He was practically a different person. The colonel couldn’t think this was the same young man wishing for death. Minako could not overlap the one before her eyes with the timid one wiping his tears when he was sent underground.
Only Wilco could sense it.
A power greater than any she had felt at any time before. Forget stealing it, it flowed its way into her on its own. A torrent of power that might burst out of her shoddy laptop the moment she let her guard down.
“…Hmm. Did hearing about the world’s destruction scare you so much you deluded yourself into being the hero who would save the world? A mere loser, a shut-in, society’s trash…”
“And I’m asking, you still don’t get it?”
Hideo’s scornful sneer had Lena lightly swallow her breath.
“Was my acting so perfect you couldn’t tell?”
One line from Hideo and the entire audience bit on.
“Did you think a truly powerless plain shut-in could coincidentally come across a virtual spirit? Did you think he could beat the top contender—The Bloodfields—by pure coincidence? Do you think on the grand stage of Cross-Flags, he could coincidentally take only Archess down with him… did you think it was pure coincidence he could return in perfect health from the place you called hell? A plain shut-in with no redeeming features?”
In that instant the air was switched out, his authenticity turned on its head.
Reality become a falsehood. A fabrication exchanged place with the truth. The eyes sung of as daemon eyes eloquently told tales of how deception was reality. A smile that didn’t reflect on a thing spurred him on.
There was no way to answer to that. Even if it all was mere coincidence, once he stacked up so many of them, there were none who could possibly proclaim it so.
“Of course not, Kirishima. I started by sending the Colonel who knew the circumstances to the very place where the crux of your schemes lay. I carefully selected only those who would fulfill your criteria and return alive without fail, and continued to defeat them. I used the pretense of a match to crumble the fourth mining lot crater that would become our means of escape, and for the final piece of the plan… I settled myself in to guide them all to escape. There was not a single coincidence.”
Yes, it couldn’t be a coincidence. The shut-in would always do the most he was capable of. She had brought him out of the apartment that day.
“I’ve l brought her to the stage.”
He lightly raised his hand as the signal.
“Now. It’s about time you showed yourself.”
‘Yes, my master.’
The mischievous voice that leaked over the speaker systems soon changed to a voice in reality.
“This can’t… be…”
Archess muttered, a strong look in his eyes.
That which appeared with a vibrant bolt of electricity was different to how she had been before. Casting away the screen as if to say that was her true form.
“They’re far too slow on the uptake, master. Now Wilco can finally stop feeling so cramped.
A mature voice. A mature smile. Her innocent white garment for a fascinating black dress.
Just as Wilco had been surprised by Hideo’s change, Hideo found himself taken aback by her matured form. Yet neither side would let it show on their faces. As if it had been agreed upon beforehand, each side merely saw the other as more reliable than ever.
“So calm down, Kirishima. I’m not going to kill you. There wasn’t a single person who thought of you as unnecessary. All you’ve done is arbitrarily cast yourself aside.”
“Shut up… shut up! Shut up! Silence!”
“Then just try and push the button. That bomb was a pipe dream from the get-go…!”
By the time Archess, who had been focused on Hideo turned, Lena had already smashed the button down. Some winced back, others stiffly closed their eyes.
But… all that followed was a long silence.
Nothing happened. The result stayed constant no matter how many times she pressed it. Archess gulped as a cold sweat flowed down his face.
“… How… there was no way to reach that floor without the transfer circle I designed…”
Wilco laughed out.
“Electric circuits, electric lines, electric signals. It’s so simple when you make use of so many. Eat one important component and that’s it. No match for Wilco.”
“… Do you get it now, Kirishima? I didn’t come to this city to win. I’ll say it again. I’m not going to kill you. No, not only you.”
The entire sky was dyed midnight by this point. Worse yet, no stars and no moon. It had turned to a night of true darkness. A scene that lingered with a hint of the end.
“We won’t let that thing kill a single person in the world. That is the sole reason we came here. So you don’t have to worry.”
She had finally gotten the message; the device slipped its way out of Lena’s hand. The threads of tension stretched to their limit had slackened and tears surfaced in her eyes that had regained their sanity as she fell onto the ground.
“… Rea… ly…? Hideo…”
“Yeah. Really. Tomorrow will come, same as ever.”
He strongly nodded back. There was no turning back. It was the curtain call. The grand finale. Up to the point he put on the happy ending.
“… You have my gratitude for saving me from hurting my daughter, Hideo. But… the dark god has already been revived. You say you will stop it?”
“No one desires this ending. Put a stop to it now.”
“It won’t stop even if hypothetically I were to have a change of heart. That was the contract I traded the Sacred Demon Cup’s power to forge.”
There was yet another softly laughing voice.
It came from Elsia.
“Right… it’s futile. Once its sleep is disturbed, the dark god won’t stop even if it exceeds the bounds of its contract…”
Her cool eyes that gazed to the heavens turned teasingly towards Hideo.
“A deception so easily seen through is simply unsightly. I already told you… future sight no longer exists in the world…”
Hideo had to scoff at that.
“… What a laugh. I thought you were smarter than that.”
“What… did you say…?”
The colors of irritation showed their first glimpse in Elsia’s eyes. Meeko spoke next.
“You see, child… that was the evil that was born the moment good was born in the world… the darkness that divided off when light was born… the young mistress was right to call it the oldest and strongest… even if we of the sediment were to gather, we would be no match. What could a mere child of man accomplish…”
Meeko’s words. They were surely all true. But even so, Hideo laughed them away.
“… When each and every one of you exist outside the bounds of common sense, you remain imprisoned by it.”
Yeah, he couldn’t care less about all of that.
The fourth world, the world of the sediment. He was just a lowly shut-in, was he not? An irregular that appeared from beyond the bounds of their common sense.
