Hidan no Aria:Volume7 Chapter1
 1st Ammo: Case E8
Always expressionless, unfeeling and taciturn Reki.
Protecting me on orders from the "wind", the Reki who, armed with only a single sniper rifle, bravely took on the Ten Thousand Skill Warrior Koko.
Under the starlight, that Reki was sprawled on the roadway.
"This wound.....It's not a gunshot wound."
Said Shirayuki's younger sister, Kazayuki, who was kneeling on one knee at Reki's side.
The astonishment at her previously abrupt and hard to believe exclamation about Reki's bloodline still remained. However, now is not the time to be speaking about family lineages.
Medical aid for Reki has to be quickly administered.
"Reki was wounded by some sort of light that I don't really understand; some kind of invisible bomb. She bled considerably before you arrived. Shirayuki, your....healing art or something; can't you use it?!"
Clinging onto my words, I shook Shirayuki by the neck, trying to get rescue to come.
"Ordinarily, I would be up to the task......but right now, my powers are unstable."
Kazayuki explained to me with my furrowed eyebrows,
"Lately, in Japan...no, throughout the whole world, there has been a weakening of supernatural abilities. The reason for this drop in success rate is unknown. Among the Hotogi, the ability to heal wounds has been especially limited. In the event of failure, it could kill the person."
I weakened at her words....
Somehow or other, simply having Shirayuki's magic turn the game for the better would not be the case.
Then how can I.....
As I agitatedly paced around, Shirayuki took Reki's temperature.
"Terrible. Her body temperature has plummeted to extremely low levels. If we don't get her to a hospital fast...."
From behind, Shirayuki and her sisters boarded a convertible, a Himiko, a solid sedan of Mitsuoka Automobile and a Kushinada that came along with it.
Shirayuki and her sisters used this bulletproof car for retreat in accordance with the battle situation.
Just perfect. These guys can transport Reki.
"Don't go to a hospital. Our enemy from just now, Koko, was using a sniper rifle."
Right now, there is no sniper here.
If the hospital in the city came under attack from a sniper rifle, we won't be able to do anything.
Urban areas with plenty of buildings are where a sniper holds the most advantage.
"In that case, we'll take Reki-sama to a branch shrine of the Hotogi. We'll call a doctor there."
Kazayuki grudgingly soaked her miko garb in blood carrying Reki.
Carrying Reki in the back seat of the Kushinada, I supported her, together with my neighboring passenger. With our cell phones destroyed, Shirayuki got into the co-driver's seat and called Butei High.
With the engine primed forward, Kazayuki settled down on a passenger seat with a sharp expression. Right now, her wakyuu was in her hands in preparation for a pursuit with Koko.
The driver opposite and the driver here; both of them dazzling beauties started their vehicles to maintain a lookout over the river bank, heading down the mountain road.
"Kin-chan, it's connected. The Masters' night duty room. It's Nangou sensei."
I accepted the white cell phone from Shirayuki, and explained the situation to Nangou-sensei of Snipe; how during Caravan I, we came under sniper attack on the outskirts of Kyouto, the battle near Mt Hiei, Reki's wounding and the assailant being a Hong Kong exchange student named Koko. The silent Nangou listened to my words, all the while not saying anything.
"That's Case E8, Tohyama. The Masters cannot act."
A low voice at the end was the reply.
That was cipher code for "possibility of perpetrators within being high and as such, this common knowledge cannot be leaked out. Make contact with trusted individuals as active partners; resolve issue by the hand of concerned parties."
Nangou's decision was....right. The perpetrator infiltrated under the disguise of an exchange student from Hong Kong.
If the situation became common knowledge amongst the entirety of the student body, the enemy could obtain information.
Thus, Butei Article Chapter 4:
Butei must be independent.
Upon reaching their 2nd or 3rd year in Butei High, it is a general rule that they defeat their enemies on their own.
Those who receive aid from the Masters are interns or inexperienced first years. As it was not like I joined only recently, I somewhat understood Butei High's education policy. I understood....Nangou's callousness. Although, the one who's been attacked is your student, can't you be more worried?
"If unarmed civilians get involved, contact me again Tohyama."
.....It would be too late if that happens.
Muttering in the depths of my heart, I made my salutations and cut the connection with Nangou.
Two vehicles sped down the mountain from the national highway 367 towards highways 105 and 106. During a stop at an intersection, Kazayuki nocked an arrow and briefly raising her bow, surveyed the bank. Casting a sidelong glance, I called Riko from Shirayuki's phone.
