Hideo’s landlady had invited him to a get-together between the residents of his apartment complex. That being the case, the evening had already flown by. Breaking the seal on his lemon-scented soap, he took a light shower and got his appearance in order.
‘Why master, such consideration is unbecoming of a shut-in.’
He was the belief that food tasted best right off the bath, and that was his biggest reason. Not that he had to explain his every action.
“And what are. You doing?”
“Searching up and hacking Center’s database, this and that.”
When he took a look, there were a number of windows that fit the bill open on the laptop computer.
One wrong step and there was a danger of their participation being revoked.
“Nihahah. Wilco won’t eat it, it’s fine. Maybe just a taste… wait, ah, what are you doing!?”
Lifting up the computer with Wilco still in it, Hideo hoisted her over to the management room.
‘Why does Wilco have to join in?’
According to her, a proud and proper electronic virus, she only ate important data. She didn’t need real food in the first place.
“It’s to get. To know people. Better.”
“So in short, you feel hopeless on your own.”
Wilco slipping out of the screen hit the nail on the head. He was hard-pressed for words. While he was initially soaring with the joy of getting invited… he was too timid to drop by himself.
Of course, he did also want to get in Wilco’s way so her hacking wasn’t exposed and they weren’t disqualified. Beyond just one thin door, the landlady, Minako… and one other person, it seemed. They were getting quite heated.
He was a shut-in. To Hideo, whenever someone saw him, they saw an ‘unneeded person’. Was it really alright for someone like him to intrude on such a happy-sounding stage? The moment this door opened, wouldn’t that lively mood be completely ruined?
From Hideo’s point of view, the door to the management room was now thicker than the Berlin Wall, the doorbell as intimidating as the switch to launch the nuclear warheads.
Wilco pressed it without hesitation.
“Master… if you just stand in front of the door with those eyes, you don’t have to be the policewoman to find you suspicious.”
“And wait! When they’re the ones who invited you, why do you have to read so deeply into it!?”
He was a shut-in. The type who couldn’t call out to the employees at a store. To add to that, he was fine with the mailman who just arbitrarily left packages, and was terrible with the deliveryman who asked for his signature.
What was he to do? No, he needed to get better.
“Yes, who is it?”
For some reason, it wasn’t the landlady who answered.
Short hair and a bright-colored suit, the air of a competent career woman. He thought he had seen her somewhere before, and Wilco was the first to point that out.
“Why is the chief executive here?”
The MC at the opening ceremony, Kirishima Lena. The slight red touch to her face likely indicated she already had some alcohol in her system.
“Oh, me? I’m friends with the landlady here. She’s got her hands a bit full, see.”
So it was because she was moderating back there… and this was her usual tone. It fit well with her boyish hairstyle.
“Well for now, come in, come in.”
She beckoned them forth.
“Then I’ll come right in.”
A studio on the slightly-wider side. A rather large kotatsu in the center. On top of the kotatsu, the ingredients she had bought at the supermarket: grilled fish, boiled fish, a sashimi platter…
“Hideo, Wilco, make yourself at hyome. I’m finishing up the fried mackerel right nyow.”
The landlady she said had her hands full was bringing those crisply fried morsels over to the table with a tipsy red face. He wanted to say something about the ears on her head and the tail behind her hips, but decided against it.
“Thank you, thank you, then I’ll go right ahead.”
Energetically raising her glass, Minako in her police uniform. She was also pretty drunk already. Okamaru the truncheon wasn’t at her hip. He was probably even less prone to food and drink than Wilco. Did she leave him behind?
A cup came around to Hideo, Wilco politely declined one. As everyone surrounded the table, Lena who had acted as moderator before, took the lead.
“Ahem, well then! Looks like we’re all here, so to the opening of the Sacred Demon Cup, Hideo’s splendid two consecutive victories on the first day, and to get to know this apartment’s residents better…”
Cheers… she said. Hideo curiously picked up his cup that was still empty.
“I think we should start with three catch-up shots for Hideo!!”
Completely oblivious to what was going on, Hideo noticed the gazes of the drunks gathered on him. Incidentally, while the super pleasant type Wilco didn’t drink, she got drunk off the atmosphere.
Three catchup shots… a vile Japanese custom of making those who come late down three glasses to let them catch up with those who were already drunk.
The substance gluggingly poured into a silent Hideo’s cup was a deep clear. Refined sake.
Hideo was visited by an unprecedented chill.
Truth be told, he had never drunken alcohol before. This wasn’t limited to Japanese sake. Be it beer, cocktails, or anything else, all so-called liquor. He had just been invited to a feast, he never anticipated it would be like this.
Of course, when hard-working adults gathered, this was inevitable. It was something normally learned in college clubs, or picked up at the company somehow or another but… a high school graduate. Failed to find employment. Holed himself in right after getting to the big city so he had no friends. Hideo was a perfect three-hit combo.
What’s more, he had only turned twenty not too long ago, and come so far, his naturally earnest nature was his plague. He had without any exception never drunk before.
“Just in case, Hideo, you’re not a minor, right?”
Asked Minako. The cop with good sense turned to Hideo as he nodded.
