Arifureta - Chapter 94
Once Again, I Remember
Hajime and Kaori looked up at the sailing ships. Even on Earth, early sailing ships couldn't match the gigantic scale of this one.
No less than 300 meters in length, and as large as a ten story building, it was only being partly visible from the ground. All along their hull magnificent decorations were mounted. Although rotted, they still gave off a strong impression that made you want to admire them. On their wooden ship, Hajime, who also specialized in manufacturing the same decorations, was grudgingly impressed with the extent they had detailed their ships, and couldn't help but admire the time and effort the artisans put into creating them.
While hugging Kaori, Hajime jumped up using ’’Void Grip’’ and landed on the Terrace at the top of the Luxury liner. Then, sure enough, the surrounding space began to distort.
’’Again?... Kaori stay alert. Something is bound to happen.’’
’’Un. It looks fine to me.’’
Hajime felt that Kaori's laidback response wasn't suitable for someone still in the middle of challenging a Great Dungeon. It had become clear for a while now that Kaori's tension had dropped sharply. Even though she was still putting on a smile, Hajime could tell that it was different from all her usual ones. He was sure she wasn't doing it on purpose, but her new distracted attitude wasn't good for their current situation. She should at least hold it in check until the exploration of 【Meljeene Deep Sea Ruins】was done, Hajime thought while sharply scratching his cheek.
Hajime took a quick survey of their altered environment, this time it seems they were on top of a luxury liner sailing out at sea.
Presently it's night time, with the full moon shining in the heavens. The luxury liner is shining with light sparkles, and on the deck there are various arrangements buffet-type style cuisines lined up with many people who were chatting about while having delicious-looking food in one hand. Presently it was night time, with a full moon glowing in the heavens. The luxury liner shone with sparkling lights, and on the deck were various arrangements of buffet-style cuisine lined up with a crowd of people chatting together while holding delicious-looking food in one hand.
’’This is a party...isn't it?’’
’’Haa, it sure is dazzling. Did we misunderstand Meljeene's concept?’’
Hajime and Kaori were standing upon a raised terrace, probably an area reserved for the crew, while looking down on the enormous deck and trying to get their heads around the difference between this cheerful party and the ghastly sight they had witnessed last time.
Then, just as they decided to take a brief rest, the door behind them opened and several chatting sailors walked out. Rather than risk losing this chance while they took a rest, they decided to mix in with the sailors and listen to their conversation.
From listening to the sailor's stories they learned that this maritime party was apparently being held in celebration of the end of the war. The war that had continued for so many years, rather than ending through invasion and annihilation, had been resolved by signing a peace treaty. The sailors seemed happy, and if they looked closely they were able to see that not only were there humans on the deck but also devils and demi-humans. Without distinction for race, everyone was freely chatting among themselves.
’’There was an age such as this, wasn't there?’’
’’It certainly was a great achievement for all those people to give so much effort to end the war. Although I'm not sure how many years have passed since the end of the war, surely not all of the ill feelings have faded, yet they are still able to laugh so freely...’’
’’Surely the people down there must be similar to those who tried their best to end the war. Everyone is different, seeing this doesn't necessarily mean that everyone is able to laugh together so soon.’’
Getting caught up in the atmosphere and bright expressions of the people, Hajime and Kaori also naturally loosened up. After a while they saw an elderly man climbing up onto a stage prepared on the deck. There was a sense of respect in the eyes of the people below as they noticed him on stage and abruptly stopped chatting to focus on him.
There was another man who appeared to be an aide standing near the elderly man, but for some reason he was wearing a hood and trying to blend in with the background. Given the occasion, Hajime thought that his appearance was a bit rude... however it didn't look like anyone else was concerned about the hooded man.
Eventually, when all the chatter had subsided, the elderly man began his speech.
’’Gentlemen, those who wished for peace, the brave souls who ran through the war risking their lives, are the messengers of peace. Today, at this place, I truly feel that it's a great fortune for all of us to be able to meet here together. It was a war that begun a long time, even for my generation, yet we were able to stand together in peace after bringing an end to the war. To see such a dream come true... my heart still trembles.’’
Everyone was listening in silence as the old man spoke. As the speech continued, events such as doubt, crossing paths and incidents became stepping stones towards peace. He spoke of those who were often reckless in their attempts to overturn this, and the friends who scattered during the middle... as the speech progressed everyone eyes begun to look far away, yearning for their missed ones and suppressing moisture from the corners of their eyes, enduring the urge to let their tears flow.
