Mari, Kanaria and Usagi continued to defend the fifth laboratory's entrance by smoothly repelling the enemy, but because enemy forces were dispersed they couldn't find time to rest.
"Geez, there's no end to it! Is there any contact from Takeru?!"
《"For a while now magical communication stopped going through. It's probably because laboratory is made with anti-magic material."》
《"There is no contact with Ootori either..."》
"Aw come on! There's too many of them no matter how you look at it...!"
As Mari spat out curses while firing 《Aurora Barrage》, Kanaria agreed with her.
《"I've heard that that EXE's captain is fighting. He should be taking them down with crazy momentum. This number of Einherjars looks more like a regiment. The enemy shouldn't have this many mass-produced Magical Dragoons."》
Mari protested and clicked her tongue, and then concentrated on the battle.
She expanded an auroral halo and took off into the sky, it was when she tried to wipe out a group of enemies on the ground.
Suddenly, something like a laser has poured down on the Einherjars from far away.
《"?! Mari?! Hey, I've was caught up with that!"》
Kanaria's surprised voice reached Mari through the wireless.
"Y-you're wrong. That wasn't me."
When she shook her head denying, Kanaria suddenly caught a breath.
《"——!! Usagi! Mari! Come here and hide!"》
As she was told to, Mari slipped into the shade of rubble where Kanaria was hiding.
After a slight delay, Usagi also came.
"What is it...?"
"What happened? Aren't we protecting the entrance?"
When the two asked her, Kanaria looked up through a gap in the rubble towards the sky, annoyed.
"There's a nasty feeling... Lævateinn is crying..."
While moving her ears, Kanaria said so uncomfortably.When Mari focused and started to feel the waves of magical power, she felt something fly towards them from far away.
"! ...what...is this magical power...disgusting..."
Feeling the wave of magic Mari held her mouth to stop her urge to vomit.
At the same time there was a sound of something flying in the sky.
When Kanaria and Mari looked up to the sky squinting, the saw many humanoid figures of the same type. They weren't Dragoons, they were humans.
Their number increased with every moment.
At the same time, sounds of combat came from all over the battlefield.
Usagi looked through the gun's scope at the figures.
"...are those... Relic Eaters?"
They were humans clad in iron-colored armors. Their appearance was the same as Takeru's and Ouka's, as well as Kyouya's and the others Witch Hunt form. She thought that they might be EXE personnel, but that wasn't the case. Because the amount of people flying in the sky clad in the same body armor was several dozens, and the guns they used to slaughter the Einherjars and Mechanical Dragons was different from Relic Eaters regular EXE members had.
When she squinted, she saw 《The Malleus Maleficarum Production Model “Guillotine”》 engraved on the gun's surface.
"...mass-produced Relic Eaters. I've heard a rumor that Inquisition is making those. Valhalla also investigated it but... they completed it huh."
Kanaria said meekly.
"Mass-produced you say but... can such a thing be done?"
"There's no way it can with any decent methods, you can tell by looking at Mari."
Just as Kanaria said, Mari placed a hand on her head with a pale face.
"What's this... the sound of magical power feels like a screams of many people... this... I never felt anything like it."
"Surely, it was Alchemist that made it. So it was true that they joined Inquisition after all."
Kanaria clenched her teeth in annoyance.
Some of the Inquisitors clad in mass-produced type were hovering in the air near Mari and others.
Hearing faint voices, Kanaria set up her ears.
"...did you find them?"
"No. However, the 35th Test Platoon seemed to have headed here. They should be in this area. Find them."
"The one to be arrested with top priority is Kusanagi Takeru right? What about the others from platoon?"
"There are orders to capture Suginami Ikaruga and Nikaido Mari as well. They don't seem to care about the others."
"...damn, why is my first job after entering EXE capturing rebels. Even though after all this time I finally sortied with a Relic Eater..."
"Don't complain. Do your job."
After finishing the conversation, Inquisitors flew away scattering around.
"We're joining up with Takeru——these guys are out here to catch us. We need to hurry and run away."
Realizing the situation is more urgent than they thought, Usagi and Mari were embraced by anxiety.
Ouka stood on the testing grounds after everything was over.
Ikaruga was safe and the barrier generator was neutralized by Takeru's 《Ragnarøkkr Enchant》.
There was nothing left in here. Her revenge was over.
Yes, Ouka's revenge was over.
In the end, Ouka didn't kill Laugh maker and chose to let her live.
Laugh Maker was shot in her leg and was struggling like a caterpillar on the floor.
Ouka coldly looked down at her figure.
"...whyy...? Why... didn't you kill mee..."