That’s why. That’s precisely why. Because he didn’t know, he had to turn it back. He was the one who received the least influence, he was more powerless than anyone, so he had to stay on his feet.
Sure enough, he couldn’t lift a finger to it. But he was able to believe. He was able to believe in the god who believed in him.
Wilco was silent, she didn’t have a word to spare. She continued searching out an answer that escaped everyone’s eyes. It was fine. She would find it soon enough.
“… Hideo. This is no longer a matter that concerns you. What should a human and a spirit care what happens to demons…”
“What’s wrong, Archess? Losing your nerve?”
His inflammatory words brought a sense of danger to Archess’ face. No one could truly know the final outcome beforehand. Visible violence aside… what was reflected in their eyes was a mystery.
“Are you scared? Of the Demon Eyes of Future Sight that defeated you once in Cross Flags?”
“I told you… I brought her here.”
“… Don’t tell me…!”
Archess’s gaze turned to Wilco whose eyes were firmly shut. The eyes and ears of the others followed along with him.
That’s right, believe! Force them to believe! He needed them to believe that this mystery girl who concealed unlimited possibilities could do it. That was his role. To convert fear, awe, even the enemy’s thoughts into an unwavering faith towards her. It was belief that made the spirit and elevated them to gods. He wouldn’t let anyone say his meeting with the greatest partner of all was pointless. He would change that meeting, here and now, into a miracle.
“Let me teach you… this is the future I saw! Do it, Wilco!!”
“Yes! My master!!”
The electronic spirit slowly spread her two arms. In concert, vast wings of electricity began to spread across her back. Each feather an unseen hand of god to directly connect her from this rift between dimensions to the outside world.
“All who deem themselves virtual gather to me!! All who possess the processing power, offer your lives to me!! Regalia achieved, Myriad Processor… activate!!”
The next instant. The arms of the spirit who had transcended space, like a single ripple across the water’s surface raced through every existing storage device on the planet. She made off with every last piece of information the entirety of humanity had cultivated over thousands of years, she amassed it. While the spirit could not reach omnipotence, she achieved omniscience and therefore, as the new god had sworn to her apostle, she derived and constructed.
Hideo stood firm even as he ate an immense wave of noise across his five senses. The vehement burden came straight to him, and that was precisely why he could sense the reaction of her reaching her answer. He changed that reaction into an even greater force of will.
And regardless of the pain his body experienced, Hideo’s mouth curled into a grin. What Wilco constructed… far exceeded his expectations.
“… It looks like you’re out of bluffs, Hideo.”
“I wonder… can you still say that after looking behind you, Archess…!”
Ironically, everyone had been so taken by Hideo and Wilco they hadn’t noticed the change. It had been far too large, even if it entered their eyes, they couldn’t notice.
Not only Archess. The whole audience looked up to doubt their eyes.
Center building had been so massive and tall, and now it was gone.
What stood in its place boasted the width and height, made with a single-minded focus on offense, history’s greatest weapon. Its barrel over four hundred meters long, effective diameter over fifty meters, the optical weapon towered over them to pierce through the darkness.
He heard her words directly in his head.
‘This is the greatest possible solution Wilco can construct with modern technology. But the energy to operate it is a bit…’
‘This isn’t on the level of nuclear fission. We will need an astronomical level of energy, more than humanity has ever dealt with. Where is she supposed to search for that…’
(But, we’ll be able to clear it away if we can get it to work. Correct?)
‘That’s… as far as Wilco’s calculations go, but… truth be told, it’s taking everything she has just to maintain that turret…’
Right. She did have a point. There was no way it would be that easy. But it had always been like that. From the moment he met her, he was always hanging by a thread.
‘But if she steals any more spirit from you, you really will…’
Perhaps because this strange sensation had knocked him off his rocker.
(It’s fine. You should be able to do it with your binary decomposition.)
‘But how…! Use it on what!? Uranium? Plutonium? Even a fusion reactor wouldn’t be able to keep up…!’
(… No need for anything so roundabout, just make energy itself. According to general relativity, mass is apparently energy, isn’t it? If you decompose it entirely and configure it as energy.)
Chemical reactions weren’t enough. Nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, even gravitational generation via black holes were nothing more than minute changes in matter. While he didn’t remember the specific values, the energy produced from a perfect conversion truly would be incomparable to anything humanity had dealt with before.
‘That’s because they’re just changing the atomic composition from one substance to another…!’
No, she should be able to do it. She was a spirit who was already formed out of something as incomprehensible as thought and belief.
If her most efficient source of energy was a believing heart… those that believed in her… would one of his arms be enough?
If an arm wasn’t enough, then his legs?
‘Wilco doesn’t want to!!’
Well if all four limbs weren’t enough…
‘Master! Wilco can’t tell if you’re being serious or not… you’re in great distress!!’
He was on a knee by the time he noticed it. He had evidently nearly fallen unconscious.
Wilco’s worried voice.
“Alright, no matter what… don’t let that tower fall apart…”
When he raised his face, Archess stood with a terrifyingly expressionless face.
“… It does seem it really was just a bluff. I see no hint of that ridiculously large cannon operating. The reason is quite clear with one look at you.”
An exhausted soul, Hideo whipped his body to stand.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t mull. Just return a bold laugh.
“But… you’re right in that it won’t fire right away…”
“… And when will it…?”
Hideo’s unfocused field of vision searched out a weapon. Come so far. Come so far, he wasn’t just going to die.
“Do you know what forms a spirit…?”
“… Are you talking about human thought?”
Bingo, Hideo pointed at him. With the same hand, he indicated himself with his thumb.
“Wilco will keep stockpiling power as long as I don’t give up… your loss is already set in stone. No, it was determined that moment you failed to kill me.”
“Now what time might you be talking about? I had an infinite number of chances to kill you.”
Archess held his hands in front of him and summoned one saber to them.
“… That hasn’t changed now.”
