself. And yet why, do you know so much about me?"
"I don't know. I just thought that's how it is."
"I am unable to deny your analysis of me any more. No matter how much I try to deny it, my personality issues an error. I have been always at mercy of this pseudo-personality. There is too many things I do not understand about myself."
"So you can learn little by little, right."
"This personality... if I didn't have emotions... I should have been just a sword that brings upon twilight."
"I am happy from the bottom of my heart that you were born."
"...I...what should I do?"
With a trembling voice, she asked as if seeking help from Takeru. He hugged Lapis' body strongly and answered.
"Stay with me. Be my partner."
Lapis took a faint breath.
"For this world, I am just something harmful. I might destroy this world."
"No such thing. I will use you correctly, and prove it to you."
"I might erode and exhaust you up. I might end up killing you."
"My soul is demon. If the fusion goes well we should be able to stay as we are."
"...there is no basis for that."
"Who needs such a thing."
Having her head stroked by Takeru, Lapis narrowed her eyes. And then, she asked the first question that seemed to hold emotions inside.
"Then, you will not reject me? Don't you think that using a sword of destruction like me is unpleasant?"
"Don't make me repeat myself, I have no intention of discarding you. I don't want to lose you. That's why——"
As Takeru and Lapis looked at each other intently, he put in all his feelings and said.
"——Once again, make me your host."
This voice certainly reached Lapis' heart.
Lapis gently closed her eyes and shed a single tear. It was small enough to overlook, but she certainly cried for the first time.
Being called in a nostalgic way, Takeru smiled.
She's expressionless like always but right now I'm fine with that single word, Takeru thought.
And like this, a boy with the heart of a demon and a sword of twilight that snuggled up to humans and has become one have contracted once again.
The far west edge of West Side Magic Academy.
In the underground space that was the meeting place for the West Side's executives to gather, a meeting of Valhalla's "Pureblood Party" has been always performed on weekends.
The West Side indeed was holding true to the concept of pure blood, but those who shouldered that philosophy on themselves, were ones who operated under the banner of purifying the world and called themselves as such.
With few exceptions, all personnel consisted of pure-blooded witches and sorcerers. The center of underground space was adapted to look like a large auditorium with a stage in the center.
On the center of illuminated stage, was placed a single throne.
"Hmph, so in the end, Mother Goose has decided to draw in Mistilteinn?"
Sitting in the luxurious throne and sharpening her purplish-red nails was a bizarre woman wearing a dress decorated with roses.
Her name was Elizabeth. She was one of Valhalla's leaders along with Mother Goose, Haunted and Orochi. At the same time, she served as the chairman of Magic Academy European Shelter's West Side .
Purplish-red heels, a purplish-red dress, purplish-red lips.
And purplish-red rose petals were floating around her, decorating her.
It was a woman flashy enough to be said she had horrible taste.
"Why are you remaining silent? Hurry up and answer, Kanaria."
From inside the darkness where there was no light, Kanaria looked at her in annoyance.
Despite the deep darkness, Kanaria's eyes let out a dull shine.
"...yes. Mother intends to take in Mistilteinn and Takeru."
With an exaggerated act suggesting she was appalled, Eliza threw away a rasp.
"How deplorable... that's why that inorganic woman can't be trusted. Even though she should respect the opinion of elders and purebloods... she's still being a burden."
She shook her head, and making a rotation with her thin fingers that seemed like they would break, soundlessly an already-lit pipe appeared in her fingertips. Eliza put it in her mouth with a flowing motion, and sucked in the tobacco smoke deeply, and just as deeply spat it out.
"Do something about the disturbing element on your own, Kanaria."
"...I have a duty on that side. If I move now, it will be suspicious."
"Oooh, ohhh, ohhoo, Kanaria? My empty, magicless, dirty elfie? Right now it's not time to worry about something so trivial is it? The war has already began."
"............because of Kusanagi Kiseki, Alchemist joined Inquisition. The balance of power was compromised. And yet, you started the war on your own. You should confirm the circumstances further. Other shelters as well as West Side have been successfully stirred up."
"That's right! I started it! Instead of those stinky guys I was the one to stirr it up! In the first place why did the Senate select that inorganic woman to recover the "Hyakki Yakou"? It resulted with this plight! The alliance between Inquisition and Alchemist has been set in stone!"
"You are also guilty. I'm grateful so I don't blame you for that? And what's this? I wonder if you are trying to change sides to East? Were you won over by that plain woman and fake vampire, Kanariaaa?"
Kanaria and Eliza glared at each other.
As their lines of sight intersected, when the sparks were about to fly, a sound of door opening on the other side of darkness has rang out.
"——Yahoo! Heyaheya hello hello, it's been a while the two of you!"
From the behind the door that leaked light inside, a figure moved closer to the two while making sound footsteps. Eliza and Kanaria frowned and clicked their tongues.
Even inside of Valhalla he was known a trickster who often got in the way.
Sorcerer of despair, necromancer Haunted.
The wounds inflicted on him when he was hit by Mari's aurora have already healed, and he had a glossy expression on his face.
