The Alchemist's first laboratory was in the mountains far away from the urban areas, other than the officials and workers the entire neighborhood was off limits. Unlike the other laboratories, this place was taking care of weapons development beyond level 5, dangerous and inhumane experiments were carried out in here.
However, unlike the fifth laboratory which was arbitrarily managed by Suginami Isuka, this one was authorized by the Inquisition.
"As expected, the work proceeds fast, Suzaku-san."
Ootori Sougetsu watched the spectacle that spread out on the other side of the glass and nodded satisfied.
A gray-haired woman stood beside him and had a great, proud smile.
"That's a matter of course is it not? On top of a legitimate reward existing, the Alchemist does not betray the expectations of their clients. We have already started mass production, we should be able to finish it before the battles in the Border finish."
Praise me praise me, the Alchemist company's representative director, Suginami Suzaku snuggled up to Sougetsu.
Sougetsu pushed her away with his hand and stared down at her coldly.
"Instead of providing a finished product, for you to come up with a demand for fuel supply... as usual, you're being a model mad scientist aren't you."
"You should already know the Suginami's philosophy right? We are using a system of a company in order to raise funds to continue our studies. The organization has continued to act neutral to make sure that political struggle and power struggles don't inhibit the research. As Suginami's, we require the fuel and funding for the research."
"...now that you have changed your mind and become our exclusive, that philosophy of yours isn't too convincing."
When Sougetsu said so, Suzaku went "how rude!' and puffed up her cheeks.
"I promised to cooperate with you because you gave me full authority over the research on the Hyakki Yakou! I have no interest whatsoever in who is going to win this war!"
Suzaku started to pout and flail her limbs wildly, which in turn stirred disgust in Sougetsu.
That appearance of hers when she sulked after her philosophy was made fun of really looked like that of a child.
The Alchemist corporation had dangerous human beings called Suginami. In particular, the woman called Suginami Suzaku has distinguished herself among them and was on another level compared to all other Suginamis.
Among the "Designs Children" holding the Suginami genes, Suzaku was the only heretic that possessed magical power.
"...is the research on Hyakki Yakou progressing?"
When Sougetsu asked, Suzaku's eyes sparkled.
"Yes of course! Those cursed things are really interesting! Although the reincarnation mechanism hasn't been clarified yet, we have found a method to control it. We thought that it would go well once we cut its connection with the soul, but the Hyakki Yakou curse is really thorough. When the link with the soul expires, the demon bodies die."
"Then, you mean to attempt on controlling it while maintaining the soul of Kusanagi Kiseki. Hyakki Yakou should act accordingly to Kusanagi Kiseki's will. Even my Innocentius was unable to take it away. Did you find a method?"
Suzaku waved her finger in front of him denying that.
"There is no magic nor technology required to control it. Or rather, nothing of that sort will work on a monster like that. If there is a gap to exploit, then that would be Kusanagi Kiseki's mind."
"Mind... so not the soul, huh."
"Human mind too, is similar to a machine. It reacts if you give it an electrical signal, and it's possible to cure it with electricity. You should be quite knowledgeable on the topic of controlling human nature, right?"
"The hint is dreams. And the rival in love for her beloved Onii-chan.."
Winking, Suzaku started to act cutely. Sougetsu shook his head and sighed.
"I see. You have disgusting hobbies."
"Oh, you like it? That kind of things."
"No. Certainly I might be a scum, but I don't like to lie."
"Don't say things you don't mean. Aren't you a human full of lies? Or rather, whether you are a human or not is doubtful in the first place."
"At the very least, this is how I really feel. Rather then lie to the human mind, I'd rather always say the truth. Even when I spit out lies, they are always close to the truth."
Sougetsu joined his arms behind his back and turned around in a twirl.
"For the time being, rather than take care of Hyakki Yakou, please hurry up and mass produce what I asked you for. The resistance of enemy forces is more intense than I expected. It's necessary to provide some forces in order to reassure the public."
"As you wish. The mass produced Relic Eaters... they will be ready before long."
He looked back only once, looking at Suzaku who stood behind him with a fearless smile.
On the other side of the glass, a spectacle similar to hell has spread out.
Far behind Suzaku, there was a plant with incubators lined up. It looked like a test tube filled with green liquid, naked people were placed inside and have passed through the tube.
All of them were witches and sorcerers arrested by Inquisition in the past.
