Kaze no Stigma:Volume2 Chapter 3

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Chapter Three - Friendship –Contributions and Mistakes-

1

Late night....

“Dammit! I'm not sure if I'll make it in time.”

A teenager rushed towards the station in order to catch the last train.

Takahashi Shuuji was a 20 year-old university student.

As a formal participant of the Kendo club, his slender-seeming body was actually very well trained—there was no fat on it at all.

His reflexes were benumbed due to an excessive intake of alcohol. Even so, the steps he took on the brick floor did not seem so disordered.

“...That’s weird.”

Shuuji suddenly had a strange feeling. He stopped in his tracks to look around him.

He found nothing suspicious—just a very normal underground passage that stretched a long way.

But—

“Hey... Why is there no one here?”

Besides him, not a single soul could be seen in the area.

This was the underground passage to the turnstiles. Even with it past midnight—the time when the last train was about to reach the station—it was impossible that there was nobody here at all.

“Rea— Really, anything can happen.”

Shuuji found some excuse to convince himself and tried to suppress the uneasiness in his heart.

“I'm... I'm going to miss the train at this rate...”

Shuuji began to walk quickly with a loud and clear ta! ta! ta! sound from his footsteps, . After a while it became a jog—and in the end he ran at full speed, as if he was flying.

Ta! Ta! Ta!

The sound made by the soles of his leather shoes knocking against the brick floor echoed throughout the entire vacant underground passage. Yet, no matter how long he continued to walk, there was no sign of the turnstiles before him.

“Wha—? What the hell!? It shouldn't be this long at all!”

The underground passage seemed to stretch on endlessly. Surrounded by store windows with the metal shutters pulled down at the sides, Shuuji gradually lost track of where he was.

He turned back to check on the way he came.

“—Eek!”

Shuuji gasped. Before him was a long tunnel that led to who knows where. The stairs that led to the surface could no longer be seen.

“—!”

He changed his direction once more and continued in the direction in which he had first been going. The scene reflected in his eyes made Shuuji stare, his eyes wide open.

The same as the way behind him—there was only one tunnel that stretched until it vanished as far as he can see. Of course, there were no stairs or crossroads there either.

Shuuji was stranded in the middle of a tunnel that stretched endlessly—alone.

“What...? What's going on...?”

Cold sweat broke out from his face. Within the eyeballs that spun continuously, his pupils slowly dilated.

“What the hell is this about?!”

No one replied to his scream. His cry reverberated between the walls and ceiling and got sent back into Shuuji’s ears as a reverberating echo.

The teenager stumbled onto the floor, staring blankly at the brick with half mad, half sane eyes.

“...Ah?”

Suddenly, his eyes focused on one point—something was seeping through the gaps between the bricks on the floor.

“What...?”

It was a semi-transparent substance with a glue-like texture. It was originally the size of a ping-pong ball, then, it grew to the size of a baseball in a moment, and, after not too long, it was the size of a soccer ball.

The glue-like substance shone with a rainbow-colored glow. If this thing was seen in a photo, maybe it would give a clear, lustrous, and refreshing feeling.

But, the actual substance floating before his eyes could only be described as ugly. It was just like a tumor, vomit, or a filthy gooey piece of the two condensed to the maximum limit.

Instinctively, Shuuji hurriedly jumped backwards, reacting to his disgust. He jumped with force, landing two meters behind where he was, and the sound of his steps spreads across the entire underground passage.

Squeelch.

"—!?”

He looked down at his feet in shock. There—! No, as far as he can see, all of the brick was covered with the filthy pieces of goo.

“WA—! WAHHHH!”

The globules that were in contact from under his feet slowly latched onto Shuuji’s body. Even though he attempted to peel the gooey things off, he couldn't; they were tougher than expected, firmly attaching themselves onto his limbs.

“...Huh?”

All of a sudden, his surroundings darkened. His eyeballs almost popped out, when he looked up away from the area near his feet he was staring at.

Before his eyes— At a distance so close he could touch it by stretching out his hand, a wall made from the globules appeared.

The scattered globules on the floor gathered around Shuuji, forming a semi-transparent, round bucket. Looking at the round bucket emitting a lustrous glow, it looked like a distorted pillar, like an avant-garde piece of art.

“...Argh... Ah...”

Shuuji shook his head, unwilling to believe what was happening. In his mind, he tried hard to deny the existence of this gooey mass.

However, his wish was not fulfilled.

At that moment, the globules, which were stacked even higher than his body, collapsed on him all at once.

“—!”

Shuuji was too scared to say anything as his whole body was completely wrapped within the blob.

Unable to withstand such a chilling experience, sending shivers down his spine, Shuuji's consciousness was consumed by darkness.

And— He never woke up again.

“The way you manipulated them left me speechless, but—“

In the space where there was no one originally, a boy’s clear voice spoke up.

“Don’t you think you wasted too much time?”

A gentle female voice replied, “This is the first time; naturally I had to be more cautious.”

“Hmm, maybe!”

Ka-ta. The sound of one footstep could be heard.

Who could say when they were there? Two shadows suddenly appeared in the abnormal space that trapped Shuuji.

There stood a seventeen or eighteen-year-old female with a boy about ten years old. The girl’s height exceeded that of the boy by about thirty centimeters—but, as for the position of the head, the boy’s head was slightly higher.

The two looked at Shuuji, who was trapped in the globule, chatting calmly.

“But, if you use so much time like this, who knows when it will be completed? To fulfill your wish, more power must be gathered.”

