Chapter 5 - Requiem Played In The Sky
Asumi Aoko was a 'different' girl.
The place she was born in wasn't one built of concrete, but one surrounded by nature. A mountain village.
She was born to be the only daughter of an ordinary household which worked in agriculture, she spent her childhood while not being exposed to the virtual world.
The turning point for her was her fifth birthday.
With the terminal she was given by her parents as a present, Aoko's talent started blossoming.
The girl pulled off feats no one else could do, her parents were proud of her being such a 'genius'.
Reaction of the villagers was just the opposite, chilly. Originally the cyber technology wasn't popular in the rural areas. In such a small world, Aoko was treated as 'abnormal' for her technical genius.
It was primordial fear of an existence they couldn't understand.
When her parents died in an accident, they attacked her out of malice and kicked her out of village. She was taken care of by relatives of her mother.
She was responsible for laundry and cooking in there.
Rather than a child, that family wanted a convenient handyman——if that was the truth, she would live a decent life. However, reality was cruel. They vented their anger on Aoko in the form of violence.
As she lived her h.e.l.lish everyday life, she learned a single truth.
—— I will never be able to walk in the light.
Taiga bisected a black knight who was falling at him from above and jumped, kicking off the wall again.
"That's a really ridiculous bodily strength."
Haya was watching as Taiga rose five metres in the air at a stretch and wanted to raise her voice objecting to such a sight. She ordered "leap" quietly and the silvery-white knight who had Haya on its shoulder jumped, following Taiga. The two of them and one virtual ent.i.ty were rising up by climbing up the terrace in the middle rather than use stairs again.
"But is 'that' really safe?"
"It's all right, I've got it properly under my control. Want to try manipulating it?"
While saying so, Haya lightly poked the silver knight——which was still a Zygote just a few minutes earlier.
That's what Haya meant when she said she 'thought of it'.
"To think you would steal the controls of a Zygote and remodel it..."
"I knew these guys could be controlled. I'm glad I prepared measures to do that just in case. If possible I'd like to control several of them though."
Haya a.n.a.lysed the attack-configured program Angel created and thought ahead, making a program she could use.
But as expected, not talking about the horde of hundreds of them, she could only use it on one.
The enemy's forces didn't change, the White Knight rushed through the looming Zygotes destroying them. Sometimes he put Haya who was clad in plain clothes on its shoulder as if it was a knight protecting a princess.
The entrance hall was far below them already, they had already advanced about eighty metres. At this rate they'll reach it soon enou——
A chill went Taiga's spine, he twisted his body making an immediate judgement.
A huge hatchet cleaved where his neck was just a moment before. Were his reaction be delayed by even a second, he would be already dead.
Haya reached out to Taiga who was falling, pulled down by gravity. But at that moment an army of Zygotes appeared by 《Transition》, there were at least twenty of them.
So many...! White Knight alone isn't——
The White Knight's specs were higher after remodelling by Haya, but it wasn't a large difference. If they fought then she would lose without a doubt——however, the black knights ignored Haya and fell down, following Taiga.
"...did they... overlook me?"
———No. It's her, she's calling me. There was no reason, but she intuitively thought so.
"——Head straight to the top floor."
After staring at the bottom for a moment, she commanded the White Knight.
I'll stop Aoko. That's something I must do!
Tenryo Taiga was just 'an outsider who was unfortunate to get involved'.
Were he not to meet her, he wouldn't have had to suffer such an experience. She couldn't involve him any more than this in the circ.u.mstances of Kiritou.
Just which gear started turning it in this direction.
When they met six years ago, when Aoko came to Kiritou, when they decided on developing Iora, or when she has discovered a way to become a Hologhost. Where did they make a mistake.
She didn't know. No matter how long she thought about it, she couldn't find it. Even so——
"...I will stop you, Aoko."
"I'd like to see if you can, Haya. Literally, stop me by force."
The two embraced the wishes they won't give up, and stood on the final stage.
The light converged at one point.
Ten thousand mental structures gathered throughout Kiritou structure——the souls condensed in one place giving off a brilliant shine and forming one huge circuit. By bundling together the information which could be called G.o.d's inviolable area, it created an arrow of destruction to annihilate all that existed in that s.p.a.ce.
"I'm honestly surprised that a day like this would come, where we stand against each other."
"...so you say. There's no way someone as smart as you wouldn't predict me interfering. It was all pre-calculated by you wasn't it...?"
"Hmm, I wonder."
Under the giant light——the Logic Bomb 《Indra》, the two girls faced each other.
"...why are you doing something like this?"
Haya asked quietly.
"I've been thinking about this all the time. Why would you use 《Indra》 to crush Kiritou. Answer me Aoko, why would your feet slip from the proper road!"
She broke the promise between the two of them, she became a presence that only lived as a soul.
Reaping ten thousand lives and using them to destroy everything——the reason for that, the source of that hatred, Haya didn't know of it. She needed to learn about it.
"A reason huh. I don't mind telling you, but can you really bother with that now?"
"...what do you mean?"
"Generating 《Indra》 has reached the final stage. I think you know it already, but destroying it is impossible since it's a ma.s.s of 《Impossible to a.n.a.lyse Data》. The only way you can save yourself and Tenryo Taiga is to eliminate me. You don't have time to waste by chatting do you."
"From the way you talk, it seems like you won't withdraw obediently?"
"Foolish question. If my determination was weak enough to stop because of that, I would have obediently died a year ago."
A year ago——with these words Haya recalled Aoko's funeral.
For her who had no relatives the funeral was very simple, the only one attending was Haya.
The cause of her death was heart disease. In fact, she was sentenced to 'live six months longer' one month before she died. That's why it didn't inspire any doubts in Haya when she died.
However, Aoko has become a Hologhost.
The cause of her death must have been excess load on her brain. That meant——
"You committed a suicide haven't you."
