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Chapter 7 – Evening
“Claudia, are you safe?”
Ayato, who was standing in front of Claudia to protect her, asked without looking back.
He wanted to tend to her immediately if possible, but the pressure released from the enemy he was confronting did not allow it.
“Although it is difficult to say that I’m safe…… for the time being, it looks I’m fine.”
“I see, glad to hear.”
Anyway, they seemed to have avoided the worse situation.
Even so, when Ayato thought about what would have happened if he had arrived just a moment later, he shuddered then felt an intense anger welling up inside of him.
“Brat……Are you ?”
To the old man’s calm question, Ayato nodded while setting up in a seigan stance.
“And you’re Yabuki Bujinsai, right?”
“Hou, do you know me?”
“……I heard about you from your son.”
As Ayato answered honestly, Bujinsai stroked his chin as if he was bewildered.
“I see; now that you mention it, you’re in the same room as that stupid son of mine, right? Does that fool give you any trouble?”
“──Can I ask you to withdraw?”
Even knowing that it was impossible, Ayato tentatively asked any way.
After all, it was his friend’s father. Ayato was quite enraged at the fact that he was going to kill Claudia and thus had no intention to forgive him at all; but it would be for the best if he could end it without fighting.
“Kakaka! You’re quite straightforward. I don’t dislike that honesty of yours, but…… unfortunately, I can’t do that.”
Bujinsai smiled broadly while moving his staff as it made a clattering sound.
But, the pressure just increased instead.
“……Then, can you at least give me some time?”
Though Bujinsai quizzically frowned, the pressure loosened only just a little.
Ayato, who took it as an approval, turned to Claudia and bent down. Of course, he did not relax his vigilance nonetheless.
Claudia stretched out her hand to Ayato’s face as her eyes got wet with tears. After taking her hand and holding it softly, Ayato took something out of his pocket.
“Claudia, I was entrusted with it by your friend.”
Perplexity spread on Claudia’s enraptured face.
“This is something from Laet.i.tia-san to you.”
Ayato finished speaking and was going to put the silver amulet in Claudia’s hand, but as she couldn’t put any strength into her hand and it almost fell to the ground, he excused himself and placed it inside her pocket.
“It seems to be a good luck charm.”
“N-No, I know that, but…… such a thing, I……”
Claudia looked strangely puzzled for some reason, but before she could ask for the reason, bloodl.u.s.t released from Bujinsai a.s.sailed Ayato.
It looked like he was not willing to wait any longer.
“Sorry, Claudia. I’ll end it immediately.”
Claudia stretched her hand trying to hold back Ayato, but she immediately stopped it and revealed her usual smile.
“──No, it’s nothing. Good luck, Ayato.”
After also returning a smile to her words, Ayato once again faced Bujinsai.
“Sorry, I’d really like to let you slowly have your last tryst, but I also have my hands full, you see? I can’t afford to waste any more time.”
“……I don’t mind it. Because I don’t intend to let this be the last.”
These words that he casually returned became the signal.
When he cut down the tobi-kunais suddenly thrown from Bujinsai’s hand, shurikens swooped down on him carving an arc in the air. Ayato was going to shorten the distance to Bujinsai while evading them by turning his body, but in just the instant when he took his gaze off his opponent, Bujinsai’s figure disappeared.
If he has not fought Eishiro ── if he has not experienced this skill of taking one’s opponent’s back, the fight would have been settled at this point in time.
Ayato escaped by reflexively rolling forward. Though he ended up plunging headlong into a puddle of water, he had no room to mind it. After all, if he did not do so, his head might have been separated from his trunk.
Bujinsai, whose staff’s slash ended up in an empty swing, dubiously glared at Ayato.
“You, that movement just now……”
He seemed to have guessed with that alone.
“Well whatever. In that case, I’ll cut off your neck right from the front.”
Bujinsai’s body swayed, melting into the rain, and the next moment, he appeared in Ayato’s range.
Ayato immediately raised so as to fight back ── there, he suddenly recalled Eishiro’s words.
『Listen well, Amagiri. If you’re to fight my father, I’ll give a piece of advice. Succeeding in dealing a hit to my father is a next to impossible feat, and that’s also true when it comes to avoiding his attacks. That’s why──』
As Ayato took a defensive stance using as a shield, he concentrated prana.
The attack that aimed for the scruff of Ayato’s neck landed firmly, but fortunately, Ayato’s head was still connected to his body. He had raised his defensive power greatly by concentrating prana in various places. The vitals located into ’s guard range and the tendons of his hands and feet ── the attacks were easy to read since Bujinsai’s attacks were very accurate.
Bujinsai slightly flinched at this; at that opening, Ayato slashed down with and regained some distance.
As he put his hand on his neck where he had received the slash, it seemed to be bleeding, but it was not a deep wound.
