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Kaze No Stigma - Volume 6 - Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 - What is eaten[edit]

Part 1[edit]

Kazuma suddenly stopped and called Ayano, who was running ahead, to a halt.

’’Ayano, wait a second’’

’’What, you're not going to say you're tired, are you? ’’, replied Ayano but it was obvious that wasn't the case.

In reality, looking over her shoulder, she saw this man breathing without disturbance.

But then, when he had no motivation, he was the kind of man to say such shameless words as: I'm tired so I'll take a break.

’’Xiaolei started to move. She's fast. But it doesn't look like she's following something. Did she find some clue? ’’

This time was different. Ayano asked of Kazuma, who was investigating the surroundings, an even more detailed explanation.

’’Where is she headed? ’’

’’This way. From here one is--- the ruins of the Tokyo Government Office? The ruins of Shinjuku Central Park? ’’

’’yuck’’

At those ill-omened names, Ayano involuntarily grimaced. Those places had been destructed in huge incidents before.

The collapse of the Tokyo Government Office posed an especially big political problem, but Shinjuku's Central Park was even worse.

Because an outrageous being had been summoned there at that time, the Ki released by it made the soil and air there dark even today. You could say it was rotting.

Like a plot of soil that was radiated, you couldn't expect it to naturally recover in a short term.

Because of the preliminary calculations that said that the purification will take from several hundred years to a thousand, in the worst case scenario, Kannagi Genma was requested to use the divine flame and burn it all to the ground.

Reasonably, that idea was frozen. If he didn't do so, nobody wanted to approach it.

’’That place is still sinister......Is there someone else there? ’’

’’Hmmm, I don't feel anything in particular --- no’’

Interrupting his speech, Kazuma strained his eyes as if looking far away.

And then, his mouth warped in a bitter smile or rather, a scornful laugh.

’’Oh dear!’’

’’What's happening? ’’

’’The fight began. The enemies are a Suijutsushi and a Chijutsushi --- them’’

’’---!’’

Ayano opened her eyes wide in surprise.

’’What on earth is that girl thinking!? She can't possibly win by herself! ’’

’’Well, someone who thinks of revenge can't possibly be rational. I too was excessively rash at times. I had thoroughly attacked all of <<Almagest>>'s branches. ’’

’’......Even though you had no proof Erwin Leszar was there? ’’

’’Yeah. Although there seemed to have been only good civilians inside. But I did pray for their happiness in the next world. ’’

’’You should be cursed, you damn heretic’’

Saying so coldly over her shoulder, Ayano brought that dishonest conversation to an end and pressed for action.

’’Hurry! Follow me closely, guard! ’’

’’Dear me’’

The conclusion was slightly dull.

They both arrived at that place --- at the Shinjuku Central Park, exactly at the moment when the water whip manipulated by Chris was piercing Xiaolei's abdomen.

Of course, Gaia was standing beside him.

’’Gaah....’’

Already without enough force to scream, the girl with wounds all over her body revealed a tiny groan, her knees loosing balance and folding.

The pointed tip of the whip that came out from her back undulated like a living thing. Its color was clearly stained light crimson of the flowing blood.

Like a sneaky living thing, the water whip slipped out of Xiaolei's body. Loosing her support, powerless, the girl's body collapsed.

The blood overflowing from that body collapsed face-up, turned into a pool of blood before her eyes. It was clearly a fatal wound.

’’Xi- Xiaolei! ’’

’’Oh, did you too came too? ’’

Hearing Ayano's shriek, as if he just noticed their presence, Chris replied with an air of composure.

’’Although I did say tomorrow, you couldn't abide by the rule, huh? ’’

And then, complaining so, extremely annoyed, but for those two who didn't hear the massage, it didn't make any sense.

’’did say, huh? Did you hear something about this?’’

’’No, but that's not the issue! ’’

Looking very impatient, Ayano pointed at Xiaolei laying in her own blood.

’’We must save Xiaolei quickly! ’’

’’Right now it's impossible. To go and nonchalantly pick her up in front of those them will make us the target. I don't want something like that.’’

’’If......If that's the case!! ’’

While she was about to complain, Ayano shut her mouth as if noticing something.

’’That's right’’

Faster that Ayano's words, Kazuma nodded.

’’Kill them without delay and pick her up after. That is most reliable. ’’

Even if they couldn't loose in front of Chris and Gaia, they were so weak they could afford to totally disregard them.

If she wanted to save Xiaolei, removing those two was after all the fastest method.

In silence, Ayano unsheathed Enraiha. This time not to play or go easy on them.

Faster than it was possible, with the decision to end this with one blow, she raised her power.

She took a step forward. Behind her, th presence of wind swelled so much, enough to overwhelm hers.

A feeling of almost omnipotent confidence gushed out from her chest.

It's impossible to loose. She thought so from the bottom of her heart. If they are together.

But,

’’Humph, so you're attacking right away. We're being underestimated. ’’

The expressions of Chris and Gaia were calm. In spite of seeing the difference in strength yesterday they faced off with a smile of composure.

’’Did you thing we came here without a plan? Look at this! ’’

Together with that elated outcry, Gaia threw a capsule-like object that he took from his pocket.

It suddenly burst open in the air, and a pure white smoke filled the surrounding atmosphere.

And then, when the smoke cleared --- a grotesque animal was flapping its wings there.

In short, from a huge eyeball, a pair of bat-like wings were growing. Judging from that molding that wasn't natural and it didn't feel very powerful, there was no doubt it was some kind on Youma.

’’Ooh, a Capsule monster, huh? ’’

’’........What's that?’’

’’Don't worry about it. Well, either way, it's not strong enough that it will become problematic.......’’

Kazuma's voice that was lightly flowing, was suddenly interrupted. Simultaneously, the presence of wind she felt from behind was rapidly weakening and then, discomposed.

’’Kazuma!? This is---’’

In Ayano's eyes, unintentionally turning around, were reflected Kazuma's, with a more grim stare than ever.

The wind spirits that were whirling around him were rapidly torn off, as if sucked by something else. The direction of that flow was fixated to that Youma standing like a shield in front of Gaia.

’’Wha- what the heck is that? ’’

Unconcerned about Ayano's bewilderment, Gaia looked at Kazuma only and sneered.

’’Do you understand, youngster? This is a Youma that feeds on wind spirits --- it's called <<Kazebami>>(trad: Wind Eater) ’’

’’Wha----? ’’

’’And--- ’’

Following Gaia, Chris threw in the air the same kind of capsule. With the same exploding sound and white smoke--- but the thing that appeared from there was a thick mist with a red phosphorescence twinkling inside.

It was an amorphous Youma, it's body without real form.

Including a sneer, Chris declared.

’’This is <<Homranagi>>(trad: Blaze Lull). I don't have to explain what it does, right? ’’

’’Kuu---- ’’

Ayano let out a murmur full of worry.

Something like that was self-explanatory. Together with Homranagi's appearance, the fire spirits were absorbed with great force --- and they were eaten.

Even the flame cladding Enraiha became very small.

She didn't turn completely powerless but her offensive ability went down to twenty of thirty percent.

That wouldn't be so bad if they were small fry for becoming the opponents of those carrying Sacred Treasures, it was considerably unreliable.

’’This is bad’’, murmured Ayano inside her heart.

It was an almost perfect trap. Most of their power was snatched away and in contrast, the opponent had no limitation, freely able to exercise all his power.

That war potential ratio was perfectly reversed and even more, a hopeless gap was opened between them.

She recalled Kazuma's words from yesterday.