Right before the two of them, Shuuji slowly became emaciated.

He was being consumed.

Was it his blood—? No.

Was it his moisture content—? That was wrong too.

Being surrounded by the blob, Shuuji aged rapidly. All the vital essence of the teenager’s whole body— The radiance of life was being expropriated, his life that should last over half a century was used to its limit within a short period of a few minutes.

“I understand this very clearly! I will do it more cleanly and quickly next time!”

The girl raised her head to look at the boy, and used a determined tone to reply. As if to pacify the displeased girl, the boy gave a light smile.

“That's the way. You can do it.”

The short, neatly-cut golden hair waved lightly to follow his nodding motion.

Judging from the tone the two spoke in, it seemed the young boy was of a higher status.

Maybe his actual age was not as young as his appearance—the emerald-green eyes that looked innocent and naïve at first sight instead seemed deep beyond comprehension.

In a clear melodious voice like a silver bell, the boy said solemnly:

“Because he who is right will receive Heaven’s protection.”

“...You mean this?”

Looking at the vital essence of the innocent teenager being continuously sucked dry by the blob, the girl laughed mockingly.

“You're saying that this monster is the same as you? Tenshi-sama? That sounds awful.”

The boy had no wings. A faint radiance emitted from all over his body as he floated in the air. The beautiful angelic face of his showed a bitter smile.

“Needless to say monsters—even devils—cannot escape the grasp of God. Because the omnipotent God is capable of anything.”

The girl looked at the smiling angel (self-proclaimed) with puzzled eyes. However, she did not reject his extended hand.

“No matter what your reason may be, I'm very thankful that you lent me power. For mutual benefit, let us work together from now on!”

“—One day, you will surely experience the love of God, too.”

Before the teenager gradually withering away, two hands filled with personal desires and hypocrisy were tightly clasped.

2

Next day at the Kannagi residence:

“What’s the matter?”

Kazuma—who was sought out—suddenly decided to forgo the pleasantries to ask Juugo directly.

He didn't even glance at Ayano who was sitting at his side.

Ayano, as usual, was in a silent anger. Kazuma, as usual, ignored her presence and kept his gaze on Juugo only.

“From yesterday night up till this morning at zero hours, Ikebukoro has a total of eight youngsters dying from being weakened by an unknown reason, their age ranging from ten plus to twenty plus years old.”

Juugo matched himself with Kazuma, going to the main point directly.

“And so?”

Kazuma calmly hushed for his continuation. He had an extremely high tolerance towards the suffering and misfortunes of others.

Even though you could just say how he was without blood or tears.

“They seem to have their vigor sucked dry. And so, I would like to ask you to find this person, and, if possible, eliminate him.”

“Okay, I got it.”

Without a more detailed negotiation, Kazuma accepted the request readily. This, too, was his usual style.

“I leave it to you. This is the data related to the incidents...”

With that said, Juugo takes out a thin sheaf of documents. Even though they were said to be data, but the incidents only happened last night, so there were no important clues. Just simple data about the victims and where they were found, and some photos while they were still alive, and some after their death.

“Oh oh.... These are just like residues.”

Kazuma compared the photos, and says the term that would make the relatives of the deceased curse him.

Yet, this was probably the most direct thought of anyone who saw the photos— Even though there were not many who dared say it out loud.

Every victim looked very lively—just looking at their photos allowed one to feel the brilliance of their lives.

Switching back to their photos after death... To be frank, they were mummies. Nothing would seem out of place even if they were placed directly in a museum for exhibition.

Dry and wrinkled skin, faces filled with wrinkles. In those open and vacant eyes, there was no sign of fear, only just a supernatural calmness.

Even if you told everyone how they had been still alive a few hours ago, there wouldn’t be many who would believe you! That was just how bad they looked after death.

“This time there is no time limit—but act fast. You will co-operate with Ayano—“

Kazuma simply cut into Juugo’s sentence. “No need.”

“—What?”

“She'll just be in my way.”

Faced with Juugo’s question, Kazuma replied coldly.

“Wha—? What!?”

Ayano furiously cried out in protest. Juugo stopped her.

“—Kazuma.”

He called out Kazuma’s name like a sigh—but Kazuma showed no intention of backing off.

“The job this time is primarily to search—right? Then En-jutsushi are completely useless. If the opponent is not something I can handle, I'll contact you guys again. Until then, just remain on stand-by!”

“But, if the enemy escapes because of this, then we'll have to go through this trouble again.”

Juugo didn’t give up, and persistently attempted to let Ayano travel along. Kazuma refused once more.

“I doubt that the number of Youma that I cannot handle by myself is very high. So why should I bring a heavy burden to prevent such a situation?”

Ayano jumped up in her anger. “Burden—!? Aren’t you being too arrogant—!?”

Juugo restrained Ayano and pulled her back to her seat.

“You won’t bring her along no matter what?”

“Nope.”

“...Is that so?”

Under such a direct rejection, Juugo could only comply.

“I get it. I'll trust you on this, then. And one more thing—“

“What is it?”

“You seem to care a lot about Misao. But, for now, just forget about her! At least until this matter is over.”

“----------------------“

Kaze no Stigma vol 02 109.jpg

Kazuma made no reply. He stood up silently, turned and left the room.

“You idiot—! Even if you come back crying, begging me, I will definitely not help you—!

Ayano raged at Kazuma's back as he gradually left.

Juugo looked at his daughter bitterly with a deep sigh.

“You should at least...”

“What!? You think I'm in the wrong?”

The ignorant Ayano said in a temper.