Haunted stopped moving right next to Kanaria.
"Oh, Kanaria-san?!! Ohh, you have become really pretty while I haven't seen you. Last time I've seen you when you were still in the middle of rapid growth and still a small girl! What a sham——I'm just joking so don't make such a face! I'm proud of the Almighty! "Ripe for eating" truly perfectly describes you!"
His hand that tried to touch Kanaria's hair with his hand while speaking a tongue twister at high speed was cut off by the sword Kanaria had on her back. The hand fell down on the floor with a splatter. Haunted's disconnected right arm started jumping about on the floor like a fish that was thrown into the land.
"How extreme. Is this the so called "tsun"? I hope you will come to me with "dere" one day."
While Haunted started wiggling his body eerily, the arm that was wriggling on the ground was swallowed by a black swamp that suddenly appeared.
The moment it disappeared, Haunted's right arm was already rejoined in its original position.
While grinning, this time he turned towards Eliza who sat on the throne.
"It's been a while to you too, Eliza-san! You're invariably flashy! I want to tell you to make yourself young in moderation, but it's rather that your cell freezing make-up that's great! As expected of the "Almighty" Ancient Wizard, I want to say a heartfelt praises towards your rebellion against the flow of time! You haven't changed at all from the time when you were a young girl longing to become a vampire and have bathed in blood of young virgins a thousand years ago!"
Noisily he clapped and praised Eliza with a big smile on his face. The person in question snorted coldly.
"Even if that's ironic, isn't it too big an act? Ancient property holders like us discarded the concept of aging long time ago... I have already forgotten about the past."
"Nonoo, I think that essentially nothing has changed about you okay? How would you explain your unchanging appearance other than by your obsession with youth?"
"Your make-up, it's been disturbed?"
As Haunted provoked with a smile, Eliza's cheek twitched. Probably, inside of her the anger reached its peak. Her poker face didn't seem to be all that good.
Haunted spread out his arms like a stage actor and sadly looked up at the light.
"Why must women think that old age and ugliness is one and the same, how unfortunate it is. Old age is something that's a symbol. It's the sign of having a dense past. Do not deny age, grasp it, and while riding on your past feelings face forward in order to polish the future... and enjoy the old age... don't you think that women like that are beautiful?"
"I don't want to be told that by a necromancer who denies death."
"Ouch, that hurts if you tell it in such a way! You got me there!"
Cheerfully laughing, Haunted tried to continue talking about ridiculous topics.
"By the way, did you know? Majority of men are lolico——"
"Spare me this farce. Rather than that, why did you return here? Didn't the senate order you to be on standby in the field? I'll say this, from the standpoint of purebloods, we don't want a nuisance like you anywhere near us. Is there a reason for you showing your face here I wonder?"
When Eliza said so dissatisfied with a hand on her chin, "Of course!" Haunted answered with confidence.
"In the past there were several emergency situations. Times where every minute counts, this is exactly such time."
"...emergency? Hurry up and say it then."
"In fact——someone whom I don't want to stop loving me has come here, so I flew over!"
Without hesitation and embarrassment, Haunted put a hand on his flushed cheek.
On the skin of Eliza's cheek cracks have appeared. Still, Haunted continued not minding that.
"Mari-san! Ohh Mari-san! I wonder how long was it since I was separated from her... four months? Or is it five months? For such a long time, I haven't seen her figure desperately trying to act strong and hold back her tears...! Surely, she too must have been lonely...! That's why I have made such a detour all this way to come and meet her! This is the power of love! Love that exceeds the sea of the Void property!!!! I need to respond to this love no matter what...! I will come ba——"
"——Drive this guy away from here. I'm not going to take part in this farce any longer."
In front of Haunted who continued his crazy monologue, Eliza flicked her finger and complained. Then, two people clad in red robes appeared beside Haunted like ghosts, and started dragging him while restraining his arms.
"Please wait Mari-san! My Mari-chan! I'll surely come and pick you uppppp〜〜〜〜!"
While making a disgusting declaration, Haunted faded away from the underground space. Eliza spat out a tired sigh.
"Kanaria, let's get back to the topic."
"...there's no topic. If I don't go back, it will be suspicious."
"Don't mess with me here. Haunted seems to like you so he tried to divert the story but... do you think I'll really allow you to avoid answering?"
While lightly chewing on her purplish-red nails, Eliza smiled bitterly. As Kanaria only stared at Eliza who looked down at her from the sea, Eliza merrily stroked her beautiful lips.
"You, prove your loyalty to us."
"...as I have shown until now. I have did tons of dirty work for you already."
"Those missions were something decided by consensus of entire Valhalla right? What I'm saying, that you are to prove your loyalty to the West Side. In other words, you are to rebel against that inorganic woman."
Eliza hid her face behind a western fan, and made a smile that could be seen through her eyes only.
"——Dispose of Kusanagi Takeru and recover Mistilteinn. By doing so, you will raise forces and will obtain the right to carry out your revenge on Inquisition and Alchemist."
"?! What will you do if you have it. Senate will not allow it..."