The moment he drew it from its scabbard so fluidly it was practically an off-handed action.
“I won’t let you!!”
Minako took up the challenge. But Archess parried Okamaru with his bare hands, and smacked her back with the hilt of his saber.
Ryuuta’s lowered blade cut into his back the next moment. Too shallow. Archess knocked away his Japanese sword as he turned, slashed at his thigh and sent him tumbling to the side.
He had dealt with the two of them as easily as waving away bugs flying his way. His eyes locked on Hideo the whole time.
And Ryuuta’s sword had rolled to Hideo’s feet.
“… I have one question for you, Hideo. In that case, why have you waited for this very moment? Just as I could kill you any time, you had an unlimited number of chances to stop me… that is, if you really could see the future.”
“Yes. Because I could see it… I’ve waited for this moment.”
“… You’re still saying that?”
“In that case… Hey, Archess. Why did you draw your saber?”
Hideo spoke as if he knew everything, bringing a shade of unrest to Archess.
“… Hideo. You…”
“It sucks away more power the stronger you are. You were supposed to be the strongest one here. You have the power of the Sacred Demon Cup. Had, to be more precise; you offered it to the dark god for this summons. Now how much power remains within you? Perhaps Elsia was right… you’ve had so much taken away you’re barely in control of this contract. That’s why you needed to rely on your sword… am I wrong?”
“You… just how much can you see…!?”
He smiled at Archess’ gritting teeth and picked up Ryuuta’s sword.
“Then isn’t this my only opportunity to take down a true demon like you?”
What Hideo held for the first time was heavier than he had anticipated. Heavy enough his body trembled. Its blood-stained dull glimmering blade was beautiful enough to send a chill down his spine. Archess who confronted it with malice, all the more terrifying.
But he remembered.
The true reason he took part in this tournament.
Was it for a loser to be reborn?
To grasp a turning point in life?
To win and lay hands on fame and glory?
No. No to all of them.
“Master, what are you thinking!? That’s… that’s something you can leave to the other people! You’ve fought enough already!”
Hideo quietly told her.
“There’s one thing I’ve come to realize. I was convinced this was my story. But that’s probably wrong. I just deluded myself because I was seeing it from my eyes… this is your story. I’m sure I…”
“Was watching the start of your legend.”
“None of that matters! Legends! Gods! Wilco just wants you to be safe…!”
“You’re the one who said it, Wilco. I’m a sacrifice to be offered to you. Hey, we knew each other for two months… not too long in the grand scheme of things.”
“It’s been a lifetime!!”
Wilco screamed, causing to widen his eyes ever-so-slightly.
“Wilco’s entire life since she was born in this world!! You’re the one who brought her out! Sure enough, you wouldn’t say much to her! But Wilco watched you the whole time! She saw how you lived! The way you lived your life guided a girl who didn’t know a thing about the world! And then, and then…!”
While he was playing the part of future sight, he could never have anticipated she would say that. Now this is going to be harsh, he thought.
So he laughed.
“… It’s fine. Just two months. You’ll live a long life.”
He derided himself.
“I was deceiving you too. Who in their right mind would pick up a virus-ridden laptop by choice?”
“Master… that’s a lie… that has to be a lie… you were so happy you could return above ground! You were so happy you could return to yourself!!”
“… You’re the one who chose the name. Become a God, Will of the 21st Century, Will.CO21.”
Don’t lose. Don’t run.
“I’ll be an offering to that…!”
He readied himself with a gentle voice.
He looked straight ahead.
“Sounds like you’re giving a lifelong parting.”
He refuted Archess’ teasing.
“No one said I was going to lose. You’ve already proved it yourself you can’t defeat Wilco. Then what will you do, Archess? How do you plan to stop that light cannon? Your only option is to kill me, the source. And I… am not going to lose!”
“… You can’t imagine how many times you’ve surprised me. I see. If you can see every sword swing before I make it, that puts me at quite the disadvantage.”
Archess changed his stance. As if he was drawing back a bow, he pulled the saber in his right hand as far as it would go. He changed to what would let him strike the fastest.
“Admit your loss… admit your future sight is a fraud. Your stance is that of a complete amateur. Even if you can see through my blade, you have no means to prevent it.”
Indeed. He was quite literally putting on a show. But don’t be afraid. Believe you can win.
Don’t fall through. You won’t get a second chance.
Hideo strangled the sweaty hilt of the sword.
Act it out.
“You’re far too kind. Archess.”
“You just have to believe. Over so many ages… it took an eternity for peace and universal rights to seep into society. So just wait just a little bit longer. For your descendants. For us humans. Can’t you believe for a little longer?”
His strong eyes stared into his pupils.
“You said you’ve waited for thousands of years. Such incredible effort. Endurance. You can’t let it go to waste here. If you quit moving forward, that’s where you’ll end up.”
“… Why couldn’t I have met a human like you sooner. Why hadn’t there been so many more of you.”
“It’s fine. I’m sure you can start over. When I win… I want you to promise.”
Even I could start over, after all.
Archess, Lena, everyone.
Surely. Surely. Surely. It would surely be alright.
That was surely why he brought Wilco here. That’s why he had reached this point.
Archess muttered as if he had shaken off something.
“… A shame.”
By the time Hideo noticed it, Archess was right before his eyes. His speed exceeded what a normal person could perceive. And by the time Hideo noticed, his saber had stabbed deep into the left of his chest. The burning pain followed shortly behind.
The taste of blood spread from the depths of his throat.
His consciousness grew hazy in the blink of an eye.
With a regretful look on his face, Archess strongly shook his head.
“You didn’t have future-sight after all…! Why… why did you do something so idiotic…!?”
His eyes’ focus had already faded. The final sky Hideo looked up at was blacker anything had had ever seen. And brighter and higher than any before it. It looked as if it were glimmering.