Slice!

Wind blades sped through to slice a bunch of eerily wriggling blobs into pieces. Staring at the semi-transparent objects turned into crumbs, Kazuma breathed out.

“Gee, another failure.”

Two days had passed since he had taken on Juugo's request.

During this period, he had been assaulted by these youma as many as nine times.

They didn't seem to consider Kazuma a target. Even though he himself walked into these areas with a strong youki, meeting them was sheer coincidence.

Nine times.

A very abnormal number.

And while he investigated, every day there were another five or six victims....

Five or six? I doubt there were so few.

Indeed, such was only the number of corpses which had been found. But after witnessing how a victim was devoured from start to finish, Kazuma realized that Juugo’s assumption was wrong.

This type of "youma" didn't just absorb its victim's vigor. It also ate their flesh as well as anything else it swallowed up—including clothes and accessories. Everything got devoured.

Kazuma looked dejectedly at the victim, whose skin was now dissolving. This was followed by the flesh until in the end even his bones had dissolved. Kazuma's expression was not due to the dissolution process being so gruesome, but because he understood what this meant.

—The only reason why corpses remained was because it couldn't digest them completely.

The estimated number of casualties might be off from the actual number by a digit—or even two.

“No way....”

Kazuma sighed weakly.

Just how many more shape-shifting worms that fed on human flesh resided within Tokyo city? Just thinking about it irritated him.

“There's no end to this... I'd better come up with a way —and fast—to get to the core of this and end it once and for all!”

After nine battles, Kazuma almost completely understood the characteristics of these youma.

Their appearance was similar to a single cell organism, with no intelligence at all. They acted purely by instinct, continuously devouring humans filled with vigor.

Their ability was “Absorption”—to completely drain away one’s vigor. Even the bodies were converted to energy and taken in.

Alone, they posed a threat no different from any normal pest. But what was troubling was that their numbers were not few as was normal—and when they joined up they gained new abilities.

When enough of them had gathered, some kind of magical circuit would then form among them. Using this circuit to create a kekkai, they made it so that the targeted humans were unable to escape.

Kazuma predicted that these globules all together were just one entity. The situation now was like that of split cells conducting activities independently.

The ability of each “cell” was to absorb calories and then exhaust them through activity. When they gathered together to form an “organ,” they gained the ability to control the energy they absorbed.

Perhaps in the final stage, each “organ” would link up to form one entity. But Kazuma didn't care about the true identity of this monster.

If it was just one entity, then there must be an organ like a brain giving out commands... Something like a core. Things would be fine so long as he found this core and destroyed it.

Currently, the enemy was acting separately, and thus its powers were weakened. There was no reason not to strike during this opportunity. He didn't have strange habits such as “hoping to fight with strong enemies.”

As such, Kazuma had been trying to find clues from the “cells” that would lead him to where the core might be, trying to find the real enemy... But so far it was nine consecutive losses.

“These guys are too dispersed. Some bait must be used in order to get them to gather in one place...”

Kazuma suddenly went quiet.

Bait. Someone full of vigor.

“There just so happens to be one available.”

Just as he clapped in exultation at having come up with such a brilliant plan, Kazuma sensed the appearance of the tenth batch of youma. At the same time, he noticed the presence of a certain someone he knew.

Kazuma's smile was arrogant.

Hehe. Not bad. Without my needing to say anything, our bait took up its role already.”

Listening to the wind, he identified the exact location.

“A little far... Should I jump?”

Jumping in the city might be seen by others. Kazuma's eyes subconsciously turned to the road while he pondered. His ears and eyes noticed “it” at the same time.

Okay. Let’s use that.

Kazuma made up his mind immediately. He hopped over the protective railing and stood in the road. Following that, with his left leg as the center, he spun round once to pass the side of a motorcycle that sped through the sidewalk...

“Wha—!?”

The reverse spin kick swept at the neck of the rider.

While the rider was thrown off the motorcycle and still in mid-air, Kazuma—as if doing a magic trick—straddled the motorcycle.

Thunk!

A blunt and heavy sound came from behind. It seemed the driver fell head first onto the ground—but since he was wearing a helmet, he wouldn't die at that kind of speed.

“I will try my best to return it to you.”

Kazuma muttered with his greatest sincerity—and then suavely sped off.

3

“Hey you girls, wanna—”

Bang!

The poor guy didn't know how to look at the situation. Before he even completed his first sentence, he was sent flying into the air by the schoolbag that flew in from the side.

“Scram!”

Ayano yelled. His companions, seeing this, abandoned the unconscious man and instantly ran off. This was probably the most loyal and clever judgment made by self-survival instincts!

Yukari and Nanase did not rebut a single word all along; they knew better than anyone it wouldn't be a wise move.

The massive crowds all around the front of Ikebukuro station made it difficult for anyone to move on in a straight line—yet no one blocked Ayano’s way.

Like Moses who split the red sea in two, Ayano walked boldly on the path cleared right in the middle of the crowd.

What was that!? What was that!? Sorry I'll only be a nuisance! Too bad I'm weaker than you! Gee, I'm so sorry—!

In her heart, Ayano used her Enraiha to stab that flippant detestable face.

Yet, no matter how she mashed or beat up that face, the fury in her showed no signs of abating.

Erm...... Ayano?”

“What is it?”

Ayano looked back at Yukari with scary eyes that would even scare a yakuza. But when she saw Yukari retreat back in fear, she reflected on her own behavior.

“Give me a moment.”

