Chapter 5 - Alchemist, Assault

 

***

 

Yoshimizu Akira was a copy.

Real Akira was already dead, Akira who has survived was a different person who had her memories and personality.

No, she could be called a fake.

That meant, even if her DNA and memories were the same, her soul was different from the original's.

Unlike a homunculus that doesn't have a soul dwelling in it, a clone is a new life form that's born from an embryo and is recognized in the world as new life. In other words, a new soul dwelling inside of it is natural.

If original and clone both die, they turn into two souls and have pass on to a parallel world called 'Spirit World'. While it's unknown what kind of place is the Spirit World, spirits that are summoned from it using spiritualism only show mechanical reactions.

And even though it's possible to obtain information concerning the world of living from those spirits, apparently it's impossible to obtain any on the afterlife.

"If you were to die... I wonder if you're going to meet the real Akira in the afterlife?"

Kyouya muttered absent-mindedly while staring at Akira's copy.

This was the Alchemist's First Research Facility's L6 - XXX lab in which Kusanagi Kiseki was kept in. Kyouya and Akira were in a part that acted as a warehouse storing various homunculi. In order to use them as soldiers after transplanting Hyakki Yakou's cells into them, they were placed in here.

Akira was sleeping inside of a pod for homunculi that was filled with liquid.

"How does it feel to be a copy...? It must be hard, right. From now on, you're going to have to live shouldering doubts on whether you are real or not. Just see what happened, must be because you used to hit my head the entire time."

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

"...but, you can be at ease. Even if you're a copy, I'm going to treat you as usual. Crudely as usual, as irresponsibly as usual. Prepare yourself..."

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

"Well... if you hurry up and open your eyes, I won't mind acting gentle?"

She didn't answer. The only thing that answered him was the sound of the respirator providing her with oxygen.

"............I said this crude me is going to act gently here... say something... dumbass."

Akira had artificial respiration performed through her mouth and countless of tubes inserted into her body, every time he saw her he felt tightening in his chest.

Is there any point remaining alive like that, he asked himself every day.

As she remained asleep, whenever he looked into Akira's face Kyouya felt pain.

Maybe it would be better to cut off this life-supporting equipment and choose an easier path.

But, every time Akira's smile revived in his mind. That smile supporting his half-assed talent acted like a curse, not allowing him to give up.

Kyouya knew his own weakness. He learned that he can't fight all alone during his days with comrades. They continued to quarrel endlessly and there was nothing special about them, but to him, they were irreplaceable comrades.

And Akira, was an irreplaceable childhood friend.

A normal human one could find anywhere.

That was why 15th test platoon was Kyouya's important place.

"...don't leave me alone... I... only have you now."

He squeezed his fist on top of his knee and withstood the urge to shiver from loneliness.

"Hey, wake up... just like usual, smile in my direction..."

Feeling tears flow from his eyes, Kyouya strongly clenched his teeth.

"I don't care if you're a copy or not... I need you by my side."

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

"I can't continue being captain all alone... I'm tired..."

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

"Hey... Akira..."

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

"Say something...!"

Kyouya curled up and quietly shed tears. What he was holding in so far reached the limit and burst, tears overflowed endlessly.

Setting his heart completely on hatred and revenge was something more painful than an ordinary human can imagine. For countless distorted reasons he continued to take revenge on Inquisition's enemies, but even Kyouya's conscience acted up. The reason he had revenge in his mind was in order to feed Nero so that Akira could survive. Akira no longer was able to survive on Nero's life prolongation and was in a state where she had to receive help from Alchemist.

He could feel that there wasn't much time left. Alchemist could not be trusted. Forgetting about Akira, Suzaku was crazy about studying Hyakki Yakou. Akira was packed in the vault for homunculi and just left in this state.

What should he do? What does he need to do? What is it that he can do?

Kyouya shook his head as the words 'dead end' filled it. He's taking part in defending this place in order to have Akira cured by Suzaku. If it turns to worst, he can only to force the treatment via intimidation.

He stood up, the moment he was about to take action the automatic doors behind opened soundly.

Someone has come. Thinking it's a Suginami researcher, he turned around.

——There, stood a pre-adjusted homunculi body.

"............aah?"

Puzzled he furrowed his eyebrows and glared at the homunculus that has appeared.

Even if the homunculus before adjustment had a shape of a human, it didn't wasn't a living organism but a mere meat and bones. By putting the homunculus in adjustment pod, the preferred DNA was inserted and it could function like a human.

Of course, homunculus had no soul and a mere doll following orders.

A doll without hair, eyes, nose, or even genitals has moved in front of Kyouya.

Was this Suzaku's handiwork? Or maybe she was sent by another researcher for homunculus adjustment...

Although he considered various possibilities, what he concluded was that a homunculus before adjustment and without brain is unthinkable to walk around.

"!! Summis desiderantes affectibus——"

Kyouya raised his hand towards homunculus in a hurry and expanded a magical circle under his feet.

At the same time in the homunculus' empty face appeared eyes and a mouth full of teeth.

The pale skin was dyed red as if smeared by blood.

There was no doubt, this homunculus had Hyakki Yakou's cells embedded in it.

"GUHGIGHGHH——GYAaAAaAAAAAAaAAA!"

Crying out like a newborn child, the homunculus leaped.

The possibilities were Suzaku's betrayal, researcher's mistake or——Kusanagi Kiseki going out of control.

While being careful about Akira behind him, Kyouya's mind was filled with murderous intent.

In any case, there was one thing to do.

"——Malleus Maleficarum!"

At the same time as he spoke the Witch Hunter form's words of power, Kyouya squeezed Nero's trigger.

 

***

 

Four hours before the operation.

Takeru and the others adjusted their equipment and gathered in the school yard. Joining other teams and Kanata, they gathered a force numbering 20.

"Since diversion troop is already lurking in the facility's vicinity, we're going to start the operation immediately after arriving on the other side. It will take four hours before we arrive on the other side through transfer magic. For a moment, your consciousness might feel ambiguous as a side effect from the transfer's side effects, but there's no time so you'll have to immediately start running〜."

In her usual laid-back tone, Nagaru spoke to the ones carrying out the operation.

Takeru looked at Nagaru who carried a huge radio like a randosel and thought 'it can't be'.

"...can it be that President comes as well?"

"Yup〜, I'll stay by Kanata-san's side and act as the commander through the radio, keep the radio's switch on, kai〜."

Saluting happily, Nagaru made a fuss.

Seeing her unchanging even at a time like this, Yuzuho and the seventh squad thought she lacked sense of urgency, but Takeru was thankful to her for acting like that.

After finally getting accustomed to the thought of having an opportunity to achieve their earnest wishes, they were very tense. He was thankful for her acting relaxed.

"Kusanagi-kun, did you take the item needed to save Kiseki-chan?"

"Yes. Of course."

Takeru once again confirmed that in his backpack there was homunculi fetus and the Possession's instant charm.

What he should do was to rescue captured Kiseki and use 《Install》 charm on Kiseki and the homunculi fetus.

The homunculi fetus was set to rapidly grow on spot to the set age after 《Install》 completes insertion of Kiseki's soul in it.

Kiseki's body that had received the curse of Hyakki Yakou will turn into a husk after losing a soul, she will be released from pain of many years and despair. What's waiting for her ahead was a life of a homunculus, homunculi required a periodic adjustment but physically were almost identical to human beings.

If Inquisition was to cease operating, she would be able to live her life like an ordinary human.

Takeru put the homunculi fetus in the container and wrapped both hands around it as if it was dear to him.

...this time... I will definitely save you...

He prayed as if to reach Kiseki. Her sins, fate, he decided to shoulder it all. Even if the world doesn't forgive it, Takeru will save her. Laughing normally, crying, getting angry, making friends, finding a lover, getting married... he wanted to give Kiseki a normal life like that.

That was Takeru's happiness as well. It's not something he imposes upon someone else.

It's something he decided by himself.

"............Takeru."

Suddenly, someone put a hand on his shoulder.

When he raised his face, he saw Kanaria who had a very meek expression.

"..................before the operation starts, there's something I need to tell you."

As if realizing something, Takeru took Kanaria and moved away from everyone.

"What is it?"

Turned with his back towards Kanaria, he asked.

Hesitantly Kanaria squeezed her fist and faced downwards.

"...Kana, won't help to save Kiseki."

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

"Kana has her own things to do. That's what I came here for in the first place."

"I don't really mind it even if you won't. It's true that I really want your strength, but I won't force you. But, didn't you come here in order to speak with Ikaruga?"

Even though Kanaria raised her face, Takeru was still turned with his back towards her.

"...! I already spoke with her. It was in vain. I don't care about what she's thinking any more. As I thought, it doesn't concern Kana. That's why——"

"Do as you please."

Takeru said that along with a sigh.

"I won't deny you revenge. I also have something similar, even now I don't feel like living on lukewarm feelings."

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

"But, let me give you an advice as the senior pupil."

"...what is it."

"While you exact your revenge, look behind you sometimes. Before you think there's nothing else for you, confirm that there isn't someone snuggling up and living together with you."

"Kana has no one like that...!"

Angrily raising her shoulders, Kana spat that out. Takeru thought it was useless to say anything else to her.

If talking with Ikaruga was in vain, she wouldn't listen to Takeru either.

"...if you think so, that's fine. I won't restrain you."

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

"But, if there's someone who tries to, I won't stop them either."

Takeru turned around and passed by Kanaria's side in silence.

He left her the words of advice as senior pupil. If she didn't understand it after speaking with Ikaruga and hearing it from him, he had his own ideas. Between Kanaria's feelings and Ikaruga's feelings, if he were to prioritize one it would be Ikaruga's.

After returning back to where everyone was, he winked to Nagaru. Smiling wryly, she returned the wink. Pulling himself together he stood in front of his comrades.

"——Everyone, are you ready?"

He confirmed with everyone in the platoon. Although nervous, they seemed resolved.

Takeru took a breath and looked up. he saw the cracked-up sky.

Finally——it was time.

"I don't know what will the result be... that's why, I'll tell you one thing."

And looking away from the sky, this time he looked at each member one at a time.

Ouka, Mari, Usagi, Ikaruga... and Lapis.

Engraving their faces in his heart and memory.

"——Thank you for coming. Lend me your shoulder, everyone."

He entrust his heartfelt thanks and half of his burden to his comrades.

In response to his usual, straightforward words everyone nodded.

There was no need for superfluous words. Everyone in silence lent their shoulder to Takeru.

Just like he did for them.

Everyone took half of his burden.

Ouka materialized Vlad and held him in both hands. Mari was wearing her hat low on her eyes and released sparkling particles of magic from her fingertip. Usagi shouldered her beloved gun 'Rabbit Fang' on her back. Ikaruga entered one of the Heretic Alliance's Dragoons.

And Takeru turned Lapis into particles, attaching her to his waist.

Other teams also completed their preparations and gathered by the transfer device placed in the center of school yard.

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

In the end, Kanaria drew Lævateinn and stood next to Takeru.

Nagaru confirmed the time on clock.

"Ten seconds left〜."

The transfer device started to buzz and a magical circle was expanded under their feet.

Feeling their bodies turn into particles, everyone gasped.

——The fight has begun.

Their bodies emitted light and they disappeared starting from their toes.

Takeru squinted and looked at Kanaria beside him.

That's when she has finally noticed.

"———?!"

Looking at her arms she got astonished. She was the only one who hasn't started to turn into particles by the transfer magic. Kanaria turned furious and glared at Takeru.

"...sorry, Kanaria. Looks like we can't take you after all."

"Takeru——you, it can't be!"

"It's not me. It was Ikaruga's decision."

Kanaria glared at Ikaruga who was inside of a Dragoon.

Ikaruga's face was covered by Dragoon's steel and couldn't be seen by Kanaria.

"I told you. I won't be getting in the way if someone wants to stop you."

"!! ...you betrayed me...!"

"I don't care what you think. This is Ikaruga's answer."

"W-wait! Take Kana with you!"

Along with a roar, Kanaria tried to catch Takeru.

But before her fingertips could touch him, Takeru and the others disappeared altogether.

Left behind, Kanaria fell on her knees. Stunned.

And,

"D-damnn... DAMN ITTT!"

At the same time as she hit the ground with both her arms, she roared into the sky.

 

The detached force which transferred from Heretic Alliance's home base appeared in the towering mountains west of the First Research Facility.

Everyone knelt on spot and was either coughing or vomiting.

"W-we arrived...?!"

Ouka lent Usagi a shoulder and stood up.

Takeru too, helped Mari stand up while remaining on his guard. The time they experienced was an instant, but four hours have already passed. Their location was a deep forest on a slope and between the trees, in the distance they could see First Research facility.

First, he confirmed everyone's location. The 35th platoon... everyone has transferred successfully. Other teams, Nagaru and Kanata seemed to be safe.

"E-eh? Where's Kana-chan?"

Staggering, Mari asked Takeru.

"...left behind."

Hearing his reply Mari was surprised for a moment, but soon after she downcast her eyes convinced.

Nagaru squat down and got in touch with the diversionary force through the radio.

Immediately after, a roar echoed in the First Research Facility they could see between the trees.

"...it begun. Everyone, you're prepared right?"

At the same time Nagaru stood up, different from how she was until now, she spoke with a fearless smile.

"From here on——it's our first counter-attack."

The signal fire of war has been raised, everyone on the spot breathed in grandly.

And then everyone held their breath at once.

"Magic Academy West Side Pureblood Party's 'Seventh Squad'——sortie!"

Sage raised his wand and started running.

"Gods' Embers 'Sixth Guard Troop'——onward!"

Yuzuho poised her spear in front and started sprinting.

And,

 

"AntiMagic Academy's 35th Test Platoon——operation start!"

 

Pulling his sword, at the same time as he made a knight-like stance, Takeru kicked off the ground.

He cut through, starting the battle. Everyone ran down the mountain as if rolling.

《"——Everyone, continue as you are and get off the mountain! Don't stop no matter what happens!"》

Everyone did as ordered to by Nagaru through the radio. Ouka ran right next to Takeru and Mari expanded flying wheels on her legs and flew while avoiding the trees. Ikaruga put Usagi on the Dragoon's shoulder and moved downhill.

Don't stop no matter what. That's what they were told, but going down a slope in middle of a forest was very difficult as the footing was bad.

However, the detached force of Heretic Alliance was accustomed to this kind of situations. It didn't matter whether they get hit by a rolling tree or not.

Just rush forward. Believing that his comrades will keep up with him, Takeru dashed.

Vigilant to the limit, he stared in the woods. There were no enemies. But after reaching this point he felt line of sight on them.

The shade of grass, gap between the trees. He squinted looking at the gap between branches.

No doubt. There were countless sentry bots and mines installed there.

"————!!"

Involuntarily he wanted to stop contrary to the instructions as death was waiting in front of them. But,

《"I see them all——please believe in me."》

Hearing Kanata's voice in his ear, with brute force Takeru moved his legs that were about to stop, moving forward.

——*fshooo*

Immediately after, a howl of wind sounded from behind and something passed right beside them.

A roar and sound of bursting reached them from the front.

 

***

 

Kanata was in the vicinity of the summit that had a nice view, wearing a camouflage cloth and peeking out from on top of a cliff. She could see the entire forest under her.

"——Maintain full auto mode. It's fine to just detonate them, 'Nobunaga'."