“I see; so thinking that you can’t dodge, you just had to endure. You may say that this is tactics possible thanks to your huge amount of prana.”
As Bujinsai said, prana’s consumption was intense with this method; an ordinary would have already dried up.
“But, that’s just a temporary measure. You too seem to have some knowledge regarding my technique, but even if you prepare a shield, what about the sword? With just devoting yourself to defense, your prana will run out sooner or later.”
In fact, his words were spot on.
With these tactics, even if he could endure for a while, he would not be able to defeat Bujinsai.
“I came here after preparing two strategies at least, so do you want to try them out?”
“Although, both of them are head-on breakthrough that can hardly be called strategies……!”
As Ayato tightly gripped , he slashed at Bujinsai from the front.
Bujinsai dodged that slash by jumping diagonally, kicking the crane and then jumping even higher.
As Ayato chased him in the same way, he swung out horizontally. Bujinsai dodged it by twisting his body in the air, landing on the warehouse’s roof ── and then swing his staff aiming at Ayato’s head that had landed a moment later.
While enduring it by concentrating his prana there, Ayato forcibly moved to attack. He sliced up from a low position and then slashed down from overhead where the opponent bent down.
Though Bujinsai’s staff was an unusual lux, it was not something which could block . Inevitably, as Bujinsai could not but dodge the attack, Ayato hurriedly connected another sword strike.
──The first strategy that Ayato prepared was to increase the number of strikes.
Even Bujinsai’s technique could not be used infinitely. In that case, regardless of how many times he dodged, Ayato just had to keep only attacking until his opponent exhausted himself.
“Kukuku…… This is certainly a high-handed measure that can’t be called strategy. But, it’s unexpectedly troublesome when you got hit by it.”
Although he was mouthing off, Bujinsai occasionally launched accurate counterattacks while dodging Ayato’s slashes. Even so, Ayato endured all of them by defense with prana and frantically swung . Ayato’s body was visibly becoming scarred and he was bleeding here and there, but he could not mind it.
“Amagiri Bright Dragon Style Sword Intermediate Technique──”Ten Boosting Thistles”!”
Even the surprise rotation slash that was going to hit Bujinsai was easily dodged by him.
No, far from it──
“Kuku, I know that technique!”
With a palm stroke which aimed at the slight opening immediately after the end of the slash, Ayato was blown a long distance away.
Though he fell from the warehouse’s roof and landed on the ground, Bujinsai had already gone down to the ground too when Ayato raised his body.
(This is…… a much more powerful enemy than I imagined……)
First, their abilities were purely different. If it was a fight with simple specs such as physical strength, the young Ayato would be above; but one might say that considering factors such tactics and the way of taking range, the experience was different.
Moreover, what happened just now……
“Hou, so you noticed after all. That’s right, I know the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style that you use.”
“……So, it’s like that after all.”
Otherwise, no matter if he was an expert, there was no way he could aim at the opening of the “Ten Boosting Thistles” when seeing it for the first time.
“It may look like this, but our clan has been in this line of job for a long time, you see? We leave behind records on information of opponents we fought against during these several hundred years and inherit them. If I’m not mistaken, records, that we have fought the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style’s users several times, remain.”
Certainly, since the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style was an old style, this in itself was not strange. It was also probably thanks to the fact that not only the technique, but also the sword line was seen through.
But…… if that was the case, it might be difficult to overcome the opponent by increasing the number of strikes.
“Now then, could you show the other strategy you spoke of?”
Bujinsai said as if reading Ayato’s thought.
“Even without you telling me……!”
Ayato tightly gripped with both hands and, along with a cry, poured prana into it.
──It was the Meteor Arts.
According to Eishiro, it seemed that Bujinsai’s technique affected the opponent’s unconsciousness so as to interfere with his actions.
In that case, how about if he used a large-scale attack that could not be affected by a bit of interference.
The blade of , which induced an Overboosted Mana Phenomenon after sucking in prana, exceeded 5 meters, and Ayato swung it down diagonally.
But, that blade hit only Bujinsai’s afterimage ── Bujinsai easily slipped through that strike; instead of him, the street light at the back was bisected, collapsed and sunk into the lake.
The pouring rain evaporated as soon as it touched the huge blade, causing white smoke to hover above.
“This is again quite a brute force approach. But, isn’t it kind of impossible for that big thing to hit me?”
As soon as Bujinsai said that, he simultaneously threw nearly ten tobi-kunais from both his hands.
As expected, as Ayato could not cut them down with in this state, he could only evade them by greatly jumping.
And as if having expected it, Bujinsai jumped again into Ayato’s bosom.
“I won’t let you get away this time. Even if you defended against it, I’ll shave off all your remaining prana……!”
The eyes of Bujinsai, who drew closer, shone dark.
Though, Ayato has been waiting for this chance as well.