"Thank you very much for providing the fuel. Normally to produce Magical Heritages with an artificial personality would require many years of technological process and necromancy, but with that many sources of magic and fresh brains, we are able to make weapons easier to handle than conventional Magical Heritages. There is no longer a need to rely on spirits and human souls any more. After all, it's all replaced by living humans."
The humans inside of the test tube were moved directly towards the incubator.
After being integrated into equipment that was in the upper part, all of it turned into a black case. On its surface 《 The Malleus Maleficarum Production Model “Guillotine” 》 was engraved.
"Even now you can enjoy yourself and test them."
Cheerfully and proudly, Suzaku laughed boasting of her achievement.
Ouka has questioned the Knights, but wasn't able to obtain any decent information.
While biting her nails, she stared into the ground.
——Laugh Maker was the enemy who killed her family.
She has caused multiple incidents in the past, and was a bizarre killer who plunged the city into fear. Although she was arrested once, she got away while being transported, and at that time Ouka's family was killed.
It was a witch chased by the Inquisition for many years. When she was a Dullahan Ouka looked for her as well, but no matter how desperately she tried to collect information about her, she was unable to get a grasp on anything.
Hearing a familiar voice, Ouka raised her face.
It was Usagi who sat near the campfire, and looked up at her.
Unconsciously she seemed to have walked towards the tent of the 35th platoon. Usagi was boiling water on the fire and stared at Ouka with a frightened expression.
Ikaruga who sat nearby asked Ouka why was she glaring.
"...sorry. I got lost in thoughts. I've got the ingredients. It's mostly rations, but there's consommé, some canned beans and meat. If you mix it all some soup should come out of it."
"Ootori... did something happen?"
She removed the ingredients from the backpack, meanwhile Usagi peeked into her face anxiously.
When Ouka tried to excuse herself, Ikaruga squinted while sipping coffee.
"You... don't realize what kind of expression you're making now?"
"Your expression is eerie enough to make it seem like you're about to go kill someone."
Ouka tried to touch her own face, and noticed that she was tensing it up with all her strength.
Ikaruga was amazed by the fact that Ouka didn't notice it herself.
"You look just like you did half a year ago, you're scaring Usagi so stop that."
"S-sorry. I wondered about a several things to do in the future and my expression naturally turned stiff."
Ouka squat down on top of a concrete block and warmed her hands by the fire.
"Saionji, can you make anything with what I gathered? I'm hungry since I've been moving all day long."
As she asked with a thin smile, Usagi nodded, finally relieved.
After confirming the ingredients Ouka brought, Usagi wonder.
"...so it'll be difficult with those after all."
Ouka's shoulders drooped, but Usagi puffed her chest strongly.
"Don't look down on me, relying on the ingredients is second-rate. Maximizing the taste of the ingredients to the limit is a requirement needed to become a good wife, Grandmother has taught me that."
And with that said, Usagi took out cabbage and tomatoes from her backpack.
"After we have occupied the black market I have secured the vegetables left behind. They would rot away if they were left alone anyway."
"Woah, amazing. You should get a medal for that."
After obtaining praise, Usagi started to cook while humming.
She hung over two pots over the fire, one for the soup, the other one for warming up the canned food. While she was boiling the water, Usagi cut the ingredients on the wooden board.
Although her expression was much better than it was during the combat, Ouka knew that she was forcing herself. As if trying to atone for freezing in front of the human death, she did her best in cooking at the very least.
Ouka thought that her attitude where she didn't raise a single complaint was admirable.
She thought of apologizing to Usagi for making her act alone, but she gave up on it. She didn't want to make Usagi's effort and bravery go to waste, just as Ikaruga said, if she speaks poorly she might only hurt the other person.
While watching the flame, she tried to suppress the boiling feeling inside of her chest.
...just how selfish am I.
Biting on her nails while hugging her knees with her arms, Ouka admonished herself.
This is not the time to move for my own sake. I have comrades I need to protect... until Kusanagi comes back I will...
Even as she thought so, the hatred swirling inside of her didn't dissipate. Even now she wanted to search for Laugh Maker and attain her death in the most brutal way she could think of. The face of her little sister on verge of death wouldn't fade away from her head. Like a curse, it eroded Ouka's nearly-cured heart.
"...I don't know what you're burdened with there, but I can't calm down seeing it."
Suddenly, Ikaruga said so.
When she raised her face, she saw Ikaruga scrutinize her expression.
Usagi too, looked at her anxiously while cooking.