"I don't want this any more. I shouldn't exist in this world... why...! Give it a rest and end this already... how long do I have to harbor these kinds of thoughts?"
Her face wet with tears and blood was incredibly pathetic.
The reason she didn't commit suicide until now was probably because she understood that would be running away. As an evil, she should be finished by a victim. She thought that if she's judged by a human who has a right to do so, her sins would disappear.
But Ouka wouldn't allow that kind of idea. If suicide was running away, then seeking judgment by hands of others was also running away. Above all, there were victims she killed in order to become hated.
In the end, in order to atone this woman involved and killed others.
That definitely wasn't a normal human's way of thinking.
There wasn't any smile on Laugh Maker's face any longer, she stared at the ceiling with despair.
And unexpectedly, she stuck out her tongue between her teeth.
Ouka opened her eyes widely seeing the movement she expected and put her fingers in Laugh Maker's mouth.
When she stopped her suicide, Laugh Maker shed tears. Ouka's expression didn't move despite feeling pain as her fingers were bitten and looked down at Laugh Maker.
Then, she loudly spoke to Vlad.
"Vlad, I have a request."
"Once again... just for a moment, I want you to turn me into Vampire form."
Hearing Ouka's request, Vlad went silent for a moment.
Vlad realized what Ouka was thinking to do.
《"Is that fine. If you do that, dirty blood will enter your body."》
"...it's okay. I should be able to bear this much. They say that curses always come back to their roots after all."
《"...hmph, laughable. Don't say what you don't really think."》
Caught off guard by Vlad's accurate guess, Ouka smiled wryly.
《"Revenge is something unsightly... however, I think that kind of fate is fitting for this woman."》
Very well, saying just that Vlad turned Ouka's body into Vampire form.
Spreading crimson wings, she covered Laugh Maker's body.
The only thing that entered Laugh Maker's field of view were wings of crimson shade and Ouka's blue eyes.
While Laugh Maker trembled in fear, feeling like screaming, Ouka opened her mouth wide. Among the beautifully lined up teeth, there were exceptionally sharp fangs.
Ouka——pressed those fangs against Laugh Maker's neck and sank into it.
While a small groan arose, Ouka sucked her blood. The moment blood entered her body, both Laugh Maker's and Mimulus' memories mingled inside of her head.
It were incredibly painful memories. The heartbreaking pain and sadness was in them.
But Ouka satisfied herself with that pain.
Even as she tasted the same memories, Ouka's soul wasn't hurt.
Ouka wasn't as weak as Laugh Maker was. There was a difference in quality, but she had already tasted this much pain.
She wove magic into the process of sucking blood, making up a contract.
Only usable by vampires, a contract between master and the slave.
Those who have their blood sucked by a vampire, become vampires as well. That was the legend everyone knew. True Ancestors and the Apostles. An abominable contract building master and slave relationship. Vampires were called kings of fantastical organisms because of this power to reproduce.
This contract had more binding force than 《End Order》.
When Ouka raised her fangs again, Laugh Maker writhed in pain as her body was being remade into that of a vampire. Once again, Ouka stared down at Laugh Maker's suffering.
"...you have now become my servant. You can no longer go against me nor choose the way you live or die. You will be bound by a pledge of not being able to take any life in this world. Of course, including your own."
"At the same time, if you ever try to forget your crimes, every time your memory will be relived in the same way you made me remember my hatred. You can no longer escape from sin."
Basking in despair is what would perfectly describe the current Laugh Maker.
As if she was sinking into darkness, her expressions stiffened and convulsions ran through her cheek.
Ouka coldly watched her despair and quietly turned around after a moment.
She released the Vampire form and making sound footsteps she headed to the testing ground's exit.
"Live forever... this is my revenge against you."
"I'll be always watching you——Mimulus Wallenstein."
Ouka no longer called her "Laugh Maker".
All that was left was a wreck. A pathetic sinner that has no choice but to live crushed by her sin. Laugh Maker has died. She no longer exists.
Giving her eternal suffering has fulfilled Ouka's revenge.
Stretching her back, Ouka walked in silence with a strong pace.
Behind her, there was Mimulus screaming and wailing. Crying like a child she begged them to kill her. She apologized to the people she has killed so far and yelled apologies to Ouka, also... she begged her deceased adoptive father for help.
Ouka clasped her fist, clenched her teeth and shook off that voice from her head.
She walked facing forward. She walked desperately facing downwards. It was just as Takeru said, whether she kills her or not, choosing either is hard, painful.
Nevertheless, she had to make a choice. No matter how pathetic the opponent was, she couldn't be forgiven. She wouldn't be satisfied with an ending where she doesn't have her revenge.
