Arifureta - Chapter 167
The Respective Conclusions
After Suzu pursued Eri and vanished at the other side of the ruined buildings, Shizuku and Ryutaro held a battle evenly against the attacking sixty corpse beast soldiers while also opposing Kouki.
If Ryutaro who metamorphosed his own flesh and invoked advanced metamorphosis magic 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation' to display a monster's special characteristic approached Kouki, then the soldiers would try to hinder him or possibly take him by surprise, but Shizuku would deal with them.
The swarm of black katana she received from Hajime――'Living Swords' rushed freely around the battlefield, they cooperated like a single living thing and grouped on the soldiers and cut them down.
’’'Group Two - Flash Blossom'! 'Group Five - Flying Claw'!’’
Shizuku's command echoed in the battlefield. Following that command, inside the swarm of twenty katana, four katana cut apart the large shields of the corpse beast soldiers who were possessing defensive type characteristic magic, even space was cut along with them. And then, the ranks of the soldiers became disordered. Four more black katana launched wind blades toward the soldiers who lost their steel shields.
The wind blades soaring invisibly with spectacular timing and mercilessly cut apart two large shield holders. The soldiers didn't get bisected because of their high defensive power, but both their arms were severed from the shoulder and rotated in the air.
’’'Group Three - Draw Sky'! 'Group Four - Flash Blossom'!’’
Furthermore, nimble soldiers were using the shield holder soldiers as stepping stone, jumping in the air to stab Ryutaro in the back, but they were pulled back forcefully by four black katana shining dark blue. The large sword and spear they held in their hand were attached tight *gakin* to the blade of the black katana flying in the air.
The large sword user and spear user who exposed fatal opening were immediately split vertically into two by the space rifts launched behind them. As expected, although they were corpse beast soldiers they would be rendered unable to fight without fail after getting bisected vertically like that.
Even the soldiers with healing type characteristic magic would need time to heal the loss of limbs or from getting bisected. And then, there was no way Shizuku would give them that kind of time so this was the same like removing them from the stage.
The soldiers attempted simultaneous attacks from up, down, left, and right to such Shizuku. Reddish black glints' of eyes stabbed Shizuku, the killing intents rode the wind and caressed her skin.
Yet, a soft mentality that would shrink back against something of that level had already been thrown away by Shizuku. Especially now that at her side she had the swarm of black katana given as protection to her from the man she was in love with.
’’'First Group - Gravity Flash'! Cut apart, 'Soaring Claw - Four Ream'!!’’
Four black katana pointed their tip outward at the four directions around Shizuku and then they orbited around her, the katana even rotated with twirls that looked elegant. The skill that was invoked was a skill that could temporarily cut gravity――'Gravity Flash'.
The result, the approaching soldiers were suddenly released from the chain of gravity and their balance was greatly broken. Not letting such decisive opening escaping, Shizuku's sword-draw slashed. With a speed to the degree where her sword arm looked blurred, four sword-draws were repeated within an instant. Each time bell-like sound *clink* rang, invisible slash made the head of the soldiers flew.
Furthermore, from behind them the black katana that were launched to the surrounding returned with fierce speed, cutting into pieces the headless soldiers without any difficulty.
Shizuku's 'Living Swords' were basically organized into five groups with four katana in each group. By chanting the group name and skill name, she could give the same order to one group. Also, every single one of the twenty katana had their own respective name like 'Slash One, Slash Two', Shizuku could also give an order to individual sword using those names. When Shizuku chanted the name of the technique, each of the Living Swords would attack the enemy with their own judgment using sword art based on Yaegashi-style that wasn't inferior to the skill of Shizuku herself.
Exactly as the name of 'Living Swords', all the black katana could have mutual understanding and image sharing with Shizuku using metamorphosis magic, so all the black katana could be controlled as the display of Shizuku's will without any time lag.
And, at that time, an angry yell reached Shizuku who was evading the fierce assault of the soldiers.
A warning from Ryutaro. Without confirming the content of that warning, Shizuku activated 'Air Force' and 'Ground Shrinker' and evacuated from that spot in one breath.
Right after that, the spot where Shizuku was at just a moment before was shot through by the flash of Heaven Might along with thunderous roar. One soldier who was swallowed in a bad luck was erased not even leaving any dust behind.
’’Kouki. Bastaard, you purposefully overlapped the line of fire. Now you've really done it.’’
’’I'm thoroughly familiar with Ryutaro's movement pattern after all. It's really easy to guide your movement.’’
’’Shut up! If it's about that, then even me also know how you gonna move!’’
Ryutaro rapidly approached Kouki with his ogre flesh. The scene of the huge body that easily passed two-meter scattering shockwave around while advancing had the intensity that could make anyone felt their stomach went cold.
However, on the other hand, Kouki's expression didn't even twitch. And then, without any chanting or gesture, the dragon on his back――the avatar of Heaven Might was controlled and shaped into a shield. Although, because the shield was made from Heaven Might itself, even though it was taking the shape of a shield it was still the light of destruction that contained the property of attack power of annihilation.
’’Come on! 'Folded Vajra'!’’
Ryutaro didn't falter. He crossed both his arms and applied the special trait of the ogre he metamorphosed into, the deployment of multiple 'Vajra'. It was a derivative technique that boasted toughness in the same level with concentrated reinforcement, this 'Vajra' was folded into double and triple layers and formed a protection of steel wall.
Ryutaro who was turned into a single steel mass charged into the shield of Heaven Might without stopping.
And then, even while his 'Folded Vajra' was blown away, he splendidly managed to breakthrough with only some wound.
’’Yes. I thought that if it's Ryutaro he would surely do that.’’
The voice that resounded there was Kouki's calm voice.
The moment Ryutaro charged through the shield, with excellent timing a breath attack approached him. Ryutaro who had just released his 'Vajra' was approached by destructive light where it wouldn't end well for him if it hit even with his tough flesh of ogre.
But, even while being illuminated by the light of Heaven Might, Ryutaro showed a fearless smile. As though to say ’’I thought you are going to do that yeah?’’.
’’Come, wolf king of the abyss, 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation'!’’
Right after that, the breath of Heaven Might swallowed where Ryutaro was.
At the same time, Kouki turned his holy sword to the side and took a defensive stance, there *gakin* hard and powerful impact sound rang.