’’ As long as they don't have some huge hidden trick, they're at a level me and Ayano can deal with’’

And this was a huge, gigantic hidden trick. Even where Kazuma was concerned, they greatly sealed his power---

’’Can I ask one thing? ’’

Suddenly, that voice could be heard. Looking at him, facing the triumphant enemies, Kazuma asked in a quiet voice.

’’Leaving aside the issue of where you took those things from, you are Spirit Practitioners, right? Even if it's another kind, not the ones you associate with, don't you hesitate to let the spirits be eaten by Youma? ’’

For a moment Gaia didn't seem to understand what he was saying so he stared in wonder but immediately turning his whole face into a sneer, he declared loudly.

’’I wondered what you were going to say--- how idiotic. You son of a bitch, do you think The spirits are our friends, our important partners! ? What an idiot! The spirits are similar with tools, why would I consider their feelings? ’’

’’Aaah, I understand. That's enough. ’’

’’That's why, we cannot talk with the likes of you, belonging to the old clans! You are tied to things like tradition or convention and don't want to accept the changes and progress of a new era! The fact that such people possess Sacred Treasures is like pearls thrown before the swine! Quietly hand it over to me, I can use it more--- ’’

’’I told you to shut up’’

’’wha---? ’’

Interrupting Gaia's statement, shouting his justice in a loud voice, similar to murmur, were Kazuma's quiet words.

That voice with an inferior volume was loaded with something that not only made Gaia shut his mouth, but warped his bearded face in terror, making him take a step back.

But, that was only for a moment. Realizing he backed down, this time he laughed happily, barring his teeth.

’’Ha, ha ha --- even in front of this adversity you give off so much <<Ki>>to overwhelm me. --- that's fine. I have waited to fight with someone as strong as you! ’’

Gaia got excited. But, without following on that tension, Kazuma informed Ayano matter-of-fact.

’’We're changing opponents. I'll do the Suijutsushi. ’’

’’Ah, yes. ’’

’’I won't let you! ’’

Just at the moment they were about to execute that reasonable plan, Gaia trampled the ground with his short legs.

Immediately following, as if a giant cut open the ground, enormous fissures were produced on the ground.

The cracks spread at a too large scale to be an instant jutsu, it was obviously prepared before hand.

In the end, even for Kazuma and Ayano who didn't hear the message, when thinking why did they picked a fight at this place, before they managed to find the answer, the cracks on the ground spread even more, separating them.

’’----che’’

Kazuma smacked his lips. The gap made by the ground crack was a little more that ten meters. It wasn't he could normally jump over without problems but right not there was Kazebami.

The likelihood of him falling to his death if the wind spirits would be eaten in the middle of the jump was high so he couldn't behave recklessly.

’’----Let's see’’

Like a cat teases a mouse, a voice full of composure reached his ears. Turning around, as expected, there was the short man resembling a dwarf, bearing a huge battle-axe on his shoulder.

While the Kazebami was flapping his winds above him.

’’............’’

Kazuma ignored Gaia, shifting his attention on the other side of the crack.

At that place he couldn't reach now, Ayano and Chris were standing, the battle having already begun.

It was clear even at that distance that Ayano was being pressed down.

He turned to Gaia once more. He was standing still like before, waiting for Kazuma to prepare for battle.

No way, while tricking them with this plan, he's not going to say right now: ’’I won't behave so cowardly as to attack you by surprise’’?

’’Are you prepared? ’’

Kazuma replied with a light shoulder shrug at that question oozing with joy.

’’No, please wait for three more hours. I am busy right now. ’’

’’Don't prattle, youngster! ’’

Together with an angry roar, Gaia swung the battle-axe-- Nozuchi, down.

The axe didn't reach far but the ground it blew up turned to throwing stones, leaping with tremendous velocity.

Kazuma promptly raised a wind barrier. But the spirits he summoned were readily devoured by Kazebami and it didn't acquire enough strength to defend against the stones.

There was no choice but to abandon defence. He jumped to the side as if tumbling and barely managed to avoid it.

’’Hey, hey, aren't you the impatient one? ’’

’’No, I'm just glad to be able to kill you’’

Kazuma stood in front of Gaia sure of his victory, without hesitating or showing negligence.

He didn't gave up just yet. In this circumstance he was certainly at an overwhelming disadvantage. But that doesn't mean there were no chances of winning.

Kazebami was absorbing the wind spirits but that ability was definitely not infinite.

Therefore, although he couldn't do much his Fujutsu ability couldn't be sealed. Still, he couldn't use his ability.

And because Gaia will definitely not interpose between him and Kazebami, close combat will be difficult.

From what he saw from the fight yesterday, Gaia's pride was the close combat.

More than having the Sacred Treasure, which was a given, more that any jutsu, it was because the one who could mercilessly pummel more had the biggest power.

’’which means, Ayano's side is more dangerous’’

Chris's Sacred Treasure -- that water whip's length could be changed at will.

Which means that even in between Homranagi, he could attack at full power.

If this were the usual Ayano, she could cut off the water whip and shorten the distance but it was unfair to expect something like that of her.

Being attacked one-sided from a distance, there are low chances of being able to overcome the situation as it is.

But, there was nothing they could do about it. Right now even protecting their bodies was dangerous.

Until they found a way to overthrow the currently disadvantageous situation, they had no choice but to endure.

’’Be that as it may --- what to do?’’

The very best method would be to reunite with Ayano without waisting another second.

The current crisis is a crisis precisely because they are separated.

If they could reunite and switch partners, both Kazebami and Homranagi will become something of little importance.

To say nothing of the fact that would be just the freebie.

But the enemy obviously understood that.

That's why, they tried fabricating this circumstance by all means --- and that's why they will prevent their coming together by all means possible.

’’Ah ah, this became quite troublesome. ’’

Murmuring so together with a long breath, Kazuma reached for his breast pocket.

He pulled out a dagger. It was simple, without curves. The double edge blade a little less that thirty centimeters was engraved with seven dots in the shape of the Bid Dipper.

It was the blade commonly known as the Sacred Sword of Seven Stars.

It was a famous magic artifact on the continent, that appeared on the market frequently. But even among them, although this wasn't the absolute best, it had a pretty high status.

But.

’’Guahahahahahaha! The Sacred Sword of Seven Stars? Do you think you can fight against this Nozuchi with that toy? ’’

As expected, against a Sacred Treasure, this kind of blade is the same as a bamboo sword.

’’No, no matter what, I have no intention of exchanging blows with that rustic axe. ’’

Vaguely warding off Gaia's scorn, Kazuma clasped the Seven Star with a backhand grip.

’’But well, if it's against someone of your caliber, I think this is enough. ’’

’’Wow, shall we test that? ’’

Gaia was readily provoked.

His nature was a very simple one but in circumstance such as these, where he had such an overwhelming advantage, he had enough self-confidence not to loose in spite of the opponent's calculations.

And then ---

’’Let's go! ’’

Raising a scream from the bottom of his belly, Gaia plunged in a straight line.

’’Wha---’’

As one would expect, Kazuma was dismayed.

The speed of Gaia's rush was faster that what those short legs of his could accomplish.

Or rather, he manipulated the ground somehow, or he used some sort of acceleration technique.

But, rather that that trivial question ---

’’A- are you an idiot? why are choosing close combat in this situation? ’’

’’Hah, because cutting you down from afar isn't really my style! ’’

The fact that he wrecked all his tactics was the more serious problem.

Without minding Kazuma's bewilderment, Gaia swung down Nozuchi.

Handling his body on the spur of the moment, Kazuma evaded that blow.

He defended against the explosion of earth and sand born from the excessive force with which the ax crashed into the ground with a minimal wind barrier and aimed Seven Star at Gaia's neck.