"Just ・do ・it . Listen. All of the elites that have gathered here are saying to leave it to you. If war intensifies in the earnest, confusion will take control of battlefield. If that happens, you'll be allowed to use these children as you please and fulfill your revenge."
Eliza stood up from the throne striking the floor with a heel, and while swaying her hips she moved closer to Kanaria.
The western folding fan was moved close to Kanaria's mouth.
"...the ones who killed your mama is Inquisition and Alchemist right. Don't you want to lay waste to them? It's impossible if you stay beside that inorganic woman and the fake vampire."
"Do you know what I mean by saying that you need to choose?"
Eliza's voice echoed inside the darkness.
Kanaria's expression didn't change in the slightest, but her fist was letting out a loud sound.
Outside of the meeting place, Haunted leaned with his back on the door and heard everything.
A drop of the swamp that was used to recover his arm earlier was left on the floor, and he heard the conversation through that.
"...why is Eliza-san such a snob despite having good appearance and charming moves."
Genuinely regretful Haunted shook his head and left the place.
Tumbling under his feet were remains of the two pureblood party's elites.
After passing the corpses, on the floor made with a material similar to a red carpet, there, he saw a lone black girl standing.
Dressed in black gothic clothes, it was a girl with incredibly horrible look in her eyes.
She had a surreal and beautiful features like a western doll. She had bluish-black hair like the night and iridescent black pupils reminiscent of black opal, anyone who saw her would say she's an evildoer on just a glance. Haunted stood in front of the girl with a surprised expression on his face.
"That's unusual. Since when do you have a human form?"
The girl clicked her tongue and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Since we entered this place obviously. While there's a permit to carry Magical Heritages with their own will, the release of attack form is required. Although it's humiliating to take a shape of a human, it's better than being inside of a anti-magical sheath."
When Haunted started walking once again, the black girl——S-class Magical Heritage "Dáinsleif" followed him, snuggling up closely.
"You heard it too haven't you, the meeting's conversation."
"Yeah... Eliza is being impatient. Because her actions stand out, it's obvious even to the West Side. Soon enough she will be taken down from the seat of Chairman... there's a number of representative witches from other shelters who want to stop her. That's why she wants to obtain god-slaying power, and make herself the king."
"She is very outstanding as a witch. Regretfully, she is too strong, or rather too selfish. Unlike Mother, she's the type that's disliked by the Senate."
"...being told that by Haunted, I feel that she really is pitiful."
"I'm not interested in things like positions or honor. Even more so, in the pureblood principles, it makes me want to barf. The world is interesting because there are many different people with many different ideas in it... what's fun in a single-colored world."
He shook his head with a sigh, and looked sideways.
"Actually, you haven't come here to do something as silly as eavesdropping on the meeting right?"
"!...that's right. I've heard that during the "Hyakki Yakou's" recovery failure, a bonus was brought back, so I thought "can it be"... but sure enough, dammit. To think that azure-colored would be here... unbelievable...!"
Nacht stomped with her feet many times while clicking her tongue.
"Good grief. Why does Eliza-san and Mother Goose do such unnecessary things. I can't understand why would Kusanagi Takeru and Mistilteinn be brought here."
"Haunted... let's go there right now and kill them...! I can't bear it any longer... the humiliation from that time continues to throb harder and harder...!!"
Hugging her body which trembled in anger, she bit her lips and tears pooled into her eyes.
Previously, in the raid on the mock battle tournament carried out in order to dispose of Mari, Haunted and Nacht were defeated by Takeru and Lapis.
The quality of her as a Magical Heritage was insulted, and along with her master, Haunted they were called dull. Even now Nacht thought bitterly of that time. For a sword, being called dull is an insult beyond any other words.
Haunted didn't listen to angry Nacht, and squinted facing forward.
"Kill them right now...? What are you saying, Nacht."
"It's not the time for that at all. The finest stage... best condition... among the greatest passion, that's the only thing I'll agree to."
"That brat has to be my enemy no matter what. Mine, and only mine enemy. No matter who benefits of it, he's simply not allowed to be my ally."
Noticing that the quality of his voice is different from usual, Nacht looked up at Haunted's face.
And then took a breath in shock.
She has spent a mind-boggling amount of time together with Haunted. Supporting his struggles, she assisted him in bringing despair. There weren't many Magical Heritages who focused on human aspect of their master when choosing. In the first place, the concept of good and evil didn't exist in Magical Heritages. They chose their masters not bothered by such ridiculous criteria.
For example, they used their very existence. In other words, the color of their soul.
Because Nacht loved Haunted's black iridescent soul, she wasn't interested in his misdeeds. By him swinging the sword and obtaining victory she felt supreme joy.
That's why she snuggled up to him. She was the weapon who knew him better than anyone else.
And yet, it was the first time she saw that expression on Haunted.
Because she never seen Haunted reveal his anger in earnest. He was always aloof, and even if he spoke feverishly, he never allowed his rage bleed outside.
Then, why now...
"I finally found my nemesis... I won't give him... to anyone...!!"
His distorted smile made even Nacht feel terrified, that's how much of joy and anger overflowed from it.