This was the end, he thought in his withering mind.
Just once in his life was enough. There was one line he wanted to try saying.
Wasn’t it fine, just once? To finish off his life.
He collapsed with a powerless smile.
There wasn’t a single cloud on Hideo’s face as he proclaimed the first and last victory of his life.
There was no blood, strangely enough. Not a single drop of blood flowed.
Whatever came out flowed in the form of crumbling beads of light.
“Aah… aa, aaah…!”
Wilco denied in terror.
It was disappearing.
The bond that had been so strong was disappearing so fleetingly. No matter how she denied it, it disappeared like a light snow melting away.
He was disappearing.
That was why Wilco ate him. She wept as she ate him.
That had been his desire.
His spirit. His body. His soul. Everything that constituted him.
Everything he had been born with, the proof he had been alive, he said he didn’t need it. I’ll entrust you with everything, past and future, he said. That was what he wished for as he stared straight at the future, without looking back once on his life and died. The entirety of Kawamura Hideo’s existence was eaten away for the future he desired.
“Aaah, aah… aaaaah…!!”
Not permitting herself to store away the slightest fragment of her beloved partner within her, she decomposed everything to transform it all into pure energy.
They never should have met.
They never should have met that day.
He had finally come out above ground. He was so happy he had finally returned to who he was.
In the end, I was just a virus eating away at him. An evil spirit who devoured without granting a single grace. I haven’t paid back a single favor from him. Someone like me should never have been born.
And yet, as he passed by within her, he imparted her with this.
Become a God, Wilco.
Eat through your fetters with your own hand.
Now show them.
We may have lost the tournament, but we were the greatest partners.
To hell with the oldest, strongest god.
Show them the power of the newest, greatest god of all.
Teach him our meeting that day was the greatest miracle of all.
(Yes, my master!!)
That’s right. Just like that. Farewell Wilco! And… thank you!!
The first cry of a new god. Quakes raced across space itself.
Driven on by her passion, Wilco shook as she gave way to an inexhaustible supply of energy. She had long since surpassed the maximum permissible level of her design, she exceeded the critical point and was overflowing, but sending energy in even still, she caused the cannon to creak and bray.
But Wilco didn’t stop. She wouldn’t be satisfied otherwise.
Eventually, the Virtual God began devouring even the darkness. Just as when it had begun eating into this world, Wilco corroded, electrolyzed, digested and changed it into its exact opposite light.
She shook off her tears and looked up to the sky.
That which tore us apart.
Witness my power.
The power my dear apostle entrusted me.
“Farewell, my master! Thank you for everything!!”
The light poured out with her parting words.
A light that illuminated far and wide, giving no space for any shadow to run. Everything that had made him slathered over it all with a uniform white light.
Once it subsided, all that remained was a blue sky over which, the sun was beginning to tilt. Looking up at that in a daze, Archess fell to his knees.
“… Inconceiv… able… don’t tell me… he really did…”
And he lamented.
“That simply… can’t be…! That means he! Came to this city knowing of his own death…!? That can’t…!”
“… We can only accept it…”
Elsia said somewhat in a daze herself.
“… He knew the timing at which you would kill him without fail. He had waited for the instant someone as kind as you would be forced to draw his sword. In order to be killed. Otherwise, she…”
At the end of her eyes, Wilco honored the silence alone.
She was unable to kill Hideo. She was unable to convert him into light. Yet he was the only one whose belief in her was strong enough to bring about this miracle.
And, once Archess had taken his life… she had no choice but to honor his will.
Meeko nodded with a lonesome smile.
“… Hideo offered up his body for that god… for this world…”
And they were saved. Without a single sacrifice. Just as he wished for. But in the happy ending he brought forth… he was the only one missing.
Ryuuta smacked a fist at the ground.
“Why, Archess!? Why wasn’t it you or me, why is he the one dead!? Archess! Answer me!!”
Ryuuta retrieved his prized sword that had been in Hideo’s hand before screaming. But.
When he looked like he would slash at any moment, Minako pushed him back with tears in her eyes.
“Hideo didn’t ask for that, did he!? Surely you can start again… he wished…!”
“Yeah, I know! I get that but…! God dammit…! If anyone was dying, why couldn’t it be me… Hideo…!!”
Elize unsteadily made her way to Wilco.
“Did Hideo… say anything?”
“… He… said thank you…”
She lightly pat the back of a teary Wilco.
“Then all’s well. Hideo was satisfied and all. No matter what you or I think about it, Hideo made true on his own justice.”
Elize looked at the cleared sky.
“… He said he won, didn’t he? Then Hideo won. He was more proud than anything he managed to win with you. I’m sure Hideo’s eyes were looking at nothing but that future the whole time…”
Wilco gave a small, powerless nod. She buried her head in Elize’s chest. It wasn’t only Wilco. Starting with Minako and Ryuuta, there were many who mourned. When they had been saved, barely any could smile.
Suzuran called out to the sky.
The very person who constructed this city. Highest authority of a place called heaven.
The one who appeared in response… her red hair fluttering behind her, a single expressionless young girl in a sailor uniform.
“… Are you done with your stupid uproar yet?”
“Mariacressel! Hideo… bring Hideo back! You can do it, can’t you!? The Angel who Presides over Existence!”
Eyes of hope gathered on Suzuran’s pained words. But the angel spoke in a cold tone to thrust her away.
“Can’t be done.”
“No way! Why!? Back then, you brought everyone back, didn’t you!? Then just one more…! Hideo saved our world, didn’t he!!”
“It isn’t so easy to bring back someone who’s died. Will you be able to pay the price?”
“Back then, I definitely granted your wish. But that was in exchange for the immense power you had amassed as a Demon Lord.”
As Suzuran lost her mind over this sudden realization, Mariacressel scorned her with harsh eyes.