The tip of a claw was barely stopped in front of Kouki's eyes. The one who unleashed that claw was a bizarre shape with wolf head, furry upper body, and five sharp claws growing. It looked exactly like a werewolf in a fairy tale.
Kouki wordlessly brandished the light dragon to attack. But, when the light dragon's claw swept at where Ryutaro was, Ryutaro had already circled to the opposite side and his roundhouse kick attacked Kouki's shoulder. That abnormal speed blew away Kouki who could only gaze in wonderment.
And, the next moment Ryutaro caught up to the blown away Kouki, his wicked claw swung.
The outrageous speed and offensive power made Kouki raised a groan reflexively. Even so, while repelling the claw with his sword, he commanded the light dragon and let flew countless light bullets. The Heaven Might's light that swept up like gatling gun became a counterattack that assaulted Ryutaro, but Ryutaro evaded all of that while leaving behind afterimages.
Metamorphosis magic 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation'――Mode Werewolf. Compared to the ogre shape the power and endurance of this from dropped, but the speed increased to an incomparable degree.
Ryutaro who slipped through the light bullets rushed into Kouki's bosom and lunged with a slash of sharp claws.
’’Something like this-’’
Instantly, Kouki broke the shape of the light dragon and exploded the light of the Heaven Might. Light swelled up all at once with Kouki as the center. Kouki who turned into a star made Ryutaro unable to endure and withdrew back.
But, his body was quite burned from what he couldn't evade. Ryutaro had immediately crossed both his arms and protected his vital spots, but this model wasn't suited for its endurance. His fur was greatly carbonized and smoked while he was made to take distance.
’’Ryutaro! You okay!?’’
’’Ou, I only got hit a little bit there. Just this much is no biggie.’’
Shizuku who cut apart several soldiers and rushed toward Ryutaro poured down special healing liquid she received from Hajime on Ryutaro's head. This time Ryutaro's body smoked up for a different reason while Ryutaro's wolfish gaze glared at Kouki.
’’Rather than that, as expected that Heaven Might is troublesome. It changes shape too much. I cannot attack him when it matters.’’
’’Then, let's try it with the two of us this time. Thanks to Ryutaro holding back Kouki, I have finished taking care the majority of the soldiers.’’
’’Okay. Suzu is also going all out after all. No way we can say that we cannot win even with two people here.’’
’’Right. We are going to beat up that idiot quickly!’’
Confirming that Kouki changed the shape of Heaven Might into a light dragon once more and fired breath attack to them, Shizuku and Ryutaro dispersed in one breath.
Looking at that, Kouki shook his head once and then burst out with even more magic power, his expression was an expression of determination.
’’I'm getting worried for Eri. I got surprised in various things by the two of you, however, you two has used up your trump card right? I'll end this right now.’’
Kouki simultaneously invoked the mini light dragons, the Heaven Might version of Sky Flying Sword, and the Heaven Might version of Heaven Meteor Rain in the attempt to overrun the two altogether with the battlefield.
The current Kouki was just like a fortress that randomly shot laser cannons. The light of Heaven Might that was formed into various shapes around Kouki thoroughly destroyed the ruined buildings in the area while approaching Ryutaro and Shizuku to envelop them.
But, putting it another way it also could be said that it was a rough attack that lack refinement. For that reason, Ryutaro laughed. Because he had guessed that Kouki who got impatient after witnessing their persistence would surely rely on large technique.
Right now it was the time to show their trump card that was prepared for against Kouki.
’’Come, great tree that pierces the sky-, 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation'-!’’
Amidst the many approaching Heaven Might, the fur of the werewolf fell out, and that body transformed. Everywhere throughout the body turned gnarled, the skin was dyed into blackish brown color, the hair also changed into deep green color. In all that changes, only the eyes were releasing glaring light of reddish black color.
Right after that, Ryutaro was attacked by small light dragons and the meteor shower of Heaven Might. Ryutaro didn't even dodge, he charged toward Kouki while being swallowed into the light.
’’Ryutaro, sleep for a while for me.’’
Kouki was convinced that Ryutaro was defeated and murmured that. Putting aside the ogre shape that was specialized for defense, there was no way for Ryutaro right now who didn't seem to use 'Vajra' to be able to endure that.
But, that thinking was immediately proved to be wrong.
’’Don't screw with me. No way I'm going to sleep before beating you until you wake up.’’
Ryutaro leaped out unhurt from inside the light.
And then, Kouki who was completely taken by surprise and shown opening was punched by the fist of the rapidly approaching Ryutaro. The straight punch that lunged straight stabbed toward Kouki's stomach across the armor. The aim that accurately struck to the solar plexus produced a grand impact that was transmitted toward the inside of Kouki's body without anything spared, whipping up his internal organ.
Kouki knew well about the destructive power of Ryutaro's fist, but still, even with his holy armor and impact mitigation skill, the terrific power that might blow away his consciousness made his mind fell into chaos for a moment. His throat was blocked by the blood he vomited from the unbearable pain.
Metamorphosis magic 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation'――Model Trent. It was a plant type monster that lived at floor ninety of the abyss. Its special trait was to absorb light and converted the light energy that it absorbed. The converted energy could be changed into anything, whether magic power, stamina, or pure muscle power.
Yes, Ryutaro with this trent shape absorbed the light of Heaven Might that was a light element magic, he then converted that into physical strength.
Because the impact didn't disperse and was concentrated at one point when it was let out, Kouki didn't get blown away, his body was lifted up and laid down on the fist. To this Ryutaro laughed fiercely at Kouki.
’’Yoo, are you waking up a little with this, best friend.’’
’’This one is a freebie. Just how long you are going to sleep talking huh!’’
The face of Kouki who couldn't move immediately from the impact was punched by Ryutaro's fist that was like a rock. *Goba-!* Incomprehensible sound rang out from the attack to the face, Kouki scattered around nosebleed while getting blown away.
Even so, his body that was reinforced by Ehito was barely able to keep the connection of his consciousness. He somehow controlled the light dragon that was connected with him and tried to fix his posture.
In a moment, a goosebump suddenly went through Kouki's spine. At the same time, his 'Presence Detection' notified him of the existence of the swordsman lying in wait in the direction where he was blown away.