“Then you’ll be downing three of these. Drink or die. You’ll end up like this.”
The glass she clunked down in front of him… had a truncheon in with its alcohol.
‘My, Hideo. This is quite exquisite Daiginjo.’
He had no idea what was going on anymore.
Lena stood and egged him on.
“Now, now, if the weapon’s drinking, then there’s no reason the humans shouldn’t!”
“If the girls are drinking, there’s no reason why the boy shouldn’t!”
“And so, Hideo, how about you show us what you’ve got! There!!”
Then came the grand chorus of chug, chug. A huge uproar.
If he declined here, the backlash would instantly spoil the mood. You’re no fun. What a stiff. Hard to get along with. Hideo didn’t want his own image of himself to stick to these girls as well.
(…… But still.)
How about seeing it from the other side? If he could meet their expectations here and now… could he, could even he have a chance at being popular?
(This is. My big chance—)
Hideo fell into the common, simple thought process of youth. The one that sent countless college students to the hospital for acute alcohol poisoning every year… not that a high school graduate had any way of knowing.
Hideo downed the glass in one fell swoop.
When he stared at it closely, he could see the contents of the glass Okamaru was submerged in gradually draining. With a 1-sho bottle in one hand, he proudly filled it back to the top.
‘Oh, you have my thanks. If my body wasn’t like this, I’d gladly pour one back.’
He never expected a truncheon to serve him in the first place. Hideo made sure his own cup was at the same level…
“I know, right? Good grief young men these days are always so flippant. That’s why I, you see…”
“Well, isn’t it pretty much the same nyo matter where you gyo?”
“There are some at my station too, those sorts of…”
The three women apart from Wilco were sharing a nod over some common topic. Realizing what she’d said, Lena waved a hand.
“Ah, I’m not talking about you, okay Hideo?”
“She’s right, you nyow. Mr. Hideo, I’d say you’re the terribly grounded type.”
“Yes. I’ll at least admit Hideo’s got a strong spirit these kids these days are lacking.”
Hideo nabbed some sashimi with a mouthful of sake. Peeking in from the side, Wilco mentioned something like this.
“Even so, you sure are strong master. Want to try holding a drinking contest at the bar for the next game?”
“… Drinking what?”
“No, what… well beer, probably.”
What was this about beer?
more importantly, there was just one thing Hideo didn’t get at the moment.
The food was disappearing. When there had been so many fish dishes, more than half of it was gone. What’s more, for some reason, there was a used plate and chopsticks in front of him. A small soy sauce dipping dish that even had wasabi dissolved in, with sashimi oil floating on the surface.
But he didn’t remember eating.
that wasn’t all. His head was awfully dazed out, there was mist creeping in on his vision.
(Did I… catch a cold?)
He suddenly recalled the chills he got when he picked up Wilco’s computer. When Wilco came out, he thought it had to be a dream. And he remembered whenever he had a high fever from a cold, he would usually reach this dreamy state of mind.
(…… A dream, huh.)
Hideo finally attained enlightenment.
This was a dream.
In that case, food suddenly disappearing, and the fact he felt so full when he hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday, and a woman jumping out of a computer, and a giant city smack dab in the middle of the Okutama Mountains and a talking truncheon drinking sake, and the landlady’s twitching cat ears, and the fact that he of all people was for some reason surrounded by such cute girls… it all had a reasonable, logical explanation.
Namely, this was his own dream.
“Still, master, after drinking so much, your complexion hasn’t changed at all.”
“… Drinking what?”
“What, umm… master?”
Truth be told, by that point, Hideo was completely smashed. It was presumably due to the catch-up shots. His sense of taste had long since left him, the most he could cognize was that the red liquor bottle was wine, and the clear sake bottle was water. But his complexion didn’t change, and he was sitting silently with his usual look so no one could notice he was dead drunk. Hideo himself had no experience being drunk, so he had no way to diagnose himself.
No one could stop him now.
(Because this is. My dream.)
As it were, this world was a world his mind had produced for him alone. In that case.
(I see… I am…)
The inside of his head gradually grew merrier. To Hideo who had spent two-years-worth of depressing days alone, the upliftment brought by the chemical composition of alcohol rose sky high.
(I am… God.)
The girls raised another cheer of Yaaay! To Lena’s declaration.
The King’s game. As long as you have the momentum, a simple and most amusing game. Numbered lots are mixed in with just one with the word ‘King’ written on it, and all members draw at random.
Those who draw a number conceal what they’ve drawn… the person who pulls the king calls our orders based on the numbers. Naturally, these orders are as absolute as a dictator’s military rule, and the fact that no one knew what number the others had was the fun part (to drunks, at least).
By the time he noticed it, Hideo was holding a lot. When he had no recollection of drawing it. This had to be dream logic at its finest.
“I’m the King! Syo for nyow, I want person number 3 to cyome massage my shoulders.”
“Wilco’s already been done in!? She’s number three…”
Well, something like that. Number 3 had to drink number 2’s maliciously mixed cocktail, 1 and 4 had to do an improvised skit, the time went by considerably enjoyably. But while Hideo pulled lots each time, he never drew the King and was always outside of the ordered numbers. He simply stared entranced at how Okamaru managed to drink.
