Alchemuls: The Absolute Evil for My Hero Volume 1 Chapter 4 + Epilogue

 

Chapter 4: No Villain, No Hero

 

— You really pushed it there, you know that kid?
— Mia… Mia was… why couldn’t I stop her…
— When I first met you, I remember you were just as reckless. You haven’t matured in the slightest since then. From that moment you made it all the way to me, to avenge Gaimoon’s family…
— Nothing I did got through. The power you gave me… this suite, this mask, none of it… none of it could reach her…
— Don’t be so greedy. That was fine work for your first battle. You confronted Gaimoon’s daughter and returned alive. That’s a heroic feat no alter before you could accomplish. Not even me.
— Are you trying to console me… when you get down to it, this power is…!
— No matter how you swing it, this result was unavoidable. The sinner will one day receive their retribution. Those eight died as they were to die. I presume that this matter will have the Foundation try to restrain Gaimoon’s girl’s power. She won’t go berserk for a while.
— But that just means someday, Mia’s going to kill someone again. If I don’t have more, more power… if I had the same sort of alter power as Mia…!
— I told you. You were born with an antibody to alter cells. Even if you get a transplant, your body will reject it, and you’ll put your own life at risk. We’re not talking about some slim possibility. The probability of you becoming an alter is zero.
— Then how do I…
— An input interface mask, and output unit suit, the synthesis of them grants you the power of ‘absolute evil’, the Alchemuls System, ACM System for short. They activate with the ‘fear’ inside of you as the key. The reason being fear is the most primitive, the strongest impulse.
— How many times have I heard that… now’s not the time to listen to a lecture…!
— Start by taming your own fear. Confront your fear to maintain your ego. Do so, and the ACM system will acknowledge you as the ‘successor of Lord Helvenom’ and grant you power. The power that became why they called me the Alchemuls. You’ve yet to tame that power for your own…
— … You’re saying there’s still something more, with this suit’s power?
— Govern the weak alters. Become the evil of this town, Takeru. No matter what you may lose, as long as you can protect a single precious thing. As long as you wish for it, the possibilities are always open. What will you do?
— … Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll pull it off. If that’s what’ll save Mia—
I’ll become the Alchemuls of this town.

 

 

Kanon absentmindedly sat on her knees.
She had been brought to the Second Lord Helvenom, Okina Takeru’s residence.
After that, once everything was set up and the evidence was cleaned, after Takeru and Kanon slopped out of the back door, Takeru told her.
“If you return to the dorm at this hour, it’ll only make you more suspicious. Let’s return home for the time being. I’ll have to think about your treatment as well.”
Treatment. Hearing that word, Kanon finally came to realize she had learned too much. A secret she must never know. Lord Helvenom’s identity and objective, and the crime he committed.
In the end, would she be killed after all?
Whichever the case, it was clear she had gone where there was no return.
She was brought to a Japanese-style manor in the high-class residential district of the Meshie ward.
An overly sociable, kimono-clad beauty came out to greet her.
“It is a pleasure to be of your acquaintance, I have the honor of looking after this residence. My name is Fuwa Akemi. I’ll contact the dorm, so no need for you to worry. Oh my, just look at those clothes. Come now, please get into the bath at once. I shall prepare a change for you. When something bad happens, getting yourself tidy is always a good start.”
Pushed by Fuwa Akemi’s momentum, Kanon was pressured into a bath, stripped out of her grimy one-piece dress, and by the time she noticed it, she was dressed up in a yukata. It wasn’t as if that put her at ease, but she could feel her rigid heart soften a bit.
And now, Kanon was invited into a vast Japanese-style room. Tea left on a long table. To the side was a single elderly woman in a wheelchair.
“I heard the story from that kid. Pleasure to meet you, I’m Takeru’s grandmother Chiyo. Hope we get along.”
“Ah, good evening… I’m Sakurai Kanon…”
Akami had retreated into the kitchen to prepare tea-cakes. After going to his room on the second floor, Takeru showed no signs of coming out.
Warm steam rose from the teacup. But Kanon couldn’t find it in her to take it in her hands.
The killed Mizumachi Sawako. Those eyes of resentment the moment she died, even now it was burnt into her head, and she couldn’t get it out. Unconsciously, Kanon was gripping her rosario.
“Hmhmm, do alters nowadays offer prayers to the human god?”
When Kanon reeled in surprise, Hmph, Chiyo rung her nose.
“Don’t be so startled. Did I not say it? I heard the story.”
“M-my apologies… umm, is it strange… for an alter to pray to god…”
“Ah, that’s not what I meant. I was simply intrigued. At the very least, none of the first gen ever took an interest in human religion.”
Chiyo said, somewhat nostalgically.
“They believed in but one thing, the Lord of Alters presiding over Leviathan, Lord Helvenom. Only in this town’s incarnation of Alchemuls.”
“Lord Helvenom… Alchemuls…”
Kanon thought back to the question she got when talking with Tsumugi in the morning.
“Ah, umm, if you know it, could you tell me… what does Alchemuls mean? No matter where I searched, the word didn’t come up.”
“… Oh, the meaning?”
Chiyo took a sip of tea.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Eh?”
“For the alters who didn’t believe in god, I went and made it up. A new symbol was necessary to gather the alters. A new word worthy of Lord Helvenom. One of those so-called self-produced career things. Going with the tastes of the alters at the time, I even gave myself some grandiose name like Lord Helvenom. Haha, in this day and age, perhaps it’s what you’d call ‘edgy’?”
Aside from a taken-aback Kanon, Chiyo heedlessly sipped her tea.
This elderly woman before her eyes was that legendary existence, the First Lord Helvenom.
Okina Takeru’s claim to be the ‘second’ was no fabrication.
“I-if you’re the first Lord Helvenom, Chiyo-san… then that person’s also a powerful alter and…”
“Nah. He’s just a normal human. He didn’t even know I existed until six years ago, and he barely had any relations with alters. Just the sort of brat you’d find anywhere, that kid.”
“Just a brat…”
The one called himself Lord Helvenom was a young boy practically the same age as herself.
That young boy brought about a serious of incidents, even killing someone dear to save her.
“Why did that person… save me… I mean, to him, she was someone precious…”
“To further his goal.”
Chiyo unempathetically informed her.
“That’s how he’s been trained. Just as Gaimoon is set up to exterminate Malice, that kid’s been trained to sever his emotion and reason for the sake of his goal. Otherwise, he could never serve as the Alchemuls.”
“Goal…” Kanon timidly said. “That’s to save Gaimoon, isn’t it.”
The doctor had said it.
To the Second Lord Helvenom, the Second Gaimoon was a precious person, and someone he needed to protect. For Gaimoon’s sake, Takeru became the enemy of the Hero. Takeru himself conceded it as well.
But at the time, Takeru also said this.
To change Alter society. To bring victory over Gaimoon. That was Takeru’s objective.
“Please tell me… what is he trying to do? Where is he going to lead us?”
“Instead of me, don’t you think you’re better off asking him directly?”
Saying that, Chiyo directed her pure-white eyes at the ceiling.
Takeru presumably on the second floor still hadn’t come down.
Kanon had heard almost every word of his conversation with the doctor.
The emotions Takeru spat out were too distant from some absolute evil. She couldn’t think he was someone who couldn’t feel pain.
“There’s nothing in this world that’s absolute. When there’s no definite definition for evil or justice, there’s no way you could possibly top it off with ‘absolute’; even an elementary schooler knows that”
Chiyo’s words were almost a prayer to god, or so Kanon heard them.
“… Even so, that kid needed it for his goal. To become the illusion of an absolute evil.”

 

 

Takeru sat unmoving on the bed, all the while gazing at the television playing in the dark room. The screen showed Sawako’s half-burnt clinic.
‘At 20:00 last night, a clinician with a private practice Mizumachi Sawako was murdered, and her residence was set on fire. From the traces left at the scene, the police see it as an incident perpetrated by an alter, and investigations are underway. Questioning is being carried out on local high school girl who found the body.’
The news was reporting Sawako’s case as a major incident, and it was spreading across the net as well. The name of Lord Helvenom hadn’t come up yet. It appeared they were keeping it under wraps in fear of a panic.
But the first one on the scene, ‘local high school girl’ undoubtedly got the message.
His hand on the bed brushed up against something hard. The Ward Rabbit.
The documents he had seized from Mizumachi Sawako’s house were stacked high on his bed. Gaimoon’s clinical record, prescription drugs, the computer’s HDD, the bugged ward rabbit.
No matter how much time he had, it would never be enough to analyze it all.
Takeru stroked the back of the ward rabbit as he thought.
He wouldn’t have to worry too much about the police. The incendiary device had incinerated the evidence. Leviathan’s unmissable message thrust at them should disturb the investigation.
Therefore, there were three problems he had to consider.
The actions of the Foundation, Ecole/Sakurai Kanon’s treatment, and Gaimoon’s movements.

— She’s got us, hasn’t she? Me and you, we’ll protect Mia together.

Takeru didn’t know the state of affairs of the Foundation.
Still, the other side must surely have noticed the existence of an opposing power. How much did Mia know about it? In yesterday’s day, of at least all he could glean from their conversation, she didn’t seem to know too much.
The hint was hidden within these documents. No choice but to analyze them before the opponent makes a move.

— I’m the same as you. I want to save Mia. Not as a hero, I want her to live as a normal girl. Our wishes are the same.

What would he do about Sakurai Kanon’s treatment.
Naturally, he should let her live. It would be quite troublesome if she wasn’t alive. Takeru had yet to gain the trust of Arachne’s group. In such a situation, if Ecole disappeared, the suspicious levied at Lord Helvenom would become conclusive.
Even so, Kanon couldn’t accept Lord Helvenom’s identity or objective, and if she was to tell everything to her comrades, he’d have to cross that bridge eventually.

— I don’t want you to become Mia’s enemy. Now and here on, I want you two always smiling. Even if it’s just a sweet dream.

And the biggest problem was Gaimoon.
He hadn’t been contacted by Mia. As she was the first to find the body, she was quite likely still in police custody. The incident had become such big news. For at least a while longer, she’d be restrained at the station for police questioning. Was she being crushed by her anxieties right around now? Was she stricken with sadness? Was she seething in rage?
Absence of an enemy, Sawako’s death, how these components would influence Mia, and whether they would pull the trigger to a ‘rampage’ was unknown. But in a sense, there was no better time to defeat Gaimoon than now.
The time had finally come for him to appear before Gaimoon as an enemy.
His actions would have to be chosen with haste.

— No matter what evil you become, no matter what monster Mia becomes, I’ll always be your ally.

His thoughts could never stop. Like a shark that must swim until its breath ceases.
Do nothing but think. Think. Keep thinking.
At this very moment, that was the sole means Takeru had to maintain his self.
A tapping came at the room to the door.
Takeru stopped his hand stroking the ward rabbit.
“Come in,” I called out.
“Umm… it seems the tea is ready… how about it…?”
The one who entered was Kanon. Without turning, Takeru answered in Lord Helvenom’s tone.
“Leave me alone for now. There’s still something I must process.”
“… That’s right, after something like that happened…”
“Henceforth, the situation shall shift greatly. I’ll be having your group move soon.”
For some reason, he sensed Kanon swallow her breath.
Takeru continued to speak as Lord Helvenom.
“With the collaborator killed, Gaimoon’s war potential has been greatly depleted. There is no finer opportunity for an attack. Early tomorrow morning, I shall assemble Arachne and the others. Hurtle and Murtle went off on their own last mission, but this time, to repress them with Terreur, I shall go out onto the front line.”
He stuck an invisible mask of evil of his face.
The mash sunk deep under his skin, all the way to the depths of his heart, trying to assimilate.
The black skull. Carrying an expression of wrath, an evil skull.
“We’ll need some candidates for the perfect stage. I’ll have to search for where the police can’t enter, yet easily catches the peoples’ eye. Let me show you, Ecole. Before long, a new history for the alters shall begin. We will triumph over Gaimoon. Once that happens, I will become evil. An absolute, unwavering evil—”
A gentle warmth suddenly transmitted across Takeru’s back. Black hair like silk draped over his shoulders.
“… Please, just stop.”
Kanon at his back repeated in a sham voice.
“… I’m sorry, I, didn’t know anything… that you were fighting with such wounds… I didn’t know…”
“I’m not wounded in the slightest. Lord Helvenom is the ruler feared by alters. The ruler feels now…”
“In that case, why are you crying?”
“Crying?”
At that moment, Takeru finally noticed.
He noticed his knees were terribly soggy. A warp droplet crossed his cheek before falling in succession with another. From when were they flowing? Takeru couldn’t remember.
Sawako’s dead face that would continue to echo in his brain.
He had become self-aware. Of his feelings, his guilt, his weakness as a human.
You cannot show your true face.
You cannot expose your true heart.
A mask. You must reequip the mask on your heart.
Right now, you are not Okina Takeru.
You are Gaimoon’s enemy, Lord Helvenom…
“With that pain you shouldered, my life was saved… it’s because of the choice you took that I’m here alive… that alone is enough…”
Kanon’s hand touched Takeru’s own.
Pale, slender, the soft hand overlapped with Takeru’s own hands that had ended Sawako’s life.
No different from a human like his, a simply pretty hand.
“Truthfully, even now, I can’t accept it… what you’re trying to do, setting us up as evil and dragging us around for your own convenience. It’s selfish, you really are the absolute worse…”
Kanon spoke in a wrung-out voice.
And not as Lord Helvenom, she spoke to him as a single human.
“But still, I must shoulder this pain with you… until these eyes see the new future for alters you promised, and Gaimoon’s defeat, I’ll continue to fight as Leviathan’s ‘evil’ with you…! I mean, that part wasn’t a lie, was it?”
“… If you tell your comrades about me, I’ll be ruined. You can return to a life unconnected to ‘evil’ and live normally. You’re saying you’ll deny yourself that?”
“We’re accomplices. Whatever the reason, we killed Mizumachi Sawako. I’m already ‘evil’. I can’t return to a normal life… I don’t intend to…”
“I see.”
Was all Takeru said.
Accomplices. Not comrades, or friends. Those who shared the same crime.
Takeru was aware of his own weakness. He realized his own weakness in feeling saved by those words.
He turned back.
Right behind him, Kanon’s eyes were red as she opened her elegant lips. She didn’t look the slightest bit evil, to that normal girl the same age as him, Takeru sent a powerless smile.
“… I’m Okina Takeru. I’ve never introduced myself like this, have I?”
This wasn’t a corpse, it was Takeru’s voice.
A time later, Kanon forcibly returned the smile.
“Sakurai Kanon. I finally got to meet your real face. But why are you speaking formally?”
“I’m younger than you, Sakurai-senpai.”
“Sen… pai…”
After ruminating, Kanon burst into laughter. She answered while laughing through her tears.
“How strange, to think I’m that Lord Helvenom’s ‘senpai’…”
“When it comes to legends, take off the mask, and that’s what you get.”
Takeru, Mia, and all the alters lived wearing a mask.
Even so, not one person could live wearing it all their life. If they forgot their real face, then surely they’d forget all sorts of other things.
“… I’ll contact Arachne-san and the others tomorrow morning. There’s something I want them to do.”
“… And what’s that?”
To an anxious Kanon, Takeru strongly nodded.
“I wasn’t wallowing in desperation back there. I was simply considering the optimal hand.”
Takeru said.
“So let’s put one. One of those battles between justice and evil—”

 

 

By the time she noticed it, the morning light streamed in through the reception room window.
When she awoke, Mia was wrapped in a blanket. She must’ve fallen asleep on the sofa at some point. A night had passed since her questioning at the station. She had been held up as the first on the crime scene, and someone who knew the victim well.
Clip, clap, she heard the boisterous sounds of feet from the hallway. The officers raised angry yells as they raced around. But Mia listened to it as someone else’s business as she gazed at her fist.
“… Sawa-chan is… dead.”
That fact didn’t carry a sense of reality.
For the past night and now, nothing but that message stuck to Mia’s brain.
Written on the waiting room wall, that message that could be taken as a declaration of war.
By the police’s words, some clinical records, drugs, the computer’s hard drive, various things had been carried off. Thanks to that, no evidence that Mia was Gaimoon remained, and naturally, the police didn’t notice Gaimoon and Mia, or Sawako’s relation.
Still, when Mia heard those words she reached a conviction.
Sawako wasn’t murdered by some thrill killer or a passing kaijin.
The culprit knew Sawako was Gaimoon’s collaborator. That’s why they killed her.
In that case, it would mean Sawako’s death was unmistakably Mia’s fault.
She held anger towards the alter. Sorrow as well.
But the greatest thing constricting her heart right now was an extraordinary sense of helplessness.
Even with Gaimoon’s power, she could never protect the precious people right beside her. Now, and six years ago.
“What Hero of Justice…”
She couldn’t even shed tears. IT felt like a hole had been left gaping in her chest.
“I can’t protect anything, not a single thing can I…”
Malice would always visit with no forewarning. And with no mercy, it would steal those precious people from Mia. Her maman, and Sawako too. If she was a hero, now was the time to make a stand.
But Mia couldn’t see who she was supposed to fight. She couldn’t know who to swing these fists at.
“Lord Helvenom…”
Mia muttered the name carved into that message.
The founder of Calamity Co. Leviathan, Lord Helvenom.
Once the incarnation of evil in this town, and Gaimoon’s arch-nemesis she had defeated three years ago.
The police seemed to be thinking of it as a means to divert the investigation, but Mia couldn’t help but think of that message as a declaration of war towards her. She felt in it an ominous will to thoroughly crush her.
Mia held up her smartphone as if clinging to it. No contact from her childhood friend either. Had he yet to see the news? For now, she very much wanted to hear Takeru’s voice.
“Take-chan… Sawa-chan died… what am I supposed to do…”
The moment she muttered it, the phone in Mia’s hand vibrated.
A call from a withheld number. Doubt in her mind, Mia took the call.
“… Hello?”
‘Did you see my message, my beloved hero?’
She heard from the speaker a muddled, cold tone.
Mia couldn’t move as if she was frozen to the spot. She inquired in a shaking voice.
“… Who is this?”
But no response. She couldn’t even hear the sound of breathing. In her panic, Mia asked another question.
“… Answer me. Are you the one who killed Mizumachi Sawako?”
‘Look at the news. That should answer your question.’
“The news?”
Mia hurriedly switched on the TV in the waiting room. When she changed to a local channel, it was playing a relevant news report.
Perhaps reporting at the scene, the reporter stood on a familiar roadway, gripping the microphone with a nervous look on her face. Over the great many onlookers, the camera frantically tried to focus on the building behind the reporter. Something had been scribbled over the surface.
A symbol of two snakes coiled around a crescent moon.
‘Yes, I’m here at the scene. As you can see, graffiti such as these have been sighted on buildings all over Tsukimori City. According to our specialize, this marking is exceedingly close to the crest once used by Calamity Co. Leviathan, and police are investigating if this has any relation to the murder of a private clinician last night in the Teiko Ward…’
Mia now knew the reason the police station was so flurried.
She also knew this was no mischief. The other party across her phone informed her.
‘Tomorrow, Seven pm, I’ll be waiting for you on the rooftop of the Tsukimori MAT Building. Until then, content yourself with imagining. The forms of the children who will cry at Mizumachi Sawako’s death. The forms of the people who shall cower at our terror.’
Mia looked at the TV as she quietly listened to their words.
All the onlookers projected back looked fearful. They feared an encroaching evil.
“What’s your name?”
The other party responded as if singing a song.
‘… You should know it. I’m your enemy, Gaimoon.’
The call was abruptly cut.
Mia tucked her phone away and spat out a great big breath.
The sorrow and the rage hadn’t gone away yet.
But that unremedied helpless alone has faded.
She has an enemy she must fight. An evil she must defeat.
In that case, now is the time to stand. Mia muttered to herself.
“— Gaimoon, go.”

 

 

The Tsukimori MAT Building was the name given to a high-rise close to completion.
It was a fifty-story building, and numerous major corporations and business ventures were scheduled to set up offices inside it. Apparently, the idea was to root it as a new center for industry in Tsukimori City.
Perhaps because it was already close to completion, a majority of the construction workers had gone home by sunset.
The full moon in the sky shone white to a terrifying extent.
“Does he really plan on going up against Gaimoon directly, that black skull?”
Lemeo’s eyes shifted nervously as he licked his lips.
At present, Ecole, Lemeo and Hurtle were on standby in the building’s first floor lobby.
Arachne and the others were on a different team, leaving Leviathan’s symbol here and there across town. Ten minutes to the ‘decisive battle’. The plan was to meet up before that.
“In the first place, isn’t this way too sudden? Just messaging us this morning to scribble out Leviathan’s mark. Since when did we turn into mischievous brats?”
“Hurtle… wanted to sleep more… I hate that guy.”
Hurtle discontently tapered her lips.
Ecole attempted to mediate them.
“… Let’s try and believe. At the very least, that person won’t break his word on his goal. His will to defeat Gaimoon is no lie, I think, so…”
“? Ecole-nee-chan, did something happen?”
“… No, nothing.”
Ecole looked up at the dim ceiling.
She thought of Lord Helvenom standing many stories above.
She thought of the figure of the young boy, wearing an evil mask, trying to hold an unreasonable confrontation.
Ecole had ended up learning. Just how brittle the warmth of an everyday is, and how easily it crumbles away. In the time she thought she was to be a victim, before she realized it, she had easily circled around to the side of the assailant.
She was already standing on the stealing side. She would never be able to escape this sin.
The moon continued to shine as dizzying as ever. On justice, on evil, it illuminated them all equally. The time for the battle would soon be upon them.

 

 

The roof of Tsukimori MAT Building was made into a helipad.
Takeru stood at the center of the descent point where a giant H was drawn out.
The suit he wore and a crows-wing-colored coat. But he didn’t wear his mask.
The mask and suit he put on were, so to speak, the door to reach Lord Hlevenom. The basis of all of it was Takeru’s will, and the Alchemuls System—the ACM System.
Akutsu Chiyo had developed it, a sacred sword to crown the Lord Helvenoms of generations to come. The means for Lord Helvenom’s power of Alchemuls were all implemented into this set.
‘The ACM System is a sort of self-expanding AI. AI it may be, but it’s not got a will like those ones you see in cheap SF movies. Imagine it like a memory expansion. The memory of the brain called Okina Takeru is linked up to an external network containing my thoughts and memory, does that make it simpler?’

Six years ago. With her crimson hair swaying, her standing form brimming with vitality, Akutsu Chiyo told him so.

‘If you use the ACM System, then perhaps someday, you’ll gain power rivaling my own. But don’t forget. Whenever you utilize the system, the system will be perpetually judging you. When you peer into the abyss, the abyss peers back, they say. If you want your wishes granted, first try and master this one. Otherwise, you’re never going to be able to kill me.’

At first, he intended to kill Chiyo, the First Lord Helvenom.
To take revenge for Mia’s mother, and Mia.

The father he lost at a young age had been a police detective charged with alter investigations, and a few of his memos had been left around Takeru’s house. After Mia left, he relied on those memos to continue the investigation, and arrived at the First Lord Helvenom.
A crossroads in Tsukimori City. It was there that Takeru first came into contact with the red skull.
Of course, an elementary school student had no way of matching the immense power of the lord of alters. And yet the First Lord Helvenom had taken an immense interest in Takeru.
Right around that time Akutsu Chiyo had been searching for someone who carried her own blood.

‘If they want to inherit my power, they’ll need a caliber great enough to inherit my blood, after all.’

The First Lord Helvenom—Akutsu Chiyo said, and happily gave Takeru the suit and the mask, the Alchemuls System.

“If you want to defeat me, you’ll have to tame your own fear. Once you can do that, you might just become someone who surpasses this Alchemuls.”

But in the end, the First Lord Helvenom faced defeat at the hands of Gaimoon.
Takeru looked up at the night sky.
The pure-white glimmer of the moon would soon be hidden by a passing cloud. The coat he wore over the suit made a flapping sound as it fluttered. It seemed the winds were picking up a bit.
With the very power of evil he obtained to avenge Mia, he would be opposing her.
The key that opened the ACM System door, ‘Memories of Fear’.
As he was now, Takeru was in no scarcity.
Attacked by alters, Mia lying unconscious on the bed. Running away from home for revenge, the culprits, the three kaijin he met wandering the city, the First Lord Helvenom who came for them with the form of a red skull, the returned Second Gaimoon and the Meteor Seminar tragedy she brought about, the murdered students, the burning building, himself not able to do a thing. Yesterday, the dead face of Sawako, who he stabbed with his own hand. Sawako’s blood pool, spreading wide across the linoleum floor.
It was all for what he had lost to this moment. And for what he would lose hereon.
Takeru put on the mask with the shape of a black skull.
Sensing him equip it, the startup message displayed over the visor.

I am Alchemuls.
I do not forget.
I do not forgive.
Quiver and wait for my coming.

As if to redefine who it was that put it on.
It was a composition meaningless to the system itself, but that was precisely why it hammered a strong wedge into the wearer’s chest.
Takeru walked down the heliport and stopped by the edge.
The night Tsukimori City he could see across the see-through visor. The streets painted in gaudy neon were now cowering. They were cowering at an approaching shadow of evil.
“… Hurry up, Mia.”
Takeru looked up at the sky. While he wasn’t looking, the moon had been hidden by clouds.
“Your enemy is right here. Come and see the evil you’re supposed to fight.”
Natural enemy of evil, Gaimoon.
Imagining the figure of that white rabbit, Takeru thought.
How might I blow away the moon?

 

 

Omou Mia—Gaimoon leapt from building to building as she made for Tsukimori MAT.
The transmission device in her mask had been cut. Usually, Sawako would issue out orders, but now she had no one to support her.
Mia was alone. In the truest sense, she was on her own.
But this was by no means revenge. She wasn’t going to fight for the dead.
It was Justice. She would fight for justice.
Gaimoon stopped. Her destination point, Tsukimori MAT was in sight.
She gazed up at the skyscraper towering over the city. The building she was on at the moment was ten stories. The rooftop of Tsukimori MAT was more than forty floors away.
In the first place, Tsukimori MAT was still under construction. It was hard to imagine the electricity was running. What’s more, there was a possibility of alters lying in wait inside.
So there, Gaimoon thought a moment.
The building’s windows were placed at set intervals, and they were equipped with ledges.
A large deep breath.
Gaimoon leapt straight towards the building.
Shaking off gravity to hurl out her body, Gaimoon collided with the building wall. Her fingers caught the slightest protrusion of a window ledge. Immediately dragging her body up, she rested her legs on the ledge.
Her exquisite sense of balance kept her upright without difficulty.
And immediately came her next action. A fence, a handrail, or perhaps a water pipe as a foothold, Gaimoon nimbly clambered up the high rise building.
The white moon reflected back in her eyes. Watching it hide away behind a passing cloud, Gaimoon placed her hand on the edge of the helipad.
Beyond it, her enemy. An evil to defeat.
Gaimoon shook her body up and down before delivering a powerful kick to the wall.
Her body spun with her hands at the axis. Releasing her grip, Gaimoon shot up in the air, drawing a parabola in the air like a gymnast.
Like that, her body rose onto the pad, landing her right in the center of it.
A single man sat by the edge.
He wore a coat, the color of crows’ wings. With his back directed at her, he didn’t attempt to turn.
Gaimoon asked.
“… I presume you’re the one who called me.”
The man wearing the crow-wing suit stood.
In that instant, the scream of the world came to Gaimoon’s ear.
Her eyes couldn’t catch it. It wasn’t as if the man’s form had changed.
But Gaimoon’s nerves perceived the abnormality of the man before her eyes.
Hostility like a sharp blade. Malice that made her hairs stand on end.
As if a ferocious field of fear was being generated with this man at the center.
“Have you ever wondered if we’re a form of symbiosis?”
The man asked back.
No heat, no emotion, the voice of a corpse.
“Both me and you, we can’t live on without someone to fight. Detesting one another, exchanging blows, we exist in this world through dependence on the other. Such is the true identity of our relation. Now what have you to say of such a fate?”
The man’s words held no anger. Sorrow was a dream.
It was as if he wasn’t of this world, an existence like a ghost.
A breath of wind blew.
After a momentary stillness, Gaimoon quietly answered.
“I don’t depend on you. We’re far too different, me and you—that’s why,”
The clouds slowly pass. Without the slightest sliver lost, the full moon peeked out its face.
“I’ll end you here and now.”
The man turns. For the first time, Gaimoon sees his face.
It’s the same as she remembers, an empty skull.
It’s not the red one, a jet-black skull this time.
“Good evening, Gaimoon. I’ve been waiting for you, my beloved hero of justice.”
The black skull calls out. So Gaimoon speaks the name of the black skull.
“Good evening, Lord Helvenom. I’ve been searching for you, the source of evil I must defeat.”
Lord Helvenom.
Leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan, a secret order of Alters Gaimoon once defeated.
Was he the same as the one she defeated three years ago? Someone else? She couldn’t tell.
All that was certain was that this black skull was an uncanny existence deserving of the name Lord Helvenom—the absolute evil.
Lord Helvenom bombastically spread out his hand.
As if to welcome his enemy Gaimoon.
“Now, won’t you accompany me, Gaimoon? To the proper conclusion of good and evil.”
A sound roared out as if to tear through the sky.
as if lifted up on cranes, the form of multiple helicopters showing face from below.
Slipping into the backlight of the helicopters, Lord Helvenom’s body disappeared for a moment.
Each craft carried the mark of a television station. They were news copters.
“… Did you blow the whistle?”
“Do you know the ratings they got for the bus jack the other day? To the people, your fight with the alters is the finest show. The more spectators the better, right? Now have a look over there.”
Lord Helvenom indicated the opposite building.
Like a live show was being held, a crowd of audience-like people had gathered.
“You mean to tell me this fight is a show?”
“Indeed.”
“And this stream of incidents was a buildup to this show?”
“Of course.”
“… Who killed Mizumachi Sawako?”
Lord Helvenom placed a hand to his chest in an exaggerated motion.
“Naturally, that was me.”
“… I see.”
Until she came here, there were a mountain of things she wanted to ask.
But those questions didn’t matter anymore.
What she would do was already decided.
“—You alone, here, now…”
Gaimoon clenched her fist.
Electricity released from the cells across her body, contracting muscles, condensing power.
Approximately six meters to Lord Helvenom. He was sufficiently within range.
Gaimoon placed a wish into her fist. She put in a prayer.
“—I’ll bury you!”
The fist was released.
With that momentum, the electromagnetically accelerated cluster of ‘electric bullets’ shot from her fist.
Formed from Alter cells, a total of twelve biological bullets, impossible to follow with the eye.
The speed of the bullets was great enough to breach the atmosphere, even the sturdiest kaijin was helpless. To add to that, the electric shock that came with them. No kaijin had endured a followup attack after taking one of them on.
Even so, Gaimoon remained warry.
As she shot, she was already moving into her second motion.
The greatest chance was the enemy’s stance as they avoided the bullet. Would they duck or jump to the side? Whatever the case, the moment they avoid it births the largest chance. There, she would hammer in a kick with all her might.
No need for unnecessary thought.
Here now, reliable bring down—
The next instant, a sharp something tore into Gaimoon’s cheek.
It took a beat to realized it was a biological bullet hit back.
“Did you think I couldn’t see through your bullets?”
Before she realized it, Lord Helvenom’s had gripped a cylindrical weapon in each hand.
While at a glance they resembled tonfas, they were furnished with bizarre complex mechanisms. Rather than tonfas, they could be seen as black claws.
Her bullets let off smoke rolling across the floor. No way, Gaimoon was taken in shock.
You mean to tell me he hit them all down with those tonfas?
The deviation born in her thoughts. That was the chance.
Lord Helvenom approached before her eyes.
Gaimoon abruptly took on a defensive stance.
Right after she crossed her arms in front of her chest, an explosive impact assailed her, mercilessly blowing her back. No time to even exhibit the strength of her legs, without any course of action, she rolled along the floor.
Gaimoon lifted up her body, short of breath. The pressure coiling about her made it difficult to move her body as she wanted. She was being dragged into her foe’s rhythm.
Lord Helvenom readied his pair of black fangs.
In her eyes, it truly was the huge dragon trying to swallow Tsukimori City that she saw.
“—Bear witness and tremble at my form, people of Tsukimori.”
Lord Helvenom shouted. In the voice of a corpse, as if holding deep-seated resentment.
Perhaps noticing that, the audience on the opposite building began to direct their eyes his way.
“My name is Lord Helvenom, the ruler of this town, the leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan!”
Lit up by news copters, the two opposing figures projected back at them.
Gaimoon slowly stood, having recovered from the impact.
“Don’t make light… of this town’s justice, Lord Helvenom!”
And Gaimoon rushed out. To take down evil. To take revenge. Charing her body with her own mayhem.

 

 

Around the time the battle between Gaimoon and Lord Helvenom had begun.
The forms of officers clad in assault suits were infiltrating the MAT Building lobby.
These men field team of the Tsukimori City Police HQ Special Police Force.
Gripping automatic pistols, readied with small bulletproof shields, they cautiously advanced through the floor.
“This is First Unit, indoor evacuation staircase clear.”
“This is Second Unit, outside evacuation staircase clear.”
“This is Third Unit, special evacuation staircase clear.”
Opening the doors to the emergency stairwells, the members rushed up the steps one after the next.
This building had three sets of stairs. With ten member a group, they split into three teams, each aiming for the top floor on their own.
Ten minutes after rushing in.
The first team that had ascended the first emergency stairway had stopped in their tracks.
“What is… this…?”
The way ahead had been knit shut with threads, sealed with a giant spider’s web.
A vigilance raced between them. There were a number of past precidents where an alter used spider silk as a weapon. This was undoubtedly a trap set by the enemy.
“This is First Unit, relaying to all teams. Spotted spider web that is presumably an enemy trap. Now moving to disarm trap. All teams keep wary.”
The platoon chief relayed the message over the radio. There was no response.
“What’s wrong? All teams, someone respond.”
“No one’s listening to you.”
At the voice suddenly raised from behind, he turned around startled.
There was a squid alter, Ikaruga.
“I was following right behind you the whole time. You never noticed?”
“All units, fire!”
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Ikaruga laughed.
“Watch your head, they say.”
Lured in by those words, a few members looked up.
Right after, an ear-rending ultrasonic wave assailed them.
Stuck fast to the ceiling, Ecole descended with her wings spread wide. Ikaruga stretched out tentacles to bind seven of the members.
With the radio in her hand, Ecole informed her comrades.
“This is Ecole, Ikaruga, indoor emergence stairway suppressed. Report situation.”
“This is Lemeo and Hurtle, outdoor emergency stairway suppressed. Nothing to report.”
“This is Murtle and Arachne. Special emergency stairway suppressed. All hostiles incapacitated.”
Tossing aside the squad members, Ikaruga shifted his gaze like a predator gazing at pray. Ecole spoke without delay.
“The order was to not take their lives. For now, it’s to restrain them, Ikaruga-san.”
“… Yeah, yeah. Orders, orders. Nabbing away the tasty meal, leaving us to get rid of the bothers, he’s a harsh one, that Blackvenom-sama.”
“The fact we won’t be able to accomplish much, even if we get together’s already been proven.”
“And if gathering’s not going to do it, you’re going to tell me Blackcenom-sama will? That’s quite the self-confidence there. It’s a pain, wouldn’t it be faster if we just went and launched a surprise attack on Gaimoon ourselves.”
“Not happening. Our mission is to defend this point.”
“Girly, you’re quite up for it this time. Something on your mind?”
“… Not at all.”
Ecole shook her head. She grasped one of the squad member’s collars.
“… Let’s meet up with the others. We can’t let anyone get in the way of Gaimoon and Lord Helvenom’s fight.”