《"All right."》

Her beloved gun, 《The Malleus Maleficarum VIII “NOBUNAGA”》 fired, supporting the detached force that ran down the mountain.

Nobunaga's performance was special. The greater distance from the enemy was, the greater was his power.

Bolt action mode had a maximum range of six kilometers. For a normal sniper rifle that range was exceptional, but considering the power increases with range has its drawbacks. If the projectile released turns huge, it's disadvantageous for precise shooting.

There's no problem if it's one versus one long distance combat, but it's disadvantageous when assisting comrades.

Since in close combat its performance was about the same as a regular sniper rifle, at a glance one could its convenience of use is poor.

However, just like Nero and Ivan, its mode can be switched.

Full auto mode had a range of two kilometers. Its power was about the same as that of a 9mm handgun. However, its non-standard performance is that it can be locked on a target that's captured in the center of reticle.

She adjusted the magnification of the scope and overlooked the entire troop as they progressed. The scope itself didn't have any special performance. All it could change was magnification, there was no thermovision nor infrared.

That's where Kanata's abnormal eyesight comes in, allowing her to see signs of the enemy.

"———I see it, 10 in the trees, 20 on the ground——lock on complete."

《"Fire."》

——*Pshh&, *pshh*, *pshh*! A quiet gunshot echoed continuously. Tiny bullets emitted from the muzzle drew an arc and slipped through the trees to the target.

They landed, setting off the mines and destroying the sentry bots.

《"Hahha! They noticed faster than I though! Shure's gotten interestin'!"》

"Cut the pointless chatter."

Pulling the bolt that vigorously jumped out from the barrel, Kanata aimed at the Dragoons lying in wait ahead of Takeru and the others to ambush them.

"Distance."

《"Ain't that about a 1000 yards? There's enough firepower."》

"Stop being sloppy and western-crazed. You're just a sniper rifle."

Without relying on Nobunaga, she measures the distance by while squeezing the trigger. She immediately pulled the bolt and trigger again. A total of three times, the time she needed to do that was merely five seconds.

Dragoons made of Blue Crystal were broken to smithereens with a single blow.

Furthermore she destroyed entire set of mines behind them, leaving only scorched earth behind.

《"Congratulaciones, Kanata!"》

Turning a deaf ear to Nobunaga who was in high spirits, she changed back to full auto mode and continued to process both mines and sentry bots.

The enemy was already aware of the surprise attack from behind.

Changing to bolt action again, Kanata alternated between Dragoons that gathered behind the research facility and the traps installed in the way of Takeru and others' travel, watching over them.

"That's right... don't turn around, run forward with all you have... I will deliver you safely without fail."

With guts and pride of an ex-EXE member, Kanata vowed while looking at their backs.

 

***

 

Passing by the Dragoons bursting right in front of them, Takeru ran through the flames of an explosion.

Oonogi-san's amazin'.

Having Kanata's cover allowed them to be at ease. Even though the trees grew thick, mines exploded wherever they went and sentry bots were all destroyed before they could fire. It was like an invincible defense system. At this rate they'll be able to go down the mountain and enter the facility.

Not having to anticipate anything and just running forward felt good.

《"You're almost at the forest's entrance. Kanata-san's invincible assistance ends there. After you get down snipers in charge are to stay in the back. The security in the back is tighter than expected so don't let anyone stray even if it turns into close combat!"》

"Roger!"

Takeru raised his speed and moved between rocks.

He was accustomed to running in the mountains from early age. Kicking off rocks and moving as if flying around. Even though he was swept by blasts caused by Kanata's assistance, he moved as if nothing happened.

And, the moment he saw light peek out from between the trees, Takeru kicked off from the last rock and invoked Soumatou.

His body soared and he broke through the gap between the trees.

"Summis desiderantes affectibus——"

Swinging the sword in his hand in mid-air,

"——Malleus Maleficarum!"

And triggered Witch Hunter form at the same time as he left the forest.

A veil of azure-colored particles followed him like a tail and covered his body.

Because he was jumping from a high place, the distance to the earth's surface was about 30 meters. However, the First Research Facility was even taller. According to information, it was 50 meters high.

It's big... still!"

He changed Lapis' mode into that of a 10 meters long great sword.

Takeru released a technique powered with his entire body at the outer wall that has appeared in front of him.

"Double-Edged style——Yamata no Orochi!"

Releasing eight slashes in an instant, he chopped-up the wall made from orichalcum.

*Zzzun*——! With such a sound, the wall was sliced.

However, it did not fall. It was too shallow. It wasn't deep enough to cut apart a 10 meters thick orichalcum wall. Takeru tried to release another technique the moment he landed, but a black-haired girl jumped from behind him.

"Guards' Spearsmanship style——Eternal Flash!"

The attack released from beside him extended to the wall like a giant swirling tornado.

The spear she held in her hand let out a silvery shine and swirling, it hit the wall.

Before the huge wall could collapse, Yuzuho poised her spear to the side.

"Please, don't think you're the only one good at close combat, okay?"

In response the provocative look in Yuzuho's eyes Takeru smiled.

"...no, didn't it collapse because of my eight slashes?"

"?! What's up with those excuses of yours!"

When she heard Takeru's words who prided himself in close combat, blood vessels appeared on Yuzuho's temple. And when the two started quarreling like that,

From the other side of the collapsed wall Dragoons have come out one after another.

They numbered twenty. All of them were the cutting-edge machines made from Blue Crystal.

Takeru's reaction who was playing around with Yuzuho was slightly late. The railgun's muzzle was aimed at the two and the Dragoon was about to fire, that moment.

"——The two idiots over there, don't stop."

When they heard a voice from behind, a huge rust-colored magical circle covered the entire area.

"《Adol Field》"

Along with the magic name, reddish-brown magical particles overflowed, then attached themselves to Dragoon's armor and railguns, when the light has disappeared they have been changed into rust.

The rust continued to spread, covering Dragoon's entire body.

Although there was a sound of the trigger being pulled, their guns didn't react. On the contrary, the Dragoon that tried to move its joint was unable to and fell. Even after falling the rust continued to spread, the Dragoons lost their original form in a matter of seconds and soon enough 20 machines were decayed and in tatters.

Agape, seeing a phenomenon that caused Blue Crystal to rust, Takeru and Yuzuho turned to look behind. Sage stood there raising his wand and with a cool expression.

"Why did you have to go and destroy the wall. Leave defense to me, hurry up and proceed."

Acting cool until the end, Sage passed next to Takeru and Yuzuho. Furthermore, behind him moved his comrades.

"Takeru〜 we'll leave you behind〜!"

"Stop flirting with that religious woman!"

"That was quite flashy〜."

Mari flying with magic, Ouka similarly flying with Witch Hunt form and Usagi riding on the shoulder of Ikaruga's Dragoon that had its wings expanded have all moved ahead.

Gods' Embers members also were flying in the sky using broom-type catalysts.

"〜〜〜〜! Stop acting lazy you all! Hold down your skirts while flying! It's unbecoming!!"

Raising her shoulders in anger, Yuzuho climbed on the debris following them.

Thinking about it deeply, whether its witches or his comrades from 35th platoon, Takeru realized he forgot that there were many who could fly. Even Ikaruga was able to fly for a short period of time with the Dragoon.

《"I intended to use magic thruster matching the jump, but since Host was in high spirits I have cancelled it."》

"...thanks for that."

Squinting, Takeru passed above the debris by jumping.

On the other side of the wall, other members have already started the battle with Dragoons.

Takeru caught up and participated in the battle using his sword.

Even so.

The other teams were more reliable than he imagined.

Although seventh squad was also a group of dropouts, they covered for their individual disadvantages and took down the enemy with their cooperation. Notable thing was that Sage's fighting style specialized in defense. While maintaining a barrier corroding all material, using particles of rust he stopped enemy attacks. In the current situation with enemy being just Dragoons, he was invincible.

The fighting style of sixth guard was also unique. The only one attacking was Yuzuho who recklessly went ahead. Everyone else has devoted themselves to enhancing her attack and defense as well as recovering her from damage. Thanks to her subordinates strengthening and recovery, Yuzuho boasted of matchless strength.

"Those with damaged weapons and catalysts come to me. I'll reinforce them with property inversion magic."

"My subordinates will heal your wounds! You can go on without worrying about damage!"

It turned into a battle where every team took advantage of their characteristic.

And the each team's characteristics brought huge benefits to entire force.

It was the first time they had such a stable battle. Compared to their desperate battles when they were covered in wounds, the sense of security was on a completely different level.

Even so, they had no intention of going easy.

35th Test Platoon too, did not lose in terms of individual ability.

Just when the other two teams have mostly annihilated the Dragoons guarding the back, a loud roar has resounded in the research facility's main street.

Huge hatches opened at the crossroads and what appeared vigorously catapulted from inside were massive bodies.

Two wyvern-type Mechanical Dragons. They didn't know if they were strengthened with a summoning, but even without that Alchemist's technology was capable of reproducing a dragon's threat. It looked like the material their armor's material was Blue Crystal... it had the same hardness as the dragon in Fifth Research Facility.

The sixth guard was horrified as the dragons appeared.

That's when Takeru had dashed out from between the two teams.

"Ouka hold them down with heavy fire! Suginami and Usagi support! Mari, I leave left one to you!"

" " " "Roger!" " " "

Along with the reply, Mari flew right beside Takeru.

Behind him, Ouka rose up and squeezed Vlad's triggers aiming for the ground.

——《Tepes Rain

Momentarily, a huge magical circle has appeared in the sky and on the ground, a rain of stakes and needles assaulted the dragons. They were stuck on the catapults for a moment and their movements stopped.

As soon as they understood they are restrained, the inside of dragons' closed mouths were dyed with magic of ultramarine color.

However, the test platoon did not miss it.

Usagi who has been staying in the rear lied down on the ground and focused on the dragon's mouth. Further behind her, Ikaruga inside of a Dragoon opened a missile pod and poised the railguns she was dual-wielding.

"——I won't let you!"

《"——It's not to my liking, but, everything - fire."》

Usagi fired two auroral bullets, hitting enemies' mouth. Ikaruga followed up when the dragons grandly staggered. Although they were unable to destroy Blue Crystal armor, auroral bullets caused an outburst of Dragon property magical power accumulating in enemy's mouth.

The aftermath of Dragon Breath's outburst passed beside Takeru and Mari grazing them.

The one who attacked first was Mari.

"《Auroral Collider》!"

A magical circle was deployed in an instant and she thrust her hands in front.

Then, the magical power accumulated on her palms turned into a rainbow-colored thunder, assaulting the staggering dragon. It was an 《Aurora Cannon》 enchanted with 'Electrification' magical property.

The thunder bullet landed on the dragon's heart. The armor wasn't pierced, however, the thunder bullet dug into the equipment inside and the rainbow-colored current flowed inside of the dragon's body.

With a loud sound the dragon's right side was broken.

"Takeru!"

"——Got it!"

Takeru who was close to the dragon on the left jumped up high towards the heavens. Propelled by magical power, he ascended above the dragon and rotated his body vertically.

Then,

"Kusanagi Double-Edged style——Mantis Slope!"

Turning his sword into a zweihander he slashed through the dragon's brain.

His swordsmanship refined by many battles no longer had any problem cutting apart Blue Crystal. Rotating with a momentum like that of a mowing machine, he cut the dragon down to its legs.

When Takeru crushed into the asphalt leaving his momentum as is. The two dragons broke and both fell down.

However, it wasn't enough. Behind the dragons there was a horde of Dragoons surging in a wide area.

Riding on the momentum of his landing, Takeru continued to spin sideways.

"Everyone, fire your magic towards me! Lapis! Twilight Enchant!"

《"Understood."》

He instructed everyone through radio.

This cooperative attack was explained to other teams in case a need arises. Takeru believed in his comrades from Heretic Alliance.

In response to his instruction, those who could use magic fired bullets towards him in unison. Maintaining the rotation, Takeru cut the magical bullets one by one continuing to absorb them in the blade shining with azure color.

The moment his centrifugal force reached its peak, he moved his foot forward and at the same time he swung the huge-turned sword sideways.

"——Single Wheel!"

《"Enchantment reversal, flexible material release."》

At the same time as Takeru's and Lapis' voices overlapped,

"OOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAaaAAAaaa!!"

From the azure-colored blade a highly-concentrated magical power was released.

The magic emitted from the blade turned into a slash and cut apart the buildings in the surrounding area all at once, almost all Dragoons gathered had their upper and lower parts bid farewell to each other. The fallen Dragoons were caught up in the building's collapse and crushed. Takeru who was rotating stopped using his feet and returned the sword's shape back to that of a nodachi.

Other teams seeing the outstanding individual abilities of the 35th platoon were stunned. Sage tilted his neck, placing a hand on his chin and Yuzuho opened her mouth dumbfounded.

"Hmm. I really can't tell which part qualifies them as "small fries" or "dropouts"."

"I-it's thanks to their weapons! With a good tool I could do that too!"

While other teams stood surprised, Takeru and others started running again.

The sixth guard and seventh squad chased behind them, intermingled as if competing and continued to cooperate. In order to fulfill each other's objective, they entrusted their backs to each other regardless which power they represented.

Heretic Alliance did not stop.

Their experience and skills that allowed them to survive many battles were already extraordinary.

Joining a single faction, their force turned immense.

 

***

 

After confirming the detached force has invaded the inside, Kanata's breathing returned back to normal.

The power of three participating teams was beyond her imagination.

Like that, there was no need to cover them. The moment range was extended the projectile turned too huge and her shooting would just get in the way. Until they arrived in the lab she would be better off refraining from shooting.

Kanata continued to watch everyone's progress through the scope.

"Ohh〜 everyone's doing their best〜."

As Nagaru's voice sounded by her side all of a sudden, Kanata jumped up screaming "hyaa".

Before she realized, Nagaru dressed in ghillie suit stood beside her holding binoculars in one hand.

"Don't scare me like that! Why do you have to erase your presence for no reason every single time?!!"

"I'm known for my weak presence〜."

Nagaru moved the binoculars away and laughed with a "nishishi".

Kanata could affirm it wasn't weakness of presence. As an ex-EXE member who started her career as a 'Banshee' her searching ability was top-class among the Inquisitors. She can't miss a single faint sound in the radius of a kilometer.

And yet, Nagaru was able to easily circumvent Kanata's vigilance. The person herself said that her combat performance in school was disastrous, but it was very suspicious.

Angry that she was being outmatched again, Kanata once again looked at the detached force.

"Although enemy's resistance was stronger than anticipated, it's going well. As expected of people Hoshijiro-san scouted. We can expect a lot from their activities in the future."

"Hmm, if they want to I'll put them to use〜. From now on the war is going to intensify, they've got lots of their own stuff to deal with so I won't force them〜."

"With that said though, there's no place for them other than Heretic Alliance. I can't think of them not cooperating with us."

"Ohh〜 surprisingly scheming of you〜 Kanata-san. Is that what they call wisdom of age?"

"Please don't say it as if I'm an inhuman adult...!!"

"Naw naw〜 I'm not saying it's a bad thing〜. Kanata-san is someone who's doing her best in order to change the way Inquisition treats 'Banshee's' as expendables. I think you're a passionate, wonderful person."

"...even if you praise me now, you're not going to get anything."

"I really can't tell why you can't get married〜."

"〜〜〜! How's the diversionary troop faring?!"

Her expression turning into one looking similar to that of a stone statue, Kanata requested Nagaru's reconnaissance report.