That is why she received this pain and heartbreaking cries——
——And shouldering it all, Ouka moved forward.
After letting Ikaruga down on the floor by the entrance to the testing grounds, Takeru waited for Ouka to come.
In the end, Ouka didn't kill her enemy and after firing her gun she asked Takeru to leave her alone with Laugh Maker. Takeru offered to stay with her, but Ouka shook her head rejecting it.
What I'm going to do now is hideous, she said.
『"This is the last time... I shoulder something alone.』
As Ouka gently laughed, Takeru couldn't insist any more strongly than he had already.
Feeling noise in his chest, he waited for Ouka restlessly.
The doors of the testing grounds opened a few minutes after that. Takeru raised his face and rushed to Ouka.
Holding her head down, she nodded.
Takeru placed a hand on her shoulder and sighed.
"...it's over right, with this..."
That's great, is what he couldn't say. He was familiar with emptiness of revenge.
While Takeru hesitated not knowing what to say to her, suddenly Ouka laughed quietly.
"Fufu... "Ouka" "Ouka", I've told you to call me by my name right?"
"...Sorry. Somehow, I've rode on the flow and called you that."
"No, Ouka is fine. I would be happy if you called me so from now on."
Ouka let out a breath and corrected her posture by putting a hand on her hip.
"Now then, Saionji was supposed to protect the entrance. We need to pick her up."
She said so clearly and passed by Takeru.
"Kusanagi, can you carry Suginami? You're stronger than I am, and above all Suginami would be happy if she was carried by you."
Raising her index finger she spoke to Takeru with her back faced to him. Her voice was cheerful.
"Oh right, is Nikaido Mari safe? No, I want to confirm whether that impudent woman is alive, while she definitely is invariably vulgar, I still would like to know if she's alive."
Turning talkative, she spoke to Takeru.
Takeru downcast his eyes sadly and moved closer to Ouka.
"Ah, both Saionji and Suginami did well on this side. In fact, when you left AntiMagic Academy, I was made temporary captain. Being a captain was... very difficult. Although there were Inquisitors here, people didn't have experience and struggled a lot. I can tell now how hard it is on you——"
"——Enough. I know that already."
Suddenly, Takeru pulled Ouka's hand and pulled her to his chest. Powerlessly Ouka entrusted her weight to Takeru and remained still in his embrace.
"What an idiot... just now you said we'll do everything together forever."
"Don't act tough at times like this... you might say you want to be alone, but I also wanted to be with you. I came here in order to shoulder everything."
"That's why, please don't try to endure it."
Forcefully embraced, Ouka raised her face.
She cried. With tear-filled eyes, she cried like a lost child.
Seeing Ouka more feeble than he ever saw her, Takeru's heart tightened.
She took off the armor of revenge, what he saw now was the real Ouka.
"——......I don't...feel refreshed at all...even having my revenge... didn't give me any sense of accomplishment..."
With sobs mingled in, Ouka spoke what how she felt.
"I've always dreamed of it...then why is it so empty? Why does my chest feel so empty? I've always did my best...a-and I was able to properly finish it...why is it...?"
Even though his face was dyed with sorrow, Takeru continued to hug Ouka.
"Why is it...so painful...Takeru...!"
Takeru didn't deny revenge. He didn't think it's pointless. However, it was a fact that emptiness remained afterwards.
"You see, Ouka... even if you shot your enemy, you wouldn't be able to see your parents and little sister. Even if you dispel your family's chagrin, you have to continue living on."
Taking revenge wouldn't revive the dead.
But, he couldn't say revenge was meaningless. Fulfilling one's revenge and starting from blank state, one could walk forward not bothered by hatred.
"Don't worry. I'm with you. Even if you say you don't want me to, I'll walk beside you. That's what I promised you."
"All of us comrades are together. You might not have your family no longer, but you have us."
"I——won't let your revenge end with just emptiness."
A dam inside of Ouka collapsed.
The tears she shed up until now, were tears she scolded herself with.
But now, there was no need to endure. With the dam no longer there, Ouka wept.
She raised her voice, dyed her heart with sorrow and without restraint she sank her face in Takeru's chest.
Takeru embraced her earnestly.
Ouka looked up at him with eyes full of tears and spoke with a warm tone of voice,
"Takeru... I'm really glad that you're beside me..."
Leaving behind words that made Takeru sincerely happy, Ouka fell asleep on spot out of exhaustion.
When Mari called him, Takeru moved his gaze to the other side of the corridor.
In the end, not moving at all from the posture he was in, he stood there waiting for Mari and the others to come.
