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These two were watching the same scene.
"Looks like the new battlefield has been built."
Their gazes were directed towards the open school gates, in other words, the place where a certain group had rushed into.
Smiling with delight, Satsuko said:
Together with Fourteen, she started walking.
The opponent's ident.i.ty did not matter. Anyone would do as long as they were strong enough.
This was undoubtedly the center where everything was happening. Any opponent encountered there would possess a minimum level of strength. The number of strong opponents here should be too many to count.
"Oh dear~ Satsuko is so looking forward to this."
She murmured with utmost sincerity.
Her heart was overflowing with antic.i.p.ation.
Sincerely, only antic.i.p.ation.Part 2
Maximilian Pendragon had just jumped onto the wall surrounding the school, but stopped there.
Riko called out in puzzlement. This was already who knew how many times today.
He was s.p.a.cing out, pondering what Kuroe had said to him.
(So... What should I do...?)
He came here and saw them rush into the school, which informed him that the school's isolation had ended. Hence, he jumped onto the wall first.
However, he still had no idea.
So, all he could do was think back to what he did know.
At the current stage, what was known to him.
To him, in order to become a dragon, he really needed the girl who was like a treasure.
But if he tried to take her by force, that treasure would become damaged—
So—what about the situation before that happened? So far, what had he come to understand?
He was the strongest. At least, he should be infinitely close to being the strongest existence.
Either way, he was going to win—At some point, he had started to feel weary of this. Because he was the strongest, this was only natural.
There was nothing more boring than a match where it was clear that one was going to win. He had been very bored all along. Searching for an opponent to duel and make him happy, pretending to be dispelling boredom, he had felt bored the whole time.
However, someone like him had reached this kind of result.
Namely, Kuroe had escaped from him successfully.
Then right now, he was savoring this displeased feeling.
Indeed, in a certain sense—this counted as defeat.
Even the strongest person still could lose. There ought to be a reason for that. What was it?
Pendragon thought and thought.
He admitted it.
(Am I... impatient?)
In order to obtain her as quickly as possible. In order to obtain her by any means necessary.
He was desiring too urgently.
However, there was a contradiction in all this.
Clearly as the closest to being the strongest—Why was he so impatient to obtain her, what he needed to progress farther?
He could not help but smile in self-mockery. There was only one answer.
Because he feared getting judged by others, that despite being called the strongest, he was not actually the strongest.
He wanted to eliminate the possibility of defeat as quickly as possible, the possibility of being not the strongest.
Nothing much, that was it.
Feeling bored? No. Undoubtedly, he was seeking a sense of security. How pointless.
(Hoho, I get it now. Commander of the Draconians? Synonymous to being the strongest? Totally absurd... For someone like that, there are weaknesses exclusive only to someone like that.)
Ultimately, he had become the strongest only because he had defeated the strongest person.
Hence, every so-called Commander understood better than anyone the concept that even if you were the strongest, you would still be dragged down from your throne eventually.
Perhaps this also implied that the Commander was more cowardly than anyone. Perhaps driven to seek a sense of security more than anyone else. Hence, that was why he used boredom as an excuse to fight nonstop.
After admitting this "weakness" of his—
Pendragon thought back to what Kuroe had said.
He recalled that transparent expression on her face back then.
Hence, he felt like he could see something.
He seemed to have found the answer.
"Ho... Ha, hahaha!"
"Uwah! What's going on? You suddenly stopped moving then started to laugh! It's creepy!"
"Master, what is the matter with you?"
Listening to the voices of the two whom he was wearing, Pendragon grinned.
"Nothing much, I simply figured out what I should be doing. So—that means I have to make preparations now. I've got to hurry and make a move."
Saying that, Pendragon jumped down from the wall.
As for the direction he jumped towards, surely Riko and Granaury would never have guessed in their wildest dreams.
After Shiraho hung up, Haruaki dialed his phone again, this time to talk to Kana while he was running.
Because they had entered through the main entrance, the large clock on the front of the school building was in view. The current time was just after noon, in other words, there were less than two hours until the time limit of 2pm.
The sports ground was behind the school building, so there was no way to reach it directly. They must either circle around the building or cross the courtyard. Along the way, enemies were probably going to obstruct them. Besides, even after reaching the sports ground, time was still needed for destroying «Dieu le veut»—They really had no idea whether an allotment of two hours was plentiful or too little. Unsure what could happen next, they must not be careless or complacent.
Their course of action was to swiftly converge with the in-school team first then head to the sports ground together. They wanted to verify the situation by meeting the in-school team first. Before running into the sports ground, they also needed to release the students. Besides, the reason why they had kept the «Demon's Mouth» so far instead of destroying it was so that they could control when the hypnosis was lifted, to prevent the students from entering a state of panic after regaining their senses. The timing must be chosen with caution. But at the very least, they were certain that the hypnosis must be lifted while the knights were still in disarray from losing «Auschwitz-Birkenau», before they did anything to the students.
They had decided on the infirmary, first floor of the school building, as their meeting point for now. Slipping into the white smoke, hiding in the bushes, advancing while trying their utmost to avoid combat, they entered the school building. ALong the way, they met one knight, but Konoha and Kotetsu went all-out to take him down the instant they encountered him. Although Konoha and Kotetsu rushed out of the smoke in what was tantamount to a surprise attack, the opponent's arm strength and endurance seemed to have risen to unnatural levels, presumably due to "Dominionization." Had they engaged him in frontal combat, time might have been lost to the battle dragging on.
The group then reached the door to the infirmary by following a noisy corridor. After they knocked, someone unlocked from inside without saying a word. Upon entering, they saw—
Inside the room where all the curtains were shut, Haruaki found every face there a little nostalgic.
Probably staying on high alert as a matter of principle, Un Izoey had her foot raised while holding a knife. Presumably due to the earlier phone call, Shiraho was glaring viciously at Haruaki whereas Sovereignty instantly rushed over to hug Fear. Dressed in gym clothes, Chihaya glanced in their direction with displeasure while Isuzu greeted them, smiling as always. Shovel carried on her shoulder, Kaidou the teacher was observing the situation outside through a gap in the curtains.