In response to that, Ouka hurriedly fixed her facial expression.
"It's nothing. I'm just a little tired."
"You're horrible at lying. Despite everything, we've been half a year together. It's expected that we'll notice."
"...that's unusual. Are you worried about me?"
When Ouka said so jokingly, with a straight face Ikaruga has,
"Of course I am. Is that bad?"
Clearly said so. Ouka opened her eyes widely and was dumbfounded just like Usagi, who dropped the spoon she was stirring the hot water with.
"...what's with that reaction of yours."
"N-no... nothing, sorry. I'm just happy."
"M-my apologies. It just didn't fit you whatsoever."
"Let me tell you this, I'm not only worried about each of you, but also about the Small Fry Platoon itself as a whole. If you are out of shape like this, I feel like we won't survive."
I'm sorry, the two apologized reflecting on it. Ikaruga made only a slightly discontent face and ran her fingers through her long hair.
"Leading in is so troublesome. I'm definitely the type who's getting frustrated by all the foreplay, surely."
Ouka was puzzled as Ikaruga started to say vulgar things.
Ikaruga spat out a sigh and said.
"Let's use this moment to make it clear."
"...what is it?"
"I promised when we were going to help Kusanagi's little sister, right? When it's over I'll explain everything."
"...you're right. I was in a hurry back then and forgot."
"I'll tell you everything about me."
Ikaruga placed a hand on her chest and spoke listlessly.
Ouka didn't think that Ikaruga who hardly ever spoke about herself would reveal such a thing.
"Don't worry, I'm not trying to make you feel compelled to share your pasts. I just want to get it off my head."
After saying so, she started to speak.
That she was born as a result of Alchemist's "Designs Child" experiment. About her best friend Isuka and the experiment on elves they did together. About making an elf child called Kanaria, and that after awakening to morals she had escaped the facility.
About the uproar in the fifth laboratory a few months ago, Isuka dying and learning the fact that Kanaria was alive.
About creating the taboo "Nanomachines" and embedding them inside of her own body.
In response to hearing her horrific past, Ouka and Usagi were at a loss for words.
"Until now, I only had an interest in my own life. I thought that it's enough if I protect the place I belong to. But, I still have the feelings I have put aside. There's still a burden I need to carry."
"That's why, I'm here right now. I have a reason to fight. But I have no intention of participating in combat any more than necessary. By capturing the enemy, I will surely find out where Kanaria is."
After she finished speaking, Ikaruga spat out a small breath.
"It's fine to respond by blaming me. I'm one of the criminals Ootori genuinely hates, and a heretical magical creation is embedded in my body. You can arrest me if you want, I'll resist though."
In response to Ikaruga's words, Ouka shook her head.
"...I have no such intention. The Nanomachines might be dangerous, but it is a fact that their power has saved us before."
Even as she tried to recall it, Ikaruga's development has always been unnatural. She created weapons with precious anti-magic materials normally unobtainable and contributed to fighting of the enemies.
Surely this and that was created by the Nanomachines.
"If I were to judge you like that, the ones using Relic Eaters would also be guilty. The power of magic can be good or bad depending on who uses it. You surely wouldn't abuse it. I think that power is something you should have."
If it was her from the past, she definitely wouldn't say such a thing.
This too, was all thanks to Takeru... or rather, to Mari.
Mari's attitude towards magic has changed Ouka.
"Well, that's all. My secrets have run out. It feels better than I thought it would."
After she said so, Ikaruga clapped her hands as if she recalled something.
"Ah, there's one more, a suuuper important secret."
" "?" "
"——You see, I love Kusanagi as a member of opposite sex."
Usagi and Ouka were in daze for a moment, but they immediately sprung up.
" "No way?!" "
"Is it that surprising?"
In response to Ikaruga's questioning look, Ouka spoke with difficulty while looking away.
"I-I was sure that you... um... aren't interested in men."
"I swing both ways you know?"
It was an unpleasant confession.
"I-I knew that your everyday skinship with me is a joke but... of all people, Kusanagi...!?"
"How rude! My skinship with you isn't a joke! I'm serious?!"
"Even if you deny that, that's how it is and I don't like it!"
"Well, even so, the one I love as a member of opposite sex is Kusanagi. Sorry, but I have already taken his lips away, forcefully and intentionally."
" "Whattt?!" "
It was a treat, and saying so Ikaruga sipped cold coffee.