Pulled by Kanaria and Usagi, Mari came over from the dark hallway.
Although Mari and Usagi had smiles on their faces at first, as they moved closer they started staring wide-eyed.
" "............" "
"O-oh. Great, you came inside... the magic communication wasn't reaching outside so I was in a bind. Any injuries? Are you okay?"
" "..................what is this." "
Mari and Usagi pointed at Takeru's arms.
In embraced in Takeru's arms as he smiled wryly, Ouka snuggled up to him like a cat. She was sleeping loudly while burying her face in his chest.
"No, this is... um... when the fight was over and I came she fell asleep... or... something?"
As he articulated that poorly, Mari and Usagi clicked their tongues in unison.
Only Kanaria stood there with a stern expression.
"R-rather than that, we need to hurry up and escape, right? We need to go through an underpass until we reach the place we meet with Student Council President. Mari, can you guide us? Usagi, be cautious of enemies."
"...I don't mind, but you better remember this when we get back."
"Agreed. I shall firmly pursue this matter afterwards so prepare yourself."
The two's gaze and voices were serious. For the first time in a while he felt stomach pain.
While smiling wryly, Takeru looked at Kanaria who was standing with a grim expression. Kanaria was glaring at Ikaruga who fainted by the corridor's end.
What was swirling in her eyes was probably hatred. Without a doubt, she hated Ikaruga who escaped alone from Alchemist, leaving Isuka and her behind.
However, Takeru believed that hatred wasn't the only thing inside of her heart.
"...Kanaria, can you carry Ikaruga?"
When he said so, Kanaria looked towards him in annoyance.
"For Kana to carry this woman...? Takeru, are you crazy?"
After he responded with a straight face, Kanaria looked sideways, frowning.
"You can hear everything from her after we safely escape from here. Right now, the top priority is escaping. There is no one else who can carry her other than you."
Being told the truth directly, Kanaria's eyes shook faintly.
Takeru called her name once again, she frowned and closed her eyes.
She spaced out for a few moments and then shook her hair with a hand.
"I get it... I just need to do it, right."
Kanaria said with a self-important tone of voice and carried Ikaruga on her shoulders. As expected of an elf, she lightly lifted the considerably tall Ikaruga.
Relieved, Takeru spoke to everyone of the future plans.
"All right... let's go. First we need to ensure out safety. And then——"
When he was about to give orders to all members.
"Don't move——Kusanagi Takeru."
A heavy fear-inducing voice sounded, calling Takeru's name.
Trembling in fear along with the other members, he turned towards the source.
From the darkness on the other side came out a man with a revolver.
It was Kurogane Hayato. As if to prevent platoon from leaving, he moved closer to them.
"Where do you think you're going. You're wanted now. You're accused of jailbreak and assisting a fugitive. Also, of treason against Inquisition."
His voice and his speech made it seem as if he embodied the law.
Unpleasant sweat ran down Takeru's cheek.
"...I admit I broke out of jail and assisted a fugitive. But I don't intend to rebel yet."
"I know. These charges are just sophistry. It's meaningless garbage."
Hearing surprising words, Takeru frowned.
"Then why... are you standing in front of us."
"Because your existence is too dangerous for enemy or dissidents to get their hands on."
"That's why you'll capture me? As an Inquisitor, you will deliver me to Inquisition?"
"Wrong. As an Inquisitor, I'm going to protect your existence."
Being told he'll be protected, Takeru felt more and more surprised.
"I'll say frankly. Discard Mistilteinn. Even if you're bound by a bond with that sword, on top of there being people who want to use that fact, it's dangerous by itself. As an Inquisitor, I request you to disarm yourself."
What Hayato said was correct. But Takeru answered clearly.
"I refuse. I have no intention of discarding Lapis, and I have no intention of being used by anyone."
"I'll act accordingly to my own thinking. That is all."
When he stated that seriously, Hayato quietly closed his eyes.
"...I see. Then I'll stop you forcefully."
During the moment everyone was horrified, Hayato assumed Witch Hunter form.
Takeru hurriedly put Ouka down on the ground and holding his sword he immediately assumed Witch Hunt form as well.
Both of them glared at each other, intending to start a fierce battle once again.
That's when they suddenly heard the testing ground's doors open.
When everyone's gaze shifted there, they could see a total of 20 Spriggans.
Almost all of them were injured and they looked exhausted.
When Hayato asked, the man bandaged up to the top of his head saluted.
"All of us belong to fifth line of defence's seventh company... captain Kurogane."
Twenty Spriggans passed in droves beside Takeru and others, and stood between 35th platoon and Hayato.
As if to protect the platoon members, the Spriggans confronted Hayato.
