-SLASHDØG- Chapter 5
For those dwelling in the condominium, it had been three days since they met their new companion (?), the silver haired youth Vali——.
“Jin? Jin, where are you?”
Early in the morning, right after Tobio woke up, he noticed that something had changed.
——Jin wasn’t beside him.
Since manifesting before his eyes, the puppy had never gone far from his side. Feeling a bad premonition, Tobio investigated under the bed to as far away as the verandah……. ‘By some chance, is he just hiding himself’ he thought, raising his voice, while also praying silently in his mind, but either way he had left and not come back.
……The possibility that he had vanished, Tobio realized this wasn't the case, as he could sense that they weren't far apart. When speaking of presence, this was something that could only be sensed outside of the five senses. Day by day this sense had grown stronger.
He kept in mind that, whenever he had called him in the past three days, Jin’s figure had immediately appeared. However, since this did not match up with the events of this morning......in what kind of situation would Jin not come when called despite being close by? Despite having no idea what was going on, Tobio left the room to search for Jin.
The door to the room was not locked. No, he was sure he had locked it before going to bed. However, since the door was not locked as he was presently leaving the room, the thought occurred to him that perhaps Jin had unlocked it. It would be amazing if an ordinary dog could accomplish such a feat, but for Jin the protuberance from his forehead was at least capable of releasing the lock.
Somehow sensing that Jin was neither on the communal floor nor in the kitchenette, he hastily walked towards Natsume’s room. He went to ring the buzzer……but the door was partly open. Feeling puzzled, Tobio timidly rang the buzzer. However, there was no reply. ——But, from within he could just make out the sound of someone talking.
It was the voices of two girls. ……Since one was likely Natsume given as it was her room, wouldn't that make the one with her Lavinia? For some reason their voices weren't all that loud. Just as Tobio was thinking about that, the door to the room was suddenly thrown open with a BAM.
Rushing through the partly opened door——was Jin! His whole body was soaking wet. Upon seeing his master Tobio, he turned back and vigorously began shaking his whole body. Tobio was blinded by a spray of water.
“Jin, I was looking for you. ……Were you taking a bath?”
While he himself had been sleeping he had slipped out of the room and proceeded to Natsume’s was what Tobio understood about the situation. As it was, it seemed he had been given a bath. Come to think of it, he never given him a bath since they first met. He wasn't an ordinary dog, yet nevertheless Tobio felt this was a regrettable point.
Suddenly Natsume’s voice was heard. Tobio, turning towards the voice——through the door that had previously been thrown completely open, saw a completely nude young lady standing in the hallway.
……With a slender body, such a figure was standing there. And yet, there was a mass there that he had not previously noticed when clothed. At the unexpected event, both Tobio and Natsume’s entire bodies became completely stiff……furthermore, as if to deliver a final blow, one more young lady came into sight.
“What is it Toby? We were just welcoming Jin-chan.”
From the bathroom appeared a naked blond girl——Lavinia! This one’s body stressed curves appropriate for a woman that didn't lose to Natsume. That which hadn’t become clear that time she appeared in his bed, it was now clearly visible.
Steadily getting red in the face from the current situation, Natsume finally sprung back into the bathroom. Lowering his head and saying “Sorry!” in apology was something Tobio didn't get a chance to do. By no means, when he had been on the other side of the partly opened door, could he have predicted such a situation occurring.
Natsume screamed from the bathroom.
“……When I wake up in the morning, Lavinia is always openly sleeping in my room! But, this time she was sleeping while holding Jin-chan! Such being the case……everyone was taking a shower together……yeah ugh!”
Natsume was trembling as she gave an explanation. This was only natural. To be seen naked by a member of the opposite sex who’s the same age, any girl would be trembling. It was the same for Tobio.
However, there was just one person present whose mood could not be read. Lavinia, while nude, exited through the door and took Tobio’s hand.
“Come take a shower Toby.”
Instead of concealing her naked body she made such a proposal. Unable to resist, Tobio faced Natsume and shrieked.
“Minagawa-san! Lavinia-san stop already!!”
For a healthy young man in this apartment, some might see this as a blessing, while others might see it as a trial.
