Lying Mii-kun, Broken Maa-chan Volume 1 Chapter 1: Reunion and Exultation

 

 

I was terrified of the light.
When the outside light crept its way in, it would bring so many scary things with it.
But whenever I got hungry, I would find myself longing for it to come.
“I’m hungry.”
“… Yeah.”
“I wonder when we’ll get food.” 
“Not until night-time.”
“… But if we stay here, we can’t tell when night is.”
“… “
We didn’t say anything after that.
Our stomachs growled in our stead.
Our eyes quietly, fixedly, longingly gazed into the pitch-blackness thrust before them.
Until the light crept its way upon us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Just tell them the principal’s name is Fujiwara Mototsune, the StuCo president is Sugawara Michizane, and the teacher in charge of second year is Tachiba Hitomi.” Said I.
“And who exactly does that fact appeal to?”

Just when I’d finally given my opinion, the class representative Kaneko tilted his head and groaned. Hey, his question made me want to cock my head myself; what exactly are you expecting from me?
The class rep— who was asking everyone in sight about our school’s merits to include them in the pamphlets that would be distributed to the students taking our exams next year—had apprehended me right by the classroom door. Unfortunately for him, our school… let me rephrase that, our town itself was out in the sticks without any distinguishing features, so those bygone-era names of our school officials I had to suspect their parents had given as a joke were honestly all I could think of. I was answering with all my might here.

“Well apart from that… the fact that one of our students was butchered the other day…”
I offered.
“Now that one’s right out.” Kaneko rejected it with a sour face. Perhaps that was a tad imprudent of me.
“In that case, a lax school policy and an open environment; why don’t you just put down something like that.”

I finally settled on a plain response lacking in any intrigue or originality. Kaneko’s bitter smile told me he had heard that one far too many times by now, and he breathed a light sigh.

“Being real here, I’d really like to finish up so I can go to club.”
“Club? Weren’t those prohibited because it was dangerous?”
“The tournament’s coming up, and the captain said to hell with that. We’re training like crazy until midnight, unofficially, of course.”

While Kaneko was bragging like a grade schooler who managed to stay up late, a female student appeared pressed up against her back. Our classmate, Misono Mayu. She pushed him aside to separate him from the doorway and make her exit to the hall.

“Ah, wait.”

Kaneko abruptly called out to her back. In contrast to her usual composed impression, Misono-san turned with a glare.

“What?”
“Oh, well…”

Overpowered by her belligerent attitude, Kaneko made a weak smile and let his eyes wander. While I noticed his sidelong glance pleading for help, I ignored him and stared straight at Misono-san.

“… What?”

She asked again. Her expression was filled with doubt.
I must appraise Misono Mayu as considerably cute. No, let me be completely honest, she is beautiful. Wait, let’s do that one more time. I subjectively state she’s drop-dead gorgeous. Point being, she’s terribly desirable. Full marks.
Presumably she had dyed her hair once and then got sick and tired of it; there were the poor remnants of brown hair buried in her mid-length black. Her long-sleeves peeking their way out from her blazer boldly challenged the sweltering start of October head-on.

“I have somewhere I need to be.”

Misono-san always interacted excessively politely with her classmates. She took on a stance that intentionally rejected others. However, that was no wall, it was a safety measure. The impression she gave off was closer to a small animal fearful of humans.

“I’m sorry for stopping you. If it’s pressing business, go right ahead.”

I answered in Kaneko’s stead. “I see,” Misono-san lightly nodded before making for the stares with quick yet unsteady steps. As he gazed at her back, Kaneko released his binding on my shoulder and took a breath.

“Was Misono always that scary?”
“Who knows… maybe she’s practicing to play the oni on setsubun.”

Truth be told, I was ninety percent convinced I knew the real reason for her attitude. Kaneko tilted his head again. He hadn’t returned it to a vertical position for quite some while now.

“She’s going home strangely early these days…”

He lightly suspected as he turned to the classroom. His detective work lured me in to take a side glance. A large majority of students were still in the classroom. Those putting away their textbooks, those having a friendly chat with their deskmates, there were various sorts, but considering how Misono-san’s seat was the furthest from the corridor, one might call her speed unnatural.

“Sounds perfectly normal if she’s got pressing matters.”
“Pressing matters every day?”
“Could be. Maybe her mom’s in the hospital or something.”

Though that was a lie.

“And even if you asked her, you’d just get one of those answers you’re tired of hearing.”

Kaneko scratched his head with his index finger to ward off this sudden pang of curiosity. His head finally returned upright.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Though it feels really off to imagine that girl talking about a lax school policy or open environment.”
“No doubt about that.”

Well, that wasn’t completely for certain. There was some room for debate, but I agreed to finish this conversation nice and early.

“Then I’ll be going home.”
“Mn, yeah. See ‘ya tomorrow.”

We parted with a rough wave of the hand and I walked down the corridor. The corridor was bathed in the tepid early afternoon sun, giving way to the formation of stagnated air. My hasty feet sliced through that warm, frozen air. A sidelong glance at the neighboring classroom and then I was darting down the stairs two steps at a time.
I watched Misono-san frantically change out her shoes at the entrance and leave through the gate. I counted to ten before I followed a set distance behind her.
It looked like I was going to be playing detective today.

 

We lived in an unremarkable town in the backwaters, but our name had been broadcast across the country a few times as of late. Albeit, the attention was mostly focused on our police. Two incidents had happened. At least I saw it that way. It was quite possible they were both committed by the same person, so whether one saw them as one incident or two was all up to the individual.
A serial killer, and a disappearance.
The height of malice that had plagued this city for months. The murders were especially remarkable, as the last time a murder had happened out here was back when the samurai were swinging their swords. Alright, perhaps I exaggerated, but regardless, they happened once every eight years at best.

It all started when a man in his forties was found dead and cut up in the alley by the community center. It was clear he died from a blade tearing out his chest, but to add onto that, his eyes were gouged out, every finger on his left hand cut off, and half of one of his ears was cut through. This was presumably part of the murderer’s sick entertainment; the media saw this as the work of a mentally deranged person. Next was a grade school boy about to turn seven. This time, the blade had pierced his face so many times it was unrecognizable. Ever since that incident, the elementary school was having its students commute in groups, and classes now ended at noon for that added precaution. The neighborhood council all got together to patrol in the evenings, and of course, they had the full assistance of the police who knew this demon had to be put to rest. They had so far made little to no progress in preventing these offenses or pinning down the culprit’s identity.

The other incident, the disappearance took place three weeks ago. Siblings, a fourth-grade boy and a second-year girl disappeared late in the day. A warning not to play outside was spread far and wide throughout the city, but it was evidently ineffective. Unlike the previous incidents, their bodies had yet to be found, and rumor had it they might have actually been kidnapped. This was quite a source of trouble for the police, who didn’t know whether to link this with the murders or not, and according to their weekly publication, they were proceeding their investigation along both possibilities. That same magazine emphasized the kidnapping portion in particular, even giving it a special feature page, in an attempt to tie it in to an old case.

“…………”

More than twenty minutes had gone by since I began tailing Misono-san. Unfortunately, this was my first time tailing anyone and it wasn’t like I had any stalking experience, so I must admit I’m a green newcomer to the business. I was having quite some difficulty grasping the adequate distance to maintain. I found myself regretting ever-so-slightly that I didn’t buy a book to study beforehand.

The distance I did take had me walking so Misono-san’s back looked to be around the size of a dictionary. An empty country road through the rice fields yielded a regrettable lack of cover to conceal myself. I needed the resolve and preparation to dive into an irrigation ditch on the off-chance she turned around. To my luck, Misono-san continued on her way without any particular mind to her back. Her pace—which she herself might have considered rather brisk— was rather indeterminant. She would sway left and right despite not showing any other signs of a fever.

We eventually stepped onto paved roads. The houses in sight gradually increased and it felt like we’d finally set foot into human habitation.
Misono-san wiped her forehead and nape with her handkerchief. We were both clad in a considerable heat that would bring sweat even if she was dressed for summer. This did not slow her pace, though she was now tiredly slouching forward. An old man walking his dog greeted her along the way, but he apparently hadn’t entered her narrow field of vision as she completely ignored him. I felt pity for him and lowered my head twice as her proxy. The old man tilted his head and looked puzzled at his dog as if his four-legged friend had the answer.

“I didn’t think it was this far…”

She should consider biking to school at this distance. But I knew Misono-san was incapable of riding a bike. Her sense of balance was crippled, as was her depth perception. A handrail was indispensable whenever she used the stairs. She could never even touch the ball in volleyball; in basketball, passes to her were often received with her face and– forget the rim– her shots never even hit the backboard.

… Let me make one thing very clear. What I’ve just told you isn’t information gleaned from stalking. You might think I’m a complete stalker by now, but this is what you call convergent evolution.

We finally entered the residential district. This was where our country plots of land were sold off to the highest bidding land developers, its most conspicuous feature being the for-sale signs out on each lot. That had been up there a few years now, but I can’t remember any of those signs ever coming down. This was a clear failure. They should have tried considering exactly who would want to take up residence in these desolate backwaters before greenlighting the construction.

After surpassing the flock of deserted constructs, Misono-san made for the supermarket across the intersection. In the midst of her crossing the signal-less road, her right leg caught her left, she almost stumbled right over. I felt an urge to jump out and prop her up, but I clenched my fist to endure it.

She proceeded right through the parking lot—still staggering— and entered the store. The outside marketplace for flowers and plants, perhaps due to the timeframe, had few customers to speak of. The store was definitely off limits. I pretended like I was hesitating over what to buy at a slightly-distant vending machine as I wanted for her to finish up.

“…………”

The students who went missing were from the elementary school in this area. Now, and back then as well. There had been a kidnapping here eight years ago. A thirty-year-old man abducted a boy and a girl in their third year of elementary school, confined them for close to a year, and subjected them to violent and sexual abuse. This more recent case was said to resemble that one that was only resolved with the culprit’s death: rumor had it there was a copycat somewhere in this town. Meaning everyone took it not as a disappearance, but as a resurgence of the Kidnapper Man.

I myself was rather enraged by this blatant form of discrimination. No one seemed to even consider the possibility the kidnapper could be a woman. A woman is of course just as capable of committing a kidnapping for money, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with one of them picking up murder for sport. Good grief, you’re disrespecting women here. How about some of that gender equality?

I contemplated the greater issues plaguing our society as I sipped the luke-warm tea that popped out when I definitely pressed the ‘cold’ button.

“…………”

It’s commonly known that only women spend a terribly long time shopping, this creates a stigma against men who happen to take a long time themselves. This was usually something I’d voice a contrary opinion against, yet now that I was experiencing it first hand, I was beginning to see some truth to these stereotypes.

“… She’s taking her sweet time.”

I finished my seventh tea, casting the can in the trash. I was gradually beginning to feel sick. My head was hurting like I’d drowned in the pool. I’d been absorbing tea by the vending machine for forty-five minutes by now. When the young man in the restocking truck returned and parked after finishing his route, he sent a dubious look at the unchanging scenery, the unmoving suspicious person. Perhaps he saw me as a kidnapper. I tried offering him a virtuous nod. Perhaps that got him thinking I was the murderer instead.

Another twenty minutes from that heartwarming meeting, after I’d spent an hour-long tea time, Misono-san finally returned with a bag hanging from her left hand. The time and the goods didn’t add up, or so the futility of the tea swaying in my stomach told me. I walked around the vending machine, making sure I didn’t enter her line of vision. The apple sticking out of her bag would fall again and again by the law of universal gravitation. She repeatedly stopped and bent down to pick it up again and again, a car horn blaring her on as she retraced her steps back across the intersection. I mulled over whether I would have run over, or run the other way if she was actually hit as I briskly crossed.

She took a right, she made for the center of this developing residential area. A district where apartment complex upon complex lined the streets, and where this girl lived alone. She ignored her apple next it fell as she stuck close to the dicey light-blue-painted walls of the building and slid into the entrance. I picked up her abandoned apple, confirming she had hopped on the elevator before crossing the entrance’s automatic doors.

If you crossed the hall right by the entranceway, you’d find a yard with a dazzling lawn. There were various shops on the first floor, a CD shop, a book store, and a manga café, going off my prior investigation. Truly solemn and splendid, far too furnished for this middle-of-nowhere town, let alone a student living alone, but that that wasn’t something I was in the position to debate. The important part was that the door didn’t autolock, one of the only country-side features that made it in. I raced up the emergency stairs to the same third floor the elevator had reached.

I opened a water-blue door and popped my face into the third floor, a passage that offered a view of all the lower floors. Misono-san had already arrived at her residence, room 307, and was sticking her key into the keyhole. She was struggling somewhat, she tried twisting her wrist one way then the other, pulling the key out and putting it back in again. She had placed her bag by her feet in distress. I watched and I thought.

Misono-san hadn’t stopped anywhere apart from the supermarket. Her residence was where it was at. In that case, I very much wanted to intrude, but this was a maintained apartment complex and the door would have a chain at the very least. I didn’t have the tools to undo a chain from outside on hand, and even before that, I hadn’t picked up any lockpicking skills. Playing burglar was asking for too much. It was hard to believe she’d undo the chain and invite just anyone into her room.

… Then there was only one way to go about it. I would need her to do it for me.

It looked like she had finally solved the key problem. She pulled it out from the keyhole, wiped her sweat and reached for the doorknob. This was a good time as any, I encouraged myself and set forth to where there was no return. I closed in with a jog, carrying myself as naturally as possible.

“Oh, let me hold that for you.”

I picked up her plastic bag and passed through the doorway practically pushing her aside.

“… Huh?” In her moment of surprise, I feigned composure and stepped into her parlor. I arbitrarily peeled off my shoes, raising large footsteps as I made for the living room.

“Hey! What is it with you!?”

While Misono-san tried to stop her sudden intruder she was completely ignored. I entered the orderly living room. After getting eight-tenths of the way in, I turned and bit down on the apple I’d recovered with no warning.

“It’s a vast and tidy room. But the TV’s got dust piled all over it. Does it just look tidy because there’s nothing here?”

I left my belongings on the table and asked with my normal attitude. I glanced to see she was seething with anger, carefully keeping her distance. Her eyes narrowed to conceal the murderous glint in her black eyes; she had readied a nearby flowerless vase as a weapon. This was clearly not the attitude to welcome a classmate.

“What are you?”
“Couldn’t say what, but I know who. I’m your classmate.”

After I jokingly answered, I rolled my half-eaten apple along the table. The corners of my eyes scanned the rest of the room. A western room with reinforced concrete in one corner, a rouge folding screen firmly shut. Going off the construction, was that one a Japanese room?

“Umm… could you leave? You’re a bother.”

Try as she might to play it cool with a poker face, her eyes darted towards the Japanese-style room every few seconds. I’d be applauding her honesty had I been an elementary school teacher.

“I’ll leave if you want me to. But you’re not going to ask why I’m here?”
“… What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”

I turned my body towards the screen. Upon hearing one strong step slam against the floor behind me, I immediately leapt to one side. I grabbed the sofa and surmounted it with a belly roll as I watched Misono-san’s arm thrust into the space where I had been before. Her hands clasped the vase, along with a high-voltage weapon for self-defense.

“You sure are extreme. But unfortunately, you failed. That was your last chance. You really should have used that at the entrance.”

As long as I took distance, I didn’t have to fear whatever sort of weapon she took up with whatever malice. She smashed a rage close to expressionless into me. Her pen-shaped stun gun poised at her chest, she shuffled into position. It didn’t seem she would fly at me in a rage.

“You know?”
“Of course.”

Of course, I didn’t know anything. What Misono-san was asking me, what was right, what society wanted, what was ethical, what Misono-san liked, how to deal with people, the nutritional content of an apple. I had no way of knowing any of them. Alright, just one of those was a lie.

“Give it up. I’m confident you couldn’t kill me right in this circumstance even if you pulled out a machine gun.”

Yes, I do adore my bluffs, thank you very much. She circled around to the front of the Japanese room. Her very existence was honest to the core, unable to tell a lie, and I had to wonder how she even managed to live like that.

“It must be pretty important. Maybe you treasure the room itself. Or maybe that’s where you store what embodies your status, honor or wealth. Could it be there’s something there that might prove fatal to you?”

I slid over the surface without bringing up any specifics. Misono-san didn’t show any conspicuous reactions. I couldn’t see the boundary of when I’d corner her into madness, so I decided to put an end to these jokes. It wasn’t as if I had come to bully her today. I certainly wasn’t here to bring her crimes to light.

“It’s been a while.”

I left a beat, licked my lips, and wondered if smiling at a time like this would make me seem any more gentle. I spoke the name like a magician revealing his trick.

 

“Maa-chan.”

 

The stun gun and vase dropped in unison. Misono-san’s shoulders shook unreliably like a small bullied child. The legs of a baby fawn took her one step towards me.
Her pupils repeatedly contracted and expanded to their very limits as the tremors in her shoulders grew far more severe.

“Do you remember me?”

I asked in a kind tone I hadn’t consciously forced. Her legs closed in even further.

“Mii… kun?”

… It had been eight years since I’d last heard that nostalgic name.

“Maa-chan.”

Misono Mayu’s shoulders reacted in excess. I embraced Misono Mayu’s bony body to quell them. Her scent and the smell of her sweat reached my nasal cavity.

“Mii-kun…?”

She blankly called the name, like she couldn’t believe it herself.