"...it was Kiritou Kouya's doing. Were I to simply 'commit suicide' the cause of death could be easily found by examining my body. Honestly it helped me, you were the only one who could examine my body and find out that I became a Hologhost."
"...that s.h.i.tty man."
Haya insulted Kouya in low voice.
That man must have silenced the police and without scruples provided a fake cause of death. Aoko predicted that and used it to become a Hologhost, moreover thanks to that she was treated as if she died of illness.
"Now, chat time's over."
*pachin*, a dry sound of Aoko's finger snapping could be heard.
A 《Zygote》 emerged from the black stain directly above Aoko. The shape of its armour was different from the ones that were part of her main fighting force. Probably it was specially modified by her.
"Both of us have a p.a.w.n. That's perfect. How about a proxy battle?"
"...a fight between Zygotes huh. Very well."
Just as the two girls took a step back at the same time, the white and black knight stood in front.
"Oh, that's right. A single piece of good news for you. Currently I'm using part of my consciousness in order to stall Tenryou Taiga. Think of it as of a handicap."
"...is that so. I'll accept it gratefully."
Kiritou Haya was far inferior to Asumi Aoko. That wasn't a guess but an undeniable fact.
But if what she said was truth, then she was remotely operating dozens of 《Zygotes》 and engaged in combat with Taiga. There might be a chance Haya might be able to exploit.
There were two ways to damage a virtual body. Either to attack it with an attack-configured program or erode it with a virus.
One of the p.a.w.ns, the White Knight was originally 《Zygote》, a virus.
There were means of attacking, as well as a chance for victory.
All that's left——was to run it.
"Let's go, Aoko!"
According to Haya's order, the White Knight charged forward while holding a hatchet.
The Black Knight started moving at the same time, the two knights clashed with a tremendous roar.
Exhausting the program processing ability the two knights' slashes crossed. Their trajectories were painted with white and black, an intense sparks scattered throughout the air.
"Ahaha, your p.a.w.n's not that bad!"
"It doesn't feel like it! I know it's nowhere near enough myself!"
"No such thing. I know how proficient you are very well. That's why——I will get a bit serious as well!"
As Aoko said that, five windows appeared.
Aoko spread her hands like an orchestra conductor and started operating on the windows with all ten of her fingers at once. The Black Knight's armour started to change ominously and he pushed the White Knight back.
Haya immediately opened a window to strengthen the White Knight in response.
Stronger, faster, tougher, the two girls continued to cause evolution in their p.a.w.n's armoured bodies.
《Zygotes》 combat ability was fairly simple.
The foundation of their actions were 'optimal motions corresponding to the current situation'. They were aware of what was happening, moved and acted with maximal efficiency under the current conditions. That's why neither Haya nor Aoko interfered with their movements and only improved their p.a.w.n's performance.
The trajectory of the slashes felt into disarray, they started fending off each other's intense attacks.
At first glance it seemed like the battle was evenly matched. But little by little the White Knight Haya was using slowly started to become cover with cracks.
"You monster... You really aren't using your full strength are you!"
"How horrible, calling me a monster. In the first place, have you ever won against me?"
"I never lost in arm wrestling!"
Haya desperately tried to bite back at her, but Aoko laughed when she heard that and her fingers continued to dance.
The White Knight could no longer defend. It barely managed to divert the black knight's attack, the black hatchet crushed its armour and shaved it off.
I didn't think winning would be easy, but to think there was such a big difference...!
That talent was something else, Haya clenched her teeth.
——She couldn't reach.
The speed of her thoughts, processing area, information a.n.a.lysis. Asumi Aoko was winning in every one of these factors.
And yet, Aoko was still spending some of her thought processes to fight against Taiga. Were she to use her full strength——she wouldn't survive even a second.
It didn't mean Haya was weak.
Even earlier than Fuyuki, she has been thoroughly educated from early childhood and recognized as a gifted child, she was cla.s.sified among top cla.s.s researchers in Kiritou. It was just that Asumi Aoko's ability was not normal.
"There's no one who can beat me in Elysion... you're the one who should know that the best. As usual, you hate losing don't you."
Even as they exchanged words, the Black Knight's evolution continued to accelerate.
There were no foolish and flashy moves from either of them. Bit by bit, the White Knight's escape route was being crushed as the number of choices it could do was being limited.
"Good grief... so is the match over with this?"
"It's not over yet."
Although that's what Haya said, the outcome was already determined. The Black Knight has surpa.s.sed the White Knight in every attribute, even changing strategy wouldn't give it a chance.
"How stubborn... fine. I'm already bored with you, it's time for the next step. It's time to end this."
Responding to Aoko's order, the Black Knight let out an eerie roar. That moment the black hatchet released a huge amount of miasma and became a huge sword.
"I will put an end to this."
With a roar, the black sword was swung down.
Despite raising the hatchet in order to defend, it was torn through and the White Knight's body was cleaved apart like a piece of paper. Half of the White Knight's body collapsed and it could no longer function.
The Black Knight brandished its huge sword in no time and aimed for Haya who was left unguarded——just as Haya predicted.
Haya implanted a silver crystal in it, she used the opportunity that appeared when it made a roundhouse slash. The Black Knight's movement suddenly stopped.
Its movements stopped for less than a second, but that was enough.
The right side of the White Knight's body rose up and cleaved the defenceless Black Knight's torso.
"It's over, Aoko!"
Aoko was shaken for a moment. Haya didn't miss that opportunity. She closed the distance to her not giving her time to summon a 《Zygote》 and hit her neck!
*kiyinn*, a high-pitched metallic sound rang out.
Haya's breath turned rough and her head was aching because she overdid it with excessive calculations, she tried getting rid of the excess. .h.i.t in her head.
It was quite reckless. In just a moment she used the 《Intercept》 which was a very forceful move. Her brain was exhausted after continuing the fight, the fatigue hit her now.
"But, with this somehow..."
She was able to stop her——that's how it should have been.
"That made me a bit surprised."