Usagi and Ouka didn't commit a double suicide nor were calm, but if she said forcefully it meant that Takeru didn't want it to happen.
((No, I wonder about that?))
"Ufufu, somehow the mood turned similar to that of a school trip〜"
Ikaruga watched over the two who were still suspicious with a lewd smile.
Probably because of Ikaruga's confession which acted like an ignition agent, Usagi looked up after a moment.
"...I-I too will tell everything. You already know the circumstances of my household, but I didn't tell you anything about my trauma."
While sitting straight on top of a blanket, Usagi spoke with difficulty, her shoulders trembling.
That she was the daughter of the mistress and she was looked down upon by people in Saionji household. About the fact that she killed her older brother in an accident and was continuously blamed for it ever since. And that she was cornered by Tenmyouji Reima.
"The engagement with Tenmyouji Reima has been called off when he went missing. The decline of the Saionji household has been halted... I think that's a good thing. But I realized that Saionji household is not where I belong, one day I will become a proud and independent Inquisitor, and will take revenge on them. When I become much stronger, I will show that family what I'm made of."
Revenge. Even if the word is the same, the essence of Usagi's and Ouka's revenge was different.
Usagi's correct way to exact revenge looked dazzling to Ouka.
"A...and for that sake I cannot afford to blunder like today."
With a slightly tensed up expression, Usagi scooped up the soup and poured it into aluminum cups.
Her hand holding the ladle was trembling, which in turn resulted with a rattling sound.
"A-a-also i-in the f-future I w-will b-become Kusanagi's bride! That is my intention!"
With a bright red face and flustered expression, Usagi confessed the most important part.
However, neither Ikaruga nor Ouka were surprised whatsoever.
"W-why aren't you surprised?!"
In response to Usagi who was upset by the unexpected reaction, Ouka smiled wryly while poking her cheek with a finger.
"No... well... I realized that while listening to the story just now."
"Wasn't that obvious already? I didn't think you would go as far as make a bride declaration though."
Hit by Ikaruga's and Ouka's responses, tears appeared in Usagi's eyes.
"Fuee—〜〜〜〜?!! Since when?!"
"From the start. Yes yes, don't throw a temper, you'll spill the soup."
Ikaruga took a cup with the soup from Usagi.
Ouka took a cup from trembling Usagi as well and wrapped her palms around it.
Warm. When she ate a mouthful, she started to doubt whether it was really instant or not. She hasn't eaten anything since yesterday, but now she realized that she was hungry.
Before she realized, Ouka already regained her composure and thought she was faint hearted.
The one being saved was her. While she decided to protect the 35th platoon, the one being saved was actually her.
And yet, all she had in her mind, was revenge from her past...
She felt so pathetic, a wry smile spilled out on her face.
The one who thinks of the platoon the most, might actually be Suginami...
She probably had a good understanding of her comrades mental state.
And that Ikaruga spoke of her past to Ouka.
If Ouka doesn't speak in here, it will turn out as if she really was unable to read the mood.
"...I was an orphan. Before I was taken in by the Chairman, my name was Mineshiro Ouka."
When Ouka started to talk of her past, Ikaruga tilted her head puzzled.
"Mineshiro...? At the very least, I knew that you were Chairman's adopted daughter, though."
"Even though I say that, Mineshiro isn't my real name either. Mineshiro was the name of the household that took me in first, making Ootori the second one. I don't know who are my real parents. Exhausted both physically and mentally I was brought to the orphanage, and for long time I remained nameless."
It was the first time she spoke of herself since she spoke with Takeru.
As she continued, Usagi and Ikaruga listened to her in silence.
"The name 'Ouka' was given to me by the Mineshiro family."
While hesitating, Ouka recalled her cloudy memories.
——The dazzling everyday life and the despair of her heart broken.
——Killing her family with her own hand and the story of her hateful enemy.
In response to Ouka's horrific past, Usagi and Ikaruga remained silent.
Ouka placed the cup on the ground after drinking it all and smiled wryly.
"Sorry... it's not a story that should be said during a meal, right."
She tossed wood from a damaged building into the fire and held her knees.
It was a weird feeling. Embarrassed, relieved, it weren't feelings like that.
She was slightly apologetic. Hearing of the past of a human like her must have been a nuisance, she thought.
"...I see. So that's the reason you're acting strange today."
In response to Ikaruga's realization, Ouka tilted her head puzzled.
"Your enemy——she's on this battlefield, right?"