Incidentally, as players keep drinking as the game goes on, the orders usually get more extreme with each round. This was the truly scary part.
“Yeeees! I’m the king! I did it!”
Lena assertively showed off her lot. This was the first time she got to be kind.
“It’s, see, how should I put this. All your old kings were too soft. Way too soft. But I’m gonna be different. Tyranny! An iron fist! I’ll be the King they’ll call the old despot…!!”
It was the same when she was moderating, Lena seemed to be quite good at getting people fired up. No, perhaps that was precisely why she had the role of MC.
“Quit beating around the bush. Syay it already.”
“Urgh… I don’t want any more belly-dancing…”
“At least have master do something!”
Ku ku ku, Lena flashed a dark smile.
“Okay, here I go!”
The single clap’s worth of silence she gave to build tension, just like when she was moderating, she was outstandingly skillful. And what she was building up to—
“Why of course! Number 3 feel up number 4’s breasts!!”
“Woohoo! It’s adult time now! Time for good children to sleep! Unfortunately Wilco is number 2!”
“I’m also out. Nyumber 1.”
“Eh? Eh? Umm, I am number four… but that means…”
A menacing air filled the room…
With such intensity he might come out with “Your back is covered in soot”, Hideo tossed the number 3 lot onto the table.
[TL: Your back is covered in soot is a reference to Ryuu’s line from the Mahjong Manga Naki no Ryuu.]
“Wai… wawawawawait a second!! I mean, Hideo’s practically been out of the game this whole time! Why is it only now that…!?”
Minako hid her breasts from over her clothes. It was inevitable her face was red, not completely from the alcohol.
“As expected of Masteeeeer! To come out on top even here, you really have a perfect win streak!!”
“You’re amazing Mr. Hideo. Is this what it means to be at the top?”
(… I feel amazing.)
Drink a cocktail of pepper and Tabasco, put on a comedy skit, he got to ignore all those punishments he cared nothing for and pull the winning straw where it counted. Was such convenience really possible in reality?
(No… definitely not.)
Meaning this had to be a dream world. That made him the God that created this world. And to take that further, this tidy little policewoman before his eyes was.
(A lamb. To be offered. To God…)
“Whoo, I trusted that you’d have it, Hideo. Yeah, yeah, it would be no fun doing it between girls.”
Folding her arms and nodding delightfully to herself, Lena turned face to burst into laughter.
“Now Hideo. Grope them. Hold them tight! You know what to do! Approach them from below as lewdly as possible!!”
“I! I do not permit such improper conduct!! Okamaru!!”
‘The black ships… were a sight to behold.’
It was hopeless.
“Erk!? No, I wouldn’t mind just a little, but Hideo’s eyes and face are so dead serious, how should I put it…! Can’t you lighten up a bit!?”
“Ah, that’s asking too much of master.”
“Well I’m king, so Hideo’s going to be groping them whether he wants to or not.”
“The kying’s orders are absolute.”
Pitch black. Dark smiles in a row. They smiled darker the more misfortune they wrought to others.
(What sorrowful… lifeforms.)
“E-erk… I get it! I’m a woman! If Hideo wants it so badly, then go ahead!”
Minako wasn’t any less drunk than the others. He hadn’t said a word, but if she was that insistent, it would on the contrary be rude to decline. It would be the same as admitting she had no charm.
(This is. The will of the heavens. God’s…)
Lena’s cellphone picked that moment to ring.
“Eeh? Just when things are getting good? Tournament HQ?… Yes, this is Kirishima from the steering committee.’
Before long, her face changed.
“What’s with that…! Then in the worst case, we won’t even be able to hold the competition!?”
The air had taken a complete change from that of a party.
The moonlight poured down on a corner of the residential district.
“Hm… they got away. But so be it.”
“Tis a pity, sire. Shall we give chase?”
“You jest, Sandelmain. Our prey this fine evening is that Hideo and no other.”
The graceful youth let his thick curtain-like black mantle trail behind him as he haughtily turned on the spot.
The one he called Sandelmain was a creepy old butler with a crooked back. His eyes were wide open over a hooked nose as he followed the man he fondly referred to as his master. Further behind them came two hundred of their loyal slaves.
“He stole the Colonel I was going to deal with first… I’m sure right around now, he misunderstands himself as a top contender, holding a toast in his misplaced ecstasy. Am I wrong, Sandelmain?”
The youth brushed aside his blond hair, sinisterly lifting his lips. The old man’s curled back curled even further as he lowered his balding head in a nod.
“Haha, I am sure it is just as you say.”
“He would never think such arrogant splendor would fall to ruin in less than a day.”
The youth’s lips now curled in joy. Peeking in from their corners, his pare of fangs as beautiful as white porcelain.
“And so… why don’t we witness his tears as reality strikes? What say you, Sandelmain! A fitting punishment for stealing the prey of Verrocchia Auchtos”
“Of course, of course, it is time for you, sire, to raise a toast with his blood. This old man’s withered eyes can see it now!”