’’Neen!! ’’

Gaia blocked it by pushing out his right arm. It made a sound as is striking a dull, hard rock.

Looking at it, that arm was completely covered in rock, protecting him like a clumsy glove.

’’I told you that thing won't work! ’’

With a gruff scream, Gaia raised overhead the enormous battle ax with his left arm.

Kazuma safely dodged that and simultaneously hit him with a wind blade.

It was a point-blank blow and the jutsu, appearing faster that what could be absorbed, mangled Gaia's body.

Fresh blood sprouted from dozens lacerations, adorning that body in a crimson aura.

’’----Hah! ’’

But, without worrying about the damage he received, Gaia lively wielded Nozuchi.

’’Was that supposed to be an attack? It was lighter than the Fuan's brat! If you sank so low, I don't even feel pity! ’’

’’How noisy! It's none of your business, leave me alone! ’’

Kazuma strained himself to avoid while spitting out his reply.

Luckily, no matter how much power one had for handling a gigantic, heavy ax-like weapon, the swordsmanship was limited. It wasn't difficult to dodge.

’’Why won't it hit? Aren't you ashamed to keep running, youngster? ’’

’’That was a tactical retreat’’

’’It's the same thing! ’’

While pretending he had enough composure to crack jokes, Kazuma continued to evade like he was tightrope walking.

It was true he had no other choice, but he had a goal.

Getting impatient with Kazuma's defensive fight, Gaia was attacking with larger swings. If he could hit there---

’’--!!’’

Together with a sharp exhalation, he threw the knife so fast his hand was invisible. The aim wasn't Gaia but Kazebami.

The power of that one blow, expecting a certain kill, loaded with the <<Ki>>of his entire body was match for a rifle.

It's peculiar ability was being a nuisance but it seem like Kazebami had a meager power in itself and had no way of defending itself against such attacks.

But.

’’Kiiiiiiiiiiiiii! ’’

Together with a cry of dissatisfaction, Kazebami shot a beam from its eye.

Its aim was the knife, that evaporated instantly.

’’-----Che’’

’’Gahahahaha, such a fool! ’’, laughed Gaia.

’’Did you think absorption it's his only ability? What point is there to absorb power but not be able to use it? With your present offensive ability, you cannot defeat Kazebami. Of course, nor can you defeat me! ’’

’’...........’’

Kazuma was silent.

Honestly, he was fairly cornered. The chance of defeating Kazebami was very low now.

And just like Gaia said, since he couldn't eliminate it, it was close to impossible defeating him.

He was in a desperate situation.

’’This is troublesome......can't Ayano do something.......’’

While thinking such pathetic things, Kazuma hanged his hopes on Ayano who was fighting at a distant location.

Part 2[edit]

’’Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, what's the matter? Is that all? ’’

Ayano intercepted that water blow fired at her together with loud laughter only with Enraiha, all fire extinguished.

But, the difference in power was obvious.

The water whip she was easily able to slice off before was, right now, heavy enough she couldn't stop the blow.

Far from being able to shorten the distance, one by one, she was forced to retreat, attacked one-sided.

’’So heavy--- ’’

Faced with that pressure she couldn't compete with, Ayano bit her lips.

To be accurate, it wasn't Chris who became stronger but she who became weaker, strength was relative and such wordplay was meaningless.

Right now, at at this time, Christian Roengram was stronger that Ayano Kannagi.

But, even if she accepted that, the fact that she could do nothing about it doesn't change.

Because Homranagi was constantly in front of Chris, all long distance attacks had been absorbed.

Then, even if she were to plan cutting him directly, Mizuchi's reach was far longer than Enraiha's.

And Ayano right now did not have the necessary strength to break through that distance of several meters, while handling the water whip,

’’Missiles became ineffective, I cannot start close combat --- winning percentage:zero. QED. Hey, if it's over what am I supposed to do? ’’

While fruitlessly arguing with herself, Ayano racked her brain, searching for an opening.

But, frankly, she couldn't think of any. She wasn't someone who used tactics very well from the beginning.

Whether it was impossible or next to impossible, she had no choice but to do it.

’’Well, if I'm stalling long enough, Kazuma might figure something out. ’’

But, that wasn't trust, it was only dependence -- dependence on others.

She could not permit that, her pride wouldn't tolerate it anymore.

The position Ayano desired was to be Kazuma's partner, in no way the object of his protection.

’’--- Well then’’

With that murmur, Ayano concentrated her consciousness.

On that water whip hammering into her as it pleased, its trajectory, timing, framework combination, grasping it completely, she searched for a gap to dive in.

That's right, there's nothing to think about it.

If a long-distance attack is theoretically impossible, if bringing it into close-combat is exceedingly difficult --- in terms of degree of difficulty, it's still one rank lower.

If that's the case, the selected route will always be the same.

Or perhaps, there was no choice from the beginning.

She must slip through the offense no matter what it takes and plunge deeply enough until the sword can reach him.

’’Haah! ’’

Together with that scream, Ayano powerfully kicked the ground.

At the same time Mizuchi attacked but she barely managed to ward it off without killing the force of her rush.

’’With this.......will I make it? ’’

The speed of that whip's pointed end masterly manipulated, exceeded the speed of sound.

But, what could be called the blessing in disguise was that Chris was a first-class whip handler, not a Suijutsushi one.

It was very fast she could barely confirm it by sigh.

’’How foolish! Does this mean you still don't understand the difference in strength? ’’

’’I know it, all right! ’’

Replying scornfully while bouncing back the attack, Ayano took one more step.

That's right, it was very clear there is a huge power difference. But, that has nothing to do with it.

If something you cannot surrender is taken, if you cannot protect without waging war, no matter how low the chance of victory is, there is no choice but to fight.

There is nothing more but that.

’’Haaaaaaaah! ’’

’’Kuuh.....do- don't get carried away! ’’

Irritated at Ayano's pointless resistance, Chris attacked incessantly, much more severe.

But, the girl started to notice handling his attacks became easy to her.

While drawing near the range, because managing the long whip became difficult, Chris gradually shortened the whip.

For Ayano, who already started being able to see through his technique, it didn't take time to deal with those attack with dropping speed.

At the same time Ayano made the judgment that the Justushi called Chris, although powerful, in the end he wasn't all that much.

Meaning that he had already thoroughly demonstrated his power, its range -- to put it bluntly, when facing a weaker enemy, when facing an equal enemy, when facing a stronger enemy, his impatience will surface, his technique will get rough.

Right now was exactly that time. Ayano already detected many lethal chinks in Chris'armor.

The fist few times she was cautious wondering if it's not a fake but now it was already clear

’’That's right--- swing--- restore--- there! ’’

Completely stealing Chris'trick, at the same time she grasped the behavior of preparing at attack she jumped in a big way.

While feeling Mizuchi's attack cold on her neck, location she decided to land was roughly two meters in front Chris.

’’Wha- ’’

---Completely within Enraiha's killing range!

’’I got through! ’’

’’Kuuh! ’’

Chris's face, that became gradually stiffer, finally had a cramp.

While memorizing that expression feeling more that a little exhilarated, Ayano raised Enraiha to kill.

’’I- I won't let you! ’’

Chris stopped the blow with Mizuchi, setting Humranagi free overhead in a hurry.

Enraiha lost most of her power but, that does not mean the blade grew dull.

The fear of being cut by it was second to none.

’’Girl....don't underestimate me! ’’, shouted Chris as if denying his impatience and agitation.

’’Do you think the situation turned around with just this? But, everything remains the same!’’

’’True’’, Ayano readily affirmed.

Practically, she approached close enough for her sword to reach but at the same time she was also the closest to Homranagi.