"Wow! It's Fear-chan, Fear-chan! It feels like it's been such a long time. I'm not going to lose, here's a hug from me!"
Then immediately after Sovereignty, Kana hugged Fear along with her head of silver hair tightly against her chest.
Rotating his arm, Taizou also walked towards them.
"Hi Haruaki, it's quite a shame you didn't get to see me in action. I'm definitely winning the MVP award."
After exchanging a glance with Fear, Haruaki relaxed his expression, but Fear awkwardly lowered her gaze as though she had suddenly thought of something.
"Umm... Uh... Basically, as mentioned on the phone too, I—"
"Time out~ I don't want to talk about anything that'll force Fear-chan to make such a sad face~ I don't wanna listen either~ Listen carefully, Fear-chan, you are yourself and we are us. This will absolutely stay the same forever no matter what. Okay~?"
"Hey slow down, Taichi! You're proudly making a thumbs up way too fast! You've got to listen to the reply first!"
After she saw the two of them act excessively upbeat as always, Fear's shoulders began to shake—
"Back to the subject... Is it really necessary to say it...?"
Head lowered, staring at the floor, Fear simply raised her right hand.
Then she made a thumbs up.
"Of course it's okay..."
As though celebrating a batter's home run, Kana and Taizou made fists and b.u.mped them against Fear's fist that was gesturing thumbs up.
Watching the scene with a gentle expression just like Haruaki, Kirika spoke up:
"Well... Unfortunately, the current situation does not permit us the leisure to enjoy this reunion. Let's decide our next move."
"I answer with an answer of agreement. Is this all of your group, everyone present?"
Haruaki glanced behind him. Fear, Konoha, Kirika, Kotetsu and Kuroe, in other words, the usual members of the group.
"Yeah. We also contacted the superintendent just now to let them know the gates are opened, so they might be coming later. As for the leader of your organization, we didn't go out of our way to contact him, but he'll find out and visit on his own, I presume."
Un Izoey nodded silently as though going "Very likely."
"Then there's Pops... Since he's not a fighter and he said he'll be helping out in other ways, I'm guessing it's related to the town. Anyway, don't mind him."
"In any case, thinking about people who are not present won't help. The enemy has probably discovered the fact that we've broken into the premises, so they'll soon find us even if we stay in the infirmary. We have to decide our next move as quickly as possible."
"Yeah. Of course, the top priority is destroying that spear—It's called «Dieu le veut», right? But... before that, the students need to be taken care of first."
Saying that, Chihaya looked up in sudden realization.
"That's right. It's great that we don't want them to panic, but in terms of concrete plans, what are we going to do? Do we have a solution thought up?"
In response, Kirika said:
"Yes. We still haven't destroyed the «Demon's Mouth». It's right here."
Kirika spoke and opened the bag hanging on her shoulder, allowing everyone to peer at the cursed megaphone inside. Due to Taciturn smashing it, there was still no lid on it.
"Although it's absolutely ridiculous... We've no choice but to go there first. Namely, the broadcasting room."
The group was running in the corridor. There was no point trying to hide by this point. While weaving through the students—
"Yo! You guys!"
"Get out of the way!" "Move aside!" "...!"
Every time a knight appeared, Konoha, Kotetsu and Un Izoey were in charge of disposal. Probably without killing them.
"This has been bugging me for a while now! Could these enemies actually be quite easy to handle, Konoha!?"
"You're getting that impression only because we have the element of surprise and numerical superiority on our side. It feels like I can't inflict any damage unless I chop at arms with the determination to sever them, for example... Compared to the enemies before, I feel that this knight just now had become even more resilient."
"R-Really...? After all, there's not much time left till 'Dominionization' finishes. Does that mean the power-up effect is about to reach completion? We've got to hurry!"
After some effort, the group finally reached the broadcasting room. Although it was locked, that meant nothing before Konoha and the others. Breaking the lock, they stormed the room.
As expected of a broadcasting room, the internal layout was clearly different from other cla.s.srooms. First of all, like the dance studio earlier, there was a soundproofed door. After opening the soundproofed door, there was a staggering arrangement of devices like a console. Gray carpet was laid over the floor to eliminate the sound of footsteps—Speaking of which, there were slippers placed at the entrance, which meant that shoes were forbidden inside to begin with. Behind the console was a recording room isolated by gla.s.s, but one could apparently use the console to make announcements without going inside there.
Why could they conclude that? Because there was a walkman-like accessory hanging in front of the giant microphone inside the room—A speaker whose shape resembled a rice ball. Sitting in boredom on the seat before the console was a young blond knight, presumably in charge of guarding this speaker.
The young knight only had enough time to exclaim in surprise and turn his head back.
Swiftly dragging him down to the floor, Kotetsu proceeded to play a horrifying symphony of snapping and cracking. When Kotetsu got up next, the knight was collapsed on the floor groaning with all the joints in his limbs visibly dislocated.
"Truth be told, he was way too open..."
"But Kotetsu, you were planning to fracture his arms and legs, right?"
"Yes, of course."
"Even if this young man was careless and inattentive, his body was still fortified to such an astounding degree... Oh my, I get the feeling that things will not be so easy here on."
"It's very likely that the enemy changed tactics after «Auschwitz-Birkenau»'s destruction. In other words, they are taking a final stand to defend their lord and «Dieu le veut», leaving only a handful of knights inside the school building... These knights are probably disposable p.a.w.ns of inconsequential value."
Haruaki nodded after listening to Kirika. In other words, things were going smoothly only for now... But no matter what, they had to finish what they needed to do first.
At this moment, Haruaki suddenly realized there was a problem. Sweeping his gaze across everyone present, he said:
"By the way, who will do it...?"
"It is perfectly obvious that it is my job."
Kaidou was the one who spoke up. Opening the bag carried by Kirika, she took out the «Demon's Mouth» without asking. Because she acted in such a natural and straightforward manner, it was quite worrying whether she actually understood what it entailed.
"S-Sensei? Are you sure? That Wathe's long-distance system is already broken, so the curse will affect the user as well. It will definitely be hard to resist—"
"No matter. Rather, precisely because of that, I must be the one to do it."