The youth and old man walked without pause. To proceed to the battlefield without any impatience was the mark of the ruler. Two hundred faithful servants following their king.
A march of the army led by the King of the Night…!
“Are they gone… What do we do, Elsia?”
Ryuuta Salinger gazed at the scene from the roof of an apartment complex. A superb moon shined above them. The two hundred faces parading below were truly an army.
A beautiful woman called Elsia spoke in a listless mutter.
“A vampire. How vulgar.”
At the head of the army was a blood-sucking fiend. Those he sucked from became his puppets. Everyone who became his puppet was still a competitor. What’s more, the effective range of his abilities didn’t just stop at just humans. Half of those he led consisted of other races, mainly Demons. Meaning he took them in as pairs.
He manipulated two hundred lifeforms all at once. Even among vampires, he had to be considerably high ranking.
“Last night was opening ceremony so he watched and waited… When the participants were all apart and easy to target, he began moving the moment night struck… is my guess.”
Ryuuta clicked his tongue. Elsia didn’t even stop to think over his words, she looked up at the deep blue of the night sky.
“Or perhaps he just had a thirsting for blood. It is a fine moon, after all.”
“You understand how vampires feel?”
“I simply know the beauty of the moon. I am far nobler, after all.”
“Hehe, well look at you.”
Ryuuta jokingly shrugged his shoulders, but the situation was still severe. In the first place, that vampire was a shrewd one.
While every member of his army was a participant, it wasn’t as if they had lost yet. If they lost, they would have to receive the withdrawal paperwork, and they wouldn’t be able to participate in any matches. On the contrary, as long as they hadn’t lost, they remained as his easy pawns.
He knew what he was doing.
They had just fought him off, so they understood well. The vampire attacked them out of nowhere.
It was pointless unless he issued a challenge and won after the other party accepted. But he didn’t need any matches, he just had to suck blood. If they were his puppets, they were an extension of his power. He was free to use them in his own matches to give himself an advantage. After he’d won, all he wanted, he was free to personally hold matches with his puppets and have them lose.
“Should we let Hideo know?”
Elsia said. Ryuuta repeated it back.
“You were the one who promised to meet them in the finals. From my point of view, I couldn’t wish for more if such a strong contender dropped out early.”
Her long hair swaying in the night wind, Elsia softly smiled.
“On the contrary. Even if your words are true… would an opponent who’d make it to the final round lose to the likes of that on the first day?”
Ryuuta lightly shrugged.
“The likes of that? You were on the run right next to me.”
“Because you ran. Even if every single one of those wretches challenged me under the basic rule, I would not lose. And neither would you.”
“… I see. Point taken.”
Ryura smiled, satisfied. Upon seeing that, Elsia smiled back.
“But it should be interesting to watch.”
“Hm. Sounds like a plan.”
“… And they’re headed in this direction this very moment. They’re probably after the top contender Hideo, is what I’d say.”
When she closed her cellphone, Lena had completely sobered up. Minako posed the question with the same tension on her face.
“Then that’s practically a rigged game!”
To be more precise, a power that allowed a rigged game.
“Can’t you regulate it from your side!?”
“That’s what common sense would say but… as long as it’s within the rules, the organizers can’t interfere. There’ll be no end to this competition if we have to keep changing the rules for a single competitor.”
There was no limit to whatever ability or weapon anyone could hold. That was the thrill of this tournament and also its essence. The extraordinarily low amount of rules were in order to facilitate that. It could be called nonsense to place restrictions.
Even as they spoke, they heard the footsteps. Droves of them, impossible for any normal participants in pairs of two, the orderly march of a trained army was closing in.
“What do we do, Master!?”
Hideo stared fixedly at his lightly open hands.
(Who dares hinder… the hand of God?)
“A dark side more powerful than ever before!? No, Wilco gets how you feel, master, but now’s not the time for…!”
Regardless of Wilco’s panic, Hideo spoke slowly and with certainty.
“… I will become. The God. Of the new world.”
“Maassssttteeeer!? There’s no Note anywhere!!”
Leaving behind a flustered Wilco, Hideo gallantly rose.
“I’ll judge the match♪.”
The landlady’s tail wagged as she followed along. Lena looked at the clock that showed eleven in shock.
“Don’t tell me, a miraculous three-win streak on the first day!? Alright, I’m getting my interview this time!”
And Lena left too.
“I cannot permit this unfairness as an officer of the law! We’re going to help out, Okamaru!!”
Hideo’s seat. The cup that was supposed to contain Okamaru… had nothing but drink.
“I know, Sandelmain.”
He didn’t need the old butler telling him, he was the first one to feel the pressure. A strong presence. The army stopped in the roadway, a few meters from the apartment gate.
And ‘he’ appeared. He must have been drinking after all. With unsteady steps, he pushed open the cheap, creaking fence and stepped into the road to confront them.
The weapon in Hideo’s hand was a metal rod, around the size of a dagger, with a hooked portion around the arm guard. This was the first time Verrocchia had seen that sort of weapon, but judging by its shape, it was mainly a self-defense weapon that exhibited its full might when pitted up against a blade.