Ayano turned her back on the two and took in a few deep breaths. After she finally managed to give a relaxed expression, she turned back at them, wearing a smile once more.

“What’s wrong?”

Ah, erm...... We took the wrong way.”

“—Huh?

Ayano looked around her, just to realize that this place seemed very unfamiliar to her.

“Where is this?”

“A small path by the main road.”

It seemed that because Ayano was walking without watching her way up till now, they had unknowingly walked into a separate road.

Even though this was a completely new place to them, they could still see the Tokyu Hands sign ahead. Apparently they hadn't strayed too far.

Ahaha— Sorry, sorry. I was thinking about something.”

“Geez, this will not do— You should pay attention when you walk.”

Ayano gave an embarrassed smile. And Yukari smiled back at an appropriate time, lifting her hand to poke her forehead to lighten the mood.

“But, it's just one street away. Why did it become so empty suddenly?”

Ayano who didn't know too much about Ikebukuro said.

As she said, in this alleyway sandwiched between a car park and a love motel, there were just the three of them—no one else.

“Yeah...... There's no one around......”

This place shouldn't be so empty to have no one at all.

It was just like having a gap that suddenly appeared amidst the noisy city; the silence made one feel an unimaginable uneasiness.

“This kind of situation happens once in a while I guess. Today's not a holiday after all.”

As if trying to dispel the gloomy atmosphere, Nanase said confidently.

“Yeah, that’s right......”

“Alright, let’s go. Ayano too......”

At the instant she looked at Ayano, Nanase's eyes opened wide.

“Nanase......?”

Yukari looked in the direction of Nanase’s line of sight; her face also went stiff. An expression of a pale bloodless face filled with fear.

“Aww, don’t be like that—there's no need to be so afraid. I won’t scare you guys again.”

“Behind you!”

Nanase shouted out in a rare tone of panic. When Ayano heard it she stopped smiling and turned her whole body around.

“—!?”

Her heart almost jumped out from her throat.

Because that kind of thing was less than a meter away from her.

A semi-transparent and continuously wriggling piece of goo. It looked like a slime from an RPG, but Ayano clearly knew it wasn't something cute.

She ignored the eyes of the other two. Under an instinctive feeling of detest and irritation, Ayano released the flames.

—Kaboom!

The golden flames burnt the goo till there was no trace of it left.

“That...... That was scary......”

What a dangerous moment that was. If she were killed like this, it would probably be told to generations to come as the biggest humiliation of the Kannagi clan.

No matter how slow and pathetic the senses of a En-jutsushi may be, no matter how his attention was focused on other things, to be completely unaware of an abnormality that even a normal person would realize like just now was, without question, the biggest disgrace of all.

I mustn't let others know of this......

Ayano silently swore to bury this deep in her heart for the rest of her life.

“A—Ayano...... What was that just now......?”

“That's...... That's a good question...... I just saw a weird thing pop out, and then it suddenly caught fire......”

Ayano acted as though she knew nothing.

“Anyway, we better get out of this creepy place!”

She changed the topic immediately.

But Ayano had already sensed things were not that simple.

This is not good...... This place is not Ikebukuro at all...... Can we get out......?

All kinds of noise spread from the road just one street away. Yet this several tens of meters of distance was now even further away than the moon.

“A—Ayano, that!”

Ah—Yeah.”

Ayano sensed it without even having to look at the thing Yukari pointed at.

Oozing continuously from all the gaps and cracks emerged a large mass of slime.

Not just from the sewer openings and water drains, the more exaggerating ones would be that they are coming out from the dispensing ports of automated selling machines, and from within the mailboxes.

The total number was countless.

“Those...... Those are—!? What the hell are these things!?”

“Calm down, Yukari.”

Ayano observed Nanase while she comforted Yukari who was out of control.

Nanase's face, normally calm and fearless, looked slightly distorted, but not to a large extent.

“Let me see— We should make a run for it first!”

Her mind was very clear despite how bad their situation was. As the opponent seemed to look very slow and clumsy, they should be able to escape easily.

So Nanase was indeed stunned as the globules all leaped at them. Who would have imagined that slimes could perform an amazing leap of over ten meters on the spot?

—Oh shit!

Ayano reflexively stimulated the power in her body. She placed her right hand at her left hip, and then, as she made one big step forward, she slashed horizontally out.

This was the posture of a battoujutsu without the blade. Yet there was indeed a blade that appeared there.

It was a bright crimson-red, double-edged straight sword. A golden flame possessing a shining and brilliant great power engulfed the blade.

Enraiha— The demon-slaying holy blade bestowed by the Lord of the Fire Spirits. The devastating flames that burst out from the blade burned all the "youma" in sight into a crisp.

“Phew—”

Breathing out softly, Ayano began to verify the safety of the two.

The two people before her were still in a state of extreme fear.

“It's okay now—don’t be afraid.”

Ayano wore a smile and took a step towards the two.

Yukari retreated three steps.

“Yukari......?”

Ayano only realized that what the two are afraid of now, was none other than herself.

Even Nanase, who tried her best to stand there, the fear on her face was plain to see.

“Ayano...... Just what are you......?”

“—!”

Ayano hid the Enraiha behind her immediately—but it was pointless doing so now.

What...... What should I do......?

She didn't feel ashamed of her powers, but instead she was very proud of them.

Even so, the fearful eyes that her best friends placed on her made her feel very painful.

It was not strange that the two would be afraid of Ayano. But, it was a kind of fear towards “a scary person”.

By now these two people had classified Ayano as “a scary person”. To them Ayano was the same as those blobs.