“There, there.”
“Mii-kun.”
“There, there.”
“Mii… kun…”

I gave her a comforting pat on the back. That was enough for her to break down completely.

“W… waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Mayu used her entire body to raise her broken cry. The cold tears that spilled out ran from my neck to my shoulder, leaving my body damp as if I’ve walked a mile through the rain.

“Mii-kun! MiikunMiikunMiikunMiikunMiikunMiikun!”

She called the name again and again through my embrace of her back. She crumbled down in tears at the end, cowering down by my feet.
She wasn’t just a simple classmate.
We were tormented together.
We were broken together.
We went mad together.
Such an undesirable relationship. Both Misono Mayu and I were victims of the kidnapping incident eight years ago.

 

Thirty minutes in, the broken vase was cleaned up and the situation had cooled down.

“I’m sorry. I thought I’d pull a little prank.” I apologized. We were sitting on the sofa and I was unraveling her hair. Mayu was still shedding tears, her cheeks were puffed up, but she still seemed rather cozy in my arms.

“Stupid Mii-kun. You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“I almost had one myself.”

My heart nearly stopped. Rather, if we’d clashed my bones would be crushed and I’d be left a bloody mess.

“Anyhow, I’m confiscating this.”

Dangerous objects should be left out of the reach of children. Mayu showed no reaction as I retrieved her stun gun. It seemed she no longer cared.

“Stupid. Moron. Mii-kun, you idiot.”

Her lines had regressed to an infantile stage. The formed of the calm and reserved classmate Misono Mayu had completely faded.

“Why haven’t you said anything until now?”
“I didn’t notice until recently. See, I didn’t know your full name.”

I offered a lie, though that didn’t clear her displeasure.

“You liar. We always used to play together, there’s no way you didn’t know.”
“Oh, interesting deduction. You’re pretty sharp.”

I stroked her head to play it off. It wasn’t that I needed to hide it, I just doubted she’d understand if I told her.

“Mayu, you’ve got a pretty small head. Almost like a…”

Her finger closed in on my lips. She jerkily turned until she was face to face.

“It’s not Mayu. It’s Maa-chan.”

My lips were released… okay.

“Don’t you think it’s a little embarrassing, being called Maa-chan at your age…”
“No! No! You have to call me Maa-chan!”

She flailed her limbs in a childish rampage. It would be more accurate to say she had regressed to a childlike state.

“And Mii-kun sounds like what a cat says.” I complained.
“Cat’s are nice! What’s wrong with cats!? Do you have a problem with cats!?”

Of course I do, I would have said in a parallel world where I didn’t know where that would get me.

“Mii-kun is Mii-kun and Maa-chan is Maa-chan! It’s decided! It’s a constant!”

How peculiar, when he desperately pleaded with tears in her eyes, her words somehow carried far greater sincerity and weight. The mood took me and forced me to offer a nod.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Mii-chan’s like the helper of that blue mechanical robot, and Maa-kun sounds like the mascot of a baseball team.”
“Yes, yes! You’re a genius, Mii-kun!”

Her face a mess from her smiles and tears, this time Mayu stroked my head. From the very depths of my heart, I somewhat understood I was making a fatal and life-altering mistake, yet I proved incapable of thinking up any other concrete means to get myself out of this situation. In the first place, I couldn’t help but think that using my head here was wrong.

“I, you see, I’ve been waiting a long, looong time. For when Mii-kun, you see, Mii-kun would make his grand entrance call me Maa-chan again.”
“… Now that’s.” Not very encouraging. “… come to think of it, can I have a look at that room?”

My eyes indicated the Japanese-style room in the back.

“Sure!”

She readily agreed and hopped off. As I stood, she wrapped her arms around my back and suspended herself from them. It made it a little hard to breathe, but I reluctantly shouldered this young lady of the mountain and made my way. All the while praying I didn’t find anything unexpected. I put my hand on the door and despondently slid it open. The room contained nothing unusual apart from two kidnapped children.

“… Hmm.”

I closed the doors and took a U-turn. My bottom returned to the sofa as I flipped on the TV. A young man and woman were exploring a theme-park in broad daylight on a workday. They rode the Ferris wheel and the boyfriend sniffed his girlfriend’s shoes. Mayu bounced her way onto my lap, so I shifted my breathing to compensate.

“I don’t like soppy sweet dramas.”

Oh look who’s talking here, I grumbled as she snatched the remote from my hand and hit ‘8’. The screen changed to a variety show, and I decided I was better off addressing the elephant in the room before I got too comfortable.

“Maa-chan.”

I brushed aside the hair on her forehead as I asked in resignation.

“Did you kidnap those children?”

“Yep!”

I received an answer brimming with vigor like it was the most natural thing in the world. It was as if she was urging me to praise her more. What would I do if she actually asked? I’d probably pat her on the head, at least.

“Mii-kun. Hey, Mii-kun. Why don’t you stay here too? Let’s all live together.”
“Please don’t mix your requests with your demands.” I ignored the ‘too’ part.
“So? So? What do you say?”

She clearly wasn’t listening to me. Her eyes were fiercely glimmering to boot. Was her personality at school a complete fabrication? Her little-girl attitude came far too naturally.

“Well let’s see… if I live here, that would mean I’d be living with you…”

As students, we would be expected to stay pure. Though that was a hard demand to meet when those involved were already filthy. My uncle was my guardian for what it was worth, so I’d need his permission first.

“We’ll go to school together, eat our meals together, bathe together and sleep together. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”
“Well I don’t really mind. But money is…”
“I’ll pay for everything, don’t worry!”

She enticed me with the temptations of a gigolo life… well, I didn’t really mind. This arrangement wasn’t going to last for long anyway.

“I’ll ask my uncle today. If he says it’s no good, I guess I’ll run away from home.”

I settled at an elementary-school conclusion. The matter was already as good as settled to Mayu as a dreamy light filled her eyes.

“Aaah, if only I’d noticed sooner. We could have been in the same group for the field trip—”

She looked strangely enraptured for all the regret spewing from her mouth. I played along with a terribly downcast look of my own. A complete lie at that.

“Now then, let’s put those pink and sepia tones aside for a moment.”

I flamboyantly shook my head, the bones jarring. The contents of that room were exactly what I’d been expecting. As I thought, there were both a murderer and a kidnapper in this town, and one of them was Misono Mayu. I could solve all the mysteries and proclaim she was the culprit, but what would that accomplish?
No matter how much I’d anticipated it, I still received a greater shock than expected after confronting it myself.

“Normally, you know, living with a member of the opposite sex is supposed to be a little sweeter… and there’s nothing but criminal activity on my mind…”

I felt like holding my head. And then like throwing it away and exchanging it for a new one.

“Nya, nya, what’s wrong? Your face is as pale as death.”

Mayu had recovered from her delusions to poke at my cheek. “Nya” and “Mnn ” she peered into my face with infantile gestures and words before clapping her hands in sudden understanding.

“I get it, you’re hungry!”
“Right… if I’m already full of problems, might as well fill myself with something else…”

Now wasn’t the time to laugh out in desperation. The clock on top of the TV’s short hand had gone past five, the long hand was hovering over eight. My uncle and aunt would have finished dinner by now.

“You always did have an appetite, Mii-kun.” She said like a close grandmother. Mayu leapt up from my lap, intruded between the TV and I, touched a hand to her hip and proudly declared.

“So how about I make you a meal!”

The halo of the TV backlight pressing her towards deification, I nearly prostrated myself as her newest adherent.

“Please do.”
“What do you want to eat? I can make anything.”
“Then I’ll have whatever you hate.”

My inbred cynicism reacted faster than any other nerve in my body. Her tears she had nearly stopped were now brimming in the corners of her eyes again.

“Joke, it’s just a joke, an Esperanto Joke. I’d happily eat whatever you like. Your happiness is my happiness, they say. Honest.”

My words rung more shallow than those guys picking up chicks by the station. Nevertheless, Mayu’s tears receded like the tide as, “Leave it to me!” she made off in a dash without putting on the slippers that were waiting for her.

A heavy metallic sound had me follow along. Her destination, and this went without saying, was a kitchen. Kept tidy at a glance, not at all on the second look. Her placement of goods was all over the place. Who keeps their kitchen knives with their chopsticks?
There was a red bruise on Mayu’s forehead as she produced an apron from the shelf. She equipped the red apron over her uniform and bashfully stood before me.

“How is it? Does it suit me?”

She sought my opinion with upturned eyes. I couldn’t think of any adequate praise so I just embraced her. Surely that was an adequate display of how I felt.

“Mii-kun, I like you soooo much.”

Her cheeks were flushed when I released her, she directed a bewitching smile I was certain I’d never be able to make in my life.

“When do you want the ceremony?”
“Wait.”

We were suddenly engaged.

“I want a girl first.”

We were now having children. What is this, Hand of the Heavenly Bride?
I searched out some topic to put a damper on this sudden escalation. There wasn’t anything in the kitchen, but I did recall an issue I’d placed aside and asked.

“What about dinner for those kids? Are you making it too?”

Mayo parted from my arms and produced two rolls of bread from a bag fastened to the fridge. “This one’s for them,” she explained.

“… That’s no good, you need to feed them a little better.”
“Huh? Why?”
“Because. You’re a good cook, so make sure they eat a good meal.”

Hmph, her face inflated. The bread was smooshed in her grip.

“It’s fine, that’s all we ever got. No, we got even less. I’m even giving them all the water they want.”
“True, but…”

Her standards were far too low.

“You’re the one who took them in, you need to take at least that much responsibility. We were always in pain from the hunger, weren’t we?”

We were always forced to perform ‘tricks’ to get our feed. Right, feed. The reward our actions earned us back then couldn’t be called food, it was animal feed. Appropriate for mere animals.
Displeased as she was, Mayu reluctantly bobbed her head.

“If Mii-kun says so…”
“I’m not going to make any demands. I’m asking you. I want you to let them eat of your own will. Of course, you can decline this request.”

These lines filled with hypocrisy nearly caused even me—the speaker—to wince back. I knew Mayu couldn’t decline when I put it like that. I got chills from the repulsiveness of my own heart.

“Fine, but… then, then Mii-kun. You have to hear out my request too.”

Her smile bloomed, she must have gotten a flash of inspiration. Of course, it was a request so I could decline, but what would I accomplish exactly if I let logic trample my emotions to that extent? I nodded.

“Hooray! Then wait for me!”

She tossed the crushed bread onto the table and forcefully threw open the fridge. After watching over her a little while, I picked the bread up and left the kitchen. I retrieved my cellphone from the bag I had haphazardly discarded on the living room sofa. I fished through the address book for a familiar number and pressed the call button. It took almost no time at all for my aunt to answer. I told her I was having dinner with friends today. She must have picked up while munching on that dried squid she loved, as squelching chewing noises made their way across the line as she voiced her understanding and told me to get home at a reasonable time.

I returned the phone to my bag and had a seat on the floor. Closing my eyes, I tried reflecting on Misono Mayu’s past. It all flashed before me in just ten long seconds. I gained absolutely nothing save for a bad taste in my mouth.

 

Since my business was over, I opened the Japanese room screen door. I ignored the eyes following me, walked to the center of the room and flicked on the drawstring light.

“Well, pleasure to meet you, I guess.”

I tried making the smile of the host on an educational program to elevate my first impression, only to promptly give up. A rancid stench lingered in the now-illuminated six-tatami room. It assailed my mucous membranes with such force I wanted to clench my nose. These two hadn’t showered or washed their clothing since they were taken here, though I soon pinned down the main factor as the simple toilet set up in one corner. I closed the screen so the smell didn’t leak out. It took quite some effort to feign my composure.

The big brother looked up at me with fearful eyes, the little sister’s harsh-slanted eyes narrowed even further to glare at me. They shared a common point in that their legs were chained to a pillar, restricting their movements. The minor gashes on both their ankles and the pillar indicated previous attempts to escape.

The two swallowed their breaths, their mouths locked tight. Lowering myself down below the children, I sat on my knees and straightened my back. One must observe proper manners when meeting someone for the first time. The brother was somewhat taken aback.

“Ikeda Kouta and Ikeda Anzu, I presume.”

I watched their reactions when I spoke their names. The big brother Kouta-kun took a great effort to nod his head as if he was fighting against a fear he felt in the form of gravity. Meanwhile, the little sister Anzu-chan averted her eyes to the wall, her attitude clearly rejecting this conversation. Well, I didn’t blame them.

“Please, just call me Mister. Brother works too.”
“… Okay.”

I finally heard a voice from the brother, muffled as it was.

“Ah, my names a secret.” I tried playing the mysterious figure to shore up my plainness. Ignoring their heated looks brimming with suspicion with a nonchalant face, I dangled the bread before their eyes.

“Are you hungry?”
“Err? Ah, y-ye, I mean no.”

He answered with a stutter. How truly hard to decipher. Anzu-chan chimed in with her mouth and face still firmly facing the wall.

“Of course we are. We haven’t eaten anything since morning. Hurry up and fork it over.”

What a sharp tone. She stretched out her hand without changing her posture in the slightest. I rested the bread on her small hand, only for it to immediately be torn to pieces as if she planned to feed it to the koi in the pond. She stared long and hard at its contents, but it wasn’t like it contained cream, chocolate or poison.

“You’ll be getting dinner after this.”

Anzu-chan halted her dissecting hands, her eyes opening wide.

“Umm, what do you mean?”

Kouta-kun asked. The hope on his face was faint, far outweighed by his anxiety.

“The missy who abducted you is now cooking a meal. I don’t know what she’s making.”
“Making? A Meal? Is she going to poison us? Or is she planning on feeding us cockroaches?”

Anzu-chan’s grim face closed in. That confirmed my suspicion, her previous action had been a check for any foreign substance mixed in. Her cautiousness gave me a somewhat favorable impression of her, enough goodwill to want to tease her a bit.
Kouta-kun seemed more worried his little sister’s attitude might ruin my mood as he desperately analyzed my expression.

“Poison and cockroaches, eh… then Anzu-chan.”
“Don’t say my name.”
“Ikeda-san, if it contained either of the two, would you still eat it?”
“Of course I wouldn’t.”
“Then what if I said I’d kill if you didn’t eat?”
“I’d die either way if I ate that filth.”

No, no, I shook my head.

“If you don’t eat, it’s your brother who’ll be killed.”

Kouta-kun’s shoulders sprung back so far I’d call it an overreaction. His eyes were teary; Anzu-chan projected a scornful sidelong glance at her unreliable fellow captive.

“It is quite easy to decide your own fate, but you really must think of what sort of influence that choice will have on your surroundings. And you must take responsibility.”

Take for instance, my responsibility for Misono Mayu.
Anzu-chan was pressured into silence as she hung her scowling face. In her place, Kouta-kun looked between her and me before he eventually opened his mouth.

“Umm, I’ll eat it… so…”
“Hm?”
“I’ll eat it so… umm… please don’t say those things to Anzu.”

Regardless of his intense stammering, his words carried his will. He spoke straight to me. How should I put it, he really was a good brother.
I was surprised to see Anzu-chan cling to her brother’s arms, her eyes a little bleary.

“Please don’t bully Anzu.”
“………”

I was struck hard by the vestiges of consciousness that had been building within me. Haven’t you done enough, they gnawed at me. Children really can be fearsome.

“Now look here, I wouldn’t want you to think I’m the sort of garbage who would toy with a human’s dignity and life with some ridiculous a or b. This is just a hypothetical. Okay? Please don’t get so serious, good grief.”

I prostrated myself in apology.

“Oh, s-sorry.”

And Kouta-kun lowered his head two Anzu-chan naturally did no such thing.

“It’s your fault for asking.”

She muttered in a stifled voice. It’s my personal belief that saying is fine as long as you don’t actually do it, but that’s just me. I didn’t intend to continue this conversation. I won’t say it won’t get me anywhere, but before I reached anyplace significant, my consciousness would bite me to death.

From there, the two must have been considerably starved as they halved the bread scraps Anzu-chan had inspected (destroyed, I’d say) by eye and silently dug in. Despite the lack of verbal communication, the way the two of them faced one another and ate was a precious scene rarely seen outside of school.

I got off my knees to sit cross-legged. I admired them, an elbow to my knee.

The older brother Ikeda Kouta was in his fourth year of grade school. Filthy skin and a slender build. His bangs grew out just long enough to hang over his eyebrows, giving him a Kitarou-esque appearance. While he was the older one here by two years, he seemed terribly anxious about his sister’s mood. That wasn’t fear, he was exhibiting an excessive level of consideration. He got a pass in my books.
Ikeda Anzu was in her second year. Her skin was quite similarly covered in grime. Perhaps her hair that went to her shoulders had a natural tendency to curl, as it was far more tangled than I would have expected. Her tone was mature, it was clear her personality was one large bundle of pride and stubbornness.

The siblings Mayu abducted were thinner than they had been in the photos on the news and the papers, though I got the feeling the bags under their eyes had faded.

“Whadojoo want?”

Anzu stuffed her share of bread in her mouth all at once, and glared at me with puffed cheeks. That look in her eyes actually raised my good will when I associated her cheeks with that of a small squirrel.

“No, I was just thinking that little sisters are nice.”

Anzu-chan’s bread-stuffed cheeks died scarlet as she averted her eyes. Of course, that didn’t happen. She looked at me with eyes as cold as ice.

“Mmm not yrr little sister.”
“Hey that may be true but you know. If you see a cute dog, you don’t get the urge to kill it, do you?”
“Hyah? Wht do yew mean?”
“Hmm, you really are a good kid.”