 

 

Mixed in with the new copter, Lord Helvenom’s ear picked up the sound of a different sort of chopper. That was likely a police helicopter. Did they board the snipers to take aim at him? From the start, Tsukimori MAT was the highest construct in the area. If they wanted to secure a vantage point, their only option was to use an aircraft.
But thanks to the crowd of news copters, the police copter shouldn’t be able to approach. Even as they gave an evacuation order, it wasn’t heard out. For they were also under the rule of Terreur.
The precious witnesses of this stage of good and evil must not be removed from the scene.
He had no intent to permit any intruder in this strife.
For this was a stage for Lord Helvenom and Gaimoon alone.
“—Hyah!”
With a single cry, Gaimoon slipped into his bosom. Defending from her outstretched fist with his right Muls Impacter, he used the impact to redirect the blow. The enemy’s stance crumbled. In the motion of pulling the weapon back in, he swiped it in a straight line at the hero’s torso.
But the Muls Impactor swung emptily. Gaimoon took distance once again. Hit and run tactics, for a while now, Gaimoon had repeated this attack pattern.
“If you keep running around, you won’t strike me down, Gaimoon.”
He tried provoking, but Gaimoon showed no reaction.
Keeping her body stooped over, she calmly, carefully examined his movements. If you looked at it the other way, one could say she was fearful of him. Her emotions were functioning. While it seems she was enduring Terreur, the pace of her movements had fallen. As long as she felt emotion, it was impossible to avoid it entirely.
Unlike three years ago. For Gaimoon, and for Lord Helvenom.
In Takeru’s brain, the memories from back then were carved in. In the Alchemuls System—The ACM system as well, the battle data of Gaimoon from back then had been recorded.
At present, Takeru’s consciousness was tuned to the ACM System.
From past to present, it used the vast combat data collected to calculate the optimum action, tactic, reflecting that in the suit’s functionality to support him.
Takeru couldn’t acquire the power of an Alter like Chiyo.
Only through the suit’s inner muscle regulated by the ACM System, ordering around the information sent into his brain through the mask, could Takeru finally compete with Gaimoon. He could become her enemy.
Lord Helvenom readied the Muls Impactor in each hand, thrusting out both fists. Having gained kinetic energy, the tips of the impactors emitted shockwaves.
A stooped over Gaimoon immediately formed a biological shield over her right arm. The surface of the living shield bent, or so she thought, when it fell to pieces in the blink of an eye.
the moment Gaimoon’s upper body staggered, Lord Helvenom leapt.
His leg strength expanded by the suit’s inner muscle closed the gap in an instant.
Without hesitation, he lowered a Muls Impactor at Gaimoon’s stomach, but before that could happen, Gaimoon’s stature was wrenched to face left.
Evading the Muls Impactor, she aimed a kick at his right wrist. Carrying on as he expectedly dodged that, her leg letting off electric sparks stuck into Lord Helvenom’s chest.
Detecting the impact, the suit immediately generated anti-impact gel, dampening the force of Gaimoon’s blow. Even so, it wasn’t as if there was no damage.
Stepping back, Lord Helvenom endured a groan. To make it so the damage wasn’t perceived, he pat against his chest as if to brush off the dirt.
At that moment, At that moment, a loud firing sound resounded from below the building. Continuing on from that, breaking class. Was it a police copter, or the squad breaking in? even now, Ecole and the other alters’ resistance in the building unfolded.
“You sure you don’t have to worry about your comrades, Lord Helvenom?”
Gaimoon asked testingly.
Lord Helvenom endured the pain, forcedly holding out his arms.
“Are those the words of one who’s killed as many alters as yourself?”
“I’m not fighting in order to kill someone.”
Gaimoon declared without hesitation.
“I’m fighting to shake off sorrow. That is Gaimoon’s Justice.”
Inside the mask, Lord Helvenom, Takeru caught a glimpse of Omou Mia.
That’s why Takeru was conscious of it.
Mia’s heart hidden away by the mask. Imagining her emotions, Lord Helvenom strung together his words.
“Meaning that is the limit of your justice, Gaimoon.”
“—What do you mean?”
They exchanged words, their combat stances undeterred.
As a glare was shared, the dialogue continued.
“Your justice is a justice that depends on another. A justice that parasitizes off another’s anger. You are unable to fight on your own emotions.”
“… Justice is a power to save someone threatened by evil. I’ll never let my own anger drive my body. I won’t let rage cloud my eyes.”
“What justice can one who entrusts her own will to others pursue? You simply need others as an excuse for you to fight. Using everyone around you as an excuse, you just want to get revenge on alters.”
Gaimoon’s arm twitched.
More, more. Lord Helvenom pressed on further.
“No, in the first place, even the act of vengeance wasn’t your decision. Even if your dear family, your comrades were to be killed, you wouldn’t swing a single fist at the enemy.”
“… Wrong.”
“Don’t let anger drive your body? You make me laugh. That means you don’t sympathize with the plight of the weak. You’re simply averting your eyes from the monster within you.”
“Wrong.”
“Your justice can’t save a thing. You destroyed Leviathan, stole hope from a great many alters, and failed to protect the people you hold dear. You’ve done nothing but destroy. Me and you, nothing’s changed at all.”
“I’m saying you’re wrong!”
Gaimoon howled as she raced forward.
Her levelness had been chipped. In that case, it was simple to take her on.
Gaimoon easily brushed aside the impulsive fist she unleashed.
No need to even depend on the ACM System. Lord Helvenom thrust a Muls Impactor into Gaimoon’s shoulder. The shockwave fired from the tip caused her to raise a groan.
“What’s wrong. Your revenge is right here.”
A roar that couldn’t be classed as a voice echoed.
Gaimoon blindly tried to kick Lord Helvenom’s stomach, but without a moment’s delay, he blocked it with crossed arms. Going right on to grasp that locked leg, he tossed Gaimoon aside.
Even as she collapsed to the floor, Gaimoon thrust out her right fist. Surging lightning. This was the unmistakable stance to fire her Lightning Bullet. Only a slight distance to Lord Helvenom, impossible to evade. But, “There’s a limit to how many of those biological bullets you can generate. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” The shot was a bluff. Her true aim was a chop with her left hand to his right flank.
Reading that, Lord Helvenom defended his own right side with his Muls Impactor.
The vibrating flame deflected her hand. Defending against her real attack, Helvenom launched a consecutive blow into her undefended stomach. With a groan, Gaimoon gasped on the floor.
“Aah… uwaaaaaaah!”
No matter what mask of justice she wore, it was Omou Mia inside. Actually a crybaby, cowardly, Omou Mia. Her anger and sorrow at Sawako’s death was reliably stealing from Mia her power as Gaimoon.
That was precisely why now was the chance to defeat Gaimoon.
The finest chance to rip the mask away from Omou Mia.

“Gaimoon, have you ever heard something like this”

Lord Helvenom asked, as he poured another blow onto Gaimoon’s shoulder to thwart her attempt to rise. The sensation of striking her childhood friend remained in his hand.

“The transformation one achieves through alter cells is carried out through the transformer’s will. The form of one’s alter cell-formed external organs is a symbol of their own aspirations, and their trauma personified. To summarize, an alter cell form is inseparably linked to our spirit.”

Gaimoon had finally been cornered to the brink of falling off the helipad to the ground below. A followup Muls Impactor thrust to her chest. Gaimoon’s white body collapsed face-up, as everything above her shoulders was thrown into the air.

“Meaning one could call an alter’s external organs their very spirit laid bare. Destroying the external organs amounts to no less than folding their will. Now then, here is the question, if this external organ-clad state is to be torn up by another, their will crushed… what do you think will happen?”
Lord Helvenom approached Gaimoon and spoke.

“—They lose the power to transform.”

Takeru thought back to the First Lord Helvenom, Akutsu Chiyo’s form.
Once the symbol of the Alchemuls Mythos, she had now parted with her transformation ability and become an ordinary human.
She had lost everything to Gaimoon, her will to do evil was broken.

“The external organ and the spirit are deeply tied. Losing in that external organ-clad state, the one whose will has been crushed will henceforth, never be able to transform into an alter. This is not my supposition. There has been numerous precedent in the past. This includes your victims.”

That’s why Takeru decided.
He would become Lord Helvenom, become evil, become Gaimoon’s enemy.
Sweep all other evil out of town, setting himself as the sold evil Gaimoon was to defeat.
And by his hand, he would take down the Hero of Justice.
It was for this reason he couldn’t allow the other alters to lay a hand on her.
To inflict a decisive sense of defeat on Gaimoon’s heart, the form of a decisive battle was befitting. When thoroughly defeated by evil, the hero loses their reason for existence.

“I am your enemy, Gaimoon. The Alchemuls you must defeat, the very reason for your existence. A hero felled by evil has no value. When you lose to me, you will lose our own identity, and your power along with it.”

Sawako was mistaken. Takeru hadn’t burdened himself with evil to be defeated.
A stable status quo, a kind everyday was impossible.
What Takeru wished for was to destroy the hope of this town.
To destroy Omou Mia’s mask of justice this town longed to flock to.

Gaimoon remained collapsed, unmoving.
A crack ran down her external organ. Her will was already on the verge of folding.

“Farewell, Gaimoon. This is the demise of the mask you put on.”

No thought, no hesitation.
This was to release Mia from this town’s curse.
Lord Helvenom lowered his Muls Impactor right at Gaimoon’s mask and—

“… It hurts, Take-chan…”

 

 

She heard a voice.
Close to a prayer, close to a cheer.

“Dammit… they’ve completely set their aim on us…”
The fortieth floor. Concealed behind a pillar, Lemeo spilled a complaint.
The window glass had broke, a great many bullets had pounded into the wall. It seemed the police had prepared some exceedingly powerful special rounds. There was a possibility even an alter’s external organs wouldn’t get off unscathed.
Lemeo and Ecole hid by the pillar.
Meanwhile Arachne and Murtle were stuck to the ceiling, a blind spot from outside. Arachne stuck to her thread, while Murtle skillfully hung on it with the claws of her feet. Her hands skillfully readied a rifle. Their timing was bad, was all she could say.
Right after they rendezvoused on this floor to discuss how to handle the hostages, they were spotted by a police copter circling, and rained with gunfire. Thanks to that, they had been rendered immobile.
“’n wait, why’s that copter been aiming at us this whole damn time!? Isn’t the black skull on the roof their prime target?”
“It’s probably because of all the news copters, they can’t get close. Danger of collision and all. At first, I thought they were to relay the state of the battle to us in real time, but… if that was included in the plan, I can only call it splendid…”
“Now’s not the time to be impressed, Arachne! Hell, that’s what’s gotten us into this pinch! Can’t even call old man Ikaruga watchin’ the first floor…”
“I’ll do it.”
Murtle asserted from the ceiling. The safety clicked off from the rifle in her hands.
“… What are you talking about, Murtle. Think you can hit a helicopter with a sudden shot? You’ll just end up becoming a target.”
“No, it might serve as a check. There’s no need to hit them from the start… if I shoot while they’re reloading, I can get off without being a mark…”
“And how do you plan to time that one out!?”
“Ecole’s ears should be able to probe out their situation. How about it, Ecold, can you do it?”
“Y-yes, I won’t say I can’t, but…”
To Ecole’s powerless reply, Lemeo beside her peeked a nervous face.
“What’s wrong, feeling sick?”
“T-that’s not the case, but… umm, you can’t hear it? It’s mixed in with the helicopter noises, but… from outside, someone’s voice, it’s gradually growing louder…”
“Han? Wait, now that you mention it…”
Ecole earnestly concentrated her ears outside.
Someone, what’s more, multiple people were calling something else.
Desperately putting in a wish. Putting in a prayer. It was mixed in with the rotor noises and was difficult to hear, but her hand would soon reach its identity. Ecole carefully peeked her face out from the pillar.
The next instant cane a second shot from the helicopter. A shell assailed them along with strong burst of wind. The bullet made off with Ecole’s ear. Along with the impact, her right ear external organ was blown off.
“Ecole!”
The threads Arachne spat forcefully pulled back Ecole’s body. A pain ran through her whole body. Confirming the sound was the least of her worries.
“S-sorry… I’m fine, I’m perfectly fine…”
In essence, what was blown off was an external organ. She would regenerate it shortly. As long as the damage didn’t reach her real body inside, this could be considered a light injury.
But perhaps Ecole’s ear being blown off was too great of a shock. Murtle spasmodically jumped down from the ceiling, aimed firmly at the police copter, and fired three shots.
Bullets flew through the broken-glass window, they were intimidation shots that had no way of hitting.
Having landed on the floor, a steam rose from the muzzle of Murtle’s rifle.
“… What do I do?”
She muttered in a daze. As if she feared the result of what she’d done.
“I hit…”
Ecole, Lemeo and Arachne swallowed their breath.
A bullet hole in the window glass of the copter’s cockpit. The pilot held his right arm and moaned out.
Just like that, the copter lost its controls and fell away.
Those voices of prayer from before changed to screams. Ecole immediately ran up to the window glass and was at a loss for words.
Having lost its controls, the police copter was about to crash into the roof of the opposite building.
Before it were the spectators who had yet to leave the spot.

 

 

A violent storm she felt across her external organs.
Gaimoon tried to stand. She tried to oppose.
But she didn’t know how she was supposed to fight. Her thoughts wouldn’t get in order.
In her fading consciousness, Omou Mia questioned herself.
Why did I become a Hero again? Was it because maman was killed? Because father entrusted it to me? Because I hate kaijin?
… No. A sentiment more precious, I get the feeling I had something like that.
A precious thought.

— You’re here crying again, Mia?

… Yeah, that’s right. That’s it.
That was before I entered Teiko FC.
Because of my blue eyes, I stood out in class, and I was often teased. Left out of the group, my indoor shoes hidden, and each time, I would find myself crying by those nostalgic rabbit shrine grounds.
At times like those, the one who always raced over to me was Take-chan.

— Come on, auntie’s worried for you. Let’s hurry and go home.

With a face as if nothing had happened, Take-chan would always reach out his hand.
His hand covered in dirt and in bruises.
I was happy. That every time I was bullied, Take-chan would put his body on the line to stand against the kids who bullied me.
He rarely ever won, but he would always put on a strong front, and never showed tears before me.
Like that, he would always push away my sadness, he would protect me and fight, wouldn’t he.

That’s why I thought.
I wanted to be like that, I wanted to become a person who could push away someone’s sorrows.
I wanted to wipe away the tears in someone’s heart, and fight for someone’s sake.
I mean, the one who taught me that was Take-chan.
Though in yesterday’s date, I was too embarrassed to say it to the end.

Gaimoon’s body was terribly rattled.
The black skull in her vision. The enemy Gaimoon should defeat. Sawako’s revenge.
And yet, Gaimoon’s body wouldn’t move.

I’ve gone through a lot of painful memories. I’ve gone through a lot of scary memories.
But hiding them all behind the mask, I fought. I fight, and fought, and fought my way through.
For all the times Take-chan saved me back then, I thought that this time, I had to return the favor. And you know, I thought I was managing somehow or another.

… But it was no good.
I couldn’t protect Sawa-chan. I couldn’t save the precious person who fought by my side. It’s my fault. IT’s because I’m Gaimoon that Sawa-chan died.
I couldn’t protect a single thing precious to me.

The tonfa in Lord Helvenom’s hand.
Now, the black fang was coming towards her mask.

… It hurts, it hurts.
I want to take off this mask already. I don’t want to be a hero of justice…!
I just wanted to laugh normally. With Sawa-chan and Take-chan, I wanted to laugh and fight and make up, to be a normal high school student…!
Save me, Take-chan. I’m here, I’m right here.
I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, I don’t want to hurt anymore.
I’m… I’m…

“… It hurts, Take-chan.”

Time went by, the impact never came.
In Mia’s faint consciousness, she absentmindedly gazed.
The tonfa that should have been lowered stopped right before Gaimoon’s eyes.
Lord Helvenom’s black skull looking down over her was shaking.
As if he was hesitating over something.
Mia felt a doubt at Lord Helvenom’s actions, and then.

“Go get him, Gaimoon!”

At first, she thought it was an auditory hallucination. But Lord Helvenom reacted as well.
Spinning her head, Gaimoon noticed. The spectators on the roof of the opposite building were looking at her, raising their voices.

“Go! Gaimoon! Send him flying!” “Don’t lose! Gaimoon!” “Protect Tsukimori’s peace!” “We’re with you!” “ You’re all we’ve got!” “Don’t let the kaijin do what they want with this town!” “You’re this town’s hope!” “Gaimoon, everyone believes in you!” “So go, Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!”

Mia was dumbfounded.
Those warm, unwavering cheers of hope flowed inside of her.

— Make sure you’re properly cheering from the sidelines.
— Those plain things help out in the long run. You got that?

Yeah, it was true. He was right after all.
I’ve got it. Take-chan. Sawa-chan.
This is my fate. A destiny I should accept. In that case—!

“KyaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!”

A scream suddenly thundered out. Mia witnessed it across the mask.
Not a news copter. What was a presumably a police copter flew midway around the building.
But something was strange.
As if it had lost its controls, it was about to crash into the roof of the building with the spectators.
— No, you have to stop.
Mia’s pulse heightened.
— Move, move, my body…!
Her emotions chilled over. All her sensations cleared up.
— Why is this… who could have…!
In a separate domain from Mia’s consciousness, the gears of her heart clicked right into place.
— I won’t let anyone die, I won’t let them die!
Alongside the grating throb of pain assailing her head, a cold whisper echoed in Mia’s heart.

Destroy evil, destroy evil, to wipe away sorrow, destroy evil.

— I accept it, I accept it all, so!
So absorbed she didn’t know what was going on, Mia affirmed it.
She affirmed the mindset lurking deep in her depths.

— Save those people, Gaimoon!

The next instant, the restraints over her body were released.
Omou Mia’s mind was swallowed by an ‘absolute’ justice.

… Grasping current situation.
… Identifying victim and threat, clear.
… Now executing justice.

“… This… this light is.”
Lord Helvenom stopped moving.
“… It’s the same as back the”
Faster than he could finished his words, ‘it’ launched its palm at his black chest.
The force was incomparable to before.
Lord Helvenom who’d been bending over her was shot back like a rubber ball.
But ‘it’ did feel any deep emotions about that.
It had no feelings to feel strongly for.
All it had done was remove an obstacle.
“… Wait, wait.”
A collapsed Lord Helvenom called doubt, but ‘it’ didn’t take notice.
Right now, there was another item that took precedence.
Rescuing the people on the roof of the building. Removing whatever had caused this situation.
The optimum thought, the swiftest action, the optimal choice.
To protect the hearts of the weak people. To slay evil. With a turn of its crimson-glowing body, ‘it’ took a leap.

 

 

The people cried out at the encroaching police helicopter. While many maintained their position, the impact was unavoidable.
“… What do I do… this isn’t how it was supposed to…”
As Murtle shook at her own deed, Ecole drew close, changing the situation was impossible from their side. It was too late to make a move. Even for Gaimoon.
Neither Arachne or Lemeo knew what to say.
It was then.
The form of ‘it’ entered their vision.
“… The hell’s that?”
Lemeo muttered in a daze. Murtle, and Arachne who climbed down from the ceiling gulped.
To the roof of the building descended the streak of a single red meteorite.
It was fast, faster than the helicopter, something glowing red landed on the edge of the building.
Right after, the s ide-ways-toppled police helicopter swallowed up the red shadow. The craft that lost control would go on to drag the people and red shadow into its midst, that’s how it should have gone down.
“Oy, oy… are you for real…”
Yet what happened was an unthinkable scene. The copter that should have fallen remained stagnant in the air. Eventually, the copter took on a level stance as if carried off by someone, slowly being placed in the space the people had moved out of.
After a while of silence from the dazed spectators, they broke into a grand cheer.
“Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!”
Enveloped in the peoples’ cheers, the red glowing something’s form finally came into sight.
Red blood-vessel-like streaks running along a pure-white skin. Resembling a rabbit, the hero of justice presiding over the moonbeams.
“Is that Gaimoon?”
It was undoubtedly Gaimoon. While its form had changed, that was Gaimoon.
“… Oy, why is it glowing? Why the hell is it glowing!?”
“I don’t know…! I’ve never seen him like that before…”
“Are the people saved…?”
While Murtle made a somewhat relieved face, Ecole felt a terrible chill.
She felt it at the hotel fire as well, an off-sense hard to put in words. When Gaimoon’s act of saving people should be a noble deed, for some reason, Ecole’s eyes ended up seeing it as sinister.
There, she noticed.
Gaimoon’s eyes were directed in their direction.
Pulling back its right fist, it let out a right straight that had no way of reaching them.
The next instant.
A ball of fire emitted from Gaimoon’s right arm.
“Heh?”
She couldn’t comprehend what had happened.
Flying at a high speed through the air, an orb the size as a cannon shell. Regardless of her confusion, the spinning, radiating fireball approached the fortieth floor to swallow it whole, and—
Snapp!!
The orb burst like a bubble.
Picking up the scattering sparks, the diffusing heat and burnt stench, Ecole finally felt the reality of the crisis approaching them.
“Are you alright?”
Someone descended on a wire. It was Lord Helvenom.
Lowering his feet onto the windowsill, he entered the floor. His coat had been ripped here and there, a crack spread across the surface of his mask. Murtle spoke in a face on the verge of tears.
“U-umm… I wasn’t trying to…”
“You are to retreat. I’ll hold it back.”
“Hold it back…?”
“Yeah, this”
After hesitating whether to say it or not, Lord Helvenom turned and drew his tonfas.
“— Machine of justice.”
A sharp reverberating noise like the clashing of blades.
Gaimoon’s chop met and opposed a tonfa. When it should have been on the opposite building, the crimson Gaimoon had made it all the way behind Lord Helvenom.
From when? From where? Ecole shivered.
Lord Helvenom immediately tried to hammer the other tonfa into Gaimoon’s chest. At that motion with no excess movement, it looked as if Gaimoon would be late to respond.
But the next instant.
Lord Helvenom was sent flying to the side.
The wind swept with a delay.
There was no change in Gaimoon’s stance. Yet on the floor around its left foot, a circle had been scraped out. From that, Ecole could presume what had happened. A roundhouse kick with the left leg as the axis.
In that instant, it had emitted a kick powerful enough to send Lord Helvenom flying.
A certain kill kick she couldn’t grasp with her senses as an alter.
To that point, they had seen various abilities, strengths from Gaimoon far above the norm. But what was before their eyes at this moment was on a different dimension.
Gaimoon took no notice of Lord Helvenom on the floor. Those golden eyes were directed straight at Ecole’s unit. Murtle slumped down on the spot. Lemeo and Arachne couldn’t move either.
At this moment, not in the heads, but their hearts they were coming to know.
The natural enemy of evil, Gaimoon’s true terror.
“… For what might you look away? Your enemy is me.”
All of a sudden, a tremendous gravity was cast on Ecole. A fear the forcefully churned up her head.
Gaimoon’s movements stopped, it looked to the side.
Leaning against a pillar, Lord Helvenom spread out his hand, sticking his right arm towards them.
No doubt about it. This was Lord Helvenom’s Terreur.
“Can you feel it, the quivers of the alters? For their will is my will. I am he who presides over them. If you’re to cleanse away the source, then start by taking me down.”
Gaimoon traced its chest with a fingertip.
Silently, it changed its facing direction, step by step making for Lord Helvenom. Terruer must not have been working, there was no disturbance in Gaimoon’s gait.
With his mask on, Lord Helvenom had no expression. But those arms were shaking.
As if he was enduring pain. Like a howling dog, he shouted out.
“I’ve no need here for a useless tool! I won’t permit you to enter my domain of combat!”
As if lashed on by the force of those words, Ecoles feet began to move. When his Terreur was active, Lord Helvenom’s words were absolute. She couldn’t reject them.
“W-what, this, why are my feet arbitrarily…!”
“It’s Lord Helvenom’s Terreur… don’t tell me he can rule actions too…!”
“That person… to let us escape…!”
Ecole couldn’t turn around. At that very moment, Terreur’s influence had put her body into a full force sprint. Without even the time for a backward glance, she had left the floor.
Unable to do anything. Unable to stand and watch. For that reason, Ecole cried and prayed.
For the safety of the young boy shouldering evil. For the peace of the young boy trying to challenge the myth.

 

 

It was the same.
Takeru experienced déjà vu at this situation.
It was as if this was a recreation of that day three years ago, where Gaimoon went berserk, and Takeru turned into Lord Helvenom.

Mosaic-like nose raced across his visor.
The suit, the mask, their collective damage reported close to 70%. He had put his Muls Impactors on their greatest possible output to erase that condensed orb of plasma a moment ago so they barely had any energy to spare. Each had if anything, another sizable shot left. He couldn’t swing them carelessly.
He felt his consciousness might crack from the pain.
His sensations paralyzed by the chips embedded in his brain were on the verge of coming back. It was clear the mask that made a Lord Helvenom out of Takeru was losing its power.
The only system working normally was Terreur.
What’s more, that didn’t work in the slightest on the current Gaimoon.
As she was now, Gaimoon didn’t have the emotions to feel fear.
Omou Mia had lost consciousness.
What was before him was a ‘monster of justice’ that would faithfully obey an embedded mindset.
Confirming the other alters’ retreat, he set Terreur to off. Leaving on a useless feature would just waste stamina and battery.
The red lines stretching around Gaimoon’s entire body pulsed.
The same as three years ago, Gaimoon’s berserk form—no, its true form released from the restraints.
“… What good is a restraint that comes off that easily?”
Lord Helvenom muttered.
The cause of the restraints releasing was, without saying, the police copter’s fall.
But for the restraints to fall off just like that was simply far too convenient.
Gaimoon’s current form was something he had anticipated from the start.
Those bindings were devised to come undone the moment some sort of condition was met. To the Foundation, Gaimoon’s berserk was a function placed in by design. Though Takeru was led to believe Sawako was unaware.
Gaimoon was an evolving justice. Now that Mia’s consciousness was out of the picture, with no discord or hesitation, it would eliminate the evil threatening the people. Once the restraints were off, Gaimoon had no limit.
Three years ago, each side simply drowned in their own power, overheated, and took themselves out. This time probably wouldn’t go the same. The current Gaimoon had stabilized further than that. The difference in power was too great for mutual defeat.
The situation was perpetually hopeless. No reinforcements coming. No prospects of victory.
If that’s what it would come down for, he should have used the other alters as pieces to rush it in an all-out war.
Now that the situation had changed, did he want to bring it to one on one to protect Ecole and the other alters? Or did he still have a fixation on crushing Gaimoon’s mask by his own hand?
Whichever the case, this wasn’t efficient in the slightest. On the rooftop as well, his hand had stopped at the most important part, and he failed to land the finishing blow. He did the name of Alchemuls a shame.
Even so.
“… Try and stop me, Gaimoon. If you’re so convinced of your own justice.”
The mask alone he wouldn’t take off. To the moment his body crumbled, Takeru would continue to be Gaimoon’s enemy. That bit of pride alone was something he could never concede.
Gaimoon clenched its fist, slowly walking forward. There was no doubt in that overbearing form, no hesitation. Its emotion and impulse had been severed to a perfect extent.
All those golden eyes could see was the form of an evil to erase. Those to protect, those impossible to protect, it would carry out a precise calculation, and use the optimum means to enact justice.
Indiscriminate of human or alter, it would continue just judgment until everything was in ruins.
Gaimoon’s figure suddenly vanished. A movement beyond his dynamic vision.
Lord Helvenom surveyed the area. Left, right, it was nowhere to be seen.
Then that left only one point—right above him.
On practically pure intuition, Lord Helvenom jumped to the side. Right after came Gaimoon’s rapid descent from the ceiling. Its fist stuck into the floor. Fragments of concretes scattered as large cracks ran through it.
That life-or-death dodge only lasted an instant, Gaimoon extracted its fist and kicked the floor.
No time to ready a Muls Impactor.
Lord Helvenom enhanced the inner muscle of the suit’s right femur that was still live.
Without setting an aim, he swung out a kick.
The impact came simultaneously.
The high kicks of justice and evil intersected at Gaimoon and Lord Helvenom stood still. Lord Helvenom’s high kick broke the mask of justice, Gaimoon’s high kick dug into evil’s mask.
The Lord Helvenom mask visor cracked, his left field of vision crushed.
But cracks ran down Gaimoon’s mask as well. With the kick’s recoil and the suits strengthening functioning overheating, a heat came over him that might leave a burn.
Gaimoon maintained its stance, pulling back a fist. Takeru reflexively pulled back his body.
The knuckle that thrust into his chest delivered an impact that made him feel his heart would stop. While his consciousness cut off for a moment, by drawing back his body at the last second, he barely managed to endure it.
Gaimoon slowly returned her leg and fist and walked. It didn’t show those super-speed movements from before. Neither the plasma, nor the breakneck movement whose principles he didn’t even understand to cross from building to building.
Were his intentional provocations bringing a psychological pressure?
No, the current Gaimoon wouldn’t take such unnecessary action.
Blood dripped in clumps from the fissure in Gaimoon’s mask.
It did seem Omou Mia’s body had reached its limit. But Gaimoon didn’t stop. Ignoring Mia’s will, it tried to carry out justice. Truly a machine carrying out a justice program.
Takeru thought. He continued to think. A means to stop Gaimoon’s rampage.
But the more he thought, the more he made clear the despair of this situation.
His arms shook at the Gaimoon coming at him.
Takeru was aware of the emotion welling up, he gave a bitter smile.
This was fear. The source of evil was feeling fear at the Hero of Justice closing in on him.
“… Don’t tell me this is your justice?”
Lord Helvenom said, to shake off his fear.
His frantically shoved an evil mask over his heart as he screamed.
“Justice is supposed to be exhibited with emotion and rationality, both sides working together. A justice of sole emotion is meaningless. A justice of sole rationality is harmful. A justice with no sympathy of others is the vilest thing of all.”
If her rampage didn’t stop now, Mia could never again return as a human being.
So Lord Helvenom continued to cry out. He called to Mia’s consciousness sleeping within Gaimoon.
“What happened to your will, Gaimoon? Was the ‘natural enemy of evil’ you spoke of something so insignificant? Did you lose your family, lose your comrade for such a trifle? Answer me, Gaimoon!”
Gaimoon didn’t answer.
Quitting with his futile screams, Lord Helvenom hung his head and then realized.

The crimson Gaimoon was tracing its chest with its fingertip.
As if an old injury had unconsciously begun to throb.

Lord Helvenom stopped shaking.
He readied his Muls Impactors that had begun to crack. While he didn’t know if he could call it a prospect of victory, he spotted something he could do.
Beneath his mask, he steadied his breath. In a sense, what he was going to do now was more repulsive and unforgivable than any violence.
Even so, he had to do it.
Only a slight distance to Gaimoon. It paid no caution to the Muls Impactor. Perhaps receiving that past attack, it recognized they were not on a level to require attention.
He focused his eyes with half his vision in pieces.
Tame your fear. Cut off your reason and impulse. Don’t stop thinking. Reliably accomplish your goal. For all he had lost. For all he was going to lose.

So as not to lose just one precious thing.

Its body sunk low. Was it a fist, or a kick? He couldn’t guess.
Before he could be attacked, Lord Helvenom took a step in.
He tried to swing the Muls Impactors in each hand. But he noticed his foe’s arms were moving in tandem. Gaimoon’s defensive stance. At this rate, both weapons would reliably be brushed off.
With a sudden change in action, he tossed one hand’s Muls Impactor to the side.
Gaimoon’s gaze turned to the discarded item. The instantaneous gap that was born.
Lord Helvenom stepped into its bosom and stuck the tip of the Muls Impactor into its chest. The spot where Mia had once been stabbed by an alter.
Gaimoon paid no mind to that trained thrust with the Muls Impactor. Its femur throbbed to swing its leg for once more.
With that timing, Lord Helvenom hummed a certain song. A simple, steady, artless rhythm, almost reminiscent of a requiem, a nostalgic melody. The intro to Stand by Me.
Gaimoon’s feet stopped. Its movements stopped.
Lord Helvenom continued to hum the tune.

— The kaijin stabs me as he hums a tune, I’ve never been able to get it out of my ears.

In the past, Mia reacted abnormally to the Stand by Me that played over lunch break. At the time, Takeru put two and two together. The identity of the repeating melody that had become Mia’s nightmare. This song had engraved a deep fear into her.
The pain even Takeru had dragged on since that day, there was no way the one directly involved could recover from it. Even now, that day’s pain stuck deep into Mia’s heart.

The tonfa stuck into Gaimoon’s old wound, the flowing rhythm. The original memory of fear Omou Mia could never wipe form her heart was reproduced.
This was the foulest form of violence. Rubbing his feet on her trauma, to abuse Mia’s sleeping consciousness awake, violence against the soul.
“… No… no…”
Gaimoon’s red radiance darkened.
Even so, Lord Helvenom waited. He measured out the timing for the most dramatic effect.
Gaimoon held her head. Her white fingers dug into the mask. Her body shook. Eventually, she spoke in a voice on the verge of tears.
“… Don’t kill me!”
The moment Mia’s consciousness peeked out, Lord Helvenom activated it. Terreur, alongside a shockwave from his Muls Impactor.

‘ACM-SYSTEM TERREUR MODE ON’

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

The shockwave rupturing in her chest stole the means of normal thought from her.
The emotion of fear hammered into her on the verge of awakening.
Gaimoon raised a beastly roar as she was blown away.
A tone that couldn’t be placed into either anger or grief reverberated across the floor. Holding her head, she writhed around, shed tears, and shook in anger.
Fear was the most primal emotion humans had. The emotion of fear forcefully stimulated by Terreur called back Mia’s trauma, making each and every form of emotion explode.
And the returning emotion, Mia’s consciousness put a brake on her rampage. The red light disappeared from her body. The ‘Unempathetic Justice’ had crashed. Gaimoon’s rampage was brought to an end.
Lord Helvenom looked down over a writhing Gaimoon as he collected the Muls Impactor he had tossed aside. He still had one shockwave left.
Already, he’d harshly trampled Mia’s heart into the ground. There was no reason to hesitate at this point. To greet the proper conclusion of justice and evil, Lord Helvenom would deliver the final blow.
It was all to decide it.
“… What it takes to be a hero, that’s…”
Lord Helvenom hurriedly raised his stance. While she staggered, Mia, Gaimoon was trying to stand.
“Someone who never gives up…!”
The crimson light had vanished. Dragging along her wound-ridden body, even still she stood.
Her golden eyes let off a radiance.
hero of Justice, Gaimoon hadn’t fallen yet.

Huh? How long have I been here… it’s no good, I can’t remember…
My head is pounding… my body is cold… it’s scary… it hurts… I can’t breathe…
… But… I definitely don’t want to run away…!
I mean, there are people in this town I want to protect. People I need to save.
I can still fight, so I…!

Mia, you’re an idiot. A great big buffoon.
You’re scared. It hurts.
… So why won’t you run away?
This town isn’t worth protecting. It’s not worth saving.
I don’t want to fight anymore.

Hey, Take-chan.
Being a Hero of Justice is nothing but suffering.
You distance yourself from all sorts of friends, go through so much scary memories, and yet, you never get rewarded for it. But you see, I’m proud that I’m Gaimoon.
There’s got to be some meaning in why this power was granted to me.

Say, Mia.
It’s quite lonely to be an evil leader.
You fool everyone to get your comrades trust, and then you can’t trust anything anymore.
I’m sure I’ll always detest being Lord Helvenom.
Even so, I can’t let go of this mask.

I’m sorry, Take-chan.
I couldn’t protect Sawa-chan. I couldn’t save her.
Maybe my power is puny. The Justice I believe in might just be my ego.
But there’s something only I can do before my eyes.

Mia, I really am sorry.
I killed Sawa-chan. I did something unforgivable.
I hurt you a lot too. Your body and heart, I hurt you a whole lot.
Even so, I won’t run. I can’t run away.

Gaimoon gripped her fist, she stood sturdily.
To defeat the root of evil, Lord Helvenom.

I accept this fate. I want to protect the people I love.

His fangs in his hand, Lord Hellvenom stood composedly.
To defeat the Hero of Justice, Gaimoon.

I’ll go against this fate. To save the girl I love.

— And so.

“When your heart is touched by sorrow, the white moonbeams shall light out justice.”
Gaimoon, Omou Mia pointed a finger up to the ceiling above.
She proclaimed just who and what she was.
Putting all her will into her white mask, she cried out.
“Here stands the natural enemy of evil, Gaimoon!”

“I am the Leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan, Lord Helvenom.”
Lord Helvenom, Okina Takeru informed her with the voice of a corpse.
In order to redefine who he was.
Putting his resolve into his black mask, he declared.
“I do not forget, I do not forgive, quiver and wait for my coming.”

With introductions over, they glared at one another.
After a moment of stillness.
Each side laid their soul bear before colliding.

Justice and evil exchanged wounds with the other. Indulged in the other.
Their wound-covered bodies with no power remaining throbbed.
What mixed was a storm-like reciprocation of violence.
The boundary between mask and real face disappeared, as each unfolded an intense strife to bring the other to ruin.

Gaimoon hammered kick after kick into Lord Helvenom’s torso. While Lord Helvenom staggered, the tonfa attacks from his hands didn’t slow. Sharp strikes that resounded through her churned up her insides.

Again and again, Lord Helvenom firmly struck his Muls Impactors into Gaimoon’s body. Only one shockwave left. Only one chance. Gaimoon’s kicks rung heavily through his body. His conscience was faint, his sense of pain might soon fade from his head.

“Lord Helvenooooom!!”
“Gaimoooooooooon!!”

At the same time, the two hammered in their fists, Mask fragments scattered along the floor. The impact from each fist caused the other to stagger back.
Both sides had, at the very limit yet to crumble. Their true faces remained hidden.
It was evident they were both close to their limit.
With Takeru and Mia exchanging a glare, they both sensed it.
The battle would be decided in the next instant.

“NNNggggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!”

Lord Helvenom swung his Muls Impactor.
To beat down the justice before his eyes.

Gaimoon jumped. To destroy the wickedness before her.

Gaimoon’s right-leg jump kick went off like a missile.
A one-legged kick aimed at Lord Helvenom’s stomach was met by his weapon.
The basis of Gaimoon’s attacks was the kick. If the legs she stood on were sealed, Gaimoon could no longer fight. Her defeat would be decided.
Lord Helvenum fired the Muls Impactor at the highest possible output.
Gaimoon’s exploding right leg. Her external organ was stripped away, her technique sealed. Or so it should be.
“Not yet!!”
Gaimoon twisted her body sideways in the air.