Ayano's ability as an Enjutsushi was almost perfectly sealed. Even Enraiha's flame was practically extinct, only the air sourronding the blade was vaguely simmering like a heat haze, unable to change to flame.

Meaning, Ayano could challenge the powerful Suijutsushi owning a Sacred Treasure with nothing but martial arts.

But, there wasn't a particle of cowardice in Ayano's pupils.

In this situation she was at a disadvantage, overwhelmingly so. But, expressing that in another words, that was only a handicap.

Compared with the time she had no choice but continue to receive a one-sided attack unable to counter-attack, the situation improved a hundred-fold.

’’Haah! ’’

Ayano swung Enraiha without hesitation.

Even if she lost her power, she believed in the blade that was the Clan's most important asset, the blade that was half of her being.

’’Huff! Too soft!’’

Chris stopped the slash with the water edge.

He reaffirmed his own advantage, returning to the affected expression from his first appearance.

’’Is an Enjutsushi unable to use fire challenging me? Realize your standing! ’’

Thrusting away with brute force the sword on sword lock, Chris swung his arm, as if gently brushing the air.

Doing so, an infinite number of water droplets were produced and a second later, were shot with fierce speed.

’’---!! ’’

Ayano evaded the rain of water bullets concentrating from her breasts to her head by rolling on the ground.

And then, immediately making her body take a defensive position, she fired a blow using the blade while standing up.

’’As expected, he's--- slow’’

While slashing at him one after another without giving him the time to use Suijutsu, the girl's assessment about Chris was reevaluated once more.

He was definitely not weak and he didn't look stupid.

Even the attack just now was almost the best selection.

Since Ayano lost her Enjutsu ability, she could only oppose Mizuchi with Enraiha itself. Then, there was no need to fuss over bestowing the most powerful attack by means of the Sacred Treasure.

It was rather the other way around, the best plan was to bother and overwhelm him so that he can handle only Enraiha.

In a fight between Sacred Treasure users, even tricks that were nothing more but skillful feints, could turn now into deadly blows.

But, if you are trying to use such a shotgun technique, it's a mistake to try and hit everything.

The aim should be scattered over a vast rage and little by little but steadily pile up damage.

’’kuuh.....you bitch.....why are you still alive? ’’

This man didn't understand that.

Because he only fought with weaklings only and didn't have the experience of struggling to the last minute against someone strong, he never schemed to get even one millimeter closer to victory.

’’I can't possibly loose against someone like that! ’’

Enveloped with the drive of certain victory, Ayano swung Enraiha downward.

Yet again, Chris smashed Mizuchi, the blade not the whip, because the distance was too small, against it with a frantic expression.

’’Kuuh! ’’

While they clashed, his posture crumbled.

Ayano, who overpowered the opponent for the first time today, drove all that force into the strike.

Chris wasn't able to reorganize his stance. Ayano was absolutely sure of victory in front of the enemy full of openings.

But.

There was one thing Ayano forgot. The Youma who stole the fire from her --- the existence of Humranagi.

Just like Kazuma, Ayano was also under the impression eating fire spirits was its only ability so she discarded its presence from her awareness.

Different from Kazuma, it was a blunder risen from arbitrarily deciding from the beginning she couldn't skillfully destroy Homranagi.

While swinging Enraiha downward, fleetingly glancing at the sky, a red light was projected closely in her field of vision.

And then she was astonished.

That annoying Homranagi was making that shining something in the middle of the mist brighten much strongly and--- she didn't understand where its eyes were but--- it was looking here.

The next moment, from that red something, a deep-crimson beam was fired aiming at Ayano.

Free time to fend it off, time to think, she didn't have any.

’’Dieee! ’’

’’Kuh! ’’

Slamming his elbow in Nozuchi's flank swinging down, Kazuma avoided a fatal blow within a hair's breath.

The huge axe was knocked down on the ground. The pebbles flying around with the force of an explosion, scraped Kazuma's cheek, unable to fend off.

’’What's the matter? Your movement is slowing down? ’’

’’.......shut it’’, replied Kazuma groaning.

Gaia stared at his face with doubt,

’’Humph, it doesn't seem like you are tired. It's like your heart is not here --- do you worry about what happens on the other side? ’’

’’............’’

Kazuma was silent. But it was the truth.

Right now, his consciousness was eighty percent turned toward the battle between Ayano and Chris.

Just like it was said, Kazebami's ability was not absolute nor was it inexhaustible.

That's why, outside the scope of it's power, he was able to control wind spirits without question.

Of course, more than a small fluctuation was produced feeling that influence, making the distant control exceedingly difficult and the degree of difficulty jumped through the roof when trying a precise control.

In that situation, having to endure Gaia's fierce attack, Kazuma was constructing an extremely elaborate wind network.

And finally, by constantly concentrating a large part of his consciousness he succeeded in adjusting the environment so that he could perceive the battle between Ayano and Chris in real-time.

Nevertheless, because of Kazebami, that could only happen outside the territory Kazuma and Gaia were fighting.

Inside it, it was still impossible to use Fujutsushi against Gaia and Kazebami, and just like Ayano, he could only fight using martial arts.

No, the battle progress was even worse.

Different from Ayano who converged all her sensitivity in her own battle, looking over Ayano's battle via the tuning with the spirits required most of Kazuma's concentration.

As expected Gaia was proving difficult to face with only that remainder.

Excepting Nozuchi, he managed somehow the Chijutsu attacks but it became clear that in the future he would fail

But, even so...

’’Humph! ’’

’’Kuuh! ’’

His reaction was late. At once he set up the Seven Sword diagonally and ward it off but just by that one conjunction a huge crack was made on the blade.

At this rate, if it were to happen three more times, the blade would snap.

Of course, if he were to stop the blow head-on, it would instantly be pulverized.

Obviously together with its owner.

’’Fuu, that toy is pretty durable’’

Gaia offered words of praise from the bottom of his heart.

In a situation so disadvantageous, being cornered so much but never once receiving a direct hit, that strength was comfortable.

Being able to cross swords with such a formidable enemy to one's heart's content, that pleasant feeling was satiating.

But, on Kazuma's side,

’’Keh---- Ayano, don't be so reckless’’

Seeming not to hear Gaia's words, turning away, he muttered to himself.

Between here and there, it was very clear which one was more important.

Naturally, Gaia was enraged.

’’You bastard! Is the woman more important than fighting me!? Are you underestimating me--- ’’

’’It doesn't mean that I underestimate you but it can't be helped, you know? More that killing you, right now the person there has more priority ’’

’’You dare? ’’

At present, there is no other way of winning

There will probably be just one chance.

In the current situation, if he's cautious, the accuracy rate will drop very low.

That's right --- for Kazuma, there was something more important than killing Gaia.

It is, defeating both Gaia and Chris.

For that to happen, this overwhelming disadvantage must be improved one way or another, no matter what. And that's something he does not wish for Ayano.

Even if there is a huge risk that will come with it, there was no other way but to go through with this.

’’I'm relying on you, Ayano’’

Unintentionally he spoke out loud his expectation. But from what he saw, that didn't seem an issue.

Even in this disadvantageous situation, Ayano is making good progress.

It seemed she could win by herself without any help.

That was partially because that Suijutsushi was a loser but even so it was a big deal.

’’What remains is to find an opportunity here by any means possible--- ’’

As expected he kept quiet this time, murmuring so inside his heart. That's when it happened.

On his other field of vision a non-laughing matter was projected.

Ayano about to cut down Chris. The Homranagi creeping overhead. The red light inside the mist increased its brightness, clearly preparing to attack.