Naturally, the one who endured the storm of Heaven Might and corpse beast soldiers and circled around was Shizuku. She was standing still in her stance of sword-drawing, while compressing her magic power to an amazing density. Her sheath was creaking loudly as though unable to endure the power, dark blue magic power was overflowing out from the mouth of the sheath.
Kouki desperately attempted to put a brake on himself while calling Shizuku's name with a voice that sounded similar with a groan from the burden in his body.
’’Be obedient and accept it, this one attack.’’
Like that, while her figure vanished with 'No Beat' Shizuku stepped forward while faintly whispering ’’――'Soul Demolition'’’. The flash of sword-draw that was unleashed along with that whisper drew a splendid straight line on the air and bisected Kouki.
The definite sensation of a slash passing through inside his body made Kouki screamed wordlessly while feeling that he was unmistakably cut.
But, he finally escaped from the impact Ryutaro inflicted on him while seeing Shizuku who passed through him and stayed unmoving in slashing posture, and then he managed to stop moving. Kouki's eyes reflexively widened, and then, feeling dumbfounded his hand crawled on his body.
Under his hands there wasn't any sign of cut for even a bit, his body was certainly still connected in one piece safely.
’’Just, what in the world...-, what, my magic power is-’’
For a moment, Kouki was thinking something convenient that the feeling of getting cut was only his imagination and as expected Shizuku was unable to cut him, but right after that, he was made to know that Shizuku's slash had definitely reached him.
The light dragon that Kouki had on his back was split into two with the upper part slipping off diagonally, but it dispersed all at once right after. Not only that, even the meteor swarm of Heaven Might - Heaven Meteor Rain that he launched, also the flying slashes of Heaven Might - Sky Flying Sword, and also the small light dragons that flew around like all-range weapon, they were all dispersed.
In that situation, a feeling of lethargy attacked him like it was only natural. Kouki's body staggered and fell on the ground. Even his flight using the light dragon, also the 'Air Force' from his boot became unable to be maintained.
Even so in order to avoid falling to his death Kouki landed on his knees. Shizuku and Ryutaro landed down in front of him.
’’Shi, zuku, what, did you do...’’
Kouki asked with trembling voice.
’’'Soul Demolition'――the base of this skill is the ability of soul magic that could interfere with the immaterial of the living thing. This skill will search for the source of power in the target. The target's magic power, stamina, mental, those things that eye couldn't see could even be cut with this. Cutting only what you want to cut...the farthest territory that a swordsman should reach, I cheated and progressed until there.’’ (TN: There is the implication that she was asking Hajime's help in accomplishing this.)
Kouki's eyes opened wide at Shizuku's explanation. His expression was dumbfounded as though to say ’’What the hell with that’’.
It was only normal for him to be like that. After all Shizuku didn't affect Kouki's body and only cut apart the magic power overflowing inside the body. Indeed, it could be said that cutting only what one wanted to cut regardless of any obstacle was the swordsman's farthest territory.
Shizuku was being humble saying that she was cheating as a swordsman thanks to the help of the black katana, but in actuality just by invoking 'Soul Demolition' wouldn't so easily let the user choose the target to cut.
After all, it was an act of penetrating every factor of the human body and cut only the target. It would take a really clear image supplementation and above all a tenacious will to accomplish that. A clear will without any hesitation, of cutting only what one wanted to cut while absolutely not wounding anything outside it at all.
It sounded easy to do just by listening to the explanation, but it was actually not as simple as it sounds, it was something impossible if the swordsman wasn't someone at Shizuku's level. At the very least even Kouki who learned the same Yeagashi-style wouldn't be able to use 'Soul Demolition' perfectly.
’’...But, that was a bit of a blunder. I thought that I'm going to sever the curse of 'Bind Soul' with the attack just now, but I couldn't reach it because it was protected by magic power. ...You are still watching a convenient dream right now aren't you?’’
While the swarm of katana was following on her back, with a *cling* sound Shizuku prepared the black katana in her hand once more, seeing that Kouki's expression distorted.
’’Shizu, ku. You couldn't, cut me, because...you are still, thinking of me, in your heart....that feeling, still remained, right? Nagumo's, brainwashing, isn't perfect. ...I cannot, feel your killing intent, is the proof of that.’’
’’It's, fine. Ryutaro also, didn't, try to kill me. I will save the two of you――’’
Kouki's words were halted. Because Shizuku unleashed the 'Soul Demolition' with the drawing out of her black katana. Ryutaro who was crossing his arms on the side while wrinkling up his eyebrows patted Shizuku's shoulder as though to say 'thanks for the hard work'.
Shizuku also sighed 'fuuh' while sheathing her katana back. That was because she was convinced that Eri's 'Bind Soul' was cut. With this, the mind that was filled all over with inconsistencies planted by Eri should be crumbling.
’’Kouki. How do you feel? With this the brainwashing should be released already. What have you been doing until now. What are happening right now...you understand aren't you?’’
’’Well, no matter. Anyway, just reflect on yourself there. Later we gotta chase after Nagumo and others quickly, punch that shitty god, and then help the guys fighting on the surface......we are going back yeah, Kouki.’’
Shizuku and Ryutaro called at Kouki, but there wasn't any reply from Kouki. He kept being down on the ground on all fours without even lifting his face. His expression was hidden by his hair and completely unseen.
Although, even though he was not replying it seemed that he wasn't in silence. The ears of Ryutaro and Shizuku caught the faint sound. A small voice that didn't even form words. Kouki was hanging his head down while whispering inaudibly.
’’――――Lies, impossible. This is strange. Absolutely, wrong. Because I am correct. I was just being brainwashed. For me to be the enemy...to Shizuku...to Ryutaro...what had I done...even though it shouldn't be like this...even though I just want to act righteously...I just want to be a hero...just like Jii-chan...that's, all...why something like this is...everything is stolen...because Shizuku and Kaori too were stolen by that guy...Ryutaro is also that guy's ally...’’
’’O, oi. Kouki!’’
’’That's right...this is a trap. A foul scheme...that guy plotted this...I just got caught in it...I'm not in the wrong. I'm not wrong. This is because that guy stole everything important to me. The wrong one is that guy. If only that guy isn't here then everything will go well. Yet, Kaori and Shizuku and Ryutaro and Suzu too, everyone, to that guy...this is a betrayal. I was betrayed. I was-, betrayed! By all of you!’’