It would seem the old man is the king of the Humans. Among the humans, even at the early stages of the war, it seemed as there was a movement behind the scenes for peace. The people now nod to show their respect.
Finally it seemed as though the speech ended. The king still seems quite worked up after his speech, the atmosphere on the deck is also still quite worked up. However Hajime is attacked by a bad premonition. Something feels off, he has seen the expression the king is wearing somewhere before.
’’-and thus, one year has passed since the signing of the peace treaty ........ It was all so foolish.’’
At the words of the King, for a moment the crowd appeared puzzled, Hajime thought he had misheard him. Everyone was looking at each other in confusion. In the meantime the King's heated speech continued.
’’Yes, it truly was foolish. To see both the beasts and the heretics talking about the future and exchanging drinks, it was ridiculous. Do you understand, gentlemen? That's right, I am talking about you.’’
’’What on earth are you saying Aleist?! Hell, what's wrong with sayin- gaah!?’’
With the sudden change of King Aleist, one of the devils who was agitated stood up before him. Then, as he tried to question King Aleist.... the sudden result was a sword growing from his chest.
The demon tribe man who was stabbed, looked back over his shoulder to see the startled expressions of the human tribe. By looking at their faces you could tell they were all honestly surprised. With a final expression of disbelief, the man of the Demon tribe collapsed.
Screams arose and the entire deck fell into an uproar. ’’Your Majesty!’’, cried several men and women as they rushed to the collapsed body of the Demon tribe man.
’’Well gentlemen, as I stated originally, I am truly happy to bring everyone together tonight. We will create a country free from the races that were abandoned by god, where all can be equal.
From the Genesis there was only one god, 'Ehito-sama'. Those who turned their backs on him, foolishly worshiping a false god, such pagans mustn't be allowed to leave! It will end today! The only path to peace is through destroying all the heathens! Therefore, this day, as we sweep away the leaders of the non-believers, I cannot help but rejoice! Now, servants of God, pass judgement on these heathens with the hammer of justice! Aah! Ehito-sama, please watch over our work!’’
King Aleist's laughter echoed loudly as he fell onto his knees and gazed up towards the heavens. At the same time he signaled soldiers, who had been dressed as sailors, to completely surrounded the party on the deck.
The deck is positioned in the middle of the ship, sandwiched between a gigantic mast and the main structure, 10 floors high running from front to back. If you look, the soldiers are occupying the scaffolding on the terrace and mast, arranged so that they can focus on the targets below them. Out at sea there is nowhere they can escape to, the geographical advantage is entirely on the soldier's side. Hajime would've been aware of this already, but the countries leader's expressions of despair showed they were only just realising it now.
In an instant, all the magic was finally released and bombarded the deck. Although the passengers fought back desperately, they were at a disadvantage... it was a one-sided massacre as those who resisted were slaughtered.
Those who ran fled towards the inside of the ship, however most of them were killed as they ran. The deck had been completely changed into a sea of blood in only an instant.
Kaori covered her mouth with one of her hands to suppress the nausea as she leant on the railing. The sight was so horrific that it was no wonder Hajime reached out and offered Kaori his support.
It appears King Aleist felt like hunting as he soon joined his subordinates in pursuing the remnants who had fled into the ship.
The hooded man followed the king into the ship. Just before he stepped inside he turned and looked back at the deck. In that instant a tuft of silver hair escaped from the fringe of his hood and shone brightly in the reflected moonlight. His hidden eyes met theirs and for a moment Hajime's thought they had been seen.
The surroundings distorted, apparently the dungeon only want to show them that previous scene, Hajime and Kaori were soon back to on top of the derelict luxury liner.
’’Kaori, rest for a little bit.’’
’’No, I'm fine. Although it was somewhat intense... but I wonder if that was really the end of that trial... we didn't even do anything.’’
’’I think this ship graveyard is its ending point. Although we could've explored the sea beyond the barrier... if you think about it normally, people who wanted to proceed out into the depths of the sea would need to use the ship. Perhaps witnessing that scene was itself the purpose of the vision. To burn the gruesomeness of the gods work into your memory so you would feel compelled to explore this ship as a result. It's a pretty nasty idea, especially for the people from this world.’’