"What are you doing."
"Please let these children go. We were saved by these children."
When the man in front said that, others called to Hayato one after another.
"They're comrades that fought together with us on this battlefield." "They saved our lives many times." "We ate meals from the same pot. Please overlook them." "Please capture me instead." "I won't forsake my comrades."
Everyone's voice felt compelling.
Usagi stared at everyone's backs with tears in her eyes.
Takeru was surprised that Usagi and the others made so many allies on this battlefield, and was proud of them. Unlike during their school life where they were ridiculed as Small Fry Platoon, on the battlefield people made bonds of blood.
In front of the Spriggans who lowered their heads earnestly, Hayato didn't even flinch.
After about a dozen seconds, Hayato finally breathed out.
And closing his eyes once, he quietly lowered his muzzle.
Honestly speaking, Takeru was surprised to see that aspect of him. Ouka said before that Hayato was someone who did take his subordinates feelings in consideration, but despite that he never allowed it to change his decision.
In the flurry of words of gratitude, Hayato opened his eyes again and glared at Takeru.
"Remember this, Kusanagi Takeru. Leaving Inquisition means turning the world into your enemy. It might be that I too will fight you. Despite that, are you going to join the dissidents?"
"...I don't know yet. But I won't listen to Inquisition no longer. I want to save my little sister, and don't want my comrades to be used by Chairman any more."
"Whether I win or not is not the problem. For those important to me, I will fight even the entire world."
Stating his resolution, Takeru embraced Ouka against his chest again.
Seeing that appearance of his, Hayato's expression seemed a little bit nostalgic.
It might have been Takeru's imagination. Hayato who didn't show any emotions never looked this human before. It was as if he saw his former self... it said 'I wish I was similar to him'.
Hayato turned around on his heel quietly,
"——Go. This is the last time I protect you all."
Saying so, he left Takeru and the others.
Takeru lowered his head deeply in Hayato's direction.
After saying their thanks and farewells to the Spriggans, Takeru and the others hurried to the underpass.
They didn't know what was waiting ahead of them.
What was the actual condition of the dissidents. What will be the fate of war between Valhalla and Inquisition. And what was going on with Kiseki right now.
Their destination was filled with darkness.
"Let's go everyone! ——Run!"
Takeru no longer hesitated. He decided to resist along with his comrades.
Even if what waited for them ahead, was a tragedy.
In the corridor of Alchemist's first laboratory Ootori Sougetsu walked with an unusually strong pace.
What could be felt from his fierce footsteps wasn't irritation, but joy.
Chasing him right beside, breathing roughly was Suginami Suzaku.
Looking at her sideways, Sougetsu grinned.
"See, he came back right? I win the bet again."
Seeing Sougetsu boast, Suzaku seriously chagrined and stomped her feet like a child.
"Kiii! It's unfair! Last time too no matter which one I chose it would be chairman's win right? Also, even though Kusanagi Takeru came back, in the end he escaped hasn't he."
"Ha ha ha, that's fine. Whether he is my ally or enemy, as long as he comes back he will definitely come back to me. After all I have his beloved little sister."
Seeing Sougetsu laugh cheerfully Suzaku pouted.
"This battle too, went accordingly to your speculations... that's not interesting. Can you see the future?"
Sougetsu smiled meaningfully and hummed a song waving his finger like a baton.
"I've received the report about Laugh Maker's case. Surely, that was beyond your expectations? Actually, I'd rather if Ouka-san killed her instead."
"Nn?! It's fine. That thing can't do anything now even if we leave it alone. Elizabeth surely sent her to the battlefield in order to harass me, there is no need for that bastard madman to speak of the truth. Those who speak of the truth all die like Red Glare has."
Looking at Sougetsu from the profile as he lightly moved his fingers, Suzaku made an amazed expression.
"You're a scary person. Your adoptive daughter... if she knew that you were the perpetrator who allowed Laugh Maker's escape and made her massacre your daughter's family, what kind of expression would she make I wonder."
Sougetsu half-opened his eyes and his mouth distorted making up a crescent shape.
Accepting that smile as an answer, Suzaku shrugged and raised her hands.
Sougetsu walked forward. Step by step without hurrying, he took firm steps as if to destroy the ground.
The fingertip he waved like a baton drew lines, and finally, he swung it vertically as if cutting something.
With his eyes craving for chaos, he stood in front of huge doors.
On the other side of the door was the level 8 lab.
The subject researched inside of it——was Hyakki Yakou.
The heavy doors opened automatically.
Seeing the sight on the other side, Sougetsu smiled like a Cheshire cat.
"——From here on it's the real thing."