(Koko's modus operandi resembles Riko's in some parts.)
Vocaloid warnings, submachine gun mounted radio controlled devices. Conversely, Riko's close combat technique in the confrontation with Haimaki at Butei High had the feeling of Kungfu.
Perhaps she may have some kind of connection with Koko. However, my call could not connect. Riko was out of range. Yesterday at Osaka, I encountered by chance Riko and Aria who were speaking of working together. When I tried to make a call, Aria was out of range.
In the midst of such a serious affair, where are those two? They aren't near at all.
Unable to do anything, I again considered from where our enemy may target us.
Just who is she?
A superhuman capable of combining hand to hand combat skills rivaling mine in Hysteria Mode, handgun skills that can evenly match Aria's and sniper skills equal to that of Reki......The face of I-U? I wouldn't happen to know.
With that being the case, I called Jeanne who, just like Riko, had her roots in I-U. It took six calls to get a response from Jeanne, who was sleeping in the middle of the night.
"Hotogi? What's the matter?"
A clear voice emitted from the phone.
"No, it's me. Tohyama Kinji. I'm calling from Shirayuki's phone."
"......? It....It's the middle of the night. Why are you using Shirayuki's phone?"
Ignoring the suspicion in her voice, I urgently explained the situation.
"Jeanne, is there a sniper of Reki's skill within I-U? A monster with hand to hand combat and handgun skills. Her name is Koko," I asked.
"Sniper.....Koko? None. Except for Sherlock, a sniper with the skill to exchange shots evenly with Reki does not exist in I-U. There are people like Patra who use sniper rifles but they are of modest skill."
Then Koko....is not a remnant of I-U.
With my face sheer white, I recounted the words Reki had spoken.
"The enemies from here onwards cannot be beaten through a simple contest of force."
The enemies from here on.
Losing my desire to sleep, I held Reki and clenched my teeth in frustration.
You, we..... How can fighting be even possible now?
Within the powerful Hotogi shrine, the organization is divided into the main shrine and branch offices.
The branch office also doubles as a branch shrine. There was a large branch shrine of the Hotogi shrine in Kyoto. Around the time we arrived there, a warm rain had begun to fall from the lightening sky.
On the wet asphalt scented road, megumi miko stood on alert. These were young miko who served full Hotogi miko like Shirayuki and Kazayuki. The megumi miko carried Reki away on a stretcher and led me, Shirayuki and Jeanne who had rushed over in a taxi to the shrine.
Ascending a flight of meticulously swept stone steps.....
"Tohyama, this place is just like a city. Reki will be safely protected here," Jeanne said as she calmly surveyed the surroundings.
"Ah. Upon arrival I felt that the Hotogi's head and branch shrines were slightly different from normal shrines. It looks like a shrine yet its construction also resembles a fortress."
Below was a garage. We saw the two vehicles being used some moments ago entering there.
Not only cars but Kawasaki Heavy Industries OH-1 Ninja reconnaissance helicopters were housed there.
--The honden of the Kyoto branch of the Hotogi shrine was situated at the top of a hill overgrown with Japanese cedar.
Where snipers are concerned, they would be unable to take up position beneath the slope and fire into the interior of the shrine.
Additionally, with the exception of the entrance torii, samurai estates ringed with walls of mortar guarded the entire approach.
Beneath the torii, Kazayuki, who had arrived earlier, stood sentinel in formal red armor and her wakyuu in hand. Koko wouldn't succeed if she were to blindly pursue us here.
"This way Kin-chan," Shirayuki said as she led us under the torii to a first-aid mansion resembling Kazayuki's clinic.
Summoned nurses and a female doctor immediately crowded one of the rooms where Reki was brought into. Medical equipment and medicines filled the area around them.
"Oh...oh.....you took a hit there....."
The young female doctor fixing her rimless glasses who greeted Reki was brandishing a handgun. It seems like Hotogi summoned a professional from the Medic DA. Medic Butei are like medic troopers in the army: key personnel who give emergency treatment to wounded Butei. In Butei High, it's the Medica who train these Butei.
"Blood cell count, blood type determination - cross match, biochemistry check – ASAP, begin blood transfusion."
Immediately, the nurses monitoring Reki's condition hurried to carry out the doctor's instructions.
"Boy, while we work here, you go take a rest. Your face looks like a corpse," the doctor said as she cast a sidelong glance at me.
"I can't help at all? Reki; she..." With that, I, who could not take my eyes off Reki calmly walked towards Shirayuki.