And following along behind Hideo, a few young women. Verrocchia started sniggering out of nowhere.
“You’re really something. Not only ale, you had women wait on you in your wild merrymaking. I misjudged you, Kawamura Hid…”
‘Oh Minako, you are gripping me quite firmly tonight…’
“… Master Okamaru. Why are you here?”
‘Master…? Minako, you have finally come to pay me respect…!?’
“… I see, meaning. Finally. A weapon. In my hand.”
‘I am moved beyond words! Minako, for you, tonight I will be out for blood.’
Verrocchia couldn’t close his hung-open mouth.
(What… was that conversation!?)
“S… Sire. You mustn’t lose your mind. He must be versed in ventriloquism…!”
Though Sandelmain tried to give advice, that wasn’t enough to explain this phenomenon. The reason being, if it was ventriloquism, why wasn’t the conversation coherent? In the first place, if he wasn’t holding a doll, then who exactly was he trying to make speak? Who was this Minako person? What did he mean by finally a weapon? Wasn’t he the one who came out with it in his hands…!?
(No… no, calm down. It’s no issue, just a conversation…)
He was simply bewildered by a street performance done by those eyes that stabbed straight into his heart. More so, making him think so must have been his intent.
He was trying to mislead him, trying to take his thoughts off the match. Normally, when it came to battle, most schemed of just how to bend the other side with power, but this man had launched a preemptive strike on the mental front.
He was considerably accustomed to battle.
(So he’s… somewhat worthy to keep my company.)
Verrocchia collected himself.
“Kawamura Hideo. Foolish man convinced he is a top contender because he bested the Colonel, a mere mortal. Bear witness to those that ser—”
The moment Verrocchia turned to his own army, he ate a severe blow to the side of his head.
“Sire!? Your wounds are light!”
“I ask you stop. Spewing nonsense.”
When Verrochia raised his face to the voice, there Hideo unsteadily stood.
“I am. No top contender. Far from it.”
“Silence…! Originally, I was supposed to defeat the colonel and stand where you are.”
“I am… God.”
A gust of wind blew across them. Not a single soul could move at that outrageous statement. Of all else, his eyes were the epitome of serious. He made a straight face. He wasn’t joking in the slightest.
“… Are you sane…?”
In regards to that question, Hideo returned it straight back.
“You are the one challenging. God. Are you sane?”
The pressure came back within Verrocchia. This man wasn’t lying. Whether the word God was reality or not… at the very least, this man believed it to be so. Otherwise, would he be able to proclaim it so boldly?
In short, he had just that much confidence. Despite being a human, he had to hold some sort of special power rivaling that… and he was simply expressing it with the word God.
For the first time, Verrocchia tasted the true terror of this tournament. A pair of human and non-human. No telling who was hiding what power, the darkness of competition.
(Thinking back on it now, it has to be those eyes…?)
The one with the absolute confidence was supposed to be the one with one hundred times the manpower, the one leading an army of two hundred and yet… the moment he confronted him and saw those eyes, a waver had been born within his heart.
And Verrochia finally recalled the old legend passed down through his bloodline. That which gazed upon the future and saw into hearts, the inexhaustible blade that devoured from within.
“Bastard… don’t tell me you’re ‘Demon Eyes’…!?”
That’s right, he had already caught a glimpse of it. The battle with the colonel. Without cheating in that gamble, he won as if his own victory was already set in stone.
Then that had to be divination. Future sight. Truly a power that rivaled god!
(How could this be—!)
The man before him could see his own future. He presumably saw he would win and remain this night. Otherwise, who would willingly stand before these masses?
If he would be at a disadvantage, then the moment he foresaw they would appear, he would simply have to conceal himself… the fact that he didn’t meant…
(I’m the one who’s going to lose…!?)
Hideo made a cold proclamation.
“I’ll have you. Disappear. From my world.”
With slow steps, Hideo made his way forward. Verrocchia gave the order.
The puppets who received his will charged forward. But in that moment, that instant, the weapon in Hideo’s hand expanded. His steps were so staggered, it looked like he was just wildly flailing it around, but the strikes from it were as heavy as if he were standing on firm soil.
“Kuh, I increased the numbers too much…!?”
With one or two puppets, he could freely control their arms, legs, fingers, even their eyes. But with so many bodies, he could only give broad orders. He couldn’t draw out the original strength of each individual puppet.
The fundamental basis of the thought to overwhelm him with numbers was mistaken. As a result, Hideo had struck down dozens in the blink of an eye.
Whenever it looked like he would collapse, he used that momentum to swing down. He would make it look like he was correcting his posture for a swipe to the right, the weapon it looked as if he carelessly tossed aside not only accurately struck his target’s vitals, it returned to his hand like it had a will of its own.
“If I may, sire…! I have heard there is a martial art from the orient that increases in versatility the more intoxicated its practitioner. His movements fit that to the T…!”
“What… meaning not only does he have the Demon Eyes, he is at his full strength now that he’s drunk…!? Then his dead drunk appearance was a trap to lure us in!?”
Or rather, a dead drunk Okamaru was having the time of his life striking things down and Hideo was just swinging him around, but these two didn’t even consider a weapon could have its own will.