My smug face must have offended her; after forcefully swallowing down her bread, she smacked me with a harsh evaluation of ‘Creep’. Kouta-kun choked as he lowered his head to apologize for her. Quite the absurd sight, a carefree kidnapper and an oversensitive victim.

“Now then, it looks like you’re not so hungry anymore, so might I bring up something serious?”
“That just made me hungrier.”

Anzu-chan defiantly stuck in her tongue. “Anzu,” Kouta-kun cautioned her and she finally shut her mouth and got ready to listen. I studied their faces before breaking in.

“I have a request. I want you to make it so I’m the one who kidnapped you two. That lady had absolutely nothing to do with it, please don’t tell anyone she even exists. As long as you do that…”

Then I’ll release you in the near future. I lied. Honestly, there’s something wrong with anyone who would actually honor such a verbal agreement. If someone that trusting really existed, I’d happily introduce them to a swindler with a smile and a pat on the shoulder.
When the opportunity arose, I’d probably have to kill these children someday. Dead men tell no tales, after all. I’d have to act just like the rumored murderer.

“U-umm…”

Kouta-kun timidly raised his hand. “Yes, Ikeda-kun,” I urged him on like a teacher.

“By release, umm, you mean you’ll let us out of here?”
“Well let’s see. Rather than let you out, I guess I’d give you the change to run away on your own.”
“Is that so… err, thanks…”

He was quite strangely half-hearted about all this. I could almost take that as if he didn’t want to leave. I tried looking at Anzu-chan, yet her face also turned depressed as she exchanged a glance with her brother. It was almost as if they had purposely gotten themselves kidnapped.

Kidnapping was, in a sense, a crime far more malicious than murder. While murder was over once the victim was dead, kidnapping continued a long while after release. They have no choice but to continue their life of insanity.
It is impossible to recover. You’re more than halfway down the road to death. Yet you have no choice but to live. They continue to keep you alive. You’re forced to live under the normality you’ve long since lost your grasp of.

… Ah, this is hopeless. I really must erase that.

“Incidentally, how were you two kidnapped anyway?”

The words that came from my malice exited my mouth so very light as if in inverse proportion.

“When we were playing outside, the lady came out and brought us here…”

Kouta-kun stumbled over his own answer. He took a glance at his sister. While Anzu-chan looked away, her right hand overlapped with Kouta-kun’s left. “Hmm,” I pretended like I accepted their coverup all the while thrusting out an index finger with an Objection in my head. They were playing outside all carefree when a rampant murderer was on the loose? Now that was pretty far fetched. The news report said they disappeared in the evening, and I had no doubt they were outside at the time. However, going off the situation, for their guardian, their parents to allow that… yeaaaah.

Something was definitely off here, but I didn’t want to think about it too much. Or so I was thinking when, “What are you doing here?” The sliding door was forcefully slammed open to resonate with a cold voice. When I turned there stood Mayu, a frying pan in one hand, her atmosphere perfectly calm like whenever she was in the classroom. She had returned to being her own age, seventeen years old, overshadowing her infantile retrogression fifteen minutes ago.

She tried entering the room with a perplexed face only to trip herself on the threshold, where I hurriedly supported her up.

“Thanks,” her dry voice expressed.

“You’re welcome,” I put up some pointless manners as I confirmed the contents of the pan.

“It’s yakisoba.”

She was either proud of how it turned out, or she loved the dish itself; she held it out with a comfortable smile. The fragrance of the sauce mixed in with the stench of the room causing me to lose my appetite.

“Do you have a mat to…”

My Japanese didn’t get through, Mayu placed the frying pan right on the tatami. It gave off a sizzling with the scent of burning grass. By this point, you could call the place a grand festival of horrid stench.

“Let’s eat in the kitchen.”

Mayu tugged at my sleeve. I gently declined.

“We’re eating here.”
“Why?”
“Because you made it for these kids to eat, didn’t you?”

Mayu’s mouth opened to return another complaint, but that was thankfully replaced by a small sigh. With an attitude and voice seeped in ample displeasure, “Fine, got it,” she sat down herself.

I received a bamboo set of chopsticks from her. When I urged her with my eyes, she crudely tossed over disposable chopsticks for the two of them as well. They blinked a number of times as they expected those chopsticks, but that lasted bot an instant, and once the siblings faithful to their starvation received the okay from my eyes, their chopsticks shot out at the pan.

“It’s hot, be careful…”

Without the leisure to listen to my words, the two plunged their faces into the frying pan, slurping up soba with resolution. Poisoned or not, they ate with no hesitation. There was no space for me to stick in my own chopsticks.

“It’s delicious!”
“It really is!”

Even Anzu-chan unveiled a sincere compliment, as she greedily crunched down even the cabbage core and voraciously sucked it into her stomach. While a majority of people would be happy that their cooking skill was up to par, Mayu was abnormal. She looked blatantly displeased as she watched the meal disappear down their mouths. She was grinding her teeth, gripping her arm so hard the nails dug into the skin. I feared she would break into a fit at any second, but that never happened. Mayu wasn’t so contained.

She slowly and gently lifted up her chopsticks, and what she did next rattled me down to my core. The points of her lifted chopstick was lowered right towards Anzu-chan’s head.

“Stupid!”

I instinctively cried, my right arm reaching out to interrupt the weapon. Maa-chan’s colorful chopstick saw little resistance as it stuck in near the joint of my middle finger and pierced through the skin.

“Owww… it looks like an alien’s made it into my hand…”
“… Mii-kun?”

Mayu tilted her head at the chopsticks diagonally stuck in. The siblings also looked up, albeit without giving rest to their eating hands. These children sure are shameless. What a healthy appetite.

It was only when my red burning blood began pouring that Mayu finally reacted.

“I’ll get you some gauze.”

She lightly stood. Zero sense of guilt, her tone light as could be.

“Nah, no need, I’ll make do with a Band-Aid…”
“No can do. If the bad bacteria gets in, your hand will get all bubbly.”

What was that supposed to mean? Did she mean my flesh or my skin? There was quite a difference in severity between the two.

“And I’ll make a Mii-kun exclusive meal, just you wait.”

The way she added the word exclusive to a meal, it just felt like she was feeding some exotic pet. It didn’t excite me in the slightest. Putting all that aside, I stopped Mayu before she could leave.

“No need for the meal, it’ll just be twice the trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all.”

Now that was troubling.

“I think I’m done for the day. I’ll just, you know, umm, have you later.”

My shame reached critical mass the moment the words escaped my mouth. Had there ever been anything I ever regretted saying more than that? My face was too hot. The looks from the children hurt. This was harder to bear than the injury. In the first place, would anyone actually feel satisfied with that out-of-date euphemism? I thought as I took a peek at Mayu’s expression only to see her making quite a meek face. She tugged me along by my right hand that still had a sixth and seventh digit sticking out from its palm, outside the Japanese room into the living room. She closed the screen, suddenly breaking into a broad smile with no forewarning.

“Really?”
“What might you be talking about?”

For some reason, I responded ever so formally.

“Hey, hey, you’re going to have Maa-chan? Today? Tonight? Yahoo!”

It was more effective than I could have imagined. She was raising both arms in delight. I had to wonder if a maiden’s head flowed with highly concentrated sulfuric acid.

“Well, you see, might we put that matter off to a later date… for now, I’d like a Band-Aid.”

I played it off while showing off the chopsticks towering over my palm. It was hard to determine whether that one was effective, but Mayu nodded all smiles and ran off like she’d been waiting for that moment.

After seeing her off, I turned back to the Japanese room. I lowered myself down exactly where I’d been before, after which I plucked out that which I couldn’t just leave growing forever.

“Oooh, it’s right up against the bone, ow, owowow, it’s sliding, scraping. I’m getting goosebumps here.”

I made a ruckus on my own as I extracted the chopsticks. An orb of red surface, a crimson shade began spreading further and further across my palm. As I was licking it to prevent it from staining the tatami, I sensed some eyes to I looked to the side.

Kouta was definitely looking at me, though I was more surprised the yakisoba was almost empty.

“Umm… thank you.”
“For what? That lady was the one who cooked you a meal, please save your gratitude for her.”

Not that, he stammered and shook his head.

“You protected Anzu.”

He lowered his head, a bashful smile on his face. Had he taken to me? By his attitude, he seemed to suspect I might be on his side. Anzu, on the other hand pretended she didn’t see as she chewed on the remaining soba.

Don’t worry about it, I laughed to get them to write it off as just a funny little story… yes, writing off these little ‘funny’ moments were the nature of my relationship with Mayu. It was quite difficult to find the right words to describe it, good grief.

 

Once my wound was treated, I frantically left Mayu’s house. It pained my heart to shake off that teary-eyes lass, but I couldn’t quite let my life revolve around her just yet. That was half a lie.

I left the apartment to be surprised by the difference in temperature between night and day. The wind carried a slight chill to my skin.

“… What a day.”

The time had eaten at me like hydrochloric acid. I looked at the extravagantly-wrapped palm of my hand. ‘Out of Band-Aids’ she had cheerfully reported, and ignorant as she was on the proper procedure, the quantity of bandage wrap she used was first-class, if nothing else. And I took it all off. The scent of antiseptic was already sticking to me. I had terrible luck with smells today.

“Who’d have thought I’d be involved in yet another kidnapping…”

And I was the accomplice this time. The only position time should reverse is the standing between childhood rivals. Not to mention those kidnapped siblings. After seeing those kids and talking to them, I got the feeling something was off. There was a contradiction somewhere. They had quite easily accepted their situation, and I sensed this was different from being thick-skinned, yet I didn’t have anything to confirm my suspicions.

“…… Ah.”

There was another trivial thing I forgot to ask. I turned on the spot. The panorama of the complex was dotted with the lights leaking from each individual room. Like a shadow picture, it towered while coexisting with the surrounding darkness.

I guess it could wait. It wasn’t too important and wasn’t enough to motivate me to make the treck back. If I returned now, I could imagine her leading talks towards me staying the night. I’m pretty sure my aunt would hit me with the lantern for that.

Right, maybe I’ll ask tomorrow– if I remember.

Why did you kidnap those kids?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighth Incident: ‘The Unconscious Murder’

I quite like chicken skin. I like salmon skin too, and I like the cheek meat of sea bream. However, to evaluate those articles individually and use that as an excuse to ignore the whole is somewhat imprudent wouldn’t you say? If I were to equate it to something, it would be like slicing off an ear and proclaiming it superior to the person it came from. That is inevitably a foolish verdict. The remaining human still has an eye, a mouth, and four limbs in perfect health. To discard them without the slightest taste of their true worth would be no exaggeration to denounce as a complete waste of resources. Well, I have no affinity towards cannibalism, and my interest towards arts and crafts utilizing human body parts is faint at best. It is therefore inevitable that I suspend discussion of that point and shift the topic towards constructing within me something that would be more constructive towards my future. Ah, he died. Quite honestly, I firmly believe that a firm foundation is built and solidified off of a multilateral opinion, and in truth I would like to take in the viewpoints of multiple people. A firm foundation is essential to ensure you do not build a multistoried structure over shifting sands. I would especially fancy the opinion of those of the same sort. Yes, humans who share the same hobby as me. I would love to sit across from such a person at a café who shares the same standing yet holds their own unique outlook. This is a sincere plea I’ve come to upon reaching the limits of what questioning myself could achieve. My only worry is if I were to meet such a person, that matters might not end with discussion. I honestly cannot deny that I am on the hot-blooded side, and especially with those I’ve taken a liking to, I have a tendency of coming on too strong and making them uncomfortable. It is not rare in the slightest for a talk to develop into a fight, and thus I hesitate. I’m scared. Scared of looking in a mirror. To swing a fist at a reflection of myself… luckily, or perhaps even greater misfortune, I have as of yet failed to stumble across any other of my ilk. Reflecting on my past, only a single one, and that was nothing more than a crossing lasting a few seconds. Why must my kind conceal themselves like an endangered species on the verge of extinction? There should be many, many more like me. I enjoy going to the convenience store late at night and music sung by pretty women. If on top of that, you have a tendency to kill living things in a nearly unconscious state and you’re good at hide-and-seek, we must be kindred spirits. Hey, I’m only searching for a resemblance, it’s fine if our taste in music differs. I’ll welcome you even if you like a male’s vocals. That is simply how desperate I have become. At this point, no matter how shady the message or blog post may be, as long as it will introduce me to a likeminded soul, my feet will make the trek on their own no matter how my heart may protest. Today, when I went to the convenience store searching for comrades, my enemies were prowling concealed like beasts on the prairie. My dearest wish is to simply coast through life until the moment I become a promising member of society, I am one who wants to live his life among the shadows of the trees. But that’s life for you.

Posted in miimaa | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Bomb Fell One Day

By Furuhashi Hideyuki

 

 

Perhaps the end is something that drops by so abruptly on the most mundane of days.
The self-proclaimed newest-type bomb that fell that day reminded me so much of the girl I liked in high school, my heart skipped a beat.

 

Jowa, jowa, the cicadas swelteringly cried at the very height of summer.
“He who controls summer controls the fate of his exams”, I nodded along with that imperious slogan all the while, “But it can’t be summer yet. See, feel how cool it is outside,” or “If it wasn’t summer yesterday, it can’t just suddenly be summer today,” or so I kept making excuses even I couldn’t decipher, and a week of August had gone by. It was already autumn if the calender were to be believed. But it was definitely summer.

Incidentally, the mock exam that came back today put my acceptance rate at forty percent. ‘Needs Work’. The same as last year. If memory serves, I was around the same place the year before that.
This was my second year of prep school after graduating high school. I had more time to study, more time to slack off, and in the end it all evened out at zero. If anything had changed at all in that timeframe, it was only the fact I picked up smoking.
When my eyes followed the puff of smoke I breathed out, it stretched out high into the blue sky, disappearing into the gargantuan column of clouds.
This was unmistakably summer no matter how you looked at it.

“… Aaah, it’s hopeless.”

Tong, when my forehead struck the rooftop railing, the ash from the cigarette in my hand crumbled down.

“Nagashima, what are you gonging out for?”

I turned to my own name called from behind me, and there Tatsumi stood. She walked over briskly as ever, arbitrarily fished through my breast pocket for the cigarette pack, stuck one in her mouth and turned back up.

“Mmn.”
“Yeah, yeah.”

I held my lighter with both hands to light her smoke. Tatsumi was a college exam rechallenger, one year younger, though she was far more level-headed and confident than me.

“Thanks—so how’d it go?”

Tatsumi confiscated the mock exam results from my hand without waiting for an answer. She took a hard look over it, a guidance councilor’s look on her face before blowing out one long stream of smoke.

“Whoa, totally hopeless.”
“Erk.” I loosely leaned against the handrail.
“I’m not too smart.”
“Nah, that’s not it.”
“Really?”
“It’s not that you’re dumb, you’re just slow on the uptake… wait, guess they’re the same. Yep, got it. You’re dumb.”
“You don’t have to spell it out.”
“We can’t set up countermeasures if I don’t clearly define it. ‘If you’re not smart, put in effort’. Wrong?”
“… Not wrong.”
“Very good.”
“And what about you, Tatsumi?”
“Not too shabby. I’ve been working hard.”
“… Haaaah.”
“Hey, don’t get down there. ‘An exam is a battle against yourself’, right? No use mulling over everyone else.”
“You have a point.”

I entrusted my back to the handrail, and lowered my hips. Tatsumi remained standing as she leaned against it and the two of us looked up at the sky.
Once that had gone on a while,

“… Now look here, Nagashima,” or so Tatsumi said.
“Hmm?”
“When you got mad at me, you just felt a weight lift from your shoulders, didn’t you.”
“Me? … A little.”
“And then it hit you, I should just ditch class today.”
“Erk.”

I averted my eyes. My cheek stung under that look of hers.

“Hey, Nagashima… you ever hear about boiling frogs?”
“What’s that?”
“Well you see, if you throw a frog into boiling water, it’ll jump out in a panic, right?”
“Well yeah, makes sense.”
“But if you raise the temperature bit by bit, they’ll be cooked to death without even noticing it, I hear.”
“Hmmm.”
“See any resemblance?”
“… Now someone’s harsh.”
“It’s a whip of love.”

Tatsumi crumbled the tip of her cigarette against the handrail to extinguish it. According to her, the back two-thirds of a cigarette were filled with ‘Carelessness Composite’ and shouldn’t be smoked.

“You can’t skip out on afternoon classes.”

Tatsumi left those words as she briskly walked off, a long cigarette end in one hand— but five steps in she turned, shuffled back, bent over and planted a kiss on my forehead.

“We promised we’d pass together, didn’t we?”

 

When Tatsumi was gone, I lay myself face up over the concrete floor.
I closed my eyes to the summer sun’s rays beating down and baking my body.
Yeah, it was hot.
While the heat may feel comfortable in this isolated instant, if I let myself stay like this, I’ll end up not as a boiled but a sundried frog.
Or so I thought as I reflected on the sensation of Tatsumi’s lips on my brow.

“I like your forehead, Nagashima.”

Tatsumi told me this year, at the start of spring. It was around the time we had just started dating. Being able to clearly state what she liked and disliked was her good point.

“But at this rate, you’re going to go bald in the future. It’s somewhat thrilling to watch.”