The people of this world, though few of them would make it here, are expected to have faith in the gods. To show them such a gruesome result of their faith... it would surely torture a gentle spirit, and this Labyrinth's vital point for exploration is the power of magic which heavily relies on one's mental state. In that sense, it was the reverse of Raisen Great Labyrinth. It was only because Hajime came from another world that the results of this mental pressure was of such a small degree.
Hajime and Kaori both looked over the deck with an expression indicating their reluctant remembrance of the ghastly massacre that had occurred here. However in Hajime's case, his face looked more like he was remembering a bad sports foul.
Having made their resolve, the two of them jump down onto the deck and set foot near the door that King Aleist once entered who knows how long ago.
The inside of the ship was completely enclosed in darkness. Since the outside was bright, it wouldn't have been strange for light to shine in through crevices in the rotted wood, but for some reason there was no light at all. In order to push forward into the darkness Hajime took a light out from his 'Treasure box'.
’’That sight earlier... Even though the war was already over... I wonder, did king really betray them...?’’
’’That's what it looked like... However, wasn't it a little bit strange? When he stood up on stage those people looked at him with eyes full of love and respect... If deep down you truly hated Demons and Demi-humans, would you really be able to earn such deep respect?’’
’’That's true... Based on the way those people were speaking to him, it seems like there must've been a sudden change sometime during the one year after the end of the war... What could have happened to cause such a change of heart?’’
’’Well, without a doubt they were fighting for their god, they were shouting it loudly enough. They gave off an almost deranged feeling.’’
’’Yeah, they looked like Ishtar-san, abusing their religion to look down on others. It's pathetic isn't it?’’
Apparently, from the high school girls perspective, the Pope of the Sacred Church was a pathetic person. However, Hajime only had the smallest feeling of sympathy for him upon hearing it. The two of them continued forwards, still thinking about the earlier scene, until they spotted something ahead shining in response to Hajime's light.
Hajime and Kaori stop their feet and watched as the light slowly approached them. When it got closer they could see that it was a girl in a fluttering white dress. She stopped in the hallway in front of them and stood there, swaying slightly with her head looking downwards.
Kaori and Hajime felt something unpleasant and shuddered violently. Kaori's expression became particularly stiff while Hajime, deciding that an ordinary girl wouldn't be in a place like this, pointed Donner at the girl with the intention of killing her.
Instantly, the girl collapsed into the hallway with a soft thump. Then, at an angle impossible for a normal human's joints, raised herself up onto her hands and feet like a spider and launched herself straight at them!
Ketaketaketaketaketaketaketaa! (TN: Spider girl's laugh?)
Her bizarre laughter echoed throughout the hallway. Shining eyes, just like those from urban legends, glared at them from between her bangs, as Hajime shot at the approaching figure.
(TN: Actually genderless, but whatever. Editor wanted to add ’’her’’. Meh)
(EN: We've already described it as a girl, seemed appropriate).
(TN: Meh. Whatever. I am tired.)
’’Wah!? Calm down Kaori! Don't grab my arm!’’
Just like the template for this situation called for, Kaori clung onto Hajime and let out a scream. The girl approaching them laughed at her mockingly. Hajime, who was trying to shoot the girl with Donner, had his aim shifted due to Kaori clinging onto him.
In a moment the girl was at Hajime's feet. Then, with her bizarre cry, she lept straight at Hajime's face.
Hajime reluctantly gave up on trying to shoot her, and instead delivered a sure-kill yakuza-style kick straight into her still laughing stomach . As a precaution, he had clad himself and magic and used 'Grand Legs' to deliver the blow. (TN: ’’Grand Legs’’. New spell or what? Don't remember it at all.... It's in the character introduction chapter, but what the hell?’’
The moment Hajime's kick hit her stomach the girl was blown away into the wall, before bouncing several times and coming to a stop at the end of the hallway. Her limbs were now in an even more unnatural position she slowly vanished, as though melting into the darkness.
Hajime let out a sigh and then gave the still shaking Kaori clinging onto him a bonk on the head with his fist. With a start Kaori looked up at Hajime, an expression of fear still on her face. Tears clung to her eyes as her mouth let out a small squeak, anyone could see she was still terrified.
’’Hey Kaori, are you bad with these ghoulish type of things?’’
’’Is there such a person who is good with them?!’’
’’Wouldn't you be fine if you just thought of them as apparitions?’’
’’.... Gusuu, I'll try my best.’’
As Kaori promised, she separated herself from Hajime, however she didn't let her hand go of Hajime's clothes.
