In the airspace above Kantou Agency headquarters, a large transport helicopter called a Chinook had been rendered invisible and inaudible through the use of various barriers. If the sight barrier were dispelled, the angel nose art and white cross over its ultramarine body would surely be visible from the ground.
In the cockpit, faintly lit to read the meters, a sister of the organization that owned the craft, the Sacred Assembly, gripped a cellphone in one hand, a pair of magic night vision binoculars in the other, peering down at the situation below, where a large hold had just appeared in the ground.
“Yeah, the explosion died down. yep… right there. The rotten heretic, Ms. Suzuran and… ahh, if it ain’t Mr. Shouki. Just from where they’re standing, they’re up against VZ and some strange… is that a dragoon?”
‘Is that so… Clarica. Report on the dragoon in detail.’
The sister with out-curling hair… Clarica’s ears were tickled by a voice as calm as the spring sun.
“A strange person… I think it’s called therianthropy? Am I using that right? Ah, right, right, that rotten heritic’s also in some strange cosplay.”
‘… Could you repeat that?’
“Heh? As I was saying, he’s in all black, almost didn’t recognize him…”
‘… I see. So he’s back…’
Suddenly unable to glean the meaning of is words, Clarica blinked.
“… Bishop Ferriol?”
“What!? You sure about that?”
Raising her face from the binoculars, the sister turned her wide eyes in that direction.
“I see… I see. That so… well then. May you go forth with the blessings of the Lord…”
The call over, Clarica let out a let-down breath as she scratched right above her forehead. Honestly, there were some parts she couldn’t accept. The fact Takase was there meant that in the end, the Kantou Agency steering committee likely contacted the imperial house too.
“Senpai. What did the bishop say?”
The cockpit door opened, and to the bob-headed sister who popped her head in from the cargo, Clarica reluctantly turned.
“Withdraw, ‘e said.”
“… What about the third to seventh model Grace Incarnate I brought?”
With a destitute face, the sister pointed out the rather large box in the cargo hold. Fashioned to be carried on the back, it contained such a wide and jumbled assortment of weapons it was as if it belonged to the modern day Musashibou Benkei.
She looked down with greedy eyes.
“… Can’t I get just one shot in?”
Her terribly mature-looking junior spoke as if she were pleading with the heavens. Clarica could feel the tuggings on her back from such an outrageously lovely proposal, but she exercised self-restraint.
“Re… retreat means retreat. That’s Bishop Ferriol’s order.”
“Then what about all the ‘proxies’ behind us? They’re already all up for exorcizing.”
“Ah, you’re right. I’ll pass on the message.”
Without any particularly deep emotions, Clarica took one last look down and tilted her head.
“Well, those villains can kill each other however they want as far as I care…”
The forms of the rotten heretic and all the villains who didn’t believe in god were erased the moment after the helicopter changed course.
The Iori house sixth basement floor.
A rockhopper bigger than an emperor penguin… Emperor Ewan Tobinovski chirped t the man who lay there without so much as a twitch.
Finally fed up with this face, the penguin smacked him with his webbed feet in a flutter kick.
“Mn… Ooh? Kkk… that was a good nap.”
Homura-san opened his red eyes and rose, giving a yawn so big it looked like he was going to devour his own disheveled hair. Next, he set himself down cross-legged, roughly scratching his body.
“Yo, Ewan. What ‘re you doin’ up here?”
“Behind me? What… whoah!?”
Homura-san turned, noticed, and jumped to his feet in surprise. The one who was always sleeping quietly in that vast space was gone.
“Now hey now… just where did he go!? What exactly ‘appened when I was out!?”
This time, Homura-san roughly scratched his head, folding his arms tiredly.
“Oh, as I thought… our princesses are a real handful. Using that one as a plaything? The princesses, the brat and that one, can’t they just be left be…”
In support of Homura-san’s lament, Emperor Tobinovski bobbed his sharp beak up and down.
The Kantou Agency headquarters once again.
As a matter of fact, it really was the sound of a charamela that came out.
Glistening like a ruby, a deep red slime appeared.
A taken-aback Ripple-Rapple removed her lips from the hunting horn, trodding after the slime as it bounced away.
“Where are you going!?”
Suzuran swiftly apprehended her.
“Let go. Red slimes are… terribly rare.”
As the little girl kicked her feet and squirmed, the slime disappeared off somewhere. And when Suzuran turned.
“Aaaan… it’s the first time I’ve seen such a beautiful slime…!”
“Wait, et tu Makoto-senpai…!?”