As a cool voice shook her eardrum, Haya moved her body away.
"That 《Intercept》 is the program which s.n.a.t.c.hed away the control over 《Zygote》 from me right? It's effect allows to temporarily override administrative privileges. Although I've been wary, to think you could steal the control from me even for a second... as expected of you."
The huge hatchet that was supposed to drop on her neck has been stopped by something that look like a rod.
It was thin enough for even Aoko's hands to use it. It was clad in jet-black haze which increases its eeriness several times.
This is bad——her instincts was sounding the alarm bells.
Haya tried to return to the White Knight immediately, but before that a black slash cut through the silvery armour. The White Knight could no longer maintain itself and disappeared, changing into particles of light.
"I didn't want to do something as uncouth as fighting myself. I wonder if this body still remembers it? When I created a weapon it naturally took this shape."
What was in Aoko's hands, was a jet-black scythe like the incarnation of darkness itself.
It was exactly the same as the weapon the Grim Reaper virus used once. But for some reason, the way she poised it now felt dozen times more frightening than the original.
That moment, Aoko disappeared like smoke.
I lost sight of her, where is——the moment she tried to turn around in a hurry, an nasty sound rang out. At the same time she felt discomfort as if someone was pulling out her intestines.
"I will not stop. Until everything turns into ash, I will step over all hindrances. Even if it's my my partner."
Aoko spoke those words right beside Haya's ears. After slowly pulled out the scythe out of her abdomen, Haya's body losed its strength and rolled on the ground.
Haya's consciousness was fading away. In an attempt to clear the field of vision that was being dyed white, she formed a fist and stabbed her nails into her hand.
There was no pain. Even when she hit her stomach with her fist she couldn't feel any pain.
The Cyber World blocked out the pain. But it didn't block out the feeling of impact. It was surely mentally damaging. Currently Haya was determined 'absolutely not to fall' which allowed her to maintain her consciousness.
She got a fit of coughing and a rebound from her stomach.
Let alone standing up, she couldn't even move. She desperately raised her face to look at Aoko who looked down on at her with cold eyes and smiled with satisfaction.
"Yup, you're perfectly on the brink of death. You'll be a great bait like this."
Haya was only able to catch the word 'bait', but she understood its meaning soon enough. The whole situation proceeded to the next stage.
A sudden explosion roared from centre of the floor.
Minced pieces of the Black Knights' appeared from the central terrace and disappeared after turning into particles of light. A white shadow holding a blade landed on the top floor.
"You came at last, Tenryo Taiga. Aren't you late."
He ignored Aoko's provocative words, his eyes wandered towards the scythe and then his gaze switched to Haya who was lying on the floor beside Aoko.
"...you b.i.t.c.h, so you would go that far."
Taiga said that in a horribly flat voice. Anger was swelling up in him, he took a step forward. Seeing him like that Aoko expanded a window in the air.
There, he saw Angel exchange attacks with Fuyuki by using crystals.
Although Taiga yelled, his voice didn't reach her.
The Fuyuki on the screen seemed like she was nearing her limits, she continued to desperately shoot down the red crystals with a hand pressed on her head.
"As you can see, your little sister is in my hands. Continuing to hara.s.s her like this isn't bad, but I might as well turn her into a part of 《Indra》. There's not that much fuel for it to use."
Cloudy, black emotions acc.u.mulated in his belly.
I won't let you. I'll protect people who are precious to me——that's the reason I've been living for. That's why I seeked strength.
If he allowed such a thing, he wouldn't be able to forgive himself.
"...but this one'll be first."
At the end of his field of view, the large scythe was swung up casually.
Its blade was aimed at Haya who has fallen on the floor and couldn't move. Seeing her pupils beg for help, Taiga cried out.
*slosh*——a horrible fleshy sound could be heard, a quiet scream spilled from Haya's mouth.
"...Tenryo Taiga. The first irregular that has barged into this plan. As a countermeasure for you who has interfered with 《Jail》's and 《Zygote》's performance test, it was essential to carry out this plan."
Although Aoko said something, it didn't enter Taiga's ears.
What occupied his mind, was anger which blazed crimson.
Haya's body collapsed face down, in his mind it overlapped with the appearance of his dead parents. His emotions were dyed red, everything other than Asumi Aoko disappeared from his field of vision.
"I thought a lot about it. I came up with some countermeasures, but in the end I decided on something easier. Basically, humans become weak when they are tired."
He clenched the nodachi's handle with all his strength.
His endlessly gushing murderous intent was relayed to the weapon, he said quietly.
"——I'll kill you."
That moment, Taiga jumped tremendously fast.
Driven by his rage, he pulled out his trump card.
After he smashed a sky blue crystal, the shackles that tied up Tenryo Taiga have fallen off.
He cut through the air, leaving behind the scenery. Taiga swung his nodachi at Aoko's neck who was looking at him with a condescending smile!
"...when people who surround you get hurt, you become emotional. That's your weakness, Tenryo Taiga."
The nodachi that was supposed to slip into her neck was blocked with a black liquid.
As he looked up momentarily, he saw a large hole about two metres in diameter in the air from which a black miasma overflowed.
"Come, let's start the second act."
She grabbed the neck of Haya who fell over and sprang back. The black miasma surrounded Taiga and formed black knights. Their number was thirty or more.
However, that wasn't enough to stop Taiga as he currently was.
"Out of my way——!!"
Fifth form 《Heavenly Mist》. More than a dozen black knights turned into particles and disappeared.
The reason he struggled with them before, was because he was unable to attack. Just thirty of the knights weren't an opponent for Taiga in his fully synchronized state.
"Oh-ho, that's no good. There's still a lot of them out there."
As to replenish the numbers after those which disappeared, more miasma continued to flow out of the hole in the air and formed a dozen of Zygotes once again. Taiga took a step back and fought them off reflexively. Although he chopped them into pieces quickly, their resupply didn't stop.
"No matter how many viruses of this degree you gather, it won't work!"