Her leg had been sealed by Lord Helvenom’s exploding tonfa.
But Mia didn’t give up. She wouldn’t give up on victory until the end.
She rested her right leg she could barely get any power in on the tip of the tonfa, and used it to spin in the air.
She slipped past his weapons, her left leg kick burst into her opponent’s chest.
But Lord Helvenom only staggered. The output wasn’t high enough to defeat him.
“Farewell, Hero.”
Having endured the attack, Lord Helvenom’s tonfa approached. There were already cracks running down them. She couldn’t imagine them firing another explosion. Even so, the two fangs coming at her were sufficient threat enough.
So once again, Gaimoon challenged it.
“… Victory comes”
She bent her left leg’s knee. With her foot still resting on Lord Helvenom, she stored up power one last time.
A red-hot left leg. The enhanced muscle contracted, as her power condensed.
What she put in was a will of justice. What she put in was the hopes of the people.
“To those who never give up in thought or action!”
Her left leg released, the condensed energy was hammered into Lord Helvenom’s body.
A crack ran down Helvenom’s black skull mask.
The crevice finally broke the mask of evil, revealing the chin portion.

The moment went by as if played in slow motion.
Lord Helvenom’s exposed lips curled into a smile. As if to sneer at her.
“I shall never fall. As long as you exist, no matter how many times it takes, I’ll come back.”
Those weren’t the testament of the defeated.
That was a promise. An evil promise to the town in its entirety.
“Until we meet again, Gaimoon… my beloved Hero!”

It all went by, neither a dream or reality.
With Gaimoon’s special kick pounded in, Lord Helvenom was blown back, he broke through the window and was shoved outside.
But Lord Helvenom laughed. He continued to laugh.
Leaving behind a maniacal laughter that resounded through the town, his body let off a flash.
He exploded in the air.
Scattering sounds and flames, Lord Helvenom’s figure had vanished. Even so, for a while longer, the laughter echoed, sending shivers down the spines of those around the building.
Slumping down after the kick, eventually, Gaimoon slowly stood. Dragging along her unmoving, tattered right leg, she made for the broken window.
Lord Helvenom was nowhere to be found. His heavy pressure had disappeared with him.
She won.
She had won, Mia, Gaimoon.
“Thank you, Gaimoon!”
A child’s voice echoed. There were still people remaining on the roof of that building. As officers were in the process of evacuating them, the people continued to send their cheers.
“Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!” “Gaimoon!”
Mia bit her lip. The cheers of the townspeople wouldn’t stop resounding through her body.

Can you hear me, Sawa-chan?
I did it. I defeated him.
But this probably isn’t the end. I’m sure once more, not too far from right now, I’ll fight him again. I can’t think that was enough to kill Lord Helvenom.
That’s why, I’ll have to try protecting this town on my own.
This town father entrusted to me, the town you spent your life in, the town where Take-chan lives.
I won’t give up again. I’ll fight to the end, and protect everyone.
I mean, I’m the hero who protects Tsukimori City, Gaimoon.

Gaimoon dragged her right leg behind as she turned her body.
To return to a daily life with her real face, without any mask. The hero hurried to return home.

 

 

The cheers resounded all the way to the underground sewers.
Lord Helvenom leaned his body against the wall as he crawled forward.
The emergency escape program that still remained in the suit.
After exploding a flash grenade, he used that time lapse to hide his form in optic camouflage and flee. A majority of the camouflage wasn’t functioning, but slipping into the darkness was enough. When he fell, he instantly used a wire to grab onto the building ledge and safely descended. He used a manhole to burrow underground, bringing him to his current situation.
The Muls Impacters were unusable. A majority of his suit had burn out. His mask visor wasn’t displaying any information. It seemed it was out of battery.
Even so, Takeru didn’t give up. He couldn’t collapse here.
“That’s a nasty state you’re in, Lord Blackvenom.”
Lord Helvenom stopped in his tracks. His hazy vision reflected back the figures of the alters.
Ecole, Lemeo, Arachne, Hurtle, Murtle, Ikaruga.
The grotesque forms of those he made obey through fear now stood before him.
“And my oh my, that was quite a victory. Challenging Gaimoon, and at the end, going out with such a flashy defeat. Thanks to that, you’ve added another plaque to hang on Gaimoon’s legend.”
Ikaruga shuffled over. No one tried to stop him. Even Ecole who knew the circumstances stayed silent. Terreur was unusable. He had no means left to fight.
Lord Helvenom held his breath as he evaluated the situation.
“What’s more, look at that face. Don’t tell me you’re not an alter? Haha, to think we were being dragged around by a guy like this. We could’ve just launched an all-out attack and lynched Gaimoon from the start. Good grief, how are you going to take responsibility for this? This is the sort ‘a thing where we’ll have to settle things up a bit, won’t we?”
Ikaruga’s tentacles closed in.
Takeru thought. He continued to think. A means to overcome this situation.
But with him unable to formulate a plan, the tentacles swung.
“… Is what we woulda done in our generation.”
Ikaruga’s tentacles hit not against Takeru, but the ground at his feet.
He purposely missed, apparently. Lord Helvenom blinked twice, three times. The attack wasn’t coming, the moment he thought that, the power left his body and he fell against the wall, almost collapsing down it.
“Whoah there.”
His shoulders were suddenly grasped. First Lemeo on his left shoulder, then Hurtle on his right.
Carrying Lord Helvenom’s confused shoulder, Lemeo spoke.
“… Call me a useless tool, eh. Just you watch. I’ll be the one to defeat that hero you failed to finish off. So you’re gonna have to do just a bit more work to get us there, captain.”
“I’m sorry, I got in the way last time. And thank you, you saved Murtle…”
Speaking in a laudable tone, Hurtle changed her grip, immediately switching over to a hyper voice.
“So, well, it’s that, let’s leave the past behind us and try to get alone, Helvenom-niichin! ‘n Wait, you’re really human? That jaw line… don’t tell me you’re actually a hotty?”
“Y-you can’t, he’s our leader, so that attitude is…”
Lord Helvenom gazed over Murtle and Hurtle’s quibble feeling as if he was seeing an illusion.
Good grief, Ikaruga shrugged his shoulders.
“Seriously, you next gens are all a gathering of softies.”
“Oh, isn’t that just fine? Just make it the new Leviathan policy.”
Arachne sounded amused.
“At the very least, it’s true that he’s the one to come closest to that Gaimoon’s power. You didn’t punish him because you recognize that, right?”
Ikaruga shrugged his shoulders, he didn’t answer.
Lord Helvenom let out a deep sigh. It was just as Ikaruga said.
These alters weren’t cut out for villainy in the slightest.
“You’re going to show us, aren’t you? A new future for alters?”
Lord Helvenom raised his face at Ecole’s words.
Those eyes formed from external organs were filled to the brim with human-like tears.
“… As long as we live we can fight again. We’ll fight as many times it takes.”
“… Yes, precisely.”
Lord Helvenom spat out a breath.
He was still alive. This heart still beat.

What does it take to be a hero?
Someone who continues to win. Who fights, fights, and fights, and piles up victory.
That’s why a hero requires someone to fight. They require an evil to defeat.

In that case, no matter how many times Lord Helvenom was defeated, he would have to stand up each time. Until he defeated Omou Mia upon her seat of stacked victory, and freed her from the fate of a hero. Lord Helvenom would have to be Gaimoon’s enemy.
“Then let us be off.”
A wound-ridden Takeru said, wearing the mask of Lord Helvenom.
“For our good fight. And for our good future.”

 


 

 

Epilogue

June.
Finally back after her wounds healed, Omou Mia popped by the afterschool library for the first in quite a while. But Takeru was nowhere to be found.

“… Okina-kun was injured?”
“Yes. Heard it was a traffic accident or something. God, it really is a dangerous world we live in. I mean, he collapsed and you had to nurse him the other day, right… more importantly! Are you alright Omou-senpai!? I heard you were severely injured, and the police were called in or something, and because of that, you’ve been away for a whole week…”
“Ah, yeah. I’m fine, just fine. A bit jumbled, but I’m already better.”
“Is that… so.”
After her face clouded with anxiety, Nozomi scratched her cheek.
“No, then that’s good. See, haven’t there been too many strange incidents in these parts lately. It’s making me sensitive. Man, seriously, it’s best for there to be nothing going on.”
With a bitter smile, Nozomi mumbled an addition.
“There’s really no guarantee tomorrow will never come as normal, after all.”

She was searching for Takeru to invite him to visit Sawako’s grave.
This past week, Mia’s father’s good friends—the Foundation’s arrangements had her hospitalized, and during that time, Sawako’s funeral and burial had all been carried out without her.
Now, Sawako slept in a grave in Tsukimori City. She heard the funeral was held by the parents of Teiko FC, and a great many people in the neighborhood. The moment Mia was discharged, she knew she had to visit the grave.
According to the chief mourner, Takeru didn’t show at the funeral either. Her phone calls wouldn’t connect. If he was in a traffic incident, did that mean he was hospitalized now? Should she go see him? But she had no idea what to talk to Takeru about these days.
Mia returned from school alone, and made for Sawako’s grave.
Perhaps because summer was close, the blue still remained in the sky. It was a nice clear sky.
She took the public train and bought a bouquet of flowers close to the station she got down on.
Sawako had like them, vibrant assorted hydrangea.
With bouquet in arms, Mia borrowed a bucket and scoop at the cemetery entrance and proceeded towards the grave.
Going down the graveyard that smelled of incense, when she reached the spot she’d been told of Mia’s feet stopped. There was a prior visitor at Sawako’s grave.
It was Takeru.
“… Take-chan?”
To Mia’s voice, her childhood friend with his hands together in front of the grave turned with a surprised look on his face. Wearing the same unfashionable glasses as ever, Takeru was in casual clothing. It made her curious that he was wearing a long-sleeve shirt in this weather, but he didn’t seem to be injured anywhere.
“Are you alright? I heard you were out from injury.”
“Yeah, just twisted something a bit. More importantly, how about you…”
“I’m fine.”
Mia mustered all her strength to answer.
“… I’m fine, so…”
“I see.”
Takeru’s nonchalant words sounded terribly kind.
The grave was already lain with flowers. A vibrant assortment of hydrangea.
“… We got the same flowers.”
“We did.”
“Sawa-chan would shout, ‘I don’t need this much!’ Wouldn’t she?”
“She’s at least say ‘Pick something more sensible’.”
“Ahaha, she would! She really would, I can hear it! Really, Take-chan, don’t make me laugh.”
Mia laughed. It was so out of place, her tears were flowing up.
Aw man, I decided not to cry.
But if I’m crying because I’m laughing, then it doesn’t count, right?
“So the tears come out even if I’m not sad… haha…. I really am beat there… no, no… and wait, there’s way too much coming out… haha, haha.”
One after the other, the hot moistness dripped down her cheek.
The momentum of the tears picked up. They began to come accompanied by sobs.
“… Why won’t they stop, why, why… I decided I wouldn’t cry anymore.”
I can’t cry anymore. I’m going to be fighting alone from now on.
This was supposed to be a grave visit to report her resolve. Like this, she wouldn’t be able to look Sawako in the eye—

“Mia.”

She was called in a nostalgic voice, a nostalgic name.
Takeru held out a handkerchief. There were damp spots over the pure white handkerchief.
“You can cry if you want to. You don’t have to act tough when you’re with me and Sawa-chan.”
Curtly, in a tone that hadn’t changed from the past.
“You’re Mia. You haven’t changed at all, you’re the crybaby Omou Mia.”
“Take-chan…!”
Mia sniffled as she reached for the handkerchief. The warmth that would accept her as she was.
For now, for this moment alone, to remove the mask of a hero.

— I shall never fall. As long as you exist, no matter how many times it takes, I’ll come back.

Mia stopped her hand.
The corpse voice of frozen emotion reverberated in her heart.

— Until we meet again, Gaimoon… my beloved Hero!

“… Thank you, but I’m fine.”
Mia retracted her hand. After forcefully wiping her tears away, she showed a smile.
“I’m not the past me anymore. So you don’t need to worry.”
You can’t get close. You can’t show yourself.
You can’t let that Alchemuls steal anything else away.
“Take-chan, you should save that consideration for your girlfriend. Not a childhood friend like me. Otherwise, you’ll never be popular, you know? … You don’t have to, worry about me anymore.”
So I’ll sever these feelings.
To distance my precious people from that battle. To protect the peace of those dear.
“… Got it.”
Takeru quietly tucked away the handkerchief and picked up his bag.
“… You’re leaving already?”
“I have some business to attend to after this. So, Mia,”
Once again, Takeru called to her. Someone curt, but filled with kindness.
“See you tomorrow.”
Mia’s throat stuffed up.
See you tomorrow. How many times had Mia lost her ‘normal’ tomorrow?
There’s no guarantee tomorrow will come as normal. None at all, so she had to protect it. It was in order to protect it that Mia had become a Hero, become Gaimoon.
So Mia answered. There was her own resolve determination.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”

— My beloved Take-chan.

 

 

Takeru walked.
The thin assist suit under his casual clothes drove his fractured limbs.
Mia didn’t doubt it in the slightest. In that case, it looked like he could go to school normally tomorrow.
Today’s meeting was guided by Sawa-chan, or perhaps a curse.
But Mia would likely never find out the antipathy Sawako held towards alters.
He had already made his choice.
The moment he killed Sawako, Takeru had lost the qualifications to ever truly be happy.
An SNS notification came to his tablet terminal. From Ecole—Sakurai Kanon.
‘Everyone’s ready. Can go at any time.’
He immediately tapped in the reply.
‘Understood. Proceed plan as scheduled. I’ll give orders from here.’
Today, once again, evil was squirming in Tsukimori City. The alters were creeping.
A drop of water fell from the tip of Takeru’s nose.
The sky that had been clear up to a moment ago, before he realized it, had been covered in a sheet of gray clouds.
She didn’t take the handkerchief. Mia had already accepted the path to live as a hero. From now on, it would be impossible for Mia and Takeru’s paths to cross.
It was impossible for them to interact as anything other than enemies.
The moment he felt the reality of it, Takeru’s chest hurt so hard it might burst open.
There’s no way to turn back time.
He would need to discard these emotions. We would need to lose these feelings.
So Takeru chanted.
To redefine his own existence.

I am the leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan, Lord Helvenom. And,

I am fear, I am awe, I am shadow,

 

 

— I am Alchemuls: The absolute evil for my hero.

 

 

 


 

Postscript

 

This is my first time with Gagaga Bunko. ‘A protagonist who plays the evil part for the hero of justice’ was an idea that was already thought up for the character of a certain other series. But while I thought over it, the concept expanded, and with numerous rejections from my presiding editor, as I kept turning it over, the shape of the main story continued to change. It was originally supposed to be a comedy, but by the time I noticed it, I had taken the active hard route.
this work has been through such changes, but now that I look at it completed, I get the feeling I managed to turn out just the sort of thing I personally like. In that sense, I’m exceedingly satisfied as an author that I managed to write this piece. By the way, ‘Gaimoon’s Song’ goes up to three verses.
While I’m putting it last, to my editor Ebashi-sama, the illustrator Oguchi-sama,  the editing department of Gagaga Bunko, and everyone who engaged in the production of this book, you have my sincerest thanks. When no one could ever call this a well-selling work, forget hitting the brakes, you pressed the accel and gave me a push on the back, I really am thankful.
Well then, I pray we’ll all be able to meet again.

The first Hero show I ever saw in real time was Gridman, this is Ooizumi Takashi

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Alchemuls: The Absolute Evil for My Hero Volume 1 Chapter 3

 

Chapter 3: Lurking Behind the Mask, Crime and Punishment

From a young age, Takeru and Mia’s playground had been the Rabbit Shrine.
Its proper name was the Hanesagi Shrine. It considered rabbits the envoys of god, and to the side of the tori gates, instead of lion-dogs, stood statues of guard rabbits. The two had always played at the shrine, but after Mia entered Teiko FC, it became common to make a pilgrimage before matches to offer a prayer for victory.
That day just happened to be one they dropped by the shrine for such a prayer.
“Are you ready, Mia?”
“Yeah, Take-chan.”
In unison, Takeru and Mia threw their five-yen coins into the offertory bod. They clapped their hands before quietly holding them together. After his hands parted, Takeru gathered strength into a clenched fist.
“We’re definitely winning tomorrow’s match. We’ve got to win the city tournament to take part in the prefectural one.”
“But tomorrow’s opponent’s in the city best four, Kagari FC, right? Their number ten has a really big body and he’s fast. Will we really be able to take them on…”
“Why are you giving up before even trying?”
Takeru sent Mia’s anxieties flying with a scoff.
“Victory comes to those who never give up in thought or action! Hey, you’re fast on your feet, if nothing else, so just use that and keep running.”
“It’s not just my feet. I can properly kick now too.”
“Also, make sure you’re properly cheering from the sidelines. Your voice ‘s always puny. Those plain things help out in the long run. You got that?”
“… Erk, got it, Take-chan.”
Four years since Mia entered Teiko FC.
The two had grown taller in no time, and both Takeru and Mia were on the tall side for fifth graders. As far as Takeru knew, Mia wasn’t being bullied by her classmates anymore.
Even so, the way they hung out together hadn’t changed.
The soulless grounds were somewhat lonesome. The town was being dyed a madder from the evening sun.
“We should get back. Catch a cold, and it all goes down the drain.”
“Ah, wait a second.”
For some reason, Mia produced change from her coin purse again.
“The last one was a prayer for victory, I’ve got to make another one too.”
“Another?”
“For father.”
From Mia’s response, Takeru guessed the situation.
He spoke to brush away a dark silence.
“You don’t have to worry. Uncle always comes home better than ever. A freelance journalist’s just a hectic job to have.”
“But he’s aaalways injured. Maman’s worried too. The other day, both of them were really hurt…”
Mia powerlessly shook her head.
“Father won’t tell me anything. I don’t know if he can come to tomorrow’s match.”
“… I see.”
Takeru took out a coin and lined up with Mia.
“Take-chan?”
“I don’t know if he’ll listen to two wishes at once, but if we wish for the same thing together, I’m sure god will listen. That’s why, well, don’t worry about it.”
The five-yen coin he tossed chimed out inside the offertory box. Her eyes open round and wide, Mia hurriedly turned her face from him. Perhaps illuminated by sunset, Mia’s profile flushed red.
“Thank you… Take-chan.”
Once again, the two stood in line and put their hands together.
After the wishing was over, a thought struck Takeru’s head.
“Come to think of it, did you know? It turns out Gaimoon’s the emissary of the rabbit shrine.”
“He is?”
“I mean, Gaimoon’s got a rabbit-like look to him. So there are people saying he’s got to be a messenger of god. It might just be that Gaimoon will grant our wishes.”
“Hmm… Gaimoon will…”
Mia gave an impressed nod. Neither Takeru nor Mia had ever seen Gaimoon before. But they knew he existed. That’s precisely why their admiration was stirred. A fantasy far more realistic than god.
After confirming Mia’s heart had become somewhat lighter, Takeru added on.
“I’ll just say it, but you’d better not rely on Gaimoon for the outcome of the match. You’re the one who’s scoring the goal.”
“I know that already!”
The melody that signaled eighteen ‘o clock chimed through the town.
“Ah, it’s already this late. Take-chan, let’s hurry.”
“I’m with you.”
Takeru took right off towards the tori gate, but there he realized a certain something. After thinking a bit, he turned to Mia.
“… Sorry, Mia. Go without me. I’ve still got something to do.”
“Eh? What are you doing this late?”
“Don’t worry. Umm, it’s that. Men have secrets they can’t mention to anyone.”
“… How suspicious.”
For a while, Mia furrowed her brow dubiously, but eventually, she gave her shoulders a resigned shrug.
“Don’t stay out too late, you’ll worry aunty.”
“I know. Don’t take any detours yourself.”
“I’m already a fifth grader! Quit treating me like a little kid.”
She said, with a small wave of her hand.
“By,  Take-chan. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, ‘cya tomorrow.”
And Mia started walking towards the tori gate.
A faint song on her breath.
“Gai, Gai, Gaimoon ♪ Wiping away all our sorrow soon ♪
Gai, Gai, Gaimoon ♪ Racing through the city of the moon♪
Natural enemy of evil, bababababang! Gaaaii Mooon!”
“… What is she, a preschooler?”
Takeru said with a sigh. ‘Gaimoon’s Song’ was a hero theme drafted up by the volunteers at the Tsukimori City Youth Association. Calling back to some anime song from years ago, the lyrics that called out the hero’s name up high were vouched for by the Tsukimori male demographic ages thirty to forty.
After seeing off Mia as she slipped into the twilight, Takeru walked to the shrine’s office.
The rabbit shrine served a lunar faith. On special nights of the lunar calendar, they’d offer prayers to the moon to cleanse away evil spirits. In association with that, the shrine sold some unconventional evil wards.
“I guess I’ll give it to her after tomorrow’s game…”
What sort of reaction would he get from Mia?
Would she be delighted, or would she act bashful?
As he tried to picture it, the inside of Takeru’s chest flared heatedly.
It didn’t matter which. For Mia’s house to spend their time in happiness.
Putting in a meager prayer, Takeru purchased a ward.

An hour later, when Takeru reached home, he came to know.
Mia’s house had been attacked by someone.
Mia’s mother who had been home at the time was murdered. Having returned at a bad time, Mia was dragged in as well, there were multiple stab wounds across her body, she was unconscious in critical condition. The culprit hadn’t been caught. But from the traces left at Mia’s house and witness reports, it was concluded the perpetrator was a kaijin.

 

 

— Did you hear about that hotel fire the other day? About the second year Midorikawa…
— She was attacked by a kaijin, right? What’s more, it was a hotel, right? Did her man ditch her there or something?
— Serves her right. She was merciless with the bullying, that girl.
—… But lately, don’t you think there’ve been a few too many kaijin incidents?
— It’s going around the net, a pic showing Gaimoon done in. It’s not Photoshop, right?
— But it’s got to be a kaijin that posted it!
— Do you think Leviathan’s really back?

She could hear the incessant rainfall outside.
Mia walked down the school corridor after school, making her way towards the library.
Be it the classroom or the hallway, various rumors entered her ears. A majority of them were in regards to Midorikawa.
Only when an incident occurs in close proximity, do people start to sense the danger. Who did she hear that from? Perhaps they were the past Gaimoon, her father’s words.
In the end, at the hotel fire, Mia ended up letting the alters get away again. She fell for their traps, she was driven into a corner. The alters’ movements had clearly changed. Something was squirming where she couldn’t see. In the midst of an impending violent storm, how would she, Gaimoon stand against it?
Holding onto a sense of melancholy, Mia opened the library door.
“Ah…”
For some reason, the female student at the reception desk reacted surprised.
The first year who handled her when she borrowed a book the other day. The way she spoke about ‘What it took to be a hero’ with Takeru left an impression, she remembered her well.
“Hello, I’m here to return a book.”
“Omou-senpai… u-umm, a return, right, yes, yes, right this way…”
Terribly nervous, the first year accepted Mia’s ‘Flowers for Algernon’ softcover.
With the book handed over, that was her business finished, but Mia ended up talking to the first year.
“What it takes to be a hero, did you figure anything out after that?”
While the first year opened her mouth blankly, she eventually boisterously waved her hands in a panic.
“Ah, no, umm, Omou-senpai, why are you asking me…”
“I overheard when you were talking about it the other day. A hero is the symbol of another’s aspirations, was it?”
“No, t-that’s…!”
On the verge of letting out a loud voice, the first year hurriedly covered her hand with her mouth. The way she reacted to everything was interesting. Though Mia couldn’t quite understand why she was acting so meek.
“… I-it was nothing important, please forget about it. Just some chatter.”
“Really? I found it interesting. So that’s what it is, I got to thinking.”
“… Really?”
Nervous as she was, the first year’s eyes started to sparkle.
Truth be told, the reason Mia was eavesdropping was something else. She kept quiet on that point. While she did want to talk more, she noticed there were other students wanting to borrow books.
“… Sorry, looks like I’m holding you up. Let’s have a good talk another day.”
“T-thank you, umm,” The first year continued on. “I’m Tsuzuki. Tsuzuki Nozomi, it is my pleasure to be of your acquaintance.”
“Got it, Tsuzuki-san. Ah, that’s right.”
Mia asked a final question.
“Tak… Okina-kun isn’t on the register?”
“Okina-senpai? I think he’s organizing books in the back.”
“I see, thank you.”
Mia parted from the counter and slowly made her way to the back of the library.
Would he be angry if she suddenly called out?
No, there was nothing to worry about. For Mia still had Takeru indebted for the difference in drink cost. Sawako had said it as well. If there’s a chance, cut in and attack. Otherwise, you’ll never grasp your goal.
Even if she ended up disappointed, there were things she wouldn’t see unless they collided.
Courage. With courage. It’s nothing major. As a childhood friend, she was just a little curious about how he was doing. Just call out, that’s all there is to it.
Mia encouraged herself as she proceeded between the bookshelves.
And to call out to him, Mia took a step forward. An unthinkable scene entered her eyes.
“… Take-chan?”
What looked like the books he was supposed to organize were scattered across the floor.
Unable to retrieve them, Okina Takero was collapsed on the floor without the slightest twitch.

 

 

“That was utter shit.”
Kneeling in the Japanese-style room, Takeru took those words with a sour look.
Akutsu Chiyo held our her pipe in one hand, the smoke wafting off of it.
The bewitching, swaying smoke made it so Takeru couldn’t remove his eyes.
“Sure enough, you’ve secured a route for funds and weapons. Well, quality and scale-wise, my poor old heart won’t hold up if you call yourself Leviathan with that, but for now, I’ll give that point a passing mark.”
Chiyo tapped the pipe against an ashtray. The ashes fluttered out like snow.
“But right now, the greatest thing you should never let go of is leaving your hands. It’s as if you haven’t noticed that at all.”
“What I shouldn’t let go of?”
“Comrades, stupid.”
Chiyo’s words came with a heavy ring to them.
“In your first mission, what you had to grasp wasn’t a source of money, it was the awe of Lord Helvenom. You should place weight on the fact that your comrade alters rebelled. Rebellion is something like measles. It’ll spread through the organization in no time, and rear a deep-rooted disease called doubt. Sooner or later, an organization that can’t trust its top will self-destruct.”
“… That’s what Terreur is for. You’re the one who said you wouldn’t let me move as Lord Helvenom until I acquired it.”
“Terreur isn’t omnipotent. Exposed to the same stimulus, soon the heart grows dull, and you no longer feel fear as fear. Awe, you see, you have to make it with reverence and fear as a set. Take special caution around Ikaruga. You don’t know when he’ll come for your sleeping head with that kid.”
Chiyo spoke as it reminiscing over an unruly delinquent son.
“The other alters are the same. You’re still being tested. Whether you’re worth the name Lord Helvenom or not. Keep going at this rate, and you’ll be abandoned. In a not-too-distant future at that.”
“… Then what are you saying I should do?”
Takeru was aware. That Chiyo’s indication was correct, that he had failed to grasp the alters’ hearts, that in the first place, asking her like this would be futile.
That’s precisely why his impatience fumed in excess.
“Don’t take your eyes off your comrades. Your own desires either. Carry out nothing but safe plans, and you won’t get anywhere. I told you that three years ago”
Chito’s head deformed and changed. The skin, the flesh fell away to a red skull.
She was changing to the shape of the First Lord Helvenom, ruler of indignation.
“What you walk is the path of carnage, an empty path of no recompense. Unless you keep losing, you’ll never be able to become Alchemuls.”
Before he noticed it, Chiyo’s figure had vanished. Takeru was alone, shoved into a pitch-black space. He didn’t find it strange in the slightest. The boundary between memory and dream had grown hazy.
Click, clack, the approaching footsteps.
A skull waving a coat, the color of crows’ wings. Takeru’s offshoot, Lord Helvenom.
Lord Helvenom’s heatless hands suddenly grasped his throat.
“Know this, Okina Takeru.”
The black skull whispered with the voice of a corpse
“You will lose, and lose, and continue to lose. For that is your–”

— Choice.

“Oh, are you finally up?”
When he opened his eyelids, his eyes met with Sawako, who was in a white doctor’s gown. After gazing at Sawako on a swivel chair, he noticed an IV drip pierced into his left arm. The ceiling that reflected back at him was neither the library nor the infirmary, it was a sight he remembered. The ceiling of the examination room he had grown accustomed to.
“… Why am I at your clinic?”
“You collapsed, Mia gave me a call and carried you here. Can’t get an IV at the infirmary, after all. You’d better go thank her later.”
“So that’s how it is…”
Today was supposed to be the day Mia returned her ‘Flowers for Algernon’. He had gone off to arrange bookshelves so he wouldn’t have to see her, but it seems that ended in failure.
“I think it’s just overwork, but what sort of life are you living? You were groaning the whole time.”
Takeru swallowed his breath.
“… Did I say something?”
“Who knows? Your groans never developed into sleep talk.”
“That so…”
Overwork. Hearing his own circumstance, Takeru gave a bitter smile.
After the fire incident, taking care of the post-work, planning the next operation, contriving smuggled goods from the newly gained route had worked him to death, and these past few days, he hadn’t even the leisure to reflect on his own body.
Even if he received the grace of the system that worked with the mask, it did seem both his body and spirit were burdened far more than anticipated.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. To be blunt, your state right now is abnormal, abnormal I say. I can’t think you’re living the life of a healthy high school boy. Push yourself just because you’ve got youth, and your body cried out. You get what I’m saying?”
Sawako tiresomely shook her head and spun her chair. Facing the desk, she filled out the clinical records.
On the desk was a pink rabbit mascot—the ‘ward rabbit’ Takero had given her. A doll with its entire body design focused on roundness, it was connected to a laptop through USB cable. Its LED eyes lit up red.
“… So you put up the one I gave you.”
“Ah, right, right. It’s a hit with the kids who come for checkups. See, the shrine priest changed, and they don’t deal in these ward rabbits anymore, right? There was a time when they were all the rage you know. When they’re supposed to be charms, they’ve got USB connectability, what’s more, all it does is light up their eyes, they’re needlessly machined I say. But are you okay with that? This is a rare item only for those in the know.”
“It’s fine. I just happened to find it lying around the room. Could never say it was ever too effective.”
It was a ward rabbit he had originally intended to give Mia. But in the end, that wish ended undelivered.
“Quit saying things that are just asking for divine retribution. Alright, that’s that for the examination. Here’s my prescription: learn well, play well, eat well, sleep well. That is all.”
“… And what an arbitrary examination it was.”
“What are you talkin’ about? There’s no better medicine in the world.”
Turning back towards him, Sawako spoke with a grin.
“Since you’re at it, why don’t you go on a date with Mia? It’ll be a nice diversion, don’t you think?”
“… I can do without it.”
“How long do you plan on avoiding the girl like that?”
While her lips were smiling, Sawako’s eyes gazed irritated at Takeru.
“I’m not particularly trying to meddle, but stop being stubborn and try facing her. The kid’s lonely, she’s got no friends at school to talk to.”
“Her?”
As he responded, he recalled Mia from the other day.
Mia reading a book on the third-floor landing. While she grew a following as Tsuki High’s Hero, he had never seen her get along especially well with any particular someone.
“Everyone relies on her, and then what? It seems that’s made for a strange distance. She’s busy in her own way, and she doesn’t really relate with the kids at school.”
“… She always did suck at making friends.”
“You’re in the same boat.”
Sawako extracted the IV from Takeru’s arm. She pressed the puncture with gauze.
“If you can snark like that, you’re not bad enough to be hospitalized. Anything happens, just say the word. And so,” Sawako added on. “You’ve got to pass  on the word to the kid in the waiting room.”
“Waiting room?”
“Hop to it. Your bike’s been carried out back.”
Wit Sawako pushing his back, Takeru was driven out of the examination room.
Looking at the dim waiting room where the reception desk light had gone out, he saw a single young girl sitting down on the sofa.
Mia, with her bag on her knees, nod by nod dozing off.
After gazing at Mia’s sleeping face a while, Takeru took a glance back. Sawako, whose head peeked out of the examination room entrance, stood up her thumb to wish him good luck.
The escape route was blocked off. Reluctantly, Takeru poked her on the forehead.
“… You’ll catch a cold if you sleep here.”
“Fheh?”
The girl’s eyes dimly opened—in her head that hadn’t yet fully awoken, Mia gazed absentmindedly at Takeru. Her cheeks loosened into a smile.
“…… Ah, Take-chan?”
A while later, as if a switch had clicked, Mia’s deep blue eyes snapped open. She hurriedly wiped the drool around her mouth and corrected her seated posture. After two, three coughs to play it off, she spoke.
“G-good morning, Take-chan! A-are you feeling fine now?”
“Thank you, you saved me there. It was just overwork, she said.”
“N-no, oh no, don’t mind me.”
The conversation that continued was as clumsy as ever.
This was fine, Takeru thought. Their relationship had changed.
What was lost would never return. They could no longer hold the relationship they had before—
— But right now, the greatest thing you should never let go of is leaving your hands. It’s as if you haven’t noticed that at all.
“What’s wrong, Take-chan?”
Mia worriedly peered into his face.
“You just made a really scary face… are you sure you’re alright…”
“… Yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry.”
Takeru plainly shook his head. His and Mia’s relationship had certainly changed. But precisely what had changed, and what had stayed the same? Takeru still didn’t know.
In that case, it was necessary to ascertain that.
“… I’ve got myself in a debt greater than fifty yen.”
Takeru looked straight at Mia and spoke.
“Is there anything I can do to thank you for this? I’ll do my best to the extent of my capabilities.”
For a while, like a child who’d come face-to-face with Santa, Mia feebly opened her mouth.
“U-umm, you don’t have to force yourself… but you did propose it, so…”
Mia thought to herself, but when the thought struck her, she energetically raised a hand and answered with a smile.
“I request a date at Tsukimori Tower!”

 

 

Three days later.
Kanon was suddenly called out by Tsumugi to Kagari Odeon.
She wore a sea-blue long one-piece dress, a cap with a wide brim over her eyes. Lately, whenever she went out, she would never forget a hat. A rosario hung at her chest.
“Ah, Kanon. Over here, this way.”
When she entered, Tsumugi sitting at the ticket counter raised a hand.
“Sorry for calling you out all of a sudden.”
“No, I’ve got time to spare today… but what’s wrong? Is there something you want to consult me on?”
“I wanted to talk a bit about the second.”
A tension raced through Kanon’s body.
Tsumugi gave a wry smile as she handed over an iced café au lait.
“… No need to stand around talking, let’s use that sofa over there.”
“Ah, yes…”
Kanon sat beside her on the shabby sofa in the lobby. While the two of them held drinks in their hand, neither had the mind to put their mouths to them.
“Hatoko and Matoko are dissatisfied with the Second’s way of doing things. Reo as well. Though I’ll admit that guy’s got a knack for making a fuss over nothing. Ikaruga-san… do I really have to say it?”
“Has it got something to do with that plan the other day?”
“Right. The plan itself was a success, and we managed to secure a source of funding, but… it seems everyone wants to see a more tangible gain. I hear the pic of Gaimoon’s defeat is flaring up on the net, but… from their point of view, so what, I guess?”
The hero of justice who protects Tsukimori,  Gaimoon.
No matter how cornered, an evolving fantasy that would always stand up.
“… What about you, Tsumugi-san? Are you against the Second Lord Helvenom’s methods?”
“I think it’s too early to make a call. Practically speaking, the second’s power is great. We’ve only just started, and if we rush for results, there’s no way it’ll go well… it’s just, perhaps we’ve piled on just a few too many losses for us to make due with those words.”
Tsumugi rocked her cup of black coffee as she looked towards Kanon.
“… That’s why I want to know how you feel right now, Kanon. What do you think of the second, and what do you want to do from here on?”
“That’s…”
Kanon was lost for words. What crossed her mind was the many people she hurt as the Alter Ecole. No matter what justice she smoothed it over with, the facts of the matter didn’t change.
“… I do think we’re doing something unforgivable. But we didn’t have any other path we could choose. Taking Lord Helvenom’s hand, choosing a life in hell was my only option…”
Our good fight.
Kanon had never felt the meaning of the words.
While learning there were things that couldn’t be gained without battle, some part of her heart wished to avoid conflict.
“It’s strange that alters are unilaterally decided as evil… teacher said it, didn’t he? We have to fight to prove we’re human too… I think that’s why we need Lord Helvenom.”
“… Natives and alters are humans all the same, huh.”
Tsumugi lonesomely repeated the words.
They were words the stranger class’ professor Togumo would repeat as a force of habit.
“It’s a right bother. Whenever the previous generation does what they want and wracks up a tab,  it’s always the current gen that has to pay for it. Thanks to the warmongering first gen, us second gen have to squinch our shoulders. If the past Lord Helvenom was a pacifist, our lives may have been a whole lot easier.”
“… Do you think there are any people like us in other towns too?”
“Who knows? I’ve never heard of them outside Tsukimori. On the contrary, perhaps it’s precisely because we’re shut away in Tsukimori that our existence is even permitted.”
Tsumugi sipped her ice-cold café au lait and thought.
Lord Helvenom said. He would lead them to a new future for alters.
Perhaps that was where Kanon could find the answer she desired.
Why were alters born, where were they headed? How were they supposed to live in this world?
That answer—
“Don’t expect too much out of Lord Helvenom.”
At Tsumugi’s declaration as if she had seen straight through her heart, Kanon swallowed her breath.
“If not wanting to become evil is your reason for fighting, then Lord Helvenom is leading you to a complete opposite future. What he shoulders is the title of Alchemuls, the absolute evil. Well, at the very least, I can’t think he’ll bring us any peace.”
“Alchemuls…”
The question struck Kanon.
“… Come to think of it what does Alchemuls mean? I did hear it meant absolute evil, but I never did find out where the word came from…”
“Eh? Ah, now that you mention it, what could it be… it never really bothered me up to now, but… and wait, given the conversation, that’s the part you question?”
“Ah, I’m sorry… I just got stuck on it…”
“Haha, it’s fine. Sounds like you.”
Tsumugi pat Kanon’s bashful head.
“… Well, in the end, whatever happens, happens. But be on your guard. Unless the second demonstrates he can stand on the same level as Gaimoon, Leviathan’s revival is impossible.”
“You’re, right…”
The conversation flourished for a while longer, but as if she had recalled something, Tsumugi opened her mouth.
“Right… there’s something I was planning on giving you today.”
“To me?”
“Truth is, I received some tickets to the museum, but I’m not really interested. Do you want to take them off my hands? You like that sorta thing, don’t you?”
“Ah, then I’ll gladly take them. I’m free after this, maybe I’ll use them right away…”
“Alright, that’s decided then. Here you go. Now go have some fun.”
Tsumugi produced a single ticket from her wallet.
“It’s for that ‘Surrealist World’ exhibit they’re holding at Tsukimori Tower Museum.”