Makoto was also grabbed by the collar of a Shouki trying desperately to contain his anger. Suzuran could no longer go on without a headache.
(I want to go home…)
“That’s your dragon? Well, it’s quite cute, I’ll admit…”
VZ said, only for Ripple-Rapple to shake her head.
“That one… just came along for the ride. The dragon is right there.”
Looking in the direction Ripple-Rapple nonchalantly started walking, Suzuran was overcome with a form of enthrallment.
There was no second guessing, no mistaking what it was. This was a dragon straight out of a fantasy. Not the eastern variety, the western quadrupedal variety passed down in the west.
Its size was on another level. The two fangs protruding from its upper jaw alone were far larger than any human. Its vivid red scales looked slightly tarnished from a thin coating of moss. Only by curling up did it barely fit in this basement facility. It had flattened any and all buildings that would have impeded it.
Looking up at it, Shouki and Makoto, and Belronde… and probably even VZ who was fortunately on top of a safe building. Their expressions showed they weren’t able to fully comprehend this beast, their eyes open wide. Even Takase’s face was stiff.
The only one unaffected,
“Dragons come in seven colors. And… there are only seven of them.”
“The dragon you’re talking about is probably a salamander. That is a far step from a dragon.”
Takase turned towards Suzuran.
“I expected no less, Suzuran. When you’re as high as a demon lord, even a dragon isn’t worthy of fear?”
Me…? Thought Suzuran. She was definitely surprised. But… perhaps so. Perhaps this was something different from fear. The dragon was sleeping, after all. Like a massive boulder that had stood an eternity, or a great tree, Suzuran even felt a dignified solemnity in its stagnant form.
So to ask the contrary… What exactly was there to fear?
Did that come off as so hard to understand to the other humans?
“I… see…! What that Homura-san showed me was…!?”
“Looks like you get it, damn brat. Homura-san is protecting this dragon. And… he’s protecting the world from the threat of this dragon.”
Shouki swallowed his breath.
“By the way, out of the seven dragons, this is the… fire dragon.”
Nod, nod. Ripple-Rapple walked up to the tip of the fire dragon’s nose. It was far too large, the girl looked like no more than a bug by comparison.
“Apologies for bothering your… sleep. Boring power, a little…”
Raising an eyelid as large as the shutter on a warehouse at the pier, the dragon in one swift motion.
It opened its mouth. Ripple-Rapple was gone. The conclusion one had to reach…
“Ripple-Rapple was eattteeeeennn!”
It was far too much, and as Suzuran finally raised a scream… using the difference in size to her advantage, a drool-covered Ripple-Rapple crept out of a gap in its teeth.
Upon landing on the ground, she quite gallantly produced a metal bat out of nowhere, smacking it into its nose with all her might.
Kiin… the dull sound it let off was clearly the bat one-sidedly crying out. It spoke to the density of a dragon’s scales.
On those words, the Dragon’s vertical iris narrowed, finally taking Ripple-Rapple in, and almost as if it were happy, as if it were laughing, the flesh of its lower eyelid lifted up.
“Do a light one.”
iS ligHT… OkAY?
As she answered, Ruipple-Rapple pointed at the large hold in the ceiling, before swiftly returning to the others.
The dragon got up. Its horns crumbled the thick bedrock above it like sand, its body as large as a mountain standing high to the heavens, as if to show off its crimson scales.
It spread its wings, it spread its palate of countless fangs.
The wings gave off a faint radiance.
Along with a terrible high frequency that stabbed into the brain, an orb of pure white light appeared in its oral cavity. The net moment… the bullet of light soundlessly pierced through the thick clouds as it raced into the night sky.
Eleven thirty-two at night.
The night sky was repainted with the blue of broad daylight.
The terrible sound came far later than the light. In the trembles of the pure atmosphere, Suzuran couldn’t even pick up the scream she let out herself. Close her eyes and the light still pierced through. Like grains of light running around in her head.
The stillness after the rumbling was long… when Suzuran timidly, timidly opened her sky, absolutely nothing had happened. The dragon was gone, like a dream or illusion, and the buildings it had surely trampled down were in their original state.
If anything noteworthy had happened… at most, the girl called VZ was nowhere to be seen.
“Returned to transient world. The situation has reverted to D. No problem to report.”
Ripple-Rapple verified it before stiffly nodding.
“That was… a dragon’s breath…!? That was… that was almost like…!”
Belronde’s body quivered in a daze. Ripple-Rapple turned her eyes straight towards him.
