Kaze No Stigma - Volume 6 - Chapter 6
’’Come to think of it, did you meet the old man?’’, said Kazuma, suddenly remembering.
’’Old man, huh........Genma-Ojisama? He came?’’
’’Aah, together with Ren, they abandoned my injured self and went to find Xiaolei.’’
’’Anyway, you probably said something stupid again, so I don't pity you. Leaving that aside, that Gaia....you really did him, huh?’’
Shifting her eyes forward, Ayano said so, as if swallowing something bitter.
The opponent was a Chijutsushi, and so to prevent him from resuscitating, he had been shredded so fine it was impossible to distinguish his human form.
All around there was a pool of blood, a spectacle she couldn't look at directly.
Trying to advert her eyes, Ayano looked at Mizuchi lying in a pool of blood. That boorish ax was keeping its original form but---
’’It has a lot of cracks, no?’’
Following Ayano's gaze, Kazuma also noticed the damage Nozuchi received.
Suspicious, his eyes narrowed, suddenly turning to the Enraiha in Ayano's hand.
The renowned Sacred Treasure of Fire had received Kazuma's full powered attacks many times now, but as far as he remembered there was never a scratch on it.
’’Mizuchi too’’, whispered Ayano in a voice for some reason full of anxiety.
’’When Enraiha slashed at it, it cracked on top of which it seemed to run wild.’’
’’Fuuh, I don't really get it. Maybe there is a status difference even between Sacred Treasures? By the way, I didn't check, but did you kill the Suijutsushi?’’
At the sudden investigation, Ayano looked away quite uncomfortable. But Kazuma cannot be deceived with only that,
’’Did you kill him?’’
’’Aah---, you see, I thought meeting was more important so I blew him off with one shot, but I didn't confirm it.’’
Kazuma stared at Ayano, who trying to explain and excuse herself, with half-open eyes. Completely disregarding the rest of the explanation, he searched the surroundings.
The answer came back instantly.
’’Aaah, found him? Why?’’, murmured Kazuma very curious.
Ayano had the same opinion.
If he survived, he should have escaped from here. He didn't win even when he had so many advantages.
It was plenty obvious he couldn't now. Then why is he still loitering around here?
’’If he's still eager it means he's an inborn idiot----well, anyway. Ayano, this way.’’
Casually, Kazuma pointed in the direction where he felt Chris'presence.
’’No, ten centimeters more to the right, yeah, that's good. Hit him horizontally with all your power.’’
’’Eeh......? If you say so, OK’’
Ayano fired a plasma ball just like she was told. That bolide of scorching heat mowed down all trees in its path, evaporating them, plunging forward in a straight line. And then-----
The shriek that reverberated with the sound of explosion belonged to one man emerging from the forest.
Covering his face with his left hand, the man approached, staggering.
For one moment Ayano thought she had attacked an unrelated homeless.
His clothes were in tatters. His hair was burned here and there. For some reason he was covering his face with his left hand, and he had no right arm.
With a sidelong glance at the shaken Ayano, Kazuma murmured full of admiration.
’’You're so merciless, you know?’’
’’---Eeh, then, is that the Suijutsushi?’’
’’Of course, who else is there?’’
’’No, because he's too shabby, I thought I attacked a homeless instead.’’
’’You're the one who made him shabby. Or rather, you're kicking a dead man.’’
She covered her mind confused but she couldn't take back her words. Uncomfortably she looked at Chris, the glitter in the eye peeking between his fingers, slowly getting closer, one step at the time.
’’How dare you’’
From between his dry lips, curse words flew out.
’’How dare you---- How dare you----’’
His left hand dropped, tightly grasping Mizuchi. Hence, his exposed face---
’’I see. With this you gave a guy like him a fate much worse than death. As expected of Ayano.’’
’’It wasn't on purpose. Or rather, what do you mean by as expected?’’
Ayano objected with all her power.
She was still a woman, no matter how incomplete, so she understood that kind of pain.
She didn't wish that fate even to her enemies.
’’How dare you, to my faaaaaaaace!?’’
Squeezing out a scream, Chris glared at Ayano, the right half of his face hideously burned.
And then he brandished Mizuchi. That water whip that went on and on coiled like a living thing.
But unlike Ayano, who felt guilty, Kazuma's reaction was thoroughly cold.
’’I thought you had some plan, but you snapped just because your precious face got burned. In comparison with the difficulties en route, you're like the punchline, huh?’’
He said so coldly over his shoulder, about to sever his future anxieties. But, one beat later.
Or rather, one moment earlier, that thing appeared.