In response to Ikaruga's bulls-eye, Ouka downcast her face. I really don't want to make this girl my enemy, she thought.
"Laugh Maker... I already knew of the incidents she caused in the past, and I've heard the rumors that she might be in this place."
"...it's a rumor. It's unconfirmed."
As she spoke with her eyes closed, Ikaruga placed a hand on her own chest.
"You want to take revenge on her, right?"
"I'll give you a hand then."
Ouka looked up in surprise.
"After all, we won't get any decent treatment in here anyway. We were told we can act as we please, so it should be fine if we go and subjugate Laugh Maker."
"But... we really don't know whether she is here or not."
"If we don't all we need to do is search for her. If we continue like this we'll just die here. The enemy is nearby and we aren't moving, it's better if we take some lives."
Ikaruga narrowed her eyes slightly and held her fist in front of her chest.
"After all... if I learn that Kanaria is nearby, I will borrow your strength and go look for her. Kusanagi too has borrowed our strength in order to save his little sister, right?"
"Well, you are the one to decide."
Being entrusted with the decision, Ouka chewed on her lower lip.
"I-I shall help you as well! After hearing the story, it's impossible for us to do anything else! Let's crush that anomaly no matter what!"
Usagi wiped the tears that appeared in her eyes and said so clearly.
Ouka thought that she shouldn't have spoken of it after all. She didn't want sympathy and help in exacting her revenge.
She was happy. The fact that the two acted so aggressively for her sake made her so glad she could cry. For Ouka who had no friends, the two were already an important, irreplaceable existences.
But, that's why Ouka——
"——That conversation, include me in it."
A voice came from behind a collapsed building.
When their gaze was directed in that direction, they saw Kirigaya Kyouya leaning with his back on the wall slightly above them.
He had no smile on his face, nor was there any mockery on it.
Just the pupils harboring flame of hatred sparkled, just like Ouka's used to.
"...Kirigaya Kyouya! Eavesdropping is a disgusting hobby!"
Usagi stood up and glared menacingly at Kyouya.
"Shaddup, pull back you critter."
Not sparing the raging Usagi a glance, Kyouya moved away from the wall. He moved closer to the expressionless Ouka, threw away a bandoleer and pierced the ground with a light machine gun as if it was a sword.
"You want revenge on your enemy right? If that's the case, I'll cooperate with you."
Hearing that unexpected proposal, Ouka felt suspicious.
"...what's with this turn of events. You're supposed to be our watchdog aren't you."
"That shitty didn't order me to watch over you guys. I never said I won't cooperate with you."
"Even so, there is no reason for you to help me in my revenge."
When Ouka directed a sharp stare towards him, Kyouya returned her an even more heinous one.
"The revenge is the meaning of my life. If you want to embrace the hate for magic, there's no reason for me not to lend you a hand. Our goal is the same, if we cooperate it'll go faster."
"Unlike you, I don't hate all the magic."
"That doesn't matter. As long as you bear the same hate I don't care."
Kyouya spoke as if there was no lies in it and stared straight up at Ouka.
"I can understand your hatred. Because I'm the same."
If she refuses here, probably Kyouya would be disappointed with her. The prospect of him turning into their ally would be for naught. Ouka closed her eyes and thought for a moment.
And immediately came up with a conclusion.
"...I'm sorry. I'm happy you feel so, but I don't want anyone in the platoon to act alone."
Usagi was surprised, but Ikaruga nor Kyouya were. Ouka continued.
"It's reckless to invade the enemy territory with just us. I don't want to involve you guys in my personal revenge."
"You're being distant. Ootori, until now you have lent us a hand in resolving our personal matters. Are you saying you can't trust us?"
Usagi spread her arms widely and said so.
But Ouka shook her head.
"Saionji... that's not it. I trust you guys from the bottom of my heart, I won't hesitate when I need to ask you for help."
"Even if my revenge is accomplished... the ones I do it for aren't in this world already."
Hearing that Usagi was speechless and fell silent.
"My reason for fighting is different from yours. It's not like Saionji's future, a person Suginami wants to save nor Kusanagi who wants to save his little little sister who's still alive."
"Of course, I intend to have my revenge. In order to appease my family's chagrin and to sort out my own feelings I'm not going to quit. But involving you guys in this situation... is unproductive. I don't want to lose you all only to have revenge. My top priority is to protect this platoon."