 

 

For Omou Mia, it was her first visit to Tsukimori Tower in eight years.
Tsukimori Tower was a 200m structure towering over Tsukimori JR Station, widely adored by foreign sightseers as the symbol of the city. A museum and aquarium had been established within the tower, and it was also active as one of the prominent date sites in Tsukimori.
“… Why is the line this long just to use the elevator?”
“That’s because you chose to come when it was crowded.”
At present, Takeru and Mia were outside the tower in the entrance queue.
Takeru was in a black polo and jeans. While it was a simple pairing, it made him look surprisingly mature. Still, the lameness of his glasses was hard to accept. It made one want to tilt his head at why he chose them in the first place. It was almost as if he wanted to put his own lack of fashion on display.
Meanwhile, Mia had equipped denim short pants and a patterned T-shirt, with a jacket wrapped around her waist. A pochette was hung diagonally over her shoulder.
From the time she returned to Japan, this should be the first time they were meeting in casual clothes. All the way there, her heart raced at what sort of reaction he’d show, but unfortunately, Takeru remained completely unmoved.
“Well then, let’s get going, Omou-san.”
Was all he said, and as always he called her ‘Omou-san’ like a stranger.
Takeru was the same as ever. Without any hint of elation, he indifferently accompanied Mia’s actions. As Mia was miffed, a woman passing by the side of the line caught her eyes.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat low over her eyes, she wore a light-blue lone one-piece dress. While Mia couldn’t see her face well, her gestures carried with them a sense of elegance and she couldn’t help but watch in fascination. Her rousing chest as well.
It did seem Takeru hadn’t noticed this beauty. Feeling relieved by that fact, Mia’s attention was drawn to the flier in the woman’s hand.
“… They’re holding a ‘Surrealist World’ exhibit at the museum, Take-chan. Want to go have a look later?”
“We haven’t even got into the tower yet. In the first place, were you ever interested in paintings?”
“What are you talking about? I’ve seen the real Mona Lisa with my own two eyes!”
Takeru’s brow twitched in surprise. Oh, so that one he reacts to?
While half of her felt happy, the other half realized she had lost to the Mona Lisa, making her just a bit conflicted.
“The real Mona Lisa means you went to the Louvre?”
“Right, right. It’s amazing, looks exactly as it did in The Davinci Code! I thought I really did have to go see that reverse pyramid…”
“Ever since you left the town six years ago, were you in France the whole time?”
Mia closed her mouth. She understood what had caught Takeru’s attention.
Yeah, she lightly nodded.
“The surgery was a little too difficult for Japan. How do they say it? I was knocking on death’s door? Something like that. Father, see, he used to work in France, so it seems he had some connections over there. I was right to have such a global papa.”
For some reason, Takeru’s brow furrowed as if he was terribly in thought.
The line moved a great deal. With Mia and Takeru still silent, they boarded the Elevator together.
The door closed on them, a quiet ascent began. The pressure changed, as their inner eardrums were assailed with a tightening sensation.
Eventually, the elevator door opened, and the two arrived at the viewing platform.
“Oh, amazing! You can see all of town from here, all of it!”
Mia raced straight for the panoramic view. The panorama of Tsukimori City across the window glass. The town she was born in, raised in, spread across the whole surface.
Standing beside her with a meek face, Takeru gazed out over town.
Mia daringly opened her mouth.
“It’s in the neighborhood, but we never stop by. I haven’t been since that field trip in grade school, but I’m surprised to see the scenery from here hasn’t changed.”
“… I don’t remember how it used to look anymore.”
‘That’s not true. Look, you can see the Teiko River grounds over there. When we came here before, it looked the same, and we made a ruckus about it.”
“… Did we?”
“You say that, but Take-chan, you’ve been staring at the grounds since we got here, haven’t you.”
Takeru made a face as if she pricked his weak point.
“… We’re on a date here, so I want to hear your own words. Right now, what are you thinking, what are you seeing, what are you feeling? Is that no good?”
For a while, Takeru didn’t answer anything. Even so, Mia patiently waited.
For what her childhood friend would say.
“… I thought you weren’t coming back, Omou-san.”
Takeru said. Indifferent as he sounded, he continued on in a firm tone.
“I mean, it’s nothing but bad memories for you, here in Tsukimori.”
“… That’s not true at all. To me, this is my homeland, the place I was born.”
Putting a hand to her chest, Mia declared.
“I can’t forget Maman’s incident and I’m sad about it. But I can’t come to hate this town where I met everyone. Truth be told, I wanted to return sooner. I didn’t want to be away. And…”
“And?”
“… No, it’s nothing.”
She wouldn’t tell Takeru any more.
The previous Gaimoon, her father, entrusted her with the town’s peace, and now she was active as the second Gaimoon. Her body was operated on, one of her father’s work friends hammered the art of combat into her, and she acquired the means to fight as a hero of justice. After returning to Tsukimori came her days of fighting kaijin.
These six years were by no means short.
There were definitely things that had changed.
Even so.
“I’m sure if you look at this scenery from above, you’ll be able to spot things that’ve stayed the same.”
After Leviathan was gone, the evil acts of kaijin were still fomented.
Even so, this was the town Mia loved.
“It’s the town I love with the people I love. I’m sure there are things that haven’t changed; I believe.”
“People you love, eh.”
With Takeru repeating it, Mia’s cheeks blazed in heat.
“Y-you’ve got it wrong! I’m talking about in the like sense, and not the romantic love one! I’m serious here!”
“What are you so panicked for?”
“I-I’m not panicking.”
Mia was completely in a state of chaos. Freaking out, she pointed at the town out the window.
“Man, this really is a nice view! What was around that area again!?”
“Oh, that area should be the Koheru District.”
Takeru said as if nothing had happened.
“It was three years ago, was it? There was a huge fire around there. Do you remember?”
“Fire? I don’t know, I’m not sure if I was back by that time.”
“Sawa-chan told me you got back around spring. The fire was in winter, so you probably at least saw it in the paper or something.”
“Really? In that case, maybe I have…”
Abruptly, the memories crossed Mia’s brain.

A burning building, the collapsing people, the black skull standing within the crimson blaze.
— I am Alchemuls.
A voice that didn’t let her feel the slightest touch of warmth, the voice of a corpse.
— I do not forget. I do not forgive. Quiver and wait for my coming.

“Omou-san?”
Mia returned to her senses. Takeru’s worried eyes were peering her way. Seeing those eyes, Mia regained the tranquility in her heart.
“Sorry, sorry, I just remembered a strange dream I had last night. And man am I beat.”
“… Are you really alright?”
“God, you don’t have to get so serious about it! It’s nothing big, I assure you.”
She didn’t want to say she was dragging out a nightmare forever.
It was time to promptly change the subject.
“More importantly, I do think there’s something else you’re supposed to say to me.”
“And what would that be?”
“My clothes today, your thoughts?”
Once she had said it, a new embarrassment took root. Takeru slowly opened his mouth.
“Yeah, truth be told, they’ve been on my mind for a while now.”
“Say what!?”
To a flustered Mia, Takeru directed his gaze down and offered a word.
“… Aren’t you showing off too much leg?”
Right after, Mia’s kick exploded out two hundred meters above the ground.

 

 

Time with Mia went by in the blink of an eye. But strangely, Takeru’s physical condition didn’t take a turn for the worse. It was as if his collapse just a few days ago had been a lie. After snooping around the observation deck a while, Takeru and Mia took a break at the café terrace on the platform.
“Yeah, a meal with this view as an appetizer is delicious!”
“Eat too much and you’ll get fat.”
“I exercise, so it’s not a problem! My metabolism can manage!”
The way she was stubborn about the most pointless of things hadn’t changed.
Ever since Mia returned, he got the feeling this was the first time he’d spent such a long period of time with her. Takeru’s eyes naturally ended up searching out the parts of her that hadn’t changed, and those that had matured.
She was growing closer and closer to resembling her late mother. The adult form he couldn’t picture in the slightest back then was gradually approaching.
“… When I look at you like this, Take-chan, you’re surprisingly rugged.”
Mia abruptly reached a hand, and pat it against Takeru’s arm.
“You’re not in any club, but you’re considerably trained, or rather… did you pick up some martial art?”
“… I’ve just been into weight training lately. And wait, aren’t you feeling me up a bit much?”
“Hmhmm, I see, this bicep brachii is rather… then how about those abdominals–”
“Aw hell no!”
For some reason, Mia’s nasal breathing had grown rough before her face was pushed aside. Takeru was utterly amazed, yet for some reason, Mia burst into delighted laughter.
“Take-chan, you’re getting closer to past you.”
“—You’re imagining it, surely.”
“It’s something you can’t notice on your own. With that, all that’s left is to turn back the way you address me.”
“Did you say something, Omou-san?”
“… You’ve got a stubborn streak too, Take-chan.”
Mia sighed as she shifted her eyes to the terrace’s panorama view. The Tsukimori City spread out to fill the window, she gazed out with melancholic eyes.
“… It’s strange, when you look at it like this, it’s just a normal town. But somewhere in this view, the kaijin are lurking, aren’t they.”
“… Do you hate alters after all?”
For a while Mia didn’t answer, she gazed out over town. Only her hand continued twirling the straw of her ice tea. The ice in the glass chimed pleasantly against the sides.
“When I went over there, after my conscious returned, I had nightmares for a while. Nothing but dreams of the kaijin who killed maman stabbing my body. All over my stomach, chk, chk, again, and again. The kaijin stabs me as he hums a tune, I’ve never been able to get it out of my ears.”
Mia said with a disinterested tone. Perhaps unconsciously, her fingertips were tracing out her chest. The stab wound and the surgery that had once been carried out there.
Under Takeru’s eyelids, the form of Mia six years ago floated. In an emergency room, with all the tubes connected to her. Her eyes closed, lying on the bed.
“Back then, I was scared of kaijin, and more than anything, I detested them. I couldn’t forgive the kaijin who stole Maman from me and father… I wanted to kill them.”
“… Back then?”
“I trained quite a bit since then.”
Mia suddenly made a fist. Takeru couldn’t take his eyes off the fist that had fought a great many evils.
“What I truly detest isn’t kaijin. It’s the very evil that makes someone’s heart shed tears. That’s why, if I could, I wanted to fight whatever’s driving these kaijin to evil.”
“… And how do you intend to fight something like that? This isn’t a manga or anima. You won’t find such a clear discernable evil anywhere in the world.”
“Well that’s… what do I do? No clue.”
Mia laughed, but, she continued.
“Rather than revenge, see, I just don’t want to abandon people who are facing the same things as me. I want to be the power to wipe away that sort of sadness… just as someone did for me.”
“…What do you mean?”
For some reason, Mia’s face bashfully flushed.
While Takeru mused over that fact, she stood as if to brush it off.
“T-this room sure is hot! H-haha… I-I’ve got to go to the ladies’ room!”
In a sudden panic, Mia left the table. It was as if she wanted to conceal her own embarrassed face. Left on his own, Takeru took a look at Mia’s now-unoccupied seat.
On the Mia-less chair, a lovely pochette had been left behind.
If he wanted to do it, now was the chance.
Swiftly, Takeru removed the pochette from the chair and stuck his hand inside. He found what he was looking for soon enough. The white smartphone she had quite an attachment to.
He tapped the screen without hesitation. As expected, it demanded a four-digit passcode.
To start off, Takeru entered Mia’s birthday. ‘Invalid password’. Next, he tried her mother’s birthday. ‘Invalid password’.
Based on the phone’s specs, after three failed attempts, it would request fingerprint identification. He couldn’t fail again. After careful consideration, he made one more attempt. The lock came off, changing to the home screen.
Takeru quickly checked her call log.
0 Entries in Call History. 0 Received emails. 0 Numbers in Phone Book. While she had contacted Takeru yesterday to verify their meeting time, even that mail had been erased.
This smartphone was thoroughly cleaned of all personal information. As if some existence had anticipated Takeru would try probing from the start.
Was the data backed up elsewhere? Or perhaps she was simply a receiver, and Mia never made contact from her side.
Takeru tucked Mia’s smartphone back in the pochette and placed it on the chair.
At that moment, the ringtone of his own phone rang from his pocket.
The number was ‘withheld’.
Mia had yet to return.
After gazing at his phone a while, Takeru pressed the answer icon.
“… Hello?”
‘I can’t say I’m impressed with you, stealing a glance at someone else’s cellphone, Okina Takeru-kun.’
A voice altered with a voice changer. Takeru immediately shot a look around.
There were too many people on the viewing platform, he couldn’t spot anyone that fit the part.
‘Ah, I’ll just say it, but you won’t find the information you’re looking for, going through Omou Mia’s smartphone. I taught that kid to always wipe it clean.’
“… Who might I be talking to?”
The person he heard across the speaker gave an amused laugh.
‘Gaimoon’s little collaborator, let’s go with that. I want to talk with you a bit. Won’t you accompany me for a bit of banter, Okina Takeru-kun. No,’
With a clear conviction, the other party declared.
‘—The second Lord Helvenom.’

 

 

Sakurai Kanon ascended to the viewing platform out of a slight flight of fancy.
When she was about to leave the museum, she noticed the line for the direct elevator was gone, and feeling half-invited, she decided to board.
Wincing back form the swarm of people on the platform, she gazed around the Tsukimori scenery alone. Looked down upon from 200 meters, the city looked almost like a miniature garden.
“Come to think of it, I’ve never been to that part before…”
Each time she spotted a building or river she’d never seen before, Kanon reaffirmed the fact she still knew nothing about Tsukimori City.
As a test, she took out her smartphone, and took a picture. But a few pictures in, the battery ran out. There were displays in the museum were photography was allowed, and she ended up with a photo gallery full of pictures. The battery never did last long.
There was no getting around it, so she endeavored to burn the panoramic view into her naked eyes. In the first place, Kanon wasn’t born in Tsukimori.
As she rose to middle school, she visited the town for the first time, and met with her alter comrades. Her meeting with Tsumugi, her meetings at the stranger class, mourning for Professor Togumo who taught and lead them, and after that, meeting Freiger and Ikaruga who endorsed Tsumugi’s plan—
Thinking such things as she walked, Kanon suddenly noticed what had entered her field of vision. A young boy loitering aimlessly near a pillar.
He was still around five, perhaps. He sobbed while nervously looking around.
The other adult surrounded at a distance, as if he was an object to be treated with extreme caution.
As Kanon mulled over what to do, the boy’s eyes met with hers. She couldn’t run anymore. Kanon made her resolve and approached the child.
“Ummm, what’s wrong? Are you lost?”
Kanon timidly asked. As if the mold had been removed, the boy she talked to’s face slumped into a frown. Kaon hurriedly tried to stop it, but it was already too late.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaahn! Urp, hic…!!”
“P-please wait…! Umm, calm down… just calm down…!”
The fearsome cry put her into a panic. This was on another level from silencing a hostage. In her native form, Kanon was powerless to no end.
It happened when she was at her wit’s end.
“Little boy, what happened? Do you want to tell me about it?”
Before the boy’s eyes, from somewhere, a mascot doll was thrust.
The mascot character of Tsukimori Tower, ‘Luna-chan’. Gazing intently at the Luna-chan, the boy had forgotten to cry.
The one holding it was a young girl, around the same age as herself, with deep blue eyes.
“If something’s troubling you, just ask me, I’ll make it better!”
Through Luna-chan, the young girl gently addressed the boy. The boy sniffled his nose as he timidly spoke up.
“Mama… went away… can’t find her…”
“Then I’ll search for her with you! Let’s try the lost child center over there!”
Was she used to dealing with children? The girl had established contact in no time.
Kanon confirmed the map posted on the pillar. According to it, the lost child center was on the complete opposite side. Kanon gently whispered into the girl—Mia’s ear.
“… Umm, will that be alright? The lost child center’s quite a distance from here…”
“It’ll be fine, I’ll just give my companion a call… wait, I see, it was in my bag…”
Crap, Mia’s gaze wandered, but she immediately got herself together.
“Yeah, but it’s no problem at all. He won’t get angry if I keep him waiting a bit.”
“Is that so…?”
A certain notion crossed Kanon’s eyes.
After a careful look around, she covered her left ear, turning it to the side so neither Mia nor the boy could see. Her hat and long hair covered it up. They shouldn’t be able to notice.
Just like that, Kanon recalled a melody in her head.
The interlude to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, she concentrated her mind on a tune her ears had grown accustomed to from her tender years. Her left ear was tinged with heat. Her activated alter ganglia generated alter cells, producing an external organ over her ear.
When transforming, each alter boasted their own individual transformation ritual. This was a psychological brake to prevent them from carelessly taking on alter form in their daily life, and by going through a set process, there was an additional effect of stabilizing the transformation.
Furthermore, for an alter trained in transformation, it was possible to alterize just a portion of their body to enhance their physical capabilities.
In Kanon’s case, recalling the melody to Swan’s lake, and concentrating on it became her transformation ritual. To fully transform, she would need to listen to the entire Berlin Symphony Orchestra playing Swan Lake- recorded on her music player- but for a partial transformation, just recalling it would suffice.
Through her eternal organs, her sense of hearing was enhanced to 100 times that of a normal human. The amount of information vibrating her eardrums expanded all at once, as all sorts of voices flowed in.
So as not to be led astray, Kanon carefully places a conscious filter.
From the flock of resounding voices, she ‘searched’ for the one she sought.

Hey, is your house over there? I’m sick of the sights already, let’s go karaoke. Do you think grandpa will like this as a souvenir? Yes, chief, it’s about that matter. I’ve fallen in love with you… That elevator makes my ears go tingly. Buy me an Usamoon! Hey, buy it! No way, it’s so too high, I can’t see anything… Maa-kun, where are you!? Maa-kun!
“Maa-kun?”
When she repeated the name she heard, the boy twitched in surprise. After looking in the direction of the voice, she turned towards him.
“Your mom is probably that way. I just heard a voice…”
“Eh? Really? I didn’t hear anything…”
“Yes, umm, please follow me…”
Turning her hat diagonal, she hit her left ear before leading the two.
The boy had followed along anxiously, but all of a sudden he raced off like a fired shell.
“Mama!”
The boy spotted a woman wandering around and clung onto her with a relieved face.
“God, what were you doing, Maa-kun! I told you to stay close to me!”
“So you see, those ladies over there found mama.”
“That’s… I’m sorry, how ever can I thank you…”
As the woman shamefully lowered her head, both Kanon and Mia were flustered.
“Ah, no, it’s this fine lady who assisted Maa-kun, so…”
“I didn’t do anything, nothing at all! It’s all thanks to you that we found his moher…”
Kanon and Mia conceded points to the other. It was so peculiar, the two meeting faces, and even the woman ended up laughing.
“Thank you, both ladies! See you later!”
Seeing off the child waving his hand, and the woman bowing her head time and again, Kanon exhaled a relieved sigh.
“… Umm how was the museum?”
Her conduct suddenly deducted, her body shook in surprise. Mia hurriedly waved her hands.
“Ah, I-I didn’t mean to startle you! That pamphlet, you went to the museum, didn’t you? I was a little curious about it.”
The pamphlet she held pointed out, she stroked her chest. Perhaps she had overreacted a bit.
“It was splendid… but this, exhibit only, runs to today…”
“Ah, I see, that’s a shame… looks like I missed my chance.”
Even as her shoulders’ dropped, Mia quickly formed a carefree smile.
“Miss, your ears are really nice. You saved us there. We safely found his mother, and now I won’t have to keep Take-ch… my companion waiting.”
“Oh no, umm, I’m the one who feels saved… I didn’t know how to handle the situation alone…”
“With children, you have to start by dropping their guard. Get across that you’re not their enemy, and they’ll have some peace of mind.”
“Not, an enemy…”
Kanon thought back to the bus jack and hotel incident.
Lately, she’d continuously asserted herself as an ‘enemy’ to women and children. Perhaps that child ha perceived the ‘enemy’ portion of her. In the eyes of this young girl before her eyes, just how did she appear?
“Well then, I’ve got to get back. May we meet again!”
Looking at Mia who came and left like a gale, Kanon giggled to herself.
If she could become friends with a girl like that, then no doubt the world would become interesting. Alone again, Kanon looked around, and hid in the shadow of a pillar.
If Tsumugi had witnessed the scene, she’d reproach her with a terribly threatening air. That was simply how great of a taboo it was for an alter to transform in front of people.
Even so, if it helped someone, she ended up thinking that wasn’t bad. Surprisingly enough, you don’t get found out. That was a fact she had become familiar with through many breakings of taboo.
Changing from alter to native form was comparatively simple. She called to mind her own native form, that alone was enough. Like that, the external organ over Kanon’s left ear was about to be dispelled.
That’s why, the fact the word flew into her ear truly was just a coincidence.

—The Second Lord Helvenom—

Her heart almost stopped.
She immediately darted her eyes to the crowd on the viewing platform. Lord Helvenom was one thing, it was a name that had permeated into the populace. It wouldn’t be strange if someone put that name to mouth.
But for someone to purposely tack on a Second, just who could they be?
Kanon carefully concealed her ear as she concentrated her mind.
To search out the location of the human who had voiced that name.

 

 

“… Haven’t you got the wrong guy? I don’t take wrong numbers.”
‘You’re going to play dumb. You’re a real piece of work, you know that. Using your childhood friend’s goodwill to probe into Gaimoon.’
“My apologies. I don’t really have the time for you, so if you could start by stating your business?”
‘Stop assuming the name of Lord Helvenom. Wash your hands of all the kaijin you’ve come into contact with.’
“I find it difficult to comply with those terms of service. Please provide an alternative.”
‘Spend a happy high school life with your childhood friend. I do think that is the best choice you could hope for.’
“And what happens if I do not comply?”
‘Think of the reason I’m calling your phone like this. As you are now, it’s simple to choose the least desirable option. For example, telling her your secret.’
“… I see this as a matter that does not require such an urgent decision.”
‘I expect a wise choice from you, Okina Takeru-kun. I’m praying for a happiness-filled future between you and her.’

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Take-chan! I went and spotted this kid at that shop over there. She was so cute I had to go buy her! What do you think about ‘Luna-chan’? Huh? Huh?”
“… Yeah, she’s probably cute.”
“So anyways, Take-chan. After this, how about we…”
“I’m sorry, Omou-san. The continuation will have to come later.”
“Eh? Did something happen?”
“… A bit of trouble. I have to get back immediately.”
“It has to be now?”
“Yeah, I’m really sorry.”
“O-okay, got it… so umm, Take-chan.”
“Yes?’
“… Was today fun?”
“… Yeah,”

It was a blast.

 

 

Evening. After parting with Mia, Takeru used the Tsukimori JR line and disembarked at a certain station. After walking down the familiar path, he arrived at his destination.
Placing a hand on the doorknob, he quietly slid open the frosted glass door.
Whether he liked it or not, he knew when the building would be open detestably well. Today was supposed to be a holiday, even so, its open hours were decided so it could deal with urgent business.
Proceeding down the dim lobby, he didn’t hesitate the open the door to the room and flick on the lights. It was a room he’d seen time and again from his youth. The smell of medicine. A great many vials systematically lined the shelf. Mixed in with the medicinal magazines on the desk, a single ward rabbit.
“What are you doing, Takeru?”
when he turned, the owner of the establishment, Mizumachi  Sawako stood in the doorway.
Not in her usual lab coat, she was dressed for a rare outing.
“Howdy, Sawa-chan.”
“To hell with ‘’howdy’! You gave me a right start there! If I didn’t know you, this would be unlawful trespassing!”
“It was open, so I went in.”
“That’s for patients who need in on a no-consultation day! There’s a bell on the door, isn’t there!? And wait, what about your date?”
“I went. Though we just had a look at the scenery from the viewing platform.”
“That’s it? Good grief, the hell are you doing? It’s just good matters to properly escort a lady home after a date.”
“No, there was something I needed to apologize to you about”
Takeru picked up the ward rabbit and showed the underside that was usually in contact with the desk.
“? Something wrong with my rabbit?”
“You see a round scratch here, right?”
Takeru traced the cut on its underside with a finger. A smooth rubbing sound came with it.
“I messed with it a bit before handing it to you. These ward rabbits, all the USB connection does is light up the eyes, right? That’s why, they’re empty inside, and there’s quite a bit of space to store other accessories. For example.”
Takeru purposely inserted a pause.
“The memory for a program to browse the data of the computer it’s connected to.”
Sawako’s complexion changed.
As if he had set foot into a life-threatening secret.
“A majority of your emails were just with medical institutions, but on the days Gaimoon appeared, you were exchanging frequent messages with Mia, weren’t you. Like the bus jacking, and the hotel fire.”
“… What are you talking about?”
“Regulating Gaimoon’s enhanced physique, transmitting data on the outbreak of alters, more than anything, the modification surgery performed on Omou Mia. On the day of the bus jack, the wireless jamming that happened as if to support Gaimoon. All these pieces point to there being a large organization behind Gaimoon. Perhaps you thought you had stolen a march on me, but I was well aware of your identity.”
Gradually, the emotion disappeared from Takeru’s voice.
The tick of the coocoo clock hung in the examination room resounded frightfully in her ear.
“That call back there was from you, wasn’t it? Mizumachi Sawako, Gaimoon’s little collaborator?”
“… When I even went as far as to change the way I speak, looks like I was too soft.”
After ruffling up her hair, Sawako took a cigarette from the box in her pocket and lit it.
“… From when did you notice me?”
“Mia stops by here after Teiko FC practice every week. Even for a physical checkup, you usually wouldn’t go once a week, right? If it was to maintain Gaimoon’s special physical makeup, she would need to periodically depend on a medical institution. I connected two and two easily enough. How about you, how was I figured out?”
“… On the day of the bus jacking, the question the kaijin asked Mia. ‘What do you think of a house mouse with intelligence’? That a question only someone who knew the book Mia borrowed on that very same day could ask, right? The only one who could do that would be the librarian who lent it to her, meaning you.”
“I see. I guess that question did make it too easy to whittle down.”
“Hmph, that’s the part of you I can’t stand. Though Mia doesn’t doubt you in the slightest.”
“Omou-san is too honest for her own good. It looks like she hasn’t even noticed Lord Helvenom’s back yet.”
“That’s because she defeated him herself. I’m sure she just doesn’t want to believe. Much less to say you’re that Lord Helvenom? She can’t even imagine it.”
“What about the organization you’re connected to? – Does the Foundation know about this?”
This time, Sawako opened her eyes in surprise.
“That’s a shocker… you’ve grasped that much…?”
“Just the name,” Takeru said coldly.
“MO unknown, an organization shrouded in mystery. They’re the ones who granted Mia the power of Gaimoon. Cooperating with the former Gaimoon, Omou Mia’s father, to become a deterrent against Leviathan, whose reach was expanding at the time.”
Takeru placed the ward rabbit on the desk.
“How much do you know about the Foundation? Why do they assist in that girl’s Gaimoon activity?”
“… Did you honestly think I’d answer that?”
“If you don’t answer, I’ll leak Mizumachi Sawako’s connection to Gaimoon to the alters all over Tsukimori.”
Her eyes turned grim. But Takeru calmly accepted those eyes filled with a quiet anger.
“To the alters, Gaimoon is a target of hatred. If I expose the name of one collaborating with her, I’m sure they’ll have quite a festival. They’re thirsting for blood. They’re thirsting for victory. It isn’t difficult to imagine what will happen.”
“… You know we’re in the same boat. The moment you pull that trigger, I’ll immediately inform the Foundation you’re the Second Lord Helvenom.”
“If you do that, I’m sure a war will start, dragging the whole town in its midst. Will justice win, or will evil? That’s the most perfect situation for this town, don’t you think?”
Sawako and Takeru exchanged a glare. They continued pointing the gun points neither could see.
The sort that if the trigger was pulled, Tsukimori would be hammered into hell, such lethal guns.
Takeru had made his resolve long ago. His hands had long since been sullied in blood.
He wouldn’t hesitate even if he was up against Sawako.
After a while of silence, Sawako suddenly opened her mouth.
“… How idiotic. Let’s put this behind us, how about it. No need to play a meaningless hand.”
“Meaningless? What are you talking about, Sawa-chan—”
“The reason you become the Second Lord Helvenom was to protect Mia, right?”
Takeru concentrated to maintain a steady breath. Straining to not show his unrest on the surface.
“… What’s that? You must be joking.”
“For example, that hotel fire.”
She said as if interrogating him.
“At a glance, it might seem like an incident aimed at Gaimoon, but I wonder what the real goal was? Perhaps it was to plant a fear of kaijin into that victim high school student? She and Mia were at odds. That’s why instead of an ‘evil to defeat’ you needed Omou Mia to recognize her as a ‘weakling to protect’.”
“… I don’t really see what you mean.”
“It was all to make sure that Meteor Seminar incident didn’t happen again. Am I right?”
A chill raced down Takeru’s spine. Ever since he witnessed it three years ago, the nightmare he could never escape. The burning building, the piling corpses, the crimson Gaimoon that stood there, the hero’s bloodstained fists—
“… The perpetrator of that incident was the Second Lord Helvenom. I killed them by my hand.”
“It’s pointless to pretend. The Foundation figured it out long ago. It’s because it happened that we put restraints on the girl in the first place.”
“Restraints?”
“You didn’t know? Those belts Gaimoon wears, they’re not for defense. They’re there to contain her if her powers run rampant. You should be well aware. Her powers of justice are something that should be restrained.”
Sawako plunged her shortened cigarette into a portable ashtray.
“In the Meteor Seminar, the one who killed the victims, those lecturers and students, wasn’t you.”

— Rather than revenge, see, I just don’t want to abandon people who are facing the same things as me. I want to be the power to wipe away that sort of sadness… just as someone did for me.

“The hero of justice Gaimoon—Omou Mia killed those eight people.”

 

 

A cold sweat flowed down Takeru’s nape.
The memories of a nightmare came back.
The blood clinging to the walls, corpses with their heads caved in, the suffocating stench of blood.
“… When a kaijin transforms, they each have a personal transformation ritual. The Foundation transplanted Mia with a ganglion capable of producing alter cells, and gave her a power capable of opposing kaijin. And as a psychological brake to change completely into Gaimoon, the imbued in her a certain mindset. Meaning, ‘React to malice directed against another’.”
Sawako took a medical record file from her desk.
Written in English, it likely detailed a vast amount of information pertaining to Mia.
“Kaijin, you see, they have a nature that places a psychological pressure on humans. That’s why humans hold an innate psychological fear towards them, and recognize them as ‘evil’. The reason the Foundation gave Gaimoon that mindset was to direct her power against the Kaijin. To make sure she wouldn’t turn that power back against them, they stationed her as a deterrence against Leviathan, who had for a long time inflicted fear upon the people… but then came a problem they had never expected. The Second Gaimoon defeated the First Lord Helvenom, and Leviathan was dissolved.”
Forget deterrent, Gaimoon’s strength completely changed the power balance of Tsukimori.
“How should I put it, like if in a newly serialized battle manga, they suddenly beat the last boss and greet the final chapter? Of course, if that’s all it was, it wouldn’t be a problem. A hero who lost the evil to defeat need only return to her everyday life. Both me and Mia herself prayed for that conclusion.”
But Leviathan’s fall formed a sort of power vacuum in Tsukimori.
What fills the vacant position of evil is always a new evil.
“… It was after Leviathan was defeated. The frequency she went out as Gaimoon decreased, and Mia made a friend in high school. That friend attended the Meteor Seminar in question, but that prep school with the highest rate of advancement to a famous college had a certain problem…”
“Centered around the students and lecturers, drug trade and prostitution mediation to minors.”
The one who answered was Takeru.
“The eight who were killed were the central members of the group. Am I wrong?”
“You really do know everything…”
Sawako shook her head impressed.
“Yes, that’s right. And Mia’s friend was being made to run errands for the group. She never said anything to Mia, it looks like Mia suspected something on her own. That girls’ always did have a good instinct when it came to those things, right? It looks like she investigated and learned what was happening at the prep school. And that day, the incident occurred…”
Grimacing her face as if enduring something, Sawako said.
“Her friend was trying to leave the group, she was trying to inform the police, but her plan got out. It was a so-called sanction. She was left all but dead. And as luck would have it, Mia happened to be present.”

The scene that day was one Takeru hadn’t forgotten for a day of his life.
It was the day he first saw his childhood friend as the ‘Hero of Justice’.

“Gaimoon is originally supposed to be a power to oppose kaijin. That was something Mia understood, and I doubt she intended to use it. But the malice of humans, and the form of her cowering friend in her eyes, Mia’s trigger was removed.”

He had prepared for the day that was soon to come.
Knowing of Leviathan’s fall and knowing of his childhood friend’s identity and the risk, Takeru intended to stop it all without Mia noticing.

“And Mia became Gaimoon—”

But he didn’t make it.
By the time Takeru arrived at the scene, everything was over.

“She killed the humans of an ‘evil’ group.”

Sawako sounded as if she was restraining something.
The repulsiveness of the truth contained, the tragedy and pain.
“… Mia has no memories of the incident. It seems she couldn’t even control it herself. With a fearsome face of evil right before her eyes, be it human or kaijin, she swung the hammer of justice. She automatically reacts to malice and annihilates it, as a machine to execute justice. That is the current Gaimoon, Omou Mia.”
What was the definition of evil? That was something that changed with time and status.
That’s why Gaimoon, Omou Mia would never fight for the sake of some definite ideology.
Gaimon was the ‘white moonbeam that illuminated justice’. She moved for the sobs of the weak. She could never forgive the ‘evil’ threatening someone’s heart. Indiscriminate of human or kaijin, she lowered impartial judgement.
“… Boil it down, and each and every human is pretty much trash. For each face of ‘evil’ we’ve got to kick someone down, we’ve got a ‘righteous’ face to love someone. The ‘absolute’ evil justice is supposed to defeat doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. That’s why you became it.”
Sawako’s eyes gazed at Takeru with pity. As if she had seen through everything.