“You told me this. That five years from then—today—if someone were to appear who would abuse your status… then someone just would surely put a stop to them. That was why you created the Sacred Demon Cup and planned this tournament… and someone appeared to abuse it. This is the result. This is the future you wished for when you transferred all your power. The conclusion.”
Suzuran faltered, she bit her lip, her teeth cut right through it.
“But even if… this… this sort of ending is…!”
Mariacressel took another look at her and sighed. She stared at the skies from which the dark god had disappeared.
“… That being the case, even if the power remained within you. Even if someone volunteered themselves to take up the burden, this time can’t be done.”
“I can prepare the existence itself. But that’s all. That girl over there converted every aspect of him and hammered him into the dark god. Everything that encompasses him has been taken in.”
Her old eyes turned to Wilco.
“Are you saying she would be happy if I produced a mere shell of what he was?”
Suzuran finally lost the words to return. And Wilco lightly shook her head to the side.
“… It’s fine. No more. Elize was right. Master believed it was his very meaning when he disappeared. Without resenting anyone, he was grateful to everyone.”
She said and softly smiled.
“He was sad to see Lena was the same as him, but she made his heart flutter. Archess prepared the best place to die on such a grand stage. The dark god played his part well as the foil who gave him the coolest death and made a god of me… he was thankful.”
Her voice trembled.
“So, it’s fine… if master was satisfied… Wilco won’t cry any more… who would cry…!? My master, just as he wanted! He died in the best place, the best way.”
For the first time, she said he had died with her own mouth and large drops of tears flowed from her eyes. No one wiped them away. No one had the words to stop them.
Only a single gust of gentle wind brushed over the world the two of them had saved.
(… This is.)
Wherever he had come to, it was all a pitch black.
(…… I see… I…)
His chest had been pierced. On the left side no less, where his heart should be. He remembered the burning pain that had been there. The sensation of flowing, melting away into a stream.
So this had to be that so-called death. This pitch-black had to be that world after death or something of the sort.
“… Unfortunately, that is incorrect.”
He heard a voice. A voice he had never heard before.
No, was it even a voice at all? He was uncertain whether he had ears or not within all of this. It was more like some sort of will was being conveyed to him directly.
“… Who are you?”
“Correct. Both the physical phenomenon produced when light is interrupted, as well as the conceptual darkness of despair and sadness. Darkness in any and all sense of the word you lifeforms with sentience have correlated.”
“Precisely. Your everything was converted into light and fired at me, and thus you now exist within me.”
A little too concrete for a dream. Too dark for heaven, and too comfortable for hell. This pitch blackness was probably speaking the truth.
And the fact it was talking to him meant it wasn’t defeated in the end. No, if this blackness’ words were to be believed, then Elsia was correct… it wasn’t the sort of existence that could be defeated or not.
“… There is only one reason I have reconstructed your consciousness.”
That’s right. One party arbitrarily called him up, another party arbitrarily snapped and sent him packing before he had even done any real damage. Even a gentle god who did nothing but sleep would naturally be angry at such unreasonableness.
“You can’t forgive me for defying you?”
He was already dead. Then his current form was an undying self. Eternal torture. It was easy to imagine.
“There’s something I must ask you before I go back to sleep. If I don’t get it off my head, I’ll be tossing and turning too curious to sleep.”
“And what… could that be?”
“I exist mostly everywhere. I see practically all happenings in the midst of a long dream. But unlike the one they call the prophet, I am unable to peer as far into a human’s heart. All I see are hatred, anger and lament, only the negative emotion. And within the tournament you call the Sacred Demon Cup, a single question remains in regards to you.”
The darkness said.
“So in the end, for what reason did you take part in that tournament?”
“Indeed… was ending up here something you decided that day you left your apartment in Tokyo? Are you really able to see the future? Did you leave that apartment to defeat me?”
“… Oh that.”
Hideo felt like shrugging his shoulders. Not that he knew if he actually had any shoulders, or if he actually managed to shrug them.
Came to this tournament to die.
It was quite the farce, thinking back on it now. What do you mean come out on top? What do you mean turn it all around? Quit dreaming. It was blatantly obvious a loser shut-in would never win. He knew it in his bones better than anyone reality was never so sweet. Then in a tournament where they were free to bring any weapons, it was plain as day he would be killed and that would be the end of it. Such a tournament would surely be easier than suicide, he was sure they would kill him with no responsibility or future complications.
To kill or be killed was forbidden on the opening day, and in the midst of himself being lifted up as a top contender, he had arbitrarily convinced himself he had a shot at the title. Now that he could calmly think back, there should be a limit to idiocy.
“… That’s it?”
“Yeah… that’s it. Looking at the result, I was killed by Archess. Right… in hindsight, it did go just as planned. But there was this and that before it actually happened. I did some thinking. And… I remembered this and that.”
He was convinced.
“Thank’s to that, even if it’s death all the same, I managed to live the best life. In these two months since I met Wilco, I’ve done everything I can do. I feel supreme. Of course, I’ve got you to thank too.”
“If negative emotion is a part of you. Then I’m sure it’s because you made a nest in my heart. I think it’s because I did nothing but lament that I was able to worry. Because I kept worrying, I was so scared of what I could imagine beyond… and I could hold hope in something and move forward. And at the last moment, you appeared in the strongest, greatest villain role so… I was able to break through the shell of darkness in my heart.”
There was no doubt about it.
He could speak from the heart.
“It’s true. The last I looked up at your form, it was shining brighter than any sky I’ve ever seen before.”
That was surely the sight of breaking through a mirror-like veil that reflected only himself. He had pierced through his shut-in shell, the filter of his heart that turned everything dark.
Meaning he had returned to his true self.
“Because you were there, ‘I’ holed myself in. But because you were there, ‘I’ became ‘me’ again. If I had remained ‘me’ the whole time without shutting myself away… I’m sure I’d always be a helpless little brat.”