Still peering through the binoculars, Nagaru stopped grinning and turned serious.

"It's going so well to the point it's too well."

"...that's strange."

"It is. Not only were all of their forces unmanned, they divided their forces perfectly in two between the front and the back. It means that we've been read. Well, if we were noticed beforehand they would have strengthened their defenses further."

"Mechanical Dragons appeared as well but you can't say they're everywhere. Is there a possibility of rescue targets being already moved to a different location?"

"...I don't think so. Speaking of possibilities..."

Scratching her head troubled Nagaru continued.

"Just earlier, we were assaulted by an EXE member who had Hyakki Yakou cells transplanted into her. That Magnolia person."

"Yes, I've heard of it. We captured her and isolated her in our home base didn't we. Did you obtain any information from her?"

"If we did, we might have postponed the operation... no, I guess not. We would have taken decisive action before its too late〜, if we did poorly crisis would befall humanity〜."

Kanata squinted as he looked over the scope.

"...let's strengthen our vigilance. If there's any report of movement, instruct the members precisely."

"I'm considering withdrawal. But I intend to do our best until the very last moment. We can't miss this opportunity, otherwise it won't end well for them〜."

Once she confirmed the detached force's safety through the scope, Kanata looked at the center of L6 lab.

The lab that didn't have a single light lit was eerie, like a nest of monsters.

The facility's penetration was going well, problems start from here onward.

You never know what might happen. Even the most terrifying things might.

Kanata pulled Nobunaga's bolt, preparing for everything.

 

***

 

The detached force advanced smoothly.

After taking down the Dragoons, they challenged the Mechanical Dragons all together every time they appeared.

Even if they got injured, the guards' members treated them instantly. Other than those specializing in combat who were, Takeru, Ouka and Yuzuho, sorcerers and everyone else was being protected by Sage's barrier. The rearguard were snipers and Ikaruga, who acted as their guardian.

The perfect cooperation served as their offense and defense, there was not a single casualty on their side.

"——Mikado! Now!"

After cutting apart a dragon's armor, Takeru yelled towards Yuzuho.

"You don't need to say it!"

Yuzuho appeared from behind him and thrust at the armor with her entire body.

Clad in magical power, Yuzuho turned into a meteor that pierced through the dragon's body using her spear.

"HAAAAaaaaa!!"

From the sky even further above, Ouka fired 《Count's Fang》 bursting the dragon's brain and fully stopping it from functioning.

《"Ootori! Don't move!"》

The moment dragon was taken down, Usagi's voice caused Ouka to feel cautious about her sides. A flight-type Dragoon attacked her swinging a railblade.

Before its blade could reach Ouka, the Dragoon's head was blown away and it fell to the ground.

With no time to thank Usagi, another message arrived in her ear.

《"——The enemy has circled around us! Cover the rearguard!"》

Horrified by the voice in the radio, Takeru and Ouka looked towards the back.

There, the rear guard was surrounded by countless Dragoons and UAV's who slipped around.

Those UAV's weren't normal sentry bots.

"——Suicide-bombers!"

Takeru shouted and rushed to the rear guard at the same time.

But there was no need for that. As if to stand in the way of the UAV's countless rainbow-colored spheres have entered between them. In response to them The UAV's exploded on spot.

Standing on the top of a building, Mari looked down on the rear guard.

Sage who was going to defend the rearguard looked up at her and spoke to the intercom.

《"Woman, leave us to do our job and dispose of Dragoons instead."》

Hearing that Mari furrowed her eyebrows.

His eyes said it all. 'Don't mind us'.

"I don't care what happens then! ——《Aurora Barrage》!"

With a fearless smile Mari rained Sage's vicinity with most powerful magical bullets she could make. Just before they hit, Sage covered the rearguard's humans with a protective barrier, a collective of rust.

The bombardment of Aurora property's magical bullets scorched the earth in the spot rearguard was in.

As the smoke wouldn't clear for up for a while, her face gradually turned pale.

"W-wait a second...? Eh, it was 'we can withstand it, it's okay' right?! No way, did I overdo it?!"

《"...calm down."》

Hearing a distorted voice mingled with noise, Mari was relieved.

The smoke has cleared up and she could see that rust barrier was in good state. After releasing the barrier Sage raised his blonde hair in a cool manner and glanced at her.

《"My defense can stop everything. Even if it's magic of Aurora property."》

Greatly annoyed, Mari's face cramped up.

"...even though I was holding baaack? If I was serious I would eras——"

《"Mari, leave it at that."》

As Takeru's voice sounded from the radio, Mari inflated her cheeks.

"B-but, Takeru〜!"

《"——Our target has come in sight."》

Hearing that, Mari looked towards Takeru.

Before she realized, they have arrived at the L6 lab's vicinity. Even though it should be still far away, it was huge enough to make them feel it was right in front of them.

"............so it was this big."

Glaring at the eerie appearance of the lab, Mari chased after Takeru.

 

The detached force arrived at the crossroads that was pre-determined position and stopped in middle of the passage.

Takeru who was in the front looked up at the L6 Lab that was towering ahead over the central road.

L6 - XXX Lab was quiet enough to call it strange.

It had a geometric shape and didn't have a single window. Like a distorted, continuously enlarged castle. Although its appearance was reminiscent of a labyrinth, he couldn't imagine what it looked like inside of the structure.

As he looked up at this building, a mysterious dread welled up starting from his feet. There was a huge mental load just from looking at it.

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

From this point onward they wouldn't cooperate with other teams. They all had to proceed on their own path, separately.

Takeru took a deep breath and looked back, he stood in the middle of crossroads.

Sage and Yuzuho moved beside him.

Alternating, he stared at their faces and stuck out his fist in front.

"Let's do it right."

When Takeru spoke concisely, Sage and Yuzuho stuck out their fist in the same way.

"Agreed. 30 minutes later, let's meet in here."

"Fortunes of war with you... is all I'll say."

The three nodded at each other and bumped their fists.

Turning their backs to each other, they started running on their own paths.

Although they were allied only for a short time, the three teams with a similar history joined hands. Even if they become enemies one day, they'll never forget this alliance. If possible, I would like to fight together on battlefield again as allies, Takeru prayed.

"Usagi, I leave assistance at the entrance to you. I want the other two to join us for a little bit longer as well."

《"All of us have set-up on high ground... leave it to us."》

Usagi's voice was trembling slightly.

《"...but surely... you must come back, all right? I... none of us will move from here until you're back."》

Hearing her clearly tearful voice, Takeru felt his chest tighten.

This was not the time for reluctance.

Right now, he just had to do all to protect the promise.

"——Yeah, I'll take everyone and come back for sure. Including Kiseki!"

He squeezed the sword strongly.

Failure is not allowed. He will protect comrades and save Kiseki. Just how difficult the path to fulfill this goal was, he knew right from the start and was resolved to take it.

He continued to run up until now believing in the possibility of saving her.

And now, that possibility was right in front of him.

After coming this far, as if he'd let it go!

"...Ouka, no matter what happens, absolutely don't you stray away from Takeru!"

Mari running next to him said in a serious voice.

Although Ouka was taken aback when called by first name, her expression changed when she looked at Mari from profile.

"...please...!"

What she couldn't do, Mari entrusted to Ouka.

Takeru and Lapis also felt the same as Mari did.

"IF something is to happen, don't hesitate and shoot me."

《"It is a request from me as well. If something were to happen, we'll rely on you.."》

Taking in everyone's wishes, Ouka looked forward in anticipation and just strongly nodded.

"............got it!"

Hearing a strong reply, Mari was at ease leaving everything to her.

Takeru was also encouraged by Ouka and turned his attention to Ikaruga who ran behind him.

《"............"》

The only ones knowing the reason why Ikaruga participated in the battle this time, was just Takeru and Nagaru. He felt that their comrades were wondering about it, but they didn't inquire.

They knew each other for long time now. Her comrades could already understand how she felt.

L6 - XXX Lab was right in front of them.

Aiming for the castle of darkness, the 35th Test Platoon invaded.

Holding the slight hope that was left, embracing it in their chests.

 

***

 

30 minutes after Takeru and the others departed from Heretic Alliance's to invade.

Kanaria hugged her knees under the tree in the school yard.

Why did Takeru and others leave her behind... Kanaria wasn't that much of a kid not to know it. If one of the members is caught up in revenge, there's a high possibility of trouble appearing as operation progresses. Although she didn't like the way they did it, she could understand being removed from the operation.

Because she didn't feel like putting a stop to her revenge, it was natural to be left behind.

However, she wondered if it was true that Ikaruga moved by herself in order not to let her participate in the operation.

"She wants to stop Kana from fighting...! She's cowardly and unfair... why does she continue to stand in Kana's way...!"

While staring at Lævateinn that was piercing the ground, Kanaria grit her teeth.

The blade of her partner was rusted. At this rate, her own blade will also decay and rot away.

Not wielded, the blade called 'revenge' would rust...

『"How long will it continue?"』

"...shut up..."

『"Do you really think Isuka would rejoice?"』

"...that's...! Even Kana is...!"

Kanaria knew just why was she so frustrated.

It was because what Ikaruga said was right.

She knew that Isuka didn't desire revenge.

 

——She knew that ever since she heard the origin of her name from Isuka.

 

"......the parent who gave me a name..."

Kanaria recalled the conversation she had with Isuka.

There were only few things Isuka spoke of to her.

Since she was being re-educated and even a little bit of emotions would cause her brain to feel severe pain, Isuka avoided talking about Kanaria.

Only at times she was absolutely unable to suppress her feelings, Isuka felt enough pain to wail and scream. The emotions of both love and hate she had for Ikaruga were on rampage. That she left her behind and escaped alone, that she picked up the picture book, that she resorted to tricks when making Kanaria. Her everyday life went on as she let out her anger. After she was tired of crying and screaming, she always quietly spilled small droplets of tears, thinking of wanting to meet Ikaruga.

Even when Kanaria approached to comfort her, she was rejected by Isuka.

Sometimes she was blamed, told it's her existence was at fault.

But, after having a screaming bout Ikaruga embraced Kanaria.

『"You're something Ikaruga left behind, take her place."』

She knew, that the affection wasn't directed towards her but towards Ikaruga. Kanaria was happy even though she knew that for Isuka who has awakened to emotions and felt loneliness worse than all the pain, she was a mere substitute.

She was happy just knowing that her mother needed her.

Every time, Kanaria embraced her and took a deep breath to engrave Isuka's scent in her memory.

While that how she felt... the one who let go of her was Isuka.

Because she was being suspected by Alchemist, Isuka handed Kanaria over to Valhalla.

When she threw a tantrum for the first time during a parting with her mother, Isuka said.

『"People of Suginami are named after birds, it seems that it's implying that they won't be able to leave the cage called Alchemist. The bird called canary has the strongest impression among all caged birds. I think it really suits you, who was an experimental animal."』

Speaking with her usual cold tone, Isuka stared at Kanaria.

『"...however, sadly, the parent who gave you that name didn't think so. Kanaria from the picture book the name was taken from turned human, and grasped the freedom called 'family'. Your name, Kanaria was given with such feelings."』

Isuka moved beside sobbing Kanaria and gently embraced her.

She noticed that the embrace was unusual only after she parted with Isuka.

『"Take off from this place, live free. Go wherever you please... it might be unfitting, but that's all I can do for you."』

The hand that pat her head was very gentle.

『"You... I want you to live a life without pain and suffering, I sincerely hope for that."』

That was the last time Kanaria heard Isuka's voice.

She could understand now. During the last embrace she didn't take place of Ikaruga, the one being hugged was herself. In the end, as a mother, Isuka hugged Kanaria.

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

Isuka told her to live free.

Surely, she didn't want her to live a life fighting, caught in the cage called Alchemist. And Ikaruga too, gave her a name wanting her to life free.

That woman too, doesn't want it. It was the thing Kanaria was frustrated by.

"...then, what should I fight for?"

Even Kanaria didn't want to do what Isuka didn't want. What reason does she need to convince Isuka?

But if she tries to make up a reason, it would turn into a lie, wouldn't it.

Kanaria looked for a method that would allow her to convince herself.

The reason that's been looked for and found isn't real. It's too far-fetched, an excuse. It was the same as a scum flailing a banner of 'justice' in order to attack hateful enemy.

A reason to fight. She wondered if there was any other reason to hold a sword than for Isuka.

"............!!"

The figure of Ikaruga fallen in the snow, bleeding, was revived.

Back then, Kanaria couldn't tell why was she so furious at the enemy.

There was a reason.

It was hatred. Revenge. But, it wasn't for Isuka.

"...no... that's not it...!!"

No matter how much she tried to deny it, the tingling in her chest wouldn't stop.

That was without a doubt for Ikaruga. Seeing Ikaruga unmoving in front of her, she was upset and her vision turned red, she had no idea what to do...

The emotions she felt back then were the same she felt when she was told Isuka died.

Suddenly, Kanaria noticed.

Right before Takeru and the others transferred, Ikaruga has gotten on a Dragoon. Just what was she intending. She heard that Ikaruga served as a weapon development member and operator in the platoon. Why would a person like that enter a Dragoon.

"...it can't be."

Kanaria felt a buzz in her chest.

Could it be that Ikaruga intended to go on the frontlines by herself? What for?

"...instead of Kana... by herself?"

Whether it was destroying first research facility or killing Suginami Suzaku, she intended to do it herself. Because she didn't want Kanaria to fight, she herself went... was that why she got on the Dragoon?

"————"

Kanaria opened her eyes widely, she could no longer endure it.

Fool. Fool. Fool. Going instead of her, what a selfish thing is she doing. Going alone despite not having any combat skill, what an idiotic thing is she doing. Alchemist isn't something she can destroy all alone. She's just going to her death.

"!! ————Ghh!!"

Not knowing what to do, Kanaria looked around.

Why?! Why am I feeling such a buzz in my chest?! Even though I hate her...!

Ikaruga's death settled in her head and the image overlapped with Isuka.

But, Kanaria couldn't do anything. It was impossible to leave this place, there was no way for her to help. It would take several hours to fill the newest model of transfer device with magical power.

Meanwhile, Ikaruga will——Ikaruga can't die.

She no longer cared about a reason.

For now, she couldn't die!

"...why is it always... like this...!!"

Feeling helpless, Kanaria hugged her head.

It was the same with Isuka. She believed they'll meet one day and learned swordsmanship in order to save her, but didn't make it in time.

It's the same this time. She's felt behind and will lose someone in a place she can't see...

With irritation and chagrin, she grit her teeth.

When she did,

 

——About time you stopped being stubborn.

 

In her head, very faintly she felt as if she heard a voice.

Kanaria told herself it was her imagination and was about to close her eyes as she held her head.

At that time.

Suddenly, something shone in front of her.

"......?"

TMG_v09_221She raised her face, Lævateinn that was piercing the ground shone in flames.

Stunned, Kanaria stared at the flames.

Flames overflowed from the cracks on the blade.

When the flames filled the surroundings, they mimicked a shape of person right in front of Kanaria.

It was a woman.

Kanaria saw the woman's figure formed of flames.

"...Mama?..."

She felt that the long-haired woman was slightly similar to Isuka.

"......Lævateinn...?"

The flame didn't answer. It just stared at Kanaria.

And, without saying anything the woman's fingertip was directed at the transfer device.

"...what... what do you want to say...?"

When Kanaria asked, the flames suddenly disappeared.

The surroundings turned back silent in an instant.