“N—No...... I......”

The moment she opened her mouth, the expression of the two flinched. Seeing their expressions, Ayano understood it was pointless no matter how she tried to explain herself. She shut her mouth.

She couldn't face them; she lowered her head, her body trembling lightly. As she lost her will, the flames vanished from the blade of Enraiha.

“—Behind you!”

Nanase’s warning sounded off once more. Yet, Ayano had no strength to respond to her voice.

Behind Ayano who stood there emptily, a big lump of slime wriggled inexorably closer.

The blob that collapsed from above her head swallowed Ayano in the blink of an eye.


“—Is this the place?’

Kazuma muttered after parking the motorcycle he borrowed.

Attracted by Ayano’s vigor, a large group of youma gathered here at one go. This would allow him to be able to conduct a reverse investigation.

“Good job, Ayano— Hmm?

After nodding proudly, Kazuma finally realized something was amiss.

Ayano’s scent was very weak, and was surrounded by youma—or should it be said that she was swallowed within.

“Even if you are the bait, there's no need to go to such an extent! What is this girl doing?”

Kazuma knew very clearly how powerful this kind of youma was. Even if their numbers filled up the entire Tokyo Dome, it would be impossible for Ayano to lose.

However, Ayano was now being swallowed up.

“Gee, what a trouble-maker—”

Kazuma grumbled unhappily. He stepped onto the motorcycle and flew off into the sky. He remained motionless in the air, and began to observe the inside of the kekkai.

Even though it was only as thick as a piece of thin skin, but it was a space completely isolated from the real world. There was no way to get there through physical means.

Of course, it was the same for the wind.

A natural phenomenon like the wind could only operate revolving around the same world; it was unable to affect other worlds. If there was a wall that could be broken, it might still be possible—but there was no way to affect a space of a different dimension.

—That was the case for a “natural phenomenon."

Kazuma raised his right hand towards the sky. A large number of wind spirits responded to Kazuma’s summon, and gathered consistently.


In terms of spirit techniques, it was not just simply controlling a natural phenomenon. Using the phenomenon as a medium, so that his will could manifest in this world was the quintessence of it.


Imagining the edges of the abnormal space, Kazuma input the power into the wind to break that space.

From directly above it he took the thin and sharp “will” he made—

“Gah!”

—And fired it!

The raging wind broke the dimensional gap.

4

“I thought that it was the descent of God.”

Yukari said so after the incident.

This is the first time she felt the beauty of a powerful person.

Bringing forth the winds, an embodiment of great power descending suavely. That scene was reflected in Yukari’s eyes.

An invisible force that came from the skies crushed the gigantic "youma" in one blow.

Ayano rolls out from within that "youma" like a puppet. The amazing thing is, she did not suffer any injuries, not just that, there is not a single piece of goo sticking onto her.

This is the power of “purification” that only destroys demons------ The special demon slaying power that the Kannagi is so proud of.

“…… Cough……. Cough cough!”

He uses a cold gaze to stare at the girl who is coughing vigorously to try to breathe, and orders her strictly..

“Stand up.”


(…… What is she doing?)

After he clears off all the wriggling pieces of goo, Kazuma observes Ayano once more.

Her “ki” is unbelievably weak. The amount of vigor that was absorbed by the low level "youma" isn’t that much, yet she seems so expended she is like an average person.

“…… Kazuma?”

The pathetic way she lies on the floor, looking at him dumbly made him feel very displeased. Not a single shred of her usual dominance could be felt from her, her expression looks as nervous and uneasy as an abandoned puppy.

(Just what has she been doing since just now?)

“Stand up.”

He uses a pressurizing tone to command her. Even so, Ayano still showed some form of resistance. She obeys the command, using Enraiha as a crutch, she slowly stands up.

Against that pair of cold eyes that is staring right into her, Ayano does not dare face it. All that can be seen is how she peeks behind Kazuma’s right hand from time to time.

Of course, Kazuma noticed that there are two people there. Judging from how they wear the same uniform as Ayano, they are probably not people who are just passing by so coincidentally.

“Erm...... Err…… This is……”

Ayano’s gaze shifts between Enraiha and the two girls, who are standing there blankly, continuously. Just looking at her now, in his heart, Kazuma guessed pretty much what this is about.

(Gee……)

He stretches one finger out between Ayano’s eyes. The eyes that were originally busy shifting around, was captivated by the finger that appeared suddenly before her.

While Ayano’s conscious is still focused on the finger, Kazuma shouts loudly..

“ “Thou who hast been blessed by the spirits, where does thy power lie?” “ [or more literally: People who receives the blessings of spirits, what is your power used for? In a more olden days context, similar to the ones used by Horo in S&W]

That is a pledge------ and an article during sermons. This is the most basic pledge that spirit standard Jutsushis act upon.

Ever since Ayano was little, Juugo has been repeating this sentence continuously. Even if she is completely out of it, she still remembers clearly the line that follows.

“My…… “My power lies to protect. As a ministrant of the spirits, to slay the demons in this world, to uphold the truth is where my duty lies. Never to be forgotten------“ “

Suddenly, her tense speech stopped.

Ayano, whose eyes are focused at Kazuma’s fingertip, as if shocked by electricity, she lifts her head up to stare at Kazuma. Those eyes glow with a light of understanding.

She shifts her eyes to the side, looking at Yukari and Nanase. And finally downwards------ At the Enraiha that is in her right hand.

Ayano grabs the hilt that was originally hanging at her fingertips tightly.