"It's okay, Kin-chan. This is a doctor under contract with Hotogi. She's the number one doctor in Kyoto. Wait. Tell me what's wrong."
Certainly, it was frightening getting used to the methods of the doctor currently treating Reki. Almost assuredly, under normal conditions wounded Butei would have been first examined.
Last night, all I could do was administer first-aid on Reki. It goes without saying that Shirayuki would allow only professionals to administer full blown medical care.
The nurses' assistant.
"I'll assist. It isn't advanced grade aid but I possess Pan-European Aegis Assistant qualifications," Jeanne said as she skillfully donned a surgical apron and nurse's cap.
This isn't my place at all.
Thinking about that, why does it feel as if a thread of mental strain is about to be cut?
My vision faded with a great tremor.
Shirayuki and Jeanne's voices desperately called from far off in the distance.
What happened to me.....?
The floor that I had been standing on earlier...
Appeared before my eyes...?
What's that.....sound that I'm hearing?
This is the sound of the wind.
The sound of a dry wind blowing out from the surroundings.
I found myself in the middle of a vast steppe with mountain ranges visible in the distance.
This is probably......a dream.
A dream in which you are self-aware. A lucid dream.
In this arid steppe, several horses could be seen.
Girls dressed in vividly colored traditional garb rode on those horses.
With severe expressions, they carried old, Russian-made sniper rifles on their backs.
At their head, was a girl with hair ornaments more exquisite than the others.
She approached on noticing my gaze.
There was no wind but the sound of rain. This is......yes....The Hotogi branch shrine in Kyoto.
After the wounded Reki had been treated by the doctors, I had collapsed from exhaustion. Sitting upright in the futon, I looked around my surroundings. I understood how I had come to be lying down in this large Japanese-style room. Beneath the hanging scrolls, I saw an old clock. It was close to noon.
(Reki....How is she?)
Before I knew it, I had changed out of my glossed silk night clothes into the neatly folded and washed uniform arranged by my bedside, opened the paper sliding door and headed outside. In the nightingale floored corridor, Shirayuki, in her miko garb and with sword in hand, knelt quietly. She was acting as my escort. For some reason, her face wore an expression of suspense as she glanced towards the direction of the torii. Looking over her shoulder, she finally became aware of my presence.
Pyon! Shirayuki flew from a kneeling posture to standing.
Shi-Shirayuki....as a result of that excessively vigorous jump, that overly massive chest was late by a single beat in swaying. Right now...suddenly right after I woke, a wonderful sight greeted my eyes.
As usual, they were of a size far beyond that of a high school student. 1.5 times that of Riko's, 3 times that of Reki's, 6 times that of Aria's. As I was still mainly stunned however, in terms of Hysteria level, I was fine. As I thought that, Shirayuki stroked me while making sure that I was alright. With teary eyes she gently caressed my arms and head.
"Kin-chan, Kin-chan, I think my heart nearly stopped because of your sudden collapse......!"
"Ah, aahhh. I'm fine, thank you. I was just a little tired, that's why. That aside, how's Reki?"
Shirayuki delicately brushed aside my question.
"Reki-san survived. However, we definitely cannot relax yet. She still hasn't regained consciousness. If she had over-exerted herself any more than this, her life would really be in danger."
"Kin-chan too....do not over exert yourself. Rest in your futon. The danger from the side of the torii seems minor for now."
Said Shirayuki, facing the torii in a manner protective of me.
"Un....it can't be seen very well from here........for some time now, it seems some kind of animal is in the area."
Shirayuki said as she looked over her shoulder in the direction of the torii. Amidst the drizzle, Kazayuki held her wakyuu in one hand like a staff, shooing in a bid to drive away something.
Barefooted as I am, I leapt at the growl coming from the direction of the stone steps.
Amidst the rain, kicking up gravel as I ran through the compound with Shirayuki's and Kazayuki's restraining voices at my back, I leapt from the torii.....
The torn and ragged silver wolf lay on the edge of the stone steps.
The rain beaten Haimaki was visibly marked with horrific wounds. Bitten by Koko's hunting dogs and rent by claws, that snow white coat now resembled a shredded rag stained with blood and mud.
Stumbling as I ran down the stairs, I embraced Haimaki.
During the sniper battle the night before, Haimaki had acted as a decoy so that Reki and I might escape.
One single animal taking on some ten hunting dogs.
Against such overwhelming numerical superiority that survival seemed impossible, Haimaki had returned alive.
After driving off the hunting dogs, Haimaki had tracked us first by the scent of Reki's blood, and from the point where that became disrupted, by the scent of the car's tires until he had discovered this place.