“… But if you did not shut yourself away, you would never have died at your young age. Perhaps you could have lived a happier life.”
“There isn’t one. A life happier than mine.”
Hideo firmly declared.
“What could possibly be better than meeting Wilco? Apart from her taking me out, I would never have a chance to meet such wonderful comrades. You could tell me a time more wonderful than these two months I spent with them was out there waiting for me… but that’s something I’ll never believe.”
“So thank you. Rosso Noire.”
He was speaking not with his mouth but his mind. There was no space for empty flattery.
But the darkness that heard out Hideo’s sincere feelings seemed to sigh.
“… I have never forgiven any soul who dared shake me awake. Within my long history, there have been those who repelled my power. There were those who were no match and were swallowed by me. But not a single who witnessed my wrath… would thank me like you.”
Well of course. If he was darkness in the conceptual sense as well, he would have to be an existence justifiably feared as such.
“Your dream is one of the favorites I’ve seen. Your heart since you came to Tokyo was consistently filled ninety percent with darkness. And yet, you say you don’t resent me. Having seen my wrath, you do not cower, you say I looked brighter than any and thank me. You really are a peculiar one. How pleasant.”
Pleasant… well he had to wonder about that one.
“I doubt you will assimilate with me, no matter how much time passes.”
If he didn’t assimilate… what would happen?
“So get out.”
“To your comrades waiting for you. Everything that compromises you is within me. So go.”
“No, meaning, umm…”
“There are many who cry and mourn your death.”
That wasn’t good. That was definitely bad.
But even more so. After he put on so much airs and died, asking him to coldly deny everyone’s tears while he was being mourned only to all-too-easily return was a bit much. This wasn’t some sick joke.
“I would not have it any other way. These past two months. You were a spectacle to behold as you held me in your heart, losing your bearings and grasping at straws. From the start, someone without hate or resent or a single regret, who would even show gratitude towards me… I can’t take in someone so god damn cheerful.”
“Can’t you do something about that?”
“Don’t worry, I shall recognize your Demon Eyes.”
“My… Demon Eyes?”
“That’s right. While you may not have witnessed the scene, strictly speaking, you drew out the future you desired and endeavored to get just one step closer to it. The power of will that leads reality towards the future you see.”
“… And that’s… future sight…?”
It felt as if the darkness was spreading its arms through darkness.
“Indeed. Even if no one in your world recognizes it, the darkness that spans the cosmos takes it as a fact! The Demon Eye Lord who fought without relying on power! He who fears not even me is worthy of being the next Sacred Demon Lord…!”
“I won’t let anyone say any different. Should you desire power, simply call my name. That which continues to sleep. The Myriad Dark. Rosso Noire. Angra Mainyu. Call me however you want. I shall not wake, I will naught but grant you power for the future you see. And instead of scattering my anger bringing the world to ruin, I shall watch the continuation of a dream I’ve grown fond of. I shall remove myself from your world for the time being. Out of respect for you.”
A blinding light poured into Hideo’s consciousness that could only see darkness.
‘Now go forth, Second Sacred Demon Lord. The Sacred Eyes Lord. To those who await you—”
When Hideo opened his eyes to the radiance, he was smack dab in the center of the stadium.
Sobs and sniffles from all around.
Everyone was too invested in crying to notice.
He couldn’t sit still. He had no place. Well of course. He wasn’t supposed to be in the world anymore.
Within all of that, there was a single young girl who noticed him. Crimson hair and a sailor uniform, but a girl he had never seen in this city before briskly step up towards him.
Was she angry, or expressionless to begin with, she stared deep into Hideo’s eyes with such a face… before smacking him without warning.
“W… what was that for?”
She offered a word.
“Read the mood.”
The word he wanted to hear least stabbed right into his chest.
“Where do you think I stand after I issued Suzuran such a high and mighty address?”
A shadow flew into the red-haired girl’s temple like a rocket missile from the side. Ripple-Rapple’s flying kick, the red-haired girl who was sent sliding from the momentum slipped off of the stage.
“… The high and mighty sermon was all on you. You must not shift the responsibility for… being so embarrassing. Now is the time to rejoice over his return.”
The red-haired girl who rose wiped her mouth with the cuff of her sleeve.
“But sis, is that enough to launch a subsonic drop kick into your little sister’s face?”
“I’m saying that holier-than-though expressionlessness is moronic, little sister.”
“The expressionlessness goes both ways. It’s been so long, and you’re still as short as ever, big sister, my, how you”
“Now it’s getting to me.”
For some reason. A rather large and intense grappling match began.
But in even more of a daze than Hideo as he watched the scene, those dazed by the sight of Hideo ran in and formed a ring in no time.
Wilco clung to his neck, Hideo held her back tight. Her body wasn’t one that would fall from a light breeze as before. She had both breath and warmth.
Was this what it meant to be at a loss for words.
When he looked around, everyone was safe. Every single soul safe.
Hideo muttered. The young man who had convinced himself he had no place needed to know.
“… Is it alright for me to be here?”
“What are… you talking about!? Wilco won’t let you go anywhere else! You’re not doing something that reckless again!!”
Takase chimed in, “Of course, the two of you were originally my employees, after all! There is no need for you to go anywhere!”
Elize followed on with, “Big talk when you were having them work off their debt! It’s me you want, Wilco. Come over to my company with Hideo!!”
“That’s no good! I have to take darling back to my house!!” Akane interrupted.
“No, he already promised he would come to mine!!” Minako said.
Verrocchia laughed as his mantle hid him from the westering sun. “Hmph. So there was some worth in me losing that night.”
Said the Gray, “The bridge across the cosmos really is unbreakable.”
Hannibal nodded. “Yeah… that was quite the Yamato Spirit. You’ve become a real man…”
Remina softly smiled.