When she raised her head up once more, the lost looks she had earlier has already vanished without a trace. Ayano uses her words to reinforce that pledge all over again.

“To protect------ The people I love!”

A dazzling flame bursts out from Enraiha. That is no longer an injured girl. Understanding the meaning of power, the duty that she bears, as a powerful En-Jutsushi, she stares right back at Kazuma’s eyes.

Kazuma shows a smile at his lips, and stretches a finger to poke Ayano’s forehead gently. Pak! Ayano’s head tilts backwards.

“Ahhh!? What are you doing, don’t do that------“

Ignoring Ayano who bloats her cheek and complains, Kazuma places his attention on the surroundings.

Unsure whether it is the self-regeneration of the remaining goo or a new batch emerging out, by now, countless goo pieces are surrounding them.

“So then------“

Not asking if she “can do it?” or “are you okay?”, that level of injury, there is no need to show solicitude. To put it more plainly, it is the level of it does not matter at all.

Because, the power they have exists precisely for this.

“I leave those at the back to you.”

“Leave it to me.”

Ayano replies without hesitation. The two walk out back-to-back at the same time.

“------ Kazuma.”

He did not answer, but he stopped in his steps.

“Thank you.”

Still, there was no answer. Only sounds of silent footsteps ring by her ears.

Ayano closes her eyes gently, trying her best to remember what she needs to do.

(Yukari, Nanase…… Farewell……)

It would be a lie to say that she doesn’t feel lonely or sad. But even so------

(Even so, I must protect everyone------)

She opens her eyes. There is not a single trace of gloominess or darkness in that pure and clear mind.

An explosion sounds off, golden flames bursts from all over her body. Inputting all of her upsurge of powers---

“Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Under a sharp scream, Ayano swung her Enraiha.


“Looking quite good------“

His back filled with explosive “ki”, Kazuma can’t help but give a bitter smile.

At this rate, these monsters will not be able to hold out very long. He must achieve his objective soon------

Kazuma blocks the two who are staring at Ayano with their eyes wide open, and says leisurely..

“Stay where you are, if you run around, you might be killed!”

Following that, he releases wind blades once more with ease, slicing the "youma" that is approaching consistently.

Shu! Pach! Pff! Puu!

In a radius of five meters around Kazuma, horrifying killing sounds sounded off over and over again.

The wind that Kazuma manipulates becomes blades at times, hammer at times, cutting the "youma" one by one, smashing them.

The "youma" is crushed in a moment, but in the blink of an eye, they recover instantly. They are originally something similar to a shape-shifting worm, without a standard form, so physical attacks have no effect at all. Yet Kazuma still continues releasing wind. Even though it cannot cause fatal damage, but the raging winds can make the groups of "youma" unable to close in on them.

And so after a few minutes------

(------Found it.)

Kazuma who is surrounded by "youma" gives a proud smile. Almost at the same time, Ayano who completed her mission broke through the frontlines and appears before them.

“My side is finished------ What are you doing?”

Ayano uses a puzzled expression to stare at Kazuma who is playing with the "youma".

“Just as you can see.”

“No…… It is precisely because I don’t get it that I am asking you.”

“The enemy is a being without form, no matter how I slice it, it will recover once more.”

“Then can’t you just purify them…… Or is that to say, you cannot use the power of purification like this!?”

Kazuma usually seals his strength firmly. Even though when he used the purifying winds in front of Ayano in the past, he had released the seal------

“Nope.”

“Really? You better speak the truth, and fast!”

Ayano did not ease her questioning. Thinking that she might be able to get hold of Kazuma’s weakness, her face becomes filled with expectation.

“Really. Besides, I don’t really want to dampen your mood……”

“What?”

”Even if what you said is true, but if the opponent is human, there is no such problem.”

“Hmm……”

Indeed, even if that is the truth, Ayano’s chances of winning will not increase.

Ayano, who had been so excited about nothing, looks very disappointed. Kazuma knocks her head and leaves the aftermath to her.

“So, I leave the rest up to you. I am going to head straight for their main camp.”

“You found it already!?”

”Yeah, things really are different when you have good bait.”

“Bait------?”

Ayano ponders on what this means. When she realized it, her face flushed red instantly.

“You…… You asshole, you used me again didn’t you!?”

“This is a misunderstanding.”

“Just which part of it is a misunderstanding!?”

“When I thought of having you as bait, you had already ran up and became the bait yourself, so it is not my fault at all.”

Kazuma says so seriously.

“You are really……”

“Sorry, I am in a rush for time. I shall listen to your complains in the future!”

Kazuma throws down this sentence coldly, and turns to leave. Ayano hurriedly shouts out to call out to him..

“Wait… Wait a minute! I am going with you too------“

“I see that you have a lot of things to settle? I will leave markings on the road, so catch up on your own later!”

Obviously, the so called “a lot of things” does not only mean eliminating the "youma".

As Ayano’s eyes are directed towards Yukari and Nanase, Kazuma rides the wind, flying up into the sky.

“Ah, I told you to wait!”

Kazuma ignores the shout, and breaks the boundaries as when he entered, and vanishes.

Logically, Ayano knows that Kazuma’s choice is correct. But, she is unable to accept it like this. “She has been abandoned once more”, “he is obviously looking down on her”, this kind of thinking lingers in her heart, showing no sign of dispersing.

“Wuuuuu~~”

She groans in hatred, but Kazuma is long gone. So she places all her unreleased fury onto the enemy.

Her fierce scary eyes stared directly at the goo pieces. Faced with an abnormally strong murderous atmosphere, even the "youma" that bears no intelligence can’t help but retreat.