As Ayato let go of , while enduring the slash driven on his abdomen by raising his prana, he grappled Bujinsai at the timing of the body tackle.
(In order to surely bring down an opponent superior in speed and technique, there’s only this……!)
This was an application of the strategy that Ayato had used in a duel with Kirin before.
The Amagiri Bright Dragon Style was originally an ancient martial art that a.s.sumed a battle in a wearing-armor state, and the foundation of its Grappling Technique was in the technique of pinning down one’s opponent rather than in striking or throwing technique. This was because once one pushed down a heavy-armored warrior and took the top (position wise, I guess), victory was certain.
Thus, this was the origin of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style, and a conspicuously uncouth technique──
“Amagiri Bright Dragon Style Grappling Technique ──”Bowing Vine””
Ayato grabbed Bujinsai’s arm, then fell toward him while kicking his legs out.
Since it was basically a bodily crash, this too would not be greatly affected by a bit of interference on his movements.
If it was Bujinsai, who held knowledge of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style, he would probably know many ways to escape from this state.
That’s why Ayato immediately took the next action.
He drove in a fist, which he increased the power by concentrating prana, into Bujinsai’s chest from point-blank range.
“Similarly ── “Mikazuchi”!”
A shock enough to make the air shake went through Bujinsai’s body and a small crater was created on the ground behind him
It was a special version of Mikazuchi by adding offensive power of his prana onto to the original Mikazuchi.
(As expected with this, then……!)
But, the moment when Ayato, who thought having brought him down, relaxed his attention, Bujinsai suddenly opened his eyes wide.
Immediately after, Ayato’s body stiffened and he was unable to lift even one finger.
While he was pinned down, Bujinsai drove a palm strike into the defenseless Ayato.
Ayato was sent flying through the air and he impacted against the ground without any time to prepare for the fall.
“That’s a payback, you brat……!”
Spitting out saliva mixed with blood, Bujinsai wiped his lips with his fist.
“But, you’ve really done it. I didn’t intend to go easy on you nor did I intend to be careless, but I was a little too observing, I guess. Consider that from now I’ll no longer give you even the slightest opening.”
Clear anger blurred into Bujinsai’s words.
On the other hand, although Ayato could move to a small extent compared to earlier, most of his body still couldn’t move. At the very most, he could drunkenly stand up.
“It’s useless. The binding technique’s effect hasn’t disappeared yet. You’re quite something by being able to move that much, but……”
When Bujinsai planted his staff into the ground while saying so, he casually threw a total of eight tobi-kunais left and right from both this hands slovenly hanging down.
Ayato was not in a condition to able to avoid them. While barely covering his face with both his hands, he endured them while raising his prana.
It would be bad if he did not somehow break this binding technique.
Ayato, maintaining the prana he raised as is, peeked at Bujinsai from the gap of his arms and was shocked.
“……Now then, I wonder how long you’ll be able to endure it.”
When Bujinsai muttered so, tobi-kunais were already grasped again in both his hands.
(No way, does he intend to overcome me like this……?!)
It was like a storm of raging steels.
Each blade of Bujinsai’s one-sided attack, which continued without end, tore Ayato’s flesh and made his bones creak.
While gritting his teeth and enduring their violence, Ayato felt the prana he invested into defense decreasing at a frightening pace.
However, nothing could be done as he could not even move his body as he wanted.
Perhaps dozens, no hundreds of tobi-kunais struck Ayato’s body.
Not knowing exactly with what kind of materials they were made, those tobi-kunais melted in the rain a short time later, turned into a black liquid and formed an eerie puddle at Ayato’s feet.
Ayato weakly fell to his knees in that pitch black puddle.
His prana was already about to reach the bottom and he had wounds all over his body.
“……It’s already time, I guess.”
Looking at such Ayato, Bujinsai pulled out his staff. It looked like he intended to deliver the final blow.
As he declared earlier, the slowly approaching Bujinsai did not show even the slightest opening.
(This is…… seriously bad……)
While seeing it with his view that became blurred, although he tried to muster his strength, his body could not move after all.
It was at that time.
“Ayato, get a hold of yourself! Your power shouldn’t be just to this extent, right?!”
Claudia’s strong and straightforward voice struck his ears.
It was strangely convincing, and he immediately knew that it was not just consolation or encouragement.
And ── before he noticed, Ayato suddenly stood up inside darkness.
No, more exactly, he was overlooking at another himself standing inside darkness with a bird’s-eye view.
(This place is……)
Although perplexed, he immediately understood. This was because he has experienced something similar before.
This was an image ── the image of the chains of imprisonment which bound Ayato.
Just like when he had seen before, three locks were applied on the binding chains that shackled Ayato. The first was broken, the second was undone. And as for the third……there was still a lock there.
When Ayato slowly opened his clenched hand, there appeared a shining key shining.