Was he even drunk to begin with? Naturally, his legs were as unsteady as a plover. But under normal circumstance, when one was in such a drunken frenzy, their eyes, their focus will become unreliable…
Was he faking it? There was no hint of red to pick up from his face. But his skills were the real deal.
He was led along. Paranoia after paranoia.
(No, these are the Demon Eyes…!)
Even now, his eyes were being put to active use.
(This can’t be…)
A breach. He had to attack from a separate angle. For that sake, Verrocchia took a hard look at his situation. And.
(Hmm… how truly fearsome, the Demon Eyes.)
Verrocchia regained his composure. He chuckled.
There was never any need to cower. In the first place, the match hadn’t even begun yet. While there was a werecat with a judge’s armband behind Hideo, she hadn’t declared the start of the match.
Obviously. Neither side had issued a challenge yet.
And another thing. Something exceedingly simple once he had calmed down. His opponent wasn’t alone. Usually, that would mean a disadvantage, but not in this case. Even if Hideo himself was perfect. His partner could be an entirely separate story.
More so, that was his sole flaw.
(His partner was… that girl, as I recall.)
He picked out the young woman suspensefully watching over the developments, floating in the air in a white dress. And Verrocchia turned into mist. He took the form of a cold mist to erase his presence. He passed by Hideo right in front of him to regain his form behind the partner girl Wilco…!
“Wha—! What is this!?”
She thrashed but he didn’t let go. Her white nape right before him. He did feel a bizarre off-sensation but… so be it. With this, victory was his. Verrocchia laughed as he bared his fangs.
“Kawamura Hideo. I challenge you.”
“Why are you accepting under this overwhelmingly disadvantageous situation!? The computer’s in the management room! Wilco can’t run away!!”
Wilco angrily chopped at the empty air in Hideo’s direction. It had all easily turned in his favor, yet Hideo still had his admiration. In this situation Hideo had no choice but to make a move. To decide it instantaneously with everything against him, he really was something.
“Both parties have agreed. This match will be judged under the Basic Rule.”
That was it. The basic rule.
To be determined incapable of combat. To be turned in to center. To proclaim defeat. He simply needed to achieve any one of those three conditions. With Wilco in his arms, Verrocchia chose without hesitation.
“Obediently admit your defeat, Kawamura Hideo.”
“It’s cowardly to take a hostage! I’ll put a stop to you!”
The woman in a uniform cried out, but it was little more than a mosquito’s whisper. Verrocchia flatly rejected her.
“My match is not with you.”
“In the first place, I acted in accordance with every rule in place. Am I wrong?”
The werecat and the moderator who was at the opening ceremony nodded.
“Nyo illegal acts.”
“Yes, the organizer side raises no objections.”
The only ones with such mortified looks on their faces were the uniform woman and Wilco.
“… How. Foolish.”
Said Hideo. Verrocchia found the leisure to mock even that.
“Hmph. For a minute, I thought you had promise but… in the end, you are a human drowning in the ostentations of hypocrisy. Call it cowardly or whatever else you want.”
“… On such. Spongy ground. You think you’re. A match for me?”
Hideo walked over, teetering left and right.
“No. That’s not… it. This is your ability.”
Left and right and left and right. But Hideo glared straight at him.
“Now this is… interesting.”
“I should be saying that! Are you really sane!? Can you listen to a word I’m saying!? Can you see where your own partner stands!?”
“Sire! Sire, this is his plaaaah!?”
Okamaru struck Sandelmain down.
‘The guitar samurai… I am not. Ku ku ku.’
For some reason, the woman in the uniform was wailing out.
“Curse you!! You not only oppress my retainer, you have room for such drivel…! You shall have my imperial wrath! Now learn it first hand, what it means to be a vampire! Have fun fighting to the death with your partner—!!”
Verrocchia’s two fangs stabbed deep into Wilco’s nape.
A young girl’s shrill shriek. Coarse grains of noise raced up and down her form.
“… Guh!? Gahah!!”
A terrible impact like the inside of his head had exploded cause Verrocchia to vomit all the blood he had sucked that day.
(What is it… what is with this woman’s blood…!? No, was that even blood… at all!?)
It was almost like he had sucked blood infected with some infectious disease, a terrible shock. No, it wasn’t anything so simple. Like he had sucked on a virus itself? Absurd! There was no way such a lifeform could exist. Then what the hell was this woman!?
On his knees, Verrocchia watched in terror as the girl he let go ran away. He wasn’t aware of any races apart from demons who had such clear human forms. But that was definitely bizarre. Right, something definitely felt off.
Normally, with lifeforms, no matter what hygiene maintained, they came with a smell. But that girl didn’t smell of anything at all. You could call her nothing more than a presence. It was precisely because Verrocchia had stood behind legions upon legions of humans that thinking back, that was the strangest of all.
When she was a woman of appropriate age with hair so long, she didn’t even smell of soap. Just what was she?
His attention was so taken with a fleeing Wilco, he collapsed from Hideo’s blow he had been completely unprepared for.