It turned back to normal as if it was all a hallucination.

Lævateinn was partially destroyed, it could only pull out a fraction of its original performance. The power it had at the time Orochi had used it won't return again.

Then, what was that just now?

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

As instructed to by Lævateinn, Kanaria held the sword and moved beside the transfer device.

The magic filling it was at 0%. Sorcerers should be pouring all the magic they have into it and it should take a long period of time to fill the Magical Heritage. Kanaria couldn't do anything.

Those flames were a hallucination after all.

The moment she thought so——flames burst forth from the blade.

"——Wha-!"

Blowing Kanaria's hair backwards, flames overflowed on the school yard.

Flames raised up to the sky like a dragon, then dived down plunging into the filling instrument of the transfer device. Blinded by the dazzling light, Kanaria continued to firmly stare at it.

As the flames filled the device, the rate of magical power fill rapidly increased.

In the middle of raging flames, Kanaria took a deep breath.

Something touched her shoulder.

A hand formed of flames held her shoulder.

She didn't look backwards. A will saying 'don't look back' dwelled in the flame.

The flame hand gently pushed Kanaria's back.

"Go." As if to lead her.

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

Magical Heritages had souls, there was a theory that the personality was born as a result of the users attachment and feelings, embodying them. A soul also can enter from outside and result in assimilation into the Magical Heritage.

It was just a mere hypothesis, she was told before that soul had dwelled in the partially-destroyed Lævateinn, but she did not know whether it existed or not.

But Kanaria felt the flames pushed her back like her mother would.

She didn't mind if it wasn't so. Even if it was a mere fantasy, an illusion, she was fine with it.

In her mind Kanaria thanked Lævateinn, and,

"——I'll be going."

Embracing new feelings, she jumped into the transfer device.

 

***

 

After confirming that Takeru and the others infiltrated the lab, Usagi, who was hiding in the monitor room of the control tower prayed for the safety of her comrades.

She continued to stay vigilant warily checking the glass windows.

Although the control tower wasn't tall, since it had glass windows on all 360 degrees, they could use it to monitor every team that invaded the labs. Although it was a good place to use for defending the entrances, it was easy to find by the enemy.

Although it's been so noisy before, inside of the facility it was dead silent.

There was no sign of enemy going after Usagi and the others.

"I p....planted a single trap. I-if enemy comes it will respond, I also checked the escape route."

"...this silence is too strange. I can hear the sound of diversionary troop's combat, but in the lab's surroundings there's no sound at all. Can the radio be used?"

Asked by the member of the seventh squad, Usagi verified whether the radio is working.

It connected with Nagaru. After finishing to make the regular report, she tried to communicate with the 35th platoon.

"...it is no good. The interior of the lab seems to be interfering with communication."

"As I thought. It's the same here. I can't contact captain."

"...magical communication doesn't work..."

The three pondered anxiously.

Usagi sniped with her gun, the sunglasses-wearing member of seventh squad was also good at sniping using magic. The member of guards abilities specialized in scouting and setting up traps. It was practically impossible for them to fight in close combat and indoors. They could only watch from the distance as their comrades fought in frontlines, even now they all felt frustrated having to wait.

"We should concentrate on doing our own work. In order to keep the people who entered inside at ease, we must defend this location."

In response to this attitude of Usagi, the sniper, the two quietly laughed.

And located themselves in their own positions.

"L-leave scouting to me...! I will report as soon as enemy draw near!"

"Embers and purebloods will be on guard. Saionji, it's fine if you just watch over your own lab."

"That's a great help... with my gun my maneuverability isn't too high."

Usagi thanked the two, then calming her breathing she turned vigilant.

And——that's when a desperate voice could be heard in the radio.

《"Saionji-san, can you hear me?!"》

The one who contacted her was Kanata. Even though surprised, Usagi replied into the intercom.

《"At 3'o clock, heading to L6 at breakneck speed!"》

Determining it's an enemy, Usagi immediately pointed her muzzle at 3 o'clock, at the crossroads.

She peeked through the scope and adjusted magnification to check the target.

However——there, it an unexpected person.

With red flame spouting from her sword, a figure blowing through like a meteor.

"——K-Kanaria-san?!"

Involuntarily Usagi moved her face away from the scope and cried out. Wondering what is it about, the other two moved closer to her.

"Why is Kanaria-san here?! Kusanagi said she was left behind, didn't he?!"

《"I don't know... just how did she come here... Hoshijiro-san doesn't know either."》

"............!!"

Usagi gasped desperately attempting to hold down the confusion.

Why was Kanaria here. Usagi knew that Ikaruga didn't want her to take part in the operation.

The first one Ikaruga has confided with was Usagi. She didn't say what was the reason for it, but when Usagi was in opposition when heard that she's going to sortie in a Dragoon. Ikaruga might have had a bizarre personality, but she wasn't unreasonable. Ikaruga participated in the operation shaking off Usagi's frantic attempts at persuasion.

In order to stop Kanaria from fighting.

What should she do? Should she let Kanaria go on?

While Usagi was hesitating, the member of seventh squad put a hand on her shoulder from behind.

He pressed the switch on the intercom and contacted Nagaru.

"...we'll somehow manage over here the two of us. Do you mind if Saionji goes in?"

Usagi was surprised by his concern. The member of the guard also nodded.

Hugging the gun to her chest, Usagi listened to the intercom's speaker.

《"Usagi-chan〜? I've heard the story."》

"...yes."

《"You intendin' to go? I can't allow it as a commander."》

"............I understand, still...!"

《"But, well, I can understand Ikaruga-chan's feelings〜. I know the reason she came here. Also, it's true that Kana-chan blasting in can turn troublesome. Above all, the only one who can stop her is one of you three."》

Usagi opened her eyes wide hearing Nagaru's words, her pupils shook.

《"In exchange〜, definitely avoid being reckless. You promised that you'll wait for Kusanagi-kun, righties? Breaking promises is no good〜."》

"...yes, I'll definitely come back."

《"Nn. Then, the other two please cover Usagi-chan."》

As Nagaru spoke to everyone, the two replied.

The member of seventh squad opened his backpack, took out two guns of .50 caliber and threw them to Usagi. She caught them in both hands.

"I took them for self-defense but... use them. I have no need for them. I'm a sorcerer after all."

He raised sunglasses on top of his head and smiled lightly.

"I will put an enchantment for scouting on your retina. W-with this, you'll be able to see enemies anywhere within 50 meters of you. F-fortunes of war to you."

The girl from the guard troop approached and touching Usagi's eyelids, she enchanted her with magic.

Usagi opened her eyes, with her mouth forming a 'へ' character, straining herself she nodded.

"You have my gratitude...!"

"Leave this place to us. We'll cover you until you catch up. Go and help your comrades."

"U-umm... tea, was delicious. Once you're back, would you teach me how to brew it?"

"——Surely!"

Feeling the two's spirit inside her, Usagi ran down the stairs.

In the platoons and squads, people in charge of sniping and scouting as well as those in charge of communications weren't going into frontlines. Always in the rear, they watched over comrades' backs and covered them.

That was probably why, the two who were only for a short while together with Usagi knew how she felt to a painful degree.

Ordered to wait, a sniper would wait as long as it was necessary.

But, allowing comrades to go alone and out of her sight, disqualified her as a sniper. At the very least, it disqualified her as the sniper of 35th Test Platoon.

With the rifle on her back and two .50 caliber handguns in both her hands Usagi chased after Kanaria.

She had no idea what method did Kanaria used to come here.

She didn't know whether she should stop Kanaria or let her go.

In any case, she couldn't let her go alone.

She was an important existence for Ikaruga, for Usagi and the platoon too, she was very important.

 

***

 

The interior of the L6 - XXX Lab was shrouded in silence. Unlike its geometric exterior, the inside was quite simple. The Fifth Research Facility's felt more like a lab than this one.

Takeru and the others carefully and at quick pace progressed through the lab.

...there are no signs of people...

Strange. First Research Facility should be Alchemist's home base. It was strange not to encounter a single human after going this far, he thought they would all be indoors.

Let alone in this level 6... although originally only 4 levels should exist and level 5 dealt with extremely dangerous existence and materials, not having a single person inside was impossible.

"...this is bad. The internal structure is different from what map indicates. We should have already reached the third sector's wall."

"We haven't encountered a single wall so far...! What's going on...!"

Just by looking at the appearance, one could say it was a labyrinth.

Stopping their feet, Takeru and the others gathered in one place.

Ikaruga stopped her hovercraft as well, landing the Dragoon on the floor.

《"...look at the wall. There's a trace of shifting. Maybe the internal structure changed regularly. Like a puzzle..."》

If what Ikaruga said was true, it meant that the passages were changing. Like this, it was pointless to memorize a map.

"We got stuck after coming this far...!"

"There's no sound and no presence... just what kind of place is this?"

Mari asked Ikaruga.

Ikaruga shook the Dragoon's head.

《"I don't know either. I was born in the First Research Facility, that's all..."》

The total of Alchemist's Research Facilities was above thirty, more than a hundred including the manufacturing facilities. Since they have expanded overseas, other than the Alchemist themselves no one knew the exact number.

At this rate they won't be able to return at specified time.

They had no choice but to proceed.

However, if they proceed like this they might end up getting trapped.

The longer they thought about it, the more word 'withdrawal' came to his mind.

 

————i-chan.

 

"...?!"

It was at that time, a faint voice has trembled in his eardrums.

Takeru opened his eyes wide and stared at the road ahead.

In the corridor devoid of light, a few meters away shrouded in the darkness.

"...Takeru? What is it?"

"...just now... a voice..."

 

——Onii-chan.

 

That was without doubt voice of the little sister he was looking for.

Takeru's heartbeat sped up.

He stared. Dispelling the darkness, earnestly he stared until he saw the existence he was seeking.

Someone was standing in the darkness.

A white one piece dress and a straw hat.

That was——without doubt——

"——Kiseki?"

Takeru stretched out his hand and took a step forward.

She was right in front of him. The one he couldn't stop wanting to save, his precious existence. His only little sister.

He reached out. He simply reached out to her.

However, just before he kicked off the floor to start running to Kiseki, a horn has sounded in his head. Takeru recalled how he once left his comrades to save Kiseki all alone and cooled his head off.

There was no way Kiseki would be in a place like this.

This——was a trap.

"Everyone gather up! Absolutely don't separa——"

When he shouted instructions to his comrades, he noticed it was already too late.

The two meters gap between Takeru who was in front and Ouka with others,

——Suddenly, was filled with a wall of meat.

Aha-ahahahaha! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The wall of meat with eyes, mouths, noses laughed brightly at Takeru.

With Kiseki's voice.

"Ouka! Mari! Suginami!"

When he stretched his hands towards the wall of flesh, Lapis gasped.

《"You can't! If you touch Hyakki Yakou in Witch Hunter form you'll be eroded!"》

"...!! That's... damn it!"

Takeru swung the sword in frustration, gritting his teeth at his own carelessness.

He should have realized it was fake the moment he saw her, but he ended up being distracted momentarily.

Because the situation called for urgency, being distracted even for a moment was unforgivable.

"...Kiseki is right here?"

A voice approached him from behind.

Anger incarnate, Takeru turned around holding the sword.

In the passage ahead, stood faceless Kiseki wearing a straw hat.

"Who the hell are you...! Try imitating Kiseki any more and... I"ll mercilessly cut you up!"

"That's horrible, Onii-chan. It's true that this isn't Kiseki, but it doesn't change the fact it's a part of her, see?"

"Shut up... don't talk any more...!"

Whoever it is that took shape of Kiseki, giggled at frenzied Takeru.

《"...judging from her anatomy, it's a homunculus. Most likely it was transplanted Kiseki-sama's cells."》

"......!"

《"It's a soulless doll. Whether we proceed ahead or rejoin Ouka-sama and others, we have no choice but to cut her down."》

"Khh...!"

《"Please bear it for now, even if she has Kiseki-sama's appearance...!"》

Encouraged by Lapis, Takeru contained the trembling of the hand holding the sword. While he hesitated, a number homunculi with exact same appearance have come from the back of the road.

Giggling, the homunculi scratched the Hyakki Yakou cell embedded in their chest. The cells were woken up and continued to erode the homunculi body.

Their figures changed from Kiseki's——into demonic ugly shapes.

An army of monsters. A flock of variant.

It looked like the legendary Hyakki Yakou itself——

"——UOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoo!!"

Unable to withstand seeing Kiseki's appearance in such a pathetic state, Takeru rushed forward with sword in his hand.

In the middle of a nightmare, killing countless of his little sister.

 

***

 

Blocked by a wall of flesh, Ouka and Mari were separated from Takeru and stood back to back assaulted by homunculi.

"We were careless...! If they can transplant the cells, we should have considered this possibility right from the start!"

"How about you calm down... even if we think about it now, we can't help it. Who would think they'd put it to practical use so quickly. Not even a week passed since we arrived at Heretic Alliance's home base."

Hearing Mari's words, Ouka regained composure as well. Even if she continued to comment on what couldn't be helped, there was nothing they could do. Rather than regret, they had to deal with what was in front of them.

Feeling grateful to Mari's impudence, she materialized stakes on elbows of both her arms.

Mari smiled wryly and deployed a magical circle beneath her feet.

"Geez, Takeru really is a siscon... well, I don't hate that part of him though."

"What do we do. Suginami was blocked off by the wall. She won't hold out alone for too long."

"...c'mon you, it's already obvious what we're doing, right? I'll pass on pairing up with you ever again."

Slightly hurt by these words, Ouka looked sideways at Mari.

However, Mari's true feelings weren't those that opposed pairing up with Ouka.

It could be seen in her expression. Even she wanted to overcome this situation together.

Her trembling hand was a proof of that. The opponent was Hyakki Yakou that had Kiseki's cells transplanted in it. They were fragile as compared to the original, but it didn't change the fact that they would die just by being touched by it.

She needed someone to watch her back.

"Let's separate here. Leave Suginami to me, you chase after Takeru."

"You're right."

"Indeed I am. In my dictionary there's no such thing as abandoning one of the two."

Acting firmly, Mari sunk her waist low.

"Don't die——!"

"——Same to you!"

The two kicked off the floor at the same time.

Then, Ouka swung her right arm and Mari released magical power she hoarded in both of her hands.

"《Count's Fang》!"

"《Aurora Cannon》!"

They hit the wall of flesh with all they had.

Magic of the two passed through the wall, opening up their own paths. The centre of the wall begun to immediately regenerate, but they were able to fly through it. Fighting the homunculi that turned into demon forms, they threw themselves in their own, separate battles.

 

***

 

Isolated, Ikaruga concentrated on escaping. She maneuvered the Dragoon hovering backwards and continued to leave chasing homunculi presents with a Gatling gun.

Ikaruga was a technician. She was familiar with piloting Dragoons, she also had the knowledge required to bring out the machine's performance to the limit. Although she was an aspiring Regin, her Dragoon piloting would compare to the best among the Knights' special operation troops.

However, Dragoon's weren't compatible with quick enemies. Even on a ten meters wide road, a three meters wide giant Dragoon was at a huge disadvantage.

Not only she didn't have much ammunition left, but the high vibration blade also was almost out of energy.

"......nhh......!"

The Gatling gun at the right arm had run out of bullets and was purged.

Using the chance when the barrage was interrupted, the homunculi eroded by the cells ran on the walls like spiders rushing at her.