Resting her shovel against the console, Kaidou operated a switch near the microphone. As a member of the faculty, she was probably trained in the most basic usage.
"If you still cannot understand from what I have said, allow me to give you two reasons."
Kaidou proceeded to adjust a certain portion of the devices. Still facing the console, she continued to speak:
"First of all, there is the curse mentioned just now. Without any special abilities, it is unlikely that I will be able to a.s.sist in the next part. Rather, I might become a liability. In that case, there is nothing wrong with monopolizing the only thing I can do... As for the other reason—"
After saying this, she finally turned to face the group.
Then in a truly rare moment...
She made an amused smile, relaxing her face for the grinning corners of her mouth.
"Giving these orders is precisely a teacher's job—Do you not agree?"
Cover your ears well and resist the hypnosis—After leaving these final words—
Kaidou pressed the switch, connecting this place to every speaker all over the school.
Then raising the megaphone in front of the mic, she inhaled forcefully—
"I hereby declare lessons to be over today. Everyone go home immediately. That is all!"
"«Auschwitz-Birkenau» has been destroyed?"
"What are the knights inside doing!?"
"There is no point in complaining now. Orders to a.s.semble have been issued from above. We will return!"
After receiving reports, the raid teams on the streets changed course for the school. As foreigners dressed in heavy coats, they attracted a lot of local attention, but there was no time to care about that. «Dieu le veut» at the school was the backbone of the operation—as well as the Knights Dominion organization itself—hence it must be protected at all costs.
Everyone had memorized the geographic layout for the most part, hence they started sprinting back to the school along the shortest route. Stepping on asphalt, jumping over guardrails, traversing parks, they moved in a straight line.
Then running along a shortcut and jumping over the wall at the end, they reached a small alley. However, there was a vending machine in the alley. A woman was currently turning around, picking up a drink from the dispenser. Her location was precisely their landing spot.
Under such circ.u.mstances, there was no need to hesitate whether or not to kick away a pebble at one's feet. "...Hmm?" The woman seemed to notice the knights' arrival and turned her face towards them. However, the knight in front did not care and executed a kick using his falling momentum. She was probably getting a broken nose at most. Just curse her poor luck.
He ended up being the one who got his nose smashed instead. The woman simply tilted her head slightly to dodge the kick, then even went as far as to extend her arm along his leg to counterattack his face. As though in an attempt to compensate for arm length, she even stood her drink upright on her palm, thus striking him in the nose with what was akin to a lengthened base of the palm. Carbonated liquid spurted out from the can.
As a result, the man in front lost consciousness and fell pathetically on the ground. The two remaining knights who jumped the wall immediately after him landed next to the wall and stared warily at the woman.
"Woman, who are you!?"
Completely normal in appearance, the Caucasian woman was dressed in a black business suit. Roughly in her twenties, she had a head of short blonde hair. On her elegant suit, she was wearing a striking tie of brilliant red as though it was the aspect where she could exercise self-determination, or perhaps an act of defiance against something.
Shaking her head, the woman said:
"Sigh~ ...What rotten luck. Of all times, for me to encounter you guys on my break, even losing my soft drink that costs an absurd amount of 120 yen. Price levels in this country are way too high..."
"We can't waste time on this mentally unbalanced pa.s.serby. Treat her as an enemy! Attack!"
Now that one of the knights had been taken out by her, there was no need to show mercy. The other two knights drew their swords and approached the woman, but—
"Oho~ Not bad, such quick wits. After all, if you chose to escape, I'll still be able to chase you down!"
The woman grinned with her canines showing in a belligerent and vicious expression. Then she clenched her fists and approached the knights too. Undoubtedly, her courage, movements and speed belonged to no amateur.
"Haha, come, let me have as much fun as possible! You guys have been strengthened by some kind of Wathe's power, right?"
Several minutes later, going "good grief," she sat down on an impromptu chair created on the spot. The chair's materials consisted of three unconscious knights piled up on top of one another. Searching through their coats without permission, she took out wallets—then suddenly slumped her shoulders.
"What kind of idiots are these guys? I can't believe they only have British pounds... At least pay me back for my soft drink."
While saying that, she still stuffed her trophies into her pocket. After a quick break to catch her breath, she took out her cellphone.
"I took care of three. Send the cleaners over."
The man speaking to her answered in a m.u.f.fled voice as usual:
'Wow~ How amazing. I will send someone right away.'
"It's only reasonable to pay me a bigger bonus. Even I find myself working with such dedication."
'Based on your character, you're going to made a tidy profit either way through blackmail or threats anyway, right? Villains will be arrested by the police, so please take care.'
To mask the sudden surprise in her heart, she hastily said:
"Shut up! The way I see it, you definitely count as a villain too."
'Oh really? How?'
"Using poison and antidotes to coerce obedience from me. Dying if I don't drink your antidote, isn't that way too absurd? What kind of movie are we acting out?"
'This is necessary as a beast tamer. If you don't believe me, you could always run away.'
Knowing clearly that they were in a cooperative relationship of mutual benefit, the man still talked like this deliberately. She was totally unconvinced that what he said about poisoning was actually true.
However, even if it was a joke, having a reason was better than none.
It was a fact that this man used to be even stronger than her. It was also a fact that she had lost to them in the past. It was also true that she believed she could get at least a bit stronger as long as she sought this man's tutelage—
She sighed. Anyway, life was still long. She did not think it mattered if she took a slight detour, hence, for now, she would continue this temporary lifestyle as something akin to his lackey.
"So, how are things on your side?"
'Things are officially beginning. Rather, it would be better to say that it seems to have already started.'
She thought so too. The background had become noisy on the other end of the phone call starting just now.
'Unfortunately, I won't be calling you over. Because somehow, I feel as though it would be too much to handle if I called Miss Beast who can only be tamed through poison. Just do your own work obediently. Bye now.'
After giving these instructions, the man hung up.
"Tsk... Now isn't this delightful?"
Remarking sarcastically, she imagined the party venue. Which people were going to take part? Just picturing it was almost enough to make her drool, c.r.a.p.
However, she did not drool. Instead she smiled fearlessly.