Kouki ignored Shizuku and Ryutaro's calling and kept whispering before he suddenly lifted his face in the blink of eye with a dangerous look, glaring at the two with a gaze filled with hatred.
No, perhaps that expression, should be called as grief instead. The feeling of guilt and remorse, the uneasiness of being unable to return anymore, fretfulness, despair, and so on, the saturation of the negative emotions was attacking himself, even he himself already didn't understand just what should he do, it was that kind of expression. Kouki was in a state of panic.
His appearance, was just like a lost child.
But, the strength that he possessed wasn't that of a child by any means. A scream that was filled with plenty of Kouki's hatred and grief resounded, at the same time his magic power that should have dried up surged out with an unbelievable force. The magic power thunderously twisted in a spiral and pierced the sky.
That radiance, was as if...
’’-, Kouki! Stop it! Your magic power should have dried up already! Doing more than this will affect your life!’’
’’Damn it! What the hell! Why his magic power is overflowing like this! Wasn't it gone already-’’
’’It should have been gone! It was severed together with the line that supplied magic power to Kouki. Even now he isn't absorbing the magic factor at the area to recover!’’
’’Then just why-!’’
’’Something likes that-, because it is gone then he can only take it from another thing! Perhaps, his life force or his soul, he is pulling out magic power forcefully from those kinds of things right now! Sooner or later this won't end well for him!’’
’’F*king shit! Koukii! Come back to your sensees!’’
Yes, as if it was the radiance of Kouki's life.
Shizuku had certainly used 'Soul Demolition' to sever the magic power and the supply line that provided him with infinite magic power inside Kouki. There was no doubt about that. And then, even with 'High-Speed Magic Recovery' that recovered oneself by absorbing magic factor from outside, it was impossible to recover this radically. Actually, even looking at the flow of magic power that Kouki spouted out, they couldn't catch sight of any magic from the surrounding flowing into Kouki at all.
That there was the magic power that shouldn't be there, meant that Kouki was paying some kind of compensation to forcefully bring it from somewhere, such thinking was a valid one. And then, this method that normally was impossible couldn't be expected to be safe or anything. If Kouki was left alone as it was, undoubtedly there would be compensation that Kouki couldn't shut his eyes from.
In front of the storm of magic power that released outrageous light and pressure, Shizuku and Ryutaro braced themselves, they held their arms in front of their face while calling at Kouki. But, Kouki kept being in a frenzied state, his ear didn't listen. With hatred and grief in his expression, it was as though he was trying to destroy the reality before his eyes, no, it was as though he was trying to destroy himself, the radiance of his light was strengthening.
’’...Anything and everything are over. I wonder, why has it become like this. Kaori is there, Shizuku is there, Ryutaro is there, Eri and Suzu are also there, together with everyone, we are overcoming the difficulty...that's how it should be, and yet’’
Kouki's monolog with an expression of crying smile, was resounding extremely clearly.
’’Something like this is not what I wished for. If everything, is lost then...if not a single one cannot be taken back then...then I'd rather everything is gone, with this hand!’’
The ground and building in the area that were hit by the torrent of magic power became dust and got annihilated. Right now, the radiance of magic power became the radiance of Heaven Might. At the same time, that raging light was gradually focusing and forming shape.
’’...Oi, Shizuku. I'll take care of the Heaven Might. I'll leave Kouki to you.’’
’’Are you sane? That Heaven Might is far more dangerous than before you know? You won't be able to absorb it even in trent model. ...You are going to die there.’’
The words that Ryutaro murmured while enduring the tyranny of light with a grim expression, made Shizuku frowned even more. But, in contrast Ryutaro was making a fearless smile on his lips.
’’Heh, I'm not gonna die here. No way I'm gonna get killed by that guy's hand. I cannot die here no matter what, that's why I'm absolutely not gonna die!’’
’’You muscle brain. There is no logic or anything in what you said just now. ...But, fine then. Right now is not the time where logic is needed. Beat up that sulky desperate idiot until he is crying and apologizing okay!’’
Ryutaro leaped forward. With a fierce smile, he clenched his fist hardly like a rock filled with the resolve of bringing back his best friend without fail.
Right after that, along with a scream, a torrent of light――the bombardment of Heaven Might spiraled out from the thrust forward holy sword and violently assaulted the two.
But, Ryutaro didn't falter. Rather ’’BRING IT OOON!’’ he raised a war cry and met the attack from the front. He crossed both his arms and stepped forward while fully displaying the trait of the large tree monster.
Along with a tremendous impact sound, the bombardment of Heaven Might directly hit Ryutaro. But, Ryutaro wasn't annihilated. He wasn't blown away. Like a rock that blocked a raging stream and changed the water flow, like a towering large tree that didn't even twitch against a furious storm, he kept blocking the light of devastation right from the front and advanced a step, and then one more step forward.
Looking at that unshakeable figure, Kouki's eyes opened wide. He was convinced that the Heaven Might that he unleashed right now had the greatest power compared to everything until now. Yet despite so, Ryutaro blocked it from the front. As though to say, that he wouldn't run away from Kouki, as though to say that he wouldn't avert his eyes.
The reddish black glint of eyes of his transformed best friend that pierced him straight from between the torrent of light, made Kouki's leg backed off unconsciously. Those eyes were telling him ’’I'm absolutely, going right there. I'm not gonna let you run away no matter what!’’ more eloquently than anything.
Like that, Kouki who was half dazed from that intense will of his best friend came back to his senses with a 'hah'. When he noticed, he had been approached until there wasn't that much distance remaining between them.
’’Do, don't come! Don't come here! If you, come closer than that, I'm going to kill you for real! Even if it's Ryutaro, I'm really going to kill you!’’
Kouki yelled with an expression that was going to break in tears anytime in derangement. Seeing the figure of Ryutaro who had approached near him until the distance where he could even see his face, Kouki's heart became even more disturbed.
Yes, Ryutaro was already wounded all over his body. No matter how great the trait of light-absorbing the trent model had, there was this thing called limit, in actuality, the light of destruction that couldn't be dealt by the trent's trait was making both his arms torn all over, everywhere in his body had blood spurting out.