With the little energy remaining in the blade, she turned around swinging it. She cut in half two homunculi that jumped at her, but one survived and clung to her arm.

The homunculi threw its arms around her and the cell grew in size, its shape being distorted.

With a rustle, the Dragoon's arm was subjected to quick erosion by Hyakki Yakou.

Ikaruga purged the arm itself and the Dragoon fell on its back.

"Boost ignition, full throttle...!"

Releasing the booster while still lying on the ground, she slid on the ground escaping through the hallway. Using all energy she had, Ikaruga distanced herself from the homunculi at incredible speed.

When she approached a wall Ikaruga fired the canon with explosives on the remaining arm, destroying the wall to get away. As the Dragoon vibrated violently Ikaruga continued to clench her teeth.

Before long, the energy was depleted, with a deep bass sound Dragoon stopped functioning. Interface lost its light and the display dimmed.

Ikaruga manually opened the hatch and crawled outside on her own.

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

She must have hit her forehead because blood was dripping down her cheek.

After wiping the blood with her hand, Ikaruga looked around.

She had no idea if the enemy had followed her, but should have taken quite a lot of distance from them. The place she was currently in must have been a homunculi manufacturing facility. She saw unadjusted homunculi being transported by a conveyor.

Without a soul originally, homunculi were too stupid to be used for anything else other than chores, but they specialized for combat by transplanting Hyakki Yakou's cells. To use them as a weapon, large quantities had to be produced.

Dragging her feet, Ikaruga advanced through the manufacturing facility.

"...just what am I doing here..."

Muttering a question to herself, she raised her bloodied hair.

There was a proper reason for which she joined Takeru and others. That was to take revenge in Kanaria's stead.

But, that was something to do after they have saved Kiseki, Takeru's little sister. Even though she didn't have any combat capability, she wanted to participate and help them. That's why she volunteered to take part in the operation using a Dragoon.

However, she didn't think she would be unable to keep up to this degree. Although she had some confidence in piloting Dragoons, she was still holding others back.

She had another method of fighting, but it was set aside for the her final objective.

"Doings things... I'm not used to, is difficult..."

Ikaruga continued to walk, smiling wryly. She had no idea where was she going. Walking endlessly through the manufacturing facility, her breath roughened and she felt like falling over.

Her vision was hazy and she tripped often. Apparently the injury on her head was more serious than she thought, she lost too much blood.

Cursing her weakness, Ikaruga fell on her knees.

"Stand up... if you stop here... what meaning would be there in coming here."

Scolding herself, she put her hands on the floor.

When she attempted to stand up and force her body active again.

Suddenly, a white hand has been outstretched in front of her .

Not being able to afford surprise, Ikaruga made a hazy expression.

Standing there was——

"Are you all right? Ikaruga-san."

——A gray-haired woman wearing a black lab coat.

Stunned, Ikaruga opened her eyes wide.

"It's been a while, hasn't it. About 15 years? Or maybe 16, was it? I prooperly remember you from the time you were a baby."

Ikaruga didn't know the woman who smiled broadly.

She didn't know her yet she knew her who was she to a painful degree. She saw a number of monsters so far, but this woman was in a special class by herself.

Tragedy's ringleader. Exploring the origin of life and playing around with it using technology. A system aiming for nothing else but to explore... the cause who completed the 'Suginami'.

Representative director controlling the Alchemist——alchemist, Suginami Suzaku.

Ikaruga slapped away Suzaku's outstretched hand and took distance, dragging her body.

Suzaku rubbed the hand that was hit, Suzaku made a blank look.

"Oh dear, there's no need to be so frightened is there... I wasn't really trying to do anything to you, okay?"

"...d-don't come any closer..."

"Oh-hoh, well well... if you reject me so much I'll be hurt. Genetically, I'm your mother after all."

When she said 'mother', Ikaruga's vision was stained red.

For the first time ever since she was born Ikaruga was completely furious, she stood up.

"——Don't screw with me...! Even if I inherited your genes, I'm not your child...!"

As Ikaruga denied their parent-child relationship, Suzaku made a wry smile.

"If I'm not wrong, your parental genes belonged to Paracelsus-san, hadn't they? He was an outstanding person. Good genes. His sperm and genes were excellent in improving the quality of my own genes."

In Suzaku's clear eyes there wasn't a speck of evil.

That was why she was disgusting.

Hearing her speak only of people's genes caused more and more anger well up in Ikaruga. Her appearance was characteristic to Suginamis. Her skin and hair color was different, but as Ikaruga's maternal genes came from Suzaku they were very similar. Her body looked younger than Ikaruga's. She did not know what technology was used, but Suginami Suzaku achieved pseudo-immortality and was said to be alive for over 500 years now.

"By the way〜, what did you come here for? It doesn't feel like you came home to see mom... oh, can it be that you came to rescue Kusanagi Kiseki, mm? I have heard from Sougetsu-sama that you are in very good relationship with the elder brother, Takeru-sama. Did you come here to help him?"

Speaking in a very fast manner, Suzaku joined her hands and smiled happily.

"...where's Kusanagi's little sister..."

Ikaruga narrowed her eyes sharply and inquired.

Asked about Kiseki, for some reason Suzaku's eyes shone.

"Well asked! I very much wanted to discuss the results of my various studies with another Suginami! After all, you are someone who had managed create technology to artificially restore the elves! Surely, you will join me in the discussion——"

"I already knew for a long time that you can control Hyakki Yakou and that you successfully transplanted its cells. I'm not interested in garbage of a technology like that... hurry up and tell me where is she."

Articulating strongly, Ikaruga spoke her request to Suzaku.

Suzaku made a lonely expression just for a moment, soon after she threw her arms open laughing happily.

"So that is so, so that is so... but, you are wrong about a single matter."

When Ikaruga frowned questioningly, Suzaku genuinely happy raised both her hands.

"——I haven't succeeded in controlling Hyakki Yakou! Result-wise it was a failure!"

Seeing Suzaku speak happily about her failure, Ikaruga felt increasingly uncomfortable.

An ordinary human wouldn't be able to understand the joy from a failure, what was unpleasant, that Ikaruga was able to.

The reason she was happy about failing was simple.

——She could continue to research it. There was room for improvement. She could progress. There was more to learn about the toy, she could still enjoy it.

Suzaku was genuinely happy.

"I found the reason for failing! It was hypothesized that by showing her a dream to comfort her it would lead to controlling Hyakki Yakou, thus I had conducted it! But performing it with a clear understanding of what a human's soul is was a mistake! Before implementing this method we have to clarify what a soul is! History of mankind shows that incomplete technology backfires on it!"

Ahh... exhaling ecstatic, Suzaku put both her hands on her chest.

"But... this failure has prompted a further progress of technology. It had become a stepping stone to understanding principles behind souls and at the same time, it has shown new possibilities of Hyakki Yakou...! Denied peace called dream, what happened to Kiseki-sama who returned to reality... do you want to know, Ikaruga-san?"

With tears in her eyes, Suzaku squirmed.

Despite increasing discomfort, Ikaruga listened quietly in order to obtain information.

"Kiseki-sama... that girl full of possibilities... denied the dream and had obtained full control of Hyakki Yakou...! That person had become one with Hyakki Yakou's flesh... no, it would be more correct to say that Kiseki-sama has finally become Hyakki Yakou!"

"...what...did you say...?"

"She has bloomed! That person has become complete as Hyakki Yakou!"

Ikaruga has turned pale.

Kusanagi Kiseki has controlled Hyakki Yakou. Hearing just that makes it sound like a good thing.

However, that wasn't something which could be controlled by spirit of a single person. Kiseki's pain, suffering had come from Hyakki Yakou purely granting her desires. It was frightening to just imagine it how painful it was for a human with reason. Kiseki was fighting with such horrifying pain.

Kiseki controlling the Hyakki Yakou meant that she has accepted it. That she had become true to her desires. The reason Kiseki was fighting them so far was because Takeru was her hope. She had hope in the existence that will kill her.

Losing that hope, Kiseki broke.

It's natural for this to happen... it's not that we didn't predict this happening... but, that's precisely why we hurried to her rescue...!

Despite knowing there was no sin in Kiseki, Ikaruga couldn't help but to blame her.

The first one to betray her was Takeru. He abandoned Kiseki's hope who desired death and didn't kill her for his own happiness. This fact, was nothing more than a betrayal to Kiseki.

But, Ikaruga was important for Takeru's happiness.

That was why Kiseki felt bitter and broke. When she met her once she told her "it's wrong to blame it on someone else" but it didn't seem have reached her properly.

...Kusanagi...!

If possible, she didn't want Takeru to bump into current Kiseki. Ikaruga could tell for what purpose Kiseki accepted her desires.

Ikaruga released strength from her shoulders, relaxing.

Right now, in this place, there was nothing she could do for Takeru.

If she was complete as Hyakki Yakou... the possibility of Takeru's salvation reaching Kiseki was extremely small.

"I do not know where Kiseki-sama currently is. I do not think she had exited from this facility yet, but surely she must be searching for her elder brother?"

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

"It would be better if Ikaruga-san had escaped quickly. There is no method that would stop Kiseki-sama right now. I myself cannot do so. I'm going to leave this place and observe Kiseki-sama's activity from the mountain's summit."

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

"Ah, if you want, we can go together?! I have two notepads with me, we can observe together, sketch, share our impressions. It will definitely be fun!"

Excitedly, Suzaku invited Ikaruga.

Ikaruga faced downwards and clenched her teeth powerlessly.

Oozing with anger, her mind was going crazy.

Anger, like blue flames had spread throughout Ikaruga's entire body and lodged itself in her heart, cold as ice.

"...actually, my objective isn't just saving Kusanagi's little sister."

Peeking into Ikaruga's face, Suzaku was puzzled.

Ikaruga unbuttoned her blouse and exposed her chest.

"After we're done saving the little sister... my objective was to blow away this entire location."

Her fingers crawled at the center of her chest, where her heart was.

"Unfortunately, now that we're no longer able to save the little sister, I can no longer afford to erase this entire location."

Her fingertips touched something hard.

It was a scarlet stone embedded in her skin.

Stroking the scarlet stone, with eyes cold as ice she stared at Suzaku.

"But——I can at least kill you alone."

Clearly having murderous intent directed at her, Suzaku had a dumbfounded expression.

Ignoring Suzaku's reaction, Ikaruga ordered the foreign matter inside of herself.

 

——Rewrite.

 

Momentarily, Ikaruga's body——one cell by one, changed into something different.

The structure of her body was being reworked starting with the center of her chest.

Her pure white skin turned brown-red like soil, her eye color had whites and black reversed as she turned inhuman. Her ear lengthened in a sharp angle and her body overflowed with magical power.

It was power of the Philosopher Stone she had used against Isuka a few months earlier.

A dark elf's DNA was input in the Philosopher's Stone and the taboo technology has rewritten her own body. The source of the cells "Lost Matrix" no longer existed. However, using the memory of when she used it previously, she improved the Philosopher Stone she was holding.

By awakening that memory——Ikaruga once again turned into a dark elf.

"Personally I have no grudge against you. I don't care where and what you do. Even what happened to Isuka, I think is my own fault."

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

"However."

Ikaruga expanded a magical circle beneath her feet, magical power raged below her and hair stood up on its ends.

Then, she pointed her supple fingers at Suzaku.

 

"As long as you're alive——my cute daughter can't sleep in peace."

 

That's right. That was enough of a reason to kill this woman.

As a mother, instead of her daughter Ikaruga just had to erase whatever disturbed Kanaria.

Whether it was good or evil, right or wrong, it didn't matter.

For a cute daughter throwing tantrums, so that she doesn't have to live a life bound by hatred and live peacefully.

A mother would become strong.

If it's for her daughter's sake——Ikaruga too, would step on path of carnage.

"...Marvelous...!"

Looking at Ikaruga using Philosopher Stone power right in front of her, Suzaku shed tears of delight.

 

***

 

Takeru was walking through the blood and organs.

His entire body covered in blood, he no longer looked like an armored knight but like a demon instead.

Since he couldn't simply turn into God Hunter form, it was difficult for him to completely destroy Hyakki Yakou's cells. There was no choice but cover Lapis' blade with magical power and single-mindedly cut them all down.

He killed, killed, and killing he hurried ahead.

Continuing to kill the dolls that had the same appearance as his little sister.

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

The inside structure of the lab changed again, he no longer knew where was he walking. He thought of trying to destroy the wall of flesh to rejoin Ouka and others, but was already connected to a different passage. At times he felt like he passed through the same place, at others he felt it was different.

Mentally, current Takeru couldn't afford to think about these things. Even though he knew they weren't Kiseki, killing dolls that looked like her visibly exhausted his spirit.

《"...Host."》

"...I'm okay. Did you find Ouka and the others?"

《"Not yet. My apologies. I'm not good at searching..."》

"So you didn't find Kiseki either..."

《"...yes."》

Lapis replied in a disheartened tone of voice.

As if to show his thanks to Lapis, Takeru wiped the blood off the blade with his hand.

"I ended up using you roughly... sorry."

《"No. Host always thinks of me as he wields me... rather, it is me who has to apologize for forcing Host to fight in this manner."》

In response to Lapis' concern, Takeru smiled lightly and narrowed his eyes.

Since he was likely to lose human sanity, he was saved by her human words. Somehow, the usualy cold blade felt slightly warm.

That must be how much was his soul frozen.

《"——Host, be careful, in the front!"》

Hearing Lapis' voice suggesting him to be vigilant, Takeru raised his sword in an instant.

A new enemy? The lab's passage was still shrouded in darkness.

But, what was ahead of him were dead bodies of homunculi and remnant of Hyakki Yakou.

"...what?"

She squinted sharply and glared at the corpses ahead.

In the sea of blood and organs, there was a shadow. On its knees, breathing roughly, when it noticed Takeru's approach its pupils glinted in the darkness.

"...Kyouya...?"

"............Kusanagi, huh."

When Kyouya confirmed Takeru's appearance, his mouth drew an arc and he stood up using a gun like a walking stick.

Takeru turned the sword's point at him.

The two owners of deep fate once again stood in opposition.

"Why are you here. Did you come again to get in my way?"

"Ha, don't act so conceited. I'm here for my own goal."

"Goal? Is it revenge?"

"It got nothin' to do with you."

Kyouya pointed the muzzle at Takeru and his expression turned steep.

Kyouya's goal...

Takeru looked at where he stood and at the scattered remnants of the enemy around him.

He stood as if to protect a room's door. Not even a bloodstain from the homunculi carcasses filling the passage didn't has reached the door.

With just this circumstantial evidence, Takeru guessed it.

"Is Yoshimizu there?"

"...I told you 's got nothin' to do with you."

"So you cooperated with Alchemist in order to save Yoshimizu."

As Takeru inquired, Kyouya clicked his tongue in irritation.

Takeru was expressionless.

Staring coldly at Kyouya with the pair of his eyes, he shook the point of his sword.

"Then take Yoshimizu and escape from here. You better rely on someone else other than Alchemist."

"Someone elsee? What other organization other than Alchemist can possibly save her? Don't make me laugh."

"Ask president Hoshijiro for help. If it's that person, she should be able to find a way to save Yoshimizu."

"I'll pass. I've no intention of clinging to dissidents' faction that's a damn gathering of heretics."

Still aiming the gun at Takeru, Kyouya raised his chin and mocked him.

"How about you, what did you come here for? Did you come here blindly to save your little sister?"