"Thank goodness, Haimaki. Reki still lives thanks to you.....!"
I said, as I patted his back.
Relieved, Haimaki lowered his throat and grunted.
Haimaki, who had been taken to the medical station firmly refused to move from the bedside of the sleeping, bandage-covered Reki.
With no other choice, the doctors and nurses began Haimaki's treatment at that spot.
With the first stage of that treatment completed, the medical staff accordingly kept watch on me all the way throughout.
"Kin-chan....are you hungry? I am going to prepare some food."
On hearing Shirayuki, who had worn a frilly apron over her miko garments mention that, I became thoroughly aware of my empty stomach.
Come to think of it, I did not get to eat the half box of Calorie Mate last night.
Following Shirayuki, I, who had collapsed from this reason, met up with Jeanne, who was strolling around with a deep interest in the shrine's interior. The three of us headed towards the kitchen hall which resembled a ryoutei.
The Kyouto branch shrine of the Hotogi is colossal; a great number of buildings interconnected by passageways attached to rooftops. As we crossed over, the megumi miko who occasionally appeared would kneel at the end of the passageways and bow deeply as soon as they saw me.
What the heck.....it's just like a daimyo's procession.
On that matter, the Hotogi is a shrine which is utterly forbidden to males. For some reason, the males of the Tohyama have special entrance rights. Because of this rule, males have been strangely accorded special treatment. It feels as if one is in foreign lands.
(Such self-humiliating behavior.....it's totally not necessary....)
Feeling vaguely irritated by that, we entered the kitchen hall. There, Jeanne and I prepared the small paulownia wood chairs we would use. Facing us was Shirayuki's seat.
I was probably the first male to sit on this seat. Because of the need to welcome Jeanne, a foreign guest, apron wearing megumi miko reverently set the table and brought in lacquered circular soup containers.
The menu consisted of flounder, turban shell, squid soumen sashimi, daggertooth pike conger, salted salmon roe sushi, tofu greater burdock rolls, kyouyasai sauce, matsutake mushroom over a charcoal fire, rice with the colors of autumn, black bean.....
"I'm sorry Kin-chan. That is all I have......I think the nutritional value is perfect. Eat a lot and recover your health, okay?"
Is...is this all? The Hotogi sure are rich....I mean, this meal seems indiscriminately large for just me....
"Thank you Shirayuki, it's really a little too much. Even so, excuse me for not apologizing yet. Sorry for suddenly bringing in a wounded person."
"Uun....it's ok. You can rely on me any time when there is trouble."
Shirayuki nodded her head with a gentle look in her eyes and a smile. At that, I again felt distress for Reki and glanced in the direction of the medical station.
"Don't worry Tohyama. While I was assisting, I saw that that female doctor was skilled in her work. The treatment was adequate. With rest, Reki will surely regain consciousness." Said Jeanne, who sat down elegantly and crossed her arms before helping herself to the meal. From a side glance, I saw that she was using chopsticks perfectly. Rather than being unskillful, she was more skilled than a Japanese person. Beside me, Shirayuki was making additional checks to the food by hand. Finally, my own chopsticks were in her hands.
"But....why were Kin-chan and Reki-san targeted?"
"In the end, I have no idea."
"Where were you targeted? You were both targeted together? Eh? Together...together....? Errm....why are Kin-chan and Reki-san together...?"
"Ah....." I faltered.
This is hard to explain. I cannot skillfully convey it, unstable as Shirayuki is.
"Tohyama started living together with Reki from the start of this month." Jeanne murmured an elaboration from my side. With a forceful sound, Shirayuki's chopsticks came to a halt.
"It can't be helped. The Hotogi are now involved in this. Information must be shared."
I whispered into the ridiculously serious Jeanne's ear.
"Be careful with what you share. Watch how you handle Shirayuki. Don't say anything unnecessary."
"Anything unnecessary......? Hmm. Well then I'll just mention the main points. Tohyama and Reki acted together during the field trip and stayed together at the same inn. According to the female owner of the inn which came under sniper attack, both of them bathed together as well as slept together in the same futon. It was then that they came under attack. In short, those two continuously acted together; those two were attacked together. Is this ok ?"
"No it isn't!"
.....Fuck you, Jeanne...
Jeanne, as might be expected from an Informa student, had last night sought out information from the ryokan that was attacked by calling the proprietress. Damn it, she really got hold of that extraneous information all too quickly. I mean, she got part of the story wrong.
Quietly, Shirayuki looked in my direction.......