The moment he saw it, Kazuma's wind blade about to fire dispersed.
Ayano forgot how to breath, stiffening.
Even Chris'frenzy was appeased.
Nothing was said, nothing was done, just by being there, all their attention was pointed at him.
That tremendous presence, resembled what is commonly known as charisma. At least, there were no humans in this world who could ignore it.
It was the same reason that an everlasting beauty or the spectacularly ugly fascinated and attracted the eye.
Considering only the outward appearance, it looked human.
Darkish skin, darkish hair, jet-black pupils --- if you discuss only the separate parts, there wan't much to be uncomfortable about.
But that's wrong.
Somewhere much more fundamental was overwhelmingly, desperately wrong.
No matter how bad they get, humans will never reach that.
From the moment it appeared, the wind died down. The flame burning the trees helplessly smoldered;the ground dried and cracked.
The world was dying.
’’He, hey.......what is this?’’
Staring at that which could kill the entire world, Ayano let out a grazed moan.
But really, she understood without asking. For her, a Spirit Practitioner, she could clearly see the main cause that could kill the world--- all Spirits attracted to that thing and greedily devoured.
With a ferocious smile, Kazuma looked at it.
’’That's why the small fry had Youma that could devour the spirits. This thing was pulling the strings all along.’’
That's right, they knew of it. As their greatest enemy.
The legends spoke of it--- that which eats the world. The poison that produces only ruin.
’’I thought you've been destroyed a long time ago--- <<Seireikui>>(trad: Spirit/Soul Eater)’’
Feeling her heartbeat throbbing, Ayano unconsciously held her chest down.
Just by hearing that name, her body became so frightened. As if the blood flowing in her veins, her genes, remembered the fear of staying in front of her natural enemy at that moment.
But the <<Seireikui>>in question naturally ignored the existence of both Kazuma, whose gaze was full of hostility and Ayano's bare terror like that of a small animal, and looked at the greatly disfigured Chris.
’’What a disgrace, Christian’’
’’I came to see thinking it was over but Gaia was destroyed and you are in such a sorry state. I gave you Wakemi (part of my spirit) so how could you lose to a Spirit Practitioner? ---- Incomprehensible’’
’’I am sorry, Goth-sama’’
While grinding his teeth in regret, Chris walked in front of <<Seireikui>>-- Goth, and knelt.
But he indifferently ignored that and this time shifted his focus on Kazuma and Ayano.
’’Spirit Practitioneers, today I'll overlook you for your achievement --- defending Wakemi. Until we meet next time, I'll entrust Enraiha and Kokusen to you. You can be thankful.’’
’’Thank you veeery much’’
Just like he said, thanking Goth for his tolerance and charity, Kazuma sharpened wind blades. Using everything he could muster now.
’’Ayano, match me’’
Ayano was perplexed, under the impression Spirit Jutsu doesn't work on <<Seireikui>>but Kazuma roared at her, no questions asked.
’’Listen up and do it!’’
At Kazuma's command Ayano instantly forgot her fear. Rapidly increasing the brightness of the flame surrounding Enraiha until it couldn't be looked at directly.
’’We don't have any obligation to overlook you too--- you made a mistake in the distance, fool!’’
Including scorn, Kazuma fired the wind blade. Matching that, Ayano too shot plasma with all her might.
When they fought with Kazebami and Homuranagi, they were too close. Because the space created for the battle was within range of their preying ability, a bold move was necessary to fulfill their objective --- gathering a definite number of spirits.
On the other hand, a light attack without aim would be absorbed before reaching without inflicting damage. As a result Spirit Jutsu had absolutely no effect. That's how it was.
But right now the distance between them and Goth was approximately twenty meters. The spirits surrounding Kazuma won't be influenced by <<Seireikui>>.
He can gather as many as he likes and he can attack at full power.
Then, there are enough prospects for victory.
Certainly, the ability to prey on spirits was a threat for Spirit Practitioners but that power is not infinite.
Because if it were so, <<Seireikui>>would have already exhausted the entire world all by himself.
A simultaneous attack from the Contractor and Enraiha's successor cannot be devoured by a finite preying ability, that's what he thought. But---
Smashing everything, the wind and fire that were supposed to destroy him was breathed in Goth's held out palms and disappeared.
’’Humph, a delicacy’’
As if nothing happened, with words said after finishing a meal, Goth shared his impression. And then, without being elated by success, he looked at Kazuma and Ayano indifferent.
’’Do you understand? That it's useless challenging me using Spirit Techniques.’’
Useless--- not that you cannot win but that challenging him itself was futile, that's what Goth haughtily declared.