… She could be a little too clear at times.
As luck would have it, I really was part of a bald family; my dad and my uncle, my cousins and my late grandfather, every single male relative I knew was bald without any exception. The hairline starts receding in the late teens, and that baldness reaches the very top by your thirties, apparently. It had happened to them, it would probably happen to me.
I wasn’t looking forward to that.
I was already born with a forehead on the larger side, and my friends would jokingly call me baldy up to middle school; however, by the time we entered high school it wasn’t a joke anymore, and everyone did their best not to bring up my head. Why thanks for the consideration.
Ever since that point, there were only two people who ever said it to my face. Tatsumi, and one more before her— Hirosaki Hikari.

“Nagashima, you’re kinda like father.”

She said while looking at my head, and she probably meant my hair was growing thin. Tsk, fine, yes, I look old. Yes, I look bald.
Hirosaki was a classmate in my second year of high school and while we weren’t particularily close, she was a girl I found myself somewhat curious about.
Thin and pale and quiet, yet be that as it may, somewhat refreshing and high-class. Her body was weak so she was often away from school; because of that, she was treated more like a guest than a classmate, and to be blunt, she was a little cut-off. Perhaps she was bored out of mind during recess, I fondly remember the side of her face as she stared outside from her seat by the window.
I think I probably liked Hirosaki.
Of course, they were faint feelings not worth mentioning, and not the sort of strong emotions that would bring about any action but—

 

— In the midst of my bittersweet reflections, I spotted a black dot in the blue sky.
What could that be? A bird— too immobile for that; it didn’t look like a helicopter or blimp. The dot grew bigger and bigger as I was thinking.

Hyuuuuuuu— I heard the sound of the wind being sliced through.
It was a person. A person was falling from the empty skies even higher than this rooftop. A girl, no less.
I just barely might be able to see her panties from this position—no, that wasn’t the problem. I had to hurry and get up and run, or so I thought. But.
— Ah, saw them.

Thud.

“Gwoh!?”

A hip attack from an unbelievable altitude ripped into my unguarded solar plexus. I folded my body, I writhed in agony.

“Urggh…”

When I swallowed a mouthful of vomit and raised my face to see a long-haired girl in a sailor suit rolling and rolling with the momentum from her fall until she finally slammed d own on her bottom.

“Owowow, landing failed! What a klutzy girl am I~.”

Just who was this girl? Suddenly falling on someone, I think klutzy is the least of your problems. I may have been just a little happy at the sight, but that wasn’t enough to write this off.

“Oy, the hell are— huh?”

A familiar face, on closer inspection.

“… Hirosaki?”
— No, was it really her? This Hirosaki was the spitting image of the one in my memory. To an uncanny extent.
Normally, give them three years and a girl turns into a completely different person; in the first place she had definitely graduated high school by now. A sailor suit was rather pushing it.
That being the case, if she was her little sister… I still got the feeling the resemblance was too strong. I tried asking her again.

“Hirosaki Hikari…?”

Whatever the case, her answer to that one would make it clear— I had hoped.

“A little off.”

Hirosaki (?) offered a dubious response.

“My name is Pikari. Not Hikari, Pi Ka Ri,”
“The hell’s up with that?” I retorted on reflex. “I refuse to admit there’s Japanese person in this world with that name.”
“I am not Japanese.”
“Liar. Then what breed of human are you?”
“I am not human.”
“Oh?”
“I am a bomb.”
“Hah…?”

— Calm down, let’s process this situation.

“Umm, your name is Hirosaki Hikari… I mean Pikari.”
“Yes.”
“And you’re not a human, you’re a ‘bomb’.”
“Yes, that’s right. The newest model.”

Conclusion.

“Pull the other one.”

When I said that, “I have proof, look,” self-proclaimed Pikari pulled open her collar just enough I might be able to see a blouse underneath. Whoah now, what are you doing all of a sudden you sexual deviant!? I thought as I found myself already looking in that direction. Dark shadows cast over a prominent collarbone, conspicuously pale skin on her chest, and…

“Hah?”

There was the ‘proof’ she spoke of.
It was shoved in right at the center, around where Ultraman had his color timer.
A thick, gold rim with a glass-pane cover housing the display of an analogue clock. The design of the hands and the numbers gave an antique feeling, like an old pocket watch had been embedded. The time pointed to around six thirty, its second hand was moving.

“Ahem… pardon me.”
“Perv.”
“Save it.”

When I closed my face in to look at her pale chest, I could hear the faint sound of moving gears.
— A real clock was embedded in her chest…? It was hard to believe anyone would go this far for a joke. Was it some sort of medical device? A pacemaker, for instance… no, a pace maker didn’t have a display.
What’s more, on closer inspection, the clock’s second-hand movements were all over the place. Tic, tic, tic, tic, when I thought it had gone forward four seconds, tic, tic, tic, it turned back three. Not only that that, after it had stayed motionless around five seconds, tictictictictic, it shot forward all at once.

“… What’s this?”

My mutter received a swift response.

“It is the Doki-Doki☆Doomsday Clock.”
“Okay.”

… I didn’t really get it, but that sounded shady as hell.

“And what does it do?”
“In plain terms, it’s my detonator.” She said as, with maiden-like gestures, she gently placed both her hands over the clock. “Those sorts of adolescent heart-racing scenarios will make time move forward, and when the clock strikes twelve, then BOOOOM!!
“Uwah!?”

She took me by complete surprise when she suddenly raised her voice. I tripped.

“— Is the sound it will make.”

My knees had given out on me, and she presented out her small white hand.

“And so, let’s get right to it and go on a date.”
“I see… wait, what? Get to what?”
“Meaning we’ll get all sorts of heartthrobs by going on a date, and BOOOM!!
“Uwah!?”
“— It’ll go.”
“… I see.”

I took Pikari’s hand, still somewhat incomprehensive.

Crrrrrrrrrrk—

The sound of unfurling springs sounded from her chest.

“Ah, my heart just skipped a beat when you held my hand! Have a look, have a look!”

Pikari thrust her open chest out before me once more.

“What time is it now?”
“Umm… a little past seven.”

It had progressed close to thirty minutes in one fell swoop.

“Hooray!”

Pikari tugged and tugged at my hand towards the exit to the roof.

“Then let’s keep it up! Just like that, and then Booom!! How about it!”
“… Yeah, sure, but putting that boom aside—you can’t see the clock yourself?”
“Eh?”

She stretched open her collar and tucked her head down as far as it would go.

“Gnnnnnnnnhnnnn…… j-just barely…”

It was surprisingly inconvenient.

 

Even so, the reason I readily followed this dubious somewhat idiotic girl was simply that I didn’t want to attend afternoon classes.
We made for the front of the station together. Personally, I was just planning to arbitrarily kill some time and go home around sunset. And—

“Ah, your arm! May I grab your arm!?”
“… Yeah, sure, go ahead.”

Pikari achieved a firm stranglehold on my arm.

“Hooray! Ah, you feel a little reliable! My heart’s racing again!”

Crrrrrrrrk— her chest let out its sound. When I checked the display, it had gone forward around twenty minutes. It was at seven twenty. It continued on.

“Ah, will you please buy me one of those dirt cheap accessories from that street stall!?”
“Well why not.”
“Hooray!”

Crrrrrk— eight o’ five.

“Ah, what about that movie they’re screening over there! I haven’t heard a single good thing about it, but it’s still a hit for some reason!”
“Yeah, a movie might be nice.”

Crrrrrrrk—eight forty-five.

“Ah, a photo booth! Let’s take one together! It’s a funny face contest!”
“Sure, you’re on.”

Crrrrrk— nine o’ five.

“Ah, those benches over there kinda look tasteful! It’ll be totally fashionable if we look over the town and talk about love! Waah, what amazing scenery!!”

Crrrrrrk…

“… You’re pretty excitable.”

When I muttered, she bashfully scratched her head.

“Oh, not that much.”
“No, that wasn’t a compliment.”

Well, as I kept a watch over her, I was beginning to think, ‘this girl might be a little different from Hirosaki’.
Hirosaki’s body was weak, but she wasn’t particularly dumb.

 

That being the case, it wasn’t like I knew too much about Hirosaki.
We had only ever properly spoke once. The second year of high school, after school—

Sunset was close, the west sun streamed in diagonally down the passage I happened to pass by. There was a single female student crouched down. She contained her chest in pain, her long hair covering her face like a ghost.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

When I ran over and called out, I found out it was Hirosaki.

“… My… pocket…”
“Eh… pocket? Your skirt’s?”

Hirosaki nodded. That was the first time I realized the female school uniform’s skirt even had pockets, but somehow or another, I managed to open the fastener and thrust my hand in.
My fingers brushed up against something hard.

“This? I’m taking it out.”

It was a small case one might keep breath fresheners in. When I produced a bead from it and handed it over, Hirosaki ferried it into her mouth. The way she placed the pill under her curled tongue made my heart skip a beat.

“Should I call someone?”

I asked in half a panic, but Hirosaki extended her slender hand and grasped the lapels of my uniform.

“A-alright, then I’ll stay here. Umm, you know, it’ll be alright.”

What was going to be alright? I said it without any basis as I moved my open hand airily over the girl’s shoulder. I couldn’t determine whether I should pat her shoulder to pep her up, or if I was better off not touching her. Had anyone seen us, I’m pretty sure it would have looked like the healing ceremony of some shady religious cult.

A long, boundless time passed by the girl who wandered the boundaries of life and death—or so it felt to me, but presumably less than a minute had transpired before her breathing was calm.

“… Thank you.”

She held the medicine in her mouth, speaking with somewhat of a lisp. The complexion was returning to her pale face. When she noticed her hand grasping my collar, she let go, stood, and fixed her hair as her face turned more and more vibrant.

“A fit suddenly came, I panicked.”

— In that case, was this one of those chronic ailments? I thought, but hesitated to inquire about someone else’s body.

“Are you alright, Hirosaki?” Was all I said, yet her face was colored in surprise, and just a little bit of joy.

“Nagashima, you remember my name?”
“Yeah, I mean we’re in the same class, and you take off so often you stick out like a sore thumb… ah, sorry.”
“Nah, it’s fine.”
“… I’m more surprised you know who I am.”
“Well we’re in the same class… and I often see you looking out the window too.”
“… ? … Ah, right.”

I ambiguously nodded. It was far too embarrassing to tell her ‘I was actually looking at you’. Had she noticed? had she not? She smiled at me with upturned eyes.

“Nagashima, do you ever imagine it?”
“Imagine?”
“Ah, sorry. I guess I should explain… you see, I always imagine.”

Hirosaki pointed outside of the corridor window. From the third floor, she pointed beyond the grounds where the baseball club was practicing, she surveyed far into town.

“If a bomb dropped over there.”
“A bomb?”
“Right, it’ll go boooom! And then, the town and its people will be blown away, a large mushroom cloud will rise over the desolate ruins.”
“… You think up some scary things.”
“Eh? … Yeah, you’re right. I guess you’re right.”

Hirosaki said, her eyes narrowing as if she was gazing at the mushroom cloud she imagined.

“But it will be terribly pretty…”

By now, the sun was setting outside of the window as shades of red came upon us.
I followed Hirosaki’s eyes and imagined the scenery myself.
Rising right up from the sunset town like a kaiju, reflecting the light of the golden evening sun, a massive mushroom cloud. It was quite the apocalyptic view, but the sights, no perhaps that was precisely why—

“It definitely might be pretty…”

I inadvertently muttered.

“Right?”

She said, her face lighting right up.
I took her to the infirmary after that, but the nurse was gone and the place was walked. So there,

“… Then, well, partway,”

I said some arbitrary things and we returned side by side. I had never known our houses were in the same direction.

“… You know. I always wanted to try talking to you, Nagashima,” Hirosaki said.
“Hmm, why?” I replied as if I didn’t care, but was quite happy inside.
“Who knows? Just kinda wanted to.”
“What’s up with that?”

I would very much like to hear your reasoning.

“Yeaaaah, well, probably…”

Hirosaki thought and thought and then continued on.

“I haven’t played with my friends much ever since I couldn’t be active anymore.”
“Yeah.”
“So I’m a little bad at talking to kids my age.”
“I’m also one of those kids your age, you know.”
“Yeah, but…”

She took a glance at my head.

“Nagashima, you’re kinda like father, so…”

— Am I really that bald?

“… Ah?”

My inner turmoil must have gotten across as that’s where the conversation ended.
We were lined up silently as we walked down what had become quite the dark path.

“……”
“……”

Going by the order, I got the feeling I was the one who had to bring up the topic, but at the same time, I wasn’t great at talking to girls. Honestly, I couldn’t hold my own. I found myself bringing up what she’d just gone through.

“So Hirosaki… what was that medicine back there?”
“Hm? Oh, this?”

She tapped against the hip of her skirt. Her pocket’s contents let off a rattling sound.

“It’s nitroglycerin.”
“Nitro… wait, isn’t that the base component of dynamite? Is it alright to eat that?”
“Perfectly fine. I’m not going to explode.”

Hirosaki laughed. She smiles surprisingly easily, I thought.

“It’s a medicine for the heart. When you’re having a fit, it widens the heart’s blood vessels.”
“Hmm?”
“Did you know? Nitro’s actually pretty sweet… the taste’s still in my mouth.”

She said, her tongue fishing around her mouth. She suddenly came to a stop and looked up at me.

“So if you kiss me now, I’m sure it’ll be sweet.”
“Hmm…”

We parted ways at the next intersection.

— Was she just saying it was okay to kiss her!? I finally noticed. Crap, I wasted my chance.
And in the hopes of that chance coming one more time, I thought over what I would say the next time we met— I spend a sleepless night trying to think of some cool line that didn’t sound too desperate, but the next school day when I met her, she greeted me normally like nothing had happened. I thought it would be uncouth to bring it back up. I decided to forget it.
That’s all there really was to it.
It wasn’t like Hirosaki was the only thing on my mind. There were exams, my future, finals, late night shows and baseball games, the release date for the album for the band I liked, there were plenty of things that would occasionally take my mind more than her.
Even after that, Hirosaki would be gazing out the classroom window (probably imagining bombs and mushroom clouds), and I would absentmindedly gaze at her. When our eyes met, we’d share a bashful laugh, but it wasn’t as if there were any real developments after that.
We were in different classes the next year, at most passing by each other in the corridor from time to time.
I hadn’t met her a single time since I graduated high school.

 

— And so, the reason I’m letting myself be dragged around by this mysterious idiot might just be to “Get another chance at that moment”. Incredibly despicable, come to think about it.
In the first place, one mustn’t toy with a young girl’s feelings half for laughs.
— I’ve already got Tatsumi, I’m sure you’ll find someone nice.
Or so I thought over what irresponsible adult line I’d say, musing over how it was honestly becoming a bit of a pain, over how Tatsumi would be extraordinarily angry if she knew I was loitering around here. It was a bit early, but I was beginning to think it was time to call it a wrap when, “It’s surprisingly hot here,” Pikari said.

“Yeah, the view’s pretty nice, but there’s no wind today.”

Jowa, jowa, the cicadas chirped. The sun violently beat down on the park bench on the hill overlooking the city making it murderously hot.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. The sweat from Pikari’s temple pooled on her chin and dropped.

Bang!

A sudden blast wave had me tumbling off the bench.

“W-what? What was that?”

I scanned my surroundings in a frenzy.

“Ah, sorry. That one was Pikari,” Pikari said as further drops of sweat continued falling from the tip of her chin.

Babang!

“W-what’s happening?”
“What? Nothing particular. I’m a bomb and all.”

She wiped away the sweat on her brow with her fingertip and nonchalantly flicked it aside.

Bababang!

The sweat drips combusted the moment they fell, they raised a smoke-cloud that reached around waist height.

“Wowowow that’s dangerous!”

So sweat was no good. I hurriedly evacuated her into a neighborhood café.

“Hyaah, that’s cool!”

Pikari wiped her face with a cold, wet towel, and then like a middle-aged man, went on to wipe her ears and her nape. That wasn’t the end of it, she plunged her hand into the sleeve of her shirt and began rubbing against her armpits.
How uncultured, I thought, but I could ignore that much.

“Excuse meee! One of these Lovers’ Sweet Jumbo Parfait, please!!”

As she waved the menu over her head to place an order, I timidly asked.

“… You’re not going to explode the store, are you?”

She answered quite at east.

“That hardly counted as an explosion. A bit of my components just leaked out is all.”
“Component—”

Pikari ignored my question and spoke while polishing off the clock face on her chest.

“I won’t properly detonate unless it’s from here.”
“Detonate, eh…”

I was finally beginning to consider the word’s meaning in earnest.
Pikari’s clock showed a little past ten thirty (it had advanced quite a bit…). Once it reached twelve, this kid presumably really would– literally explode.
Were there any means to stop it? Was I better off taking a safe distance?
In the first place, was she alright with that?

— Whatever it was, I would have to start by getting a better grasp on her identity.

I tried asking as the two of us pecked at the jumbo parfait.

“So what are you anyway? A robot with a self destruct button or something? Come to think of it, you did fall from the sky.”
“Oh you,”

Pikari raised her face. Her expression was plastered over with a wry smile.

“A robot? This isn’t some manga.”

— Hey, who’s talking here! I endured my retort to let her speak.

“Why Pikari’s body is made out of Hyper PNT.”
“Hyper… what?”
“To put it simply, my entire body is a living explosive.”
“By explosive, are we talking about dynamite or TNT?”
“On a completely different level. Even a nuclear warhead couldn’t match up.”

She turned her chest with just a little bit of pride.