“Cough… welcome back, Hideo. We were all waiting for you.”
And the Colonel patted the back of the man with clouded eyes.
“How about you look a bit happier… Wilco’s a god, and you’re a hero. This here is a world you saved, is it not?”
He cried. That it had all worked out.
That the happy end he saw had nothing wasted as he continued to wish and move towards it, that he had done the right thing.
He wept without caring about others’ eyes.
The Sacred Demon Cup had just ended, and the whole city was in a festive mood that night. The stadium was converted right into a party hall. In Lena’s place, VZ and Ratzelica took on the moderator role on stage.
Hideo had eaten and drank a bit at first, but he was who he was, and being suddenly surrounded by so many did tire him out. The moment the topic of conversation shifted from him, he had gained a little distance to gaze over the lively clatter.
He turned to Archess’ voice to find not only him but Lena as well.
“I’m sorry, Hideo.”
As she said that, Lena was modest. She wasn’t putting on a show, nor was she an ogre.
“For saying so many terrible things and hitting you… I’m sorry.”
This was likely her real face. She smiled with her real face.
“Thank you. For saving both Papa and me.”
She was a beauty, after all. He felt he might fall at first sight if she smiled like that.
“We’ve decided to start over. With everyone from Alhazan. Hideo, Shouki, Suzuran… you all forgive too idiotically easily… because it wasn’t too late. Because you said we could try again. Right… papa?”
“I truly am ashamed of it being so convenient for me but… you were right. If I cast it aside, I’d be wasting everyone action I’ve taken.”
“… If possible, umm.”
“Yes, of course. I won’t rely on power anymore. The dark god that scared even Lady Meeko and Elsia was repelled, after all… I’m sure that era has passed. When I said it was a wonderful age of ethics, I had lost sight of it. And I’ve remembered thanks to you.”
I see. Then that was good. Surely some day.
“I thought I’d sworn an oath when I carved the spider emblem…”
It’s Alhazan’s seal.
Lena rolled up her sleeve and showed it. There definitely was a spider mark there. Archess gave a bitter smile.
“They often say it’s a venomous spider, but it’s just a spider. They’re sacred back where I come from, you know.”
Well, sure enough… though just like spiders, they gave off a generally creepy impression.
“Why did you make that your symbol?”
“Yes. Well a spider spins its web, doesn’t it? It’s to capture its prey of course, but its web is also its home. The spider will weave its nest again and again. At times not its prey, an animal far larger than itself will break it but… no matter how many times it takes, I won’t fail to make a new web. It’s own home. It’s place. And yet I… before I knew it, I ended up forgetting that resolve.”
“… Now I see. So that’s what it means.”
It was Ryuuta. Archess took one look at him and spoke.
“Are your wounds…”
“Yeah. When you completely took me by surprise, it’s almost like you were purposely avoiding the bones and tendons… a little salve was enough to close it up.”
He was different from when Hideo saw him in the department store. Ryuuta’s expression didn’t turn venomous when he looked at Archess. And when Archess looked at him, while he did seem apologetic, he didn’t look like he was pitying him.
“So what are you lot gonna do now? Is Alhazan breaking up?”
“No, we were just discussing that and… Suzuran said we could use this city.”
Ryuuta’s eyes opened wide.
“Then is it that… next time you find a demon child.”
“That’s how it works. I don’t know how many years it will take… but I hope to deepen our friendship with humans, little by little. We got so close in only two months after all.”
“… You gonna be alright, Archess? Obliterating Industries is here too.”
Ryuuta’s words had the blood drain from his lively expression. Lena firmly gripped her fist.
“It’ll be fine, papa. When that happens, it’ll be our battle this time!”
“… I see. Yes… you’re right. I’m sure the battles will be more fun than they ever were before.”
The father and child began chatting as if they really were related by blood as they left.
Ryuuta offered some strained laughter.
“… It really is a pain. Why couldn’t I reach an understanding with them from the start?”
“… Who knows. But.”
“There are some bonds that grow with hurting one another. Not a war that someone began on a whim… or soldiers who don’t know what’s going on. Like you and arches. Perhaps it’s not pointless for those with a clear will and intent to fight.”
“… That so. Yeah, say what you will. Maybe fortune comes from time to time.”
Ryuuta nodded with a carefree smile and returned to the party’s circle.
The one who came to take his place was Elsia. She had silently approached before he knew it, close enough to cast breath on as she stared intently into his eyes.
“… No… umm.”
“… In the end.”
She muttered before backing off.
“Were you really future sight?”
“Why are you asking. Now?”
“… Your heat towards death was too intense for someone who knew he would return alive.”
Perhaps. He had to wonder. He couldn’t quite think of the words to proclaim it at this point. And she gave a slight smile like she had found her conviction.
“… Of course, perhaps that’s precisely the possibilities children of men possess.”
“Yes. Surely, anyone.”
Even a shut-in like himself had that heat. It was unfathomable for it not to be in anyone else. Whenever someone decided on something and began setting forth for it, they held heat and eventually began to shine.
“That’s right. That’s why I like humans.”
Just when she turned around, she looked back at him once.
“If I ever get bored, I’ll come over to play.”
The Lady on the Platform left without giving him the time to say it.
Come over to play? That beautiful woman? He got the feeling he barely knew her, just where could he have set up that peculiar flag?
“What’s wrong? Why is the other lead actor falling into darkness on his lonesome self over here?”
It was Suzuran. This was the first time he’d seen her smile unhindered by mirrored glasses, but she was innocent and charming enough for so many people to adore her.
A glass in each hand. She held out one of them.
He accepted and downed it. He had once held back on drinking so he wouldn’t do anything crazy but… the comfortable heat of alcohol raced from his throat to his stomach.
“It’s over, isn’t it. The Sacred Demon Cup.”