"I bet. They cannot seal your attacks like they could before. Even if there were fifty of them they wouldn't be able to stand up to you. But... how abouttime?"
Taiga's movements didn't stop. Every time a keen flash of steel cut the black armour an arm or head was cut off.
Aoko let out a ridiculing laughter as she overlooked him seesawing back and forth.
"That program of yours... it's called 《Synchro Infinity》 isn't it. How long can you use it?"
His movements were disturbed after he heard Aoko's words.
It was true that 《Synchro Infinity》 continued to hack him and there was a large strain on the brain, it couldn't be used for long periods of time. Its creator, Fuyuki said that there's a five minute limit. However, Aoko shouldn't have known it.
"Could you not underestimate me? You think I was just watching your previous fight with 《Zygote》 for my enjoyment? I was searching for your weakness."
During the fight two weeks ago. Taiga did indeed use 《Synchro Infinity》 for his final attack.
But that was triggered only for a few seconds. So she must have managed to find its disadvantages in such a short time.
"I can understand the program's performance just by looking. I figured it out immediately that using it must've involved an accordingly high risk. After learning that, finding countermeasures against you was easy."
*pachin*, Aoko snapped her fingers.
The hole in the air further expanded and started to drop a torrent of miasma. All of it turned into Zygotes and pushed onto Taiga with sheer ma.s.s.
"Until your head starts screaming, I'll continue to conduct this song."
——Stalling for time.
In short that's how Aoko's tactic could be described, it was an extremely simple thing.
However, Taiga was worried about the time limit. Were he to fight with this inexhaustible supply of troops prepared by using players from a large-scaled structure, this tactic could be deadly to him.
He cut down Zygotes surging from all sides.
Releasing 《Synchro Infinity》 was not an option. The moment he releases it, he would have been overpowered by the horde of enemies.
The only choice was to break through by concentrating on one point. But Aoko wouldn't allow it. The attack came from all directions at all times, the forces were replenished the instant they fell and wouldn't thin out.
"Let's start it... the final stage which will make you run out of strength!"
In response to Aoko's words, the Black Knights' movements were revitalized. The deadly battle has begun.
"...the number pa.s.sed four hundred and fifty. I can't say I expected this."
Seeing the sight in front her, Aoko let out a breath and exclaimed involuntarily.
What spread in front of her, was truly a battlefield. In order to crush one boy a number of soldiers flocked. The boy was slashing the black downpour which pushed on him from all directions. The tip of the sword moved at a crazy speed which made it blur as it continued cutting apart one Black Knight after another.
"Taking down more than one per second... that's an instant death one should fear. It was the correct decision to be wary."
Aoko infested a number of virtual bodies with 《Zygote》 and reared them. Their number was approximately a thousand and five hundred.
She acquired such a number in case a problem were to appear in the large-scaled structure, thanks to that she still had a lot of fighting force left. But she didn't expect she would spend a third of the force on one person.
"Oh well——isn't he about to hit the limit?"
A smile spilled on Aoko's face and she started to walk slowly towards the battlefield.
His thoughts were screaming.
He did a roundhouse kick and a cut at the same time. As he turned around he immediately cut the neck of the Black Knight who was behind him.
With nodachi in his hand, Taiga continued to single-mindedly hunt the 《Zygotes》.
Taiga made the circular area around him his own and continued to cut down any enemy that stepped inside. Renjou Sword Technique Sixth Form 《Enkuu》. Although at first he didn't allow any enemy to approach him within a two metres radius, he was currently fighting at a distance where they were almost grazing his cheeks.
*zukin*... a fierce pain ran through him.
Taiga's movement visibly dulled, the hatchets were swung at him from all the sides as enemy saw an opportunity.
He somehow parried it and avoided a mortal blow by dodging but a small cut was engraved on his body.
All of his five senses were blurred as if he had a high fever.
The ringing in his ears continued to increase more and more, he was attacked by a illusion that made him feel as if he was to lose sensation in his fingers.
It's been already seven minutes since he triggered 《Synchro Infinity》, Taiga's body exceeded the limit long time ago. And yet he still continue to fight, driven by his strong will. However, the turnaround of the situation was nowhere in sight.
And then——the time has come.
Against his will, force left his knees. At the same time a severe pain incomparable to what he felt hit his entire body, colour was drained from his vision.
A quiet declaration. It was the signal.
When Taiga stopped moving two huge hatchets penetrated his shoulders, furthermore his entire back has been slashed.
The nodachi fell out of Taiga's hands and dropped on the floor with a dry sound.
Although Taiga would normally fall, both of his pierced shoulders locked his body in the air like a model. With his knees on the ground and hung down head he looked like a sinner sentenced and waiting for punishment.
He desperately raised his face while feeling a pain that made it seem like his body was falling apart. His vision was still blurred, yet he still wasn't released as Asumi Aoko pushed through between the black knights.
"You did well to get this far. I didn't think you would withstand this much. You have my honest praise."
As Aoko gave him an applause and clapped her hands, he glared at her while releasing killing intent.
He tried to force his body to move, but he felt a throb in his head every time causing his consciousness to recede.
"Good grief, could you not look at me with such eyes?"
Aoko slowly brandished the jet-black scythe.
Although she had a smile on her face, her eyes were cold and didn't show any emotions.
"If you look at me with such impudent eyes... I'll feel like crushing them."
Together with the clear voice, the scythe's blade pierced through Taiga's left eye.
Ignoring Taiga's screams which were loud enough to tear eardrums, Aoko focused on the scythe in her hands.
With nasty fleshy sounds, the blade entered his back. Feeling a severe pain as if his nerves were torn apart and a discomfort in his head, Taiga continued to scream. If he didn't, he would go crazy.
After a dozen of seconds that felt like forever, the sickle was withdrawn slowly.
If it were reality, pieces of meat would have clung to the blade, but there were none in here. Aoko looked at him satisfied and walked behind him.