“You became the absolute evil of this town, Lord Helvenom. To protect Omou Mia who has no choice but to live as a hero of justice. To quell Gaimoon’s rampage, to become the absolute enemy.”
Takeru tried to deny it and quit.
Sawako had watched him and Mia practically their entire lives. There was no use in playing it off.
“…. Why were you at the scene that day? In the first place, how did you obtain Lord Helvenom’s—”
“Did you honestly think I’d tell you?”
Sawako still knew nothing about the origin of his own power. In that case, he should use this card to negotiate. Why was Sawako in the Foundation? What were they scheming, how much did they know?
As he was thinking over his hand, it happened.
“We haven’t found a way to return Mia to normal yet.”
Sawako interrupted as if to get a drop on his question.
“A mindset that’s been implanted isn’t so easy to lift. It’s deeply tied to Mia’s body. Any misplaced treatment, and in the worst case scenario, there’s a possibility Omou Mia’s personality will collapse. That’s why I’m cooperating with the Foundation as I search for a means to revert her.”
“… You’re not a member?”
“Strictly speaking, no. I guess you could say I’ve received a request to act as Gaimoon’s moderator. That’s why I’m sorry, I don’t know too much about the Foundation.”
“… Any proof you’re not lying?”
“Trust me is all I can say… and I can’t leak any information to you.”
“That’s wishful thinking.”
“In that case, when you learned my identity, why didn’t you attack at once? You only moved because of my threat today. Even if they’re someone who knows your secret, you’re unable to kill. You’re far too kind to call yourself evil.”
“If that was supposed to be a provocation, you’d better keep it at that.”
“You saw her phone, didn’t you? Then naturally, you must know her pin number.”
“… Yeah.”
Takeru recalled the matter at Tsukimori Tower and tiredly shook her head.
“She really is an idiot, that girl. The hell’s she trying to do, setting my birthday.”
“That’s just how much she treasures you. Just as much as you treasure her.”
“… I don’t get your point.”
“You’re playing it off again?”
“You’re acting like our patron again? You and I are enemies. I’m Gaimoon’s enemy. Omou Mia’s enemy. I have to become her enemy.”
The only one who knew everything there was to know about Mia was Takeru.
The only one who could save the current Mia was Takeru.
“The only reason the townspeople accept a hero is because the ones she fights are the monsters called alters. If the point of her spear shifts to humans, next the hero will become the monster. That’s why someone has to be the monster. Someone has to be the monster for the hero to exterminate.”
“That doesn’t mean it has to be you.”
“I’m the only one. I’m the only one there is. I couldn’t stop her. On that day, I knew and yet I couldn’t stop her…”
The past six years hadn’t been anything short.
Takeru had learned, experienced far too many things.
Meeting his grandmother, the former Lord Helvenom, the ACM System given to him, Omou Mia’s return and Gaimoon’s triumphant return, the devastated Calamity Co. Leviathan.
With Takeru and Mia, far too much had changed.
“I knew, I did. I knew everything. That Mia returned three years ago, that she defeated Leviathan and Lord Helvenom as Gaimoon, the risk in Gaimoon’s body of going berserk, I knew it all. But I didn’t make it in time…”
“It isn’t your fault.”
“But I, I alone could stop her. That hasn’t changed. I’m the only one there. If in the end, someone’s got to be a sacrifice, it might as well be–”
Takeru’s cheek was suddenly struck.
In his stagger, he almost collided with the desk, but he was held up by her grasp on his lapels.
“What I’m angry about, Takeru, is the fact you’ve abandoned your own happiness from the start. You might be trying to save Mia with self-sacrifice, but do you want me to tell you what we call people like that? They’re smug self-righteous, self-satisfied bastards!”
Sawako’s angry cry smacked strongly into his body.
He tried to take the reigns on his consciousness. He tried to kill his heart.
But before he could grip the reigns, the words thrust from his mouth.
“… Then what should I have done? What choice could I have made to make everything right? I mean, Mia lost the ability to end up happy long ago.”
His thoughts flowed in after the fact.
As if the dam gates were open. Over these six years, his sealed sins flooded back to him.
“Then why, why does it have to be Mia? She’s just an old crybaby, a weakling, not a hero or anything, just a girl you could find anywhere, and yet something like Gaimoon was shoved onto her. Ally of justice? Then where’s her ally… where do you see Omou Mia’s ally?”
Sawako quietly awaited his words.
As if to accept all the sins he confessed. His words didn’t stop. The confession didn’t stop.
“I’m scared… once before, I clashed with Mia as Lord Helvenom… so if she talks to me, sooner or later, I might be found out… worse than that, she might recall all the memories she’s sealed away… that’s why I’m scared of… anyways, I’m scared!”
So Takeru avoided Mia.
He feared he might become the trigger for all the secrets to come out.
“And yet… she always comes for me… the day of the entrance ceremony, she happily sprinted over to me… our relationship’s already changed…”
Truth be told, he wanted to smile back. He wanted to rejoice at their reunion.
But Takeru had already changed. He ended up changing.
The right to be happy was already gone. For both Takeru and Mia.
“… You’re an idiot, you know that.”
Softly, she enveloped him in a warm embrace.
Strongly holding him tight, Sawako whispered in his ear.
“… She’s got us, hasn’t she? Me and you, we’ll protect Mia together.”
“Together?”
“I’m the same as you. I want to save Mia. Not as a hero, I want her to live as a normal girl. Our wishes are the same.”
She gently pat his head.
Whenever he lost a match with Teiko FC, he remembered she would often pat him like this. Her somewhat-crude kindness hadn’t changed at all.
“I don’t want you to become Mia’s enemy. Now and here on, I want you two always smiling. Even if it’s just a sweet dream.”
And Sawako spoke.
“… Even so, if  you’re going to continue as Lord Helvenom, join hands with me.”
At that proposal far too unexpected, Takeru was lost for words. Sawako put power into her arms.
“… Since the Meteor Seminar incident, there have been a number of close calls. With Leviathan gone, the kaijin burrowed their way underground. Every soul on the verge of losing their fear, gradually, the spear point of Gaimoon’s justice has begun to shift. But the state of affairs have begun to change from the hotel arson.”
The seed of malice Takeru had set.
It would reliably transmit fear through the town, causing them to recognize alters as ‘evil’.
“Right now, she shows few symptoms of going berserk. She’s only reacting to the unseeable ‘evil’ lurking within kaijin. Meaning you. The Second Lord Helvenom.”
“… Was that supposed to be some conciliation?
“We’re both got dirt on one another. I trust you. No matter what evil you become, no matter what monster Mia becomes, I’ll always be your ally.”
“… You really are soft, Sawa-chan.”
“Well why not. No one has to be a sacrifice. With a stable status quo, you guys just have to live out a kind everyday life. I’m sure that’s what you and Mia want. You’re able to choose a life like that. Try thinking back, the time you spend with Mia today. Didn’t you find it comfortable, if even in the slightest?”
Takeru reflected on the time he spent at Tsukimori Tower.
A delightful laughing Mia, a sulking Mia, a Mia proudly talking about her dream.
That time he felt so sacred he might expose the past self he sealed away.
Taker’s feelings. Taker’s desires. Takeru’s true wish.
“I…”
Takeru tried to respond.
“What I really want–”
The next instant, the examination room door was suddenly smashed in.
Perhaps reflexively, Sawako thrust Takeru away, turning to the shadow that came in.
Clashing with the intruding shadow, Sawako crashed into the shelf, scattering the various tools in one of its drawers. A pair of surgical scissors skidded across the floor.
“Guh!?”
Sawako was held onto the ground. A hand sprouting sharp talons pressed against her slender neck.
The alter that mounted her body. Enlarged ears, fangs growing from its mouth. Perhaps because it wasn’t a complete transformation, the young girl’s real face peeked out of the parts covered by external organs.
Sakurai Kanon, alter name Ecole.
Why was she here? No, more importantly—how much had she heard?
“You… you… helped Gaimoon all the way… because of you… Freiger-san… teacher… everyone…!”
Ecole, Kanon’s eyes were bloodshot. Takeru had only met her enough times to count. If he had to say, her introverted side was strong, yet now she directed such a strong rage.
Takeru immediately rushed over.
“… you’re going to stop me, Lord Helvenom?”
As if paralyzed, Takeru couldn’t move. Kanon didn’t even look his way.
“… You’re Lord Helvenom, aren’t you. This person is our enemy, isn’t she… what is your goal… instead of your comrades, you’ll take this person’s side? Just what were we to you!?”
“… How much did you hear?”
“… I heard enough. At Tsukimori Tower, this person said Lord Helvenom’s name… I followed closely and reached this place…”
So she coincidently heard it in alter form. Ecole’s hearing ability was a cut above the rest. Even if the target was out of sight, by constantly checking their pulse, it was possible for her to give pursuit.
Heard enough. No, that had to be an understatement. She had quite likely heard every last piece of it.
Sawako painfully writhed. Takeru cautiously chose his words.
“What about the other members? Did you tell anyone?”
“… Yes, of course. At this very moment, we have this building surrounded.”
Takeru peered into her face as he spoke.
“That’s a lie.”
Kanon blinked in surprise.
Her reaction turned his suspicion to conviction.
Kanon’s nature wasn’t suited for negotiations. She hadn’t informed anyone of this matter.
“Remove your hands. You’re not cut out for murder. You’re not even thinking to kill..”
“Don’t mock me…!”
Kanon cried out her mind.
“I… we aren’t evil…! We don’t just exist to be defeated by Gaimoon…! Was all of that lies!? About changing alter society… about bringing us victory…!?”
Kanon gazed straight at Takeru. Her hands strangling Sawako loosened ever so slightly.
Spotting the opportunity, Sawako produced a syringe from her pocket.
The needle of the syringe she gripped stabbed into Kanon’s external organ-coated arm.
“Guh… ggah…!”
Suddenly, Kanon opened her mouth half-way, her entire body convulsed. The crystals fell in tatters from her skin. Her alter cells experienced necrosis as the external organs crumbled away.
“Breakdown of external organs through a dose of dilute apoptonitro, you used this method not too long ago. It’s not well known, but the Foundation’s already proven the effects on the average kaijin…”
“Pro… proven…?”
“After Leviathan collapsed, just how many kaijin do you think were taken in? Thanks to that, research on kaijin has progressed at an unprecedented rate, truly.”
For an instant, Takeru doubted his ears. As she stood, Sawako looked down on Kanon with cold eyes he didn’t know. Discarding the empty syringe, she opened a locked drawer.
The inside was lined with new syringes to use.
“… Sawa-chan, what are you trying to do?”
“Injecting apoptonitro directly into the alter ganglia. By doing so, this kaijin’s corpse will be erased. No trace of evidence will remain.”
Once again, Sawako reverted to her expression teeming with affection and smiled at him.
“It’s fine, there’s no need to trouble your mind over it. I mean, this is a kaijin. You don’t have to worry. That’s right, don’t worry about anything.”
A paralysis came over Takeru’s body again.
Sawako’s actions weren’t mistaken. Sakurai Kanon, Ecole had learned too much of his secret. If she wasn’t disposed of, Takeru wouldn’t be able to maintain his plan. In the first place, if he could join hands with Sawako like this, there wasn’t even any need to fixate on Leviathan. He could join Sawako and search for a way to return Mia to normal. That was the optimal solution. How it should be.
“… Liar.”
Kanon leaked a chipped voice. At first, Takeru thought it was directed at him.
But that was wrong.
Her tear-filled eyes were glaring at Sawako.
“… When you said you would protect that person, you were lying. That’s what your heart said…”
“What’s that, was that an attempt to plead for your life?”
Sawako sneered, but Takeru did have a hunch.
The alter Ecole’s abnormal sense of hearing.
If through her ability, she could listen to one’s heartbeat and distinguish truth and lie—
“… Sawa-chan, you really want to return Mia to normal, don’t you?”
“Wait, Takeru, even you’re doubting me?”
Sawako gave a slightly troubled laugh as she answered.
Like an adult answering the nonsensical question of a child.
“Of course, I said it, didn’t I? what I want is your happiness, that’s all there is.”
“You really don’t have any leads? On how to return Mia to normal? If you used the expansive research on alters you just mentioned, or…”
“The biological characteristics of the surgery conducted on Gaimoon are fundamentally different from that of other kaijin. Unfortunately, it’s not going to lead us to resolve Mia’s problem.”
Sawako’s words didn’t contradict. Takeru desperately tried to believe them. His instincts screamed out to doubt her. The Mizumachi Sawako he knew. A private clinician loved by the town’s locals, she liked football, and coached Teiko FC. Someone both Mia and Takeru knew well, an irreplaceable person.
But was that really all she was?
Just as Mia had Gaimoon, and Takeru had Lord Helvenom’s mask. A person can only speak from their subjective view. No matter the person, good and evil coexist in their heart.
What if Sawako’s relation with the Foundation was different from what Takeru imagined? What if Sawako never intended to return Omou Mia from the start?
Sawako with a syringe in hand. Kanon’s eyes pleading for help. A feeble kaijin.
The optimal action, the optimal choice, the optimal thought.
Takeru looked at Kanon. Kanon powerlessly shook her head, frantically moving her mouth.
“Don’t believe her… that person’s words are lies… nothing but lies…”
Kanon’s words that didn’t amount to a voice.
Noticing that, Sawako’s eyebrow twitched.
With an unsightly warped face, she spoke in a subdued murmur.
“Give it a rest already, damn kaijin… you all just have to shut up and be research samples… you’re fated to be destroyed by Gaimoon, after all…”
It was a truly nonchalant whisper from Sawako.
That’s precisely why Takeru knew it as her true feelings.
Okina Takeru’s wish, Okina Takeru’s goal, the objective Okina Takeru aimed for.

— Know this, Okina Takeru.

The scissors on the ground caught the light.
Someone whispered in the voice of a corpse. The black skull that wasn’t supposed to be there. The lord of alters, Lord Helvenom. The Alchemuls within him spoke out.

—You will lose, and lose, and continue to lose.

For that is your
“Choice..”

Catching Takeru’s mutter, Sawako turned his way. In that momentary gap, Takeru stood, and with flowing movements, jumped at her bosom.
His feelings and senses had been cut off.
All time had stopped.
The sound of his own fate switching tracks echoed in his ear.

“—Whether your words are true or false, I have no way of telling.”
“Takeru.”

“What you thought when you assisted the Foundation, what you’re scheming to do with Mia, Gaimoon, truth be told, I have no idea… but I have no doubt in my mind that your actions are evil. The very evil Gaimoon exists to defeat.”
“Wro, I, m not ev,”

“Mia’s justice doesn’t discriminate between native or alter. She’ll fight for anyone shedding tears… that’s why, someday, Mia’s justice will kill you, Sawa-chan… Mizumachi Sawako. She will react to your malice, ignoring the lives of alters, thinking of them as nothing but research samples. That’s why I have no other option. I cannot let Mia sully her hands any further. Not with your blood.”
“Wr, wrong, I, just, wan, for, you…”

“Let me teach you one last thing, Mizumachi Sawako. What I wish for is not a status quo. I have only one desire, to free Omou Mia from Gaimoon. For that sake, I will fight to the end. I’ll never forgive anyone who gets in my way. I am Gaimoon’s one and only enemy, the Alchemuls who will destroy this illusion of a hero…”
“──────”

The scissors in his hand had pierced deep into Sawako’s chest.
Her clothes, the floor was dyed in red. The sensation of fresh blood on his hands. Piercing through flesh and organs, the sensation of stealing life. The blood pooling on the linoleum floor.
Like a marionette whose strings had been cut, Sawako’s body collapsed over.
Her mouth slightly open, a tear leaked from the corner of her eye. As if to condemn Takeru’s betrayal. But that face could no longer string together words.
Nor scream at a match, or be nosy, or direct warm affection.
“… Lord Helvenom.”
At first, he couldn’t tell who said the word. Clad in her partially-destroyed external organs, Kanon barely managed to stand. She had recovered to a certain degree, at least enough to speak.
“You should be able to tell now. There is no falsehood in my words.”
Takeru naturally answered in the tone of Lord Helvenom.
Not letting one feel any spirit, the voice of a corpse.
“Victory over Gaimoon. That is what I desire. Is that answer enough reason to follow me?”
“… N-no, I can tell that you’re not lying. But…”
Kanon hesitated as she looked between Takeru before her and Sawako’s chest
“Why win over Gaimoon… I mean, Gaimoon’s identity… is someone dear to you, right…”
“… It’s because she’s so dear. I’m sorry, but we don’t have time for a long talk.”
As he said that, Takeru held out his bloodstained hand to her. In a daze, Kanon eventually took it.
“If you can move, I want you to help me a bit.”
“Help…? Umm, what do you plan on doing…?”
Takeru silently looked over the husk lying on the ground.
What was once Sawako, a wordless husk. The shell of a lost life.
There was no turning back now.
He had made his choice. Then he had to act on it.
‘— A declaration of war to my beloved hero.’

 

 

Mia was just about to eat dinner at home when she received the mail from Sawako.
‘Urgent. I have something important to discuss. Come to the clinic immediately.’
“Urgent?”
Mia looked over it with doubt.
Today wasn’t the regular checkup. Mia had called a number of times to give a report on the date, but the mail didn’t touch up on the matter at all.
Of course, without thinking too deep into it, she could have just happened to forget, it could be taken like that. The apartment Mia lived in alone was close to Sawako’s residence. A distance a five-minute walk could cover.
As a gift, she stuffed some of her handmade stew in a lunch box and went out.
Today’s stew was her pride and joy. Sawako who couldn’t do housework would once again eat it as an appetizer for her drink. But today, she intended to make Sawako sit in on a boatload of complaints. Today’s complaints about Takeru. Whatever the case, she wanted to share this discontentment and fast.
How could he just leave there? She didn’t get any message from him afterward either.
“… When it was so fun.”
Perhaps it wasn’t for Takeru? The anxiety within her gradually grew in size.
‘It’ll all work out, I could tell when I talked to him the other day, he’s properly looking out for you.’
Sawako would always cheer her up with that grand tone of hers.
‘It’ll definitely go well with you and Takeru. I’m going to guarantee it. So have some confidence, and have at him, Tsukimori City’s Hero.’
Three years ago, when she returned to town, the one who first greeted her with an appearance that hadn’t changed in the slightest was Sawako. With a request from the people who granted her Gaimoon’s power, her father’s acquaintances—the Foundation, she remembered them being called—she took up a job to be Gaimoon’s collaborator.
To Mia, Sawako was her mentor, her older sister, her best friend, and an irreplaceable existence.
With her, she could talk about anything. Omou Mia’s troubles, her pains as Gaimoon. That’s why, without reservation, Mia could show her true face.
Arriving at the clinic, Mia looked up at the two-story building.
The lights weren’t on in the second-floor portion that served as her residence. As far as she could remember, Sawako didn’t have much of a disposition to go out at night.
She felt a strange buzz in her chest.
Nervous, she reached for the doorknob. The clinic was still supposed to be unlocked at this time. In case of emergency, it was made so she could deal with patients even on non-consultation days.
“Sawa-chaaan, it’s mee, are you heeere?”
Mia said as she opened the door.
From beyond the door she felt an off-sensation, as if something was trying to pull her in. Following that, the scent of alcohol pricked her nose.
the moment it was open, the waiting room lobby went up in a blaze.
The crimson flames violently swept across the cloth lain along the ground.
A thread had been connected to the door, fastened to a cylindrical lighter affixed to the floor. As the door opened, the lain out alcohol-soaked cloth was evidently made to ignite.
But with the blazing waiting room before her, Mia’s line of sight was fixed.
“… Sawa-chan?”
A shadow dangling from the waiting room ceiling. With a rope hanging it by the neck, the corpse’s limbs slumped down as if they had lost all living vigor, it was undoubtedly Mizumachi Sawako herself.
But apart from Sawako’s chest, Mia’s eyes also darted to the wall of the room. Written in magic marker over the entire wall, the message teeming with malice.

“Ah… a… a… aah…”

Flashback to a distant memory.
Six years ago, her blood-soaked mother collapsed when she got home.
Three years ago, the black skull that stood in the blazing hallway.

“AAAH, AAAA, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Mia’s scream echoed throughout the entire house.
The declaration from the devil in her eyes.

 

 

Judgement to the apostle of Justice.
Cower, bear witness.
For I have returned.

Calamity Co. Leviathan Leader Lord Helvenom

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Alchemuls: The Absolute Evil for My Hero Volume 1 Chapters 0-2

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Waga Hero no Tame no Alchemuls
By Ooizumi Takashi
Illustrated by Oguchi (But I’m not posting illustrations)

 

Prologue

What might I do to blow away the moon?
The thought struck ‘him’ as he gazed up at the night sky, its moon hidden away by the clouds. The rooftop of the skyscraper where the wind rampaged was conspicuously cold. ‘He’ sat to the side of an unmanned helipad, gazing out over the town below him.
The night streets glittering in neon. The scenery across the visor of his full-face helmet was layered over with several channels of information.
‘The graffitied symbol sighted today morning in Tsukimori City has been concluded to belong to the kaijin group, the group calls itself ‘Calamity Co. Leviathan’, and at present a special police force has been mobilized in pursuit of—’ ‘Is it true Lord Helvenom’s back?’ ‘Those kaijin again? I call BS’ ‘Tsukimori City’s screwed, for real. That place is one of the most secluded areas in Japan’ ‘Kaijin’s a derogatory term, call them Alters’ ‘← We’ve got a kaijin here’ ‘Can’t even joke about it nowadays’
The net news, SNS, forums. Everything displayed on the visor was information transmitted by the people living in this town. The town ‘he’ had been born in, raised in. Tsukimori City in the Nasa Prefecture. Population one million two hundred thousand, a non-capital ordinance-designated city. The sort of suburb you could find in any region of Japan.

(TL: I’m not sure if there is an English term for this as it’s a Japanese system, but it’s a city that meets certain criteria that let it govern its own policies as if it were a prefectural capital (basically lets it decide its own state legislature) to a certain extent while being part of another prefecture. As far as I can tell, NASA is not actually a prefecture of Japan.)

But in this town was a fantasy, one for this town alone. Permitted only to Tsukimori, a fantasy of hopes and nightmares.
A loud landing sound from behind. ‘He’ didn’t turn around. There was no such need.
“… I presume you’re the one who called me.”
The question came in a voice as clear as a flawless crystal. In place of a response, ‘he’ slowly stood. The wind fluttered up his coat, the color of crows’ wings. Gazing into ambiguous emptiness, ‘he’ recalled.
— ACM System Activate.
All of a sudden, his spinal cord was pierced with a power like lightning.
A body like churned sweet almond, the surge of agitated neurons; from the thalamus and hippocampus, highly concentrated memories of fear surged through the body.
A young girl lying on the bed, three small demons, a white rabbit, a red skull, a burning building, corpses piling in heaps, a white rabbit, the mask’s curse, the blood spreading across the linoleum floor, Alchemuls, a white rabbit.
Through the mask, those fearful memories changed to electronic signals, awakening the functions of the body suit under the coat. A titanium exoskeleton within the deploying suit. A swelling body beneath the coat.
To accompany that, the form of evil in the shape of the mask awakened. A form resembling a skull with the flesh and blood shaved away.
Enduring the welling nausea, ‘he’ opened his mouth.
“Have you ever wondered if we’re a form of symbiosis?”
A hoarse voice departed those vocal cords.
Neither heat nor emotion could be felt. It was practically the voice of a corpse.
“Both me and you, we can’t live on without someone to fight. Detesting one another, exchanging blows, we exist in this world through dependence on the other. Such is the true identity of our relation. Now what have you to say of such a fate?”
A breath of wind blew. After a momentary silence, the other quietly answered.
“I don’t depend on you. We’re far too different, me and you—that’s why,”
The clouds slowly pass. Without the slightest sliver lost, the full moon peeked out its face.
“I’ll end you here and now.”
Hearing those words ‘he’ turned back, for the first time looking upon the face of the visitor. The visitor’s form was like that of a white rabbit. The pure white that covered their whole body was glassy, like pottery, and it was impossible to distinguish whether it was skin or armor. The belt-shaped designs wrapped around its body here and there completely melded with the flesh. On its expressionless mask resided eyes the same gold as the full moon. Its two characteristic decorations could be nothing but rabbit ears.
The rabbit was the envoy of the moon.
This was the one he would blow away, the envoy of moonbeams that illuminated justice.
The black skull calls out.
“Good evening, Gaimoon. I’ve been waiting for you, my beloved hero of justice.”
The white rabbit calls back.
“Good evening, Lord Helvenom. I’ve been searching for you, the source of evil I must defeat.”

White justice and black evil.
Only in Tsukimori City were both permitted to exist, a fantasy of hope and nightmare.
It was yet unknown how the moon was to be blown away. But it had to be done. For the sake of all that had been lost. For the sake of all that would be lost in times to come.

“Now, won’t you accompany me, Gaimoon? To the proper conclusion of good and evil.”

 


 

 

Chapter 1: A Town with a Hero

If you asked what sort of town Tsukimori was, eighty percent of its residents would answer “An ordinary town”.
Even if heroes and kaijin flashed by on the local news, they wouldn’t find it strange in the slightest. The same went for the incidents that happened in the same down they lived, as long as it doesn’t happen right beside them, it is difficult for one to grasp the reality of the situation. That’s precisely why it was a normal town. A normal town with heroes and kaijin.
That was Tsukimori City.

 

 

“What do you think it takes to be a hero, Okina-senpai?”
On the question Okina Takeru raised his face from the screen of his smartphone.
The quiet library of Tsukimoto First High School. To the side of Takeru manning the counter as part of his job on library committee, his underclassman Tsuzuki Nozomi spin her pen needlessly skillfully.
“To be a hero?”
“I’m talking about the June special feature list. Remember, they said we were doing a feature on heroes. Everyone has to get their ideas together by the week’s meeting, they said. Have you already thought up candidates?”
“Feature… candidate… ah, now that you mention it… I did hear about that.”
“… Let me guess, senpai, you completely forgot.”
Nozomi tiresomely shook her head.
The second-year Takeru, and the first year Nozomi, it was only the height of May. While only a month had passed since they came to know one another, it did seem his standing in Nozomi’s head had been determined rather quickly. Naturally, it wasn’t particularly high.
“This year’s goal is ‘one thousand new library users a month’ isn’t it? How are we going to get there if we don’t get a grip? A goal you don’t work towards isn’t a goal but a delusion.”
“And I think a goal that’s impossible to accomplish is also a delusion.”
Takeru looked over the lonesome afterschool library with only the regulars in sight.
“That publication recession’s been dragging on a while, and a decrease in the reading population isn’t a problem our efforts can do something about. We’re at a level where we’re screwed if some hero to save the publishing industry doesn’t appear, wouldn’t you say?”
“I’ve got no interest in waiting for a hero. And shouldn’t a publication recession actually increase the visitors to a library? Ah, there really is no worth in talking to you… I was mulling over my selection, so I thought I should start by determining the concept…”
“You don’t have to make it so complicated, we’ve already got one in this city. A hero of justice, I mean.”
“Say what you want, but I’ve never actually seen them.”
Nozomi readily wrote it off.
“I mean, kaijins are scary, but doesn’t it sound a little impossible for there to be a human out there that can defeat the kaijin even the police have trouble with? Those stories have got to be blown up. And look, they said it was taken down already, right? That, umm, what was it again, that kaijin organization. They had the sort of name you’d find in an RPG…”
“Leviathan?”
“That’s it! Calamity Co. Leviathan!”
Refreshed at reaching an answer, Nozomi nodded to herself.
“That Leviathan’s leader? Chief? Whatever was defeated, and the organization was collapsing, they were saying it on TV. In that case, I guess that hero’s going to lose his part to play.”
“You’re a harsh one, Tsuzuki-san.”
“I’m just being realistic.”
Nozomi answered with a shrug of her shoulders.
“In the first place, hero is an image the other people arbitrarily forge up. It’s simply a desire forced onto someone, and no joke to the one it’s pushed onto, I’d wager. A hero is the symbol of another’s aspiration, something like that. Oh, did I just say something clever? Hmhmm, then if I choose books based on that concept–”
“Umm,”
As Nozomi was getting excited on her own, a softcover of ‘Flowers for Algernon’ was pushed across the counter.
“Can I borrow this?”
A female student with deep blue eyes peered at them.
Clear white skin, and that slender stature, lightly pigmented brown hair arranged at shoulder-height. Over her sky-blue short-sleeve short, a large sports bag was draped over one shoulder. The properly-fastened rouge-striped necktie moderately asserted this female student’s proper discipline.
Nozomi opened her eyes wide, suddenly falling into a panic.
“M-my apologies. I’ll process that right away! Umm, if you’d please hand over your library card.”
A sidelong glance at Nozomi as he accepted the female student’s card, Takeru started to get the stationaries in order. But, “Huh?” he noticed the confusion in Nozomi’s voice.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry, senpai… the barcode isn’t reading…”
“Ah… give me a second, Tsuzuki-san.”
Takeru took out an emergency form to fill out by hand and held it out it to the girl alongside a pen. The female student’s eyes flitted to him for a single glance.
“Ah—”
She was on the verge of saying something to him, but before that, Takeru answered in a business-like tone.
“Please enter your name, your year, and your seat number. Is this the only book you’ll be borrowing? We’ll take care of the rest of the paperwork. Tsuzuki-san, try to see if the book’s barcode reads.”
After staring at Takeru a while, the female student resignedly accepted the pen and paper and began her entry. 2-E Omou Mia. The 2 and the E were crooked, but the name she was surely accustomed to writing came out handsomely in order.
“Sorry for taking up your time… return the book within two weeks, err, if you will…”
“Thank you.”
Omou Mia accepted the book from Nozomi and quietly left the library. After endlessly watching off the dignified bearing of her back, Nozomi took a deep breath, her tensions melting away. In that timeframe, Takeru manually imputed the data on the form and the book into the computer.
“I’m sorry for all the trouble… Okina-senpai…”
“You’re welcome.”
“… But why was Omou-senpai here?”
“She’s been here for the past thirty minutes.”
“Wha- if you knew, you could’ve told me! I was completely caught off guard there! Whoah, I was totally freaking out…”
“Freaking out? Why?”
“I mean, it’s Omou-senpai you know! Omou-senpai in the flesh!”
Nozomi’s eyes sparkled as she made a declaration.
“Flawless reflexes, grades always at the top, she’s pretty and cool, and despite that, surprisingly sociable… even in our class, there are plenty of Omou-senpai fans, you hear! Did you know? If you spot Omou-senpai at school, you’ll be blessed with tremendous luck for the rest of the day.”
“Why is she being treated as an object of worship…”
“Can you blame them? I mean, she’s the Hero of Tsuki High, isn’t she! There’s never a lack of stories to tell about her. Like about saving a kitten that couldn’t get down from a tree, or saving a child who was almost run over, I hear she caught a pickpocket the other day. Makes me think they really exist, those people with the specs of a 2d heroine. Rather, it’s rare for Omou-senpai to come borrow a book after school. It didn’t look like she was waiting for anyone either.”
“Who knows, can’t she have just wanted to borrow a book?”
“Still, that was nerve-wracking. It’s that, you know. She’s got this rock-solid aura, not relative, but absolute. Oh crap, I just gave birth to another clever phrase.”
“Absolute, eh.”
“What’s this, Okina-senpai. Something on your mind?”
“Well let’s see, Tsuzuki-san. Let me impart some wisdom on you too.”
Takeru hit the enter key on the keyboard. With that, the loaning procedure on ‘Flowers for Algernon’ was complete, and with that he spoke.
“There is no such thing as an absolute reality, Tsuzuki-san.”
“I’m sorry. Please don’t rip of Kyougokudou with that triumphant look on your face.”

 

 

The time came to go home, Takeru and Nozomi put the books in order and went their separate ways. When Nozomi was gone, Takeru pedaled his cross bike straight out the school gates. The gentle downhill led him down to the river embankment.
Teiko River. Running between Tsukimori and the town over, it was the city’s boundary line.
After he had raced down the banks a distance, he began to hear the shouts of children from afar.
“There we go! Shunsuke, run for it, keep running! Chase the ball to the end!”
On the ground of the river embankment, the children wearing matching football uniforms ran about. This was the scene of the local boys and girls’ football club, Teiko FC practicing.
On the bench by the grounds, The local specialty female coach raised a yell.
“Hey, hey, connect it with a pass! Run through the space, the space! Don’t fear taking the change! I’m telling you to properly keep your eyes on your opponent’s movements! You can’t grasp victory if you don’t use your head!”
A megaphone in one hand, a deep-blue pair of track pants beneath, and a number ten Barcelona uniform up top. A coaching style that hadn’t changed in the slightest. Takeru brought the cross bike to a stop and walked over to the bench.
“You’re still using that megaphone, Sawa-chan.”
The coach gripping the megaphone, Mizumachi Sawako turned. Seeing Takeru’s face, she gave a delighted grin. Her smile crossbred of heartiness and cheer was no different than it had ever been. Their friendly relation that let him interact with her almost as if she were family as well.
“Oh, Takeru. Good of you to come. You could at least wear your necktie properly. You’ll never be popular like that.”
“Yeah, yeah, here’s what the doctor ordered.”
Ignoring Sawako’s words, Takeru took out a sack from his bag.
“A disk of the match from our generation. There’s three years’ worth on it. I separated it into chapters by match, you should just be able to play it on a computer.”
“Thanks. Sorry you had to go to the trouble. Could’ve just mailed it over.”
“It’s fine. The training field’s close enough.”
“Mn? Wait a second, is there something else in ‘ere?”
Sawako confirmed the item in the sac, before spurting out a laugh.
“Whoa, that’s a blast from the past! A ‘Ward Rabbit’ from the rabbit shrine. What’s up with that?”
“It was sleeping away in a drawer. You said you wanted something to decorate the examining room, so I thought it might work. Why don’t you keep it on your desk or something?”
“Hmm, well why not. Okay, I’ll happily put it up.”
Takeru took a glance over the ground. Within the six by six intrasquad game, a single especially tall player was mixed in. Soft yet elegant body movements, a far-too-familiar jerseyed form.
“… Well then, I’ll be taking my leave.”
“Whoa there, stop. No need to rush through life, youngster.”
Takeru’s collar was grasped as he attempted to peddle away his bike. Rough as the action was, there was some warmth to be found in it as Sawako’s hand brought him back.
“It’s been a while, you could at least watch them practice. You’ve got that cool face on, but you’re overcome with nostalgia inside, am I right?”
“I might not look like it, but I’m busy.”
“Free enough to drop by. You’re only gonna get busier here on. Hey, just take a seat, I tell ‘ya.”
Sawako pat against the spot beside her. Awkward as he felt, Takeru couldn’t help but lower himself onto the bench. Perhaps growing old, the bench raised a slight creak.
“So how is it? Are you enjoying high school?”
“I think that the notion youth is to be enjoyed is an adult’s arbitrary prejudice.”
“Wow, what an unendearing response. It’s because of all your sophism that you’ve got that old man look on your face.”
“Please don’t bring my face into this, it stings.”
“I mean look.”
All of a sudden, Sawako’s hand stuck against Takeru’s face. She pulled his lower eyelid with her index finger and pushed a finger around his Adam’s apple.
“Not enough red, you sure you’re not anemic? You can’t fool the eyes of a doctor. And what are you tiring yourself out for?”
“… I just study. I do have exams next year to look forward to.”
“You’re no fun at all. You’re a high school student, see, the heavens won’t punish you if you have just a bit of romcom in your life.”
“I haven’t set up any flags, so that’s probably not happening.”
“Nah, you’re just breaking them down. Just look at you now, so antsy to get away.”
Sawako stated in a tone as if she had seen through it all.
Before Takeru could respond, he heard the light sound of a fumbled ball. Taking off into the air like a bullet, the ball eventually surmounted the court before bouncing on the ground. Just like that, as if it was being sucked towards him, it rolled right to Takeru’s feet.
“Sorry! I kicked it too high…”
The taller player raced over. The item she wore was far too familiar, the sports jersey of Tsukimori First High School. After approaching, she noticed Takero and stopped.
Takeru quietly let out a sigh. He managed to struggle through at the library, but it didn’t seem it would go like that this time. The girl in a sports jersey—Omou Mio stared at Takeru a while before muttering in surprise.
“Take-chan?”