Until earlier she had been worried about what to say to Hajime, she had seemed more reserved than usual, but now a strong will dwelt in her eyes. She would absolutely not allow herself to be separated from him! It was a type of desperation, while simultaneously being an expression of her love for him.
Just as Kaori had finished gathering her resolve the door ahead of them in the hallway flew open with a bang. On the other side of the door there were countless bloodstains on the floor, and when they looked up they saw the head of a woman with long, dripping wet, hair hung up on the ceiling looking down at them. At the same time they heard a noise and turned around to see a headless man dragging an axe along the floor behind him.
Hajime delivered another one of his yakuza-like kick to the headless man and readied his gun to follow up, but there was no need. The headless man was already dead from the kick.
’’No more... I want to go back now... I want to see Shizuku-chan~’’
As the proceeded further into the ship the strange phenomena became more and more violent, which caused Kaori to regress back into a child, clinging onto Hajime's back and refusing to come out.
Ever since Kaori was small she had looked up to Shizuku as her knight &protector whenever she entered haunted houses or had to deal with Kouki and the boys. However, those feelings never crossed the boundary into being yuri.
Meljeene, the founder of 【Meljeene Deep Sea Ruins】, seemed to be trying to back them into an emotional corner. Hajime, having survived The Abyss, already had experience dealing with being surrounded by darkness and didn't really find it very difficult to cope with, though he could understand how it would be difficult for someone with a more normal psyche to handle. However, he couldn't imagine Tio or Yue sobbing from such surprises.
That was until a while ago when Kaori, while still half crying - half flirting, had stepped out and begun to repel the horrors using her healing magic. Seeing her sudden change in attitude had made Hajime want to tsukkomi ’’where did the scared and lost little girl like atmosphere from earlier go?’’ as he watched her. As they advanced Kaori began to get more unsteady again, but together they eventually arrived at the ship's hold.
They stepped through the opened heavy doors. They proceeded towards the back of the ship's hold, moving in between the sparsely spread out cargo. However, before they had progressed far the doors behind them shut themselves with a loud 'boom!'
Kaori let out a strange voice at this surprising sound and Hajime began to worry whether or not she was keeping in mind their important talk about what she should do after finishing the labyrinth. It wasn't the first time this thought had crossed his mind.
However Hajime just let out a sigh and began to calmly stroking Kaori's shoulders. However the effectiveness of this tactic was disrupted when a thick fog began to slowly block their field of view.
’’You're beginning to laugh just like a cheerful foreigner. Don't worry, just handle it like always. You'll be fine if you just crush them with your magic.’’
The moment Hajime replied they heard the ring of something as it tore through the wind, flying towards them. Hajime moved like a bolt of lightning and blocked the attack aimed at his neck with his left arm. When he lowered his left arm they could see an extremely thin thread stuck into it. They didn't have time to stare, soon there was the continuous ring of the wind being cut as arrows flew at them from all sides.
’’To come so far just for a trap? It's so disgusting! That's just typical of those damn liberators!’’
’’Come forth, Guardian of Light. Absolute Light!’’
Hajime was caught by surprise for a moment, however, since they were only a primitive weapons Kaori was able to block them with her defensive magic. Soon though, the fog ahead of them began to swirl violently and a fierce storm struck Hajime and Kaori.
Kaori was blown away in the storm, her screaming figure disappearing into the fog. Hajime, made a sour face as he tried to find her using his perception ability. Unfortunately, it seems the fog had a function that inhabited skills of the sensing system, similar to inside the【Haltina Sea of Trees】, thus he quickly lost track of her.
’’Che. Kaori, don't move!’’
With a sour face Hajime called out to Kaori, but instead of Kaori a knight wielding a longsword came tearing out of the fog ahead of him. Using an unusual technique, he lunged fiercely and swung the sword at Hajime.
Parrying the attack calmly with Donner, he struck the his large opponent in the chest with Schlag then fired a magic bullet into his stomach with Donner. A hole opened in the knight's stomach and he silently vanished into the mist.
However, immediately after a line of swordsmen and knights with abnormal strength emerged from the fog. These warriors held a variety of different weapons, and used the fog to launch attacks at Hajime one after another, fading back into the mist after each strike.
’’Damn, so troublesome...’’
While spitting out curses, Hajime expanded red magic bullets around his body like a satellite, also activating ’’Lightspeed’’(瞬光) swiftly tidied up his surroundings. It was a concern to him that he could not hear Kaori's voice.