“I don’t know if it’s nuclear fission or fusion. But… no matter which one it is, it is a power too strong for the current era.”
“Belronde. Now, do you see what power really is? If you get it, get out of here. As you are now, you’re like me… I won’t chase you, for the time being.”
Belronde obediently obeyed Takase’s miserable voice. He jumped, using buildings as footholds as he disappeared into the large hole.
And just like Belronde. Having bourn witness to such a nightmare, each and every one of the agents no longer gave off the will to fight. All excluding one.
“… What about our will?”
Kikuhito directed his sharp glare at Takase. His grudge went to Makoto all the same.
“In the end, it’s just power! We’ve been threatened with power, we’ve submitted, and in the end, not a god damn thing’s going to change…!”
“You’re not giving up yet? Kikuhito.”
Makoto looked straight down at him.
“But you can still turn back now. I know best, as director. It’s impossible for you. You couldn’t win against E0 on his own.”
He cursed that fact. His bit his lip at her words.
“That’s right. A feeble little organization like us had E0. The Sacred Assembly, Angel Saber, Kresnik… all those groups that preach peace are sure to have such a monster in wait. Can you win?”
“Change the system with your coup? Hasebe said it, didn’t he? The moment you guys go out there, someone will eventually do you in. At the very least, you’ll all wind up dead. Am I wrong?”
“Then what are we supposed to do!?”
Why that’s obvious, she made it sound as she smiled.
“You don’t have to do a thing. I haven’t given any orders, have I? You don’t have to do that when I’m going to change this agency.”
“… How can we be sure?”
“I’m the one who stopped the coup d’etat. Now I can shove all the responsibility for whatever did and didn’t happen onto those steering committee geezers who didn’t do a thing, and I’ll grasp the authority.”
“No telling how it’ll play out…”
“In that case… very well. If it doesn’t go well, you all can just slaughter all of those geezers. The Sacred Assembly won’t make a move just because you murdered some villains.”
As Kikuhito was somewhat taken aback, his reliable director smirked. And Kikuhito tossed his saver aside. With the starting signal the agents began racing to see who could be the first to litter the ground with their arms.
The agents’ armed uprising was prevented, Belronde who had instigated them was gone, and there weren’t any of the changes in Meeko that Takase had feared.
As she watched such a grand finale, Suzuran began rubbing her eyes.
It was like the screen had bugged out, or rather… everything in sight had turned a pale blue.
Each and every person was blue, as if she was looking at them through a blue vinyl film. Kikuhito still looking like the demon had left him, Makoto watching in relief, and Takase and Shouki, and even Meeko… that single instant, now a blue monochromatic stereograph.
“I-is this radiation poisoning!? I was exposed!? Am I going crazy!?”
“Not entirely… true.”
One look down informed her at least one person was relatively fine… a non-blue Ripple-Rapple was nodding. For some reason, she was nodding more expressionlessly than usual.
“I got to see something nice.”
A rough and shrill voice. VZ who was supposed to have disappeared was in this space with her normal colors. When she was on the building, it was hard to make her out from the backlight and angle, but now that she was closer, Suzuran could see her face was wrapped round and round with black cloth. She was still using the speaker and microphone.
“What is… the meaning of this!?”
“Cocytus. Zephirum discovered it. It’s a very, very special layer of the isolated world. Well, putting that aside…”
Next, VZ looked to Ripple-Rapple.
“Our knowledge was insufficient, I’ll admit. That dragon back there was really something. I was so moved I was shaking in my boots, see. Meaning we jumped the gun on the legends, and rather than the myriad series that exist in an unknown number, we should’ve gone after you.”
“Give it a rest… already.”
As she sharply spoke, the impression she gave off, was somewhat different from the girl Suzuran knew.
“ I may be a gentle soul, but… I’ll eventually petaliate…”
She got a little way in before shutting her mouth.
“Oh, right. Were you trying to say retaliate…?”
When Suzuran stuck her mouth in, Ripple-Rapple thought long and hard to make it not a mistake before turning back to her.
“… It’s petaliate. You take petite from petite tomato. You take petit from petit surgery. You get back them just a little, so it’s petite. This isn’t the time to debate the specifics. The outfield should just quietly stay out of it and listen to what’s being said”
“U… umm. Right… sorry…”
She apologized, but why was she suddenly talking so fast and fluently… was it because she had slipped up?
“… If you want to say something… just say it.”
As she said that, she had a metal bat in hand. A burnt and dented survivor of a bat.