But, he understood it intuitively. That this key was still incomplete. Just a little more and it’d become a complete key; though only a little, it was not enough.
Even so, Ayato unhesitantly inserted that key into the third lock. Even if it was incomplete, even if it was not enough and would last for only a short time just like when he broke the first lock before, if he could undo this binding, then──
“Now then, with this it’s over.”
Bujinsai said so and swung down the staff he raised in this rainy weather at the nape of Ayato Amagiri’s neck.
Though it took quite time, the obstacle would safely be eliminated with this. Afterwards, he just had to get rid of the target and then the job would be complete.
Right ── or at least it should have like that.
But, the strike that should have hit Ayato’s head instead cut through air. The figure of Ayato, who was weakly down on his knees until a moment ago, had disappeared.
As he turned around taken aback, behind Bujinsai── in a place a little distance away, it (Ayato’s figure) stood there.
“Since when……?! No, more importantly……!”
Ayato, who stood struck by the rain, had his head slightly hanging down and his expression could not be perceived; but Bujinsai unintentionally took a step back at the presence emitted from his body.
The amount of prana was without change on the verge of drying up. He did not held any weapon, had wounds all over his body and the bleeding was very bad, too.
(What is this unpleasant feeling……?)
Bujinsai felt cold sweet streaming down his back.
He did not want to admit it nor did he want believe it, but Bujinsai’s instinct issued a clear danger signal.
(To think that I’m overawed by such a brat……!)
Bujinsai threw four tobi-kunais with his left hand as to shake it off. Though they were thrown only to check his response, they also served the purpose of allowing him to shorten the distance if there was an opening.
The binding technique, which was an application of the void tide technique, was a skill which sealed an opponent’s movements by creating an extreme state of tension, but there was first the need to look into the opponent’s eyes at a close distance. Although he did not understand why the technique was undone, it would be fine as long as he cast it once again.
Ayato, silent as is, evaded the tobi-kunais by just slightly moving his body.
Although, Bujinsai had taken this much into consideration.
Aiming at the small opening created there, he was about to instantly shorten the distance at a speed that overwhelmingly surpa.s.sed the opponent──
However, as if spoiling his start, Ayato’s fist caught Bujinsai in the chin.
(I-Impossible……! He’s too fast……!)
There was not even an opening to cast the void tide technique.
Ayato’s stance and movements should not have changed compared with a while ago.
But, only his degree of skill has been sharpened beyond comparison.
(Eei! What on earth happened……?!)
While being confused, Bujinsai promptly leaped back taking distance.
But then, he suddenly noticed.
Once again, he lost sight of Ayato.
At the same time, his intuition as a shin.o.bi that he has cultivated for many years informed him of danger coming from behind him
(This is……! This skill of taking the opponent’s back is our……!)
“Ripping apart the five viscera and severing the four limbs──”
And then, that voice resounded in the ear of Bujinsai, who was going to turn around in a hurry.
“──Amagiri Bright Dragon Style Grappling Technique, “Nine-Fanged Hammer”!”
Immediately, a storm-like series of blows were driven into Bujinsai. Nine series of blows which broke both his arms, crushed both his legs and gouged his liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidney in turns── the last blow was an elbow strike launched by fiercely stepping forward.
Bujinsai’s body that was sent flying was flung against the base of the large crane and was sewed on like crucifixion by the shock.
“Guuh…… I-Impossible……! For such a thing to……!”
While squeezing voice of resentment, Bujinsai glared at Ayato who was slowly approaching his way.
It was a mysterious sensation.
It was not that a special power was boiling up, but it was just like he returned to the self he should originally be, like he was just sharpened; it was such a sensation.
Afterwards, he only had to follow that sensation.
With only that, he had overwhelmed Bujinsai.
“……But, it’s not over yet, huh.”
Ayato leaked out such words.
Even after being struck by the “Nine-Fanged Hammer”, Bujinsai has not yet lost his fighting spirit. It looked like he could not stop Bujinsai unless he made him lose consciousness.
As Ayato advanced in order to settle the fight ── he fell to his knees at the acute pain which suddenly a.s.sailed him.
Magic circles and chains of imprisonment appeared around Ayato and coiled around Ayato.
“F-For it to happen at such a time……!”
Ayato could not help cursing, but his big sister’s ability was powerful and he had no technique to go against it.
On the other hand, a smile convinced of victory appeared on Bujinsai’s face.
A tobi-kunai appeared to this arm and was thrown at Ayato.
For the current Ayato, it was impossible to defend against or dodge it.
While looking at the black blade approaching in slow motion, Ayato somehow tried to struggle until the end, but it was useless.
However, just before that blade reached Ayato──
Claudia, who widened both her hands as to cover Ayato, broke in.
Though he promptly shouted so, there was no way he made it in time.
A flower of fresh blood blew up within the dark, cold rain.
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