“HPNT is a hyperdimensional compound with a regular pentachoron base, and it’s got one trillion times the output of TNT. It’s going to be amazing, I tell ya.”
“One trillion… w-wait. How much do you weigh?”
“Oh how embarrassing.”
“Save it.”

I took out one of the table’s paper napkins.

“… Well let’s say you’re hypothetically fifty kilograms.”

My fingernail smeared a chocolate sauce ‘50’ on the napkin, and I tapped in twelve dots after that to represent zeroes. That was one trillion.

“Take off three zeroes for tons, then kilo, mega, giga—fifty gigatons!? Even the hydrogen bomb didn’t have that much!”
“Oh, not that much.”
“I’m not praising you!”

I sprung to my feet.

“When you explode, everyone here will die!”
“Umm… not just here, I’m pretty sure the entire Kantou region will be wiped off the map.”
“Why are you so calm about all this. We’re talking about lives here…!”

… The store had sunk to silence. Everyone was looking at me for raising my voice.
But that was the least of my problems. I looked down at Pikari. She looked back a dazed look on her face, but eventually turned away and pouted.

“Lives are lives.” She said with a spoonful of parfait. “… But I’m a bomb.”

— What was this off-sense I was getting? It was almost like I was talking to a youkai or something. Just what was she? What was I supposed to do with her?

“… Fine, got it.”

I calmed myself best I could manage and sat down.

“You’re a bomb, you want to explode, and that’s probably something incredibly important to you. Is that right?”
“Yes.”

She raised her face. A little happy, terribly sincere. But—

“Can’t you do that where no one’s around? Like the middle of the pacific, or space?”

I said. Her expression quickly clouded over.

“I mean… out there, there’s no heart throbbing…”
“So what do you need?”
“… Well, walking while holding hands… or flirting, you know…”
“Go do that on your own.”
“I can’t do it alone. If you’re not there, Nagashima…”
“— What have I got to do with this?”
Pikari’s face shot up. There were tears in both her eyes for some reason.
Ah, snap—
I retreated to the shadow of my chair just as the tears fell in large drops.

Babang!

An explosion equal to exceeding her sweat burst forth.
The table was smashed to smithereens, the parfait fell on my head. Beyond the dust rocketed into the air, I could see Pikari’s back as she surmounted the broken glass of the window and raced off.

 

“Ooooyyy, Pikari!”
I didn’t have any leads, I called her name as I raced back and forth between the prep store and the station.

— There’s no way I can leave that walking hazard to her own devices.

There was that.

— If she’s to be believed, if I don’t persuade her to stop, tens of millions will wind up dead

There was that.
But that wasn’t all. She had just called me Nagashima, and I’d never given her my name. She hadn’t just appeared before me by chance, she knew who Iw as from the start.
Meaning—

 

The next I spotted Pikari was in the park with the hill. The sun was already setting, and her form leaned up against the observation deck fence had become a dark silhouette.

“Ah, you really found me. That got my heart racing a bit.”

She happily turned as if none of that happened.

Crrrrrrk— the hand on the display peeking out from her chest moved forward, pointing to ten minutes before twelve.

“… The scenery here is great, isn’t it.”

She turned back to watch the townscape below her eyes.

“An amazing sunset…”
“You… really are Hirasaki Hikari, aren’t you.”

I asked what I’d been wondering for a while now. And,

“A little off though.”

As expected, she returned that same cryptic answer from before.
I continued on regardless.

“… Hirosaki, why are you calling yourself a bomb? Are you talking about suicide? … No, in this case, forced double suicide. Why are you dragging so many strangers down with you?”
“Yeaaaaah.”

She tilted her head.

“Suicide, and dragging down, that’s not the feeling I’m getting. It’s not that I want anyone to die, I just want to wrap it up nicely…”
“They’re the same thing. You’re forcibly taking people who don’t want to die down with you.”
“Forcibly…?”

She sounded rather perplexed.

“You think so? You think they all don’t want to die?”
“… What are you talking about? That’s obvious.”
“You think so? I think they’re just lacking the determination a bit.”
“What are you saying—”
“Hey, try imagining it.”

She narrowed her eyes. As the sunset lit the side of her face, she could be none other than Hirosaki Hikari herself.

“This messy little town, and all the jumble beyond it blown away in an instant, and all that remains is one large, pretty mushroom cloud. Isn’t that better? Don’t you think so, Nagashima?”
“Why am I—”
“I mean, Nagashima, you never wanted to grow up, did you?”
“What—”

Her pale arms gracefully stretched out to gently clasp the collar of my shirt.

“Living is a terrible hassle, isn’t it? You get anxious when you can’t see ahead, but even so, it’s just despair when you do catch a glimpse. The near and distant future, they’re both nothing but pain you know.”
“… What are you talking about, Hirosaki…”
“That’s why everyone gets so focused on what’s right before their eyes; they pretend like they can forget, but the truth is that everyone’s thinking it— ‘won’t someone just end it for me’ you know.”
I couldn’t move from the spot. I couldn’t brush away her slender arms, try as I might.
“… So how about we put an end to it? Send the future flying with a booom, and this glittering present will be an eternity. Everyone will rejoice, ‘we’re better off that way’. Though they won’t have the time for joy.”

She spoke almost like she was voicing the whispers of the devil… no, that was wrong. She really thought so. She honestly thought she was speaking in the best interest of me and her and everyone else.
— And she was probably right.

“Hirosaki…”

The hands on her chest clock were spinning at a tremendous pace.
The minute hand was once again moving before my eyes.

Five minutes to go—
Four minutes to go—

“It’s the heart throbbing climax.”

She muttered. She turned her head up, she closed her eyes.

“I’m sure it’ll be sweet…”

Three minutes to go—
Two minutes to go—

I knew what to do.
To support up her cheek and kiss her— that alone and our world would end.

One minute to go—

I had no reason to refuse. It was something I myself actually longed for as well.
And—

 

“… Huh?”

She was making a terribly confused face.

“Why…?”

I found it surprising myself. Even I didn’t know why I didn’t do it.
The clock hands had stopped at eleven fifty-nine.

Tic, tic, tic, tic—

The second hand paced back and forth between fifty-eight and fifty-nine a number of times.

Tic,

Tic,

Tic,

Tic,

Tic—

“… I see.”

Hirosaki Hikari had noticed something before me.
She took one conspicuously large breath and smiled.

“Your future already belongs to someone else.”
“Eh…”
“I see, so that’s it… I had loved you all this time, but Nagashima, you’ve fallen for someone else…”

She released her hands from me and retreated three steps back.

“Sadly I’m out of time—bye-bye.”

She said with a lonesome smile, large tears spilling down her pace.

Pap—

With nothing but the sound of a small burst, she was gone.
I was standing alone in the park where the sun had long since set.
One dot at a time, the street lights were beginning to flick on in the town below.

 

Before the day was over, word came to my house that Hirosaki Hikari had died from complications relating to her heart disease.
It happened in the hospital, right around the time she’d been in the park with me.

 

When I arrived at prep school two days after that, Tatsumi suddenly struck my head from behind.

“After everything I told you, where have you been for two days!?”
“Ah, right. I was at a friend’s funeral.”
“Oh… sorry. Nothing we can do about that.”

She gently began rubbing against it to make up for the hit. Stop it, you’ll lose me my follicles.

“So who were they to you? A relative?”
“Nah, a classmate from high school, a girl I only ever talked to once.”
“Then she’s a complete stranger!”

She hit me again.

“… But she did leave me something.”
I carefully stroked the back of my head as I took out a golden pocket watch and plunked it down on the table. It was an aged antique that originally belonged to Hirosaki Hikari’s father who died early, and she apparently wrote in her will that she wanted me to have it.

“Hmm, is it worth anything?”
“It doesn’t work.”
“What’s up with that? Sure she’s not just mocking you?”
“Who knows?”

A side glance to Tatsumi with a cigarette in her mouth, I swiftly produced my reference book from my bag and opened it on the table.
“My, my, someone’s motivated today.”
“Pretty much. Brushing up with someone’s death had me learn how precious this limited life is.”
“Well look who’s talking.”

I took a glance at the pocket watch.
Its hands had stopped at eleven hours, fifty-nine minutes, fifty-nine seconds.
Her time had come to a stop, but our own time was still slowly flowing forward.

“So you know, Tatsumi.”
“What’s up.”
“I’m gonna go bald someday.”
“It’s a bit late for that.”

She flopped a hand down on the top of my head.

Posted in misc | 8 Comments

Battlefield:Masurawo is Completed

As stated in the title, the translation for Battlefield:Masurawo is completed, and you can read it here:

Battlefield: Masurawo

This is a story I personally love, and it has finally been completed more than ten years since its publication. I hope you will enjoy it as well.  I made sure I didn’t interrupt it with anything, so the next buttons should actually work.

As for what I’m going to work on next, well I had a project in mind and this whole big thing planned out…

YeahNo

*Record Scratch* Yeah, no. I might as well finish up O-Ri-Ga-Mi since I paid for the complete set already. If you have any suggestions for translations that haven’t been picked up yet, feel free to comment them.

Posted in misc | 17 Comments

And to Each their own Tomorrow

 

… A few months had gone by.
Messages came in from here and there, informing Hideo of what had happened after that.
(……)

Hannibal and Johnny apparently reopened the steak shop in that city. It didn’t take much effort for the shop to regain its popularity, and it was busy everyday.

Similarly, Javan and the Old Man remained there as law enforcement officials, preserving the peace as they aimed to climb a step higher and expand their horizons.

Verrocchia and Sandelmain returned to their manor in eastern Europe; they were taking it easy while arbitrarily fending off some anti-demon organization called Kresnik.

Akane and Ash returned home for the time being. Rather, Hideo just barely managed to persuade her to return. Once her alchemic studies progressed far enough to compound a love potion… or so she said, but putting all that aside.

Remina, as expected, preferred to live in her birthplace by the Aegean Sea. She gave up on the stage, but on Taoka’s strong request, she would be putting out a CD in the near future. He awaited the day he would see it lining the record shop shelves.

The Gray and Smoke had finished their missions and each had returned to their ☆s. He had to wonder how exactly the two of them would speak of the incidents on this ☆ in their homelands.

Kobayashi made a large-scale announcement in MMMR focusing largely on the two of them. It was a rare coherent and reasonable piece, and that issue of Weekly Fry-D sold phenomenally.

Now that Ryuuta had lost the goal of his journey to find an old foe, he returned to his old home in Angel Saber. The Colonel was reappointed with him as an instructor, apparently. Perhaps a retired life didn’t suit him, or perhaps going on a rampage after so long had stirred up his old blood.

The picture showed the teacher and student in their uniforms, with Rocky sitting dignified beside them.

While Elize and Shouki had obtained the throne of Sacred Demon Lord, for the time being, they were living just as they had before. When you really got down to the root of it, they still saw Obliterating Industries as the most pressing evil to deal with. Elsia didn’t tire of their confrontation, and she was currently taking an extended stay in that city.

Suzuran and her subordinates were spending their festive, mischievous days there no different than before.

This time, Archess and his men with them…

There were those who returned to their original lives, and those two decided to remain in that city. And each one of them had begun walking a new path in life. Fueled by their bittersweet feelings from the Sacred Demon Cup tournament. They would surely find a completely new path they never would have stumbled upon had it not been for that competition.
And Hideo…
“Hiiiideeeeooo.”
(……)
Under his covers, he glanced at the letters around him, basked in the reverie of how fun those times were as he firmly sealed himself in.
“Hideo. Get out here, god dammit.”
‘Umm… Master. She’s calling for you…’
Wilco who had dropped by from heaven to play pointed behind him, but he pulled the cover further over his head and completely ignored it.
Incidentally, the one calling for him was a senior for work, and someone who was terribly harsh when she got angry. She had a last name he was sure he’d seen somewhere before.
“Just come out, Kawamura Hideo. We know you’re in there.”
This cold voice came from a cute-faced colleague who was harsh even when she wasn’t angry. She also had a surname he was certain he recognized.
“Kukuh…”
‘Ah, err… master?’
Kukukukukuh.
What is this? Yeah, that’s right. Of course, he changed his attitude. Thanks to the tournament, he found his second wind. But just because his personality changed, that didn’t change the nasty look in his eyes he had from birth. Yeah, he was an idiot for failing to notice.
He was immediately rejected from the ten companies who would take a high school graduate. His trauma from two years back reemerged. It’s over for me. Don’t give up? Keep moving forward? Yes, those really were wonderful words in that atmosphere.
But after all he’d said, it was difficult for him to go knocking on the door to heaven or Elize Industrial or Obliterating Industries, and just around that time, his application to the public station Suzuran recommended to him was miraculously accepted.
The organization he was sent to was called the Imperial Household’s Divine Spirit Division. If a mystery appeared in the west, they would pin down its cause, if there was a monster to the east, they would exorcize it. Their job apparently entailed resolving occult cases all across Japan.
‘… Well isn’t that fine, Master? Wilco herself was recorded as a bit of an occult phenomenon on the darknet, you know.’
Spirits are spirits.
Occult is occult.
“Imperial Household Divine Spirit Division Spirit Division Kawamura Hideo.”
He was the only one in that division of the division. Yet, for some reason he wasn’t considered the head of that division, he was pretty much on the bottom rung. In the first place, why did the Divine Spirit Division have a Spirit Division? Wasn’t it strange to be a division of a division?
‘Aaah, Master… where did the radiance of those days go…’
It didn’t exist. It was all just an illusion.
No matter what they said.
Kuh kukuh ku ku kuh…
… Hah.
‘……’
Even Wilco didn’t know how to respond to that.

Thud!!

“…!!”
He peeked out his head to the sound of the door being kicked in.
Long black hair, the corners of her slanted eyes slanted even further, his superior in a black pantsuit. His colleague in a shrine maiden outfit who always looked like she was glaring regardless. The two of them rudely barged their way in.
“Hmph, insolent fool. What vile sites were you browsing with that mean look in your eyes?”
Wilco had already hidden herself.
“No. Just my email. I was just checking my inbox.”
His superior promptly kicked him down.
“Now this really is a shame, poor Hideo. Our station isn’t kind enough to sack you just because you refuse to come to work. Seriously, good grief, you got a glowing recommendation from Takase, Suzuran, and Shouki, so when we’re understaffed year round, just how high did you think we got our hopes… right, Suiren?”
“Quite right, Hasebe. I never thought we would be gifted the trash of trash at the bottom of the barrel.”
Mister Archess. Human rights, human rights are still being unjustly trampled over.
“… You’re not going to betray those expectations, are you?”
“No, that’s… deputy chief… but… what is it this time?”
“A drowning death in the new lumberyard. They say it was a double suicide, two targets. They’ve become vengeful ghosts. It’s time for the Spirit Division’s shining newcomer to take the stage.”
Hideo’s’ body trembled viciously as he denied it.
This is impossible.
Ghosts and spirits are different. He was speaking as a member of the spirit division, there was no doubt about it. Rather, he really wanted to start by firmly defining the distinction between ghosts, apparitions and spirits.
“For Christ’s sake, we have to hurry. The police force’s spectral team’s gonna get the drop on us. See, rumor has it their new recruit, this Kitaooji girl’s extraordinarily skilled. She’s using a truncheon in this day and age.”
“……”
The world was way too small.
‘Ah, it’s true, master. Minako’s name’s been registered under that division. You should be able to work together as old friends.’
“Wait…”
It was too late by the time Hideo contained the speaker.
“… So you were here. Vile God.”
‘That I am. Mikomiko Suiren.’
Their menacing auras collided. Leaving those two on bad terms aside.
“Hmm. That so. Now that’s an interesting bit of info. Why, if you already know her, Hideo, that means you’ve gotta go, right?”
“No. Meaning, well. Even if we know each other…”
“Case settled, now get up, get up. Ain’t this nice, you get escorted to work by two beauties. You’re quite the lucky fellow, Hideo. Or what is it? You wanna try training in swordsmanship at our dojo again?”
(……)
Rather than an apparition that might possess him, the deputy chief’s training that would definitely kill him was far scarier.
‘Fight on, my master! Isn’t this the future you wished for!!’
(… Well.)
Well. She did have a point.
He exultantly made his resolve, slipped out from the covers, stripped off his pajamas to change, and was smacked by a colleague who disparaged him for his indecency in front of a lady.
That’s right.
Even if it didn’t all go his way. Even if it wasn’t cool. All things included, that was who he was……

A life of seclusion that had been once discarded.
Now it went by the name of a ‘miracle’ as he took a new step forward.
This was the tale of the young man called Kawamura Hideo—

Posted in Battlefield Masurawo | Tagged | 16 Comments

Chapter 8: Repaying a Miracle

 

“… That’s…”
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 your 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.
… And.
“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…!”
“No, don’t…!”
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?”
“… Hideo…”
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.

 

 

‘But… Master.’
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…’
… Oh.
‘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.
‘It’s impossible!’
If her most efficient source of energy was a believing heart… those that believed in her… would one of his arms be enough?
‘It’s impossible!’
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.
“Master…”
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.”
“Not… exactly…”
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.
“Archeeeeeeessssss!!”
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?
No.
To grasp a turning point in life?
No.
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!”
“… Wilco.”
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…”
Right, surely.
“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.”
“Master!”
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.”
“… Me…?”
“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.
“Master…!!”
“……”
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.
(Yeah…)
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.
“I… win…”
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.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaah…!”
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.

(Yes…!)

Now show them.
We may have lost the tournament, but we were the greatest partners.