But, nonetheless Ryutaro was still smiling fearlessly. And then, he advanced, one more step.
’’A, a, aaAAAAAAAAAH!’’
Kouki screamed. Even himself already didn't understand just what he was doing. He was merely repeating 'it shouldn't be like this' in his heart while wielding his strength to deny the reality before his eyes.
The mass of Heaven Might that was completely formed was a giant that could even come out in legend. The giant of light held its large arm aloft, and clenched its fist. And then, light exploded with Kouki's scream as the nourishment, like that the fist swung downward toward Ryutaro below like a star.
A thunderous sound resounded. The ground was bursting open with the place where Ryutaro was at as the center, everything was swept away in a radial shape.
Kouki moaned. While being in a daze he was convinced in the corner of his mind. Right now, he had killed his best friend with his own hand. Kouki's heart was creaking. His eyes lost focus, meaningless thought was running around in his head.
Like that, Kouki's mind was almost breaking down, at that time,
’’Yoo, best friend. What, a shitty pathetic face, you are making there.’’
The dust was blown away.
There Ryutaro was standing. He was alive. Not only that, while grinning fiercely, he was stopping the crushing blow of the giant with both his arms lifted up. His body that was like a gnarled blackish brown tree had cracks running everywhere on it, blood was spurting out from all over his tattered body, yet the strength residing in those eyes wasn't weakening even for a bit.
’’Ryu, Ryutaro? Su, such thing, why, this should be impossible to bloc...’’
’’Stupid...idiot. A fist, like this...without any spirit in it...is not gonna work on me. ...Hey, Kouki. You...just cannot kill me. Do you...understand why huh?’’
’’See. That's because, the current me...is invincible. Since the time I decided-, that I'm gonna bring back my stupid idiot best friend-...I am invincible-. That's why-, you...won't be able to kill me-. Until I bring you back-...I'm absolutely...not gonna get killed or anything ’’
’’u, a...wh, why are you, going that far...’’
The heroic words and figure of his best friend caused Kouki's voice to be caught up in his throat.
Facing such Kouki, Ryutaro smiled broadly with wounds all over his body and formed his words.
’’Something like that, is obvious, right? If your friend went the wrong path...punching, and stopping him...is a best friend's...role ain't it.’’
’’Because, a best, friend...’’
’’Ou. ...But, well, for this time, that role, I'll leave it to her. It's pathetic but, my fist...doesn't look like...it will reach.’’
Hearing Ryutaro's words, Kouki was taken aback for a moment. Ahead of his gaze, under the giant's crushing blow that Ryutaro blocked, a black shadow was rushing through. With her trademark ponytail fluttering, and a dignified gaze that was looking straight at him, it was the girl who was his childhood friend.
The invisible slash cut apart the magic power inside Kouki once more.
The giant of Heaven Might split into two and the upper part slipped off diagonally while dispersing. Underneath it, Ryutaro collapsed with all his strength used up. Before Kouki's eyes were a figure standing still in a stance of drawn blade staring at him with a gaze that looked likes obsidian stone. While all of those were reflected in his sight, Kouki was falling backward from the slash's impact.
And then, Kouki who saw how the intent to attack didn't disappear from Shizuku's gaze even after she swung her black katana, ’’Aa, so this is my retribution...’’ with a strangely calm feeling he prepared to accept the blade of his childhood friend.
But, there a voice resounded. A familiar dignified voice.
’’Grit your teeth-! You big idiot-!’’
*Dogo-!* With a dull loud sound, a severe impact was transmitted on Kouki's cheek. The force that echoed until the core of his head blown away his consciousness for a moment. His sight that immediately returned after that was also flickering black and white. Strength naturally left his arms and legs from a cerebral concussion.
The sky was visible in his distorted sight. Kouki was vaguely understanding that he had fallen down.
Right after that, the following impact came from his opposite cheek. His head was snapped with a force that might tear off his neck. Just when he thought that, the next moment his head was snapped to the other side again along with an impact. And then further impact, impact, impact...Kouki's head was blurring left and right in high speed like a broken toys.
’’This one is for all the trouble you caused for me! This one is for all the troublesome things you pushed on me! This one is for wasting the follow-up I did for you! This one is for not seriously listening to my scolding! This one is for various other things but anyway this if for me! This one is also for this and for that and for there and also for me!’’
’’Buh! Beh! Boh! Bah! Goh! Hih! Gih! Gee! Oboh! Abeshih! Buberah!?’’
'ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA-!!' With a force that made anyone looking at this scene would feel like hearing that, Shizuku was earnestly talking about her share of retribution while doing not a double slap but already double punch on Kouki's face. The white object glittering in the air was surely Kouki's tooth.
’’Shi, Shizu-, wa-――’’
’’I won't wait I won't stop punching until you are crying and apologizing! My store of patience already has run out completely here, no more playing around! How long you are going to throw tantrum! Because everything is not going how you want it you get sulky and want to break everything! You pushed that tantrum to your surrounding! This shitty brat-. I'm not going to listen to whatever you say anymore! I'll teach this idiot that cannot be talked with using a beating! Prepare yourself!’’
Shizuku's angry yell echoed in the war site of the ruined city. She was straddling Kouki who was lying down facing up and mercilessly punching repeatedly with her left and right fists.
’’Shi, Shizu-, gahah’’
’’It shouldn't be like this? That's obvious! There is nobody who is living with everything going their way! Everyone, they gritted their teeth, held their head, they will say 'even so-' and then they did their best still! Running away from the reality in front your eyes, without even trying to fight, there is no way you can obtain the future you wished for like that! You, in the end, you are just a spoiled brat-. You averted your eyes from anything inconvenient, you are only wracking your head for excuses, and if that's still not enough then you will think that's because of other people's fault...’’
Before he knew it, the fists of Shizuku lost their momentum, in exchange they grasped up the collar of Kouki strongly.
’’Anything and everything is over you said? Don't screw with me-. If you think you can just end it all by yourself then that's a big mistake. You think I'm going to let you die easily like that-. If you are not going to understand no matter how many times I said it, then I'll make you understand forcibly. Even if I have to tie your neck with a rope, I'll drag you back. After that, every time you do stupid thing I'll beat you up!’’