No, it’s nothing… Suzuran shook her head, and Ripple-Rapple finally turned back to VZ, putting the conversation back on track.
“Give it a rest… already.”
“And so? What are you going to do about it? You’re just like Ms. Meeko, there’s some reason you can’t use your power willy-nilly, am I right?”
VZ drew the slender sword at her waist as she walked forward. She pointed it at the bridge of Ripple-Rapple’s nose.
“That’s why you couldn’t show the dragon until they appeared. Until the conditions were in order. And that Noesis Program you mentioned must be what recognizes those conditions… now what exactly could it be?”
Ripple-Rapple shook her head side to side.
“I… can’t say.”
“… You’re going to be killed at this rate.”
VZ swung her sword with a peculiar twang. As she would to threaten with a gun, she aimed below her feet. In one single swing, a number of sword strokes had been carved into the ground.
“Then do what… you want.”
She replied expressionlessly, as if her own continued existence was of no concern.
“Then you don’t care what happens to Suzuran because of you?”
“If that’s what you called us here for, that is a foolish… proposition. If you think I will fold to a threat of that level… you take me too lightly.”
At her attituded, VZ who had been oh-so-cheerful finally breathed out an irritated sigh. In the gaps between her black bandages, her eyes sharply narrowed.
“Okay, okay… if that dragon’s your weapon, you’re a right threat you are. I see you as Zephirum’s enemy, thus…!”
VZ held the slender body o her sword over Ripple-Rapple’s head.
Suzuran screamed and tried rushing at her, only to be repelled by some invisible barrier.
“Not happening, Suzuran. You’re just going to watch, okay?”
And there, Ripple-Rapple drearily spoke.
At the end of her word, the sword was lowered. Her expressionless face warped in agony. Her lovable voice changed to a shrill cry. Her slender white arm flew from where it had been lopped off. The girl was cruelly cut up, crushed and trampled underfoot—
Those sights she had yet to see flashed across Suzuran’s brain in an instant.
“What are you doing…”
VZ watched mockingly as the girl tried to hit her. She couldn’t help it, since she’d been shot back by the barrier, Suzuran was more than a few meters away.
Even so, Suzuran got the feeling she would hit. No matter what.
What had pierced through the force field, what had hit? She didn’t see any of it, but VZ flew through the air. She collided into the wall of a building, her body letting off a squashing sound before falling to the ground.
It was enough force to shatter the speaker on the spot. Ripple-Rapple absentmindedly stared at Suzuran, hmmhmm she nodded as if to say.
“… That is a wonderful power. I hereby deem it Tachyon: The Demon Lord’s unseen hand.”
Suzuran looked at the hand she’d used. It was still stuck in the fingerless glove Takase had given her to smack Meeko with it. When she wasn’t looking, the bizarre pattern on the knuckles… the magic circle began burning away as if the red hot brand used to make it was still being pressed in.
“The booster exceeded capacity… to be expected.”
“… You should study… some more.”
“Heh? Well I mean…”
They didn’t cover it in school.
“I wonder… why…”
VZ stood, her body covered in wounds. Containing her torn face cloth with a hand, she groaned painfully.
“When you have so much power, why don’t you want anything? Like the world! Take it further, and there’s the seat of God and whatnot! Why…”
“You mustn’t… misunderstand.”
Next, the small girl spoke to dispel all misconceptions.
“We already obtained the world.”
Taken out of context, it was complete nonsense. But both Suzuran and VZ saw that dragon obeying this girl’s command.
“So we have no shameless… desire for it. And we have no obligation to deal… with each and every small fry who comes wanting it.”
“… I’d better remember the words Noesis program.”
“More importantly… you’d better hurry and run. Before long, someone even more troublesome… will appear.”
Ripple-Rapple warned her. VZ bit the lovable lip peeking through the scraps on her face as she left without a sound.
Suzuran’s eyes returned to the beautiful world of color.
Still in his dragoon form, Belronde raced through the cold mountain.
All he had to do was make the man contracted to the Demon Meeko capitulate, and bring her back. That man, and his contracted myriad series would become pieces of Zephirum, and eventually, the ‘path’ would be opened…
(Zephirum’s top executive spot… even the big four seat, as long as I had this dragoon power, it wasn’t a dream…!)
But Belronde’s illusions were too easily shattered. Before unfathomable power.
(Humans… blasted humans…! Don’t think this will be the end of it…! By no means have I lost to any foolish humans…!)