Some time ago, her posture had gone rigid, her chopsticks failing to pick up any of the black beans.
She wasn't blinking at all.
"Jeanne, please be silent for a while. I'll do the explanation."
"Why? I believe I already recounted all the facts."
"The way you recount facts is exactly the problem!"
"Oh? Was it hard to understand? In that case, should I recount it by drawing instead?"
"N-No. Please no. Anything but that. But that's not the point. The way you tell the truth..."
"But the truth is the truth,"
*Pishari!* Jeanne flatly responded, unable to read the mood of the conversation. *Gushari!* Came the sound of Shirayuki's chopsticks.
She had turned pale and was looking over her shoulder.
"The truth....the whole truth....the whole truth.....eh. Beaten there first huh.....by Reki. A,ha...a,ha....a. She was one of those who didn't stand out much so you were unprepared eh, Shirayuki? That's right. Unprepared....However, how were you still unable to notice that girl's ambush Shirayuki...un. Reki's a sniper, so she'll ambush. It was unfortunate for you Shirayuki....that's right."
Shirayuki has started to talk to herself in a broken voice. One person playing two personalities. Furthermore, why did she start suddenly addressing Reki without honorifics?
"H-Here Shirayuki. Come back to reality. I'm telling you, I was Reki's intern sniper. I was doing it for the purpose of inducing Lima Syndrome. It was a last resort...." For some reason, I felt utterly helpless while trying to explain.
"Excuse me," said a small voice as the interior sliding screen opened.
Sitting in the corridor with the same flowing black hair as her elder sister.....Kazayuki.
Excellent. Although it was unplanned, it was a nice assist, Kazayuki.
With that, Shirayuki's attention was diverted.
"Ka...Kazayuki. How's the situation outside?"
I asked with a stiff face, seizing upon the fleeting chance this conversation offered.
"Currently, there is nothing out of the ordinary here. At this moment, the watch at the torii is being carried out by the megumi miko."
The miko robes Kazayuki were wearing appeared brand new. It seems she had taken a bath. The faint scent of shampoo still lingered.
Apparently, Kazayuki had business with Shirayuki as she gave me a bow and proceeded to sit next to her sister, whispering something softly into her ear. Shirayuki, whose eyes had dimmed, turned to me with a sigh.
"......As I thought, Riri....I was certain wasn't I?"
Hearing this highly important news, Shirayuki completely regained her senses. Suddenly resting her chopsticks with a click before the expressionlessly bowing Kazayuki.....
"S...sorry Kin-chan. I have been disrespectful towards Reki-san. Thank you for the meal."
Leaving her half eaten meal, she hurriedly disappeared into the interior of the room.
In this uneasy atmosphere, we ended our meals prematurely and returned to the medical station. There, Reki was lying on a futon, watched over by the megumi miko. For some reason or another.....the behavior of the girls watching over Reki did not seem as if they were attending to a simple wounded person. It was more like they were tending to some distinguished and important person....
Shirayuki, who had earlier left the kitchen hall, was in the midst of the megumi miko. Together with Kazayuki, they all sat, gazing down on Reki with firm expressions which were figuratively speaking, like swords.
"......Kin-chan. An explanation now would be utterly necessary. I know you didn't want to hear the details about it... Forgive me."
"I didn't want to hear about it? What are you talking about?"
"The matter of Irokane."
The subject of Sherlock Holmes's long years of research. It's usage could turn a normal human being into a powerful ability user. A fragment of the supernatural metal had been fired into Aria's body as a result.
"Last month, when Kin-chan was hospitalized, I heard from Aria what happened with I-U. That's why....Kin-chan also knows......The existence of Irokane."
Shirayuki looked up at me with a serious face.
I remained silent, giving a tiny nod.
"There are limits to how much I can say.....we Hotogi miko also know about Irokane."
That I know.
Sherlock had mentioned it aboard the I-U.
I-U are not the only ones to hold possession of Irokane.
Among that list of organizations and groups, was the Hotogi. Yet for all that, what was Reki's connection with Irokane?
"It may be difficult to understand but Irokane is a metal that is linked to a person's heart. Accordingly, it chooses a heart that is capable of connecting with it."
"I know that. Sherlock said awakening the HihiIrokane......the Hidan, lies with the person's character. If I remember correctly, childlike, prideful characters...."
"Un. However, that is the case for HihiIrokane (Scarlet Irokane)....There are several kinds of other Irokane. One of them is..... RiriIrokane (Azure Irokane)."
"RiriIrokane....? Is that what Reki possesses?"