(Yes, master…!)

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!!
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH—!!”
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.

Now disappear.
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 sin 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.
“Why…”
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.
“Stop it!!”
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…!!”

“Wilco.”
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.
“Mariacressel…!!”
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?”
“Price… what…”
“Back then, I definitely granted your wish. But that was in exchange for the immense power you had amassed as a Demon Lord.”
“That’s……”
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.”
“W… why…?”
“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?”
“Darkness.”
“Darkness?”
“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.”
“Darkness…”
“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.
(I see…)
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?”
“What… reason?”
“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.
“Yeah. I…”

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.”
“Me?”
“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.”
He nodded.
“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 where?
“To your comrades waiting for you. Everything that compromises you is within me. So go.”
“Wait…”
“… Unsatisfied?”
“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.
“Massstteeeeeeer!!”
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.
“Wilco…”
Was this what it meant to be at a loss for words.
When he looked around, everyone was safe. Every single soul safe.
“Is it…”
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?”
“… Yes…”
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.
“… Hideo.”
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.”
“…… No.”
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?”
“Yes.”
Archess nodded.
“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…”
“… Spider?”
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.”
“Say what?”
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.”
“But… what?”
Hideo spoke.
“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.”
He nodded.
“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.”
“… Where?”
“Your house.”
“Wai—”
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.
“Drink.”
“Thank you.”
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.”
“Yeah.”
“… 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?”
“No…”
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.
“You’re…”
“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.”
“No way.”
“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.
Hideo nodded.
“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.”
“Wilco…?”
“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…
(… Yeah.)
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…”
“No… I.”
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.

c8-2

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.”
“Yes.”
She nodded to him.
“You’re keeping them waiting. Now go. Treasure the miracle. Be happy.”
“Yes…!”
A bow to the smiling girl and Hideo was off.

Posted in Battlefield Masurawo | Tagged | 5 Comments

Chapter 7: The Return of Kawamura Hideo

 

“… Did we do it?”
Ten-odd combatants. Under the sealed-off shaft, they surrounded the wreckage that had shattered behind the sandbag.
A ridiculously massive haniwa clay doll was filled with cracks. Its stomach portion had magnificently fallen away, the fragments shattered… it didn’t so much as twitch.
“Yeah. Have a look. We shot out its guts.”
“I heard about it, but that was some incredible defensive power… three rocket launchers and then some.”
One of them looked up.
“… But it’s going to be impossible to chase the others from here.”
“In the end, did we take out the vampire or not?”
“That was a direct hit from light magic. A child of the night could never survive…”

— So both friend and foe fail to understand what it means to be a vampyre. What tiresome ignorance.

“!?”
“A voice…!? From where?”
“I’m right here.”
Without a sound, he was standing directly before there eyes.
“Do you not know the word undying?”
“Fire!!”
With the gunshots and the magic, chunk by chunk, his flesh was torn, his bones were shattered, his blood scattered all over. The bits that flew off dissolved into mist, making for a black and red body dotting pure white fog, a hard to describe terrifying cobbling of gruesome speckles.
Unmoving as he was, the uncanny sight alone had them fighting against their own fear.
“… Undying…… what nonsense…! Absurd, there’s no way such a thing could really…!”
“…… Hannibal. I let them go ahead. How about you quit playing dead.”
“… Phew… so you saw through me… did you…”
The voice they heard from what was supposed to be a broken, immobile haniwa doll finally had the men take distance.
“We’re both servants of the night after all. What does that make you? A wraith?”
“… Can’t stand the western name…”
The ooze curled. He was apparently smiling.
“No… don’t really know myself…”
From the broken stomach of the shattered haniwa, taking on the form of what almost looked like guts, a pitch black something dribbled its way out.
“Was off chasing after old Izanagi… I got lost and more lost… and then I’d wandered into this world on my lonesome self… by the time I noticed it, there wasn’t no place for me…”
The pitch black substance viscously poured free to reveal a pair of red beady eyes.
“… Some day I can’t remember… I couldn’t even maintain my form without this overdone piece of clay…”
“I see, I did think it was a bit too crude for armor but… it was a container, I see. Koushirou hit the stake on the head when he said the person inside.”
“Hey… he didn’t notice, what he really meant…”
From the slowly wriggling black something, appendages that could perhaps be called hands shot out to apprehend everyone’s feet.
“Ee- eee!? Uwaaaah!?”
“This sight’s a bit harsh… for the ladies… wouldn’t want any nightmares…”
Shoot or slash, he wouldn’t die. That was simply the sort of substance he was. Crush his eyes, and new eyes would peek out from elsewhere. And struggle as they might, the substance restlessly crept up their ankles, sealing their movements entirely as if they had fallen victim to a bottomless bog.
“Are you going to eat them?”
“Give me a break.”
Hannibal refuted.
“… When it comes to meat, I keep it a hundred percent beef… I thought you might be starving here…”
He said in a smile only a fellow being of the night like Verrocchia could understand. A malnourished life on blood transfusion packs. Those light bullets from before. When he showed his form on the surface, the sun was so bright he nearly disintegrated.
“So you saw through me too. Then I shall gratefully feast. Some puppets would be perfect to clear away the rubble.”
“If it ain’t outta your way… I’d be thankful for some… adhesive…”
“Very well, that is a cheap purchase. Just stay where you are.”
As he unsteadily teetered his way closer, the mouth suspended in his tattered figure smiled wide in a grin that exposed his fangs.
“S-stay away! Don’t come any closer!!”
“As you can see, I’ve lost too much power to regain my form…!”
The pitiful screams echoed on and on through the dark passageways.

 

 

“Hide all you want, the Javan Sensor’s got you pinned down!”
His blaster boasted unparalleled accuracy when locked on with his suit’s sensors. The beam it emitted shot into an enemy hiding in the thicket.
“Don’t get cocky!!”
From shadow to shadow, Gabès who had killed his presence and closed in like an assassin lowered the blades of his gauntlet’s claw.
“Kuh!!”
A terrible sound, his helmet was torn, blood flowed down from Koushirou’s forehead.
“Die!!”
“Not on my watch!!”
Minako slipped in below, raising Okamaru with all her might, and shooting Gabès blades flying high before he could tear them to shreds.
“Nggh!!”
But the man had claws on both hands, his free hand immediately thrust towards Minako’s torso.
“You’re up against me!!”
And this time the Javan Sword shot it back.
“Now!!”
Akane rolled a smoke grenade improvised on the spot to steal Gabès’s vision. She slipped into the new cover with Remina, from left to right throwing them into the enemy encampment. If the raid party Gabès led didn’t know where its members were, they couldn’t so readily offer support with magic or gunfire.
“Alright, go! We’ll keep them occupied best we can!”
Reily screamed.
“Hahah! This is payback for Camdania… have at them!!”
The private army towards Alhazan, Hideo and the others racing in the opposite direction.
Hideo whispered as he slid down a steep slope.
“Wilco, just like the Sacred Demon Grand Prix. Nav me.”
‘On it!!’
“There they are!! After them!!”
Taking up the rear guard, the Colonel used the Gray on his back to erect a shield as he sprayed a barrage of bullets behind him. Their pursuers were few, thanks to Reily.
“How persistent! There’s more where that came from!!”
This time, not a smoke grenade, Akane lobbed a real bomb. It sounded out with the boom of thunder and raised a landslide in its wake. Trees and shrubs collapsed, cutting off their pursuers. For the time being, they just had to run out of sight.
‘Please go straight! You’ll meet with a brook!’
But not a few minutes from there.
“Get down!!”
They threw themselves to the ground at once on the Colonel’s call. A gunshot. A new shadow before them. This wasn’t a pursuer. They had run into the second wave that had come later. But if they stopped here, they’d just be pincered by Gabès’ unit.
Lemina stood first, she hid her body behind a thick trunk. She spoke faster than anyone could listen.
“Everyone get behind me! Cover your ears..!”
No time to argue. After a single deep breath, she resolved herself, turned, and stood right before the enemy.
“Sink to the blue of the Aegean—!!”
Those were the last distinct words from her voice.
Remina wrung out the greatest volume she could muster. Her beautiful voice climbed higher, higher. Eventually, it became smaller. It exceeded audible range and in an instant, even the sound of plugged ears had disappeared.
The song witch who ruled over all sound had converted every last bit of it into a shockwave. The sort of shock an explosion would throw up was conveyed across his floored stomach.
Next he opened his eyes, everyone who’d interrupted their path had been knocked off their feet; while still breathing, their eyes were spinning, blood flowing from their ears and noses as they writhed in agony.
Quiet and beautiful, a terrifying attack.
But.
“… Cough! Hack, coughcough! Kehough!”
“Are you okay!? Remina, get a grip…!”
Minako hurriedly rubbed her back as she broke into a terrible coughing fit.
It was hard to blame here. Perhaps she would have been fine under normal circumstance, but she had been singing her purification song day after day in that filthy mine air. Her already unfavorable condition had worsened into injuring her throat. That wasn’t the worst of it, she must have been shot the instant she stood before the enemy. Blood was spreading across her clothing.
“I’m, fine… cough! I’m a siren so… hac, cough! Don’t worry about me, go ahead…”
“There’s no way we can do that…!”
Koushirou tucked away his weapons and picked the song princess up in a princess cradle. The Colonel nodded.
“He’s right. If any one of us is captured, they’ll be used as a hostage to coax the rest of us… that alone must be avoided.”
The verdict was handed down immediately.
“We’ll split in two. I’ll guard Remina with the slow-legged Koushirou and pass through the first. All healthy members make for the city on the fastest route.”
“But Koushirou’s wounded too, if it’s just you two, Colonel…!?”
The old soldier sent a cynical smile to a concerned Minako.
“Fufu, who do you think I am? Fighting in these dense forests is my specialty”
In Hideo’s eyes, that hardly seemed to be the case. He probably wasn’t good at it at all. He just loved doing it.
“In that case, I’ll stick with the colonel! Gunpowder and traps go hand and hand.”
A win.
“Then may I follow suit? If your goal is speed, then my short legs will be a hindrance…”
The formation was naturally decided.
The colonel who had the firepower but not the mobility would keep the enemy busy, holding out until reinforcements form Obliterating Industries arrived. A remaining agile Hideo and Minako would head to the city full-speed.
Going off how Gabès was acting, they wouldn’t stand down until Archess surrendered. Their work had gotten far enough. So they were no longer truly needed. If there was a risk of the plan coming to light, then killing them had become a necessity.
(Right…)
They had Alhazan sufficiently cornered. Precisely because they were cornered, their peaceful group had taken up such excessive measures. Victory was right before their eyes. Then what was necessary to make certain of it? To end this absurd farce and make sure it was thoroughly finished? The Colonel looked at Hideo with strong eyes.
“… Go on, Hideo. As you did with us before, take in everything with a warrior’s eyes, user your powers of negotiation to reveal all, and make Archess yield. In the end, the only one in this city who managed to shatter their trickery… was you.”
Was that really true?
(…… No.)
It had to be true. For his comrades who entrusted that future to him. So as not to betray his strong comrades who even when so injured would never forget their hopeful smiles directed at their goal.
The voices of pursuers had entered an audible range. While Remina’s attack was unmatched, with that tremor like a near-field earthquake… no doubt the other side sensed something was up.
Minako spoke.
“Everyone stay safe!”
‘May fortune favor you!’
‘Let’s go, master!’
A nod and Hideo was off.

 

 

Seeing off their backs…
“Now then.”
The Colonel casually stuck a cigar into his mouth. It was his last one.
“…Truth of the matter, how are you all faring?”
Even if each individual enemy wasn’t as strong as a monster, they were too great in number. Just like a mere few powerful monsters, a crowd with order and coordination was a fearsome threat.
“My back control system took a hit. The blade’s not working anymore, and the Javan Suit’s pretty much just a protector.”
Koushirou said.
“I am running on fumes. The barrier will only last another minute or two.”
Said the Gray.
“Honestly, I’ve been compounding from the crack of dawn, and I’m pretty drained here… I’ll keel over if I lost focus, but I didn’t want to show darling and my rival something so pathetic.”
Akane added on.
“Cough.”
Remina finished it off with a painful-sounding cough.
“What about you, Colonel… kehough!”
“Me? Fufu, quite honestly, I don’t feel like running anymore… it looks like I’ve been away from the battlefield too long.”
His black combat boots were too deep in the grass to notice, but, there were traces of a bullet taking out his ankle.
“Then I take it… you’ve already given up?”
It was Gabès. His men appeared one after the next through the gaps in the trees. They were already surrounded. In one corner, Reily and his men had been taken captive.
“… Are they still alive?”
“There’s no point to a dead hostage. They’re all stable. Albeit, they’ll be killed one by one each time you decline our requests.”
“Couldn’t ask for more… in that case…”
The Colonel was just about to drop his light machine gun on the spot.
“Now ain’t that sweet of you. Never thought I’d hear that from the devil commander George Redfield.”
A single gunshot. Gabès deflected it with his claw as he screamed.
“You’re Ryuuta Salinger!”
“Yo Gabès. Finally showed your true colors.”
“Silence… I’ll deal with you before the wounded!!”
Gabès leapt at him.
“After you already lost once, you never learn!!”
Ryuuta received him with his drawn sword. However, receiving an impact beyond his expectations, his wrist joint groaned out.
“Kuh…!?”
“Hah, how laughable to claim that as your victory! Then just try to fend off my attacks!!”
A long series of strikes from Gabès inexhaustibly swinging his arms. While it looked indiscriminate, it was a fierce assault that wouldn’t grant him the chance to breathe. Ryuuta was forced to fall back on a one-sided defensive. Lacerations raced down the limbs he failed to defend in the blink of an eye.
“Hmph!”
“What!?”
Clink, the claw locked. One of his claws had locked up his weapon with an unbelievable amount of physical force. Gabès lifted his remaining arm.
“And that’s all you are! Die…!!”
In the time he had gathered everyone’s attention, behind where Reily and his men were held, two shadows appeared without a sound.
Teleportation magic. The twin maids with identical appearance and voice loudly changed.
“Waver! Fronter!”
Their voice in chorus converted straight into a shockwave to brush away those holding the hostages and free them.
“Kuh… you two… the traitor sisters!?”
“What’s this I hear? We didn’t betray anyone, did we Sorka?”
“Yes. We’re simply following our proper master now, right Norka?”
“Proper…?”
The next instant, every demon turned in the same direction and trembled. From behind Ryuuta, a single elegant woman walked in indifferently with no applause. A single thick grimoire in her hand. She looked over them and blinked once.
“… Is this all? Then there’s no need to be here.”
“Wait, hey, hey, hey, hold on a tick, Elsia! You come here, see the situation and leave!?”
“Quite right. If this is all there is, the finals will be more interesting to watch.”
She looked at the sisters.
“Send me.”
“No, but…”
In this instance, the sisters were far more aware of their surroundings. Gabès screamed to egg on his own plight.
“For Lord Archess’ ambition, for our dream… now that you’ve seen this, I can’t let you leave no matter who you are!!”
He moved like a hurricane. Bounding off like a black bullet, his form disappeared. This wasn’t a visible trick, it was short-distance transport magic for close-quarters combat. He appeared overhead, at a speed impossible for any ordinary person to react to, an angle impossible to defend.
“Die…!!”
And Elsia was no ordinary person.
“I see.”
She grabbed the face of a falling Gabès with one hand.
“Good heat. I like you.”

Thud!!

And used her entire body to slam it down at her feet. To the others eyes, it looked no more difficult than was slamming down a tomato or something of the sort. After that, she simply took a slight glance. The Alhazan combatants disarmed themselves without another word.
“… You didn’t kill him, did you?”
“He didn’t die last time, he’ll be fine.”
“? Yeah, whatever… colonel, how are you holding up!?”
A stroke from his face down his beard. He took one calming sigh.
“… You’re as reckless as ever, Ryuuta. Was that supposed to be a diversion? One wrong step, and you’d have died.”
“Heh… I’m not one of your men anymore. I’ll do what I want.”
He replied as he exchanged a firm handshake.
“… Look at that, Hannibal. They’re still here, are they not?”
“Well that’s… nice…”
Verrocchia wrapped in his mantle and Hannibal, followed by Alhazan members groaning out incomprehensible sounds. Not long after, Obliterating Industries’ reinforcements raced in from a completely different direction.
“Ah, it’s already over. That’s why I told you to pick up the pace.”
“I mean, you know, you know, looky, that bad feeling I was getting was spot on the money, that’s Lady Elsia right over there! I’m going home!!”
“Hmph, who cares what they’re up to? Our objective is the mine, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Well, wait. If we don’t have just cause, I fear the consequence.”
The liveliness immediately shifted the mood.
“… Is he not around?”
Elsia alone disinterestedly muttered.
“Him? Mn? Colonel, come to think of it, where’s Hideo…?”
“! Crap, it backfired…!?”
Considering how Gabès brought up negotiations without even noting that Minako and Hideo weren’t there… one would have to believe they had already taken measures against them. There was still another unit; the two of them were in danger.