Hajime was concerned that he couldn't hear Kaori's reply. While spitting out curses Hajime launched bullets of red magic and made them orbit his body like satellites. At the same time he activated 'Lightspeed' and swiftly tidied up his surroundings.
Shifting to Kaori, with Hajime gone from her sight she was finding it hard to keep up a brave front. Kaori was really bad with horror, it would be very difficult to overcome her current predicament even under normal circumstances, but now her body wanted to freeze up just from the fear of being alone. Add in her strong inferiority complex, though she wouldn't admit it to herself, and the bottom line was that all she wanted to do was curl herself up and cry.
Kaori scolded herself, she mustn't let herself be found cowering like this, and forced her body to stand back up. As soon as she was upright again she felt a hand on her shoulder. Hajime would often encourage her by patting her on the shoulder. Overcome by happiness, Kaori found herself turning around in delight.
However, as she turned around Kaori noticed that something felt off about the hand on her shoulder. To be more accurate, it felt too thin and too cold. Kaori felt chills run down her spine as her intuition warned her that what was behind her was not Hajime.
If it wasn't Hajime, then who on earth was it? Continuing to turn, now like a rusty machine, Kaori saw it. Eyes, nose, mouth... and then even more holes. It was the face of a woman dyed in a darkness as black as the abyss.
Kaori's spirit was over in an instant, and her defensive instincts rendered her unconscious.
In the 2 minutes it took Kaori to get up and faint, Hajime had already destroyed 50 ghostly warriors. This was only his rough estimate based on killing one of the ghostly veterans every 2-3 seconds.
Just as he was beginning to think he had wiped them all out, a large man wielding a greatsword tore out from the fog, charged straight at him and swung a blow that boasted of enormous hidden strength.
Hajime dodged the attack with the smallest movement of his body. However it wasn't over yet. The warrior bounced the greatsword back into the air using the recoil from the blow to the ground and moved to attack again.
Hajime responded by activating 'Vajra', stopping the blow with his mechanical arm and jumping up onto the greatsword with his knees, forcing it from his opponents hands and trapping it against the ground. Then, with a swift motion he raised his gun and fired a magic bullet straight into the large man's head.
At the same time the large man's head was blown off the surrounding fog begins to fade away.
’’Kaori! Where are you?’’
Hajime focused all of his senses on finding Kaori's presence. However, even without doing that Kaori was easily found.
’’I'm over here, Hajime-kun.’’
’’Kaori, are you alright?’’
Hajime divulged a sigh of relief upon seeing Kaori walking towards him with a smile. Once Kaori reached his side she snuggled up against against him with a beautiful smile.
’’It was... very scary...’’
’’Is that so?...’’
’’Un. That's why I want to be comforted’’
As she said this Kaori threw her arms around Hajime's neck and hugged him. At a distance so close they were practically nose-to-nose, Kaori locates Hajime's mouth with her eyes and began to draw herself closer...
Gotsu (TN: Sound effect. *thunk*)
With a Gotsu~tsu sound (TN: *thunk*) Donner's muzzle met Kaori's temple.
Kaori appeared to be confused as Hajime narrowed his brutal-looking eyes and directed murderous intent towards her.
’’What? Of course I'll kill enemies, no matter how they look like’’ and without a beat of hesitation he pulled the trigger.
There was the sound of a knife hitting the ground, it had fallen out of the hand of Kaori when she was shot. She had intended to stab him in the back as she was hugging him. With steady footsteps Hajime approached the collapsed Kaori.
Getting back up, Kaori begins talking to Hajime in a frightened and trembling voice.
’’Hajime-kun, why would you do such a thing!?’’
However Hajime response was to fire another magic bullet at Kaori.
’’Don't you dare speak with Kaori's voice! Do not degrade her body by moving it! Did you think I couldn't see the truth? You are nothing but a piece of trash possessing her body.’’
Hajime's 'Magic Stone Eye' had already revealed to him that there was a ghostly woman possessing Kaori.
With the truth clearly exposed Kaori, who until just a moment ago had been cowering on the ground, instantly changed her expression and burst into mocking laughter.
’’Nyahahaha, even if you know the truth it is of no matter. You can't do anything...this girl's body is already mine!
As she said this the possessed Kaori raised herself off the ground and pushed Hajime down onto the ground into the mounted position.