Now was not the time to remain bound by principles and rationality. Prepare yourself and eat the poisoned feed willingly. Because if you were to do nothing, the master feeding her could very well die there just like that. She forbade him from dying in futility.
"Seriously... I can't believe he told me an awesome party's location without sending me an invitation. That's underestimating me too much. Kaha!"Part 5
In the courtyard which was surrounded on all four sides by the school building...
Haruaki ducked down to evade an enemy attack. At the same time, he continued speaking:
"Earlier, «Dieu le veut» was planted on the Dominion Lord's wheelchair, right? I guess we've no choice but to get to him, right?"
"My statement: That is «Mobile Territory: Zilch Ground», used to create a 'temporary territory for the Dominion Lord to move around.' I think the 'Dominionization' of this town is by another spear... Probably by the Dominion Lord's side, so not much difference."
"I see. Then where should we go?"
"Probably the biggest tent on the sports ground!"
While answering, Un Izoey swung the knife on her foot and sent a knight flying. However, another knight seized the resulting opening to attack her. Kotetsu and Konoha blocked it for her.
On the other side—
"Mode: «Killing Machine Masakado»!"
"Go, «Chupacabra Bandage»!"
After Kuroe's hair and Kirika's bandage entangled the enemy, Fear punched him flying without saying a word. Although she had no weapon, given her supernatural brute force, the enemy probably could not escape uninjured.
Most conspicuous was ultimately what Kirika had used to face off against Taciturn, «Chupacabra Bandage»—the cursed bandage originally used by Amanda when she was still Mummy Maker. Pakuaki had apparently given it to Kirika without asking her opinion. Amanda seemed to have explained briefly the method of usage, but Haruaki felt that Kirika was controlling it quite adeptly. Was it because of its similarity to the «Tragic Black River» in shape and usage?
At this moment, Haruaki heard talking next to him.
"...Just do your own work obediently. Bye now."
"You must be confident if you can still make phone calls in these circ.u.mstances."
The superintendent, who had just met up with them, shrugged and replied:
"Now is the only chance to talk on the phone, right? There's probably no more time to make calls from here on."
Naturally, Zenon and Ganon were also by the superintendent's side, fighting knights respectively.
Haruaki shifted his gaze slightly, towards the school building entrance that was visible from the courtyard through a corridor window—This was exactly the reason why they had come here.
Large numbers of students could be seen leaving the school building through the entrance. A normal after school scene, with students carrying schoolbags, filing through while chatting with their friends. This came as a result of Kaidou's hypnotic suggestion. As a side note, after issuing the hypnotic suggestion, Kaidou had said "Well then... I am going home" and immediately left the broadcasting room. She was probably hit by the curse as well. No mater what, Haruaki could feel only grat.i.tude towards her.
Apart from those present, the others including Taizou, Kana and Shiraho had already returned to the secret room at the superintendent's office, taking the «Demon's Mouth» with them. Although Haruaki really hoped they could leave the school, they insisted "It's possible we might be needed somewhere again!" Of course, Shiraho and Chihaya were grumbling nonstop.
Like Haruaki, Fear glanced at the students leaving to go home while she took out another restrained knight. At the same time, she said:
"By the way... It's lucky that they didn't give the students a hard time!"
"Probably because we're making a scene here, they don't have any energy to spare on other things!"
"I think so too... Although it's absolutely ridiculous, now that things have come to this, we can't go into hiding again. Instead, we must rampage as much as possible and keep pushing forward!"
The Knights Dominion had originally used the «Demon's Mouth»'s hypnosis to take the students hostage. Now that the hypnosis was lifted, the students were starting to return home on their own. No one could predict what might happen next. There was no guarantee that the knights would not attack the students directly in typical and petty acts of intimidation. But currently, it looked like that was not going to happen, be it due to circ.u.mstance or their pride. Although Haruaki also believed that Konoha and the others, who had entered combat mode thoroughly already, would immediately bring divine retribution upon the knights the instant they tried to attack students in leisure—in any case, it would be best if that type of situation could be avoided completely.
In other words, just as Kirika described.
They could only push forward, devoting their full effort so that the enemy was unable to take any action except engage them in combat.
"Still... There are so many of them. My hair is getting a bit tired."
"Agreed, there ought to be limits on tiredness~"
"Please get moving before complaining, Onee-sama."
Speaking of moving forward, there were too many knights blocking their way. No matter how many they defeated, knights would emerge one after another from somewhere, surging forward to attack. In addition, with every knight strengthened under the effects of "Dominionization," they were not easy to handle at all.
Haruaki looked up at the clock in the courtyard&mash;It was almost 1pm.
He shuddered. The predetermined time limit was 2pm. In other words, the enemy's powerup had already reached 80 to 90% completion.
Haruaki shuddered simply for the lack of time remaining. The time limit they had decided upon was based on the belief that things were definitely fine at least until 2pm. Hence, strictly speaking, there should still be a bit of stoppage time even after 2pm... Nevertheless, they had no idea if it was on the order of seconds or minutes. They could not leave things to chance.
The remaining time was only roughly an hour. Just one hour, failure was not an option, no second chances. This was the only chance.
Stopping the Knights Dominion's conspiracy.
Protecting that place where they belonged.
The chance to protect the Yachi home—
Haruaki subconsciously clenched both fists. Due to muscle tension, he felt a dull sensation of intense pain coming from the missing part of his left hand. This felt like it was cheering for himself.
At this moment, the superintendent said:
"I think this might take forever at this rate. Should we part ways to split up the Knights Dominion's forces?"
"That appears to be the only option."
"I give agreement to agree this is great idea. No need to have everyone moving together the whole time. All it takes is for some of us to reach and destroy «Dieu le veut». Although it is easier for large groups to hunt prey, it also slows down movement speed."
Konoha and Un Izoey both nodded.
"Then what about the groupings? To be honest, I don't want my group to split up."
"My opinion: suggestion that I am fine alone."
Hearing that, Haruaki was a bit surprised.
"Hey hey, are you for real...?"
"I do not plan on defeating all knights on every encounter. I will find the Dominion Lord's tent and destroy «Dieu le veut». One person will not get tied down, easier to move perhaps."