The damage was heavy. A light concussion. Additionally, thanks to whatever he had sucked from that girl, his body was numb like he had been injected with snake venom. He couldn’t turn into mist to run. If he pushed himself with this unfocused mind, he wouldn’t be able to regain his form again. But he had spit up his blood, the puppets were already regaining their freedom…!
“Let’s say, for instance. A girl comes out. Of a computer… do you think that’s possible?”
“… Absurd. What are you talking about… there’s no way such a thing could happen in reality.”
Hideo turned his weapon to Verrocchia like he was pointing his finger.
“There is no way. Vampires. Exist in reality.”
“No… but I!”
Thwach. Bam. Bam.
“So you. Are my dream.”
Bam. Bam. Bam.
“I am. God.”
Bang. Bang Bang.
“What a wonderful world…”
Hideo and Okamaru tenaciously kept thrashing a fainted Verrocchia like they were flogging the dead.
“The team of Verrochia and Sandelmain have byoth been deemed incapable of combat! The match is over!!”
Some distance away, on a roof belonging to who knows who. Ryuuta thought aloud with a satisfied smile.
“So not drunken fist, but drunken sword… I got to see something nice. Just as I thought, there’s no doubt Hideo is a master of martial arts.”
“But the bigger problem is the Demon Eyes.”
A glance to the side and Elsia seemed to be feeling an even greater sense of crisis than he was.
“If that’s true… then we really would have been better off if he lost tonight.”
“But there are all sorts of Demon Eyes, right? Like Medusa’s eyes of stone. An incubus’s temptation. I’m sure if he was up against a human woman… that vampire could easily charm them just by locking eyes. Those sorts of things are all over the world.”
“… You’re right. But if the Demon Eyes are too strong, they can exceed the domain of mankind.”
“And… there’s no telling who’s hiding how much ability, that’s the fun of the tournament…”
No conclusion was reached. It probably wouldn’t be until the day they really did confront one another. The two of them left. It was right after that, that the sake finally got to Hideo and had him collapse.
Hideo jumped up,
Holding his head to a terrible headache.
A cut-and-dry room. Not the apartment he holed himself in, nor the one the landlady managed. In the first place, he was on a bed. Neither had one of those. When he looked at the hand holding his head, there was something coiled around it… an IV drip.
Why? He thought but couldn’t remember anything.
Honestly, nothing was coming up. He remembered being invited to the landlady’s room. But beyond that. Beyond that… where had he been and what had he been doing until—a look at the clock—noon?
Reaching a single conclusion, Hideo stood at the abyss of despair. There were as of yet no definitive treatment methods, therefore, this was an incurable ailment among ailments that required understanding and nursing from those around him.
He was alone. When his parents abandoned him, who would possibly look after him? Whether he wanted to hire a helper or enter a facility, he was someone so troubled for food he was about to choose suicide. He had no such money.
(… Goodbye. World.)
“Why are you wrapping the iv tube around your neck!!?”
A chop came down over his headache.
Another look, and there the laptop was. On a small table bedside table with wheels.
“As always, Wilco has no idea what you’re thinking… but master, we might just be able to pull this off! Three unprecedented wins on the first day of the tournament! We’re the only ones who got three! Rank one by a large margin, we’re now true top contenders!”
She was especially enthusiastic.
Hideo counted on his fingers. Colonel. Javan.
Recount as he might, he would always stop at two fingers. Meaning he only remembered winning twice.
“Coincidence happens twice! At three times, it’s already inevitable!”
“… Who was. The third?”
Wilco’s enthusiasm came to a halt. At that moment, the door to the sickroom was knocked by three women.
“Ah, I see you’re awake.”
“Whoah… looks like he’s angry at us after all.”
“It cannot be helped. We do bear some responsibility for forcing those catch-up shots on him…”
The reason the look in his eyes was thirty percent worse than usual wasn’t because he was angry; it was because his head hurt. In the first place, he couldn’t find anything to be angry about. He didn’t remember, after all.
Came the girls.
“Umm… master, do you possibly not remember?”
He honestly nodded. There, Lena burst out in exaggerated surprise.
“Eeh!? You mean to say you forgot such a hot, fiery night with us!? Especially with you and Minako!?”
When her name was brought up, Minako refuted with a bright red face.
“Wait, Kirishima! Don’t say what could cause a misunder…!”
“You fyorced a reluctant lady to…”
“I-I was definitely reluctant but! You have to explain these things in order or else…!”
‘Sir Hideo, last night truly was a pleasant treat. It is good to trouble Minako like that, from time to time.’
The reluctant policewoman.
In her uniform.
With the truncheon.
Forcefully troubling her.
(… Thank you, world.)
“IVs! Are not! Meant! For! The! Neck!!”
According to Wilco, after he downed Japanese sake like water in the landlady’s management room, he repeated some incomprehensible phrases like, “The world is wonderful, I am god” as he used the Okamaru he plundered from Minako and assaulted several dozen participants… and so forth. In the end, he was carried to the hospital for a severe case of alcohol poisoning.
Hideo shuddered in fear. At the terror of alcohol. When he was the sort who used placemats and magazines to peacefully drive bugs out of his room whenever possible… to think he would strike people.