 

 

Crows’ cries resounded through the river encampment sealed by the dusk. Th night time befell before long.
“Well then, you two take care. Mia, drop by the clinic later.”
Parting with Sawako, who went off to see the children home half-way, Takeru pushed his cross bike along the riverside road. It was a path littered with gravel, and the tires bounded up and down.
“There we go, Take-chan.”
Something cold was suddenly pushed against his cheek.
Mia walking beside him swung around an unopened PET bottle in one hand.
“You liked Aquarius, didn’t you? We had some leftovers today.”
“… I didn’t ask for one.”
“Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it. Just be honest and accept the goodwill of another.”
With Mia’s insistence, he unsociably accepted the sports drink bottle. Mia pressed her lips against her own share.
She was acting quite different from the dignified air he spotted her wearing at school. The current Mia was slightly childish. The two walked a reasonable distance from one another, a faint citrus scent wafting from Mia’s direction.
Omou Mia. A heroic existence admired by the students of Tsukimori First High.
The childhood friend Takeru reunited with when he entered high school.
“How many years has it been since we went home together like this?”
Mia spoke with a tone as if she had prepared that line beforehand.
Some tension could be seen in parts of her good-humored expression.
“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to talk a long time… I never could quite find the chance to have a good long talk with you.”
“Nothing we can do about it. We’ve both got a lot on our plates.”
“… Yeah, right. Well, you’re not wrong.”
Mia peeked at Takeru’s expression with fleeting glances. It was as if she was probing out the trick to turning the gears of a conversation whose oil had run out, whose parts had rusted long ago.
“… Are you always helping out? With Teiko FC’s practice, I mean.”
“Yeah! Just once a week, though.”
When Takeru brought up a topic, Mia energetically responded.
“It seems they’re in a pinch, short on people who’re able to practice. That’s right, why don’t you join in too? I’m sure they’ll welcome you.”
“… Someone who quit halfway in can’t just jump in and start acting like an old boy.”
“Nothing to worry about. I quit halfway too, after all.”
The light of a building came into sight at the end of the road. They would soon approach the national highway.
“Today, are you going to Sawa-chan’s place after this.”
“I am. The place I live right now is really close to Sawa-chan’s clinic. I go there to drop off food, and this and that.”
“… What about the old man?”
“Father… he’s out overseas. Got himself a job as a freelance journalist, so he’s flying all around. Don’t know when he’s coming back. You moved too, didn’t you Take-chan?”
“Mom got a job transfer. I’m freeloading at a relative’s place in the Meshie district.”
“I see. So we’re not neighbors at all anymore.”
Mia nostalgically narrowed her eyes.
“I left this town six years ago… returned three later, saw you again after a long while at the Tsuki High entrance ceremony… there really has been a lot going on…”
“This is where the hard part starts. Don’t forget your exams.”
“… Ah, I see, you’re right.”
Perhaps finding something funny, Mia’s face collapsed into a laugh. Her carefree laughing voice gently set Takeru’s eardrums shaking.
“… Looks like we can talk normally after all. You ignored me back at the library, so I was sure you hated me now. Last year too, you know, I went to see you a few times, but you’d never look me in the eye.”
“I wasn’t trying to ignore you.”
Takeru purposely emphasized.
“I dealt with you properly, Omou-san.”
For a moment, Mia’s face stiffened in unrest. She raced forward as it to shake it off, kicking one of the pebbles by the roadside. The pebble bounced against the ground, rolling away out of sight.
“… Snap, I thought it’d go farther than that.”
Tahaha, Mia laughed as she turned towards him
With a manufactured smile, she gazed straight at Takeru.
“Ever since I returned, you’ve been calling me that the whooole time.”
“… We’re high schoolers now. We can’t act the same forever.”
“Is that why you’re always avoiding me at school?”
A slight anger and disappointment wormed its way into her voice. Takeru answered with a level attitude.
“There’s nothing that never changes. There are no absolutes in the world. Just because we’re childhood friends, you don’t have to force yourself to put up with someone, right?”
“You could just as well say you don’t have to force yourself to avoid them.”
Mia said with a strong resolve.
“… So you know, Take-chan, did you quit Teiko FC because of that incident?”
Takeru didn’t answer. She layered on more words.
“… In that case, you’re misdirected. I’ve already overcome that incident. There’s no reason you have to fret over it.”
“… I’m not fretting over anything.”
“Then why!”
Before she could finish the question, the ringtone of Mia’s cellphone chirped out.
After confirming her phone, a sharp light gleamed in her eye.
“Sorry, I have urgent business to attend to. I’ll be going ahead.”
“… Yeah, I see.”
“I’m really sorry… umm, see ‘ya at school.”
Leaving some hesitant words, she took off down the bank. Takeru listened to the sound of his childhood friend’s footsteps fade as he gently set his bicycle in motion. When he reached the main road, finally coming out into a place with more people, the conversation of passersby entered his ears.
“Hey, is that Leviathan video for real?”
“Yeah, they’re running it on the news right now. Hear there were shots exchanged with the police on the motorway.”
Takeru stopped his cross bike once. He took out his smartphone and swiftly tapped the screen. A search of ‘Leviathan Video’ quickly brought up the footage in question. Uploaded thirty minutes ago. The views already crossed a hundred thousand.
The video was titled ‘Calamity Co. Leviathan: Crime Declaration’. Displayed on the screen was an insignia of dragons coiling around a crescent moon.
That moon made of the sneer of a skull’s teeth was strangled by two limbless dragons. After drawing a double helix, the dragons antagonistically turned heads to face one another.
With the pair of dragons fixed on the screen, a toneless program-synthesized voice droned on.
“This is a declaration of war. To you natives who scorn us Alters as kaijin. Now is the you shall remember our terror. We are Calamity Co. Leviathan, the hope of all Alters, and their strength.”
There was something off about the speech dispatched in a low-bass tone, carrying with it a bottomless uncanniness.
“Natives. You will know our sadness, you will know our anger. You are to free our brethren sealed in the marine prison by today at midnight. In the case you do not accept our demands, know that the hostages lives are forfeit. I repeat, this is a declaration of war–”
Tucking away his smartphone, Takeru put the pet bottle to his lips for the first time. A penetrating cold spread across his mouth. After spending some time looking up at the waning moon in the sky, he forcefully kicked off his bike. As if the gears that had been still a long while were now spinning full throttle.

 

 

The incident began an hour prior, Kagari District on the west side of Tsukimori, at the bus stop in front of the post office. The stop was serviced by the public bus managed by the district, a yellow vehicle on the smaller side, with a bonnet rare for a bus.
At that time, the ones lined up for it were middle schoolers, parents, children, elementary schoolers, the local regulars. In the bus that eventually arrived, the only prior passenger was a single woman in the front seat.
The other passengers naturally took up the unoccupied back. The bus departed as per usual. As usual, the minds of the passengers didn’t stop to focus on the outside scenery. The first ones to notice the incident were the elementary schoolers.
“Are we not taking the road in front of the station today?”
“Huh? You’re right.”
With those words as the trigger, the other passengers also noticed they were running a different route than usual. What should have been the next stop was growing further and further away.
“Umm, excuse me. You took the wrong road.”
It happened when a housewife raised her voice; the buss suddenly picked up speed.
Receiving that unforeseen inertia, the passengers shrieked and clung onto the windows and the seats in front.
“What is this, what is this!?”
“Hey, that’s dangerous!”
“I’m scared, mama!”
While the passengers fell into a panic, the driver wouldn’t turn to them.
“Everyone, I ask you to keep quiet.”
The female passenger sitting in the front suddenly opened her mouth.
The young woman who pulled her hat over her eyes and wore headphones stood up. It was hard to determine her age. She was dressed in a plain hoodie that emphasized the bulges of her chest, alongside faded denim.
“You’ll be keeping us company a short while…”

The woman pulled out her headphones. The next instant, her body changed.
Before the very eyes, her body was enveloped in a new set of cells. A peculiar biological tissue covered her, clothes and all, changing her form to something else entirely.
Enlarged ears, fangs growing from her mouth, arms furnished with a wing-like membrane. A grotesque humanoid body closely resembling a bat, that form was undoubtedly–
“Kaijin…!”
“We are no kaijin. We are Alters.”
“We…?”
There the passengers noticed. The arms of the driver gripping the handles were uniformly covered in bizarre scales. The passengers’ faces twitched in fear. The elementary schoolers kept crying until they came down in hiccups.
The form of an alter could summon reasonless fear among the people, and even under normal circumstances, a majority of people were unable to bear it. An elementary school boy with a stiff face hid his hands behind him. He opened his smartphone to inform people of this situation.
The bat alter’s ears twitched. The boy was abruptly assailed by a shrill, metallic ringing in his ears.
Having lost his sense of balance, the high school boy dropped his smartphone and collapsed into his seat. At this point, the passengers couldn’t even cry out.
“It’s futile, I have a ‘visual’ on all of you…”
Able to pick up a wide register, the bat alter’s ears could perceive the world through sound. What’s more, by emitting ‘ultrasonic bullets,’ condensed ultrasonic waves of two hundred thousand hertz, she was capable of knocking out an opponent’s semicircular canals. Those highly adaptable abilities exhibited a tremendous might at a site that ran side by side with violence.
“Now then, welcome to the thrilling Tsukimori bus tour of hell, humans! I, the new hire Lemeo-sama, will be serving as your driver for this fine evening!”
The driver informed them in an idiotically cheery voice. He let his grotesque chameleon-like tongue swing back and forth.
“Please kick back and enjoy the ride. But do take care, we can’t guarantee you’ll survive it!”

Twenty minutes after the onset of the bus jack, the crime declaration was uploaded online and the special police force at Tsukimori Police HQ was immediately mobilized.
Forty minutes from the onset.
Investigation headquarters contacted local branches to construct barricades to stop a small bus. Traffic was regulated, multiple patrol cars blocked the path, a unit of officers with duralumin shields formed a line on standby. Ahead of the small buss that continued its rampage, a Harley raced as if leading the way.
A full-face helmet, and a black leather riding suit. The rider’s face was as of yet unconfirmed.
“Attention cyclist, pull over at once. This is a warning. If you do not comply, we will fire. I repeat, we will fire.”
But as if to mock them, the Harley ignored the warnings of the riot squad. There was no second warning. In exchange, their bullets opened holes in the riding suit.
The Rider’s stance didn’t crumble, let along crumble, their body swayed ominously.
“Ka ka ka!! How impertinent, humans! Is that all you can do!!”
The rider tossed his helmet aside. What appeared was the blazing red head of a tiger—a tiger alter. A scar-ridden countenance that had surmounted many a battle, his left eye was covered by an eye patch. With the shields of the squadron right before him, his motorcycle didn’t drop speed.
The tiger alter’s chest visibly swelled up.
“You’ll be opening up the way!”
Leaning out, the tiger alter bared his teeth as if to roar. What came out instead of sound was a red-hot flame. The combustible bodily fluids that scattered along with the flames stuck onto the shields, starting a blaze all at once. The barricade and patrol cars exploded, burnt up.
The small bus and Harley passed down the forcefully wrenched-open road.

An hour after the incident broke out.
The small bus and Harley advanced onto Tsukimori Beltway. Having only just been constructed, there were plenty of unopened segments and few users. For that sake, nothing was left to obstruct the alters’ charge.
Hostilities exchanged between alter and police were caught on the footage of news helicopters, broadcast on local channels across Tsukimori city. Voice of criticism quickly rushed into investigation headquarters as a large anxiety spread across the people of Tsukimori.
The town had begun to shake at the crimes of the alter.

 

 

‘Strategy relay, this is bus team. Currently driving down Tsukimori Kodaira. Estimated ten minutes to destination at Arisu Tunnel.’

“This is Arachne. Understood. I’ve finished cleaning up on my side.”
Answering across the intercom was an alter similar in appearance to a spider. While she boasted tender, womanly limbs, her entire body was enveloped in what looked like the carapace of an arthropod. Three pairs of jointed legs sprouted from her back, and her visage was covered in the giant head of a spider.
The spider alter loitered in a room of a certain building. In her red compound eyes, she looked down at the police snipers she had just taken down. While the plan had been for them to shoot out the small bus, she had them bound in the threads she excreted.
“How are the rest of you holding up?”

“This is Ikaruga. Fair weather all around, police car seized.”
Driving a patrol car, the alter with a form like a squid answered.
With the damp tentacles growing from his jaw, he gripped the steering wheel. There were other cars driving around him, yet none of them noticed the squid alter. Shifting the coloring of his body exterior, he took on the form of a police officer. There was no one who could see through the elaborate hologram he produced by altering tens of thousands of pigment cells.
One after the next, the police strategy orders raced into the wireless radio loaded on the car.
“The order of command’s in chaos. If anything happens, I’ll contact you. That’s all. Anyone else?”

“Yep, yep, this is Hurtle! Hurtle and Murtle doing just fine!”
The boisterous cries came from a cat alter standing on the roof.
A height around middle school, and an entire body covered in a soft coat of fur, a long tail growing from the waist, matching claws on both her hands and feet, triangular ears sprouting from its head, and whiskers that sprouted straight out from her cheeks. Her blue and red heterochromia gleamed alluringly.
“For now, we’re still keeping watch over the designated point. Let me switch over to Murtle.”
To the side of the cat alter answering the intercom, another cat with identical features peered through a set of binoculars. Her hands gripped a rifle. Right below their eyes, they could see a strip of the beltway where traffic came to an end. The cat alter poised with a rifle indifferently answered the intercom.
“… This is Murtle. No helicopters in sight, no obstacles. Keep straight ahea—”
The cat alter Murtle suddenly cut her words. From Tsukimori Beltway, she shifted her gaze to the opposite building. The cat alter beside her, Hurtle’s whiskers twitched.
The change in the air current the twin alter picked up, that was the warning.
“… Alert.”
Murtle spoke in a tense voice.
“Rabbit confirmed… I repeat… Rabbit confirmed… most likely enroute from the highway… everyone, stay on alert.”

 

 

The bat alter, Ecole swallowed her breath at the report from the communication device in one ear. Codename Rabbit. The threat they anticipated from the start, and yet the worst possible obstacle. Before long, it would be upon them.
“Don’t lose your nerve, Ecole.”
The alter gripping the wheel, Lemeo obstinately answered. The enlarged eyes on his scale-covered face took a round to take in the surroundings.
“Even that thing can’t catch up to a bus speeding this fast. In the million to one change it catches up, we’ve got three people, don’t worry about it. We’ve even got old Freiger.”
“I know, but…”
The tiger alter racing in front of the bus, Freiger delightfully bared his fangs. Freiger had formerly been an executive of the now-late alter organization Leviathan. Unlike Ecole and Lemeo who slipped into human society to live, he was used to rough waters.
As he drove, Lemeo reached his tongue towards the bottle of mineral water he kept beside him. Skillfully manipulating his giant tongue, he opened the lid of the bottle and poured water into his throat with that very same motion.
“Whatever the case, as long as we enter Arisu Tunnel, it’s our game. All that’s left is to meet up with Ikaruga-san, and abduct this lot. Even the rabbit won’t be able to pursue us.”
“Abduct… what do you plan on doing to us…”
Clutching her young child, a mother showed a cowering face.
Lemeo gave a cynical laugh but no answer.
Ecole killed her heart and drew closer to the back
“Please keep quiet. That is, if you want to guarantee your safety.”
The mother glared at her with eyes of loathing, but didn’t open her mouth any further.
They hadn’t actually received any orders to kill. Their leader Arachne was moving so as not to put out casualties. This was nothing more than pressure to put on the hostages. There was little to be gained in actually laying hands on them. Or so it was supposed to be.
The small bus passed under a sign. One hundred meters to Arisu Tunnel.
“… Lemeo-san, sharp curve ahead. Drive safe.”
“Yeah, got it.”
The bus’s speed gradually dropped to make the bend. Across the soundproofed rail on the side of the road, a number of commercial buildings protruded out side by side.
A portion of the full moon’s ominous glimmer was interrupted by brick.
What a beautiful moon, Ecole thought something out of place as she lent an eye to the night sky, when she noticed a silhouette standing on a building roof. In the next moment, the figure had leaped off.
“Eh?”
Ecole leaked a voice. With light feet that ignored the laws of gravity, the figure landed on the road, standing right in front of the bus to block its way.
The headlights lit up its form.
An unclouded pure white body. Who long protrusions swaying atop its head, an expressionless white mask, pure white belt-shaped protectors equipped here and there that seemed to disappear into the flesh. A form almost like a white rabbit
A young child among the hostages realized its identity and called out. The name of ‘Tsukimori’s Hero of Justice’—

“Gaimoon!!”

The Rabbit—Gaimoon raised one leg overhead.
The next moment, a sharp impact jolted the buss. Lemeo lurched forward, Excole’s stance crumbled. The hostages leaked tome shrieks. Cracks ran down the bus windshield.
A single kick let loose from Gaimoon. Just a single kick had pierced through the bonnet, damaging the engine beneath it beyond repair.
Having lost its driving force, the bus glided with inertia, but Gaimoon didn’t withdraw a step.
Weight eight thousand kilograms, speed sixty kilometers, it caught that momentum with only one leg. Gaimoon kept pressing against the bus. Letting off a great volume of steam, when it had eventually lost its forward force, the bus completely stopped in its tracks. It would be impossible to drive again.
From behind Gaimoon a Harley engine sounded off like a beast’s roar.
“I wanted to see yooou, Gaimoooooon!!”
Ignoring codenames, Freiger called his foe’s name with anger and resentment.
Recovering to her feet, Ecole confirmed the situation. The cowering hostages were in a terribly agitated state. Yet that wasn’t in a sense of terror as it had been a moment ago.
Gaimoon had come. That fact had become their hope.
“This is bus team! Rabbit encountered on the bend before Arisu Tunnel! Bus heavily damaged, any further driving impossible! Awaiting orders!”
‘This is Arachne, understood! I’ll send Ikaruga, Hurtle and Murtle your way. I’ll also hurry there, but you’ll have to hold out until then.’
Arachne answered calmly, but her voice was tense. Without a moment’s display, Freiger screamed across the wireless.
‘Lemeo! Don’t lift a finger! This one is my prey!’
“… Settle down, I can hear you just fine, old man.”
On his motorcycle, Freiger took in another deep breath, expanding his chest. In his body blazed a flame to turn Gaimoon to ash.
Gaimoon extracted its leg from the bonnet, peeking at Freiger approaching it from behind. One beat later. A low-poised Freiger spat up scorching hot flames.
Gaimoon leapt aside to avoid it.
“Ngggggggggggggggggggggggh!!”
Expecting that, Freiger took off with his Harley. The black bike charged straight at the hero with the speed of a hawk; But Gaimoon touched both its hands to the ground, forcefully pushing its body towards Freiger. A powerful drop kick exploded into Freiger’s chest.
His eyes spun, but here stood a seasoned veteran. Right before he took on the attack, he leapt back and broke away from his bike. The Harley that had lost its rider toppled sideways and collided with the damaged bonnet. After rolling to land, Freiger swiftly stood, as Gaimoon once again landed softly with both feet from a kicking position.
Both competitors had returned to combat stances, barely any time lost. Freiger emitted his second burst of flames without a moment’s delay.
This time unable to dodge, Gaimoon’s white body blazed up all at once. To add to that Freiger readied his claws.
Don’t give it time to recover. He was about to unleash a coordinated consecutive strike.
But the next instant—
A flash like a bolt of lightning was emitted from Gaimoon’s body.
“… The hell’s that?”
Lemeo muttered in a daze. Ecole couldn’t tell what had happened either. The flames that had burned so strongly were extinguished in an instant. Gaimoon appeared from within the fading fire, not a single scratch on its pure white body. Facing it head on, Freiger opened his eyes in shock.
That became the opening. By the time he collected himself, Gaimoon had plunged into his bosom.
“Freiger-san!”
Ecole’s scream didn’t reach. Gaimoon went right into a low kick on Freiger’s right thigh, and as his footing crumbled and he fell face up, the hero hammered a straight fist aimed right at his stomach.
No longer able to breathe, Freiger raised a groan, after which he felt limp and unmoving.
The seasoned alter was no match at all, he was taken out instantly.
“… This is bus team Lemeo. Old Freiger was done in. Hurry with those reinforcements. How much longer?”
No response. Only a noise like crashing waves reverberated.
“… Oy, you’re listening, right? Someone respond. Hey, do you read!”
No matter how Lemeo screamed, there was no response from his comrades.
Despair, Ecole had never before felt the meaning of the word to such an extent.
Lemeo finally gave up and gazed out at Gaimoon.
The news helicopter’s light lit up the hero, and the collapsed Freiger.
“… No choice.”
When she thought Lemeo had muttered something, his grotesque tongue suddenly reached out. What the tongue grasped was a young child from the hostages.
“Stop! I’m begging you! Not the child! Anyone, take me instead!”
“Lemeo-san!”
The mother let out a half-crazed cry. Ecole tried to stop him as well, but Lemeo took no heed. His tongue still wrapped around the child’s neck, he dragged him close. The child simply silently curled up. With the hostage put in sight, Gaimoon quietly stood on the spot. Any wrong moves and what would happen? Both sides reached an understanding on that point.
Now in such a situation, how did Tsukimori’s Hero of Justice plan to move?
At that moment, Ecole’s ears picked up a faint mutter. Like a pure crystal, a transparently ringing voice.
“—What it takes to be a hero, that is…”
Ecole raised a blank face.
The voice’s owner, Gaimoon readied its hand in a chop position as it muttered. As if it was instructing itself.
“To never give up, no matter the times. To never abandon someone crying.”
Gaimoon lowered its right-hand chop right where it stood. In the next instant, a bullet hole bored through the windshield glass.
“Wha… gah…!”
Lemeo was sent flying back. The tongue binding went loose, freeing the child.
A thumb-size sphere rolled down the buss floor. It must have held a considerable heat, as smoke rose from it. Seeing that, Ecole finally noticed that sphere had been the means used to attack Lemeo.
Lemeo groaned but showed no signs of rising. While his body convulsed that never made it as far as a movement.
Unable to hold out any longer, the windshield glass finally crumbled away. As the outside air rushed in, Gaimoon plunged into the vehicle.
“Gaimoon!”
The hostage child delightedly rushed over to Gaimoon. Gaimoon gently stroked his head, its eyes flashing at Ecole without a second lost.
Ecole withdrew to the back, desperately steadying her breath. Lemeo was done in. Freiger was done in. She could hear the rotor of a helicopter outside. That was no news helicopter. That one was a police copter. The police force they were supposed to have taken care off were gathering in drovers. At this point, her group was completely surrounded. No place to run.
Ecole promptly fired an ultrasonic bullet.
Not even Gaimoon should be able to detect ultrasonic soundwaves, she thought. Without a moment’s delay, Gaimoon lifted its left hand in front of its face. A blink, and a circular organ generated on its left forearm. That shield made of biological tissue dispersed the mass of sound in its entirety.
“… No way.”
Ecole absentmindedly muttered. What was that shield? In the first place, was Gaimoon able to perceive her attack? Just what sort of power lay hidden in this monster?
“… Come in, this is Ecole. Someone, please respond, come in…”
Practically begging, Ecole continued to call into her transmitter.
Gaimoon slowly walked towards her.
Hero of justice?
Wrong. What was before her eyes was- to alter- a nightmare.
“Please… someone… someone respond…!”
As she cried out, Ecole did nothing but pray. I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die!
So please.
– Someone, save me.
A clicking noise entered Ecole’s transmission. Someone had intruded into the wireless channel.

‘Dear Alters, I ask of you. A life in hell, a peaceful death. Which would you choose?’

An unfamiliar voice. The noise mixed in rendered its nature unclear.
But it was lacking in intonation to an uncanny extent, the heatless voice set her heart astir.
It was as if she was being called to from the depths of hell.

‘If you choose to live through hell, then move as I tell you. I will grant you escape from this situation. I have the power.’

Who the voice belonged to? That didn’t matter.
Whoever it was, they told Ecole they had the answer she was seeking.
That alone was enough.
“I don’t care if it’s hell. Please save me.”
The other party immediately issued the orders. But on those joke-like contents, Ecole didn’t know how she should respond. Gaimoon only a step away. No time left to hesitate.
Ecole made her resolve.

‘First, ask what it thinks about a house mouse with intelligence.’

“… What do you think about a house mouse with intelligence?”
Ecole asked with hesitation. After it left her mouth, she grew ashamed of what she was doing in such a situation. But in the next moment, that changed to shock. Gaimoon’s step suddenly stopped. As if it was flustered.

‘When your enemy shows an opening, fire your ultrasonic at the water. Aim for the water behind Gaimoon.’

What Ecole spotted was Leo’s water bottle.
The PET bottle remained in the driver seat drink holster, around half of its contents remaining. Its location was perfectly right behind Gaimoon.
Ecole aimed at the water, and fired off a shot. Gaimoon’s reaction was just barely too late. She hadn’t been aiming at the hero in the first place, so the ultrasonic waves passed by and collided with the water. On the boundary between air and water, the ultrasonic waves perfectly reflected. The lump of identical sound that reflected back slipped its way under Gaimoon’s notice and collided.
“—!”
The sudden attack got Gaimoon to its knees. It had lost its sense of equilibrium, it seems.
With the first ever sight of the hero on their knees, Ecole couldn’t hide her even greater shock.

‘Gaimoon will only be down for a brief moment. In that time, press the switch for the smokescreen your group loaded onto the bus. Wake up your comrade and withdraw. Your ride will be there shortly.’

With no delay, Ecole pressed the switch embedded in her wireless radio. Right after, a pink smoke spouted into the inside and outside of the bus.
The hostages raised shrieks. She could hear angry roars fly from the police outside. Of course, that had nothing to do with Ecole. She could ‘see’ the world through sound.
Paying no regard to the smokescreen, Ecole proceeded down the carriage.
“Lemeo-san, snap to it! We’re pulling out!”
“… W-what the hell’s going on?”
The numbness had largely subsided, Lemeo barely managed to stand his body. Ecole held his shoulder up and proceeded out the bus through a broken window.
“Freiger-san, where’s Freiger-san!?”
“Right here…”
Enveloped in pink mist, Freiger unsteadily stood. Wounds ran all across his body. Despite his condition, the man wouldn’t step down.
“You lot go ahead. I’ll fight Gaimoon to the end…”
“That’s… you can’t! The mission has failed, we’re retreating…!”
“Shut it! For us first generation, the fight is our life! Just shut up and let me turn this place to ash!”
Ecole couldn’t say anything to his imposing bearing. At that time, a patrol car raced towards them. While Ecole stood on guard a moment, seeing the tentacle reaching out from the window, she opened her eyes wide.
“Hey, need a lift?”
“Ikaruga-san!”
Learning her comrades were safe, Ecole leaked a breath of relief. Disguised as a policeman, Ikaruga responded in his usual lighthearted way.
“We can talk later. We’re taking off before the cops notice. Freiger, you…”
The fake policeman looked at a tattered Freiger and narrowed his eyes. There, Freiger gave a gentle smile unbefitting of his form.
“Tell the twin midgets and Doc Moel’s girl. You had to leave me behind.”
“… That so. Then you two, get in.”
Ecole issued a protest at Ikaruga’s far-too easy acceptance, but noticing the approaching police squadrons, she shut her mouth. Freiger wouldn’t turn their way any longer. There was the back of a warrior proceeding to the ground where he died.
“… Is that the good fight you’ve been looking for, Freiger?”
Ikaruga muttered in a low voice. Confirming Ecole and Lemeo had boarded the back seats, he immediately took off. A life in hell, or a gentle death. Unaware of what death lay ahead, the patrol car raced down the road obscured by smoke.

 

 

“Gaimoon… Hey, Gaimoon…”
Shaken back and forth, Gaimoon’s hazy vision gradually began to focus. The child it had saved, alongside his mother, peered at it with worried faces.
“Are you okay? Does it hurt?”
Gaimoon shook its head, it informed them it was fine to the best of its abilities.
The smoke was already beginning to clear. It seemed the Alter had escaped.
Rising, Gaimoon confirmed the state of the hostages. None of them had suffered any major injuries.
“—You’re Gaimoon, I presume.”
Heavy steps surrounded the bus. The light illuminating the hero, police officers clad in body armor pointed their guns.
“You’re under arrest. The laws of Japan have no provisions that recognize a ‘Hero of Justice’.”
Surrounded by gun barrels, Gaimoon quietly raised its hands. The other hurried officers passed by its side to take charge of the hostages.
“Gaimoon saved me! He’s not a bad person!”
“It will be alright, young boy. Now come with me.”
With the hostages all led away, Gaimoon lowered its shoulders for the time being. Soon its mind turned to how it would escape this situation, and it was then. Every sensation in its body informed it of an evil presence. Gaimoon suddenly leapt and pushed down the remaining police officer pointing his gun. The cop had no time to take action before flames flooded into the bus interior.
With no delay, Gaimoon punched a fist into the fire. A pale blue electric current raced over the surface of its body, and like a parlor trick, the three-thousand-degree Celsius flames died away.
“I see, so it’s an electric extinguisher…”
In no time, in place of the smoke, crimson hellfire had taken in the area around the bus. The flames to his back, a one-eyed tiger alter roared.
“The ions and soot particles in the flame react to an electric field. I guess it’s possible in theory, but… ka ka ka, I thought controlling fire was my patented property, you’ve got one up on me there…”
The tiger alter bared his fangs, forming a ferocious smile.
The flames prevented the other officers from getting close. The officer it had pushed away watched over the state of affairs with a tense face.
“I’ll take on the alter. Officer, you confirm everyone’s safety.”
After a moment of thought, the officer gave a heavy nod.
“… I’m counting on you.”
Gaimoon leapt out of the bus’ front and landed on the road. Shaking away the flames assailing the bus with the electricity from its body, it walked towards the tiger alter.
“I’ve known Gaimoon for ages. He’s been our enemy for a long, long time.”
The tiger alter produced a thick cigar from the pocket of his mostly burnt-up jacket.
The tip of the cigar he bit lighted up on its own.
“That’s why I can call bullshit when I see it… The old Gaimoon was a vindictive, troublesome bastard… but at the very least, he wasn’t a monster like you. Three years ago, that day when you showed yourself before us, you weren’t the Gaimoon we had fought to that point.”
The tiger Alter blew out smoke. And grabbing his eyepatch, he tossed it into the flame.
The eyeball had been crushed, the lasting scar of single stroke running vertical came exposed.
“Answer me, who are you? Three years ago, who was it that crushed my left eye, crushed Leviathan, and defeated that person?”
After Gaimoon left a space, it suddenly pointed high its finger high up to the moon hanging over the night sky.
“—When your heart is touched by sorrow, the white moonbeams shall light out justice.”
“… Huh?”
Disregarding the taken aback tiger, Gaimoon took on a stance reminiscent of Chinese martial arts. Alongside a dance as if to encourage itself, it dispatched its battle cry.
“Here stands the natural enemy of evil, Gaimoon!”
An exaggerated introduction straight out of a kabuki play.
The tiger alter’s mouth twitched, before he finally raised a grand laugh.
“Ka ka ka! I see, I see! You’re Gaimoon, nothing more, nothing less! Then I might as well name myself too…”
The tiger’s smile changed to a malicious countenance of rage.
One of the original Alter siblings. Captain of Calamity Co. Leviathan’s third specialized unit, Freiger! With this life Lord Helvenom blessed me with on the line, I’ll rip the skin from your bones! Here I go! Com Plete Com Buuuustioooooon!!”
Alongside the tiger—Alter Freiger’s bellow, a blaze swept over to burn life and soul. Condensing his own heat, Freiger had discarded rationality and all else, melting the road’s asphalt away as he charged.
Gaimoon grandly drew back its right leg. Pale sparks raced down it. Enhanced flesh contracted as powers condensed.
Freiger unleashed the wave at her.
towards the wild beast, its fangs bared, the hair on its body standing on end, Gaimoon released the concentrated power. A tornado-like roundhouse kick with the left leg as the axis. A gale picked up with the hero at the center. The flames went out in an instant, even the surrounding officers blown back. With all the force of the kick hammered into his neck, Freiger was slammed down sideways, colliding with the protective wall.
“L… Lord Helvenom…”
Freiger’s flames died. Crevices suddenly spread along the tiger’s visage. Freiger stared at his own rapidly collapsing form with a look of despair.
“… Your Alter cells are experiencing necrosis. Right now, your external organs have begun a rapid breakdown.”
Gaimoon said as it walked over to Freiger.
It hadn’t taken his life. But Freiger’s life as a alter would soon die out.
“Very soon, you’ll lose your ability to transform.”
The external organs formed from Alter cells were called the very essence of a alter, after all.
“… Kill me. Who the hell’d want to show the world their burnt-out cinders.”
“There’s something I need to ask you.”
Gaimoon quietly asked.
“Was Lord Helvenom really defeated?”
“… What are you talking about? Three years ago, with your very own hands, you…”
Freiger cut his words along the way. A blaze of madness ignited in the eyes of a dying tiger.
“I see… I see, I see, so that’s what it is…”
As if in a convulsing fit, Freiger continued to laugh. With each laugh, his crystalizing skin crumbled away. Even so, Freiger’s outburst wouldn’t stop.
“So that rumor was true…! The black Helvenom… you met him in the flesh…!”
“Lord Helvenom is supposed to be a red skull. Answer me, Freiger! What do you mean by black.”
Gaimoon’s mind flashed back to the scene of a memory halfway between dream and reality. A burnt building, the many people collapsing, the flowing blood, the black skull that stood.
“Are you listening, native trash! Your nightmare isn’t over yet! Leviathan still lives! Soon a storm will be blowing in this town! You’d better prepare yourself, Gaimoon!”
As he said that, Freiger shoved some sort of capsule into his mouth.
“No!”
When Gaimoon tried to stop him, he had already swallowed.
“… We don’t forgive, we don’t forget, quiver and wait for us to come.”
His expression in ecstasy, Freiger boomed in a brain-jolting voice.
“Long live lord Helvenom! Glory to Leviathan!!”
His body raised a pillar of flame as it burst.
Jumping back and avoiding by a hair’s breadth, Gaimoon silently looked at the exploding flames. The officers hastily assumed their positions. It did seem after message spread of Freiger’s suicide, and the alters’ retreat, they had determined Gaimoon as their next target.
Gaimoon shook off their advances and jumped off the road. Like the wind, the hero’s figure disappeared into the Tsukimori City night.

 

 

The patrol car Ecole rode arrived at a port in Tsukimori City.
Infiltrating that area where the containers brought in by tankers were put on display, the car came to a stop where there were no people around.
From his police disguise, Ikaruga reverted to his original alter form. The tentacles extending from his head in the shape of a squid comfortably writhed.
“That was harsh. It’s a real bother to keep up a disguise you know. At my age, this old man is beat. Good work out there, you two.”
In the back seats, concealed under the blankets, Ecole and Lemeo finally popped out their faces.
“… Are Tsumigi-san and the others gathering here too?”
“Young lady. It’s not Tsumigi, its Arachne. Using human names in this form is a big no-no.”
“Ah, I-I’m sorry.”
Each alter possessed two names, one for native form, one for alter.
Ecole had formed a connection with the alter community around four years prior. She hadn’t yet become fully accustomed to alter culture. Watching her curl up, Ikaruga answered her prior question.
“If we’re to believe that one’s words. A map here should have been sent to everyone’s terminal. Oh I’m glad they’re well prepared.”
“… Is it true? When you said someone jammed our transmission?”
“Yeah, the transmission channel we used was cut off by someone. Thanks to that, everyone was left by their lonesome self. When I thought it was hopeless, someone called out from a different channel, and here we.”
“Is it alright to think of the voice that let us escape as an ally?”
“We’re safe for now, so I’d hope so.”
Ikaruga said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Even so, I’m getting a feeling he’s even stronger than when the leader was taken out three years ago, that Gaimoon…”
Even before they began scheming this plan, he informed them of the threat that was Gaimoon. They weren’t making light of the hero. They were supposed to have made countermeasures. But they had all fallen apart on Gaimoon’s arrival.
Ecole had no cards to play from the start.
Something tapped against the door of the patrol car.
An alter with a spider’s head, Arachne. Ecole hurriedly opened the door.
“Ikaruga-san, Ecole, Lemeo… good, you’re safe…”
“Arachne-san… umm, but Freiger-san was…”
On the verge of saying it, Ecole noticed Hurtle and Murtle, the twin cat alters behind Arachne. The two hung their heads sobbing.
“… They already know. Just leave them be for now. Freiger was like a father to them.”
“Whatever the case, that’s everyone.”
Stepping down from the car, Lemeo and Ikaruga warily took a look around. Ecole also strained her ears, but all she could hear was the beat of her comrades, no other human presences to speak of.
Arachne also kept up her guard as she answered.
“I’ve spread my threads around, if anyone was here I’d know. Does the fact that they aren’t mean they didn’t intend to show themselves from the start?”
“I’m fine with anything, long as it’s not a trap. Well, it irks me we went on a fool’s errand…”
Right, at the moment the air around everyone relaxed,

A dreadful pressure came down on them.

“Gah… gha…!”
Ecole hurt as if her throat was being strangled, she fell to her knees on the spot.
She couldn’t let out her voice, her understanding wasn’t able to catch up to whatever was happening. A seething fear whose reason remained oblivious to her.
It was practically as if some stranger was churning up her brain cells, forcefully bringing just an emotion of fear to mind. She couldn’t go against it, she had no means to fight back.
The others held their chests, letting out pained groans. The sole member who hadn’t fallen to their knees, Ikaruga, stood with his body convulsing.
“What’s that supposed to mean, this pressure… don’t tell me, that person’s…!”

“That’s right, it’s Terreur.”

Ecole was a loss for words.
When up a moment ago, she hadn’t felt the slightest presence.
At that very instant, sure enough, someone’s presence was approaching them.
She couldn’t feel a pulse. What resounded was an emotionless voice—if she had to equate it to something, the sound of a corpse. Unseen, the voice’s owner carried on.

“If you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back. I am that abyss. Good alters, you have no possible means of going against me.”

“What sort of… drivel are you…!”
Lemeo tried to threaten him, but his tongue wouldn’t work. Ecole was the same, the pressure came down on her, keeping her down. Ikaruga alone put up resistance to it. He wasn’t the usual light-hearted Ikaruga, he was panicking. His eyes were darting around.
“Why can you use Terreur… just who are you…!”
Terreur. Upon hearing that word, what surfaced in Ecole’s head was a certain mythos.
The dear teacher who once explained to her how she could live as an alter had taught her, the legend of this town. Passed from alter to alter, the Alchemuls Mythos.

── The Kaijin given life in this world were weak and divided,
lives that would fall with each swipe of the blade.
In order to live, they needed unity ──

The footsteps approach.
They’re heavy, dead footsteps that crush all underfoot.
Enduring the suffocating air, Ecole looks up at their owner.