'If you still feel like making impertinent talk then I'm going to hit you until you cannot talk', the eyes that were glinting right before he were telling him that. Blood was already leaking from Kouki's mouth and nose, his face bloated up looking like a goblin, Kouki who was turned into such a horrible state opened his mouth with a voice that sounded like a groan.
’’Di, didn't you, choose Nagumo...’’
’’That's right. The one who I like is Hajime. It's not you. So what?’’
’’...Why...aren't you giving up...on someone like me...even though I did horrible things...why...’’
Even though she should have chosen Hajime, even though he had troubled a lot of people, even though he had done horrible thing to his important best friend and childhood friend, yet why didn't they abandon him, to Kouki who stared at her unable to hide that bafflement, expression of rage finally vanished from Shizuku's face and a troubled smile appeared.
’’Isn't that obvious. Because you are my childhood friend. We have been together all this time since childhood, for me you are the same as an important family, that's why. Family, absolutely will not forsake family. Well, though I want to be spared from having a bothersome little brother like this.’’
She couldn't abandon him because he was like an important family. No matter what stupidity he perpetrated, he wasn't abandoned, that was why they were family. Like that, inside Kouki who was told that along with a smile, something fell with a thump.
For the sake of the world, for the sake of the people whose face he didn't know, because he was a hero, because he had to be righteous, all the things that he was fixated with until now suddenly looked small.
Only, because they were family, because they were best friend, they said that and they acquired strength incomparable from before, they came pursuing him until a dangerous place like this Holy Precincts despite him being the betrayer, even though they might die they just laughed and stopped him from running wild.
...Even though those should be an insignificant reason, just why they felt so big to him. Why, did they felt so powerful.
Tears were falling from Kouki's eyes in large drops. His pathetic self that he finally became aware of from the bottom of his heart, and the childhood friends who still reached out their hand staking their life until the end even for someone the worst like that, caused an emotion that was indescribable and soppy, yet by no means it felt unpleasant welling up inside himself.
’’So, rry. ...Really, I'm sorry...I, something like this...aa, I, what have I...’’
’’You are crying while apologizing huh. This big idiot.’’
After an indescribable feeling toward his childhood friends, a tremendous feeling of guilt and remorse welled up next. For Kouki who was fixated with the right thing until now, what he had done was the lowest and the worst deed. To the degree that he thought that he should repent for that with death.
But, that thinking was something that would make the act of his childhood friends who staked their life into something worthless, and then, in the end that thought was,
’’Don't you run, Kouki. Live, fight. We won't forgive any path other than that.’’
Death was just an escape. Even if it was hard, even if he lost his place to belong, even if he was cursed and disparaged by anyone, he had to keep living. That was exactly his atonement, a fight that Kouki had to do. In place of all his wretched escape until now, he had to continue to live and fight from now on.
Kouki cried while biting his lip at the straight gaze of his childhood friend. As though the feeling of his childhood friends was carved in his soul. As though he was determined to part with the him before this.
’’...Shizu, ku. I...must not die. I'll live, this time for sure, I have to fight. Not against anybody else, but against myself.’’
’’Yes, that's right. That's why, cry now, after that stand-up and do your best. If you are mistaken, then I'll beat you up until you cry once more.’’
Listening to what Shizuku said, Kouki showed a complicated expression that seemed vexed and pathetic, but also a bit happy where he couldn't say anything. And then, he directed red eyes at Shizuku who let go of his collar and moved aside from above him. Those eyes had clear color as though evil spirit had left him.
’’...There is, no need for that. Because, I'll change. I swear I'll change. To the degree that a childhood friend the same age as me cannot treat me like a 'little brother'.’’
’’Is that so? Well, even if you become like that, I won't treat you as a man you know?’’
’’Uu-, don't put up defensive perimeter like that. ...Is that how much you like Nagumo?’’
’’Yes, I love him. I am deeply in love with him. It's vexing that I cannot monopolize him, but I'll even share him peacefully. About the hardships of that side, if it's him then he will easily shoulder it.’’
’’Don't speak fondly of another man in front of your beaten up little brother like that...’’
Kouki smiled wryly. There were plenty of frustration filled in that gaze, but he didn't look disturbed from jealousy. Because in his heart he had an understanding. Just what attracted Shizuku to Hajime. That something was exactly the difference between him and Hajime, possibly even the difference between him with Shizuku and Ryutaro, it was the reason for his defeat, he finally understood that.
’’...You two, are you two forgetting me?’’
While Kouki was feeling frustration and self-reproach of his childishness until now and resolved to change for his atonement, Ryutaro had crawled and approached their spot before letting out a voice of displeasure.
’’My, Ryutaro. You really can move even with that tattered state aren't you?’’
’’Because I already drank Nagumo's Yunke- special recovery drink just now. I barely can move.’’ (TN: Yunkeru Royal C, a drink in Japan.)
Kouki directed his gaze at Ryutaro who was answering while waving around a test tube container. He looked straight at his best friend who was wounded all over because of his fault, at the man who continued to call him 'best friend' through and through.
He mustn't lower his head. If he lowered his head, he would take off his gaze from Ryutaro. Because he had decided, that he wouldn't avert his eyes from any truth, any reality, for the second time.
Ryutaro who received that gaze of Kouki returned a calm gaze after a little pause. And then a beat later, he smiled broadly and only said a word,
As though to say that excessive word was unneeded, he replied with just that. The answer that was just like Ryutaro made Kouki smiled a bit. Between the two of them, just that word was enough.
But, at that time, a voice suddenly resounded.
’’What, is this...’’
Shizuku came back to her senses with a 'hah' and quickly turned aside with the black katana in hand. Ryutaro also tried to ready himself somehow, but his damage was too deep, on top of that his 'Sixth Heaven's Demon Transformation' was also already released, so he couldn't stand up.
And then, Kouki who was in the same state that couldn't stand up called the name of that voice's owner.
With wounds all over her body, Eri was floating in the air with her flickering gray wings flapping. She was staring at Kouki and others in a daze.
Suzu also came in pursuit from behind. Shizuku averted her gaze from Eri for an instant and met Suzu's eyes. They were happy for each other that they were all safe, and then, the next moment they stared at Eri with an expression that was pregnant with tension.