"That's right. And that's also why I don't have time to be bothered by you now. Get out of the way."

Suppressing his emotions, Takeru clearly said "Out of my way."

Kyouya looked at Takeru with despise he felt from the bottom of his heart.

"You're so naive. There's no way to save that little sister of yours. You should know it best, right? The only way, is to kill her!"

"——I came here because I do have a method!"

Takeru shouted in anger.

He tried to suppress his feelings and try to resolve it peacefully, but it was already impossible. It wasn't time to do such a thing. If he doesn't hurry he won't be able to save his comrades nor Kiseki.

If Kyouya was to stand in his way, Takeru didn't hesitate to fight him.

When Takeru bared his feelings in frustration, Kyouya's eye color changed.

"A different method...? There ain't such a thing."

"If we transfer Kiseki's soul into another body, at the very least she won't have to suffer from the Hyakki Yakou's body! I came here to use that method! Please, Kyouya... don't get in my way... any more than this...!"

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

"You have no reason to get in my way...!"

Compelling him with feelings, Takeru requested Kyouya to let him pass.

Kyouya erased the smile from his face and furrowed his eyebrows.

"Place the soul in another body...? What kind of method's that... no, wait.... there was a witch like that before... if I"m not wrong, called Mephisto..."

He placed his hand on his chin, as if exploring his memory.

Takeru sunk his waist low and seeing the chance he tried to slip past Kyouya.

——*bam*, with a heavy sound the gun spew fire and the projectile landed by Takeru's feet.

"Khh!"

"Hmph... hey Kusanagi. I'll ask you one thing. If you're moving her soul to another body, it means you're making her possess another body, right? You're using an 《Install》 instant charm, aren't you."

Hearing Kyouya's question, Takeru tried to answer him.

But he changed his mind on the verge of doings so. He had a bad feeling. There was a sudden change in Kyouya's attitude. There seemed to be more than one reason for which he was insistently asking about the method to save Kiseki.

...it can't be... this guy...!

To save Kiseki another body was required. By preparing a homunculus and using 《Install》 charm to transplant the soul into it, Takeru could save Kiseki.

But, using the same method——couldn't Yoshimizu Akira be saved as well?

"...you have it, don't you? An 《Install》 charm."

Kyouya covered his face with the palm of his hand.

Takeru could see his pupils glare from between the fingers. Evaluating, eyes of the beast.

Takeru's premonition was on spot.

Those eyes were of someone intending to plunder.

Selfishness of someone who doesn't pick methods for his own purpose. Eliminating everything in the way. Stealing what he needs.

That kind of a person's eyes!

"Kyouya... you...!"

Takeru squeezed the sword's hilt, entering battle readiness. In order not to be stolen from, he had no choice but to fight.

If it was saving Yoshimizu, then Takeru wanted it as well. However, this salvation was Kiseki's, it belonged to her alone.

No matter the reason——he could never give it up!

Seeing Takeru change into a furious demon, Kyouya laughed slightly.

"...reminds me of old times. You've been always like this. Always reckless, just going forward uncaring about surroundings... in order to protect what you want to protect... to save what you want to save. Recently there's more of that in you than your mask."

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

"...Kusanagi... no more chatter, give me... give it to us, now."

Kyouya clenched the gun's grip and moving away the hand from his face, he glared at Takeru.

Ironically, dwelling inside of his pupils were the same feelings Takeru had.

I want to save. Just that.

As Kyouya said, there was no need for words any more. Even Takeru knew that it was useless to say anything to current Kyouya. Although he couldn't allow himself to empathize, he understood his feelings to a painful extent.

...that's why——

"I refuse——this is our salvation! It's not yours!"

Knowing that it's pointless to say anything else, Takeru triggered Soumatou.

Kyouya too, had his blood permeated with Nero's poison and the blood vessels in his body have started pulsating.

Takeru squeezed the handle strongly and Kyouya put a finger on Nero's trigger.

And the next moment——the two crashed with an explosive momentum.

The blade and the barrel clashed, cracks ran throughout the passage as a result from the impact.

Colliding from the front, in the middle of swirling magical power the two glared at each other.

Since he could keep up with Soumatou's speed and explosive power, Kyouya couldn't be underestimated after all.

The one whose arm strength was higher——was Kyouya.

"Ha!!"

As if spitting laughter, Kyouya swung his gun.

Takeru's sword was parried and he was blown backwards.

Having a shotgun against him in a confined area, it would be fatal to move away even a little bit. Kyouya turned the muzzle towards Takeru and fired a shotgun shell.

With a heavy roar, small magical bullets spread in a wide range assaulting his entire body.

It was impossible to avoid. Takeru changed the sword's shape into that of a wide great sword, using it as a shield.

The bullets hit the sword and Takeru was blown further backwards.

Takeru who was blown away by the power of the buckshot flew with a cannonball-like momentum and desperately tried to stop by standing on the wall.

However, before he could stop, Kyouya has already came flying at him.

——So he caught up in an instant.

That was a tremendous physical ability. It could be already said that his speed was equal to that of Takeru's.

The shotgun fired right in front of him.

Takeru once again used a great sword as a shield.

But he had no intention of repeating the same thing. At the same time the bullets hit, he tilted the sword and deflected them backwards.

He side stepped, barely fell to the ground and already dove under Kyouya.

Having the shotgun projectile graze his shoulder, Taker returned the deformed sword into nodachi and slashed upwards at Kyouya's jaw.

Kusanagi True Light style, Wolf's Sword.

Like a beast biting a throat, the sword closed on Kyouya's jaw.

"Sawed-off——!"

The barrel of Kyouya's gun was cut short and its shape changed.

When the muzzle was directed at Takeru's face who approached from below, on the brink of shooting Takeru shifted his blade's trajectory, parrying the shortened barrel.

He couldn't repeat the same course of the fight again. Takeru fought Kyouya before. He could predict that Kyouya would shorten the barrel the moment he entered below him.

Kyouya clicked his tongue and leaped backwards.

There was no way Takeru could let him escape. Not allowing him to take distance, Takeru sunk low with his right leg and flowing, swung the sword in front of Kyouya's eyes.

"Lay off!!"

Along with his roar, blood vessels on Kyouya's temple throbbed.

The moment his eyes turned bloodshot, Kyouya's gun changed shape and received Takeru's slash.

The shape in which his arms itself turned into a weapon was very unfamiliar to him.

Seeing the weapon, Takeru opened his eyes wide.

"——A tonfa, huh."

The weapon called tonfa was a blunt weapon that combined both defense and offense.

"You ain't the one who can fight in close range!!"

Kyouya caught Takeru's blade with the tonfa arm and hit his abdomen with the tonfa in his free arm.

Because Takeru leaped backwards on the brink of getting hit, he succeeded in decreasing the damage.

However——

"Buckshot!"

The tip of the tonfa retained its performance as a gun, it had something like a muzzle on its tip.

A shotgun fire flowed from there, assaulting Takeru's abdomen.

"Ggghh!"

Takeru who received the shotgun fire from very close distance has bent in く shape and blown backwards again.

"A bonus!"

The tonfa's muzzle was aimed at Takeru's body who was being blown away and a magical bullet was released.

Slug shot. A single projectile-type concentrated magical bullet burst the moment Takeru slammed into the wall.

With a roar the passage and its ceiling collapsed. To find Takeru who disappeared in the smoke Kyouya rotated the tonfa on his arms and started to walk slowly.

"............damn it."

Dissatisfied, Kyouya glared in the middle of the smoke.

Kyouya didn't think he could defeat Takeru with just that.

But, however.

"I didn't lose my mind have I... what's with that."

He stopped his feet and readied the tonfas.

Takeru's figure emerged from the smoke. Since Lapis increased the amount of armor with magical power the damage was minor. Still, that was not all.

He——was holding a sword each in both hands.

And not only that, both of them were wide great swords.

Their length was about six feet each. Takeru held those lightly.

"...heh, dual wielding... interestin'...!"

Kyouya strengthened his vigilance and slowly took distance.

Takeru pulled back half of his body and took a stance spreading his both arms widely. The left sword was poised forward and the right one was raised high.

The appearance of the maintained posture was like that of a kabuki actor, a finest sword stance of Double-Edged style.

Dual wielding was rarely used in Kusanagi Double-Edged style. For Double-Edged style that assumed one would use all strength in one blow, dual wielding that dispersed strength between two hands was unimportant.

This stance, was the only one defensive stance in Kusanagi-style.

I get now why did Master forced stances into me before teaching me techniques...

In the Double-Edged style, there was that one technique that specialized in "receiving" and "flow".

This stance existed for the sake of that technique. Takeru furrowed his eyebrows and once again, turned battle ready.

"Come."

"Let's see if it just looks good or not!"

Kyouya kicked off the floor and closed in at once.

Swinging the right tonfa, he approached right from the front.

Takeru relaxed his legs in the stance and first received the hit with the sword in his left hand.

Next was the shoot from Kyouya. Takeru blocked the shotgun fire with wide great sword at close range before it could spread.

But, because the power was great Takeru's body was flung upwards along with the sword he held in his left hand.

That's when,

"Ghost Light Firefly!"

Takeru triggered the technique. One that used enemy's flow and harnessed their power by parrying, Ghost Light Firefly.

The stronger the enemy's attack was, the higher was Ghost Light Firefly's power. Without pulling back the great sword that was blown away with impact, Takeru let his body be carried by the flow. At the same time as the blown away sword pierced the ceiling, Takeru kicked off the ceiling using his legs like a spring returning back to Kyouya.

But because his weapon was large and he was holding it in just one hand, his speed decreased. Even though he was riding on the flow, his movement was too slow. He was too late.

As Takeru rushed at him, Kyouya swung the tonfa upwards.

Make it in time!

——*dingg*!

The tonfa and sword collided, an impact was born. Then once again shotgun was fired and once again Takeru was blown away with the sword.

"Ain't you getting rid of your weapons sure is fishy!"

Ignoring Kyouya's provocation, Takeru did the same thing again.

He was blown away and returned, parried and once again lunged in.

Even faster! More sharply! As if rotating...!!

His appearance, being blown away and returning was like that of a yo-yo.

Kyouya must have felt how Takeru was hitting the wall and rebounding. The careless smile he made was tinged with mockery.

Takeru didn't mind it. He endlessly repeated doing it. As it repeated, Kyouya too, has noticed.

"......?!!"

Clearly, the speed with which Takeru was coming back was increasing.

The trajectory at which he came back was changing and drew a circle instead of a straight line.

"...what's going on...!"

No matter how much Kyouya hit him, Takeru continued to accelerate.

In fact, the only attack that hit Takeru was the very first one.

Other attacks either grazed him or were received by the sword.

Not only they were received, but also used.

"HAAaa!!"

The circle around him was getting smaller, before he noticed Takeru was already attacking him from the front.

Takeru was rotating. Parrying Kyouya's attack, using a circular motion to utilize the rebound he rotated like a tornado.

While Takeru finally got to use his huge weapons, Kyouya's attacks have been suppressed. Before long, the one attacking wasn't Kyouya but Takeru instead.

Takeru's blows never lost any momentum and were tremendously heavy.

Not only that, he was using two weapons so the time between his attacks as he rotated were very short.

Unable to take it, Kyouya started to avoid.

As the speed and power increased many fold, Kyouya couldn't bear it.

He was driven to a corner. Takeru mercilessly accelerated.

The victory and defeat was already decided. Compared to Takeru who was taught swordsmanship from an early age, Kyouya was an amateur. Even though he was an excellent student, he was jack of all trades and this wasn't a weapon for him.

——That's what Takeru thought.

"——Bastarrrrdd!!"

"?!!"

Kyouya's roar filled him with dread.

Driven by passion, Kyouya accelerated of all things.

His fists, footwork has gotten faster, all his capabilities increased.

Not bothering about the fact recoil was used, Kyouya just continued to furiously attack. However, thanks to the obsession dwelling in those attacks that he caught up with Takeru's speed who was using Ghost Light Firefly. Even though he was parried, Kyouya plunged straightforward, counter-attacking undaunted by grazes.

Spreading sparks all over, the two continuously attacked.

《"With Nero's poison in his body, he should have avoided death... it can't be, I wonder if he has developed resistance to poison."》

Kyouya's brain processing speed was accelerated like Takeru's, but he hadn't the strengthening of body and dynamic vision. Therefore, his phenomenal physical ability was one of the Relic Eaters, Nero's benefits.

When they fought before his blood vessels all over the body burst and it ended with self-destruction.

Current Kyouya has completely mastered the power of poison. Most likely, while Takeru was attending Magic Academy he spent his time fighting battles beyond imagination. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to hold out for so long against Takeru, a swordsman.

However, no matter how much resistance did he develop, there was a limit. Kyouya's blood was bubbling, as if boiling it has expanded his blood vessels.

Still, he continued to move. As Kyouya continued to accelerate Takeru was filled with dread.

Takeru knew first hand how dreadful was the power of people exceeding their limits.

Kyouya's big mistake was not having a weapon suiting his ability.

His weapon wasn't neither a Relic Eater nor revenge.

It was obsession.

A power that allowed an ordinary human bloom into a superman.

"I won't pull back! I can't turn back to how it was! Now that there's no other way for me, I won't show mercy to anyone!"

"I'm different from you! I wouldn't think of depriving someone of salvation to save Kiseki! Don't you get it?! Even if you save Yoshimizu like this, she won't be happy about it!"

"Couldn't care less! Wanting to save Akira I dive headlong into battle! You're the same, Kusanagi!"

"......!"

"If it's to save her I will hurt anyone, kill anyone! Even if Akira doesn't want it, I'll save her! For myself! The reason you betrayed your sister's the same——stop acting goody-two-shoes in a battle between men!"

A blow with a full body behind it grazed Takeru's cheek. Even though it only grazed him, Kyouya's fist full of obsession had gouged the meat in his cheek.

What Kyouya said was correct. Takeru was the same. For himself, selfishly he sacrificed many things in order to get what he wants, betraying.

Even though he was aware of it, he continued to pursue hope without change.

Nothing changed. Just his position and the situation are different.

How deeply sinful it was. For the two incompatible people to be so similar.

No matter what he was told, he had no intention of pulling back and smoothing it over.

Even if he was showered with persuasion, his heart wouldn't waver.

Discard sympathy. It's rude to have any towards Kyouya. It would mean lying to himself.

Takeru stopped the rotation and crossing the great swords, he slashed as if to cut through Kyouya.

Likening the tonfa to a fist, Kyouya thrust into Takeru's arms.

The fist and sword collided and the two pushed against each other.

"KUSANAGIIIIIiiiiii!!"

"KYOUYAAAAaaa!!"

Baring their fangs, two men clashed with their souls.

Two demons of dark green and azure armors scattered magical power, parrying each other's weapons, then took distance from each other. In the silent passage, the two gathered their strength.

This would probably be last exchange of blows.

Therefore, with all strength——they would strike the other!

"Kusanagi Double-Edged style...!"

"Triple Thread...!"

Takeru's sword turned into a iaido katana and sheathed.

Kyouya's weapon was mounted just on his right arm, turning into a huge tonfa with three muzzles.

And——at the same time, the two strongly burst.

"——Heavenly Evil Spirit!"

"——Slugshot!"

The godspeed sword draw and with a punch, highly-concentrated magical bullet were released.

It wasn't a clash of power.

Which one was faster and more accurate, was the decisive factor.