’’Wait, what are you doing? This is your woman! Do you plan to hurt her!?’’
’’Shut up! You're giving me a headache. Didn't I tell you not to move? I'm not going to hurt Kaori, the magic bullets will pass right through her body, the only one who will suffer is you.’’
’’If I disappear this woman's soul will shatter! Is that really alright with you!?’’
At those words Hajime inclined his head slightly in thought. Although there was a good chance it wasn't a bluff, there was no way to verify if it was true.
Most people would probably become trapped by indecision in this situation, was the possessed Kaori hoping for this? She was giving her cat-like laugh again while motioning for him to step aside. Seeing this Hajime gave her his reply.
It was a pair of magic bullets. The possessed Kaori's expression was too shocked to reveal as to whether she had felt any pain. Soon her expression shifted into one of frustration as she shouted at Hajime in an angry voice.
’’Are you insane!? Do you not care what happens to this woman!?’’
’’Shut up you pile of trash! If I don't attack then Kaori's body would remain possessed. However, as long as you aren't killed her soul won't break, right? Until you feel like leaving her body everything will be fine if I just torment you without killing you.’’
The ghostly woman was left speechless at his words. When she looked into Hajime's eyes she was being stabbed by his murderous intent that dwelt there.
’’I'll make you regret thinking you could touch what's 'important' to me. Even though you're an enemy I won't kill you, I won't let you experience the relief of death. I'll make it so you can't escape Kaori's body even if you want to. I'll force you to suffer until you go mad from the pain.’’
Red magic flowed out from Hajime's body, his white hair was caught in the eddies and slowly began to sway in the energy. There was no rage, bloodthirst or insanity in his eyes, they were like frozen chips of ice.
Hajime was furious, more so than ever before. He wouldn't be satisfied with just kill his enemy this time, they must experience cruelty akin to the depths of hell.
The ghost possessing Kaori had been too dense to realise she had picked a fight with something that should never be disturbed. Only now, as she felt her gaze trapped in Hajime eyes, did she finally realise what she had awakened;a monster, one you would normally pray to never meet.
With Donner's muzzle again pressed against her forehead, the ghostly woman earnestly begged for release. Even if all it bought her was permission to disappear a single second faster, when she imagined what this monster would probably do to her even one second seemed like a blessing.
She was just an ordinary ghost. Although it did seem that her lingering essence was greater than than any of the other apparitions they had encountered, in the face of this atmosphere it all amounted to nothing. The frozen wrath Hajime was giving off was just that terrifying.
The ghost's sobs echoed louder as Hajime's finger moved to pull the trigger, when suddenly the Kaori's body began to shine. It was the sparkle of the restore-all-abnormal-status recovery magic 'Ten Thousand Heavens', which Kaori had prepared as a precaution ahead of time using the ability of 'Delayed Invocation'.
While left dumbfounded by the feeling of unbelievable relief the ghost heard a voice from inside her.
’’-It's okay, I'll send you off properly.’’
Alongside these words the shining, pure white, light intensified. The ghost felt afraid as the light wrapped around her, dragging her gently along with it towards the heavens. However, as she gradually passed on to the next world and her consciousness began to fade she was overcome with a feeling of peace and relief.
With one clap, Kaori sent her off and slowly began to open her trembling eyelids. Hajime, still lying underneath Kaori in the mounted position, looked directly up into Kaori's eyes. Ever since Kaori began to shine, the fading presence of the ghost's existence had been reflected in Hajime's Magic Stone Eye. For the moment he released his killing intent and focused on confirming whether the ghost had truly left Kaori.
Their faces were so close, and with Hajime's lying underneath her, his gaze filled with a mixture of relief and worry as he focused his eyes intently on her pupils, it would've been enough to make anyone feel moved.
Gently lowering her head Kaori pressed her lips on Hajime's. It was only the barest meeting of their lips, but for Kaori it was still her precious first kiss.
Hajime whole body went stiffened in surprise for a moment. In order to be certain that Kaori had been released Hajime had used almost all his concentration to examine her. With his mind so distracted, naturally it wasn't possible for him to avoid a kiss.
After a while Kaori gently released his lips.
’’What are you...?’’
’’Perhaps it's my answer?’’
’’Un. Why did I follow you? Why do I want to keep on following you?.... This is my answer to Hajime's questions.’’
When she said this Kaori smiled at Hajime. It was smile he had always seen her wearing, warm like a ray of light from the sun. Ever since coming here it had become clouded and covered up by a false laugh, but now it shone once again.