Eri didn't even notice Suzu, she was letting out a cracked voice.
’’Heey, why, is the atmosphere is warm like this? Heey, Kouki-kun. These guys are the enemy you know? They followed the hateful, hateful enemy that stole every single one of Kouki-kun's important things, they are betrayers you know? Why are you talking with them peacefully I wonder? Why I wonder? Heey, why?’’
While tilting her head bobbingly like a broken toy, Eri talked with an empty gaze and unfocused eyes. Her four limbs were smashed and twisted into the wrong direction, so she looked like a marionette that was created with bad craftsmanship.
’’Eri...I'm sorry. I already, cannot fight against Shizuku, or Ryutaro, or Suzu. All this time I have been mistaking the enemy that I should fight.’’
’’...What's with that?’’
Eri's head tilted to the side and stayed still unmoving. The angle of her head made them hallucinated that the bone of her neck had broke. Eri gazed at empty air and opened her mouth with madness riding her voice.
’’What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that? What's with that?’’
’’E, Eri, listen to me-. I, I am a stupid idiot that don't understand anything, but right now there is one thing that I do understand, that surely I hurt Eri. That's why, perhaps you think that it's too late right now but-, just one more time, let's talk-’’
Eri repeated the same words like a broken record. Kouki who reflexively called at her one more time made Eri's eyes that stared at empty air to catch sight of Kouki in a snap. And then, she stared at him for a while with an expressionless face like a noh mask.
The air was strained tightly whether one wanted it or not. Kouki didn't avert his eyes. His words were clumsy, inside his heart he didn't understand anything at all, he didn't understand about what he should do and everything didn't go well even for himself, but even so he thought that he had to look at Eri properly.
But, that straight gaze looking at her desperately seemed to have the opposite effect that made something inside Eri couldn't accept it.
Strength suddenly left Eri's body. And then, she made a sweet smile that looked the most human from everything until now. That was a mysterious smiling face, where resignation and scorn, cynicism and exasperation were mixed...
Like that, a single word, her last word resounded in this world.
Kouki tried to ask back.
But, before he could let out any word, intense light surged out from Eri's chest.
’’Tha, that's-, Eri, you-――’’
Shizuku who saw through what was the source of the light raised her voice in shock.
That thing which emitted intense light from Eri's chest. Once, when Kouki and others were cornered in Orcus Great Labyrinth, in order to save them Melt Logins tried to use that magic tool for self-explosion――'The Last Loyalty'.
But, the light that Eri emitted was incomparable with that time. It was obviously letting out strengthened power. It was obvious that it was hiding a power of artifact class. Most likely it was 'The Last Loyalty' that she stole from among the leader class knights that she turned into corpse beast soldier, then she reinforced it with some kind of method into artifact class.
Its destructive power was unfathomable. And then, the activation speed was also incomparable with the original 'Last Loyalty'.
Shizuku's words were cut off. Because an explosion that erased even the sound trampled the area along with the light.
The torrent of light dyed everything white. A silence that made anyone hallucinated whether the world had vanished was violating everyone.
Shizuku, Kouki, Ryutaro, they all immediately covered their face with their hands. And then, by lifting their hands like that, they noticed that they were able to recognize that the world was dyed with white and silence. At the same time, they saw a shadow that stretched long toward them.
That was the shadow of the protector they could rely on. The barrier master who had protected her comrades many times over until now. The girl was standing in the way of the torrent of light without taking even a step back, two iron fans readied like a shield. There was also the shadow of Inaba clinging to that back as though supporting her.
No voice could reach. But, Shizuku, Kouki, and also Ryutaro prayed wholeheartedly. Because they could do nothing else except that, they prayed that at least their pray would reach, becoming her strength.
Suzu felt like nodding a little.
Before long, even her figure was buried in light and became not visible.
Suzu was in a mysterious space.
Right after she nodded feeling as though she was hearing the voice of Shizuku and others, when she noticed she was already in this white space. There was no light or impact in this really deep space.
In such mysterious place, there was only one person other than Suzu.
The two of them faced each other with a certain distance between them. They stared at each other for a while wordlessly. The one who opened her mouth first was Eri.
’’What a strange place. Is this a revolving lantern one see before death...a bit different I guess. Or a near death experience...I died already though so I guess that's really not it.’’
’’Then, Suzu has died too perhaps. Suzu thought Suzu managed to defend to the end however.’’
’’Who knows? If possible I want to take you all along with me though.’’
’’Suzu want to live. Suzu also wants Shizuku, and Kouki-kun too, also Ryutaro-kun to live too...Suzu also wants Eri to live.’’
Suzu's words made Eri snorted as if she making fun of her.
’’Hmph. After sending me flying mercilessly like that, you can still say that so shamelessly.’’
Eri became plainly displeased looking at Suzu who was smiling wryly. And then, without even hiding that displeasure she further opened her mouth.
’’I somehow feel that we won't be in this world for long, that's why I'll say this right now. Suzu is seriously gross.’’
’’...Hee. For example?’’
’’Let's see. Like when you always laughed foolishly. Or even when you were talked behind your back, you still laughed as expected. Or how your inside is a perverted old man. How you said disgusting thing like wanting to become a friend even when in the middle of killing each other. It won't end if I keep showing other examples, but the grossest thing is, how even when you are already in this age, you are still calling yourself with your own name. No, really, you are impossible aren't youu’’
Suzu's forehead was twitching with her vein visibly rising to the surface. And then, still smiling she counterattacked.
’’Suzu seeee. But, Eri is also mostly disgusting aren't you?’’
’’You always had a friendly smile while standing behind. Even when you were talked behind your back you only smiled as expected. Your inside is just someone dour. You wear glasses and act reserved like a library committee member, you tried too hard fitting in with that cliché. Also, Suzu doesn't want you saying anything about how Suzu called herself. Just what with your 'boku'. Seeing a glasses girl getting too worked up calling herself 'boku' like a library committee member is just painful. Furthermore, [I am the heroine] you said. Pupu-, you need to graduate from being a chuuni.’’ (TN: Chuunibyou=Sickness of the youth where they kept mass producing black history. They were convinced that they were a character of fantasy story.)
Eri's forehead was twitching with her vein visibly rising to the surface. And then, still smiling she counterattacked.