"No. Some time ago, despite it being disrespectful, I conducted an inspection of her body and found that that is not the case."
Kazayuki turned her head to the side.
"It's likely that Reki-sama spent a long time in close proximity to RiriIrokane at her birthplace. The RiriIrokane linked with her heart and as it were, she became an existence similar to the miko of that place."
Reki....was in the presence of Irokane.....? What does that mean?
While I was furrowing my eyebrows at this, Kazayuki drew a small scroll from a paulownia box at her side. With a rustle, characters resembling kanji were drawn on the laid out scroll.
"This is the Hotogi Shiseibun. It is the historical record that has been handed down within the Hotogi Shrine. Here, is the description of the RiriIrokane. 'RiriIrokane, when used in a state of calm, nullifies other powers. It hates human hearts, and threatens the Ulus that human hearts bring calamity. The princesses of the Ulus which revere the RiriIrokane have, for generations, sealed their own hearts, their hearts being offerings to the RiriIrokane.'"
Despite not knowing its meaning in its entirety, that word sounded familiar.
Reki had said it on the night we came under sniper assault.
("In that case, Kinji-san can become a part of the Ulus.")
Certainly, that seems like a word used to refer to a family group.
"As I thought. Ulus." Jeanne said while folding her arms.
"......You know what's with that girl, don't you?"
Shirayuki's habitually downcast eyes were slightly lifted, gazing at Jeanne.
"Tohyama requested that I investigate Reki. From the start, I knew some things about her even if I had no positive proof. As a holder of Irokane, the Ulus had ties to I-U...." Jeanne said, blinking her blue eyes below her silver hair.
"The acoustics analysis done by Nakasorachi of Connect had narrowed down Reki's birthplace to several places. One of those areas was that occupied by the Ulus clan."
"Where is that tribe from? I've never heard of it."
Hearing my doubtful words, Jeanne gave a small nod of her head.
"That is certainly the case. The Ulus tribe is near the borders of Russia and Mongolia, on the plateau south of Lake Baikal where a few tribes of peoples live in seclusion. Despite that however, their ancestor is someone Tohyama must have heard of before."
Jeanne's eyes fell upon Reki as she continued.
"Conquering Asia with a bow and arrow, the Mongol king Chingiz Khan. The Ulus strongly inherited their ancestor's methods of warfare. Certainly, that's the case with their descendents as well."
Kazayuki said the same thing during Reki's rescue. I couldn't see anything particular in Reki's behavior to refute this. Don't...tell me.....this is seriously true?
"Before, the Ulus, afraid of being outstripped in their mastery of the bow and rifle, were mercenaries. However, their numbers have gradually declined.....5 years ago....well ....I'll have to be frank here. When Sherlock visited the Ulus to open negotiations concerning the Irokane, there were only 47 surviving members of the tribe. Furthermore, they were all female."
Upon hearing that, Reki's words replayed themselves in my mind.
("We, the 47 daughters of the Ulus.")
That means there are no more than 47 people comprising the Ulus tribe. That is why Reki had no surname. No....more like it wasn't necessary, being amongst a people that was only 47 strong and on the verge of extinction.
"The Ulus are an insular tribe, that's why. There's a rampant genetic flaw in their veins that may cause only females to be born to them."
Reki had said before she lost consciousness,
("I've been ordered to find a strong male to be inducted into the Ulus.")
Perhaps this may have been the reason for it.
"But.....wait a minute."
I gave voice to the sense of unease at Kazayuki's and Jeanne's words that I had been feeling since the start.
"Suddenly speaking about this strange tribe that Reki belongs to, it doesn't make sense. Doesn't Reki look like a Japanese person? Be it eyes or skin colour. Although I never properly asked her about it, she must've dyed her hair."
I regarded the hair above the bandaged brow of the sleeping Reki that the megumi miko were washing. It's often the case that a Butei, who is basically a lone wolf ready to form a team with a random ally at any point, would dye thier hair in specific colors so their peers can distinguish their specialty at a glance. In this case, it is customary for a sniper to dye their hair in "Simo Hayha," a blue-tone color.
"The circumstances may be a bit different, it's similar to how Aria's hair has turned red. It seems Reki's hair has been affected by long years of exposure to RiriIrokane. And as for her appearance of a Japanese person, that's because she has Japanese blood."
Shirayuki responded for Jeanne while looking sideways at me.
"Chingiz Khan was in fact Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a rank 9 general (Kurou Hougan) who crossed over into the continent from Japan roughly a thousand years ago. In the Mongol Empire at that time, his name was read as Genghis Khan. It later became Chingiz Khan."