’’Christian, recover Nozuchi’’
Obediently Chris swung Mizuchi and took Nozuchi using the water whip.
Confirming that, Goth looked once more at Kazuma and Ayano.
’’Until we meet again, learn your standing.’’
After that conclusion spoken with extreme arrogance, Goth and Chris disappeared together.
He may have been able to find where to if it wasn't very far but right now, Kazuma didn't have enough willpower for it.
And what's more, even if he chased after he had no way of winning.
’’By the way Ayano----’’
Turning a critical gaze to Ayano who lost her focus after the battle ended, Kazuma said.
’’You, you went easy on him’’
’’Uuu.....no, it wasn't on purpose’’
Because Magic was the materialization of one's will, even thinking <<Maybe it won't work>>may decrease the power.
In reality, Ayano's last blow was far from Ayano's real power.
’’B-but, Kazuma too wasn't serious, no?’’
’’Because I was hit before. It's hard firing continuously in this condition’’
Meaning that the attack on Goth wasn't the best they could do.
That was a light of hope but, but even so----
’’.......Hey, if we're both serious, can we defeat him?’’
’’Who knows. I don't think he could have devoured all that so easily’’
It was the worst having such an enemy but nothing essentially changed.
’’This became quite terrible’’
Looking at each other with gloom faces, they let out a sigh.
That's when the noticed the sound of small steps approaching this way.
Recognizing his blunder hearing those steps, Kazuma smacked his lips a little.
’’I forgot, Ren came with Oyaji too. If we would have attacked at the same time, maybe we could have killed it.’’
’’......now that you mention it, that's right’’
Ayano who didn't notice it before either agreed but it was too late.
Even if they would have been called or signaled using wind they could have synchronized.
Doing so the power would have doubled in one go. The possibility of getting hurt, would have lowered too.
’’Shit, it means I lost my cool’’
’’That may be so but there's nothing to do about it now. Let's think about what we're going to next. ----Ren, how was the trip?’’
’’Nee-sama, are you safe---’’
Ayano smiled at her younger brother rushing over. Matching her, Ren faintly opened his mouth but immediately clamped it shut hard.
This is not the time to laugh ---- he thought that in the present progressive form.
Ren shortly answered at that questioning gaze.
Ayano revealed a heartless cough. It seems she forgot about her just until now.
And if Ayano was heartless Kazuma should be called cruel or atrocious. Without being surprised, he said unconcerned.
’’What, is she still alive?’’
The meaning of those words was clear.
Ayano was unable to utter a word.
’’...........where is she?’’
’’This way. -----Nii-sama, can you move?’’
At his brother's question, Kazuma put strength in various places on his body as if trying to confirm his physical condition and nodded.
’’Ayano, lend me your shoulder’’
Maybe because she didn't like Kazuma's firm request or maybe she had another reason, in any case she frowned.
But she couldn't deny he got hurt because of her.
When finally arriving, Xiaolei was already on death's door. The hemorrhage was lethal no matter how you looked at it, her face deathly pale, and although she was still faintly breathing, she was already dead.
In the middle of that silence, discerning nothing can be done, only Ren wasn't able to accept it, looking up at his father.
’’To- Tou-sama, can't we save her?’’
Ruthlessly, Genma replied immediately.
’’This can't be fixed by a human hand. All we can do is to instantly ease her suffering.’’
’’No way.......Nii-sama, don't you have more Elixir?’’
Once, during the fight with Fuuga-Shu, using that, Kazuma saved Ayano from the verge of death.
It's true that if he had something like that, he could save Xiaolei but---
’’Idiot. I won't get my hands on that again as long as I live’’
Like parent like child, the heartlessness in Kazuma's reply wouldn't lose to his father's.
Ren was lost in grief.
In the meantime, Kazuma separated from Ayano, stood by himself, and walked until he was in front of Xiaolei, next to his brother.
And then, looking down on the almost-dead girl, he said what mattered most to her.
’’For now, the Chijutsushi is dead. The other one ran but I will definitely kill him. Their boss too. So go on with peace of mind.’’
That moment Xiaolei's expression changed. Those pupils that blankly looked at the sky regained their focus perceiving Kazuma.
Her lips moved often, letting out feeble breaths. It seems she wanted to say something but that soundless murmur didn't reach anyone's ears.
Understanding that, Xiaolei closed her lips and this time she slowly raised her left arm.
--- that's right, the arm still holding Kokusen.
Mustering the last of her strength, she pushed out the spear that must, in her condition be heavy enough to break her arm.
And then, she held it out to Kazuma.