’’Chuuni? I don't want to be called that by a painful girl who said something like [Onee-samaa] in real world seeee. Geez Suzu, you have an inclination for yuri aren't you. I have felt the danger to my body several times before. What an impossible pervert. Really gross.’’
’’Ahaha, something like that is still in the range of joking, right? I don't want to be treated as a pervert by a misunderstanding female who got hung on her first love and rushed full speed to the hill seee. Seeing that is really impossibly painful you know. Really gross.’’
’’ ’’AAaa?’’ ’’
Both of them were slinging violence of words at each other with a thuggish expression that didn't look like high school girl beauty. After that for a little while abusive language that would make anyone wanted to cover their eyes flew back and forth between the two.
Like that, perhaps unable to continue to breath the two of them were going ’’Haa haa’’ with their shoulders heaving, around that time the white space suddenly began to crack.
’’Hmph, looks like this world is finally ending.’’
Suzu couldn't reply to Eri who was making a refreshed expression. With her hands on her knees she was facing down while hiding her face. But, she couldn't hide the things that trickled down on the ground.
’’...What, you are crying? Stupid.’’
’’Sh, shut up, already. The one who said, idiot, is the idiotic one...’’
Suzu held back her sobbing while roughly wiping the overflowing drops. Guessing that the true parting was approaching, she was unable to hold down the something that was welling up in her heart.
’’...I said something like that just now but, perhaps, Suzu and others haven't died yet. The one who is going is me(boku)...just me(watashi).’’ (TN: Eri suddenly changed the way she called herself there.)
The way she called herself that suddenly changed, no, returned to normal made Suzu lifted her still crying face. Ahead of her gaze, Eri who was still averting her face was making an expression that was deliberately displeased.
’’Suzu also understand somehow right? Despite so why are you crying like that.’’
’’...Really what an idiot. Just what are you feeling regretful for, for this kind of betrayer, this worst woman trash.’’
The white world was noticeably dispersing from the edge.
’’At this late you were saying 'want to be together' or 'protect', I thought whether you were actually aiming for that.’’
’’Eri, Suzu is...’’
’’Come on, that's disgusting so change the way you call yourself.’’
A collapse separated the two. Almost everything had been mostly dispersed other than the foothold of the two. Amidst that, Eri's words that sounded like a monolog resounded.
’’...At that time, if the one that I met on that bridge was Suzu...what would happen I wonder? For me to think of sooomething like that, yep, I'm the biggest idiot.’’
’’Eri, Suzu is――I, am glad to be Eri's best friend! Even if that was faked, even if it was distorted, it was fun! I-’’
The foothold dispersed. The body of the two was also turning into sand and vanished as though blown away by the wind.
Eri who was facing aside turned her face toward the yelling Suzu. Her expression looked expressionless, but somewhere it also seemed to be filled with a relieved atmosphere.
And then, the true last words of the girl named Nakamura Eri reached only the girl named Taniguchi Suzu who was once her best friend, who by some chance, might even still her best friend even now.
’’...Bye bye. The time when I was with Suzu, I felt at ease, just for a little.’’
Suzu's yell was swallowed by the vanishing world and didn't become sound.
Even so, from the expression that Eri showed Suzu in the last moment, she believed, that surely she had reached her.
*drip, drip* Such feeling caressed her cheeks.
Other than what was behind Suzu, everything was turned into dust in this ruined city. There a sobbing reverberated.
The twin iron fans that Suzu held with both her hands crumbled in pieces as though to say they had finished their role and fell on the ground. Suzu herself also sat down on the ground with a body full of wounds, but Shizuku and others who were completely protected behind her didn't call at her worriedly.
Shizuku and others didn't know about the mysterious phenomenon that Suzu experienced. Even so, they were able to guess that the tears that Suzu let out were her feeling for her important friend. That was how pained and how sacred her figure looked.
Before long, as though to say that she had cried enough, Suzu wiped her eyes briskly, and then with those bright red and clear eyes, she clenched her body and stood up. And then, she turned toward Shizuku and others with an energetic turn.
’’Now, Shizuku, Kouki-kun, Ryutaro-kun. Let's advance ahead!’’
An innocent smile. Just like how it usually was. That smile which protected her comrades in a different meaning than a barrier, right now it looked a bit like an adult. Compared to when they were in Japan, compared to when she cheered up everyone in the labyrinth, it looked far more charming.
The source of liveliness that was overwhelmingly effective made Shizuku and others to naturally slacken down their cheeks. Though it was only Kouki who was making a complicated expression.
Has something happened, he didn't ask that. Because surely that was something that was stored inside Suzu's heart inside even her treasure box. To forcefully ask her would be a boorish act.
’’Yossha! Let's chase after those guys and help them with this and that!’’
’’Even if you said that, I and Ryutaro cannot move properly though...’’
’’Besides, the clock tower was also destroyed you know? It doesn't look like there is other entrance that can connect the spaces.’’
Shizuku turned her gaze at the place where the clock tower was at. Over there, she couldn't find the ripple that connected the space.
’’Aa, now that you mentioned it, the ruined city of this space is not only in this place, I heard that story before.’’
’’Then, let's search for another city! The skyboards are quite ragged, but I think if we use every trick in the book then they can still be used for a while. We surely can find another city if it's from the sky!’’
’’I guess there is that. Anyway, Kouki and Ryutaro, you two have to recover quickly. I'll make you two drink restorative medicines until your stomachs are bloating like a balloon.’’
Kouki and Ryutaro looked at the recovery drinks lined up before their eyes with reluctant eyes, even so they poured them down their throat somehow and their body was healed with the combination of their own recovery strength.
Like that after resting for a while, they took out their skyboards and flew to the sky. Kouki was riding together with Ryutaro on his skyboard.
Suzu who soared high to the sky in the lead twirled to turn behind and looked down on the ruined city below with a bit lonely expression. However, that too was only for an instant. She immediately made a strong and lively smile and raised her voice.
’’Now, everyone, continue after me!’’
’’Haha-, this is the Suzu that we know.’’
’’We are no match for Suzu huh.’’
Like that Suzu, Shizuku, Ryutaro, and Kouki, the four of them in order to chase after Hajime and others they searched for other ruined city and soared in the sky of another world.