(… What a terrifying story.)
“Heehee. Seeing how lively you are, I’ll assume you regained consciousness…”
A man in a lab coat walked in without knocking. Since this was a hospital, he was probably a doctor, but he boasted scraggly unkempt hair and a peculiar set of black-rimmed glasses with the lens only in on one side. An individual of peculiar style.
“Eeeheeheeh. You, I hear you got three wins just yesterday…! You’ve got promise you know.”
The doctor slowly closed in on Hideo.
“H-h-how about it!? This drill! I-I-I-I’m suuuure if it’s you, you’ll be able to master it…”
He showed off the metal, conical piece.
(… A weapon.)
He needed a weapon. Which meant this person… no, even if it was due to the alcohol, wasn’t there some greater reason he was carried to this hospital?
That moment of hesitation spelled the end.
“Those serious eyes! I see interest! You’re interested, I see! Heeheeheeh, as expected of the top contender! Five minutes! Five minutes is enough! In five minutes, I’ll change this out with your right hand!!”
He suddenly pulled out a scalpel. With red and black substances stuck to it, a scalpel with a dull sheen. By that point, Hideo understood. The moment he nodded, he would be saying goodbye to the right hand that had accompanied him through twenty years of life. Nothing so idiotic could ever happen in reality. But in this city that surpassed common sense, when he looked at this individual, for some reason he was certain of it.
While he was delighted this man of all people took the look in his eyes as serious, Hideo reluctantly shook his head.
“No. Not particularily.”
“I-I, I see!! The left hand!? So it’s the leeeft hand you want!?”
Hideo was a Japanese man who had a hard time saying no.
“… No. What I’m trying to say. Doc.”
For some reason, the doctor staggered. As if using the recoil from that motion, he closed in right up to the tip of his nose.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeh!? I’ve got it!! That was my fault!! You wanted both hands! I see, so it’s both! You want it equipped to both hands, that’s what you want, right!? Yes, I have another!! Why of course, I do! Another drill right here! No, if you’re going that far, I’ll put one on top of your head too!! That makes three!! Just how gorgeous can you be!!? I feel like I can have a good surgery for once!! Eeheeheeheeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
“Whop. Whop. Whop.”
Unable to put up with this any longer, Wilco drove the doctor away with chops.
“Master, this hospital is bad news. We should get out fast.”
Wilco who liked playing along was drawing back. Minako and the others as well. When Hideo tried rising from the beat with no complaints, it wasn’t the doctor, but a sheet of paper that was thrust before him.
“I really don’t want to do this, but.. heehee.”
“… This is?”
“Why it’s an invoice of course!”
It made sense that going to a hospital cost money, but…
(… Ones. Tens. Hundreds. Thousands. Ten thousands…)
It still went up from there. In place of the silent Hideo, Wilco cried out.
“Th… th- three million tickets!? For just a night and an IV drip!? This is extortion, no matter how you look at it!!”
“Heehee, say what you want. When he got here, on top of alcohol poisoning, he was suffering from malnutrition, severe physical exhaustion, disturbed brain waves due to stress, the list goes on… after all.”
That was unexpected. He didn’t get any health checkups for the two years he holed up, so maybe he really was in bad shape.
“Even so, Center’s facilities are supposed to be free of charge!”
She pointed out the window at the lines of buildings that stood tall. But Lena awkwardly averted her eyes.
“No… the truth is, this place is just barely in the industrial district, see… meaning it’s not a public institution prepared by the organizers. Like the supermarket, you know, it’s a so-called outsourced private hospital. Just like the price of vegetables, the proprietor is free to decide the medical fees.”
Meaning the organizers couldn’t complain. They did their job, there was no place to complain. It was simply that the one who received treatment was dissatisfied with the price…
“Between us and the participants that entered the venue early, this hospital is famous.”
According to the landlady, this place had a reputation for returning what you paid with superior skill. If he really could swap out limbs with drills, that spoke to just how fearsome his technological prowess really was.
“But it definitely wasn’t this bad before opening night. We didn’t knyow he hiked up the prices.”
Lena nodded to the landlady’s comment.
“Umm, then I have my job on the administrative committee.”
“I’ve gyot matches to judge.”
The two officials ran. If he had to take a guess, his poor condition was mostly his own fault (on top of the alcohol), and whatever the case they hurriedly brought him to the closest and finest hospital… and this was the result of everyone’s consideration.
“Eeheehee. If you want, I’ll buy the right to stick a drill on for one million tickets each… eeheeheeheeheeh! Let’s do that. That’s the best way that will make everyone happy!!”
He would stick on three. This doctor would be happy to obtain a test subject. He would be happy with three million written off. The only downside was that he would become a drill human.
That might be strong. This was the Sacred Demon Cup. In a tournament where winning was the only justice, to be strong was an absolute necessity.
“Ma… master…? What are you thinking, master!?”
“Now… what will you do? Heeheehee!”
Like his throat was spasming, the doctor’s laugh as ominous as his appearance quietly echoed.
An enormous debt. Or a drill.
Hideo was faced with the ultimate dilemma…