Ayano was completely unguarded against Homranagi and completely didn't realize it was drawing near.

’’--you idiot! ’’

That instant, Kazuma forgot about Gaia's existence. He completely discarded his own battle from consciousness concentrating everything on the neighboring battle.

Tuning his sense with the wind spirits, he aimed precisely at Homranagi ignoring the distance or Kazebami's influence.

He felt a definite response.

He was relived.

All of it happened in one moment.

But of course, Gaia didn't miss that space.

’’Nun! ’’

Raising a scream filled with power, Gaia swung Nozuchi downward.

The blade blew up the ground like an explosion --- it hardened in the air and the crystal-like stones bullets aimed at Kazuma.

He couldn't react in any way. His absolutely defenseless upright body was flooded in the stream of bullets, dancing in space as if hit by a car.

The Seven Star he had in his right hand snapped disappearing in the sky.

And then, after flying a few meters, he landed on his back.

With a start, his body convulsed once,

’’Gaaa....ahhhh’’

Together with a feeble groan, he spit out fresh blood. And then completely stopped moving as if he was dead.

His chest was moving up and down faintly so he barely managed to live but----

’’What a moron.....!’’

No power to fight remained in that body for which even the label serious condition was an understatement.

Gaia's face, looking down on the fallen Kazuma was thoroughly disgusted, warped with discontent.

’’Giving up on the fight for something like a woman........I did not wish for such a dull conclusion’’

’’Haa.........I believe I already won, you fool’’

’’Mmm!? ’’

He thought he was speaking to himself. The moment he heard that murmured answer Gaia opened his eyes in shock.

He looked down once more and saw the severely wounded person that was about to die there, carrying a strong will in his eyes looking this way.

’’I destroyed Homranagi. Ayano will immediately finish off the Suijutsushi and come here. It's your loss. ’’

’’Humph, giving your life for the woman--- for the victory of your partner? What a beautiful intent of self-sacrifice. ’’

’’Don't be ridiculous! Who died? ’’

Although in a situation that crossed from an overwhelming to an absolute handicap, Kazuma smiled fearlessly.

’’This kind of damage is just the right handicap to deal with the likes of you. Even if I can't win I can hold on until Ayano gets here easily’’

’’-----Hou? ’’

Gaia's expression looking at him with a bored, disappointed look became animated once more.

He realized that Kazuma was not joking but he seriously did not gave up on the fight.

’’With a body that cannot stand up, are you still talking big? Interesting, how very interesting, Yagami Kazuma. That's my opponent! ’’

’’.........’’

’’Fine, then I won't go easy on you! If you can still do something in that condition, why don't you show me? ’’

To grasp complete victory, Gaia raised Nozuchi overhead and roared loudly.

Part 3[edit]

Chris couldn't comprehend what happened.

’’Wha- what........’’

He thought he won completely. It was a perfect trap.

Easily defeating him in the previous battle, looking down on him with naked contempt, that hateful woman he could endlessly torture to death without ever getting tired of it--- Kannagi Ayano was one-sided cornered, pressed down and in the end she was supposed to receive a certain-kill blow.

And yet---

’’What the f*k happened.........’’

Homuranagi disappeared.

For Chris, whose power was much inferior to Ayano's, his lifeline just disappeared.

Chris didn't think it was cowardly sealing Enjutsu by using Homuranagi. It was his pet theory that's how humans should fight.

From the start, among all animals on the Earth, it was easier to count a human's physical ability from the bottom up.

No matter how much one trains, there wasn't one in a million people who could bring down a tiger or a lion with his body alone.

Why did such a meager living thing seized hegemony on this planet?

That was only because it had the wisdom to press down that power.

He cannot win by himself. By himself.

By using tools, by setting traps, by thinking of a plan --- using such intellectual means, the humans exterminated other animals and expanded their territory.

Then, there was nothing wrong with using a Youma. It was an ordinary tactic to seal the opponent's power.

That wasn't an excuse, he thought so from the bottom of his heart. Of course, it something like that were to happen to him, that would be a different problem.

Anyway, that's how he fulfilled his own self-justification and dealt with this battle as if the winner was decided from the beginning.

’’This is, no way.......’’

The plan that was supposed to be absolute was really, quickly overturned.

Even Chris really understood from the beginning. That the downpour of wind blades from the sky forcibly smashed Homuranagi together with the beam it fired.

’’no way......’’

But even so he could not accept the reality, letting his gaze wander searching for Homuranagi.

Of course, he couldn't find it, that wandering off gaze directly grasping the appearance of the enemy with it's power regained.

’’Hii--!’’

Remembering this was no time to be leisurely distracted, Chris jumped setting up Mizuchi.

But, the severe counterattack he feared didn't come.

Even when he put himself on guard, Ayano let the hand grasping Enraiha drop without posture and quietly stopped.

Even Enraiha's blade clad on flame was flickering feebly, not all that different from before Homuranagi was extinguished.

For some reason he hesitated to challenge that somewhat dejected standing figure full of disappointment, feeling like a deer in the headlights.

After several seconds without change---

’’Haaah’’

Suddenly Ayano closed her eyes, letting out a very heavy sight.

She instantly opened her closed eyelids but in them there was the same battered light of despair.

By some chance, had all fire spirits been eaten as far as the eye can see and even if Homuranagi was destroyed, she wasn't able to regain her power?

When he was thinking that---

’’I was supposed to fix the problem by myself, hey. Well, it's true this was a pinch so I won't say it was none of your business. ’’, grumbled Ayano looking reluctant.

’’I'm always the one saved. If it goes on like this, no matter how much time passes, I won't be able to stand next to him. ’’

’’Wh- what are you saying.......’’

’’But, anyway--- if that's the case, at least let me handle what was asked of me’’

With that murmur, that instant she lightly raised Enraiha overhead---

Donnn--

Together with a thunderous roar that shook the ground, a dazzling pillar of fire pressed against the heaven.

The overwhelming power emerging without previous notice rumbled the surrounding atmosphere--- no, the space itself.

’’Wha- wha-- whaaat!? ’’

In front of that excessively immense, immense power, Chris could do nothing but raise a cry of panic.

But of course, that was meaningless and before the man screaming idly, a huge pillar of fire converged.

That's right, without reduction or decline it converged. Without lowering it's temperature, only diminishing it's volume, it's density was raised much more.

So much, that it could pierce the Heavens.

The huge blazing column of fire became thiner, shorter--- standing in the center of it, entwined in it was the girl's body, the source of the flame.

And finally, it was compressed in that blade the girl was holding.

’’Waah’’

Chris stared with a hot blooded complexion at that blade clad in a compressed flame the equivalent of a sun.

His teeth didn't quite match, an unsightly chattering sound escaping from his mouth.

Unable to look straight at her, his turned away eyes sized his own hand holding Mizuchi.

It was supposed to have given him unrivaled power, the mighty, unparalleled Water's Sacred Treasure.

It was the first time he regarded it as something so unreliable. Bearing in mind the differences between water and fire, the disparity between them became overwhelming.

It's impossible to win--- that was such a reasonable conclusion it became heartless.

Using Enraiha to slice the air ahead, Ayano looked at Chris through the golden sparks scattered.

With an expression void of the exaltation of the counterattack, void of the pleasure of taking her revenge, she dispassionately announced.

’’I'm sorry but I can't mind you right now’’

She already had no business here.

She must speedily clear all obstacles blocking her path, she must go no matter what.

’’Because Kazuma is waiting for me’’

Even if this is Kazuma, Ayano understood he had no way of overwhelming Gaia as long as his power was sealed.

He was more that at a disadvantage.