In fact Kaori had still retained her consciousness while possessed, though it felt like watching the world outside while trapped inside a glass room. She had still been able to see Hajime in never seen before state of fury, saying things like Kaori was 'important' to him. It had flowed right through the ghost and reached her heart.
At the sight of this Hajime unbearable sadness had risen up in her chest, but at the same time she felt the nervous passion she had when she first confessed to him.
If she wanted to explain it, it was a feeling of selfish, of always wanting to be indulged, always make them vividly aware of your presence. Mixed in amongst the circle of girls Yue allowed to surround Hajime, Kaori found it intolerable that she wasn't allowed to hoard him all to herself, yet at the same time she didn't even want to imagine a future where she wasn't by Hajime's side.
She wanted to make them recognise that even if her capabilities were nowhere near Yue and the others, her feelings weren't any less.
’’I like you Hajime-kun, no, I love you. That's why from here on I want our futures to be entwined.’’
’’Won't it only leave you feeling bitter? Just like it is with Shia, even if Yue weren't there, it doesn't necessarily mean that I will love you back.’’
’’That's true, it'll probably be painful at times.... I want to be monopolised, I want you to only look at me. I feel so jealous of Yue sometimes, and so inferior when I compare myself to her’’
’’If that's the case...’’
’’But I'll only regret it if I allow myself to be separated from you here, I'm sure of it. For me, just being near Hajime is wonderful....and that's how I've always felt. In time I want to close the gap between us even more, but for right now this is enough.’’
Pinching Hajime's cheeks between both her hands, Kaori smiled softly.
The expression on Hajime's face was a complex mix of troubled and amazed, but Kaori had decided on her own, and if she believes that it's the best decision for herself, Hajime wouldn't say another word. Each person had their own idea of happiness, deciding Kaori's happiness for her is something he couldn't do, nor did he want to.
’’.... I see. If Kaori is fine with this then I won't say any more.’’
’’Un. Although I'll probably cause a lot of trouble, please don't hate me, alright?’’
’’What are you saying at such a late hour? From our time at school, up to our time here, you have always been an terrible troublemaker.’’
’’That's not true!’’
’’Really? Back at school you never read the situation and would casually come over and talk to me, completely unaware of the word bombs you were dropping everywhere, and never noticing that every time the guys around us would seethe with anger. And then let's not forget when a negligee-clad lady decided to visit a man's room in the middle of the night...’’
’’Uu, I remember, all I wanted to do was talk to you.... Un, it was really embarrassing when I realized later that I had come to your room dressed like that.’’
While Kaori was covering her blushing face with her hands, Hajime got up and offered Kaori a hand up. Then, with a grin, patted Kaori on the shoulder gently, and turned to start walking towards the magic circle that had begun to shine further inside the storeroom once the fog had lifted.
However, he was stopped by Kaori tightly grabbing onto his sleeve. If he looked carefully he could see that she was still a little unsteady. Apparently the possession had dulled her body's senses a little. Now that the body had been released it hopefully wouldn't take long for it to return back to it's normal state.
’’Let's rest for a little bit.’’
Hajime had suggested this, but it seems Kaori had an idea of her own and with a smile she hopped up onto Hajime's back.
’’....What are you doing?’’
’’Isn't it better if we progress quickly? I don't know when my magic power will return and if we hang around here the fog will surely come back, right?’’
There was definitely some truth to her words,so Hajime replied with a ’’It can't be helped’’ while scratching his head, and walked towards the magic circle while carrying Kaori.
Kaori wrapped her arms around Hajime's neck and clung on tightly to his back. Although he didn't say anything, Hajime was trying his best to ignore the soft feeling that pressing up against his back.
Kaori moved close enough that he could feel her hot breath in his ear. Her lips, close enough that they were almost touching his earlobe, opened gently and a sweet sound reverberated inside his ears.
’’Hajime-kun... I want to asking you something about what happened earlier.’’
’’Yes. Why was it that you got so angry during that fight?’’
’’Saa, why was I angry? I don't know.’’ (TN: ’’Don't make a move on what's 'important' to me.’’ .....Was he really an otaku before?)
’’Mouu, please tell me~.’’
Refusing to answer her questions or get caught up in her flirtatious atmosphere, Hajime continued to carry Kaori while moving forward at a brisk pace and without hesitation stepped into the magic circle.