"Wa...it... whe...re...are you...going..."
"...that's surprising. You're still conscious."
Aoko made a surprised expression as she heard a low voice he squeezed from his lungs.
Taiga's posture was unchanged, he found Aoko with his remaining eye. Although, his breath was faint and the only thing that kept his consciousness together was his will.
"The rebound from the program should have caused you a fierce pain, I'm amazed about your strength of will. Well, it would have been better for you if you obediently lost consciousness."
A normal human being would have fainted long time ago, no, it wouldn't be weird if they died from shock——that's how painful it was. Aoko has comitted a suicide by burning out her brain in the past, she knew a bit about that pain.
She stood in front of Taiga, strongly grabbed his hair and forcibly raised his face. A horrible noise was running through his left eye, but his right eye displayed an unchanged and strong will in it.
So he can still make such eyes.
Aoko admired those eyes a great deal.
Tenryo Taiga no longer had any strength to raise his face.
He couldn't hold his sword nor defeat any Black Knights, he couldn't even dream of stopping Aoko. Were she to swing down her scythe——with just that, his life would have been easily extinguished.
"...why...would you...betr..ay..Haya...like...that? Isn't...she your best...friend...?"
His voice was quiet enough to disappear carried off by the wind. Aoko looked at the Logic Bomb which slowly expanded above her and released Taiga's hair from her hand.
"The reason huh. Oh well, there's no need to hide it and 《Indra》's generation is slower than estimated so I'll tell you some of it."
Aoko put her fingers on Taiga's forehead.
As she did that a light colour appeared, a scenery Taiga has never seen flowed through his head.
"I implanted some data into your mind. The stimulus might be a little too strong, so try not to break okay?"
Asumi Aoko has become a Hologhost and obtained some freedom in manipulating mental structures. Two week ago, she sealed some of Shio's emotions.
Because she was like that, she could replicate and transfer memories as well. In Taiga's head the memory of the original 'Asumi Aoko' has been imputed.
Those were, gruesome memories.
"In a trade off in exchange for Kiritou Kouya to allow us to develop AI ・Iolite, I agreed on developing military programs. That's because that miser wouldn't allow research that wasn't profitable. So I've been made to do such things, I didn't resist it."
A memory was played out, a sight he didn't know appeared and disappeared.
——First, it was just a security program.
He gave her a norm and ordered her to produce, she made things according to his instructions. Legitimate programs like ones used by police. However, Kouya's instructions slowly became more extreme as not to make Aoko too aware of it.
Surveillance cameras, motion sensing, aircraft control systems, the backbone of the Kiritou Headquarters' structure defence system, anti-air defence systems——no one knew as she continued to be entrusted with more and more important work.
"Now that I look back, placing me and partnering me with Haya was a trickery. My senses were clearly paralyzed. Every day I spent with Haya was fun and my recognition of right and wrong has become ambiguous."
That's why she took on the task of developing military programs. If just that much allowed her to research and develop something together with her best friend, she would do it without thinking twice.
"I was reminded of my foolishness three years ago. I was curious how the program I made was used... and learned that it was a murder weapon used in war zones."
In the end, it was something made by a child. It couldn't be all that important.
Those optimistic thoughts of hers were crushed with ease.
She made it. She made a program made to murder people——no, because of her a lot of people died.
"I was in shock. I felt like I fell into the abyss. I knew I no longer had the qualification to live in the light, I reached out to it with regret... and this is the price."
A scene emerged in Taiga's mind.
A season during which cherry blossoms fluttered around, the two girls laughed together while wearing brand new uniforms. The girl who was walking a road full of light and hope for the future was reminded that she was still in h.e.l.l.
"I didn't say I want to quit. If I stopped my development Kiritou Kouya would have immediately discarded Iolite. Also... my hand was stained with blood a long time ago. That's why, I just did what I could. Even if it was h.e.l.l."
Even though she knew people would die, she still continued to develop.
She at least resisted when 《Zygote》 and 《Indra》 were in the conceptual stage and destroyed them as high risk programs. She knew well that it was hypocrisy.
"Then one day, a doctor has sentenced me to death."
Life expectancy, six months——it was already too late for treatment.
"Of course I feared death. But even more than that, I was relieved. With that I would be free from this h.e.l.l, I wanted to use my remaining time for myself... and yet, do you know what that man, Kiritou Kouya thought?"
She thought she will be free by the very end.
For her who was always tied to something, she wanted a bit time for herself. She wanted to go to the bright places along with Haya. It was her last chance. And that——
"——『'Then spit out all the knowledge and skills you have during these remaining six months.'』. The day I was sentenced to live six more months, that man said so."
You are a tool. You will be used until you're broken. Having her remaining time taken away made her feel outraged.
That's when anger, resentment, hatred have flowed into Taiga... excessively strong negative feelings were boiling. It became the root of Asumi Aoko's revenge.
"I'll destroy everything. Kiritou Kouya, and this silly kingdom he made by using me all all all of it will be destroyed not leaving a single piece behind."
She looked down at Taiga who didn't say anything, Aoko aimed the scythe's blade once again.
No more talking. She will eliminate the nuisance, end him.
"See you, Tenryo Taiga."
The decapitating slash was swung down.
Just as the blade of darkness has been plunged into Taiga's defenceless neck——just before the blade sank in, it stopped.
Aoko's eyes were stained with surprise.
What stopped the scythe, was Taiga's hand which shouldn't have had any will to move.
He gripped the blade with all his strength, it didn't move even though Aoko tried her all.
"...I finally get it."
Taiga murmured quietly and forced himself up.
The hatchets in his shoulders sliced the nerves, a severe pain ran through his entire body. But that was fine.
He finally found a reason why he recognized Aoko as the enemy the moment he met her.
They were alike, this girl and him. They resembling each other a lot. That's why——he couldn't acknowledge Asumi Aoko.
"...someone has to put an end to it."
*mshrr*, the sickle Taiga grasped let out a sound.