 

 

The Colonel’s premonition proved half-true.
“Yer outta luck.”
Zazi stood with an old revolver in each hand. Thankfully, he was there alone without any subordinates, but he was an executive who excelled in combat abilities. The situation was the same as when they were being chased by Elize. Centralle Building towering. The stadium beyond it. He could already see it from here.
“Please give up! It’s already your loss!”
Minako unerringly readied Okamaru. The hostages on the building’s upper floors had been freed. Their plans had been leaked to both Obliterating Industries and Elize Industrial.
“Say what you want but pops hasn’t given up yet. In that case, there’s no way we’re bailing before him.”
He showed no hint of backing down. Thanks to his lethargic expression, it was hard to determine whether he was serious or not… but his heart that admired and trusted Archess was the real deal.
“… Where’s. Archess?”
Zazi jerked his head in the general direction.
“He’s over there. In the stadium. But what are you gonna do if you get to him?”
“Put a stop to this.”
“To what? Just so you know, we don’t need your help anymore. You’ve all done enough work.”
To put it another way, Alhazan was going to execute their plan no matter what. That was enough reason that they couldn’t give up either. That was precisely why they had to put a stop to it. To whatever it was.
“I’ve gotta ask, what’s getting you so desperate? If I wanted to seal your mouths I coulda just killed you, but I ain’t gonna do that. Pops is too kind. Did you lose your mind from how dangerous an ‘evil god’ sounds? The world ain’t gonna crumble. There’s no way pops would do that. Even if the world’s gonna become a better place than before, you guys are gonna get in the way?”
“… In that case. Why is it only. You and Michelle who bring the rations.”
What Hideo let out were words with no basis. But it was only then that unrest settled on Zazi’s expressionlessness for the first time.
“Why. Are you the only one. Who sets an alarm to limit your stay. Did you… ever feel ill like she did?”
“… How much do you know…!”
So that really was where the core was.
They had secretly forced them into labor to revive an evil god. But there was a truth they were keeping hidden even greater than that.
“… Well, so be it… going off of Minako’s face, yer the only one who’s noticed… no, you don’t have any definite proof yerself. So you haven’t told anyone. I kill you and that’s it. Am I wrong?”
“……”
“But I think pops is right, I do! He’s kept it from everyone, even sis! Do you get the resolve he’s shouldered!? Raised in a world without inconvenience, what do you think you know…!”
Minako stood to interrupt his line of fire.
“… I will hold you back alone! Hideo, please go ahead!”
“For real. Hah, leave the woman behind so the guy can run away? Kawamura Hideo. You’re the worst.”
But it was such a cheap provocation. Hideo quietly nodded.
“Yeah, I am.”
“What…?”
He couldn’t’ do anything alone, he was the lowest of trash. He knew something like that even before he came to this city.
He whispered.
“Wilco.”
‘… Yes, go for it!’
He sprinted with no hesitation. In the direction of the stadium.
“Dumbass, you forced my hand!!”
Half a click of the tongue, Zazi likewise didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger at Hideo’s back. Two shots, three shots. But he didn’t get any response. The bullets bounced off. They were blocked by the glass boards that instantaneously appeared.
“…! Oy, You gotta be kidding…!? Don’t tell me Wilco’s ali…!”
That was her chance.
“Haah!!”
Wilco closed the distance in an instant, her weapon above her head, she lowered a blow with as much of her body weight as she could muster into the hand that held his revolver.
Zai clicked his tongue, swiftly turning the other hand as he pulled the trigger. The bullet merely made off with a few of her hairs. She was already at his chest. Minako grabbed the cylinder of his revolver barehanded.
“…!?”
It wouldn’t turn. The revolver couldn’t shoot its next bullet unless its namesake revolving cylinder could rotate. If he forced the hammer, the metal could bend, Zazi himself knew that best of all, having carried them so long. And so, the hand that had just been disarmed pulled his automatic which he cocked with his teeth.
“Okamaru!!”
‘On it!!’
Minako unhanded her truncheon and thrust a palm strike up into the Government with a spring from her knee. With its spontaneous discharge, her extended arm caught Okamaru again.
“Yaaaaah!!”
A flash of spirit, a blow cleared his forehead at lightning speed.
“Da… mmitttt…!”
As he staggered and went weak, she snatched away his revolver as she used Okamaru to smack his automatic pistol away. That made him three guns down. She grabbed his arm as it bolted towards his last automatic, pulled it away and stepped in.
“Keeaaaaaaaaah!!”
A one shoulder throw smacked his back into the hard ground.
“Ga hah…!”
“Suspect detained!!”
Finally, one scathing blow from Okamaru on his face-up defenseless face. Zazi finally lost consciousness.
“… Haah, hah, hah…”
Come so far, she finally spouted a cold sweat.
She had won. Against a gun.
She had a chance to win precisely because Hideo had ran away. Precisely because Hideo swallowed his shame and sprinted without hesitation, Zazi’s attention had been taken by his unexpected conduct.
‘Wonderfully done, Minako. I loaded him with ample spiritual power, he shall not be able to move for a while.’
“Hah… when everyone’s trying so hard, I can’t be the only one doing nothing.”
She carefully removed the bullets from the magazines and chambers of his guns. She never scored too highly with shooting, so borrowing them wouldn’t expand her options too far.
‘It is a terrible shame Sir Hideo couldn’t see you shine…’
“Oh shut it!”
She wiped the sweat on her brow.
“It’s not over yet, don’t let your guard down too soon! Now let’s chase after Hideo!”

 

 

‘It looks like we passed by Obliterating Industries’ trucks when we were charging through the forest…’
“Hah, hah, no worries.”
His two legs were the epitome of health. This was nothing compared to his wild flight in Cross Flags. He raced passed the buildings of Center District. The cityscape was splendidly deserted. Was everyone watching the finals? What sort of battle was being held in that stadium he could see through the gaps in the buildings clumped like a grove of trees? If they had been able to stand there… what sort of battle would it have been?
There was no way to know now.
‘But master, you’ve gotten some stamina… When Wilco just met you, you couldn’t move just from some mountain walking.’
“Alhazan trained me.”
He had already run a few kilometers and it was definitely harsh, but nothing he couldn’t manage. Had a month of heavy labor underground increased his lung capacity as well?
‘Enter that alley! The stadium is right beyond! There’s a staff entrance!’
He turned, he ran; it stood at the ankles of towering Center, what looked like the outer wall of a chimney. This venue was far larger than he had anticipated. So large the plaza was nearly completely filled in.
And he reached.
He kept his running pace, practically kicking down the door to enter quite the dim passageway compared to the outside.
“Hah, hah… where’s Archess…”
‘Umm, give Wilco a second… he was in the audience seats a moment ago…’
He heard the footsteps. The characteristic stiff sound of leather shoes hitting concrete. A laid-back gait of a leisurely stroll. From beyond the gentle curve of the passageway, the figure appeared.
Long blond hair in glasses over a suit. His silly rhythm was the same as ever.
“Why this is… you’ve caught me at a terrible time.”
“…… Archess…”
“You really surprise me. To think you would come back. What’s more, with this timing.”
His hand held a beautiful glass. Imbued with intricate patterns, a cup with nothing off about it… yet his eyes were terribly taken by its fleeting beauty.
Noticing his eye line, Archess lightly held it up.
“Oh, this…? It’s the Sacred Demon Cup, apparently. As pretty as you’d expect.”
Wasn’t that the proof of the champion? But this man was defeated in Cross Flags, just like them.
“Why… do you have…”
“It is power. The Regalia concealing the strongest power in the history of this world. Dear Suzuran wouldn’t show it until the day of the finals, but… I was tipped off to it a number of years back. I had heard that the Sacred Demon Lord had put the gods to making it.”
It glimmered, even the fluorescent lamp’s light was refracted like he was peering through a kaleidoscope.
“I put together three plans to achieve my goal. The first… to win properly and upfront, become the Sacred Demon Lord and justifiably receive this glass. Well, that one was obstructed by none other than you, but…”
Not resentful in the slightest, he carried on without a care.
“The second… for when the first failed, or the cup wasn’t the sort of thing I was looking for, I made preparations to summon the evil god underground.”
Which meant, as he thought.
“So the evil god… really is.”
“Yes, truth be told, the evil god itself is not my objective. More of a preliminary step. It was all I could think of that could exhibit the same level of power as this Sacred Demon Cup.”
“… The third?”
“Why it is the simplest method of all. So downright idiotic, I didn’t need to give it any serious thought or effort. If the Sacred Demon Cup is what I’m looking for, and there is a chance… I just have to take it.”
When he plucked his finger across the edge of the chalice, a lovely tone resounded.
“My apologies, but everything I requested of you was a wasted effort. At the end of the end, the Sacred Demon Cup showed itself… and it contained enough power for me to achieve my objective.”
Archess sniggered.
“Even now, I don’t know what trick you used to establish coordination. But as Suzuran placed your rescue at her top priority… in order to conceal her own plan and to make sure we didn’t sense anything unnatural she held the final match as she normally would. The competing parties were Obliterating Industries and Elize Industrial. So it wouldn’t impede the progress of her tournament, she had no choice but to entrust this item with tournament management.”
“……”
What an oversight.
Even knowing the wretched state of his other strategies, he didn’t let his chance slip by.
“Good grief, Suzuran is quite the mean spirit. If she hadn’t been so stingy, if she had shown it at the start… I would never have needed to request life-threatening hard labor of you or your men. I wouldn’t need to take on any unnecessary risks that would invite such hostilities. It would have begun and ended without anyone the wiser.”
“… What is. Your goal?”

—Well then, let’s move on to tournament HQ’s commendation ceremony, and the crowning of a new Sacred Demon Lord!

Lena’s voice could be heard across the wall. Even beyond layer upon layer of cold concrete, her enthusiasm was amply conveyed.

— But before that.
— I have an important announcement for all of you.

Hideo felt something cold in her voice. This wasn’t the woman she showed to the public. He felt a reverberation similar to the one who struck him that night.
“… I’ve spent too long here. I must be going.”
“Wait…”
Hideo tried stepping in when a vehement shock assailed him. There was preparation required. A slight raise of Archess’ hand converted right into magic. That impact that exceeded even Wilco’s reaction speed caused him to see an illusion of the earth and the heavens swapped out.
“Ah… guh…”
“If you’re a shut-in, then like a shut-in, you should have just kept quiet in your house. If you hadn’t come to this city, my plan would have never been thrown awry. Lena wouldn’t have to be hurt. And you should have gotten off without any hardships… am I wrong?”
His voice grew distant. His footsteps grew distant. Where Hideo reached his hand, Archess’ back, the scenery, it was all swaying. He disappeared to the beyond like a mirage.
“……”
Had he lost again? So anticlimactically?
Without accomplishing a single thing everyone had risked their lives to entrust to him?
In that case… he really shouldn’t have come. It was all a futile struggle. All a wasted effort. If he had just hung his head in his Tokyo Apartment, would everyone have been happier?
‘… ster…! Master!’
A dream? No, he had been forced into a dreamy state of mind. He had dazed out, a few minutes perhaps.
‘Master!? Are you alright master!? Get a grip…!’
“Ww… Archess…”
‘He’s in the center of the stadium… but master, are you feeling okay…!?’
Wilco’s voice was a distant ring in his ears. He could barely move his fingers as a pain raced down his body making him wonder if every bone had been broken. His legs that had been so light a moment ago now felt like they weren’t his own.
Even so, Hideo pressed forward with an unsightly crawl.
‘Master…’
Her voice lacked her energy.
‘Master, would you have been better off if you didn’t meet Wilco…?’
What?
‘In the end, Wilco always fails to protect you when it really counts… during the Sacred Demon Grand Prix, and Cross Flags, and just now…’
What was she saying?
‘Maybe Archess is right… if you hadn’t met Wilco back then, you would never have been dragged into this… you wouldn’t have to lose… you wouldn’t have been shut up in that place… you wouldn’t have to go through this pain.’
“Stop…”
Hideo relied on the wall to stand.
It would all amount to nothing if he folded here. Right, he wasn’t alone. If he stopped now, the very fact he met Wilco would be left without meaning. The miracle of meeting here really would become meaningless, would it not?
Of course, it wasn’t like he could do anything. As Archess said, he was just a shut-in. But if he quit moving forward, surely everything he’d done would become a lie.
“I had… nothing… and you gave me the power to move forward… you’ve given me more than I deserve…”
He had to move forward to prove it.
‘…… Master…’
He heard the sound of racing footsteps from behind.
‘Minako! Over there!’
“Hideo!”
‘Master, it’s the officer…!’
And the sound of cars. The sounds of many hurried feet. In the place of Hideo who found it painful to turn, Wilco spoke.
‘Ah… everyone… they’re all okay!!’
“What about Hideo!? What happened!?”
That was the Colonel’s voice.
Hideo thought he would break down laughing. Truth be told, he was sure that should have been his line. Everyone was injured but still standing. Verrocchia and Hannibal he thought had dropped out first were still right as rain. And their partners too.
Thank god.
‘We ran into Archess and… he used some magic to…!’
Good grief, against such a foe, he thought he’d manage it alone.
The next instant his body suddenly felt lighter.
When he looked to the side, Minako was lending him a shoulder. No one there would tell him to rest. They had seen him trying to press forward. They were all men and woman heading for the same goal.
What a needless worry. He had comrades.
That’s right. This was nothing to take on alone. He would notice time again. Remember as many times it would take. He wasn’t in this alone. He had comrades in arms who would move forward with him.
“Now let’s go! Hideo!”
Minako nodded with a strong smile.
Hideo returned a strong nod so as not to lose.
“Wilco. Because I met you… we met everyone.”
‘Yes…!’
From their destination, Suzuran’s conversation with Archess came over the speakers.

 

 

“… What are you trying to pull?”
Suzuran asked. She stood on the stage in the center of the stadium prepared for the award ceremony. Before the two pairs who had fought a hard battle were… Lena. And Archess with the Sacred Demon Cup in his hands. The clamor of the crowd at this unrest didn’t seem like it would quell.
“… What a shame. I thought you were smarter than that.”
“You’re right. I do feel sorry to have to snatch away the prize like this.”
While Archess’s expression was that of a gentleman, Suzuran shook her head.
“Even if you do that, no one will recognize you as the Sacred Demon Lord. After you’ve done this, you won’t even be recognized as the King of the meager country you dream of.”
“Why yes. That was a joke, of course.”
Eh? Lena muttered, but he carried on regardless.
“I am here to atone for my sins, dear Suzuran.”
“Your sins…?”
“During the Demon World’s first invasion. The one who proposed something so exorbitant as expanding our territory to another world… was none other than me.”
“……!”
“But this world was already endowed with a race of high intelligence lifeforms called humans. It already had gods who watched over and protected them.”
“And those humans would continue foiling your plans time and time again.”
Shouki said, and he quietly affirmed it.
“Precisely. But… the worst of all was that you humans were… identical to us. Close enough for us to leave descendants.”
“… What do you mean?”
On Suzuran’s question, Archess looked around at the lines of faces.
“Not only human against human, now human against demon, there was now a new spark for new conflict. After Lady Fier stepped down from the seat of Demon Lord, I found new purpose in life, I devoted myself to removing those sparks. I continue to do so.”
The next thing that escaped his mouth was a sigh.
“… But there was no way it could be prevented entirely. By that time, our descendants had been scattered far too wide. The times pass by, and in the present day where such splendid concepts as peace and human rights are permeated, respected and guaranteed… I took after Judea and attempted to make a country for Demons as my newest endeavor.”
“And that was the Camdanian Civil War.”
Said Elize.
“Yes… but I don’t know how many attempts came before that. Every time I move, I lose the lives of many children who look up to me. Even so, I keep fighting thinking surely my efforts will be rewarded someday… but in the end, it’s hopeless. Humans can only unconditionally see demons who boast greater abilities than themselves as monsters. They are taken solely as a threat and never as an individual. They may be used for military purposes, but never accepted as a neighbor.”
He faintheartedly laughed.
“And… the battle in Camdania took its toll. To be perfectly honest, you see. I’m tired of it. All the children who’ve followed me from the old days are dead… right now Gabès is the oldest one you know? By this point I’ve come to realize my very efforts have become the spark for worthless conflict.”
“That’s… but there are still other ways…!”
“You really are kind, Suzuran. Yes. So I searched for other means. And I found one. A means to wipe away my sin from the root.”
He brandished his right hand over the Sacred Demon Cup in his left
Listening in on that conversation, Hideo and the others finally made their appearance. The audience watching over them seemed flustered by the wounds and unnatural aura surrounding those they were certain had long since left the city.
Nothing Archess first thing, Ryuuta raced up to the stage and pointed his Desert Eagle.
“… Archess, look behind me. That’s the end of the line. Admit your loss.”
The Colonel followed, dragging one bandaged leg behind him.
“It’s not only us… your men are all alive. You can still turn back.”
Archess seemed to receive a shock to his senses.
“… They’re safe…? All of them…? You held back that much… and still made it here…?”
“If you can get delighted over that.”
Elsia said.
“Then stop what you’re thinking. I told you it was a taboo. I recognized you because you said you didn’t want to give up. But… was that just a strong front?”
Her refreshing eyes turned cold.
“If you’re merely acting out of desperation, I won’t accept it.”
“… Unfortunately, Lady Elsia. I am not acting out of desperation. I deeply appreciate everyone’s strength and their consideration to do their utmost not to harm, however…”
He raised his head straight forward.
“To save them now… and to stop all future human and demon conflicts that would surely continue an eternity, those two cannot be placed on the same scales.”
A shining liquid welled up in the chalice Archess had held his hand over. Suzuran swallowed her breath.
“That can’t be… I mean, a Regalia doesn’t work if you aren’t chosen…!”
“I was chosen, Suzuran.”
“!?”
“I am not too knowledgeable in fighting, but I do dabble in these technologies. Perhaps because this was a tournament anyone could win, your security measures were naïve.”
Shouki and Ryuuta moved in tandem.
“Not on my watch!”
“Archess!”
And at the same time as well, Archess removed his hand from atop the cup and snapped its fingers. That was not a charm for the cup, it was a signal. The figures stood at the highest rung of the stadium. The Alhazan combatants who had slipped in with the crowd. They were all armed with guns to take an unspecified number of audience members hostage.
In that instant, everyone was forced to spectate whatever would happen on stage.
“No need to worry. I…”
Archess downed the drops of light gushing forth from the grail in one gulp.
Eventually… the chalice itself that had accomplished its role, as if melting away into the air, disappeared entirely.
“… I am simply going to return the world to the way it should be.”
He opened and closed his hand, perhaps testing its new limits. And he tried something out.
“…Looks like it really will work out.”
The more reassurance floated over his expression, the more anxiety came to those who couldn’t weigh his true intention. The Colonel spoke with ample danger in his voice.
“What are you going to do…”
“He’s going to call up the dark god.”
They all turned to Elsia’s composed voice. Meeko blankly spoke out.
“The dark god… is that what you said, young mistress. Not just any evil god?”
“Yes. Though it may sound the same to the humans. Isn’t that right, Dark Priest Barchess?”
“… As you presume, Lady Elsia.”
Elsia held her hand up at a smiling Archess. She didn’t open her book. Without holding back, she let the crimson light take flight as its power ordained it.
It hit against Archess’s palm with a clink. The light that had annihilated a single mountain collided and nothing more. It fizzled out without destroying anything at all.
Ryuuta muttered in terror.
“W-was that one… serious?”
The true demon princess let a cold sweat flow, she faintly swallowed her breath.
“Yes… that’s right. I’m honestly impressed. It’s amazing… so this is the Sacred Demon Cup.”
Meaning he had… attained such power that couldn’t be defied through physical means. More power than anyone present.
“U-ufu, ufufufuh… we did it, we did it we did it! Now it’s papa’s win! Papa, you won, right!? We did it we did it!”
Once she was certain of victory, Lena abruptly began frolicking like a small child.
“Now the world belongs to papa! It will be the world Papa longs for! A world where all of us can live in happiness! A happy country where no one has to be bullied! A happy…!”
“No, Lena. There’s no longer any need for that.”
The smile froze on Lena’s face.
“… Papa?”
“I am going to erase all demons from this world.”