Even under such life threatening circumstances, even so, Kazuma forcefully saved her.

But Ayano understood that wasn't all because of kindness.

It was a move Kazuma made to win.

It was because he judged that was the very best in order to defeat Chris and Gaia.

He saved Ayano and returned her power to her.

That is, ’’Kill him quickly, come and quickly smash Kazebami! ’’.

’’Haaa! ’’

Reducing the distance by breaking into great speed, Ayano swung Enraiha downward right in front.

’’Nuuh! ’’

Chris spread a water sphere from Mizuchi and held it aloft like a shied to receive the attack.

The difference in shape between a sword or a whip was instantly blurred but the result was still the same.

The enormous water mass was bisected unable to resist a moment. Of course that produced an explosion of water vapor but it was thoroughly burned to nothing by the golden eruption approaching Chris.

’’Hi, hiii! ’’

Without shame or honor Chris rolled on the ground to avoid even brushing against that hellish fire about to annihilate him.

He pushed before his eyes Mizuchi who already became a handle and managed somehow to block down that mowing attack.

This time, something both fortunate and unfortunate happened to Chris.

The fortunate part was that because of Enraiha's flame, condensed to utmost limit, his hand holding the handle wasn't burned away.

The unfortunate part was that because of Enraiha's flame, condensed to utmost limit, the handle struck by it couldn't withstand it.

Even though it was sacred treasure, having lost all its capacity, Enraiha's blow at full power put an enormous burden on it.

Mid-way on the edge of the handle where it was hit, it developed a small crack impossible to mistake.

’’Wha----?’’

’’Eeh? ’’

Not only Chris but Ayano too looked at it in shock. She slashed at it with all her strength but she would have never expected something called a Sacred Treasure to be damageable.

Unintentionally she interrupted her pursuit and looked at Enraiha.

She observed it carefully and deliberately but it didn't seem to have any minute scratches, let alone cracks.

Letting out a long sigh of relief, she shifted her attention on Chris for a second time.

Because of too much shock she let herself have a lot of openings in front of the enemy but he didn't use that.

Looking at it, it seemed unlikely he could have.

’’Aah......aah....’’

With perfectly round eyes Chris was starring at Mizuchi.

The crack running through the handle was spreading out greatly but it wasn't serious enough to snap in the middle.

But, that doesn't mean he could relax----

’’Waaah! ’’

Suddenly, from Mizuchi a water whip vigorously stretched out. It stuck to Chris, his upper body reflexively vent backwards.

No matter how you look it he wasn't the kind of man who would commit suicide. Which means that the water whip was naturally formed by the Sacred Treasure.

But, even it that was so, it was clearly strange that it would turn against its proprietor, trying to harm him. It didn't look like a normal feature.

’’No way, it's running wild......? Because of a crack..........?’’

While the water whip was undulating irregularly, it grew thick enough the name whip became unsuitable.

And at the same time, it's pointed tip began changing shape, making one believe it was the head of a living creature, furthermore on all its body a scale pattern began to emerge.

’’Qu-quiet down, Mizuchi! ’’, order Chris holding the Sacred Treasure in his hand changing his facial expression.

Since his own Sacred Treasure was on a rampage that reaction wasn't particularly odd but Ayano tilted her head on the side remembering a subtle sense of discomfort.

’’This pronunciation.......is somewhat weird?’’

Mizuchi is certainly the name of the Sacred Treasure he was owning. But the way he called it then, it seemed like he called out something quite different but with the same name---

’’Well, anyway’’

It was doubtful but Ayano easily cast it away.

She was hurrying now and at present the enemy must be put down no matter what.

If so, there's only one way to go.

In silence she raised Enraiha overhead. Since the Sacred Treasure was running wild close combat became even more dangerous. Besides, there was no need for a direct confrontation in this situation.

But even so, without negligence, she loaded all her power in the blade.

And then, she swung it downward without hesitation.

A maximum plasma attacked the Suijutsushi in the height of his panic.

’’Hiiiyaa! ’’

Without means of opposing, he wasn't even able to control Mizuchi. Having said that, he didn't have the determination to let go of it and it was too late to run now----

The result

Unable to do anything, Chris was wrapped in the white-hot flame.

After the flame vanished, nothing remained. Not Chris nor Mizuchi.

Unable to earn a positive proof, Ayano murmured.

’’Did I got him.......?’’

Since there was any trace there was also a chance he ran away. Leaving Chris aside, she didn't believe the Sacred Treasure called Mizuchi could disappear without leaving at least a fragment behind.

But right now, more that the validation of the result, she gave preference to the confluence with Kazuma.

Thinking so, Ayano turned on her heels and started running searching in the cracks for a path to the other side.

’’Wait for me, Kazuma! ’’

Part 4[edit]

Managing somehow to get up, leaning on one of the tree trunks nearby, Kazuma urged Gaia provocatively.

’’What's the matter, aren't you coming? ’’

’’How about you speak so full of composure after you can stand up by yourself? ’’

’’Against you, even standing down it's enough.’’

Together with the instant reply, Kazuma lifted his middle finger. But, Gaia didn't get angry, rather he was laughing happily.

’’You didn't give on victory even this late in the game. I understand that. Bastard, are you still planing something? Not something that could change the tables in a second but something that could open you a path to victory? ’’

’’That's right. If you don't want to die, don't move any closer. I can solve the problem with a long range attack without risking my safety. ’’

It was clearly a provocation. Using the things Gaia put a lot on emphasis on, pride and courage, he wanted to get him as close as possible.

But he was doing it deliberately, stepping up the provocations.

’’Fine. Then I'll cut your head directly with this Mizuchi. ’’

And then, he bore Nozuchi on his shoulder and slowly started walking with his short legs.

’’Kuuh....fu fu....fu fu fu fu fu fu.....’’

While firmly taking one step at the time, a suppressed laugh escaped Gaia, enjoyed from the bottom of his heart.

’’Not being exhausted even after being corned to such an extent...On the contrary, it's like I'm the one whose being cornered. This tension and this feeling of exaltation--- it's fun, Yagami Kazuma. I feel like I have only been alive since I met you ’’

’’..........that so? ’’

Contrastive to Gaia who displayed a somewhat ecstatic facial expression, Kazuma was thoroughly awake.

’’By the way, they're something I want to ask you’’

’’What is it?’’

Looking at Kazebami Kazuma asked.

’’If you love to fight, why are you using something like that? ’’

’’Hmmm, it's regrettable but I cannot win otherwise. ’’

’’.....In short, what you like is not to fight but to win, right? ’’

’’If I'd be pushed to say it, that's right. If I were to die, I couldn't fight anymore, right? ’’

’’............’’

At that thought too distant from his own sense of values, Kazuma understood asking question is meaningless.

’’It was a mistake thinking I can understand a battle junkie's mind. ’’

’’What are you saying? Living is fighting. Then, there's no other meaning to life except aiming for victory. ’’

’’Aah, I see, I see. That so? ’’

Gaia passionately began reciting his life philosophy but Kazuma, who already gave up understanding him, only made approving sounds not really listening.

It seems that these two had a very bad affinity.

But, it was only a conversation while walking and that distance wasn't all that long. Naturally, it quickly came to an end.

’’What's the matter? ’’

There were a little less that two meters. Stopping at a distance were, if he were to make another step the ax would reach, Gaia asked:

’’You're already within my reach. Won't you use that plan that will definitely kill me? ’’

’’Humph, I'm embarrassed’’, replied Kazuma in an absolutely not embarrassed tone while expressing a slack smile.

But the situation was desperate even for untrained eyes. Ayano was still in the middle of fighting with Chris and she will certainly not make it in time.