He forcibly pulled out the hatchet from his shoulders. He didn't feel any pain, and his anger has reached critical point long ago.
"It's not about your suicide. But you know, don't involve your best friend in something that stupid! If you want to die, then die alone!"
Just by shouting his consciousness receded. The severe pain from his crushed left eye felt like poison, his vision was dyed red.
Even so, he didn't fall. He couldn't afford to fall.
There should've been a different path she could have taken.
Be happy according to that path, be fulfilled after choosing that ending. And yet——why would she choose a path on which no one would be saved.
He didn't approve of such a story. He didn't approve of such an outcome.
Tenryo Taiga bet everything he had, as he absolutely needed to change this ending.
"Such a wasteful story——right here, right now. I'll put an end to it!"
He stared straight in front of him and declared.
Tenryo Taiga will deny Asumi Aoko——that was the meaning embedded in these words.
Aoko tried to shake off Taiga's hand and hit the ground lightly with the scythe's handle.
With that the 《Zygotes》 activated and surrounded him.
"I don't really get what you're saying... but I can understand that you want to continue fighting with me. But are you going to do it with such a worn out body?"
It was just as Aoko said, Taiga had wounds all over his body. Although it wasn't damage that could be called critical, but it was a miracle he was still standing.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Again and again, deeper and deeper, he did it countless times.
With his breathing came pain, it swallowed his feelings and roused the instinct inside his consciousness.
"...it's been two months since I last intended to kill a person."
He went back in time.
Reawakening 'himself' from the time before reunited with her.
He slowly opened his eyes, in the sky-blue pupils dwelled an unwavering will.
"——Let's start, Asumi Aoko."
That moment, Aoko felt a thirst for blood which made her blood freeze.
While feeling a horrifying sensation grabbing her heart she lost the mental battle, she snapped her fingers.
As they were ordered to, the Black Knights kicked off the ground and jumped.
Taiga kicked up the nodachi that was lying on the ground with his foot——and he vanished.
He reappeared few metres away right before a materializing Black Knight and lightly swung his fist. The blow that shouldn't have hit anything has captured the a.s.saulting Black Knight's head from the right side and pulverized it.
In no time he twisted his body and released a lightning fast double attack.
The Black Knight's armour was decomposed in an instant. Aiming at Taiga the moment he still hasn't changed his posture, dozens of Black Knights rushed at him——and they exploded with a flash.
With a speed that made it look hazy, the blade has drawn multiple slashes in an instant. Unable to wield their hatchets any longer, the Black Knights became wreckage.
It wasn't a fighting style driven by anger like the one he used earlier.
These were sophisticated movements without any waste, a refined way of fighting which purely dedicated his movements to destroying the target.
...calm down, he's just using a way of fighting that won't put a burden on his body. Tenryo Taiga reached his limit long time ago. There's no element that would make me lose.
Aoko a.n.a.lysed the situation calmly.
No matter what he said, the damage to his body didn't disappear.
There was no way his brain would recover from a fatigue that made him fall over once already——she know that.
But what is this feeling?
One of his eyes was crushed. His body was cut up. His trump card 《Synchro Infinity》 already pa.s.sed its limit.
Asumi Aoko couldn't win against Tenryo Taiga——such a baseless thought was stuck in her head and wouldn't leave.
He soared with a flash.
It was as if everything other than him was in slow motion, the Black Knights were trampled over not even having a chance to counter-attack. At a speed that couldn't be followed with eyes, sometimes he crushed them with his body, sometimes he cut them up, and continued to reduce their numbers.
"———!! Adding body connection path, continuous transition!"
When she returned to herself, Aoko added another summoning point, doubling it.
A dull pain hit her because of the sudden load, a ma.s.s of Zygotes which transferred from another large-scale structure attacked Taiga.
——He sped up even more?!"
But, even so, they didn't reach him.
Rather than grow dull, Taiga's movements became faster and sharper. He cut up the Black Knights in a blink of an eye.
Witnessing that sight, Aoko realized.
———Until this boy defeats himself, he will never fall. He had no bounds, he would become infinitely strong.
"...! What is... this?"
Unexpectedly, an unknown memory appeared in her mind.
Happily walking with his parents and little sister, a large truck plunging towards her. The siblings who ran escaped, the dying parents.
It's not my memory... did the circuitry have a rebound?
The electronic circuits planted Taiga's memory in her.
Although it was supposed to be the other way around, Tenryo Taiga's memory, the strongest one among them flowed into Aoko.
——A young boy who lost everything.
Separated by death with his parents, and torn away from his remaining little sister.
Even so he tried to live and face forward. If there was next time, he swore to himself to become strong enough in body and mind so that he could protect what was precious to him then.
However, the boy was weak.
He was adopted by a military clan. A complete amateur was given the last name of the head family. It resulted with him being bullied, he was beaten up and ragged down every day.
But the boy endured and put in a desperate effort. If he becomes strong enough he'll find the place he belongs to——he believed in that. And eventually found it.
However, soon enough he was chased away from it. It was simple. While there were people who didn't acknowledge weakness, there were also people who hated strong people. In the boy's case, it was the people of Renjou's main family.
Strength is everything. That was the iron law of Renjou. If the boy continues to grow at this rate, he will deprive us of the family head's seat——they feared that happening, and sent the nine year old boy to the battlefield. They hoped and prayed for his death.
His memories from the past were gruesome enough to make her want to turn away, they were full of blood and death.
Kill or be killed. Under such an abnormal environment he killed for the first time, he wasn't given any time to repent. He made eye contact with people as he killed killed killed and continued to kill them.
How many hundreds, how many thousands. He sowed death.
He continued to circle around battlefields accustomed to death, stained with blood, he became a human who robbed people of their lives without any hesitation.
And one day, after three years from the moment he first killed——he noticed that he thought nothing of his parents death and despaired.
He bore hatred for everything.