 

 

Those unforeseen words. At the shock… for a brief while, no one could work their mouths.
“W… what are you talking about papa…? I mean we’re all demons, me and Linus and Gabès and Zazi… all of us!”
The sky grew dark. The weather was suddenly beginning to turn dubious. No, there were far too many clouds gathering for that… those who looked at the sky gulped dumbfounded.
High in the sky where Centeralle Building pointed, the darkness was beginning to spread. Eating its way in bit by bit, eroding the space, the azure sky was being hidden away by a deep and dark veil.
“To be more precise, I will erase all mana scattered about in the world. Those who were demon will become human. Magic will be lost… and the proper world of science. OF humans… what it should have been had I not spoken up on that day, it will return to its original form.”
He looked at Lena with solemn eyes.
“But there will be much death. If you’re lucky, you might be able to live as a human after this, but… a majority of the demons who rapidly lose the mana in their bodies will perish, unable to endure the shock.”
What sort of joke is this? Lena’s incomprehensive face shook left and right.
“Papa…? But why…? We all worked very hard… we all did our bests… everyone one of us did our very best to be happy… so why…!!”
“You should know well, Lena. I won’t hesitate to pay sacrifice for my objective.”
“……”
With her pitiful expression, the expression of a cowering little girl, Lena retreated, retreated. She fell onto her bottom.
“… Are you being serious? Archess”
Suzuran asked with a trapped look on her face. He replied with a gaze that didn’t lose to hers in its severity.
“I’m serious. And as a result… the pitiful demon children I’ve continued picking up won’t be born again. Those pitiful children picked up only to be used in war and then cast aside will cease to be. Those children who find nothing but despair in their lives and seek retribution against the humans will be gone. All those quarrels from a difference in species will be severed.”
“But… that doesn’t mean you have to…!”
“Then why! In the five years you’ve been Sacred Demon Lord, why haven’t you reached a hand out to them!?”
“…!”
Suzuran shrunk back at the first sight of fury from the gentle man.
“With so many comrades, such massive power! You’ve failed to even grope for the root of what you call sadness, with nothing but remedial measures taken half for the fun of it!”
“That… that’s…”
Suzuran’s words shrunk to a whisper with nothing to say back. Archess looked d own.
“… No. I’ve said a bit much… even if I say that. I understand this may sound like an outrageous tall tale to you. But… that’s why I will do it. I’m the only one who can. Don’t you think the source of it all… is worthy of shouldering the grand sin of their eradication?”
A figure swayed. When the turned to see, Meeko’s feet had touched the ground, her knees buckled, she collapsed where she was.
“Eh…!? Meeko…!?”
Suzuran held her up. Her expression was twisted in pain as she looked up at the sky swallowed by darkness.
“I see… kuh… what do you mean dark god… that there… is Ahriman……”
“… Right. That’s what they call it here…”
Even as she said it, this time Elsia staggered and Ryuuta supported her up.
“Oy, get a grip Elsia! Even you… quit joking around!”
“Have a look at it, Ryuuta… most feared in the demon world… the oldest and strongest, worst god of all… the god of all misfortune, all darkness, the forbearer of all evil gods… That Which Continues to Sleep.”
“Darkness again…!”
Elize spat out the words. A streak of light raced out directly from her. Right after which, the complexion of the Sacred Silver Spirit took a turn for the worst.
“… I felt… nothing! It’s just a shadow…!? But I definitely feel power…”
“What do you mean, Elize…!?”
As Shouki asked, she shook her head.
“It’s probably not that it has a separate body elsewhere, it’s not a trick… its real body is ‘shadow’ itself! A normal shadow that forms when you interrupt light! And yet it has powers…!”
His lips in a tight knot, Shouki raced over to Elsia.
“How do we defeat that!? Anything, any trivial hint! If you know something…!”
In contrast, Elsia simply weekly raised the edge of her lips.
“Defeat it, take it down… how stupid. That’s not the sort of thing it is… it’s over the moment it is called… it’s over the moment it wakes up… that’s why it’s taboo.”
A breath.
“Just as the strong draw one another… it seems to be more effective the stronger you are… the legends were right… but amazing… now that I can actually see it… this is…”
A peculiar sight. Like a single night-shaded curtain had been spread out over the sky. While a blue sky peeked out beyond it, close to the horizon, everything above a certain altitude was filled to the brim with darkness.
(I. See…)
Hideo recalled.
This was it. This sinister air was what he felt when he was shoved underground for the first time. The more they dug, the more they closed in on another world, the more the presence, the power of the one who resided there seeped through.
That was why Michelle who wasn’t a demon and didn’t have any mana was effected the least, making her the main deliverer for rations. Stealing magic would steal away abilities, so the others were constantly told to carry guns. When Michelle was busy, it was Zazi well versed in the gun who came down. And unlike the other weaker demons, Zazi alone restricted his time so he wouldn’t be poisoned…
Hideo hadn’t anticipated he would drag in the children who saw him as a father of all things. That was why his thoughts would always get stuck.
(No…)
That no longer mattered.
Maintain your mine. Get a grip.
Hideo lightly shook his head. Right before he could suspect that the shock from Archess remained.
“Kuh…”
Minako groaned at his side.
“Are you. Okay…”
“Y-yes… a little dizzy, but…”
(……)
This was bad. Hideo grew impatient. It wasn’t that the shock remained. The miasma was too strong. When he looked around, including those pointing guns at the audience, people were starting to collapse all over the place. He could hear the groans.
As the darkness spread, even the humans were receiving its influence. Okamaru’s voice was also touched with agony.
‘Mi… Minako, you must… get a hold of yourself…!’
“Yes… but what can we… do about that?”
She wheezed as she looked to the heavens. The sky was far too dark to deserve the name. Was Elsia’s statement that it worked most on the strong not limited to magic? Perhaps they were fatigued from the finals, but the colors of weariness were spreading across Elize, Shouki and Suzuran as well.
‘Master, what about you…?’
Ironically, he was the weakest, after all. Or perhaps, the most recent to come into contact with anything pertaining to magic at all. Aah, dammit, it was nothing but unknowns.
“Don’t worry… more importantly…”
‘Wilco knows…! She’s analyzing… researching… but Elize was right! All optical data recognized it as just a shadow! How are we supposed to…!’
It was no good. If his own body was in this state, Wilco couldn’t take what little energy he had to offer. But his head was heavy… strength-wise, Wilco would surely be near the top of the list, but he felt like he would be the first to have everything sucked away by the darkness…
(……)
The actual strongest, Meeko and Elsia could no longer move. Reputed demons like Ripple-Rapple and VZ were the same. Elize whose attack didn’t work glared at the sky, irritantly gritting her teeth… she had quit floating by now, her feet bound by gravity, and her hands following shortly after.
Even everyone who had overcome the harsh battles of the day and escaped were beginning to crumble down.
Elsia’s fine voice spoke out at the menace.
“… It will flow out from the city eventually… then that will be the beginning of the end… the darkness will devour everything…”
Her shoulders were given a strong shake by a pained-looking Ryuuta.
“Don’t give me that crap, Elsia! Where did your princess act take off to!? I ain’t gonna accept this, you’ve gotta have something!? Isn’t there at least one way!!?”
“How stupid… and where would you find it…? A light that strong…”
Light. He didn’t let that one slide.
A light strong enough to sweep away this darkness?
‘That’s crazy talk…! It’s even interrupted the sun, master! Where do we find a light stronger than…!’
“… Find it.”
‘Uwah… m-master…’
“That is your role. We made a promise… last night…”
To search even if she had to eat him. If she couldn’t find it, to concentrate all her wisdom to create it herself.
The only calm soul, Archess spoke.
“… I won’t let it go that far, Lady Elsia. It will be fine, now that I’ve obtained the power of the Sacred Demon Cup. This is a summons carried out by my power. Its limits are…”
A laugh mismatched with the situation resounded before he could finish.
“Ahahah… I see. So that’s how it is. In the end, Papa didn’t need me either… hah haa… then it doesn’t matter. It’s not like anyone needs me anyway.”
Lena…?
It was Archess’ voice. But it no longer reached. She had fawned over him so much it was labeled morbid dependency, but now she couldn’t hear his words.
(Wrong…)
She was presumably not dependent anymore. The support of her target Archess had already disappeared in her heart. Whatever shape it took, it was lost with the worst possible proclamation of death. And the shape of her heart was crumbling now that it had lost its supports.
With a smile of one who had lost herself, Lena produced something from her chest pocket.
“No, that’s…!”
Archess’ face immediately changed and Lena’s smile grew deep. She stood straight up as if the miasma was all a joke, showing it off with her cute announcer smile.
“Now then, my dear listeners! Does anyone know what this is!? That’s right! My adorable cellphone I introduced you all to two months ago at the opening ceremony.”
It was hopeless. She had completely snapped.
“But that’s just a joke… this is actually the detonation switch to a nuclear bomb.”

!!

“Stop it, Lena! We don’t need that anymore!”
Archess’s serious expression spoke volumes. But Lena didn’t stop. No one knew how to call out to her sudden change.
“But worry not, dear listeners! Back then… I said it was under us, but it’s actually really, really far down! So the people here won’t be blown away, I assure you! Please rest at ease in that regard!”
“Lena!”
Archess called out again and again, but she was completely in character. Her gestures, posture, use of words, she perfectly carried out the role she had been fulfilling up to this day.
“Why, you ask? Why that’s because the blast wave will all escape downwards! We prepared it as a very last resort to wrench open the door to another world! But take for instance…”
Her mouth was still smiling, she dangerously narrowed her eyes.
“Let’s say I pushed the switch here and now… out of this crowd. No, let me rephrase that. Not limited to this city, just how many life forms in the world will survive, I wonder. It is presumably impossible for the humans. For the non-humans, won’t it be quite pushing it without quite the rare nature? I mean, according to the Lady on the Platform, the dark god will devour it all.”
Lena’s smile as she looked around was cold.
“… Incidentally. Even if I leave it be, the demons will all die out. Right, papa? If you provide any unnecessary stimulation, you’ll piss off the dark god, and there will be no turning back. That’s why you excavated it so carefully by hand, right papa?”
“That’s right… so please take your hand off of…”
“And if instead of a shock you smash an entire atomic bomb into it, it will be incredibly angry, won’t it!? It will be so angry that forget lifeforms, the world itself will be obliterated, won’t it!?”
Archess lifted his hand. Just as he had done with Hideo. But this wasn’t the half-hearted act he had performed back then. His hand carried a definite intent to kill.
“… Put that away, Lena. Otherwise I will terminate you.”
“… You should’ve just told me you were going to murder me, papa. The bad girls who don’t listen all get murdered!”
Her finger on the button, she swayed back and forth, purposefully showing off how hazardous that was.
“Kirishima…”
Hideo said with a strong shake of the head.
Was he stupid? There’s no way such a voice would reach.
He had to tell her. Archess was no longer just a gentle father. He was serious.
“I told you. If you’re lucky you might survive. Even so, are you going to demand a more certain death from me?”
“The unwanted children get beaten and tortured and murdered. I’m an unwanted child. I’m an unneeded child. In the end, there was no place for me anywhere in the world, was there.”

c7-2

Wrong.
“That’s… wrong…”
‘…… Master…?’
That was definitely wrong. Anyone who thought so had surely just convinced themselves. If she had no place then where had she been born. If she was unneeded then why had she been born?
He had to tell her.
If no one would say anything, he had to tell her.
There was still a possibility. She could still get back. That darkness could surely be swept away. Right, there was still so much more. No one had died yet. He couldn’t let her be the only one two death took away.
The tournament had been so fun. Everyone was wishing for a happy ending. Everyone had caught sight of that happy end with their eyes. Yet even if they could see it, something was lacking.
Did they need a trigger?
(Right…)
Remember. You’re not alone anymore. Then there’s no need to cut in and save the world alone. But if he moved here… if he could interrupt Lena’s death, there could be a chance to turn it back beyond it.
“Kirishima…”
“Why don’t you just kill me. Papa. You saved me, you raised me, you praised me, you doted on me… and at the end of the end, you’re going to murder me. This is the best. I love you papa. Now hurry and murder me.”
“… Is that… so…”
Her smile that was finally falling apart had Archess’ voice chance from admonishment to resignation. The narrowly remaining intent to negotiate change to murderous intent in the truest sense.
“Kirishima…”
What had he come here for? He had gone in circles trying to get a redo at life, but unrewarded, scorned by the public, he was shoed to the depths of the earth only for Archess to tease him on his escape. And now here he stood.
Did everyone encourage, support and save him just for him to spectate!? That had to be wrong! It didn’t matter what happened before! It’d be a lie if he didn’t win here!

I just have to win where it counts!!

“…”
Hideo breathed in deeply, deeply to burst his own lungs.
And.
“Bye-bye, papa. And die, all you trash. The world who didn’t need me! A world of trash should just—”

KIRISHIMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA—!!

Time stopped for a moment. Everyone turned towards where they heard the voice.
But… no one could tell. Who was the owner of such a voice?
Not Minako nor the Colonel nor Ryuuta… not even Wilco right beside him. No, precisely because they knew him, they couldn’t believe.
The young man known as Kawamura Hideo put everything he had holed up, everything he had held down at his core to scream his mind with such force he would ruin his lungs.
And silence. No rustle. No groans. Hideo’s voice had taken it all in and only the reverberations remained. A moment of complete silence.
“Hah… hah…”
Gasping and wheezing, Hideo noticed.
(… I see.)
It was so simple. No one could be reborn. They all changed little by little over the course of a lifetime. To be reborn was an empty ideal. It could only come after death.
But to return was different, wasn’t it?
The childhood days anyone had. When he could scream like an idiot like no one was looking and run around wildly without restraint. Back when everything seemed so fun… he could at least recall and return.
And Hideo remembered.
By screaming like an idiot not caring who was watching. He recalled a bit of what he had screamed back then.

(Most important…!)
I gotta believe!!

“What is it, Hideo?”
When her smile had been so joyfully broken, Lena took a complete turn to glare at Hideo with a terrifyingly straight face. She could listen to her beloved Archess’ words, she could answer them, but her eyes had failed to see a thing… and now they were turned on Hideo.
“Suddenly crying out like that. For a shut-in, you know. This isn’t where you should be. This isn’t your time to take the stage.”
There was nothing to be embarrassed about. Yeah, he was just a shut-in after all, nothing more than a loser. He could only howl and cheat and be backbitten for false demon eyes.
But, that was precisely why… as the underdog, he could bark better than anyone.
Hideo put all his logic to work. The fragmentary thoughts surfacing in his head formed a single rail to the moment he could look upon his victory. A route that went by the name of screenplay.
Now the curtains had risen! All that was left was to act!

The play’s name, The Demon Eyes of Future Sight!!

“… You’re sure taking it slow, Kirishima. You still don’t get it?”
Hideo raised his face straight at her. His arrogant voice. His fearless smile. What the young man called Kawamura Hideo was showing for the first time, what no one in this city had any way of knowing, his true form.
A self lost by time. Who he wished he could be.
So Hideo whispered softly in his chest.

It’s been a while world! I’ve returned!!

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