That being said—Was there any reason for Un Izoey to do this? Haruaki wondered. The reason why Pakuaki a.s.sisted them was to rescue Un Izoey who was trapped in the school. In that case, his objective was already achieved.
Probably sensing his thoughts through the mood, Un Izoey glanced at Haruaki and said:
"For the Lab Chief's Nation, 'Dominionization' is not phenomenon to be left alone either. My own opinion: reached conclusion that it must be stopped as quickly as possible."
"Really? ...Uh, but, how should I put this? Thank you."
"No need to thank. I am just doing what I need to do."
Un Izoey looked away suddenly for some reason. Then the superintendent spoke up:
"So, my group will move independently then. I think we will be responsible for acting as bait, so the three of us are enough. We'll show you how quickly adults can flee."
"Eh~ So tired~"
"I could prepare an alternative mission for you. How about letting you run alone while screaming and yelling, charging into the enemy's headquarters from the front? Which do you pick, Onee-sama?"
In this manner, the superintendent formed his usual team of three. In other words, they had divided themselves into three: Haruaki's main team, Un Izoey as the independent guerilla team, as well as the superintendent's diversionary team.
"...You must all stay safe."
Fear said with a serious face. Un Izoey, the superintendent and the Houjyou sisters nodded firmly. Then—
"I return the same words to you exactly, wishing this kind of wish!"
"Once everything is over, we have to gather for a cup of tea. But according to reports, cleaning up the superintendent's office first will be quite a monumental task!"
To break past the knights surrounding them, they charged in completely opposite directions. Un Izoey went towards a dense cl.u.s.ter of enemies whereas the superintendent's group went for somewhere with fewer enemies. In that sense, things were completely opposite too.
"We too—Let's go!"
"Yes! Haruaki-kun, please take care no matter what!"
With Konoha and Kotetsu taking point, the group began to advance towards the sports ground. Most likely chasing after Un Izoey and the superintendent's team, much fewer knights showed up next. However, that was just compared to earlier. The current situation still did not allow for carelessness.
They continued to move forward while doing everything they could to take down the enemies who emerged every few meters along the courtyard. The connecting corridor between two wings of the school building could be seen up ahead. Once they pa.s.sed through there, the gra.s.sy lawn of the courtyard would give way to a plain s.p.a.ce between two buildings, covered only by asphalt. Then running from there to the edge of the school building—The sports ground ought to be visible from there.
"Konoha, above! Second floor of the connecting corridor!"
"I shall handle it! Muramasa-sama, take care of the right hand side!"
"Sorry Kuroe-kun, my defense failed! Left side!"
"Mode: «Chaotic Tadamori»—Anyway, I'll lead you guys to jump towards the third floor window!"
After much effort, they finally dealt with the last wave of attack before entering the connecting corridor. Confirming there were no ambushes from above, they crossed the connecting corridor all at once. Success! The sensation underfoot changed from lawn to hard asphalt.
Perhaps that was it for the enemies who had rushed over to the courtyard. Haruaki turned his head back slightly to check out the view behind him, only to discover that no new enemies had rushed out of the connecting corridor or the school building. Was diverting manpower to Un Izoey and the superintendent part of the reason?
No worries. At the current pace, they were going to reach their destination soon. No need to be concerned about the time limit. Ah, at this rate, there was no need to worry at all. No matter how many more knights came, they would surely—
Just as Haruaki was thinking that—
In front of him, Fear suddenly stopped running. Haruaki's nose collided into the back of her head.
Fear did not look back. Like Fear, Konoha and everyone present halted in their tracks.
Looking past Fear's head, Haruaki also checked out what they were all staring at with bated breaths.
He was rendered speechless.
—Why the Knights Dominion had stopped attacking for now. Why there were gaps of time between attacks.
Perhaps it was not just due to the success of diversionary tactics from Un Izoey and the superintendent's faction.
Perhaps it was simply because the Knights Dominion's numbers were decreasing.
In other words—
"Oh! You guys are so late~"
Scattered all over the ground, in front of them were countless bodies of dead knights.
And in the center of the corpses, all covered with splatters of fresh blood, yet looking back at Haruaki's group with a smile—Ontenzaki Satsuko.Part 6
As one would expect, Fourteen was also by Satsuko's side. With pale blue ghostlights hovering all around her body, it felt like she wa going to fire off attacks any moment. A reinforced broom was already held in her hand.
Satsuko was also in the process of killing a knight. While she turned her head to look back, the man collapsed in front of her with his throat cut open. Swinging «Karma Speed» with a whoosh, Satsuko flung off viscous blood then muttered as though talking to herself:
"Hmm, this Wathe itself can be used as a weapon too~ Although it can't be used to hit places that are too hard, that's all."
Fear glared at Satsuko and said:
"...We don't have time for you right now. Move aside."
"Eh~ Sorry, no can do, Fear-san~ That'll waste all the waiting we did for you here."
"I don't recall asking you two to wait for us."
"Hmm, if you insist, how about tomorrow instead?"
Konoha spoke with eyes narrowed whereas Kuroe followed up blankly.
"But isn't there a party right now? Although Satsuko will play with any opponent encountered, a bit of attention needs to be paid to sequence after all~ Anyway, putting it bluntly, if Fear-san and the rest of you continue forward, Satsuko has a strong feeling that you'll be killed by the Knights Dominion people. So Satsuko hopes you'll fight us before that~"
"Such presumptuous reasoning, absolutely ridiculous...!"
Kirika glanced at Haruaki. Konoha and the others also directed the same kind of questioning gaze at him.
Haruaki understood what they meant. Their options boiled down to two: fight or flight. Their objective was not defeating Satsuko. Even if she issued a challenge to them, they were not obliged to accept—
"Oh. Uh~ Umm, although it's only natural since someone like Satsuko is your opponent, if you really ignore me and escape, Satsuko will still feel very sad~ So please think back a bit, to a very long time ago during the battle at the pool, those ma.s.sive pillars Fourt had shot, does everyone still remember~? After repairs and fortifications, she can now launch many pillars~"
Hearing Fear's question, Satsuko smiled.