── So the Alters gathered.
Under the skull possessed of battle and death.
Under the skull who would rule all through fear ──

The first thing to enter her eyes was a jet-black skull, all the flesh and blood stripped away. A full-face helmet in the shape of a skull. As if to curse the living, a malign shape perfuse with nihility. A coat the color of crows’ wings fluttered, that form could belong to no other but a god of death. If fear itself had to take shape, then there was no doubt it would take on such a form.
Ecole knew. She knew the name of this skull

── The name of his skull is Lord Helvenom.
Ruler of the spiraling twin dragons who swallow the moon.
Controlling the grotesque and the dead, the absolute evil for the Alters ──

Lord Helvenom. In the alters’ mythos, the symbol of fear and rule. But this one was just a little different from what she had heard. Lord Helvenom was supposed to be a red skull.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, ladies and gentlemen. I am the Second Lord Helvenom who has inherited the will of the first.”
“The second…!?”
A black skill—the second Lord Helvenom stood aloof, lightly waving both hands. Alongside his hand movements like the conductor of an orchestra, Ecole and the others’ bodies suddenly felt lighter. Her comrades violently coughing as they repeatedly forced air down their throats, as of yet, were still unable to move.
“… I remember,” the one who said it was Arachne.
“Three years ago, when the first Lord Helvenom was defeated, the rumor did go around… that Lord Helvenom had a successor, what’s more, that person fought with Gaimoon, and returned alive…”
“Hey now, what are you talking about? Never heard it in my li—”
“… It was during the Meteor Seminar fire incident in the Koheru district.”
Lemeo’s words were interrupted by Ikaruga.
“I fire broke out in a building where a prep school was being held. Eight dead, they were all kids and teachers from the school. From the terrible states of the bodies, there were suspicions of alter involvement.”
Ecole also remembered. The victims were the same age as her, so it left an impression.
“… There was another strange rumor about that incident. Talks that there were two supposed alters fighting at the scene of the crime. One was a red one that looked like a rabbit.”
“A red rabbit, is it…?”
“That would presumably be Gaimoon. The color was just the fire. And the other, the one who fought evenly with Gaimoon. As I recall, it was definitely a black skull.”
Someone swallowed their spit.
Out of curiosity, Hurtle timidly asked.
“You killed? Eight? You?”
In place of a response, Lord Helvenom turned his coat. The black skull buried into the shadows. The footsteps grew distant. Like a spirit returning to the bowels of hell.
“Hey! Wait! We’re not done talking here!”
“… A week from now, I’ll appear before you again. My new brethren…”
The corpse voice echoed.
As if even forgetting wasn’t permitted, the voice continued to reverberate in their heads.
“You’ve made the choice. Now resist your predetermined fate of ruin. To defeat the moon of justice, the time has come to awaken the twin dragons once more…”
Altogether, the voice ceased to be. The presence of that Lord Helvenom was no longer around. Along with the others, Ecole’s heart pounded as she stood.
The lingering smell of fear persisted like a curse.
“New brethren… awaken the twin dragons…”
Repeating the second Lord Helvenom’s words, for some reason, Arachne’s face rose in surprise.
“Don’t tell me, he means…”
“Yeah, what crazy talk…”
Ikaruga filled with a cold anger as he spoke.
“He’s reforming Calamity Co. Leviathan, I’d reckon…”

 

 

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine. You don’t have to worry. Didn’t bang anything too important. Thank you for all the support.”
Gaimoon sat along on the water tower of a building.
“… I know, I do think I pushed it a bit. But I couldn’t think of anything else… it’s been a while since I had to go up against three opponents. I never thought I’d fall to a surprise attack.”
The other party over the transmission teased Gaimoon over the fight. The full details of the battle had been preserved beginning to end on the news camera.
“It’s not like I let my guard down. The alter suddenly asked a strange question. She asked me about this book I just happened to borrow, see. Did I tell you about it? That book father recommended to me.”
Gaimoon took out the sports bag kept to one side.
From inside the bag, it pulled out a single paperback.
‘Flowers for Algernon’, stuck with the seal of Tsukimori First High. The story of a young man and mouse who gained super intelligence through brain surgery.
“Thanks to that, I let them get away… and again, I couldn’t stop an alter from dying…”
It’s not your fault. The speaker on the phone consoled.
As long as an ally of justice fights, there are lives you’ll have protected. By proud.
“… Yeah, thank you. I’ll drop by later. Well then, see ya.”
Gaimoon hung up, and looking up at the moon, she removed her mask.
The crystalized exterior organs crumbled, riding the wind as they fell away.
‘What does it take to be a hero?’
She recalled the conversation that had entered her ear that evening. The dialogue between her childhood friend, and an underclassman girl.
“For instance, I see it like this.”
She said, holding her fist straight out.
“A hero is someone who ‘absolutely’ never gives up, no matter how harsh the situation is! If I said that, would he tell me there are no absolutes again? Take-chan…”
She—Omou Mia said, and spat out a large breath.
“… But you know, no matter what, I’m not going to give up. On Take-chan, or on Gaimoon. The peace of this city the previous Gaimoon entrusted to me.”
Holding Gaimoon’s mask in her arms, she looked up at the moon.
No matter how the town changed, Tsukimori City’s night sky hadn’t changed.
From back when she could speak so freely with Takeru. Not in the slightest.

 

 

“They’re all delayed from traffic regulation. What shall we do, Chiyo-sama? Should we take a detour?”
“We’re fine where we are. As long as you drive safe, I care not.”
“Yes, very well.”
The woman in Japanese clothing sitting in the driver’s seat, Fuwa Akemi pressed down on the accelerator. Regardless of her clothing, her handling was light. The station wagon quietly ran down Tsukimori City’s national highway.
Sitting in the backseat, ‘he’ directed his eyes out the window.
When such a ruckus had broken out in the same city, the town he could see from here hadn’t changed at all.
“… Freiger was a fool. To think he still had some apoptonitro on him. There’s no need to zealously cling to the rules of a dissolved organization.”
The woman in a wheelchair in the back, Akutsu Chiyo said in an uninflected voice.
And she went on.
“So how was it? The feeling of using Terreur on an alter for the first time?”
‘He’ gazed at the jet-black mask in his hands. The inactive mask had no expression. No matter what technology produced it, as long as a human didn’t equip it, the mask couldn’t exhibit any power.
“… It worked on the second gen, but Ikaruga resisted. It looks like my Terreur isn’t complete enough to use on the first generation of alters.”
“One who grants fear must first learn his own fear. If you really do intend to rule every alter, then you’d better start by taming your own fears. Get it in your head already.”
“Like you did as the first gen?”
“Who are you calling the first? All that’s left here is an empty husk that got her recompense.”
Chiyo said with white eyes that didn’t reflect the slightest light.
“Evil shall always be judged by the hand of justice, just as I was in the battle three years ago. Yet you still insist you’re going to do it?”
“Of course. That’s why I obtained the power of Lord Helvenom in the first place. I thought you knew that a long time ago, grandma.”
“Hmph. All I knew was that I had a foolish grandson.”
And there, ‘he’ suddenly remembered something and asked.
“… Hey, grandma. What do you think it takes to be a hero?”
“Is that some sort of psychological test?”
“Nah, just a question.”
“Heroes are vile tumors born of the times. What else could they possibly be? Do you have a different take on it?”
“This is just a probably, but I think they’re people who keep winning.”
“Keep winning?”
“Right. They fight, and fight, and fight, and pile up victories. That why a hero needs someone to fight. They need an evil to slay.”
“… And is that the reason you’re dragging every alter and this town into your fight?”
Fed up as she was, Chiyo spoke in a voice with no sadness.
“I’m sure you’ll become an evil greater than me. As the successor of Alchemuls—Takeru.”
‘He’—Okina Takeru gazed at Helvenom’s mask.
Alchemuls.
Feared, revered by all Alters, the word ‘absolute’ that couldn’t even be tacked onto the concept of god.
It is impossible for any phenomenon in the world to be absolute. If there was, it could only ever exist in the human mind. That’s why Takeru would have to become it.
In order to save Omou Mia who lived hidden by the mask of justice.
He would need to become the ‘evil’ that opposed the hero.
“Now, Mia, let us begin,” Takeru said.
“The good fight of justice and evil.”

ch01

 


 

 

 

Chapter 2: The Natural Enemy of Evil

 

Mia had always been one to cry.
When sad, when angry, when happy, Mia was always crying.
That’s why Takeru would often find himself on the road home with Mia’s teary face.
“… How long are you going to keep crying, Mia?”
“… Yeah… hic…”
“Don’t cry just because you got teased. That lot finds it funny, that’s why they do it.”
“I know… but…”
Each time Mia hiccupped, her ribbon-bound braid swayed. Takeru rubbed his nose as he purposefully wrung out his voice.
“Nothing to worry about. They don’t even know how to punch. Just you watch, next time they mess with you, I’ll go and beat…”
“Y-you can’t do that, it’ll hurt!”
All of a sudden, Mia drew close to him. A surprised Takeru retreated two, three steps back.
“If you make them hurt, then you’ll start hurting too! You can’t do that! Absolutely not!”
“I don’t really hurt…”
“Anyways, I say it’s no good, so no!”
When she was such a crybaby, from time to time, Mia could become surprisingly stubborn. At those times, no matter what Takeru said, Mia wouldn’t hear a word of it. In the end, Takeru had no choice but to answer this.
“… Fine, I get it. Just get away, you’re too close.”
“That’s a promise! Lie and I won’t let you eat maman’s galette!”
“And you call yourself human?”
“Take-chan, you’re making a scary face!”
She was in tears again. Finally feeling troubled over how to soothe her, “Oh, that’s right,” a certain thought struck Takeru’s head.
“Mia, go join Teiko FC.”
“You want me to play football?”
“That’s right.”
“No way, no way no way no way, not happening!”
“It’s fine, you can do it. You’ve got blood from the same country as Zidane in your veins.”
“Not every Frenchman can play football! Add to that it’s diluted by half!”
While Mia refuted it with all her might, this was one point Takeru wouldn’t back down on.
“Sawa-chan’s making a ruckus over how there are no female members. She’ll welcome you.”
“… But I’m already slow in tag… and… playing football with kids I don’t know…”
“I’ll be with you, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Intentionally speeding up, he called out to Mia.
“If you play football, you’ll make some friends, and you can become strong. So let’s do it, this football thing.”
“Strong?”
Mia’s voice suddenly sprung up.
“Like Gaimoon?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Takeru answered. “I’m sure you’ll get even stronger than Gaimoon.”
“I see… getting strong with Take-chan…”
Eventually, the two arrived at Mia’s house; a single-family home on the older side, where her father apparently lived when he was a kid. The blond haired woman standing by the mail box noticed the two and waved her hand.
“Ah, welcome back Take-chan, Mia.”
“I’m home, maman!”
Mia quickly raced off and embraced the woman. Her mother, a Frenchwoman gave a bright smile as she rubbed Mia’s head.
“I see you’re home today with a smile, Mia. That’s wonderful.”
“Yeah! I promised you!”
“You were bawling your eyes out not a moment ago.”
“Take-chan!”
Embracing Mia who was tearing up again in protest, maman smiled over at Takeru.
“Then I’m sure it’s thanks to you that she’s back on her feet.”
“… I didn’t really do anything…”
Mia strongly took after maman’s features. Given ten, twenty years, would Mia look like that as well? The form of an adult Mia was something Takeru couldn’t even bring himself to imagine.
Takeru loved her kind maman.
Her voice as warm as the spring, the somewhat burnt galettes she would treat him to, her smile like the sun.
“Take-chan, I appreciate you doing this every time. I’m counting on you to look after Mia.”
To maman’s words, Takeru gave a curt nod, when Mia sent him a grin. Why don’t you just smile like that at school, Taaekru would often wonder, but when he thought about how he was the only one who knew Mia’s smile, he felt just a little triumphant.
“Bye-bye Take-chan. See you tomorrow!”
“Yeah,”

— See you tomorrow.

 

 

“Omou-san seriously pisses me off.”
“Eh? What’s this? Suddenly laying down a diss?”
“I mean, listen to this. This morning, I was just playing with a first year a bit, see, when, ‘What do you think you’re doing here?’ she went and picked a fight. What’s up with that? She misunderstood so hard it was the funniest thing ever.”
“You’re bullying that kid too hard. It’ll be a real pain if you poke at Omou, you know? She doesn’t read the mood.”
“Meh, you make me sound like a villainess, I’m just doing it for everyone’s sake. I mean, a kid whose very existence is gross.  For the school’s sake and everyone in it, aren’t we all better off if they go truant already? Sacrifice one for everyone’s sake. See, I do no wrong.”
“No, no, you’re totally speaking like a villain—”
Lunch break at the cafeteria.
Listening to the conversations of sporadically laughing female students, Takeru slurped at his udon alone. At those voices that one would hear whether they wanted to or not, there were some who made openly displeased faces, but no one made a public protest.
Stay as uninvolved as possible with the events outside of the community you belong to. This was one of the tacit rules anyone living a student life would quickly acquire.
Once Takeru finished his udon, he stood from his seat.
His eyes flickered. He couldn’t remove the washed-out feeling that had been in his head since yesterday. Leaving the cafeteria, he walked down the passage that connected to the main school building.
Just a night since the bus jacking incident, and Tsukimori First High was continuing in an exceedingly normal daily life mode. As long as crisis didn’t happen in true proximity, it’s difficult to actually feel the danger.
In this school, only two were involved with that case.
Okina Takeru and another.
As he passed down the hall, the vending machine stationed to the side entered his eyes. Recalling a slight thirst, he tried inserting a hundred yen coin into the coin slot, when there came the sensation of something colliding with his head. A paper airplane folded out of a school printout.
He turned in the direction it flew from, The landing of the school’s emergency staircase entered his eyes, but he couldn’t spot anyone. Takeru spread out the paper airplane sheet.
‘I request coffee milk.’
A crude touch unchanging from elementary school. Carefully folding up the spread paper, he tucked it into his breast pocket, gave up on the vending machine, and returned to his original route. A paper airplane stuck into his head again.
This one was a test answer sheet.
‘Have you forgotten your debt from yesterday’s drink?’
A math test, ninety-two points. Come to think of it, she was a science major, he recalled a little late. Carefully folding up the answer sheet, he tucked it into his pants pocket, walking off for yet another time.
Or so he made it look before catching the third airplane flaying at him in midair.
The third was an advertisement leaflet.
‘I’m sorry, I got in over my head. I’ll give you a Fried Sato-chan, so please.’
It was written largely in thick magic marker.
Fried Sato-chan, thinly sliced bread crusts deep fried and sprinkled in sugar, a long selling item at joint-stock company Satou Pan. What other choice did he have? Takeru returned to the vending machine, purchased a coffee milk and black vinegar drink, and made for the emergency stairwell.
He could have just ignored her, but with what happened yesterday, he was better off probing for some information.
Arriving at the third-floor landing, he called out to the lord of the paper airplanes.
“That Aquarius was something you just arbitrarily shoved on me.”
“You must be joking. I said it was goodwill, I never said it was my treat.”
Crouching down and concealing herself, Mia gave a mischievous laugh. The other individual involved with the incident, Gaimoon, Omou Mia. In her hands was an open bag of Fried Sato-chan, and a paperback open half-way. The ‘Flowers for Algernon’ she had borrowed yesterday.
Takeru set down the coffee milk and snatched a Fried Sato-chan. The crisp fried bread crumbs easily crumbled as the sweetness of sugar spread amply across his mouth. It was the sort of snack that made one crave coffee or tea.
“I’m not running a café.”
“No need to worry, I’m properly preserving the standards of a public space. No, I’m just playing a little game of hide and seek here…”
“Hide and seek?”
“There’s going to be a ball-game tournament among the sports teams soon… quite a few places are trying to pull me in, and they’re making quite a racket…”
“Why is it already a competition…”
Surprisingly, the students of this school all bit on well when it came to these events. Each time one was held, for better or worse, Mia would gather attention.
“Did yesterday’s business go well?”
“Ah, yeah. There was just something I had to deliver to Sawa-chan no matter what. How about you? Did you go straight home after that?”
“Yeah, straight home. I watched the Hare Talk variety show.”
“… Ah, that was yesterday? I missed it.”
Too caught up in whether she was managing to deceive him, she didn’t even think to doubt Takeru’s story. If he cut the conversation unnaturally, there was a fear she might suspect something. That’s why Takeru carried on a surface-level conversation.
“Why don’t you quit eating alone out here? You’ll make the fans of ‘Tsuki High’s Hero’ cry.”
“Hey, s-stop it with that name. I can’t say I’m a fan of it…”
“My junior said it with respect. You should frankly accept the respect of others.”
“… No, but, see, I’m making a lot of enemies.”
Mia gave a troubled laugh.
Takeru took a sip of black vinegar drink before speaking.
“Like Midorikawa from the class over?”
Mia suddenly went quiet, pinching a Fried Sato-chan, and taking a swig of coffee milk as if to force it down her throat.
“They were gossiping about you back there. Aren’t you sticking your head too far where it doesn’t belong? Keep it up like that, and the Hero will be taking a fall in no time.”
“… But the first year was crying.”
Mia indifferently said.
“They said they couldn’t stand the way she laughed. ‘Everyone’s putting up with your voice, so you’d better put up with some punishment. Now we’re even’. What’s that supposed to mean? Do they think human pain can be compared in quantity?”
“… That’s just about how it works. Leave them be. It’s just a whim. Once the novelty’s gone, they’ll lose interest.”
“Then will the pain in her heart disappear given that time?”
For some reason, Mia’s fingertip glided, tracing out her chest. Perhaps it was unconscious, she didn’t seem to take notice. Her eyes weren’t here, they were gazing at something far away.
“Call my nosy or whatever, but I’m not giving up, I can’t leave them be.”
“That’s an ideal. But lip service justice hurts those around you too.”
“But—”
The lunch broadcast music played. The symbol and characteristic rhythm of the base, inviting in a sense of nostalgia, the cleverly inserted interlude. It was Ben E. King’s Stand by Me.
Mia’s words stopped partway. The look in her eyes turned grim.
“Omou-san?”
“… Ah, I’m sorry. Just feeling a little lightheaded? Feeling dizzy when I’m sitting down, that’s not good.”
“If you’re feeling nauseous, want me to take you to the infirmary?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s nothing big, really.”
“… I see.”
Even so, Takeru stayed until Mia called down. He drank his black vinegar until it was empty. Perhaps a calmed Mia felt awkward, as she continuously crunched down on her Fried Sato-chan to play it off.
Takeru took out the printout and answer sheet-turned paper airplane from his pocket and returned them to her.
“I’ve got to get going. With this, we’re all even, right?”
“Nope. You’ve still got fifty yen.”
“You’re going to collect the difference between a bottle and paper carton…”
“I am. In order to pay back this debt, you’re going to have to talk to me again.”
“Can’t you make do with someone else? You’ve got plenty of friends.”
“But the only one who knows me, past included is you, Take-chan.”
“That’s why I told you yesterday, we’re not the same any—”
“Maman’s grave. You still visit every year, don’t you?”
Takeru’s words got stuck in his throat on the way out. Mia stared right back at him.
“The people at the temple said it. Every year, a boy comes to offer flowers. That’s you, isn’t it? That’s why I—”
The final bell of lunch break rung. Takeru folded up the black vinegar pack and turned his back to Mia.
“Don’t read and eat at the same time. Aunty in heaven will scold you.”
He heard Mia swallow a breath. But leaving her behind as she was about to say something, Takeru walked off. There is nothing absolute in the world. Everything flows and changes in shape.
Across Takeru’s brain flashed the face of Mia’s mother from the old days.

— I’m counting on you to look after Mia.

“… Of course I will, aunty.”
The one taking the fall wasn’t going to be Mia.
A single Lord Helvenom was plenty.

 

 

A musty theater around the Kagari District shopping street.
A single young woman stood petrified before the entrance where the ‘Kagari Odeon’ sign was hung.
Trailing black hair and white headphones.
Wearing the uniform of the prestigious missionary school Saint George’s Girls Academy, the scarf over her abundantly swelled chest swayed. Her headphones played Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
“Oh, Kanon, did you just get here?”
The girl—Alter Ecole’s native form, Sakurai Kanon turned around.
A woman in frameless glasses, whose intellectual eyes were perpetually lifted in rage. A sleeveless blouse and black pants made for a smooth fit on the tall college student.
Togumo Tsumugi, native form of the alter Arachne.
“I’m sorry, Tsumugi-san. Last period dragged on a bit…”
“Ah, with that person as your homeroom teacher, there’s nothing you can do about it. As an alumni, I really can’t make a ruckus. How’s school? Any problems since then?”
“… No, nothing particular.”
Their daily lives hadn’t changed. It was impossible to say if anything had shifted from before the incident to after. Tsumugi and Canon pushed open the theater doors, side by side.
“Hey. Tsumugi, Sakurai.”
Greeting them from the lobby sofa was a man in a shaved-side pompadour, an unfurled weekly publication in his hands. Tsumigi gazed head on, into the Alter Lemeo, Kamero Reo’s sanpaku eyes.
“How rare. To think you’re the one who’s on time. Where are the others?”
“The twins are engrossing themselves in the flick. Old Ikaruga’s going to be late, apparently. Good grief,  why are those first generation gramps always so  carefree…”
“Yeah, yeah. Start complaining about the generation gap, and it’s never going to end.”
As Kamero loathsomely uttered the words, Tsumugi tiresomely lowered her shoulders.
“From their point of view, the next gen that lives, mixed in with humans must look like a feeble bunch. They’re folks who live their lives ‘For the good fight,’ after all.”
“The good fight…”
That was the motto passed down through Calamity Co. Leviathan.
What Ikaruga had said to Freiger on their parting. It wasn’t as if Kanon had clearly experienced the meaning of those words yet, but there was still something she understood. The bus jacking the other day was certainly not a ‘good fight’ to her or her group.
“Even so, is there even any film here? I was sure this was a meeting point,  a theater in name a lone.”
“I hear the latest projectors can even play blue ray, according to the twins, old Freiger prepared it…”
“… Ah, so he was actually managing it, for argument’s sake. An official dummy corporation? I’m sure there are plenty of these facilities left around Tsukimori…”
Kagari Odeon. At a glance, it seemed no more than an old theater, but in actuality, it had once been a meeting facility of Leviathan. Three days prior, a notification came to the SNS they shared and used.

◆Lord Helvenom: Three days from now, 16:00, I await you at Kagari Odeon. Togumo Tsumigi, Kamero Reo, Sakurai Kanon, Nekomiya Hatoko, Nekomiya Matoko, Iga Ruka. I look forward to seeing your true faces.

A message from the second Lord Helvenom.
He went out of his way to call them by their human names. To an alter, knowing their identity as a native was akin to ruling them socially. Therefore, at the end of their discussion, with t he agreement of all members, they decided to answer the summons.
Tsumugi took a glance around the lobby.
“At present, have there been any visitors apart from us?”
“… None. Couldn’t be. I’ve been here watching the whole time.”
Kamero answered nervously. Perhaps the encounter from that day still clung to his mind, as he spoke without conviction.
“… Hey, just in case, wouldn’t it be better if we used our alter forms? There’s no need to go out of our way following his orders and exposing our faces.”
“To not give him any space to take advantage of us, we’re better off following orders for now. Even if we come in alter, if he uses Terreur, we’ve got no hopes of winning.”
Kanon checked her wristwatch. The dial pointed out fifteen fifty.
“Um, is it about time for us to get Hatoko-chan…? It’s almost time.”
“… Yeah, you’re right. Could you do that, Kanon?”
With a nod, Cannon opened the door tot eh audience seats—and froze on the spot. On the screen, an extreme closeup of a strange old woman leapt towards her.
“You know, I think we need to put on a more horrific production in our operations now and then. This sort of bang! Whoosh sort of thing! What’s your take on it, Matoko!”
“Hatoko, there’s a paper difference between fear and laughter… a production of the strange might end up a gag…”
The twins eating popcorn in sailor uniforms took up seats as they pleased, making a merry ruckus. The native forms of alters Hurtle and Murtle, Nekomiya Hatoko and Nekomiya Matoko. The one with pigtails was Hurtle/Hatoko, while the ponytailed one was Murtle/Matoko.
The disputing twins looked back to notice a frozen Kanon.
“Oh, Kanonee-chan! Yoohoo! Want to watch Hags of the Dead with us!? Wait, what’s gotten you so pale?”
“… No, it’s nothing.”
Kanon removed her face from the screen as she answered.
With sleepy eyes, Matoko looked between the screen and Kanon a few times, before hitting her hands together as if something had clicked.
“Don’t tell me… you’re no good with scares?”
“T-Tyat’s not true at all!”
In her fluster, her tongue wouldn’t move as she wanted it. She was trying her best to maintain her dignity as their elder, but the BGM of her heard, and the footage had her half in tears.
“Yeah, yeah. Flaunting Kanon’s cowardice and the screening ends here. It’s about time.”
Entering in behind, Tsumigi clapped her hands together. Hatoko displeasedly tapered her lips.
“Eh! That’s going too far! This is where it gets interesting!”
“Right now, more than the movie’s conclusion, it’s our here to come.”
“But…”
It was there Kanon noticed. The anxious looks in Hatoko and Matoko’s eyes. They were scared, the both of them. They cowered, not knowing the identity of the one who would inform them of their future. “… I-it’ll be fine,” Kanon said in as bright as she could muster.
“That second generation helped us out the other day, I don’t think he’ll treat us too poorly. That’s why… I’m sure it’ll work out!”
“Kanonee-chan…”
Hatoko and Matoko stood an raced over to Kanon.
She gently embraced the two. Even if they were alters, the way their hearts worked was no different from that of a human. Supposedly.
“… Alright, then let’s get to cutting the footage already.”
Observing the state of affairs, Makero turned towards the projector room, and it was then. The footage was abruptly interrupted.
Everyone tried to cry out. But they couldn’t.
What they had gotten a taste of the other day, the ‘pressure’ of fear bound Kanon and the others. Tormented by a strangling sensation, she took a glance at her own wristwatch. The clock needle pointed perfectly at six.

“I see you’ve gathered, my good alters.”

A corpse voice resounded through the hall.
A single shadow stood still before the silver screen lit up in white reel-less projector light.
The jet-black skull—the second Lord Helvenom.
Helvenom standing on the alter quietly lifted up his hands.
Just as before, the air suddenly became lighter. They could talk. But as if paralyzed, no one tried a move. Kamero’s mouth warped in anger as he spoke.
“Just give it a rest already… black skull… with that time and this time, pulling out your bag of tricks…! In the first place, old Ikaruga ain’t here yet!”
“I have no business with someone who’s not here. I simply came to ask your will.”
“Will, will, eh…”
Her mind still taken by fear, Tsumugi firmly turned towards Lord Helvenom and spoke.
“Would that have anything to do with the reformation of Leviathan?”
Lord Helvenom had no immediate answer, so she added on further questions.
“What it comes to Lord Helvenom, he’s got to be the leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan. If you proclaim yourself the second gen, I get why you’d aim to bring it back together. But why would that make you come into contact with us? There are plenty of other, larger alter groups out there.”
After Leviathan dissolved, the alters each formed their own factions and burrowed underground. While their scales never reached what Leviathan once boasted, their activities continued under the surface.
Tsumugi’s group was a puny power that couldn’t even be counted among their ranks. Try as she may, she couldn’t understand why Lord Helvenom would get in contact with them.
“… The alters these days are extraordinarily feeble and divided.”
Lord Helvenom began to say.
“To start with, alters were born half a century ago… they began as synthetic life born from genetic engineering. While they usually spend their lives in human form, by recalling certain stimulus, they change into alter forms clad in exterior organs composed of alter cells. Those external organs chided as ‘living character costumes’ carry an aberrant power unthinkable of the natural world, and as a result, the people feared alters as a threat. But precisely because Alters are a minority, they required unity. Calamity Co. Leviathan was the product of that.”
The black skull recited the nightmaric history dwelling in this town.
The log of the nightmare known as the alters.
“To the alters, Leviathan was their law and their fear. But the times are always changing. To prevent itself from being exterminated by evolving justice, Leviathan must take in new blood once more to evolve. It is for that reason that I chose you.”
“Evolving, justice…”
What came to Kanon’s mind as she repeated those words was the form of the white rabbit. The hero of justice,  Gaimoon. That power was certainly worthy of the name, evolving justice.
Kamero squinted his sanpaku eyes.
“Hey now, are you being sarcastic? We just lost to that evolving justice of yours…? So why’ve we got to be this new blood of Leviathan…!?”
“That is because in this town that lost Leviathan, you are the sole alters who have shown the will to fight.”
“Will to fight?”
Kanon repeated again, and Lord Helvenom leisurely nodded.
“The objective of the bus jack the other day was revenge for the alter Doc Moel who was killed by police, am I right?”
This time, everyone swallowed a breath. With her father’s name brought up, Tsumuji’s expression turned contrarily level.
“To think you’d already dug into father… even the police shouldn’t know about that…”
“His identity in native form was Togumo Noumu, professor of philosophy at Tsukimori City University. You were originally students of the ‘stranger class’ he would hold for alters. He was killed by police two years ago. There were suspicions of him being an executive of Leviathan. Your plea to release the alters in custody was to get in a blow on the police force who killed your dear teacher.”
“… Those were false charges. Father cut his relations with Leviathan a long time ago. And it wasn’t revenge either.”
Tsumugi answered with a shake of her head.
“Ever since Leviathan dissolved, the alter hunts have worsened. There’s no force we can depend on, and unrelated alters are being taken in one after the next where people can’t see. So we stood. To become the trigger that breaks down the present state of alters… to make this town know of our existence, our anger… but the result—”
“It was futile.”
Lord Helvenom mercilessly declared. Tsumugi’s face tensed up, she kept silent.
A vein surfaced on Kamero’s forehead, but he didn’t try to refute it.
“After putting in such effort, even losing a comrade, in the end, nothing changed. This town doesn’t even think of alters as evil. A troublesome bunch that’s reported on the news now and again, that’s the extent of their recognition. The people of this town don’t even discriminate against alters.”
Kanon bit into her lip. She knew. No matter how they stamped their feet, this reality wouldn’t change. There were no means to overturn it.
“If you have the will to rebel, the possibility exists.”
Possibility.
At that word unbefitting the embodiment of absolute evil, those concerned showed confusion.
“Three years ago, Leviathan was defeated by Gaimoon. The first Lord Helvenom was lost, the alters lost their fangs to fight. No matter what fearsome physical abilities one might possess, no matter what regeneration powers they boast, a power unbacked by will holds no meaning. To oppose an evolving justice, a continually changing will is necessary. The will to oppose reality is necessary. In that incident, you showed such a will, there could be no greater qualification. You have the right to be the new Leviathan. If you come with me, we shall cut open a future of new possibilities.”
“And would that possibility…” Matoko timidly asked, “Involve defeating Gaimoon?”
Lord Helvenom responded without a second of hesitation.
“Precisely.”
Matoko and Hatoko’s nostrils swelled.
A new Leviathan led by the second Helvenom. Kanon still couldn’t imagine what sort of thing that would be; yet the black skulls words were filled with a dark temptation. A premonition that the present state could be changed. The sensation their deeds were affirmed.
Everyone’s heart had been swayed. The form of a future they had yet to see, the choice of a possibility thrust out before them—

“Hey, hey, to start without me, now that’s just mean, Fakevenom-san.”

A scornful voice returned Kanon to her senses. Something was twined around Lord Helvenom’s wrist. A thick rope-like tentacle.
“What’s wrong? You were caught quite anticlimactically, kid. That person, the first would never let me get this close.”
Standing up from a front row seat, a mirage-like shadow. The pigment on his body’s surface that let him meld in with the surrounding environment increased in definitiveness. Kanon knew only one alter with such an ability.
“Ikaruga-san… when did you…”
“The next gen’s too honest for their own good. This is where you get a jump on them, and then it’s easy picking.”
Exposing an alter form similar to a squid, Ikaruga used his tentacles to bind Lord Helvenom on the platform.
“You got me by surprise last time, but I’ve always had a long rebellious streak. To oppose that person’s Terreur, I built up a level of resistance. That’s how it is, so the likes of your sham-Terreur isn’t gonna work.”
Kanon moved to stop Ikaruga, but she couldn’t move from where she was. Tsumugi and Kamero, Hatoko and Matoko swallowed their saliva as they watched over the situation.
With his arms restrained, Lord Helvenom showed not the slightest unrest.
“Very well. Then I’ll show you.”
The empty skull issued a proclamation.
“Carrying on Lord Helvenom’s will, the form of my violence…”

 

 

The second Lord Helvenom, Takeru maintained rational thought.
From the start, he didn’t feel pain. The multiple chips embedded throughout his brain—two in the cerebral cortex, one in the amygdala, one in the thalamus—worked in conjunction with his mask, leading him into a sort of trance.
That’s why, with a level head, he confirmed the letters displayed on his visor.
‘ACM-SYSTEM TERREUR MODE ON’
His Terreur was operating normally after all.
As Ikaruga said, it simply wasn’t working on him. Terreur had originally been the first generation Helvenom’s special power as an alter. Using the user’s own image of fear, their voice and actions would work on the opponent’s subconscious; it was a form of hypnosis that spread fear like a contagion. The Terreur Takeru could use now was no more than a false reproduction of the original’s power through mechanical means.
What’s more, while this Terreur was active, he would constantly have to face up with his own trauma. The more he wanted to rule another, the more his own heart would rot. If he wanted to grant fear unto others, he really would have to tame his own fear.
Being the first alters, the first generation served and fought under Lord Helvenom.
The younger, next generation lived in society, between the threshold of native and alter.
While they were alters all the same, the thought process of the first and next generation were completely different. Perhaps there was another reason in that tangent as to why his Terreur wouldn’t work.
Takeru was different from the alters before his eyes. He had no alter cells, he was only human. A suit and a mask, only through the grace of the system that operated with them could he begin to act as Lord Helvenom.
Therefore, the current Takeru only had a single means to control the first generation—he would have to make them submit through direct violence. He called up a function in his head.
‘Muls Impacter Active’
The cover of the wrist wrapped by the tentacle instantly retracted, the weapon stored in the inner suit spouted out, and each hand clenched down on the grips.
Ikaruga chimed out a skillful whistle.
“Now that’s cooooool. Those are some thick tonfas. They look perfect to give a kid for Christmas.”
Now answering, Takeru readied the black tonfas—muls impacters in his hands.
Proper name Muls Impacter-HV02.
Fitted with electromagnetic accelerators, they were high-tech tonfas; the ‘form of violence’ held by the second Helvenom Takeru.
‘Inner muscle output max. Restrict to arm parts.’
In accordance with Takeru’s thoughts, the artificial muscle set under the suit rapidly expanded. Takeru mustered all his might, crossing both his arms in front of his head. The tentacle restraints were easily torn off.
A tepid transparent liquid scattered across the platform.
“Hmm, your power’s not too shabby, but…”
A new layer of information overlapped Taker’s vision through the visor. The automatically recorded fluctuations in the surrounding air. His sight shifted from visible light to infrared.
What he confirmed by sight was a mass with heat—a single transparent tentacle was encroaching upon him.
Takeru pushed the switch on the grip in his hand.
With the grip as the central axis, his right muls impacter ferociously went into a high-speed rotation. It became a black shield, its spin repelling the tentacle.
But Ikaruga wasn’t the least bit flustered.
“You really should watch out for my bodily fluids, fake.”
In the fluids that scattered, a green liquid was mixed in. The moment that stuck to Takeru’s suit. It raised a sound and began bubbling up. The surface of the titanium alloy suit was mildly corroded.
Strong acidic bodily fluids. If he carelessly crushed tentacles, he wouldn’t get out unscathed.
Hs abruptly changed his plan. The aim wasn’t the tentacles—
“So naturally, you go for the main body, right?”
Ikaruga chirped.
His squid-mimicking head produced countless tentacles, and readied them. Their tips splid open. He pointed the muzzles of his acid spraying guns.
“Approach, and you’ll be soaked. You’ll find that strange mask and suit will quickly find a place in the dumpster. Now what do you do? How will you go at it, Fakevenom!?”
Takeru halted his approaching feet. Takeru on the platform, and Ikaruga in the audience seat, there was approximately five meters between them.
Takeru took a slight step with his left foot. As long as the tentacles were there, it was certainly dangerous to approach. In that case, he simply didn’t have to. As he stepped forward, he wound up his left shoulder blade.
Only a slight motion was visible to the eye. Ikaruga’s eyes failed to detect the preparation. So undetected, he squeezed out power like a bolt in a crossbow—
And forcefully released the spring in his shoulder.
Along with his reinforced muscle, his left fist thrust out like an arrow. The tip of its gripped tonfa sharply set out. At the same time, Takeru pulled the trigger on the grip.
The kinetic energy from the thrust was compressed by the internal engine, changing into a condensed shockwave. The created shockwave became a bullet and was emitted from the tip of the tonfa.
“Wha!?”
By the time he realized what was happening, Ikaruga’s body was already flying back.
Takeru braced himself for the impact with his augmented legs. The recoil did send his body back somewhat, but hurriedly recovering his stance, he moved on to his next action.
Takeru leapt down from the platform.
The falling Ikaruga rolled to land. His damage was light. As he tried to stand, before his eyes, Takeru thrust out his weapon.
But he didn’t land a finishing blow. The muzzles of Ikaruga’s tentacles were already directed at his mask.
A while of silence descended over the two glaring parties.
“Message from the first.”
Takeru was the one to break it.
“… Bloody lifelong rebel. You could at least pay a visit now and again, apparently.”
Ikaruga’s eyes twitched in response. For a while, he gazed at Takeru appraisingly.
“Looks like it’s true you’re carrying on from the first…”
His head, his tentacles gradually crumbled. With the dispelling of a transformation, the external organs formed from alter cells would calcify and crumble. From within, the sunken-eyed face of a middle-aged man appeared.
“Are you serious? Do you seriously plan to bring Gaimoon down?”
“… Of course. ” Takeru austerely nodded. “I was certain you’d be longing for one too, a fight to burn your life away. I shall produce the place to use your life. If that’s not enough to satisfy you, then kill me anytime.”
Ikaruga—Iga Ruka gave a cynical laugh and shook his head.
“… Fine. I’m not expecting anything but… well, I’ll at least confirm your intentions with my own eyes. No idea what they plan on doing.”
“I’m joining.”
Tsumugi answered immediately.
“At this rate, we won’t be able to continue our activity. It’s heartening to move alongside you, Second Lord Helvenom.”
“Me too, me too! If we’re blowing Gaimoon away, I’m super for it!”
Energetically raising her hand was Hatoko. Beside her, Matoko nervously raised her own.
“… I’m with her.”
“Good grief, each and every one of you, are you sane…”
“Huh? Reo, you’re against it?”
“… Fine! I’ll go! Nothing I can do about it, I’ll follow along!”
Kamero scratched his head before turning to Kanon.
“What about you, Sakurai? You’ve still got school, right?”
“Huh? Ah, you’re right…”
After reservedly looking Takeru way a while, Kanon cautiously spun her words.
“I still don’t really know you yet… what you’re doing either, but…”
Kanon asked as if she’d made some resolve.
“Will you really show us? A new future for alters? Will we really be able to defeat Gaimoon?”
Takeru slowly nodded.
Not a single soul suspected what his true goal could be. What he was truly attempting to accomplish.
“I’ll swear it, alters with a future ahead. I shall grant you victory.”
By no means had Takeru become Lord Helvenom for the sake of the Alters’ future.
“When Leviathan is revived, the people shall remember their fear of the alters they’ve forgotten. We shall change the alter society with our hands.”
It was all to become the enemy of the city’s hero Gaimoon.
“We’ll teach Gaimoon. We are by no means an evil. Our justice shall roar through this town, through the entire world.”
For the sake of Omou Mia who had no choice but to live as a hero of justice. That was why Takeru needed them. Alters who hadn’t yet lost their will to rebel. The power to move as the symbol of evil, Leviathan’s arms and legs was an absolute necessity.
Takeru would drag the alters through hell for the sake of such ego.
With no means of knowing Takeru’s intent, Kanon eventually gave a satisfied nod.
“Understood. I’ll fight too. I’ll join your new Leviathan.”
“… I have heard your decision.”
The die had been cast. There was no turning back.
Takeru hid his face and sin behind a mask and majestically addressed them.
“Then allow me to give you your next mission…”