Swinging from above, Kyouya's fist assaulted Takeru.

Speed-wise, Kyouya was on top. This fight in which they strained all their nerves for a single blow depended on the speed and on who reads the opponent better. Predicting enemy's actions before they make them and making first move was essential.

However, it was different for Takeru who could use Soumatou.

Not only he could read the opponent's actions, he could act as he watched his movement.

Currently, Kyouya should have been able to do the same thing, but in this situation difference in their experience was apparent.

Putting the remaining strength into Soumatou, Takeru had the world slow down to the limit before he pulled the sword out.

He predicted that Kyouya wouldn't just swing his fist down. It was on spot.

After swinging up, he already had the muzzle aimed at Takeru. He would fire as a feint in that state, if it hit it would be fine, if it was avoided he would aim for that moment and closing distance he would swing down directly at Takeru. That was Kyouya's plan.

Surely enough, he released three magical bullets first.

Predicting it, Takeru lowered his upper body avoiding them.

In Kyouya's eyes opened widely as he realized he was read.

In the ultra-high speed world, the two's line of sight met.

On the verge of his slash hitting, Takeru saw Kyouya make a faint smile.

Takeru guessed he would perform suicide. He closed his eyes and pulled out the sword with full strength.

——For his own sake——

The strike exploded on Kyouya's torso.

The moment Soumatou was released, Kyouya's body formed a く shape and slammed into the wall right beside.

Penetrating the wall, Kyouya plunged into a homunculus pod.

He... didn't move.

Takeru performed a follow-through and let out a deep breath.

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

After waiting his breathing calms down, Takeru walked towards where Kyouya was.

Raising his head from the adjustment solution for homunculi, Kyouya started coughing.

A few meters horizontally from him a single pod was removed from the rail. Seeing the person sleeping in it, Takeru felt pain in his chest.

With a pained expression, Kyouya looked up at Takeru who walked up to him.

"...hitting me with the back of the sword, what a sissy thing to do... hurry up... kill me."

Silently Takeru shoved the sword's point at Kyouya.

Kyouya exposed his neck and smiled sarcastically.

'It's fine.' As if to say that.

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

Takeru pulled back the sword, sheathed it and turned his back to Kyouya, who tried to stand up with a furious expression.

"It might have been a blunt strike, but a normal person would be blown to small pieces from it. If you move, you'll die."

"Bastard...don't screw with me...don't give me needless mercy...!"

"Mercy? No."

Still turned with his back, Takeru clenched his fist.

"I have no intention of forgiving you for what you did. If not for you, Kiseki might have not ended up like that."

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

"But who will save Yoshimizu if you die. Who will be there when she wakes up. There's no one but you."

Relaxing his shoulders, Takeru stared at the ceiling, seeking heavens.

"Kyouya... earlier... when you were prepared to die, you were relieved weren't you."

Hearing Takeru, Kyouya made an extremely bitter expression and turned away.

"Don't leave Yoshimizu and escape on your own. Don't go and die ahead of her."

"............!!"

"Even if you stay in Inquisition, you're free to ask dissidents for help. I won't say anything else, nothing."

Takeru started to walk, in order to fulfill his own goal.

Kyouya didn't say anything else.

...right now, I just have to save things of my own.

He was not in a position to lecture anyone and since they were similar, it was like speaking to himself.

Dying ahead is unforgivable. Takeru who had betrayed Kiseki had intention to live and fight until he fulfilled his wish.

He had to hurry.

The priority was to rejoin his comrades, then all of them will save Kise——

 

"                                     Onii-chan                                      "

 

——————First, dread has ran through him.

Then, comfort hearing the nostalgic tone of voice and horror similar to surprise shook his spine.

Takeru slowly turned his face towards the voice.

Holding the sword he opened his eyes wide and was petrified on spot.

His mouth made a distorted arc as he saw the beauty impossible to save and stiffened.

There were wings.

Incredibly distorted, powerful wings. The meat overflowing from her legs like a skirt wrapped around her like children around their mother.

Her body was no longer human. Her heart was already cold as ice.

But there, undeniably, was his important person.

Unexpected to an unpleasant degree. Even though he didn't want to, he had to admit it.

That wasn't a fake, but true...

"Kiseki...?"

Forcing his cramped mouth, her name leaked from it. Why did he call her like that, he didn't know. There were no remnant of how he remembered her. A shy, with embarrassed smile. It has already disappeared.

There, was just a big smile.

Wanting to spoil herself, a happy smile suggesting just that.

Her figure wrapped in eerie variant acting like a dress was too chaotic, it could only be described as beautiful.

"Onii-chan. We finally meet."

Kiseki spoke the same words as when they reunited for the first time.

Takeru staggered, with a stretched expression and remaining strength he reached out to her.

That moment——demons overflowed from inside Kiseki.

 

***

 

Ikaruga who used 'Philosopher's Stone' to change into a dark elf, was in shock.

Producing antimatter with with elf's magical power, she morphed material and released 《Catastrophe》.

It should have been released.

"..."Philosopher's Stone"... it's a convenient toy."

Suzaku has appeared.

Expanding a jet-black magical circle, flapping black lab coat. Her hair stood up like Ikaruga's. Her skin wasn't like that of a human, but white and shiny like a pearl. Her ears pointed and pupils cloudy white.

Her appearance truly looked like an elf's.

However, it wasn't that of a wood elf or a black elf.

"By reading the DNA, rewriting the owner's body structure and DNA into the same thing source organism was... well done achieving technology that is culmination of alchemy by yourself."

"...no way... you too...!"

"Yes, about 300 years ago, was it... the probability was quite high, but I was very happy when you completed it."

300 years ago... so that long before her Suzaku managed to refine 'Philosopher's Stone'.

Ikaruga realized the difference between their strength.

"Generating antimatter that requires enormous energy, you created an excellent attack magic. As your mother gene, I'm proud of you."

Suzaku's appearance was changed by Philosopher's Stone. Her current appearance was probably something known to exist by excavating fossils, never seen by man a 'High Elf'. There were only hypotheses on what kind of elf was it, but legends said they hated conflicts and manipulated stars.

After becoming a legendary extinct creature, in an instant Suzaku erased antimatter shot by Ikaruga using a different magic.

"...what did you do...!"

"Are you familiar with dark matter? Although it's a substance of which there's an infinite amount in the universe, it's mysteries haven't been clarified yet. There are some theories that substance leads to the mystery of the universe and such. Because researchers were curious about it, I brought some down from the space."

While saying so, Suzaku had something like a black sphere appear on her palm.

"We learned one thing. The reality of what touches this material wavers and it turns as if they didn't exist in the first place."

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

"In other words, they disappear. It was a good experiment. I have confirmed that matter disappears, but I haven't tried with antimatter yet."

Suzaku smiled happily, then laughed.

Ikaruga clenched her teeth and fired multiple antimatter bullets at Suzaku.

Small gray lights shook as they closed on Suzaku.

When it did, Suzaku spread the dark matter like a water veil, blocking the flying antimatter. As if it didn't exist right from the start, the antimatter disappeared.

Ikaruga was at wits end. In the first place she wasn't interested in magic, she didn't learn operative procedures for any other magic than this. Cursing herself for being asleep during operative procedures class, in her hands she clutched antimatter she produced.

"...not yet!"

She poured the antimatter on the ground, 《Catastrophe》 activated when antimatter was exposed to matter. In that case, she didn't have to hit Suzaku directly. It just had to touch the floor and cause a large explosion.

Her vision was filled with light, impact hit the manufacturing facility. Ikaruga expanded a protective field, blocking the impact.

There was less antimatter than she used in the Fifth Research Facility, but there was enough power to shake the manufacturing facility.

In the middle of light, Ikaruga saw Suzaku disappear. Although she could cover herself with dark matter membrane, she did not do so. Her black lab coat was blown away, skin was torn away with internal organs and everything evaporated. Witnessing it, Ikaruga closed her eyes.

When the explosion has subsided, the only one on spot was Ikaruga.

The homunculus manufacturing facility was destroyed, the machines were dissolved. The walls and ceiling collapsed, disintegrating in an instant.

Breathing roughly, Ikaruga released the change and returned to her original, human form.

Even though it was improved, there still was a large burden on the body and Ikaruga felt unsteady.

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

It was over. Suzaku has certainly disappeared. Although it was the first time Ikaruga killed a person, she didn't feel too good about it. Even if it was the ringleader behind all that happened.

...let's immediately change the mood. I need to look for Kusanagi next.

After that, she will destroy this facility.

Fixed on a goal, Ikaruga tried to leave the location.

"Where are you going?"

Hearing a whisper-like voice in her ear, chills ran down Ikaruga's entire body.

Immediately after, Ikaruga was strangled from behind and raised up.

"Kh...haa..."

"Ikaruga-san, you're a very tomboyish daughter. The manufacturing facility I made after much trouble is all messed up. I can understand wanting to brag to your mom about your research results, but if you overdo it I'll have to re-educate you, okay?"

Chuckling, Suzaku strangled her with one hand. Although she had the high elf's appearance, it was certainly Suzaku. Flapping her feet in agony, Ikaruga managed to barely move her neck and glare at Suzaku.

"...I killed...you...!"

Hearing Ikaruga's words, Suzaku made a blank look.

"Yes, I died. Certainly, just now I was caught up and blown up by an explosion."

"Wh...y...!!"

"Oh... that's right. I still haven't taught you how did I achieve pseudo-immortality, have I."

Waving the index finger of her free hand, Suzaku cutely winked.

"Me right here, is a different me. Even though I say 'different', me who died earlier is same me that's right here."

"...a clone...?!"

Suzaku shook her head.

"A miss. Rather than clone... it's Suginami. It seems like you misunderstood the system that is Suginami. It's not wonder since this system is referred to as "Designs Child", but the essence of this system is not producing excellent researchers."

Lightly opening her eyes, Suzaku spoke of the truth Ikaruga didn't know of.

"To be precise——the goal is to produce human beings that inherit my genes. Clones have too short lives and are costly to produce. The budget wouldn't last if I was to subject normal children to genetic manipulation. And above all, that way of doings things is more interesting."

"............!!"

"Why was there a need for you to inherit my genes... of course for outstanding humans to be born, but not only for that. Suginami genes are special, they have a special name."

So that Ikaruga doesn't immediately die, Suzaku continued to regulate her grip.

And then, she said the shocking truth.

"The gene's name is——"Phoenix", in other words - me. It's not referring to this "body" nor to the "body" that has died earlier. Phoenix is name of the "gene" that dwells in all children born through Suginami system."

"———?!"

"That makes my existence, the gene itself. If the Phoenix program detects that the one claiming to be 'Suzaku' dies, the gene is awoken in another Suginami and they are reborn as new Suzaku. Since the genes of Suginami are connected by a network, if I die again here and now, another Suginami will change into Suzaku."

"...that's... then, the soul..."

"Phoenix doesn't have such a thing."

Impossible.

An existence without a soul——just a gene, there's no way it can exist.

"Of course, I'm dwelling inside of you as well."

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

"All bodies of Suginami have it dwelling in their bodies. We're a family after all. Right now, I wonder just how much of the Phoenix gene is diffused around the world, even I can't tell. After all, the Suginami system was completed with help of magic 300 years ago."

Suzaku spoke, as if blowing into her ear.

The gene held memory and personality of "Suginami Suzaku". The person herself has died long time ago, but her memories and personality was inherited in full by the genes. When she died, she was replaced, died again and replaced again, surviving.

Killing such a thing was impossible. Suginami genes were spread all over the world. Killing all of them was nearly impossible.

"One day... you too, might become me."

Suzaku said so with a joyful voice.

If Suzaku dies, another Suginami becomes Suzaku. Using that kind of perpetuum mobile this woman... no, this gene continued to live for over 300 years.

Ikaruga forgot even her suffering as she was strangled and relaxed.

Then——her shoulders trembling, she started to laugh.

"I get it that I don't have a way to kill you... but I... won't become you. If it's killing you inside of me, there is a method."

"?"

"Did you forget? I can rewrite my own genes...!"

——*bzzt*

An electric current ran through Ikaruga's body.

"...if I rewrite my personal genome slightly, you won't be able to function...! Searching for an alien gene inside of me is nothing...!"

She can't kill her. But at least, she has to make this much of a counter-attack.

Glaring at Suzaku's blank expression, Ikaruga shouted.

"Serves you right...! I won't let you defile my soul... nor my genes!"

There was no change from Suzaku's previous expression.

However, she just a little bit regretfully tilted her head.

"Oh my... even if Phoenix is awakened, your memory and knowledge doesn't disappear and is inherited by 'me'... what a shame. Since Ikaruga-san was very outstanding, I looked forward to taking your share of knowledge."

"You must be joking... makes me sick...! Humans aren't made up just with memories and knowledge! But I guess you, who is just a gene wouldn't know!"

"Is that so..."

The grip on her neck has gotten stronger.

Ikaruga's face distorted in pain and she flailed her legs.

"Then, it can't be helped. I'll have you turn into my knowledge. Actually, I was curious... what happens if a human is tossed into dark matter."

"——Khh!"

"Naw, I wasn't wondering whether body disappears or not——"will I see the soul?" is what I thought, see? Since I have no soul myself."

In her palm, Suzaku made dark matter appear. The substance has become enormous, big enough to swallow a person.

The only thing in Suzaku's pupils was curiosity. She was a monster driven by intellectual curiosity alone. Her only feelings for others was intellectual curiosity, making her incompatible with anyone.

That existence was underlying the system called Suginami.

Hearing that this darkness also dwelled inside of her and she was defeated by it, Ikaruga was mortified.

She fought the best she could. Sprouting a person's emotions, she jumped out of the cage by her own will and meeting 35th platoon she found place she belonged to. She lived not as a Suginami, but as a normal human.

And yet, in the end, being killed by Suginami's darkness made her frustrated.

No, that's wrong. It wasn't this.

"...Kana...ria...sor...rry...!!"

As her consciousness faded, Ikaruga called her daughter's name.

They weren't connected by blood, she didn't feel the pain of birthing, a half-elf child.

The only thing she did, was to give her name.

If possible, she wanted to do more motherly things for her.

She didn't know what a 'mother' was, but not knowing she would do her best, wanting to become one. It was all still ahead of her.

That was the most frustrating thing.

"If you're to apologize——then don't go alone in the first place!!"

 

The moment she heard the roar, the hand grabbing Ikaruga's soared high into the air.

Freed, Ikaruga fell on her knees on the ground.

At the same time, the arm generating dark matter was also cut off, then rolled beside Ikaruga.

Severely coughing, Ikaruga raised her face looking upwards.

There, stood Kanaria. Standing in front of Suzaku, she poised Lævateinn as if to protect Ikaruga. Lævateinn blade blazed like magma and its point was turned at Suzaku.

Ikaruga's expression stiffened.

"...Kanaria... how did you...?!"

Kanaria didn't look at Ikaruga's face, remaining still turned with back to her.

Suzaku who had her arms of too, blinked quickly as she curiously stared at Kanaria.

"...if I'm right, aren't you the half-wood elf Isuka-san made?"

Being questioned, Kanaria bit her lower lip.

Then, she strongly breathed out through nose and shook her head.

"Wrong. Mama... ——I'm a half-wood elf made by Mama and this one here!"

This, was the first time Kanaria recognized Ikaruga as her creator.

Ikaruga's pupils shook.

"Hey, you."

Kanaria called Ikaruga.