The environment that drove him to that point, he thought of killing all the folks who made him like that.
And yet, he stopped himself from doing that.
Let's live together one day——the only family he had left, in order to protect the promise with his little sister, the boy discarded hatred.
"............don't f.u.c.k with me."
Glimpsing into that memory, Aoko murmured dumbfounded.
It was the same.
Deprived of their place to stay, living a life while being treated like a tool. And——acc.u.mulating a mult.i.tude of sins, yet still reaching towards the light.
The only difference was the result. He discarded the hatred, she decided on having revenge.
She clenched her teeth strongly until they creaked.
I won't acknowledge it. Just this boy, she absolutely couldn't acknowledge his existence——it was nothing as simple as cognate aversion, a searing anger was born deep within her.
"All individuals... Armour Create!"
Driven by rage, she cried out towards the heaven.
The Black Knights who were fighting against Taiga turned back to miasma and wrapped around Aoko.
The miasma covered her torso and limbs before crystallizing, changing into a darkness-coloured armour. Aoko grasped an atrocious scythe with an over one metre blade in one hand and swung it.
Aoko became a ma.s.s of murderous intent and glared at him, Taiga responded her squarely.
"Why... you're the same, even though you are the same as me!!"
"——Come. Cut that out and let's finish this."
"WHY IS IT ONLY YOU STAYING IN THE LIGHTTTTTTTTTTT!!!"
The two kicked off the ground at the same time and clashed with a loud roar.
At about the same time as Taiga and Aoko engaged each other in a deadly battle. In the special structure prepared by Aoko, the 《Prison》, the cyber warfare was about to reach its imminent conclusion.
"Cut it out, how about you give up."
The defence program Aoko prepared——《Angel》 stared at Fuyuki soberly.
Fuyuki didn't answer. No, she couldn't afford to answer would be more correct.
The number of attacks they exchanged reached three digits. A countless number of attack-configured programs has been created. Once she even created a hundred of them at once. And yet, it was all in vain.
Angel looked down at Fuyuki as she exhaled roughly and spoke quietly.
"I've told you earlier, I have no intention of harming you. And yet, why do you continue that despite knowing you can't win? It's hard to understand."
No matter what she does she couldn't surpa.s.s Angel who received the backup of the main server, a smart girl like her should know it.
And yet, she didn't give up.
"...it's because, you showed me, such a video...!"
Fuyuki answered while catching her breath.
What she was shown, was Taiga being cut by numerous Black Knights, as well as him having his left eye pierced with a scythe. After being shown such a thing, there was no way she could stay calm.
"Because of such emotions which last only for a moment you repeat your pointless resistance. Truly pointless."
The Angel laughed and described her resistance as 'foolish'.
"There's a limit to how much one person can do. You can't defeat me, that reality won't change no matter how hard you try, that's the absolute truth."
This single girl who seemed to be stuck in this h.e.l.l until she died.
And after living that silly life, she arrived at a single truth. Her hatred concentrated in these words.
"...are you an idiot?"
Fuyuki discarded it all with a single word.
"People have limits? Nothing will change no matter how hard they try? Even if you say that. That's not a reason to give up is it."
Tenryou Fuyuki understood she was a highly eccentric human being.
The only thing she had was her technical skills in cyber technology. She was bad at sports and exercise, she didn't possess the necessary skills required for everyday life. Also, she was fragile mentally.
She was supported by Taiga and Rui as well as Shio, and became able to live a decent life.
"If it's impossible alone then do it with two people. If it's impossible with two people then do it with three people. When Little Sister was in pain, Brother supported her. That's why, when Brother is in pain his little sister must support him. 'Impossible' or 'it can't be done' has nothing to do with it."
She separated the words with small pauses during which she took small breaths every time.
"Before giving up one has resist with all their strength, That's what Little Sister thinks."
These words as if seeing through it, have pierced Aoko's heart which was dwelling in Angel's chest.
——What do you know about me.
Fuyuki and I are different.
There was someone who reached out to her. Aoko didn't have such a person.
Resist what. You are just blessed, that's all——!!
"——I didn't intend to harm you, but I changed my mind."
Driven by fury it clamped on Fuyuki's neck. In its hand was a red light——a military program which captured the mental structure 《Jail》.
"You'll die here."
There was no hesitation, at this rate 《Jail》 would steal her mental structure and fuel 《Indra》——yes, it was then.
Suddenly, power left Angel's body.
*clank*, it collapsed on its knees. Its body became as heavy as lead for some reason. The 《Jail》 could no longer be maintained and melted away into the air. And it heard the voice of a third party that wasn't (shouldn't be) in there.
〈"Nnn... can it be that we barely made it in time?"〉
〈"Hime-chan, you all right?"〉
"Yes. Nice timing, Rucchan, Shii-chan."
Angel forced its face up and stared at the two girls reflected on the window.
"Saionji Rui, Karasuba Shio... why those girls——no, rather than that, what did you do?!"
Its body was heavy to an impossible extent. This state, it seemed like its processing area wasn't enough to make it move.
That's when it looked towards the huge sphere that was behind the two girls.
"——It can't be."
"Yes it can."
Unlike how it was before, Fuyuki slowly rose up and looked down on Angel.
"You are getting support from the main server. That means your circuits are connected with it. But that also works in reverse and if the load from the server is directed to you, you won't be able to do anything."
What Fuyuki sent to Rui and Shio were coordinates of the main server. And with a plan message 'please access the main server and reverse all vector operations' she instructed them.
Honestly, she didn't know whether they will manage to do it in time——but they splendidly accomplished it.
"Kuh... I've been... by someone like you...!"
"You are an amazing programmer. Were Little Sister to be alone, there would be nothing she could do."
Through Angel, she spoke to the program's author.
Not only did it borrowed computing power from the server, acted autonomously but also had its own will. The current Fuyuki would faster make a handstand before making something like that. But——
"...Little Sister isn't alone. That's the reason for your defeat."