"I've heard of this before. Isn't this story a fake?"
"It was made to look like a fake story. After the truth was revealed in the Edo Period, the Hotogi requested historians to..."
"Un. At that time, the Hotogi shrine aided in Yoshitsune's crossing to the continent; a boat left in secret from Tsugaru."
Shirayuki absentmindedly fiddled with her left and right index fingers, keeping them in front of her chest while pointing them towards each other, fingertips touching. As she did so, her eyes were turned upwards. A major event in history occurs and she's acting like a child whose prank has been exposed. Well, such disjointedness is only typical of Shirayuki....
"The Hotogi shrine of that era was embroiled in complicated politics. Ever since the Yoshitsune formally established a state in the continent, there has been a flurry of back and forth intelligence on the Irokane. The name Reki is one of the names they traditionally use for pure blooded princesses there."
Kazayuki pointed out the kanji for Reki on the scroll she took out just now.
"It seems that Kazayuki is knowledgeable even regarding the names of princesses overseas."
"Kazayuki is the miko in charge of foreign diplomacy with churches and temples overseas. I'm a specialist in the internal administration of the shrines within the country..... That's why Reki's name never rang a bell to me that she's related to the Ulus."
In regret for not noticing this earlier, Shirayuki hung her head in shame.
"Don't take it so hard, Shirayuki. No one could have imagined that Reki is a princess from a foreign country, or a descendent of the Genji. I for one, find this extremely hard to swallow."
Despite that having been said, Reki's normal behavior would have befitted that of a warrior. Cradling her sniper rifle, habitually sleeping in a seated posture, she was every inch the samurai. Truly, she was the descendent of the samurai.
Outside the porch of the medical station, the rain had improved and the sunrays were returning. In the nadeshiko covered courtyard, Hotogi swallowtail butterflies that had sought shelter from the rain under the leaves now fluttered around. There was a hint of calm under the noisy atmosphere. I took a metal brush and tools from a lone megumi miko and sat on the porch......maintaining the sniper rifle of the sleeping Reki in the room behind me. Removing the magazine, I placed a Butei bullet; equal to six shots of a normal one, in the pocket of Reki's uniform. This round was left over from that long battle. After all that, we ran out of ammo not while using handguns but as snipers.
Like the top of an enormous piece of brown seaweed, Reki diligently scoured her room, singling out a bullet and copying it CG-like in uniformity, each one glittering in flawlessness, just like gemstones.
"It's beautiful. Japan's witches using magic which make the papillon their familiars."
Looking up at that voice, I saw Jeanne coming to the porch.
"Tohyama, it may not be very helpful but in a short while I'm leaving Kyoto. I'm having a preparatory meeting with Kanzaki Kanae's lawyer before the trial."
Looking at her wrist watch, Jeanne said apologetically.
Aria's mother, Kanzaki Kanae, who was burdened by the false accusations laid on her by I-U is soon to be retried in court. Now is the period for preparing the legal documents. Kanae-san's lawyer is scheduled to interview Vlad, who's currently under custody at a Level 5 detention facility in Nagano, after which she's scheduled to meet with Jeanne who would be a witness in court.
"Tohyama, there is a word that all of you used during your conversations just now that I don't understand. Genji. What is that?"
"Genji....well....they all no longer exist now. They were one of the famous samurai houses acting as regents in Japan around a thousand years back." I said while cleaning the Dragunov despite my knowledge of Japanese history being not very good.
"The Ulus had their roots in the samurai."
Jeanne turned behind and gave Reki a look, her face looking as if she thought of something.
"Tohyama, about you being forced into marriage by Reki last month..."
"According to samurai tradition, the female is officially the property of the male."
On hearing this, I recalled Reki's actions and words. Calling herself my possession and listening to everything I say.....The decree of Reki's marriage contract; that was a strange form of male domination over a female.
On that subject,
"During Chingiz Khan's time....there was a similar practice in the Mongol Empire. The Mongol customs of the time declared that females were 'treasures.' Just like silver or gold, they were taken amidst the plunder."
"Females were abducted and made their own wives; literally a custom of 'pillage wives.' One of the traces of that custom that can be found in the present day Mongolia is that on the eve of a marriage ceremony, the female is mock abducted."
I slightly tugged my cheeks as Jeanne gave a small nod.
"Now you realize it. That's exactly what Reki did to you, Tohyama."
"Oi...oi.... But Reki's a girl. Boys and girls are total opposites."