Usagi understood Ouka's feelings, sat down by the fire and hung her head down. Ikaruga too, didn't say anything and just smiled thinly.
Those were Ouka's true feelings. If there was someone to save, she would have borrowed the power of her comrades. If there's an enemy in front of her, she would take revenge together with her comrades.
But now it wasn't the time for that. Protecting the platoon was the highest priority.
"——I'm not convinced by this. Are you the same as Kusanagi?"
Kyouya directed a glare full of murderous intent towards Ouka.
"While feeling hatred deep inside, you gonna hide it all behind a mask? Why can't you understand that's impossible. Hatred burns you from inside and while burning through your body and dissolving it, surfaces outside. If you don't discharge it, it will ruin everything eventually."
"It's not the time for that now. Revenge is not the priority."
"Don't fuck around! Unlike me, you have your enemy right up close you know?! What else is there to do other than ditch everything else and go slaughter her! No matter how you smooth it over and try to guise yourself as calm, it's clear that you're not fine with it on the inside!"
Kyouya lost himself in anger and shouted. From his perspective Ouka's situation was something to be envious of. His enemy, Haunted, was not here. He was unconvinced by Ouka's decision.
Ouka understood that very well. And even though she understood that, she still shook her head.
"I'm different from you, Kirigaya."
"How can I be wrong...! No matter how strong you are, that's how it should be!"
"That's not it. I'm not saying you're wrong, I said that I'm different from you."
Kyouya frowned, unable to understand what she meant.
"Because the one you want to save, is still alive.
His hair stood up, and he grit his teeth soundly.
"Yoshimizu is still alive. You should fight not for revenge, but in order to save her."
"...that's Akira's clone! The real one is already dead! Even if her body and memory is the same, her soul is not! She's a different person!"
Waving his arms, Kyouya denied Ouka's words.
Ouka was unfazed and quietly exploited the contradiction in his actions.
"Then why are you imparting the Relic Eaters healing ability to Yoshimizu's imitation?"
"! It has nothing to do with you...!"
"Rather than revenge, shouldn't you give Yoshimizu a priority? Isn't saving her your highest priority goal?"
Kyouya made an increasingly steep expression and shook his fist.
"There's definitely a way to save Yoshimizu. If you wish for that, I'll help you."
"Right now, you are a member of the 35th Test Platoon in a way."
"——Don't look down on me!"
He shouted, took the light machine gun from the ground and put it on his shoulder.
"I'll pass on involving myself with that silly platoon play of yours...! Do your best not to die miserably on the battlefield you damn softies, shit...!"
Turning his back towards them, Kyouya left.
Ouka stared at his back, then soon after spat out a sigh.
"...Ootori, is that really okay with you?"
Anxiously, Usagi asked Ouka. Who strongly nodded in response.
"Of course. For me, you are more important than revenge. I have contracted with Vlad for the sake of my comrades and not for revenge."
However, she added while placing her hand on her chin.
"...making Kirigaya our ally might be difficult."
"You're saying strange things. Why would you try to make an ally out of that guy, it seems like there's a reason for that."
When Ikaruga said that, Ouka folded her arms in front of her chest.
"I also think so. I don't want a man with such a violent personality as our ally. Nevertheless, I can understand the feeling of wanting to save Yoshimizu. I absolutely can't forgive him for trying to kill Kiseki... but the one to decide his punishment is Kusanagi."
Seeing Ouka act calmly, Ikaruga smiled wryly.
"By the way Ootori, what do you think Kusanagi would do about him?"
Asked that, Ouka went "Hmm." while looking up at the sky.
"Probably... beat the crap out of him until he's two thirds of the way from dying?"
"...two thirds, ain't that being practically dead."
As Ikaruga retorted, Ouka laughed cheerfully.
"But surely, he wouldn't kill him. That's how Kusanagi is. Soft-hearted, pretending to be tough, thinks of his comrades more than anyone else and a huge fool who places himself on the second place. If he killed Kirigaya, Yoshimizu would suffer... saying things like that he would forgive Kirigaya."
Nostalgically looking up at the sky, Ouka laughed.
They haven't been separated for that long yet, but the thoughts of Takeru felt really nostalgic to her. It must be the same for everyone else, Ouka thought.
Without him, everyone was feeling lonely.
For the members he is a comrade, captain and a benefactor. And for me he is...
After she thought up to that point, she felt pain her chest.
That pain, was loneliness.
Ouka realized that she was more lonely than she thought and faintly blushed.