She shot blue crystals towards Angel and disa.s.sembled the program. Within a few seconds Angel disappeared not leaving a single piece behind.
"...you two, I'll head over there right now. Make sure you prepare to move."
Fuyuki looked towards where Angel was for a moment and then after entering the coordinates of the main server she used 《Transition》.
Hit by a shock wave and trembling air, Haya woke up.
The sound of metal crossing again and again pierced through her eardrums, her consciousness slowly became lucid.
"Koho... ha... kua..."
Because of a foreign sensation in her belly she started coughing. Her blurred vision caught a trajectory of white and black objects which yelled. She slowly looked up and saw Taiga and Aoko clash against each other.
It was a clash of two souls.
Both of them unleashed speed which surpa.s.sed the limit and dozens of their attacks crossed. The two blades clashed and an invisible shock wave destroyed everything around them.
With every blow that roared, the world was cracking.
The power of the two rose infinitely. Taiga was drawing strength from within himself, Aoko continued to evolve by absorbing 《Zygotes》.
Neither of them would acknowledge the other——that was the driving force for both of them.
While they traveled the path of sin together, they still longed for the light. They didn't give up, they desperately extended their hands to it.
Tenryo Taiga managed to grasp it. He chose to escape to the person who would accept him.
Asumi Aoko didn't grasp it. She couldn't speak of her suffering to anyone, and sank into the abyss.
If I were to make a choice like that then——they found what was the correct and the incorrect answer, and Aoko felt the road she has walked on was meaningless.
That's why Tenryo Taiga and Asumi Aoko bet everything and fought.
The two forcibly clashed, it was strong enough to blow away each other ten metres away.
Although Taiga wanted to rebuild his posture and run, a fierce pain ran through his whole body making him kneel.
His heart ached, the anchor holding his consciousness was fading.
He went past his limit a long time ago. Taiga moved his broken body forcibly not allowing himself to be defeated.
As he desperately looked up, he saw Aoko crouch and hold her head.
"Haa... haa... aghhh!!"
Even though Aoko boasted of her extraordinary processing power, absorbing hundreds of 《Zygotes》 put an immeasurable load on her. Her thinking circuits would collapse were she to fight any longer.
Even so, the two stood up.
"I, won't lose... I will destroy everything... and end it... I won't lose at a place...like this"
"Give me a break you spoiled kid... to the very end you haven't f.u.c.king done anything at all!"
Taiga roared strongly. In front of him was 'himself who made a mistake'——that's why he couldn't acknowledge her.
"You neither fought it nor escaped, you just let the circ.u.mstances take you away! Scared of changes, scared of being rejected, you shouldered everything alone!"
"With just one phrase 'help me' your life would have been saved! You selfishly plunged yourself into despair because you couldn't say that!"
"You just wanted to be beside someone! You just wanted someone to reach out to you! Both you, and we, would be happy with just thaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAT!!!"
The nodachi and the scythe crossed again.
The cries of heart of the two reached Haya who was lying down.
She muttered the name of her best friend and cursed herself.
———Why am I sleeping in a place like this.
Haya noticed. She knew Asumi Aoko was being troubled by something, she knew Aoko continued to suffer. But despite noticing, she couldn't do anything.
She was scared.
For the girl called Kiritou Haya, Kiritou Kouya was absolute. That's why the girl who was cornered by her father pretended as if she didn't know anything. She did so that she wouldn't get hurt.
...in the end, I was just suiting myself.
Were she to extend a helping hand back then, Aoko might have lived a happy life.
Without going for stupid revenge, she could live her life and leave the world with a smile on her face——such a regret occupied Haya's mind.
I must... go...
After exerting strength with both of her arms she raised her body.
She had to stop her best friend who went down the wrong road.
It couldn't be anyone else, she had to finish that girl's story with her own hands. It was her duty to end that girl's derailed life.
With determination filling her chest, in order to bring down the curtains she started walking towards the battlefield.
How many times have they clashed.
The two didn't know the exact number themselves. The slashes crossed countless number of times and the two continued to be blown away.
They continued to breathe irregularly and somehow stood up.
Both of them were clearly at their limit. They literally put a desperate effort into this fierce battle, they could no longer feel pain nor fatigue.
Without even a need to say it they knew it——next one, was the last.
Neither of them spoke.
The time to talk was over. What they could do, was only to celebrate the end of the battle.
*clank*, a sound of something swaying could be heard.
It was a signal, the white and black flashed at the same time.
The nodachi slashed Aoko's body and the scythe stabbed into Taiga's belly.
As the two went beyond their limits the blades of their weapons broke and rolled on the ground.
After a few seconds of rest.
The one who fell——was Tenryo Taiga.
He lost strength in his body after swinging his sword and plunged forward, he couldn't move any more.
His consciousness seemed to remain. His fingertips moved trying to struggle. However, that was all. Taiga couldn't raise his body.
Seeing the enemy she has defeated Aoko quietly laughed.
"...how unfortunate, isn't it."
Both their attack power and speed were equal. If they were to fight against each other in a perfect state, Taiga would have won thanks to the combat experience he had.
What decided his defeat was the acc.u.mulated damage.
From the very beginning Taiga was fighting by using his own body, different from Aoko who cornered him using her p.a.w.ns.
〈"Mental structure synthesis complete. Logic Bomb 《Indra》 generation sequence process completed."〉
As she looked up into the air an inorganic announcement came, the giant star made out of ten thousand absorbed mental structures shined like a sun. All that was left was to say 'fall' and this world would have been turned into dust.
"With this, it's all ov———............er...?"
She tried to move her finger in order to accomplish her objective that's when. *thud*, something hit her back.
An unpleasant sensation came from her chest and her limbs lost their strength. When she frightfully looked towards it, she saw the blade of the nodachi which was broken off earlier protrude from her left breast.
"...I'm sorry Aoko. I can't let your objective come true."
She muttered the name of her best friend who pierced her from behind, a