"—Those are really huge things, you know? To liven things up, how about throwing some at the school building right now with a 'boom~'? That place where you can see the shoe lockers is the most suitable, right? Although Satsuko has no other intentions."
No other intentions? Don't be ridiculous!
Haruaki looked at the far end of the courtyard where they had just escaped, the place where shoe lockers were kept—although much fewer in number now, there were still students preparing to go home after school. If a ma.s.sive pillar, the type they saw during the swimming pool battle against Satsuko and Fourteen in the past, one that caused the exit to collapse completely, were to be thrown there, the students would surely suffer grievous injuries.
Fear gnashed her teeth and said:
"A threat huh...? You disgust me...!"
"Oh dear~ Satsuko and Fourt only wish to fight you guys, Fear-san, that's all~ It should end quite quickly, so you don't need to be so stubborn. The previous fight got interrupted half way, so Satsuko just wants to confirm, even though weak little Satsuko is clearly very weak, how much more competent Satsuko has become!"
Indeed, there was probably not much point for the Knights Dominion to take students hostage again—but this logic was impossible to apply to Satsuko before them. She simply wanted a fight. Simply fighting followed by more fighting, wanting to become strong.
A simple and genuine motive, almost approaching insanity.
The natural way of life as a member of the Draconians.
"Tsk... Fighting is the only option?"
"Ha! I shall humor them. Now that the sight of blood has gotten me worked up, I shall find it difficult to hold back."
"—Actually, the same goes for me too."
Konoha and Kotetsu revealed savage grins and took a step forward. In contrast, Haruaki, Fear, Kirika and Kuroe stepped back. Kirika glanced at the surroundings while extending Chupacabra Bandage from her arm.
"We can't leave these two for Konoha-kun and Kotetsu-kun to handle on their own. Kuroe-kun and I must provide cover... But the knights might show up any time. Yachi, Fear-kun, let us know as soon as you spot anything."
Haruaki looked at the silver-haired girl after he replied. Eyes narrowed, glaring viciously ahead, her answer was—Part 7
Fear felt a certain unpleasant ent.i.ty stirring in the depths of her heart.
The color of bright red dominated her view. It came from the dead knights' bodies created by Satsuko.
She felt nausea and discomfort towards this stench of blood and death that she knew better than anyone. But at the same time, she also sensed a certain existence taking joy from all this. Something causing dull aches, thirsting for the taste of brutality. In the bottom of her body, even if one were to take out her organs, slice them to pieces and mix them up, the darkness would still adhere firmly to somewhere deep and unreachable.
No matter how much she wanted it to disappear, no matter how much she wanted to pretend it had disappeared, the throbbing of that parasitic existence was still ominously shaking the cells of her core.
Hence, worry crept into her heart. She could feel an irrepressible part of her lingering in her body.
She was still able to suppress it because these were irrelevant knights, but if she were to see the blood or corpse of someone she knew—
(I'm not... gonna lose.)
Fear gritted her teeth hard and forcefully carved this declaration into the depths of her heart.
She must admit that her unease. Even so, she already had the determination and resolve to triumph over it. That was why she was standing here. She was not going to be devoured so easily.
Besides, the worst case scenario of her companions ending up like that would not happen in reality. There was no weapon in her hand. If worse came to worst, she had already asked the j.a.panese swords for the favor. Hence, don't worry. Don't worry. Don't worry. Don't worry. Don't worry. Don't worry. Surely—It will be fine.
After repeating those words nonstop, she suddenly felt a lighter feeling in her chest.
She really felt that it will be fine. Imagination was very important. She believed that what she ought to think about was not insignificant worries but the vast ocean of hope that lay before her eyes.
No need to worry. There was not the slightest need for worry.
What she desired was already in front of her.
So long as she overcame the crisis today, she would be able to stay with Haruaki forever.
Because this happiness was already in view up ahead, all she needed to do next was keep her head high and continue striving forward.Part 8
Before giving her answer, she paused for roughly a breath's worth of time.
However, her tone of voice was calm and natural.
"Yeah, leave it to me. I'm only here more for defense than offense. I have to complete this mission at least."
Well said, that goes without saying—Haruaki felt relieved. The current Fear would no longer lose to fighting instincts and charge mindlessly at the enemy. She was giving thought to what was within her ability instead of trying to act tough.
"Rather, Cla.s.s Rep and Kuroe should be more careful. I remember they—"
Cautiously, Kirika stared at Satsuko and Fourteen, nodding lightly.
"I know. Fourteen will be launching items for her to acc.u.mulate speed and release that giant slash attack... Their tactic is like self-sufficient power generation, it's very tough to handle."
"Yeah. But in games, skills that are powerful in theory tend to have major flaws."
"Kuroe-san is correct. That tactic of theirs cannot be an exception."
"Just stop her from throwing things before they manage to store up the speed! I shall take care of that house!"
As Kotetsu dashed towards Fourteen, Konoha said "Then I will—" and closed in on Satsuko a moment later. Fourteen retreated backwards and dodged the attack Kotetsu launched to prevent her from throwing items. Her broom destroyed by Kotetsu, Fourteen nonchalantly summoned a new weapon, then shot two bricks at Satsuko while swinging a laundry pole downwards.
However, Satsuko was currently facing off against Konoha who was attacking with barehanded chops executed in taijiquan style. Although Satsuko used «Karma Speed» to block, the weapons became entangled together as though sparring without acc.u.mulating speed. As though saying "it doesn't matter who it hits," Fourteen shot bricks at both Satsuko and Konoha, but—
"Mode: «Cushioning Munemori»!"
Kirika's bandage and Kuroe's hair blocked the bricks. Kuroe wanted to take the opportunity to ensnare Satsuko in her hair, but Satsuko used «Karma Speed» in its original function as a sword and sliced the hair before jumping away. Konoha seized the chance to close in.
"Wow~ So that's how it goes~ As expected of Konoha-san and the others, you immediately came up with countermeasures~ Then we'll switch tactics too."
"...What did you say?"
Instantly, Satsuko and Fourteen doubled their speed at the same time. Moving swiftly, they traded positions in a bewildering display. Kotetsu and Konoha hastily chased after them.