Ikaruga laughed in a slightly mean manner.
"...so the one making the best expression of a maiden in love, was in fact Ootori."
"?! W-what are you saying all of a sudden?!"
When Ouka got up while raising a weird voice, Usagi squinted and looked towards her.
"...that's the face of an enemy."
"Saionji too?! F-for the most part, unlike you I don't feel anything for Kusanagii."
" "Yes yes." "
"〜〜〜〜!! What's up with you twoo!"
The two looked at Ouka with amazed expressions.
Late night has come upon the battlefield. On this day, trembling because of fear, fatigue and cold, just the tent of Small Fry Platoon acted noisily as if they were on a school trip and gave the Spriggans an increasingly bad impression.
After moving away from the 35th platoon's tent, Kyouya walked down an alley in the dim Grey City alone.
While facing down, he was mumbling to himself.
"I know that... even if you don't tell me that, I know that best myself."
What Ouka told him wouldn't leave his head.
The priority should be saving Yoshimizu. Kyouya knew that for a long time now.
Her body was weak, and there was a limit to how long he could prolong the clone's short life. The clones subjected to rapid growth were much more vulnerable. They were unable to live a normal life even using the modern technology of Inquisition.
Until a method to save her is found, there was no choice but to borrow Nero's power.
"...there's no other way..."
Kyouya made a pained expression and took out a photo from his bosom.
It was a group photo taken together with the members of 15th test platoon.
There was him sitting in the middle like a delinquent and the four of his other members running towards him, with a fatigued expression Kyouya put the assault rifle on his shoulder.
And, making a peace sign while hugging onto his arm was Akira.
In order not to forget his revenge, Kyouya always looked at this photo.
He recalled those fun days, and the day he lost it all. He recalled the nemesis who took everything away. By doing that, he was able to rekindle his hatred.
But, this time it didn't go well. Ouka's words crossed his mind, and while looking at Akira's appearance on the photo, his revenge vanished and only frustration remained. It wasn't time for revenge. He had to find a method to save her until it's too late.
Even if she was a clone——she was still alive.
"——That's no good Captaainn. Unless you take revenge properly, I won't forgive you."
Kyouya looked up promptly.
Ahead in the dark alley stood a shadow wearing a green dress. He wasn't familiar with the clothing, but the shadow's face was.
"...just joooking. Since Master's heart is shaking, I thought of reminding you ♪."
Even though her face was the same as Akira's, the expression wasn't even similar.
She wasn't Yoshimizu Akira, but the Relic Eater "Nero".
"...can't you understand when I tell you to stop using that appearance...! What's your intention to imitate someone's childhood friend!"
And she whispered into his ear with a self-important voice.
"——What's your intention, is my line, Master."
"Why do you think of saving a copy instead of having your revenge? Nero has told you right? She's won't cooperate unless you embrace your heart that's full of revenge, has she not?"
Intimidation bled out of Nero's words, making Kyouya downcast his face.
Seeing him conflicted, she licked him lightly with her tongue.
"I know already〜, no matter how Master acts, you really don't want to kill witches other than target of your revenge. You are too kind, so you won't fight unless Nero fuels you properly right? If I don't do that you won't hate, is that not so?"
"But, it will be troubling unless you turn this heart of yours into one that seeks revenge indiscriminately you know? Just like Vlad wants blood, I want revenge. Nero doesn't want a Master who can't make it stand up unless he's doped, okay?"
"Even more so if you want to prolong the copy's life. If Master's desire for revenge disappears, so Nero's healing ability... okay? KYAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"Stop... using Akira's voice!"
Instead of blocking his ears, he swung the light machine gun at Nero. However, the machine gun cut through the air, and thrown into an empty space. Nero's appearance was no longer there.
《"If you understand that, then shape up, Master〜. For sake of your beloved copy too〜."》
《"Even so, I really really love Master? But it can't be helped, that's how Nero was made. Make sure to remember that ♪."》
"Fuck off! You shitty gun!"
When he shouted, Nero's laughter finally disappeared from his head.
Kyouya picked up the photograph that fell down to the ground while his shoulders went up and down wildly, and after looking at each member's face he immediately put it into his bosom pocket.
Then, he faced down bitterly and started walking with hands in his pockets.
In his appearance there were no remnants of the time when he walked proudly together with his comrades.
His back was bent, and his figure walking alone through a dark alley looked incredibly lonely.