“Kazuma……”

She instills all her power into Enraiha. A glaring golden glow that makes one hard to look directly at it emerges from the crimson blade vigorously.

“You idiot-------------------------------!!”

After releasing a massive load of plasma, she burns off most of the "youma" at one go.


“------Phew.”

After burning up all the "youma", Ayano breathes out, satisfied.

The result from converting all her stress into destructive behavior, she became very calm now. Just that some of the surrounding buildings were dragged into this pointless disaster, being destroyed together with the "youma".

If this is not a different dimension, there would probably be over a hundred casualties?

After the "youma" that controls this dimension is destroyed, the area begins to return to its original state slowly.

Everything returned to the way they should be. Ayano and her friends returned to the original world as well.

(Now…… To settle “a lot of things”.)

Ayano looks at Yukari and Nanase. Perhaps because they have finally calmed down, the two generously meet with her gaze.

“……………………..”

Even though there are a lot of things that she must explain to them, Ayano cannot bring herself to say them.

For some time, the three exchanged silent stares.

“I……”

As though she had made up her mind, Ayano tries her best to put up a calm front and smiled at the two of them.

“So, good bye.”

In the end, that is all she can say. Tossing all the necessary explanations out of her mind, Ayano turns her back at the two of them.

She tries to hold back the tears that are swelling in her eyes and walks off------ But she stopped almost immediately.

“Wait, Ayano!”

Yukari grabs the lower area of her uniform, pulling her back forcefully.

“Yukari……?”

Ayano turns around and upon seeing the scene before her, she frowns instantly.

Yukari’s expression------ Looks perfectly normal, yet that is the most abnormal part of it.

There is not a single shred of fear in her face, nor any determination to attempt to overcome fear. All there is on that face is a brimming light filled with curiosity.

Yukari shows an expression of a prankster and says to the puzzled Ayano:

“After witnessing something so interesting, how can you leave without explaining things first?”

“What……”

Her curiosity overwhelms her fear. Even though Ayano is very puzzled by Yukari’s as per normal behavior, if she does not explain clearly first, it seems that Yukari will not let her go. As she does not want to turn and leave directly, Ayano started to make her long story as short as possible.

“Frankly speaking, my family is of a En-jutsushi clan that manipulates fire------“

”No! Not that!”

“……Huh?”

“I mean that man just now------ Kazuma-san! What kind of person is he? How did you get to know each other? What is your relationship with him now? Come on, spill everything, tell us all about how you two met------“

“Hey!”

Nanase knocks lightly on Yukari’s head, who has been rattling on and on.

“Ouch, that hurts, Nanase~”

“Be quiet. All because of your constant nonsensical rumblings, Ayano has no idea what to do now. Besides, if you expect us to pretend that nothing happened just now, that is wishful thinking on your part!”

“Argh…… So that won’t happen huh?”

Before Ayano, who is at a complete loss, the two stood up. And------

“Sorry.”

Yukari bows down deeply.

“Yeah…… We are really sorry about earlier.”

Nanase at the side, embarrassed, avoids eye contact with Ayano, and apologizes.

“…… What is going on?”

“Actually, I was really afraid at first. Because fire burst out all of a sudden, and a sword came out from nowhere, Ayano seems to have turned into a totally different person. But after seeing how you talk back and forth with Kazuma-san like that, I know that you are still that Ayano I used to know.”

“Talking back and forth with Kazuma...... You……”

To suddenly be taken that they were having a cross talk, Ayano is displeased. Nanase continues to say at this moment:

“That is to say, there is no need to change our attitude towards you just because you can use some spells or supernatural powers.”

“B…… But…… Aren’t you afraid of me? If I want to, I can kill you two without so much as lifting a finger?”

“So?”

Nanase asks back calmly.

“What……”

”You still don’t get it? There is no need for you to use some special powers, you can kill us just with your bare hands!”

“That…… is true.”

“So then why should we start being afraid of you only from now on? Even if you change a gun to a cannon, you still die in a single shot.”

There is a certain limit to the amount of damage a human can withstand. Once he sustains an injury beyond this limit, he is doomed. There can never be a negative value being created in this manner.

To someone who possesses ten points of HP, taking ten points of damage and a thousand points of damage are basically the same. The remaining nine hundred and ninety points of damage are but an excess.

Yet, there are not many people that can understand such a simple logic in reality. Being by the side of a murderer whom you do not know, you will feel uneasy. That is to say------

“That is to say, the main point lies in whether you trust the person. But I have faith in you all along.”

“Ayano has never been someone who would harm another without a reason, so, I am not afraid at all.”

Ayano looks dumbly at the two of them, Yukari asks uneasily:

“So…… Please don’t hate us, can we still be good friends from now on?”

“……Yukari……”

Tears were about to fall from her eyes, but she never enjoyed saddening atmospheres. Ayano gets a hold of herself, and straights her thumb up from her raised fist.

“Of course! Even if you don’t want to, I will not let you go!”


After acknowledging their friendship again, Yukari begins her attack once more.

“Since we have all made up, I say we should let Ayano explain clearly, everything about that man of hers!”

“Who are you calling my man!”

“Kazuma-san.”

Yukari says as if it is only natural.

“I say, you------“

“Ayano, if you think that your love for him is only single sided, I think you are wrong! I am sure Kazuma-san cares a lot about you as well.”

“That’s right. Let’s forget about whether it has reached the level of love, but anyway you have created in him a liking towards you. So there is still a chance!”