There were no words. Not because she already lost her strength but because her tied up lips had no more to say.
But even so, Xiaolei's intention was clear. That's how she said ’’Use this’’.
Unintentionally Ayano looked at Kazuma.
Since before, this man, in spite of having the chance of acquiring the spear, he threw it away only saying ’’I don't need it’’.
That wasn't for show or because he considered the girl's feelings but because he thought so from the bottom of his heart --- but even so, he's not going to step on the girl's last request is he-----
Snorting like he was displeased, Kazuma took Kokusen.
Ayano was secretly relieved but next, he grasped it tightly and raised it overhead even higher----and in one breath he sharply swung it downward.
In front of Ayano, looking at this dumbfounded, Kokusen's spearhead pierced through Xiaolei's open wound making it even bigger.
The girl's body convoluted.
’’How many times do I have to say this? I don't need something like that’’
Confused by the unexpected violence, Ayano was about to draw near him. But, slightly quicker, Genma restrained her.
Without reproach, with a calm expression, plainly, Genma told her so.
’’Wait? We don't have time to---’’
’’At any rate that won't change the outcome. Besides, if he wanted to finish her off, we wouldn't have aimed for such a wound.’’
She noticed after he said it. Kazuma's blow went through the one Chris made. And it wasn't a vital point.
But then, from the time it was pierced this became a fatal wound regardless of vital points.
That's why Xiaolei was on the verge on dying --- massive blood loss, the vital organs still intact.
If Kazuma wanted to ease her suffering as Genma put it, it would have meant instant death, aiming for her heart.
Since he didn't do so, he must have had another purpose.
’’But, what on earth did he.......’’
In front of Ayano starring at him hard, Kazuma clasped Kokusen's handle with both his hands. And then, he slowly looked at the sky.
Those eyelids that closed for a second opened immediately.
Noticing his pupils changed to a deep blue, Ayano revealed a voice of bewilderment.
’’Hey, what are you--- Agh!’’
The radiation of explosive power obstructed her question. Faced with that pressure she endured in the middle of combat, she reflexively backed off.
The surrounding atmosphere --- the wind was dyed blue in one breath. That blue wind coiling gently in swirls wrapped the entire park even permeating through the soil and atmosphere, purifying miasma without leaving a trace.
’’Hou, is this Kazuma's wind?’’
Genma, the only one keeping calm amount the bystanders, let out a murmur of admiration.
’’Aah, now that you mention it, Ojii-sama and Otou-sama didn't see Kazuma's wind of purification--- that's not the problem, now!’’
Among the mayhem, before making sense of it, she was embraced by a feeling of calm. But it scattered in a moment, unable to form and at that moment----
..........She heard that song again
A light soprano and a grave bass. Although bipolar, those singing voices wove miraculously with exquisite harmony, unmistakably the Spirits of Wind and Wind's sacred treasure, Kokusen.
The revival of yesterday's wonderful sound--- no, it was much more magnificent than that.
What meaning does it have?
Last time, when Kokusen didn't respond to Xiaolei, Kazuma used his Contractor power to return it into the girl's hand.
But right now, doing so is meaningless and the girl can't be cured.
’’What on earth...............eeh!?’’
Ayano reflexively blinked. But even so the scene doesn't change. It doesn't stop.
Kokusen stuck in Xiaolei's stomach gradually sunk in. But, there's only earth underneath her and Kazuma doesn't seem to have the strength to do so.
Then, where does it disappear to?
’’Ayano, that girl, she's not Kokusen's formal inheritor?’’, asked Genma suddenly.
’’Eeh? Yes, that's right’’
’’Then, Kazuma is doing it right now. And perhaps he is using the power of the stored Sacred Treasure to compensate for her life force.’’
’’Eeeeh!? Can he do something like that!?’’
Seirei Jutsu have no healing jutsu. Humans can borrow the Spirits'strength but that's only the manifestation of the four elements, they are unable to interfere with organic matter, like human bodies.
The only exception is the Chijutsushi's resilience but that's related more with the constitution of the body than with Jutsu and cannot heal others.
’’This is not healing. In the end it's a temporary substitution. Something like a pump to her heart to make the blood flowing until the operation. Think of it like that. The temporary replenishment of her lost vitality with the Sacred Treasure's power, stalling before medical treatment is applied. I think it must be something like that?’’
’’Of course, that's just conjecture. Even if it's Kazuma, I don't have positive proof. But, even if he fails there's nothing to lose.’’
Surely, at this rate Xiaolei will die. That part doesn't change. But---
’’But in the worst case, there's also the the probability of losing Kokusen together with Xiaolei, no?’’