Fourteen made a motion as though pushing a pair of doors to summon two laundry poles to launch. Neither Kirika nor Kuroe could stop the laundry poles from flying away—because instead of aiming at Satsuko or Konoha, Fourteen had shot them towards the school building beside them. The laundry poles were respectively embedded in the walls of the school building on their left and right.
Satsuko instantly changed course for a laundry pole while waving «Karma Speed» in her hand.
Next—using them like last time at the pool when they used laundry poles as footholds to move across water, Fourteen and Satsuko simultaneously stepped on a laundry pole on opposite sides respectively and jumped up high.
Their bodies overlapped for an instant in midair—
But only Satsuko disappeared.
Kotetsu frowned. Summoning two brooms while in the air, Fourteen swung them at him while traveling along her landing trajectory. Kotetsu crossed his arms above his head to block the attack but in the next second, Konoha shouted urgently:
"Kotetsu! Watch out, there is one more person inside!"
While Konoha was shouting and Fourteen's wielded weapons were locked in a struggle against Kotetsu, Satsuko suddenly appeared from under Fourteen's cape. This was below Kotetsu's belly, closer to him than even Fourteen. In a crouching pose, Satsuko swung «Karma Speed» in a flash.
Frowning, Kotetsu flew backwards to retreat. The flank of his clothing was torn and a conspicuous red color seeped out.
"Don't sound so lame! It is but a scratch..."
Kotetsu answered Haruaki while keeping his view forward vigilantly. Before him, Satsuko was already straightening her knees to stand up.
"Oh my~ Looks like victory can't be decided in one hit after all."
"Muramasa-sama, that is—"
"Instantaneously entering Fourteen's body whose true nature is a house, then coming out again? Totally just a petty parlor trick."
"Ehhh~ Really~? As long as it's used well, Satsuko thinks it's unexpectedly effective~"
Satsuko c.o.c.ked her head slightly while Fourteen shot laundry poles and iron rods at the school building on the side again. Moreover, it was not just one or two. The school building was turned into an array of skewers. Satsuko and Fourteen jumped again, landing on the footholds created by Fourteen, then started jumping between footholds as though performing in an athletic event. In addition to stepping on the poles and columns, Satsuko even grabbed the laundry poles with her hands to swing her body like in gymnastics horizontal bar events. While moving, Fourteen continued to shoot out new laundry poles to increase the number of footholds.
"It'd be bad if you got bored, so Satsuko and Fourt will be turning in a grand performance~! Satsuko will work hard to prevent you from calling this a parlor trick!"
"This looks more and more like a circus act. We don't have money to pay for unspectacular shows...!"
Tensing up, Haruaki's group looked up at the two figures jumping back and forth overhead like pinb.a.l.l.s.
Fourteen fired two bricks at them. Konoha and the others dodged swiftly but at the same time, Fourteen also launched three bricks at Satsuko in midair, which were then immediately absorbed by «Karma Speed». After repeating similar movements multiple times, Satsuko and Fourteen overlapped in the air again. Fourteen flipped her cape again and Satsuko vanished.
After leaping from foothold to foothold many times, Fourteen jumped upon Haruaki's group again as earlier. Konoha blocked her attack and watched out for Satsuko who was a.s.sumed to be hiding under the cape—
"How about this? Slicing wind at point blank range...!"
Realizing suddenly, Haruaki cried out frantically:
"No, Konoha, right above!"
The last foothold that Fourteen had visited—Satsuko was standing on there. Just before Fourteen mounted her descending attack, she must have left Satsuko there. Satsuko was already ecstatic with her face flushed red. Then she swung the rapier down hard.
The giant ma.s.s of slicing pressure descended like a waterfall, flying at them vertically.
Naturally, Fourteen already expected this attack. After merely a slight delay after Fourteen, Konoha also jumped from her original spot, but the situation was very risky. Also, Haruaki and the others could not stay uninvolved either.
"Haruaki, get away quick!"
Fear pushed Haruaki. Naturally, he did not resist and started running as hard as he could. There was no guarantee that the next slash would not reach their location. Even the wake of that attack posed a threat. Just as Haruaki and Fear hastily pulled back to create distance—
The vertical slash brushed past Konoha's body, striking her former location directly. The ma.s.sive ensuing crash made Haruaki's eardrums hurt. Violent air pressure swept his hair. Not only that, but it even caused him to stumble and fall flat on the ground. Certain fragments flew in all directions, striking him in the body. Ouch. Speaking of pain, the left hand he had extended reflexively against the ground for support was feeling sharp pain from the amputated spot.
Then opening his eyes, Haruaki saw the asphalt ground which had tragically cracked open. Probably injured by flying stones, Fear had small b.l.o.o.d.y scratches on her face. Wiping the blood away with the back of her hand, Fear directed her gaze forward. The four of them nearer to the impact had suffered far more than Haruaki and Fear. Kirika and Kuroe were tangled together and blown far away, but seemed uninjured. Kotetsu was kneeling on the ground with a twisted look on his face. Among them, the one with the most serious injuries was—
"I... am fine...!"
Although it looked like she had dodged by a hair's breadth, Konoha had a large gash on her shoulder just from a minor glancing blow. The patch of bright red on her was even larger in area than Kotetsu's. Konoha glanced coldly at her wound then exhaled, suppressing a certain emotion into the depths of her core. Calmly, she tore off her dangling sleeve to facilitate movement. Judging from her motions, the wound was not as bad as it looked... But Haruaki had almost never seen such a large wound on Konoha's body before. And clearly, it was not even a direct blow.
Many laundry poles and iron rods were embedded in the school building's walls to their left and right, as well as the side wall of the connecting corridor, forming footholds.
Standing on them, Satsuko and Fourteen were looking down at Haruaki's group.
"Oh my... They actually dodged that attack? Amazing as expected! Satsuko is overjoyed!"
Satsuko spoke confidently. Pushing themselves up, Kirika and Konoha grumbled with a frown:
"Tsk! What joy? This firepower is absolutely ridiculous...!"