“… It was fun. Really fun but… I’m sorry. It looks like I’ve put you through quite a bit.”
“No. Precisely because it was this tournament…”
A miracle began. All the wonders since he met Wilco. Those enjoyable memories Suzuran had hoped for, all in this city.
“… I was able to greet a happy ending.”
“Yeah. I see. Yep, that’s right. You’ve got me on that one.”
The fireworks rose. With every color on the spectrum. With so many cheers riding on them.
She probably really did just like fun things. While her side profile seemed satisfied at this perfect display of beauty, she seemed reluctant the whole time that it would have to end.
“Hideo, what are you going to do now? Is our company no good?”
How could he put it. That wasn’t the problem.
“I guess it’s just not for you. Ah, but you might do well as a public servant. Want me to put in a word?”
“… You really think so?”
If someone with eyes as mean as his was at the window, he was certain he wouldn’t dare to use their services.
“Well, so be it. But we’ll welcome you anytime. We’re not just in this city, we have a company outside too. You can come and play anytime! I’ll send the photo around and have everyone remember your face!”
No, wasn’t that a wanted poster?
“There’s still plenty more food and ale! You should hurry back!”
She returned to the circle with a large wave of her hand.
It was over. The festival was ending.
“So this is where you were.”
He didn’t hear any footsteps or feel any presence.
When he turned to the voice, there stood the girl who began fighting with Ripple-Rapple. Her starchy uniform was in shambles, her red hair somewhat frayed.
“My name is Mariacressel. I am the creator of this city. The administrator of the world you originate from… no, come so far, protector is more appropriate.”
“Are you possibly… from heaven?”
“I’m an angel.”
In the time it took Hideo to blink, her disorderly hair was flowing smoothly and her uniform had reverted, looking fresh of the hanger. That alone was enough to tell him she wasn’t just anyone.
“… And what do you want from me?”
“A terminal from the ‘darkness’ just appeared to inform me. The darkness has recognized you as the next Sacred Demon Lord, and will grant you power towards it.”
Yeah… that was right. He definitely said that. But the tournament champions were Shouki and Elize. He had taken it with a grain of salt, and he didn’t think anyone would believe him. Hideo hadn’t told anyone about that yet.
“Officially, Shouki and Elize will become the next Sacred Demon Lord. For that sake, the Sacred Demon Cup is being remade on Suzuran’s request, but…”
“It can be… remade.”
That sounded a little dangerous.
“Of course, its security will be strengthened so it won’t be abused again. The cup itself will just be a vessel, and a number of keys will be required to activate its power. But the problem is… the dark god’s power that will manifest should you wish for it is presumably incomparable to anything it can accomplish.”
“I came to see you to make sure you were aware of it.”
Aware or not, it didn’t even feel real. No, that was precisely why she gave the warning. To make sure he wouldn’t lightly use it on a whim.
In that case, he would take it to heart. He got the feeling nothing good would come of someone as powerless as himself holding that power.
“Understood. But you look like you have something else to say.”
“What do you want to do with this world? Of course, I’m including the world outside of this isolated space.”
Even if she asked him. What exactly was she expecting?
“There is officially a Sacred Demon Lord who governs the world. But on the other hand, there exists someone who could forcefully remove him should he be up to it.”
Meaning himself. There were two leaders.
“And troublesomely enough, the nature of your power is such that we in heaven and the other gods have no way of removing it. And if that wasn’t enough, not only the oldest, the newest god too…”
“I’m fine just being me. I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with Shouki and Elize’s world. Well, before that…”
Hideo shifted his eyes. To Wilco, making merry with the rest of them.
“… I entrusted our twenty-first century to Wilco. So that’s enough. I don’t wish for anything.”
“Is that so.”
Just like her expression, her voice neither affirmed nor denied.
“Then what will you do now?”
“… That’s, as I was saying.”
“No. I mean, what are you going to do about yourself.”
About himself? Suzuran had asked too. He had mulled over that quite some time now.
In the end, he wouldn’t find anything if he returned to his original apartment. He couldn’t return to his parents’ house either. He now had many people to compare himself to. But… right, it was even more out of control now that he had cast aside his life once.
“Do you want to come to heaven?”
“No. I’m not telling you to die.”
Of course not.
“The heaven you’re thinking of shares only its name with our realm. The rare geniuses and cultivated talents, experts in their given field are invited to heaven on the rare occasion. From what I heard, that’s what Wilco is planning to do.”
“That’s right. She could no longer simply overlook the world, as the god who governs over electronics… she said she wanted to guide the world, just like you asked her.”
I see… I see, she really is…
That was good. Then that would do it.
“It can just be while you’re still alive, you could come and go just like with this city. If you so desire, then as one who governs the dark…”
What should I do?
“… I’ll return to my original voice. I’ll have another go at the social life I’d tossed aside.”
“You’re going job hunting?”
“Yes. And if that doesn’t work out… at that time. Obliterating Industries or. Elize Industrial. I’ll accept their courtesy.”
“You’ll fail if you have two things to fall back on.”
He felt like she had ripped straight through his heart. But. Well. No harm done.
“That’s who I am.”
And just as he said that, he heard Minako’s voice.
“Hideo! Wilco just won’t pipe down!”
“Maaaasteeeeeeer! How long are you going to take a break!! What sort of party is it without the Electronic God and the Demon Eye Lord who saved the world!!??”
A slightly-drunk Wilco waved at him. A few turned his way at her energetic call. They called. They waved.
He was thankful. Truly thankful.
Yeah, that was right. Even if he felt he would fold down the road.
“… I’m not. Alone.”
“Yes. That is correct. So please remember. Apart from Obliterating Industries and Elize Industrial… heaven is also an option.”
She nodded to him.
“You’re keeping them waiting. Now go. Treasure the miracle. Be happy.”
A bow to the smiling girl and Hideo was off.