VZ had said it, a dragoon made by an outer. The one he lost to was Enemy Zero. And he wasn’t a human. He couldn’t be.
Just look, the leg the one-eyed girl cut has already healed without a scar. The magic E0 stole has already recovered. Why should I, the man who took down the hero, bow before humans!? That’s right, I’ll surpass E0 someday. He told himself.
(You vile, insolent humans…!)
The wind was strong that night. As he raced forth mowing trees down in his wake, one of those very same humans appeared before him. The most lithesome of all, two women wearing garments of the sacred assembly.
“Wassup. Inquisition second division here, are you in need of any divine grace?”
The woman with out-curling hair said through an inhumane smile. Meanwhile, the other girl pulled an extra-long something from the basket on her back, taking a stance with it towards him.
Coinciding with a frenzied Belronde’s roar, the out-curling haired sister snapped her fingers.
An explosion sounded.
Whatever the other sister had pulled the trigger on stabbed into Belronde’s abdomen. The physique even the hero couldn’t muster enough force to penetrate was hammered into by a metal rod close to two meters in length.
Before he could understand what was going on, the group in white armor swooped down. Their javelins pierced through him like paper from all directions, hoisting him up to the dark night. Like the darkness telling the darkness,
The armored group chanted, twisting the shafts of the javelins in their hands. The writhing dragoon’s body emitted a pale blue flame as it turned to ash. Once he was gone, the javelin tips glimmered with a dazzling light.
“What is it, Mariette?”
“I really think we should have gone with Grace Incarnate Model Three…”
“And I’m telling you! Are you trying to start a forest fire or something!?”
Sister Mariette sullenly hung her head. As Clarica was scratching her head at this troublesome junior, the proxies marched up with their javelins.
“Sister Clarica. Are we truly leaving the remaining ones bee.”
“Bishop Ferriol said it’s alright. Just leave ‘em.”
“Hmm… for what reason do we overlook evil. What could that youngster be thinking…”
A quiet look from Sister Clarica. The proxy hurriedly shook his bizarre helmet left and right.
“N-no… it’s nothing…”
“… Well, whatever. Now then, let’s get back, eat some good food, and give some thanks to the Lord.”
Clarica’s suggestion earned a small nod from Marietta, she muttered into the wireless transceiver on her shoulder.
“… We have finished acting as proxy to his grace.”
By the time the mountain wind grew a great deal stronger. Under the heavy lead-like clouds, a single helicopter undid its invisibility barrier to descend.
The dead of the night… no, the dawn was already approaching as the basement room of a certain building in Kasumigaseki suddenly grew animated.
“I-I see! You took care of the problem, did you!? Eh!? Yes I know, I get it, Nata my boy! Just leave that increase in capital to our members in the ministry of finance!”
‘Is that so? Then I’ll leave it in your hands. We’ll talk specifics on another day.’
The talks finally went through at the end of the steering committee’s bitter decision. As expected of the hard-headed imperial house agency, protecting the country was his first priority. And what they viewed as the biggest problem, the issue of responsibility… looked like it could be cleared up with money for the time being.
The matter was settled. Such delight enveloped the meeting room.
“Yeah, I get it, I get it. You really do good work.”
‘… No, we’ve both got our share of troubles with unaccommodating subordinates. Well then.’
Head of the Imperial Household Agency’s Divine Spirit Division, Nata Souichirou said as he cut the line. It happened at that moment. The door opened and a single young girl calmly walked in.
“You’re… Hida Makoto! Where have you been and what have you been doing this whole time!?”
“The problem’s already been taken care of! What’s your business at this point!”
“You should at least understand your not a child anymore! Say something!”
After letting the angry voices bather her and naturally quiet down, she quietly informed them.
“First, about the question of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing, I’ve been running around to pacify the coup d’etat.”
“And so what!? To conceal yourself during such a serious affair is mismanagement unbecoming of a director! Your selfish conduct is unacceptable! You’re going to be taking full responsibility! You got that!?”
“Now about your second question…”
It must have sounded like some uninteresting joke. With a snigger, Makoto snapped her fingers. The ones who entered by kicking in the soundproofed door were boys and girls in their teens, their bodies clad in black militaresque uniforms. Submachine guns in their hands. Curved sabers at their waists.
In only a few seconds from Makoto’s signal, the combatants of the Kantou agency had suppressed the unresisting conference room. As if to provide evidence of their intent.
To the men showing her the complexion of corpses, Makoto spoke with her finest smile.
“As the director, I have come to take full administrative rights to the Kantou Agency.”