’’Hmmm, a huge probability’’
’’Waah’’, murmured Ayano amazed by Genma's very impersonal tone.
She thought this kind of disposition, totally apathetic towards everything that doesn't have value for him was just like Kazuma. Or rather, the spitting image of Kazuma.
’’Ren said this too but this parent and child are quite alike in spite of their great differences’’
While thinking inconsequential things, the Inheritance Ceremony's abridged version finished.
Kokusen was completely stored inside Xiaolei and at the same time, seeming to have used all his strength, Kazuma fell on his knees.
Ayano rushed over flustered and propped that body about to collapse. She shuddered when she touched him.
His body temperature was terribly low. His complexion was pale, looking like he could die any minute.
On the other hand, Xiaolei's condition stabilized. She was unconscious but breathing heavily. That rhythm was constant, without disturbance.
She seemed to have recovered a bit of color.
Genma replied to his son hoarse in an extremely calm tone.
’’Do you have a car?’’
’’Yes, it's waiting at the entrance.’’
’’Then, use it already. It won't hold very long’’
Nodding, Genma carefully held Xiaolei in his arms and started walking towards the car. Without sparing a second glance for those remained.
’’Wha- wait, Ojii-sama, what about Kazuma?’’
’’Kazuma can't possibly consent to me carrying him. On the other hand, there's not enough time for him to make it to the car supported by you. If we do so we won't be able to save this girl’’
’’But, Kazuma's in such a state---’’
’’Except his injury that's just battle fatigue. If he rests, there should be no problem. Besides, the said person doesn't seem to be complaining.’’
Now that you mention it, looking at Kazuma, his head placed on her shoulder, although in pain he looked happy for some reason.
He didn't have the energy to speak but it was clear he wasn't objecting to Genma's words.
’’That's how it is. -----Ren, you're coming too. I need an attendant.’’
He hesitated for a second looking at Kazuma and Ayano but just like Genma said, it was a race against time.
Ren made a short bow and started running after his father.
Dozens of seconds after being left behind, Ayano finally started to deal with it.
’’Wha.....what to do?’’
Inside her arm there was Kazuma's body, appearing totally exhausted.
From an outsider's point of view, they looked like a pair of lovers exchanging a passionate embrace.
How to say this---it was very awkward in this situation.
She must calm herself no matter what, she shouldn't move, they are excessively close.
She can't compose herself.
’’Kazuma--- are you still alive?’’
Unable to bear the silence, feeling uneasy towards the unmoving Kazuma she asked so but instead of words his survival was conveyed through action.
Ayano wrinkled her brow, tearing off the hand gently brushing her buttocks.
’’Geez, why are you so skillful at irritating other people's sensitivity?’’
’’When you don't see me like that........’’
She understood that behavior was without relations to lewdness.
At the very least, so far, Ayano never perceived the appearance of passion in Kazuma's eyes when looking at her.
All his se*ual harassment presence was designed to feign frivolity or to piss her off.
This time it was probably the latter, thinking of angering her enough to go back.
And then hide himself like a wounded beast, devoting himself intently to the recovery of his stamina----
While murmuring so, amazed, Ayano held Kazuma's head with both her hands and slowly and carefully, she placed it on top of her tights.
What is commonly known as sleeping with one's head in another's lap.
Unable to look straight at Kazuma's face, looking up at her surprised, Ayano blushed and turned the other way.
And then, without moving from that posture,
’’..............I should tell you just in case, I will get angry if you touch me somewhere weird again. Enough to give you the finishing blow’’
Despite hiding her embarrassment underneath a threat, she was wiping the blood from his forehead in a gentle manner.
If this would have happened just after they met, she might have done just what Kazuma intended her to.
Throwing his body while screaming ’’Diee! ’’, she would have returned home by herself. Maybe she would have called an ambulance.
But right now...
’’You can leave, you know?’’
This time faced with Kazuma speaking frankly, Ayano shook her head without hesitation.
’’Until Ojii-sama comes back or sends someone to pick you up, I'll stay. How can I just leave you here? I'm your---- partner, aren't I?’’
That's why don't be lonely. I won't let you.
’’That's right. Do you have any complaints?’’
At that question or reprimand more like it, Kazuma didn't reply.
Ayano too didn't say anything letting that silence, by no means unpleasant, fill the surrounding and soak through their bodies.
At the end of that long or perhaps short silence, Kazuma's faint voice but full of strength.
’’We must win next time’’
Therefore let's fight together--- at those words informing his <<partner>>Ayano replied in a tone of absolute confidence.