 

 

Sunday.
Omou Mia never missed out on her usual training.
Six years since she was granted the power of Gaimoon, at this point, her training was already incorporated as a portion of her everyday life.
Even if that included abdominal strengthening exercises while hanging upside-down from the edge of a roof of a ten-story building.
“295… 296… 297… 298…”
Training gear over her body, her legs latched onto the roof’s ledge.
No lifeline. If her mind wavered the slightest bit, an immediate thirty-meter dive to the ground. Mia carried out sich life-threatening training all quite indifferently.
“299… three hundred!”
With the same momentum she strained her abs with, she rose up.
Mia looked at the sky, she stretched up high.
The clear Sunday sun put her in a good mood.
As she stretched, she prayed earnestly that the hero of justice wouldn’t have a role today.
‘The time a hero is needed is the time evil runs rampant in society.’
The previous Gaimoon, Mia’s father had told her.
‘That’s why the Hero must do their best to lose the reason for their existence. That is the natural way a hero should be.’
“… To work to not exist, huh.”
She wasn’t particularly fixated on the meaning of a hero. To start with, this was a power she obtained through various forms of happenstance. Of course it would be better if there wasn’t a situation where the hero had to set out.
Three years since she returned to Tsukimori City.
After colliding with Calamity Co. Leviathan, the pace she set out as Gaimoon gradually fell. From the year’s onset, she would have perhaps one, if any, chances to turn into Gaimoon a month.
She felt it had been quite a while since she held full-blown combat with an Alter as she had the week before.
In the end, that alter group was simply followers taking after Calamity Co. Leviathan in name alone, and the general consensus was that their activities were mostly dying out as well.
The threat of alters, the reason for a hero’s existence were certainly on the verge of disappearing from this city.
That was definitely a very good thing, she thought.
Now that she had defeated Lord Helvenom and Leviathan, Gaimoon had finished its role.
When that happened, she would be able to return to being a normal high schooler.
… Really?
At times, Mia grew anxious. Pushing a single finger into her chest, she tried tracing it out. The marks of a surgery she had undergone to heal the wounds from that incident, and to equip her with the power to fight.
Now barely any trace of it remained, but at what spot, and how had the wound come to be? Even now, Mia could remember it all too clearly.
The power she gained and the past she experienced were all irreversible. She couldn’t turn back.
A younger form crossed her mind.

Her reunion with Takeru came a year ago, the day of Tsukimori First High’s entrance ceremony. After scanning the billboard that listed out class assignments, Mia had discovered a nostalgic name among them.
The name of a childhood friend that had never once left her heart. Mia immediately raced off. She spotted Okina Takeru in the designated class. He had grown more mature than she remembered him, his physique was toned, he had gotten around to wear glasses. But.

— H-hey, I see you’re holding up, Take-chan!

Her pitch a little high, Mia greeted him. She believed they’d be able to talk just like the old days. But Takeru in the classroom took just a glance at Mia, and responded cold and to the point.

— Ah, it’s been a while. Omou-san.

It really was cold. His attitude spoke that didn’t feel anything strongly or anything at all.
As if their old relation didn’t hold any meaning.
No matter how many times she tried talking to him after that, she was always avoided. In the end, Mia spent a year unable to close the distance with Takeru.

If she told him she was Gaimoon, how would Takeru react?
If it were the old Takeru, the Takeru who would protect her from bullying, then shocked as he was, perhaps he would believe her. But was it alright to expect the same from the current Takeru?

— I’ve changed. It happens, we all change.

“Has Take-chan really changed?”
After saying that, Mia gave a sigh.
“… Have I changed too?”
Mia still believed there were parts of him that hadn’t changed. She believed she could regain the relation they had back then. Yet still, it frightened her. To interact with Takeru and witness the parts of him that had changed. More than anything, the very thought she might find herself disappointed in him.
No, realistically speaking, she was already disappointed in the current Takeru.
The past Takeru would never overlook Midorikawa’s bullying.
When the one who once protected Mia from bullies was Takeru himself.
—. It’s not just you. Lip service justice hurts those around you too.
It’s not just lip service. There’s no way anything good will come out of overlooking Midorikawa’s actions. From minor hatred, it’s all too easy for people to direct malice towards other.
That was something society pardoned as inevitable. Subjected to malice, the wounded soul is labeled, reaping what they sowed. A great many people failed to realize just how fearsome that label was in itself.
Mia had no choice but to take the side of people subjected to malice.
That was her mission as one carrying on the name of Gaimoon, and her obligation. That’s why she had to fight. Now that the evils of alters were fading from town, she would need to fight the malice lurking in—
“… Ah.”
Mia held her temple. A piercing sharp headache. Mia produced a bag of pills from her bag on the roof. She swallowed one. It would take a bit of time before its components took effect. For now, she took some deep breaths and tried to calm her heart as best she could.
These headaches had carried on for a while. They weren’t too frequent at first, but lately, their outbreaks were gradually growing in frequency. Perhaps she was better off pulling out for today.
When Mia was about to stop her training and leave, the smart phone in her bag rang a special tone.
A special sound, it’s meaning was ‘Emergency Dispatch’.
The hesitation, the headache from moments ago disappeared from Mia’s consciousness.
Mia confirmed the situation and site from the email and she produced equipment from her sports bag. Pure white armored protectors. Elbows, knees, gloves, belts to wrap around various parts, and dedicated boots. No matter the time, Mia would always carry these protectors on her person.
While there were numerous parts, they were all designed to be put on smoothly. Mia finished changing without neglecting a single piece.
She slowly took a deep breath. Gripping both her fists, she firmly pressed her upper arms to her body. And with a voice heavy in resolve, she proclaimed.
“Transform.”
She pulled both fists to her hips and took on a grand pose of fighting spirit.
This was all the transformation ritual to reach Gaimoon.
In the surgery six years ago, Mia’s body was transplanted with an alter ganglion.
With her actions as the key, the alter cells generated from that ganglion enveloped her body at a fearsome pace. An instantly hardening body surface, throbbing, strengthened muscles, and finally, she equipped the mask.
The mask that symbolized Tsukimori’s justice.
“… Gaimoon go.”
The transformation completed, Mia—Gaimoon hopped off the roof and sped towards the scene.

 

 

Those walking down the road noticed the hero and looked up at the buildings. From building to building, Gaimoon hopped. The justice fantasy permitted to Tsukimori alone sped through the city.
Eventually, Gaimoon arrived at the roof of a certain building.
Cater-cornered from the street, the nine-story building of a high-class business hotel was enveloped in black smoke. The rubberneckers crowded, as the fire brigade desperately continued worked to quell the problem. At present, the flame’s momentum showed no signs of dying down.
Across the transmitter in her mask, Gaimoon’s cooperator informed her of the state of affairs.
The evacuation was mostly complete, but the safety of the ninth floor’s guests had yet to be confirmed. The fire was intense, and the state was such that fire brigade were unable to break in.
Electric extinguishing was good for brushing away flames around her, but it wasn’t suited for a large-scale blaze.
That being the case, she was capable of assisting people stuck within it.
Time was of the essence. Gaimoon took some distance. In order to save whoever might be left behind, she leapt over the municipal roads and transferred onto the burning hotel.
“Hey, it’s Gaimoon!”
Receiving looks from the onlookers who noticed the situation, Gaimoon broke a window to roll into the ninth floor letting off black smoke.
She tumbled into a hall laid out in red carpet. The place was filled with smoke, blocking off her vision. As her mask was equipped with ventilation functionality, there was no harm to her, but having no visuals was somewhat troublesome.
First, she would need to locate those in need of help.
“Someone! Is anyone there!”
Someone’s voice resounded from the depths of the passage.
Gaimoon put a hand to the wall, racing along it in the direction she heard the voice.
“I came to save you! Where are you right now!?”
Her hand on the wall hung over a doorknob.  From a half-open door, Gaimoon plunged inside.
For some reason, the room’s floor was unsparingly submerged in water.
It was filled with smoke and she couldn’t see the whole picture, but the room’s arrangement was considerably vast. It was likely a suite. Gaimoon took a wary look around.
“Mnn~… nnnn~…!”
Turning to a muffled voice, Gaimoon saw the young girl and stopped in her tracks.
The young girl in undergarments—Midorikawa’s limbs were bound and fastened to a chair.
Her bare feet were submerged in the water buildup on the floor, her mouth was covered with a towel. Most likely intended as a mouth gag. The eye mask covering her face had gone sloppy with tears, sweat, and snot.
The surprise was only momentary, Gaimoon immediately moved to save her.
The next instant, she perceived the true abnormality. Holding her left hand to the ceiling, she deployed her biological shield on her forearm. A rippling impact caused the shield to shake. An Ultrasonic Bullet. One week prior, Gaimoon had tasted an identical attack.
Something raced across the ceiling. A squirming shadow obscured in black smoke.
“… The kaijin from that bus jack. Are you here for me?”
“It’s not kaijin, it’s alter, Gaimoon. You’re our enemy, after all.”
The indifferent matter-of-factly voice of an enemy. Even if she couldn’t see them, she could grasp their general location through their voice and presence.
As with the last fight, she could use her lightning nail—electrifying alter cells hardened to the level of metal, using the electricity in her arm to accelerate and discharge it as a biological bullet—to take out the enemy.
But—
“You can’t use them, can you? Any electric moves, with the state of the room.”
Gaimoon didn’t answer.
A room soaked with water. A bound hostage. If she let off any discharges, there was a danger she would electrocute her.
“You’re not one to abandon hostages. So what will you do? In this smoke, do you think the hostage’s body will hold up forever?”
The hostage had begun to cough. The mouth gag was a blessing, and she got off without inhaling too much smoke, there was no doubt she needed to get her out with no times to lose.
“In that case,”
Gaimoon bent her knees and took on a low stance.
“I just have to get her out fast.”
Her goal wasn’t subjugating an alter, she was here to save the human before her eyes.
Kicking the floor, Gaimoon took off like a leopard.
The room was perfectly at the end of the hotel. If she pierced through the wall before her, hostage in hand, she’d be able to make it outside. A height of nine floors would be no problem at all.
The moment she touched Midorikawa bound to the chair, a piercing shriek entered her ears.
Unlike before, the enemy’s ultrasonic waves spread thin and wide across the room.
Right after, the air-rending sound of multiple discharges.
Gaimoon sensed the presence. The existence of arrows fired simultaneously from different directions.
She immediately turned, lowering a chop on the approaching arrows. One, two, three iron arrows rolled across the floor. But the final arrow was for Midorikawa. Her chop wouldn’t make it in time.
Gaimoon covered for the girl and took the final arrow to the back. As her rigid skin obstructed it, she suffered no serious wounds.
Just like that, Gaimoon lifted Midorikawa up and kicked away the wall.
A dive from the hotel’s ninth floor. She was falling towards the hotel parking lot. Where a number of cars and trucks were lined up, she caught sight of an ambulance and fire engine.
Perhaps from shock, Midorikawa had fainted.
As she fell, she measured out the distance to the ground. Gaimoon boasted dynamic vision great enough to see through a bullet, at the very last moment, she turned her body, Midorikawa and all. Killing the impact with the same fundamentals of a cat, she tried to land on the ground.
But the moment before her landing, Gaimoon noticed.
A stopped truck took off, in an attempt to run her over the moment she landed.
In the driver’s seat, she could see the Chameleon alter who was there in the bus.
She wouldn’t make it in time to dodge. At this rage, she would be rammed with Midorikawa.
“Take her!”
Crying out, Gaimoon tossed the girl towards a nearby rescuer. The surprised paramedic barely managed to catch Midorikawa, and the moment after she saw that off.
The truck collided.
Sent airborn, Gaimoon was slammed straight into a wall. But the truck’s advance didn’t stop there. Taking Gaimoon along, it broke through the first floor of the hotel.
This wasn’t an impact she couldn’t endure. But the damage resounded through her body.
A sensation different from usual. Her body was hot as if it was blazing up.
Panicking at an unforeseen situation, Gaimoon recalled the iron arrow stuck into her back.
If the arrow head had been laid with some sort of poison…
But she had never heard of any poison that functioned on alter cells.
Those thoughts of hers were immediately sent flying by the storm of black smoke.
An airtight room where cinders of a flame remained. The fresh air sent in with the truck’s infiltration. By the time she understood, it was all too late.
The smoldering cinders gained new air, once again explosively blazing up—the backdraft effect.
An electronic extinguish wouldn’t make it in time.
All at once, a blazing hellfire swallowed up Gaimoon’s defenseless body.

 

 

At the same time.
Okina Takeru—the second Lord Helvenom received a transmission from his comrades.
‘This is Ecole, as expected, the Rabbit took the hostage and fell towards the ground. One of the crossbow bolts got her in the back. I’ve confirmed her collision with the truck.’
‘Cough, hac… Lemeo here. Plan worked. Rammed the rabbit and thrust ‘im into the first floor. ‘n wait, you never told me it was going to explode! Thanks to that, the driver’s seat is a mess—’
“Situation understood. Ecole, withdraw from the scene. Lemeo, immediately after filming the Rabbit, withdraw. Report in when you can.”
To the side of Lord Helvenom as he cut his transmission, Ikargua blew a whistle.
“You’re not bad. I never thought to use Apoptonitro like that. With the past Leviathan, to force down traitors and such, we kept some around, but…”
Apoptonitro.
Originally, when an alter affiliated with Leviathan was on the brink of death, to prevent their own biological data from being leaked, it was a self-destructing medicinal compound to dispose of the corpse.
When the effects of Apoptonitro made it into the body, it would work on the Alter Ganglion to bring about an explosive effect. But just by applying it directly to the alter cells, it was possible to inflict damage.
Even if it didn’t reach the level of a fatal wound, right around now, Gaimoon must be feeling it.
The pain of her own body crumbling apart.
“Even so, your MO’s just a bit too roundabout, perhaps? Starting a fire in a place like that to lure the hero out.”
“I’ve already told you the objective of this mission, have I not?”
“What I’m trying to say is, why did you properly let everyone apart from the hostage evacuate? Does it really matter, what happens to a human or two?”
At Ikaruga’s discontent words, Arachne gave an approving nod. It seemed she held the same question.
“The new Leviathan has no intent to put out unnecessary sacrifices. Humans react quite sensitively to human deaths. If you kill them recklessly, in the end, they’ll come to thoroughly hunt us down. I’m sure you all understand the terror of natives at a time like that. For now, we’re not at a stage where we need needlessly stimulate them.”
“… Needlessly stimulate, eh.”
Ikaruga shrugged his shoulders as he sent a look in a certain direction.
“Then should I think of ‘this’ as a necessary sacrifice?”
A man wearing nothing but boxer briefs frantically shook his head. He was bound to the same sort of chair as Midorikawa, who’d been confined to the hotel.
At present, Lord Helvenom and the others were in an abandoned building near the hotel. He had taken along Ikaruga and Arachne to hold the man here.
Lord Helvenom held out his hand. He touched his fingers wrapped in titanium ally to the cowering man’s chin.
“This isn’t a sacrifice. It’s a piece. For us to rule Tsukimori City.”
“Stop… I’m begging you… just end it…! What are you saying I did to deserve this!?”
“Do I really have to spell it out?”
“The analysis is over.”
Arachne held up the man’s smartphone connected by USB to her laptop PC.
“His contact book, the emails he’s exchanged, pictures, Googla account, the whole shebang. If you’re a manager, shouldn’t you be a little more careful with the private cellphone you carry around? In this day and age, even high school students are more security-conscious.”
“Y-you better be ready, you lot… d-doing something, like this, in the end, you k-kaijin only exist to be defeated by Gaimoon—”
“Perhaps, but you’ll be judged for your crimes well before that.”
Lord Helvenom thrust a transparent zip-lock before him.
At the light in the container, the fine white powder in the bag glistened as it caught the light.
“You bring a minor to the hotel, and enjoy her with drugs procured overseas? It’s not like this is your first offense, am I right?”
“Yes, it just keeps pouring out from the extracted emails. Contact with other girls, and also… what complete and utter scum.”
Arachne must really have not wanted to finish that sentence. She spat out the words.
Oh my, Ikaruga continued in an amused laugh.
“You really went and did it, man. You can’t do that, leaving evidence like that on your work phone. It’s because you’re like that, that the big bad alters are going to take you in and suck you to the bone. Do you get it? Stupid native?”
“S… shave… shave m-m…”
“You want to be saved? Then I’ll give you a choice.”
The man’s chattering teeth continued to ring out. Only an empty black skull reflected back in his eyes.
“Obey our will and show sincerity, or oppose. Choose whichever you like.”

“S… sincerity… what do I…!”
“Oh, that’s simple.”
Lord Helvenom took a slight turn towards Arachne.
With a nod, Arachne pinched up a document file in her long jointed legs and held it out before the man.
“Sign the contract. It will guarantee your safety. We are the second party, you are the first.”
“Guarantee… wait…” looking over the contents of the contract, the man gasped. “’Prioritizing them in any and all business, the first party will abide by the second party’s demands,’ wait… you’re telling me to become a slave!”
“Is something strange? Your prolonged life is guaranteed.”
The man swallowed his breath.
“Publicly a trading company, but your identity was the front to a Yakuza group. You’ve done well extending your reach these past few years. With Leviathan dissolved, did you think you could do whatever they wanted in Tsukimori?”
“D-don’t think you’ll get off unscathed… when this gets out… the people I have backing me…”
“They won’t move.”
Lord Helvenom stated clearly.
“Why do you think the crime syndicates never laid a hand on this city until recently? It’s because they were well aware of the risk of dealing face to face with alters. From their point of view, there are any number of people who could take your place. There’s no way they would undergo that risk to save you. That’s the sort of city Tsukimori is.”
The man’s face turned pale. He broke into shivers.
“You’ll be making up for the sins you committed in this town.. We’re the ones handing down judgment. The death of your freedom, or the death of your existence, choose whichever one you like.”
The man now understood. Just who held a grip on his fate.
— There wasn’t even a need to use Terreur.
Under Lord Helvenom’s mask, Takeru spat out a breath.
His tension, his sweat, it was all hidden away. Neither Ikaruga nor Arachne noticed either. He was perfectly playing the part of an evil commander.
At this point, he knew the mission’s completion was a matter of time, and it was then.
‘… This is Murtle. Helvenom… san… can you hear me?’
The radio in his mask suddenly took his attention off the man.
A transmission from Murtle, who was supposed to be a backup member this time.
Why was she calling at this time? Takeru thought dubiously as Murtle answered wirelessly.
‘I’m with Hurtle right now… we’re going in to exterminate Gaimoon…’

 

 

Around that time, Ecole was alone, preparing to escape from the room Gaimoon and Midorikawa had left.
She collected the crossbows that went off in response to her ultrasonic waves. After getting rid of the other evidence, she was about to withdraw, at Hurtle’s voice from the radio, she hurriedly halted herself.
‘Your orders were to keep on standby.’
‘But you told us… you would give us the means to defeat Gaimoon… so…’
‘I made a promise, you know, with Hurtle and the others. We were going to crush that guy–’
In Murtle’s place, Hurtle answered.
‘Isn’t this the perfect change? It’s totally impossible to not do it, right?’
‘The objective of this plan was not to subjugate Gaimoon. Any further gains are unnecessary. Promptly retreat.’
There were two objectives to this mission.
First was the anti-Gaimoon combat Ecole and the others tested out.
This was to drive the hero into a corner and film the sight of his defeat. In order to shake up Gaimoon’s victory legend that had become conclusive in last time’s bus jacking, they moved under Lord Hlevenom’s plan.
But in actuality, that plan was nothing more than a small part to achieving a larger objective. The greater objective was to secure the sponsor Leviathan needed if it ever wanted to operate.
For that sake, they threatened the president of a yakuza front company spreading drugs through Tsukimori City, to extort their funds and capital. Their attack on Gaimoon was additionally to buy time and prevent their true objective from coming to light
‘When the weekend comes, the president always brings girls to the same hotel. If you want to take aim, that’s the chance.’
Lord Helvenom told them, the day everyone gathered at the theater.
‘After Leviathan was lost, natives underestimated the threat of alters, advancing out to fill in the void left on the map of influence. This plan is a restraint on those avaricious humans, and a warning. To teach them our Leviathan is still active in the truest sense.’
As things stood, Lord Helvenom’s plan was proceeding smoothly to a scary extent.
After attacking the site of the girl and president who came to the hotel, and knocking them out with her ultrasonic bullets, the president was abducted by Arachne, while the girl was bound by Ecole.
At the same time, she submerged the suite in water, and prepared multiple crossbows laden with apoptonitro. The crossbows were set up beforehand to detect and go off in response to her ultrasonic waves.
With only one wall leading out, Gaimoon’s movements were restricted, and in order to aim at Gaimoon once he crashed through the wall, Lemeo remained alert with the truck. The doors to the room they’d crash into were firmly sealed in advance so the fire brigade couldn’t get close. This was to bring about the backdraft effect that would set Gaimoon ablaze.
It was all as planned. All that remained was to measure a retreat, or so it was supposed to be.
‘Why are we retreating…’
Murtle said. The bashful one of the twins wrung out her voice.
‘Just a little more, and we can avenge uncle, mama… I don’t understand why we have to pull back…! When Gaimoon is our enemy…!’
At that bitter cry, Ecole swallowed her breath.
The twins’ parents, originally executives of Leviathan, were defeated by Gaimoon ten years prior. And having lost their parents, the one who took in and raised the orphans was Freiger. When it came to hatred for Gaimoon, theirs ran deeper than any of the other members.
Murtle trembled as she spoke.
‘We got our share of apoptonitro from uncle… enough to take out Gaimoon, heaps of it… when I saw the live footage, I could tell…! We’re already in the room…! We’re going to do it…!’
Ecole hurriedly opened the tablet terminal in her hands, and connected to the SNS among her comrades.
Just in case, Lemeo’s video camera was streamed live in the chat to store as a backup.
Eventutally, the terminal’s screen projected the footage.
Within the room where the flame blazed, a collapsed shadow. A burnt-black Gaimoon.
With necrosis breaking down in his alter cells, Gaimoon had lost a large majority of his superhuman powers.
Did he still draw breath? At times his hands moved.
Standing by Gaimoon’s side, the odd-eyed cat alter Hurtle.
In her hand, she gripped a large dagger. Presumably like the crossbows Ecole prepared, the blade was slathered with an aqueous solution of apoptonitro.
The Hurtle on screen brought the transceiver to her face and spoke.
‘Just one arrow and he can’t move anymore. IF we hurt him more, he’ll lose the ability to transform, right? It’s the perfect chance, you’ve got to take what you get.’
‘I’m for it.’
Lemeo’s voice forced its way in.
‘If we don’t attack now, then when? I haven’t the slightest idea why you’d stop Hurtle or Murtle.’
‘Now, not, just calm down, young’uns. How about you just listen to Blackvenom-san here?’
As if he was amusing himself with the situation, Ikaruga wedged his way in.
‘I do think there’s some sense to the little cat lady’s words. But nothing you can do, that’s just how the world works. The soldiers have got to listen to the commander with a black scheme in his heart.’
Pretending to persuade them, Ikaruga indirectly jeered at Lord Helvenom.
But his opinion was also representative of the other members.
Sure enough, they failed to see the reason Lord Helvenom would hesitate over a fallen Gaimoon.
there should be no mistake this was a chance.
On the screen, Hurtle stood still with dagger in hand. She awaited Lord Helvenom’s answer.
Whatever the case, they couldn’t stay in that room for long. Even with the strong body boasted by an alter, if exposed to a fire for extended periods, the damage would accumulate.
With everyone awaiting an answer, Lord Helvenom concisely responded.
‘Retreat at once. This is an order.’
The next instant came Hurtles detestful answer.
‘You liar.’
She lowered her dagger at Gaimoon on the brink of death. The dagger’s tip attempted to pierce into Gaimoon’s body. Skinning the armor plating, the blade set with poison would shortly scratch Gaimoon’s skin—
‘I told you, Gaimoon is an endlessly evolving justice.’
It was hard to say Lord Helvenom’s words reached. The movement of Hurtle’s dagger stopped along the way.
‘—The greater adversity he faces, the stronger he becomes.’

Gaimoon gripped the blade in his pure white hand.

Ecole couldn’t tell what had happened.
Gaimoon’s burnt skin crumbled in tatters.
As if it had been regenerated of new cells, beautiful white skin glistened.
On the screen, Hurtle desperately tried to shove the dagger in. If the apoptonitro was effective, then soon her hand gripping the blade would crumble away.
But his body emitting a sublime glimmer, Gaimoon’s body wouldn’t collapse.
‘Well I’ll be damned, looks like he built a resistance…’
‘R-resistance?’
With Murtle parroting the word, Ikaruga explained.
‘Even if you’re hit with a dose of apoptonitro, it’s not like every single cell dies. It’s possible that a small portion of them with a natural resistance will remain. Right now, perhaps Gaimoon’s body has regenerated based on those few surviving alter cells? Well, in short.’
Gaimoon on the screen stood. As if he hadn’t suffered any damage from the start.
‘Apoptonitro won’t work on Gaimoon again…’
Hurtle continued her resistance.
But as if to smash it, Gaimoon put power into his grip of the dagger.
It was bent, the dagger’s blade hit the ground.
‘…… ight… t… stice.’
Gaimoon suddenly pointed his finger towards the heavens.
A discontinuous voice accompanied the move.
—When your heart is touched by sorrow, the white moonbeams shall light out justice.

‘— Here stands the natural enemy of evil, Gaimoon’

At Gaimoon’s battle cry, a fright raced through Ecole.
Hurtle on the screen slumped down as if her will to fight had broken.
Across the radio, Arachne cried out.
‘Lemeo! Hurtle! Murtle! Hurry and get out of there! Now!’
‘… I know… I get it, but…!’
Lemeo sounded panicked.
Gaimoon’s expressionless eyes gave off a fiery light. Even Ecole watching from the screen of her tablet could feel the overwhelming pressure. It was something very similar to Lord Helvenom’s Terreur.
At this rate, Lemeo and the others would be done in—
‘Ecole, can you hear me?’
The call from the radio caused her body to jerk up.
Lord Helvenom’s voice. She immediately responded.
“Yes! This is Ecole, I can hear you!”
‘I’m speaking to your transceiver alone. I’m counting on your assistance with the escape.’
‘U-understood!’
Escape? Assistance?
Was she supposed to get to the first floor to evacuate them?
But once again, Lord Helvenom’s orders were out of left field.
‘A human on the ground, it can be anyone. If possible, knock multiple people out with your ultrasonic bullets.’
“… Eh? Knock them out?”
‘That’s right. Whatever the case, cause a ruckus. It’s to save Lemeo’s team.’
Gaimoon on the screen took on a fighting pose. He prepared for war. The situation was three on one, but in the previous battle, she had learned numbers weren’t an absolute advantage.
No time to hesitate.
“… Roger.”

Ecole peeked her face out the window. The people on the ground hadn’t noticed her yet.
Stifling the conflicted thoughts in her head, she scattered her ultrasound bullets.
Two women among the onlookers fell to the ground. Those around them raised screams. A number of them pointed in her direction, and eventually, all the people down there had noticed Ecole’s existence.
Bathed in screams and angry shouts, Ecole looked down over the people. Wrong, this was to save her comrades. She was just knocking them out, she wasn’t doing any harm.
Her thoughts desperately racing, Ecole got around to seeing her own actions as something terrible.
It happened.
The hotel building shook as someone broke through the wall.
It was Gaimoon.
The shield on his arm spread wide, he blocked an ultrasonic bullet.
The peoples’ cries took a complete turn to cheers.
Ecole stared over the sight in a daze.
‘—All members, evacuate at once.’
‘R-roger…’
Replying to Lord Helvenom’s orders, Ecole tried to turn around. There she notices.
Her eyes met with Gaimoon’s. With no visible emotion, a look of justice shined at her, as if to condemn her for her sins.
Ecole immediately pulled her head in. Now that Gaimoon’s attention was diverted, Leo’s team could pull out without issue.
The plan was complete. Without a moment to lose, Ecole escaped from the spot.

 

 

Ten minutes after Ecole withdrew from the scene of the fire.
They finally established contact with Lemeo.
‘This is Lemeo. All units successfully withdrawn… now returning to base…’
“… Understood. Be wary of pursuit.”
After cutting the transmission, Lord Helvenom gazed at the contract.
The contract with the president’s signature and blood seal pressed in. For their name, they apportioned the name of a dummy corporation the ex-Leviathan once used.
With that, even legally, the president couldn’t escape Leviathan’s malign hand.
His freedom lost, even after the restraints were undone, the present remained dazed out like an empty husk.
“For now I guess we can say the first mission was a success.”
Ikaruga stated with a grin. Lord Helvenom faintly shook his head.
“It’s still all to come. This is nothing more than a beginning.”
To become the Alchemuls of Tsukimori, he would first have to eliminate the parasites building a nest in the city.
The evil Gaimoon needed to defeat was Leviathan, Lord Helvenom alone.
By no means could it ever become anyone else.
For Gaimoon, Omou Mia’s own sake too.
The man injected by Arachne fell into a lethargy. While they prepared the president for transport to deliver him home, Ikaruga quietly whispered into Lord Helvenom’s ear.
“Still, Blackvenom-san, I see you’re quite knowledgeable about Gaomoon.”
Lord Helvenom’s movements stopped.
The black eyes of a squid concealing Ikaruga’s face gazed at him ready for action.
“What are you trying to say?”
A fearsome pressure let off by Lord Helvenom. Separated from them, Arachne’s body winced, but Ikaruga simply shrugged his shoulders.
“I’d love to see it someday. Just what sort of face you’re making under the mask.”
Lord Helvenom ignored his transparent provocation.
He thought back to the memory of back then.
A building enveloped in flames, the great many husks collapsing, confronting the red Gaimoon.
The memory of sin sleeping in Takeru’s depths.
These hands had been sullied in evil and blood long ago.
And still, it wasn’t enough.
To reach Alchemuls, even more blood was needed—

 

 

Based on witness reports of the crime scene, the fire at the hotel was investigated as an arson perpetrated by alters. Around the same time, the burnt form of what was presumably Gaimoon dit a round around the internet, causing a bit of a ruckus. ‘Hero of Justice, Finally defeated!?’ With such sensational hit pieces diffusing, rumors unrelated to either truth or lie begin to circulate.
They say the truth is, Leviathan still lives on.
They say the truth is, they were pulling all the strings behind the arson in Tsukimori.
Rumor called upon rumor, secretly propagating through town. While the rumor was gaining legs of its own, in a news follow-up report on the fire there was a small column on the identity of Midorikawa saved by Gaimoon.
Of course, there was no one out there who would find meaning in that insignificant fact.

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I Translated Something

Say what you will, but you’ll have a very hard time refuting the fact that I translated something.

 

Flowers for the Forest Beasts

By Kimito Kogi

 

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I don’t really consider this a light novel, it’s just a book. I enjoyed it quite a bit,  but I can see why you wouldn’t. This book is only one volume, completed.

It’s about this one noble kid, you know, abandoned kid, no one likes him, the whole shebang, you get it, you see where this is going. Anyways, he gets lost in the forest, and comes under the patronage of this plant girl who wants to eat him. This is not a comedy, it’s more of a light romance if anything. If you’re entering it with great expectations, first off, whoah boy, hold on. It’s just a little light story.

This is why I don’t write synopses.

I claim no ownership for any part of this book. The title translation might seem a little off, but I’m pretty sure it’s a play on the Japanese title of ‘Flowers for Algernon’ so that should be right.

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I Really Don’t Notice Volume 5 is Done

I really don’t have anything interesting to say. One volume done, one left to go. Oh, right, and if you’re reading this series for the first time, or you missed it, make sure you read chapter 9 of volume 2. I have my misgivings from the comment section that a few people are missing it.

Cover

Anyways, I Really Don’t Notice Volume 5 is fully translated. You can access it from the

Table of Contents

The lead role this time around is Creastia Crimson Cridende Christopher Kurisu, daughter of Kurisu Tooru and Allua Mills Cridende Christopher Shuley. The final volume 6 is Orino’s volume.

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Volume 4 of I Really Don’t Notice is Done

 

A digression you may or may not find interesting, I recently- as in this morning- attended a lecture by Jay Rubin which hit real close to home. It was a lecture titled ‘Whatever Works’ on the difficulty of translating from Japanese to English. Professor Rubin is THE (a) translator of Murakami Haruki, and Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Harvard, and of whose book ‘Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You’ I have had on my shelf for a long while. The lecture was named after the response he often gets from Murakami Haruki after asking him which way he should translate certain portions: ‘適当に(Tekitouni)’, just do whatever works. There, he said something to the effect of the following (I am paraphrasing, I took notes, not quotes).

I don’t even try to be bound by grammar or sentence structure. I translate it whatever way works best in the target language.
I am not writing from his page to my page, I am writing from my fevered brain, as it processes the story.  The main thing is imagination. A translator must be conscious of what happens in the imagination, and get down in his native language something as close as possible as to what’s happening. The translator must take maximum enjoyment of the literary text, enjoy that imaginative experience, then bring that as nearly as possible into the target language.

(Though he concedes this is subjective)

I’m not trying to make a point, I’m just bringing it up. You think I prattled? You want to complain that doesn’t concern you? Hey, you got all the information you needed from the title. But so be it, I’ll say it again. I Really Don’t Notice Volume 4 is completed.

Cover

You can access it from the table of contents

This volume is a bit of a peculiar one, but an enjoyable read nonetheless (personal opinion). It is slightly longer than the volumes thus far, but only by 20 pages or so. They average around 300. This volume focuses on Kagurai Monyumi, while the one after focusses on Kurisu, and the final one on Orino.

 

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