In this situation where he didn't have strength enough to stand, is it really possible to defeat Gaia even with a plan.

’’Unfortunately I couldn't prepare yet. Therefore, because of my handicap wait until I count to three. ’’

Saying so, he raised two fingers. As expected, Gaia frowned.

’’There's no need to go along with you that far. This is enough, not knowing when to give up--- ’’

’’One’’

But, not minding that, Kazuma willfully started the count. The ring finger standing up was folded.

Gaia frowned even more.

’’I told you I won't go along with it. Fine, then just before it reaches three, I'll behead you’’

’’Two’’

The middle finger was folded.

Immediately following, in silence Gaia took the last step. At the same time he twisted his back, creating enough space for Nozuchi hidden on his back.

A sweeping sideways slashing attack that would cut off his neck in one move.

That flash aimed for Kazuma's head much faster than when his finger should have folded.

But, even quicker that that---

Suddenly, Kazebami was enveloped in flames.

’’Wha---!?’’

At the sudden emergency Gaia interrupted his attack looking up at Kazebami. But, without time to do anything, the golden flame shining brilliantly burned Kazebami no nothing instantly.

The Youma that was the vital point of his tactics quickly disappeared without leaving any trace.

’’No way, she's still.......’’

Murmuring in blank amazement, Gaia gasped sharply, looking back at Kazuma.

That frightful gaze was was greeted with with a man-eating smile.

’’Aah, I'm sorry. That was a bit fast, no? ’’

’’Bastaaaaar----’’

Gaia was about to curse at him but didn't manage to finish his words.

Wind blew him off like a cannonball, flowing away ten meters.

Kazuma didn't run after him, looking up at the sky deploring. Next he looked over his shoulder and laughed cynically.

’’You made a very grand entrance but did you wait your turn, old man? ’’

’’Don't be foolish. I'm not you’’

A solemn voice replied so. Abruptly he faced the one who addressed him without any surprise. And then---

’’Nii-sama! ’’

Obviously different from the previous one, a high clear voice that made one's ears comfortable and small footsteps running over.

Kazuma greeted his important family member with a bottomless smile, unusual for him.

’’Yo, Ren’’

’’Onii-sama! ’’

Kazuma's real brother, Kannagi's direct descendant, the Enjutsushi Kannagi Ren responded to his brother smiling with his whole face.

And then he prepared to hug him with all his strength but the instant he saw Kazuma's condition he froze.

’’......Nii-sama......’’

That third call was sorrowful, as if a different person called the first two times.

But Kazuma didn't seem to notice,

’’Aah, you'd better not cling to me. Because my bones are broken here and there’’

In a tone as if speaking about a different person, he urged Ren to be careful.

’’........What on Earth happened for Nii-sama to receive so much damage? ’’

’’Humph, you probably got excited and became negligent in the end and received a severe counterflow, right? ’’

That profound voice answered Ren from the background. The boy turned around, and replied to their father, Kannagi Genma, in a tone full of criticism.

’’You don't need to speak in that tone, Otou-sama’’

’’But, Kazuma is actually injured. Was the man just now so dangerous? That's impossible ’’

’’Otou-sama--- ’’

’’Ren, wait’’

Kazuma restrained Ren, who was about to protest further. Of couse, it wasn't to prevent the parent-child argument.

’’You, how did you know about this? ’’

It was because he wanted to know the answer first. Ren and Genma who had just returned from a business trip had no way of knowing they were fighting here.

But Ren quickly answered.

’’How you ask, because Isurughi-san from the Special Investigation Unit reported to the Suzerain. ’’

’’Isurughi......? Aah, that child-face. What did he report? ’’

’’Eeh, that he had a verbal message from those who aimed at Enraiha? Do you not know of it? Then, Nii-sama, why are you here? ’’

’’We chased after Xiaolei and it turned into a fight. Verbal message.....by the way, did the Suijutsushi son of a bitch said something about it? ’’

Both inclined their hear. Because their intel was too different, they couldn't understand the situation very well.

Eventually, Kazuma gave up on it completely.

’’Anyway. We'll have time to talk things through when this is over. ’’

And finally he looked at his father and spoke words of thanks, unusually frank.

’’At any rate you saved me. That was a desperate situation’’

’’Hoou--- I didn't notice that’’

Genma replied coldly and shifted his focus underneath to where Kazebami had been flying.

A darkened stick-like object was stuck into the ground. Because it had been burned at such high temperature, it fused and wouldn't return to its previous form but even so the seven dots carved in the middle could still be seen.

That was supposed to have been blown away at the time he received that blow from Gaia, the ruin of the Seven Star Sword. Ht means that when Genma attacked Kazebami he also burned the sword that was still there.

Of course, it wasn't a coincidence. Using wind Kazuma manipulated the sword's orbit, using words Kazuma controlled the positions of Gaia and Kazebami and turned the situation around in a surprise attack against the danger that stole his skill from the blind spot.

The resuscitating move born from not knowing how to give up on victory even in the end.

The outcome was pointless but until Genma and Ren appeared it was definitely not impossible recovering in that situation.

But, Kazuma was modest.

’’Is that true? Even I were to hit it once that method was like leaving at to chance. There was a high possibility it would be off. ’’

’’Humph, I wonder. You always seemed to like playing the shamisen. ’’

’’Hah, are you still holding a grudge? The one getting tricked is the idiot, no?’’

Genma looked with a long, blank gaze at his son, speaking so provocatively. That excessively cold atmosphere unbecoming for a father and his son drifted between them.

Ren looked at both of them astonished.

’’Nii-sama.......Otou-sama too, now it's not the time to do something like this...? ’’

’’Humph, I agree’’

Understanding it was pointless asking questions, Genma turned the conversation more practical.

’’Ayano seems to be fighting the other way but where is the Fuan girl? ’’

’’Who knows. Somewhere around there she's dead or she's about to die’’

’’Nii-sama.........’’

Ren again raised a voice of criticism against his brother's extremely heartless manner of speaking but this time Kazuma didn't back down.

’’Running ahead by herself, defeated on her own. Very troublesome’’

’’But the Suzerain ordered us to protect that girl.’’

’’That so? Then find her by yourselves. But, before that ’’

Gaia shifted his attention on Gaia laying down ten meters ahead of him.

The blow from before, although it was meant to thrust him away not incapacitate, it gave enough damage to compare it to an iron ball used for wrecking houses.

’’I need to finish this first’’

Together with his murmur, Kazuma formed a wind blade above Gaia. And fired it instantly without hesitating.

The wind blade that fell perpendicularly mercilessly aimed at Gaia's neck.

’’Nuuoo!?’’

But just before it hit, Gaia tumbled on the ground raising a strange voice and narrowly escaped death.

’’Did- did you found out.....’’

’’Obviously, you smurf. A Chijutsushi can't die just because of that’’

Because the high-ranking Chijutsushi was directly taking the Earth's <<Ki>>inside its body he could boast about resilience beyond human understanding.

Therefore, even receiving damage that would instantly kill a regular human he would still be alive and kicking, just like that.

’’Even so, this time playing dead, huh? Even though you say you are a brave-ish man, you don't really choose your methods. No, that only means you're self-centered. ’’

’’Mmm, what are you saying? My body and heart are that of a brave man. But---’’

’’If you die you can't fight anymore? ’’

’’Yeah! ’’, declared Gaia trowing out his chest with pride.

Clearly the means and the purpose suddenly reversed but the person in question didn't quite understand that.

’’.......Well, I don't care about your principles but there's something I want to hear. Will you sing for me, I wonder---on whose order are you two operating? ’’

That moment Gaia's face convulsed magnificently. He was the kind of man who could not lie.