"After a long time, male and female cultures become one. That transformation is not uncommon. For example, in Europe in the former half of the 19th century, it would have been unthinkable for a lady to wear this wristwatch," pointing at my wristwatch, Jeanne continued.
"Particularly, the Ulus tribe is comprised of nothing more than a few females. It is little wonder they passed down the tradition of abducting superior members of the opposite sex to save their genetic lineage."
So that....explains it.
"Reki's nature is unique. She's practically a modern, living samurai of a sort," Jeanne, who herself carried the same warrior character, said. With a look that seemed to be telling me something, Jeanne sat herself beneath my gaze.
"Finally, one more thing....yesterday, when you were being pursued, did Reki do anything extreme to an extent?"
"Extreme to an extent?"
"For example, try to shoot herself with her own gun."
At this, I looked upwards.
"I...understand. Yes. Reki was wounded. While we were being pursued, she would have blown herself up with the DAL. She would have left herself behind since she didn't have the strength to escape on her own."
"As expected of her."
So saying, Jeanne shifted her focus onto the bullet I had laid out on the cloth.
"The Ulus have the same practice as the samurai's hara-kiri. "The last bullet".....The remaining bullet would be fired if survival seemed impossible in the face of pursuit, or if she was encumbering her master. That bullet would be used to end herself."
"Samurai would use a tantou to slice their bellies open; the Ulus would shoot themselves. They would die an honorable sacrifice for their masters."
As Jeanne said this, I looked back at Reki.
"Like a single bullet that has been fired, those girls lived solely for their aims. And so, this is carried over into battle. The last bullet....would be use to close the chapter of their lives. Sacrificing themselves by their blades, the samurai of old were the same. Tohyama, this is the girl that Reki is. Be careful of that."
Leaving me with those words, Jeanne left the porch and headed down the corridor to await the Hotogi's chauffer. Left alone at the porch, I cradled the Dragunov.....Reki at my back.
I am a descendent of the Tohyama bloodline. After a fashion, I am still a samurai. Yet the last bullet? Never.
I held one of the bullets from the sniper rifle and spoke to the sleeping Reki behind me.
.....I am a single bullet......
Always, Reki said these words.
"You are not a bullet."
As a single bullet, she would have lived purely for her goal....by a bullet, she would have died.
That's just too much.
"You are human."
I stated this obvious fact through gritted teeth to the sleeping Reki.
At this moment, you, who are clearly without an ego, are truly a girl who is like a child.
Reki. Somewhere, you were brainwashed by the "wind", made to exist solely for your goal, prevented from thinking for yourself and frozen in the time when you were a child. And so, you lived your life like an unfeeling bullet; like a robot.
At your very core, some hint of humanity still exists. That night when you were beaten in that sniper battle; that final smile you gave me....you looked just like a human girl. It was a lovely, honest smile.
"You are....not very good in understanding this that's why I will not say that you would immediately become a person filled with normal feelings. But.....please, don't ever call yourself a bullet again."
At any rate, she could not possibly hear it; Reki was comatose. However, I continued to speak over my back. That was an irrepressible thing that I had to say.
"Reki, as Reki...as a human being, become even happier. You should find happiness. Right now, the happiness as a human that has been forbidden to you; you must take it back. You must live your own life."
Speaking about those two happy days you spent with me it was, to me, more enjoyable than I imagined. That ramen speed eating battle in the fort, feeding Haimaki fish sausage, and what about at Chaton Call? Besides participating in the cat herding competition in Osaka, there were many other things. Perhaps only all those things that the "wind" didn't order you to do......weren't they giving you the happiness of being human? I don't know for sure, but for some reason, I have the feeling of that being true.
"That is why, if you wish it so, those things...no matter how small, I will always accompany you from beginning to end."
Girls are troublesome. If I can help it, I would be with them for as little as possible.
You....appreciate me. Even without that damnable Hysteria Mode.
Well.....you overvalue me I think. To me, that is quite significant.
.......I am a single bullet.....
....A bullet has no heart. Therefore, it does not think.....
Please, stop being like that.
I don't know how great your "wind" lord is, but true greatness is a person who can live, choosing his own paths. You, who gave everything up to the "wind" may find living and thinking for yourself difficult.
......it just simply flies towards its target....
But please, stop being like that. Because,
"You are not a bullet."
-you are human.
 Translator's Notes and References
- I'm leaving the original Kurou Hougan in as it's Yoshitsune's proper title despite it meaning 9th rank general. More details see here~CE
- Reki here carries the Chinese charactes for lei ji, meaning Petal Princess