Even Nanase joined in the ruckus. This made Ayano feel very troubled.

“I already told you, that guy is…… What?”

Seeing the two of them giving her a supercilious look, Ayano stopped even before she finished her rebut.

“You really are… Just earlier on you appeared to depend on him so much, and now you want to say “I have no feelings at all”?”

“I…… I did not depend on him……”

”Oh? Then when you were so lost and depressed, who was it that got you back up?”

“……You, the cause of it all, still dare to talk about that.”

“That is another matter.”

Nanase does not care about Ayano’s retaliation at all. In this world, there are a lot of things in which people with strong attitudes usually have an advantage over those who don’t.

“And, why do you two want to ask about Kazuma only now? You were obviously not so interested when you met him last time.”

“Because he looked like just some flippant man then.”

“…… Isn’t that the way he is?”

“Huh------ Of course not. Kazuma-san is so suave!”

Yukari says so cheekily. Ayano on the other hand stares at her with ice cold eyes below zero degrees Celsius.

“------ Yukari, your taste in men is rather unique.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t try to steal him away from you.”

Ayano’s eyes become even colder, but Yukari’s face continues to wear that smile of hers:

“So then, leaving Ayano’s feelings at one side, tell us about Kazuma. When and where did you meet? Speaking of which, I don’t think we have his name yet------“

Even though the questions are coming constantly and flooding her, but Ayano sighs out in relief having escaped from her questioning. Her mouth naturally became a little loose.

“The first time I met him, is probably the day I was born, even though I have long since forgotten about it. His current surname seems to be Yagami.”

“Current? You mean it is different last time?”

The two of them did not miss this small little detail. Faced with Nanase who asked that question, Ayano replies calmly:

“His original name is Kazuma Kannagi. He is my second cousin, and Ren’s biological elder brother at the same time.”

After explaining briefly her relationship with Kazuma, Yukari and Nanase both have a strange expression on their face.

“What’s the matter?”

Ayano asks, puzzled. Yukari uses an earnest tone to say to her:

“Kazuma-san is so caring.”

“Ah!?”

Hearing such an unexpected answer, Ayano screamed out loudly. But turning around to look at Nanase, she is nodding strongly as well.

“He…… Just which part of him is caring?”

“Don’t you know?”

Yukari asks Ayano back in a very surprised tone. Not just being surprised at how slow Ayano is, her eyes carry a certain obvious blaming glare.

“Kazuma-san has been constantly bullied in the past isn’t he? Not only that, he was even chased out of the family because he did not possess “power”. “

“After receiving such treatment, normally speaking he will not want to have any interactions with you people. But if it is for revenge, that would be a different case.”

Nanase follows on to say:

“But, Yagami Kazuma protected you instead. And not just protect you from all harm, and even encourage you to stand up once more with your own strength.”

“How thoughtful, Kazuma-san is just like Ayano’s knight.”

“……Ah?”

After Yukari said this sentence from the bottom of her heart, Ayano was at a loss for words.

“What…… What are you talking about! Who would want a knight with a flawed personality like him! As long as I am around him, I have an urge to kill him every five minutes.”

Ayano who finally got back to her senses tries hard to defend herself, but the other two kept on sighing with a “What can we do with her” kind of attitude instead.

Hearing that, Ayano became more furious.

“Just because you two have no idea how bad he is, that is why you are mistaking him for a good guy. He even used me as bait, and I almost died because of it!”

“But aren’t you still alive now?”

Nanase rebuts calmly:

“When you were really in danger, didn’t he come over to save you?”

“Argh……”

Spot on. But if she is to say such a thing, she will only receive even more vigorous rebuts. There is no way she can reply honestly.

“A……Anyway, that guy is one big badass! The reason he came to save me purposely this time must be for his own joy.”

“Look at her, Ayano is really not honest with herself.”

“It is that Yukari is too naïve! Don’t drag everything into boy-girl relationships!”

After shouting out in reflex, Ayano finally remembered that now is not the time to chat casually. She looks in the direction Kazuma disappeared in, her eyebrows shows a sign of anxiety.

“So, I shall make a move first. I don’t think anything will happen anymore, but still, be careful!”

With that, Ayano runs off leaving the two behind.

Yukari bears a very displeased expression, looking at the back of that person who ran off without turning her head back to look at them.

“Gee, that Ayano. It is so obvious that you have a love rival, if you continues to be so stubborn, what are you going to do then?”

Nanase at the side seems more calm on the other hand.

“Don’t just look at the negative side, be more positive!”

“More positive?”

“For example……”

After keeping Yukari in suspense for a while, she says with a serious look on her face:

“We can have some fun with this topic for quite a while.”

“………………”

Yukari’s eyes blink continuously. She looks dumbly at Nanase, her entire body frozen for a few seconds.

And then------

“Good idea, Nanase.”

She puts up a boxing pose, placing tiny fists at her chest.

“Let us observe their development quietly from now on!”

With a pure and holy smile similar to a loving mother------ Yet the contents of their speech is filled with bad intents.

That is to say, to not help the two develop their relationship to the next level, but to observe Ayano’s reactions for fun.

“That is exactly what we should do.”

Of course, Nanase has no objections either.

“If some other party take part in this, maybe things will become even more complicated.”

“Yeah, and there seems to be a lot of hidden complicated facts mixed within as well.”

The two smiles to each other, holding each other’s hands strongly.

“Hoho, we are really thoughtful towards our friends.”

Yukari thinks so from the bottom of her heart------ As to what Ayano thinks about this decision, that is another problem.


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