’’...........I don't know what you're saying’’

He was doing his best to play innocent but Kazuma didn't even pay attention.

’’Don't try to deceive me, fool. A battle enthusiast meat-head asshole who is convinced he's so clever. Different from trying to make a name for yourself, to say nothing of the fact you managed to prepare that kind of Youma, it doesn't seem like the magic ceremony of gathering four Sacred Treasures is something you just ran across into’’

’’Unh.....’’

Gaia groaned unpleasantly but suddenly his lips turned into a broad grin. And then, he began talking.

’’Is not that I can't tell you but it's not free of charge. ’’

’’What will money do to you now? You can't use them in the next world. ’’

’’But--but I didn't say that's what I need! ’’

Speedily giving up on that unsuitable round-about speaking style, Gaia asked directly. That was a military-man-like manner.

Matching that, Kazuma replied frankly.

’’I see, that's fine. Die! ’’

’’Whaa---? If- if I die you won't get your information! ’’

’’That's not really important’’, declared Kazuma flatly.

’’I'm not the one carrying a Sacred Treasure. It's the Kannagi's and Fuan's business. ’’

’’But, can you fight with that wound? Wouldn't it be best to make a deal now for both of us? ’’

’’Hah, how stupid. Why can I not fight in this situation? ’’

Declaring so matter-of-course, Kazuma looked at his father. And then pointed at Gaia with his arm and said the words he was most fearfull of.

’’Go Kannagi Genma! Defeat the enemy of your family! ’’

’’...............’’

Genma stared at his son who ordered him so in an unnatural narration-like clear tone with an extremely chilly gaze.

And then, after a few seconds, he suddenly turned around and informed Ren.

’’There doesn't seem to be any problem on Ayano's end. We should focus on sheltering the Fuan girl. ’’

’’That's right. ’’

Ren too looked at Kazuma with the same kind of glance his father used and followed him. Without once turning around, they both disappeared.

Gaia saw them off with an amazed expression.

Precisely because he feared Kannagi Genma he took the miserable attitude of playing dead but it turned out he will be able to escape this place somehow.

And yet, should he be happy his plan worked so well?

’’.....Are they really gone? Even though you have been disinherited isn't that a bit too cold for a real father and child? ’’

’’Hmm, Aaah, that's fine. It was a joke anyway’’

’’A joke? ’’, asked Gaia back not understanding why use that word.

But Kazuma didn't answer that,

’’It's certainly tiresome and loathsome, I am hurt, but I couldn't agree more. ’’

He gave the sentence matter-of-fact.

’’I, I had no intention from the beginning of leaving cleaning up you to someone else since the beginning! ’’

That instant, a sublime thirst for blood filled the space.

’’Kuuh! ’’

Feeling a chill, as if a gleaming sword was pushed against the rape of his neck, Gaia--- instantly backed off.

In the same posture, sitting down with both his feet stretched out Kazuma couldn't stand up.

He did not called the wind spirits.

But, but even so.

Faced with the intimidating air emitted by that man only sitting down, Gaia experienced personally the proximity of <<Death>>, like never before.

’’Guh.....nuu.....’’

But his reason negated that. Saying there's no need to fear some half-dead man with wounds all over his body.

He clasped Nozuchi with both his hands raising it before his eyes. He backed off one step. And then, to encourage himself, he roared.

’’Don't babble dead man! No matter how tough you pretend to be, I know you have no more strength to battle! After collapsing so ungainly, you don't have the strength to stand up! ’’

’’Well, that's generally not mistaken’’

Kazuma agreed calmly.

’’But that's not a problem. I'm not primarily a martial artist. I can kill people without lifting a finger. It doesn't matter if I sit or if I lie down’’

’’Even me? Without even moving, without Kokusen, do you think you can kill me with only wind? Don't look down on me! ’’

’’I'm not. That's why--- ’’

A calm tone. But, that <<something>>dwelling in it, the premonition of death that put the screws on Gaia's body, changed into something more.

At the same time he understood. Kannagi Genma's choice to leave this place was not because he abandoned his son but because he was certain of his victory.

That was very clear now. Even about to die, even unable to stand, this man is <<the enemy>>that holds a superior power surpassing his own.

’’I'll crush you with all my power’’

’’Daaaaa! ’’

That's why Gaia went ahead. Amassing power by jumping ahead several steps, he swung Nozuchi from underneath in a scoop up movement.

The blown-up soil approached Kazuma like a tsunami.

Kazuma didn't stir. Just like he said, he didn't move a finger, only calling out the Wind in his thoughts.

The gushing out hard wind crashed violently in the avalanche of earth and rocks, offsetting it.

The rivalry between wind and earth.

Wind --- the spectacle of atmospheric flow stopping the violent torrent of stones was aberrant but Gaia observed it with a smile of joy.

That's right, they're struggling for supremacy. No matter the medium, the avatar of death's, that man's power and he.

’’I won't, I won't loose! ’’

Supported by his regained self-confidence and pride, Gaia charged even more power. The surging sea of soil with grown might, little by little pushed into the wind.

But, immediately following---

The wind-blade approaching from behind, quickly and mercilessly looped off his head.

’’----Aah?’’

The head separated from its torso fell down while rotating. Unable to understand what happened, inside that rotating field, Gaia observed his own body being shred to pieces by wind-blades.

And then, the head fell on the ground with a plop. The last thing that interrupted consciousness perceived was the image of his enemy, the one who defeated him, collapsed and feeble.

But within that unshapely appearance he instantly recognized that pair of eyes shining in a vibrant blue --- the downpour of wind blades from overhead tore his brain to pieces and his consciousness was swallowed in darkness.

’’...........sigh’’

Quite annoyed, Kazuma took a deep breath. Doing so, he seemed to loose his vitality together with the exhalation and the blue, transparent pupils were dyed a dark black.

’’Did my time come? ’’

Murmuring so without strength he took out tobacco from his breast pocket. He put it in his mouth and lit it with the lighter that was luckily safe.

Breathing out the smoke with a sigh, he looked at the sky. Both his arms hanged, seeming to have used all their strength on the cigarette.

That pair of eyes looking at the sky grew somewhat hazy and yet very transparent. As if he finished achieving what he wanted to achieve, like a man who has no more regrets in this world.

Not moving or rather unable to move--- Kazuma stood still as if all his power left him.

A heavy silence filled his surroundings.

’’.............’’

Suddenly, holding the tobacco, his lips trembled. The ash that grew long fell on his chest and charred his clothes but without paying attention to it, he let out a small phrase.

Very much like him, much too cynical, mixed with a bitter smile---

’’........Isn't this my death flag? ’’

’’Why are you joking like some happy idiot, you? ’’

A cold retort immediately returned. Kazuma slightly shifted his neck and looked at the girl holding a flame sword in her hand--- Ayano.

’’Yo, Ayano. Don't you look healthy? ’’

’’......It's all thanks to you. While you have suffered quite a lot. ’’

’’It's all thanks to you’’

Hearing Kazuma reply with the same words, Ayano made an extremely guilty face.

’’......I'm very sorry’’

’’I did it because it was necessary’’

’’But, I wasn't back in time’’

’’That's true’’

’’Again. I couldn't do anything’’

’’If you think so, it must be so’’

’’I was supposed to bear that injury’’

’’Is that so?’’

’’Thank you’’

Words of gratitude lost in the sea of self reproach.

But, no matter how small that whisper was, Kazuma couldn't possibly miss it.

’’You are welcome’’

Mingling it with a smile, Kazuma responded to the girl who turned his back on him to try and hide her face dyed red.



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