"Their current tactic is to reduce the speed acc.u.mulation period as much as possible then unleash the attack freely from various angles, thus making full use of terrain..."
"Yes, indeed! Although very weak, Satsuko and Fourt's advantage is cooperation and tacit understanding after all! By increasing or removing footholds, Satsuko can appear or disappear to make use of three dimensional tactics~"
"Satsuko has excellent speed to begin with, but as a result, her weakness is also a lack of attack power. Weaponry is one of the reasons. But after obtaining «Karma Speed», this problem is solved... Don't mistakenly think we're still the same as before."
"Yeah~ It's all thanks to «Karma Speed». So lucky to have it, it fits Satsuko so well! Since this method works, Satsuko will try to challenge you, please play with us a while longer!"
Then like a pack of predators surrounding herbivores, slowly depriving their prey of stamina, intimidating them to crush their will to resist.
Also making use of the school building's protrusions and drainpipes, the pair began to jump back and forth over the heads of Haruaki's group. Ghostlights flashing, Fourteen launched items that were sometimes absorbed by Satsuko's rapier as sources of speed, sometimes used to create new footholds, or sent to attack Haruaki's group directly on other occasions. Satsuko would also disappear suddenly then emerge under Fourteen's cape. Satsuko sometimes followed Fourteen's direct attacks to appear at extremely close range. Other times, she used feints to counter their predictions, only to appear in the distance. It took a lot of effort to keep track of the pair's positions.
Agitated, Konoha jumped up and stood on a laundry pole just like them. Then leaping towards Fourteen, just as she was about to execute a flying kick, an instant before that—having entered Fourteen's cape, Satsuko jumped out and landed lightly on the ground. She was already panting with eyes moistened and glazed over.
Konoha must have instantly severed her foothold. Then falling down together with the severed pole, she barely evaded the slash Satsuko had unleashed upwards from below. Vicious light flashed across her gla.s.ses as she groaned:
"Up and down, how busy you are...!"
"Oh, just so you don't get the wrong idea, Satsuko will make this clear. We don't really want to run all over the place~ Aerial combat is just one mode of attack. Depending on the situation, we also fight on the ground."
Haruaki gritted his teeth. To him, simply tracking Satsuko and Fourteen's movements with his gaze was hard enough already.
Apart from Fourteen's own combat power as a cursed house...
There were footholds all around that they could increase or decrease as they saw fit, in other words, a three dimensional s.p.a.ce—Rather, seeing as Satsuko could also enter Fourteen's body to obfuscate timings and positions, it counted as four dimensions—combined with the tacit understanding born from their relationship of absolute trust, allowing them to rule over this four dimensional s.p.a.ce.
In addition, there was «Karma Speed»'s one-hit kill power from its super destructive slash attack—
All this combined to serve as Satsuko and Fourteen's current—
...Was it possible to win?
Could they prevail against a pair like this?
Haruaki felt as though his heart was being constricted tightly, causing a vague sense of unease to surge in his body.
He also thought of something.
There was no leisure to take out his cellphone to check the time, but the deadline was less than an hour away. They should not get themselves pinned down in this kind of place. They must move advance as quickly as possible, advancing towards the sports ground—
However, whether or not Satsuko understood their feelings, she cackled and said:
"Anyway, we're going to move as possible, so enjoy yourselves! As playmates, Satsuko will give it 100% so please go all-out if you please, Satsuko will be very happy—although weak little Satsuko is still very weak, so if you get disappointed, sorry about that!"
Haruaki broke out in cold sweat.
You liar—He thought.Part 9
The superintendent's team of three was moving along the school's boundary wall.
Then halting, the superintendent turned his head back.
"—I knew you were going to show up."
"Really? Well I suppose, after all, we go way back for years."
As though in an afterthought, he casually floored a knight who was originally about to attack them.
Maximilian Pendragon was standing there in leisure. Wearing «Corpse Armor Rikongarowa» with the «Granaury Spear» on the back of his right hand... He was fully armed.
Grinning, Pendragon said:
"Any intention to move aside?"
"You already know my answer, don't you? I can't let you go over to them. To my dangerous friend who has started an obsession in stalker behavior, I really hope you won't go farther along the wrong path, which is why I can't stay silent... You can't use brute strength to coerce a little girl. Don't use force."
After the superintendent finished with a shrug, Zenon and Ganon stepped forward in front of him.
"Good grief, are you trying to waste my time again like yesterday? No matter how many years we've been separated, I've grown tired of playing around. This time, I won't spar with you like yesterday. Sorry, I'm going to be serious—?"
A crisp sound.
Pendragon raised Granaury's blade to eye level. In the next instant, a knife flying at high speed was deflected by the blade, falling on the ground behind.
The superintendent stared intently at Pendragon. While breaking out in cold sweat, his mind became aware of his hand's trembling fingertips and the creaking in his body.
"Unlike yesterday... It's three against one this time."
"Gabriel, do you intend to personally enter the fray? Isn't your body full of problems, to the point that it's difficult to pinpoint them? With your health in such a state already, acting tough won't do you any good."
"Acting tough? Hmm..."
The superintendent reached into his suit and drew a knife from its holster. What a nostalgic feeling... At the same time, this was probably going to be his swan song.
"If I don't act tough now, when else would I have the chance? Clearly the ones behind me are my students—This is my school!"
Switching modes, he threw continuously, launching many knives at the same time. The flowing motion of thrown knives were like wings, like a sword, with each knife followed closely by the next. By calculating and predicting the opponent's angle of deflection, he would alter the trajectory of successive knives as a result. Such throwing fully exhibited the pinnacle of technique. Having learned the majority of his throwing skills, Zenon also joined in to attack with her knives.
Confronted with a continuous stream of thrown knives aimed at his vitals, Pendragon could no longer stand idly in one place. While running, he used Granaury to deflect the flying knives. Although Riko's armor definitely protected the vitals, the superintendent would also predict the armor's changes in thickness through reverse logic so as to throw the next knife and the one after that. Faced with this group, Pendragon could not rely completely on his armor. That being said, armor was armor after all. For knife throwers, armor was definitely a complicating factor.
"Ha... Looks like you and your disciple haven't re