"You're a liar. The parent who gave Kana a name, wasn't mama. It's you, Kana knows it."

Swinging the sword sideways, Kanaria created a circle of flames to protect Ikaruga.

"Also, you don't understand. That Mama wouldn't be happy if Kana took revenge for her, is true. Kana was wrong. But even if you go instead of Kana, Mama won't be happy either."

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

"...if you die, Mama will cry again..."

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

"——That's why Kana came here!"

Not for revenge, but to protect Ikaruga.

With a new resolve in her chest, Kanaria used Lævateinn. The blazing blade, it's performance as a Sacred Treasure was the proof it has shown a slight reaction, despite being said to be non-functional.

Something changed inside Kanaria. Lævateinn responded to that change. Ikaruga too, could feel that change.

It seemed like Kanaria was no longer just a rebellious child. Just a little bit, her back looked bigger.

"A wood elf and a Sacred Treasure... isn't that the partially-destroyed Lævateinn?! I see... Valhalla also considered it. Certainly, your soul is close to that of a wood elf, it's quality is different from a human's. As I thought, the so-called souls are interesting... it's a shame I don't have one."

Suzaku regenerated with Philosopher's Stone and before the muscle tissue could be covered with skin she put a hand on her chest. Although that gesture was supposed to make it seem she was sad, immediately after her interest was drawn to something and her eyes sparkled.

"That's right. I wonder, if me who has no soul uses a Sacred Treasure, what's going to happen?"

Hearing Suzaku's idea, Kanaria snorted loudly.

"What, you want to steal it. Lævateinn from Kana."

"I won't steal it. Just take it. I'll just borrow it from your corpse."

"——Just try it!"

Kanaria kicked off the ground and attacked Suzaku.

Suzaku deployed dark matter around her. Five spheres appeared and flew into the air at high speed.

Ikaruga tried to stop Kanaria but couldn't move because of Philosopher's Stone' burden.

"High Elf's body is amazing——I can see your movements with ease."

The spheres surged at Kanaria all at once.

Kanaria kicked off the ground and burst into air. The spheres did the same, changing direction moving from the floor upwards, attacking Kanaria's feet above.

In order to fight back, Kanaria swung Lævateinn below her.

"No! That matter is——"

However, Lævateinn's blade——cut the dark matter sphere in half.

"Such a thing!"

In quick succession, she also cut apart the remaining four spheres.

Suzaku opened her eyes and burned the sight into her eyes.

"Wonderful——my interest is growing and growing. Certainly, Sacred Treasures aren't of this world, aren't this universe's substance. The Sacred Treasure's existence disturbs the very nature of dark matter which is "to erase everything"——this is truly interesting!"

Kanaria spread fairy wings in the air, swinging flames.

Wrapping the surroundings in inferno, Kanaria pointed her sword at Suzaku.

"Kana won't forgive you! That's why she'll kill you! Here and now!"

Blue hair danced in the air, golden pupils glared at Suzaku.

As if responding to her will, Lævateinn shone even more.

Suzaku squinted and calmly stared at Kanaria.

"...I don't mind. But, even if you kill me here, you can't erase my existence. After all, I'm dwelling in every Suginami there is."

"Even if you are just a gene, Kana will kill all of the Suginami gene in this world."

"Really? Even if you could do such a thing——"

"——It can be done with what I have."

Ikaruga stood up, interrupting Suzaku who tried to deny it.

And, she touched the Philosopher's Stone embedded in her chest.

"If I'm there, erasing you from all Suginamis in the world can be done. I still can't manipulate genes of others, but I'll accomplish it one day. Even if it takes years... surely, I'll erase you from this world."

Suzaku strongly stared sideways at Ikaruga who said so, then glanced sidelong at Kanaria.

"I don't understand why is there a need to do that, is that what they call revenge? For your Mama... Isuka-san."

"Wrong. As long as you're there, Mama and Kana... and her over there, all living beings on earth will cry. That's why I'll kill you! You won't play with living beings any more!"

"Sophistry. Are you just trying to find a justification for revenge in your heart?"

"So what. No one is troubled by it and it doesn't change the fact you're the worst! Even if Kana didn't want revenge, she has no reason to leave you alive!"

Kanaria spoke using Ikaruga's words.

Ikaruga told Kanaria that Isuka wouldn't want her to take revenge.

Still, it didn't mean Suzaku's existence could be left alone.

If left alone, the living beings of this world would become her toys.

Therefore, it wasn't for revenge. It was to save the world. They might actually not care about the world... but without the world, people important to them couldn't live. Their important place will disappear.

That's why——

"Kana, will not——forgive you!"

Ikaruga won't forgive Suzaku.

Diving down from the air, Kanaria approached Suzaku.

Swinging upwards and then to cut Suzaku in two she was about to swing down the sword.

"I see——then, punishment time♪."

Grinning broadly, Suzaku opened her eyes lightly. That moment.

"——Ahzghhhh?!!"

Kanaria suddenly let go of the sword in her hands. The wings on her back disappeared and she fell to the ground.

Blown onto the floor, she immediately touched her head.

"Kanaria?!"

Ikaruga rushed to her and put a hand on her back.

"What happened??"

"M-my head——Ahhh......hurts...ssss... aaaaaAAAaaAAAA!!"

Kanaria screamed and turned away.

Her entire body was covered with sweat and her lips turned purple in an instant. Her eyes were unfocused, her breathing painful.

The sight of Kanaria stricken with a mysterious headache overlapped with Ikaruga's memory.

This condition was——

"It's re-education. Just like Isuka-san, Kanaria-san has a micro chip embedded in her brain. Before Isuka-san picked her up, just in case... or rather, she was left behind to be raised to be an experimental body. Ah-hah, it's good to prepare just in case isn't it〜."

They were speechless at what she confessed.

When re-education was performed, strong emotions cause the brain a severe pain. Since Kanaria couldn't suppress her emotions, the pain must have been off scales compared to Isuka. In the worst case, she could die.

"I don't really mind if I'm killed but... Kanaria-san's words just now, not allowing me to play around with living beings was it? In other words, it's denial of my thirst of knowledge that's the only value of my existence. If you try to deprive me of it——I'll kill you, I guess."

Suzaku generated dark matter again and made if float around her.

Looking down at Ikaruga embracing Kanaria from behind, Suzaku squinted.

"As expected, even I would become desperate if my immortality is threatened. Although killing for reasons other than my thirst for knowledge isn't my hobby, it can't be helped."

Suzaku who never displayed interest in other people was clearly directing murderous intent at the two.

Ikaruga could only hug Kanaria who cried in pain.

"It hurt...s......Mama.........!!"

Losing her consciousness from pain already, Kanaria cried for mother's help. Ikaruga knew the mother Kanaria called was Isuka.

She didn't hesitate any longer.

"It's all right... I'm beside you."

Whispering into Kanaria's ear, she gently wrapped around her body.

"I'll be always with you... I won't go anywhere... I won't leave you alone."

Conveying her feelings best she could, Ikaruga relayed them to her honestly.

Kanaria's trembling from pain slightly calmed.

And convulsing fingertips she squeezed the sword.

"...khh...hh...!"

Unable to take a proper breath, Kanaria lifted the sword and turned towards Suzaku.

Silently, Ikaruga overlapped her hand with Kanaria's.

Suzaku stared coldly at this sight.

"Unfortunately. While it would move a normal person, I cannot understand it nor have any interest in it. I don't understand what drives you so far."

"...ghh......hh!"

"It's my win. You two cannot eradicate me, it's impossible."

She said so, sighing lightly.

The dark matter spheres closed on the two. Ikaruga without fear nor sadness just snuggled together with Kanaria.

 

" "It's not two!" "

 

In the collapsed manufacturing facility sounded voices of people who shouldn't be there.

Suzaku opened her eyes wide and instantly thinly spread dark matter around her. The first thing that hit was a aurora-colored magical bullet. The magical bullet was big enough to swallow a human, but it was lost to the dark matter.

——However, the moment Suzaku was distracted by the magical bullet, a bullet has penetrated her head.

The bullet crushed her skull and blown away part of her brain.

"............?"

Suzaku took two, three steps with damage brain before finding the surprise attacker with her eyes.

Two shadows by the debris at the entrance.

One of them expanded a rainbow-colored magical circle, the other held a rifle on her knee.

"Hah, the one who's unfortunate is you. Did you forget about us?"

"...I do not really understand, but if not two people, then four. If not four people, then six."

Nikaido Mari and Saionji Usagi at the same time saved Ikaruga from crisis.

Ikaruga was surprised at the two's sight and made a faint smile. The two were all beat up. Reaching her must have been extremely difficult. Although they had cool expressions on their faces, their clothing was at terrible plight and they might have as well been just in their underwear.

So they were that desperate as they rushed to her, Ikaruga was honestly happy.

Resisting until the end after being shot through the head, Suzaku pointed her fingertips at Mari and Usagi.

From the tear leaked brain fluid, her eyeball was dyed in blood and yet she made dark matter sphere appear in the air.

——*slash*

However, dark matter wasn't released, a blade has appeared from her belly.

Behind her, was Kanaria's figure stabbing through her using Lævateinn.

Suzaku looked at her with just her whites, then finally getting to refocus and moved back to look at Kanaria.

"Po...intle...ss...stru...ggle... th...there's...no...death....for...me."

"This is... beginning... decades, even if it takes hundreds of years... I'll hunt you down down to hell...! If you don't want to die, sleep forever inside of someone's genes...!"

With a watery sound, Suzaku spat out blood.

Then at the last moment, forming a smile she said.

——Let's meet again.

Kanaria pulled out Lævateinn piercing through Suzaku and swung it down at her brains, after splitting her upper body in two, she turned around.

Suzaku's body was enveloped in Lævateinn's flames and burned to ash.

TMG_v09_301Kanaria walked up to Ikaruga and her legs stopped.

The two stared at each other.

When Ikaruga was about to move her lips to say something, Kanaria wobbled and fell over. Ikaruga gently received her, then pat her head that lied on Ikaruga's chest.

"...you did your best haven't you, Kanaria."

It weren't words of blame, not an apology, not thanks. Ikaruga praised her like praising a child.

Although Kanaria furrowed her eyebrows dissatisfied for a moment, running out of stamina she fell asleep.

Until Mari and Usagi approached, Ikaruga continued to stroke Kanaria's head with a very happy smile.


The Glossary

Adol Field (アドル・フイールド) - It's written as (腐蝕結界) meaning "Corrosive" .


12 thoughts on “Chapter 5 - Alchemist, Assault

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  1. Jay

    Since in close combat its performance was about the same as a regular sniper rifle, at a glance one could its convenience of use is poor.
    "one could [say] it's convenience of use is poor." i think

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    STANDING HERE I REALIZE
    YOU ARE JUST LIKE ME TRYING TO MAKE HISTORY
    BUT WHO'S TO JUDGE
    THE RIGHT FROM WRONG
    WHEN OUR GUARD IS DOWN
    I THINK WE'LL BOTH AGREE
    THAT VIOLENCE BREEDS VIOLENCE
    BUT IN THE END
    IT HAS TO BE THIS WAY

    I'VE CARVED MY OWN PATH
    YOU FOLLOWED YOUR WRATH
    BUT MAYBE WE'RE BOTH THE SAME
    THE WORLD HAS TURNED
    BUT NOBODY IS TO BLAME
    YET STARING ACROSS THE BARREN WASTED LAND
    I FEEL NEW LIFE WILL BE BORN
    BENEATH THE BLOOD STAINED SAND
    BENEATH THE BLOOD STAINED SANDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

    Reply
  3. Bareus

    whoa, long and awesome chapter. now up to the next one :)
    =============================
    Maybe it would be better to cut off this life-supporting equipment and choose easier path.
    Maybe it would be better to cut off this life-supporting equipment and choose the/an easier path.

    Even if world doesn't forgive it, ...
    Even if the world doesn't forgive it, ...

    ... he wanted give Kiseki a normal life like that.
    ... he wanted to give Kiseki a normal life like that.

    ..., the Dragoons they lost their original form in a matter of seconds and soon enough 20 machines were decayed and in tatters.
    ..., the Dragoons they lost their original form in a matter of seconds and soon enough 20 machines were decayed and in tatters.
    ..., the Dragoons they lost their original form in a matter of seconds and soon enough 20 machines were decayed and in tatters.

    And the each team's characteristics brought a huge benefits to entire force.
    And the each team's characteristics brought a huge benefit to the entire force.
    And the each team's characteristics brought a huge benefits to the entire force.

    The thunder bullet landed on dragon's heart.
    The thunder bullet landed on the dragon's heart.

    "It's going so well it seems too to be going too well."
    "It's going so well it seems too good to be going too well."
    -> maybe I'm paranoid here, but either I'm mixing proverb with normal language or something is really not fitting in here :/

    Not only all of their forces are unmanned, ...
    Not only are all of their forces unmanned, ...

    The rearguard was snipers and Ikaruga who acted as their guardian.
    The rearguard were snipers and Ikaruga who acted as their guardian.

    Just was was she intending.
    Just what was she intending.

    Feeling grateful to Mari's impudence, she materialized piles on elbows of both her arms.
    -> I think "piles" is the wrong term here... maybe "bolts" ...?

    Not only the she didn't have much ammunition left, high vibration blade was almost out of energy.
    Not only the didn't she have much ammunition left, the high vibration blade was almost out of energy.

    ... in order to protect what want to protect... to save what you want to save.
    ... in order to protect what you want to protect... to save what you want to save.

    The higher was power of the enemy's attack, ...
    The higher the power was of the enemy's attack, ...

    "Even if you stay in Inquisition, you're free to ask dissidents for help. I won't say anything else, nothing.
    -> a quotation marks is missing

    Not for revenge, to protect Ikaruga.
    -> is here a "but" missing?

    Reply
  4. fuew12

    "Therefore, it wasn't for revenge. It was to save the world. They might actually not care about the world... but without the world, people important to them couldn't live. Their important place will disappear." this line really good rather than sophistry wanting save the world because is the right thing to do this have more persuasion

    Reply
  5. blissfulyoshi

    That was an incredible chapter in both length and epicness (and of course violence), thanks so much for your hard work Krytyk.

    Minor things I caught when reading: (Might post again later)

    For hours before the operation.
    Four hours before the operation.

    However, before he could stop Kyouya has already came flying at him.
    However, before he could stop, Kyouya had already flew up to him.
    However, before he could stop, Kyouya was already flying at him.
    -> Not exactly sure how this was supposed to be translated

    Reaching her must have been extremely difficult
    Reaching here must have been extremely difficult

    Reply
  6. Cyregnosis

    If Mephisto's soul is destroyed then would it be possible to use her body to create more install instant charms. That way clone Yoshimizu will be transferred to a longer lifespan homunculus and everyone will be happy until Sougetsu comes in.
    I think Haunted will help them against Sougetsu because he seeks 'Passion' not destruction.

    PS. HauntedxSougetsu could be possible with a little 'passion'. Tehe (---‿‿---) But... Nacht!!!

    Reply
  7. victorrama

    Such Violence. Kyouya acted as preficted. Suzaku was a surprise. Kanaria survived is also a surprise in a very good way. Now what to do with kiseki and other troops. Where is haunted? I feel like the other troops gonna have it 'rough'....

    Reply
  8. ren.

    im speechless. . . Too much awesomeness in one chapter. Thanks for the hardwork krytyk-sama

    Reply

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