That morning, they all gathered in the usual video viewing room——Tobio, Natsume, Samjima, Lavinia, and Vali.
“……Geez, for you to be showing such a face here, what exactly happened…….”
Samejima was grumbling like that with half closed eyes. There was a sense of Tobio and Natsume being strangely distant. This change in the pair’s attitudes wasn’t at all peculiar. After all, Jin had slipped out of the room in the middle of the night, been caught by the half-asleep Lavinia who had exited her own room, and had entered Natsume’s abode. Surprised by this chronology, his curiousity over Jin’s behavior was inexhaustible. ……Did he just go for a midnight stroll?
Even after such things had happened that morning, Tobio still finished the preparations for breakfast.
Dish after dish had been set up on the table. On today’s program, sunny-side up eggs with sautéed sausage and spinach garnish, grilled salmon fillet, a tossed salad, and delectably commonplace miso soup were all on the menu. On top of that, the stock used for the miso soup, as well as the sunny-side up eggs, the sausage, and the salmon fillet, all were perfect without being even the slightest bit burnt. The white rice too, having been boiled in a dedicated pressure cooker, the outcome was not the least overcooked, with every single grain of rice having risen magnificently. Incidentally, the salad had been topped with Tobio’s handmade dressing.
“Is it okay that I wasn’t able to prepare anything other than this?”
Tobio timidly uttered such words. Speaking honestly, having previously not eaten anything not personally made by his deceased grandmother or childhood friend Sae, he lacked confidence when it came to preparing an entire meal.
However, with it being identified as something resembling a decent meal, Natsume was filled with delight.
“WOAH! As expected, it was the right decision putting Ikuse-kun on cooking duty!”
Before everyone could say ‘itadakimasu’ Samejima was slurping the miso soup. At that moment he put on a broad smile.
“In any case, this is scrumptious.”
This was muttered with poor speech. Much like Samejima, Lavinia could do nothing but gape.
“Tobi’s cooking is the greatest.”
After saying “Itadakimasu”, Natsume quickly reached out with her chopsticks.
Natsume’s assessment was that today’s was the best yet. With the result that no one could stop their chopsticks, it seemed this morning’s menu was a big success; Tobio sighed in relief at this. Since being appointed to food duty, Tobio had been endeavoring to produce a menu that wasn’t harmful to anyone’s health. For the members who were present these excellent circumstances would be left behind in the near future. So he had made up his mind that he should prepare something like a decent meal for them.
——Then, watching Vali’s figure as he moved his chopsticks in silence, Natsume wore a mischievous expression.
“What’s this, Va-kun, aren’t you surprisingly engrossed with eating? Weren’t cup noodles all that was necessary for a meal?”
“……You misunderstand. I was only interested in obtaining nourishment from this meal.”
“It comes back to nourishment huh. Good grief, you’re not honest at all.”
Natsume started cackling. Vali, without putting down his chopsticks, had voiced his objection. Indeed, for a boy his age it was unhealthy to only eat cup noodles from morning till evening. If such a mundane meal was good, Tobio felt it would be beneficial for this child to eat this way every day.
Seeing this exchange with Natsume, Samejima let out a laugh with a “Kukuku.”
“Lucidra-sensei's at the height of his cheekiness.”
“Muu, Samejima Kouki. What’s with this Lucidra? It that supposed to be me?”
Vali raised his eyebrows inquiringly at Samejima.
“Yeah, aren’t you Lucifer and a dragon? In that case, Lucidra is good for short ain’t it?”
Hurt by the humor in Samejima’s words, the corners of Vali’s mouth lowered into a frown.
“Mumuu, change it. I am of the bloodline of the Maou Lucifer, and also carry the legendary dragon known as the “Vanishing Dragon” within my body——.”
“Ah, yes of course. Lucidra Lucidra.”
In response to Samejima making light of Vali’s “settings” the boy finally cried out.
“Muu, Minagawa Natsume. It is unacceptable that this insubordinate comrade not be more strongly warned about my valuable nature.”
At the childish exchange between Samejima and Vali Natsume could only sigh.
“Geez, no fighting during a meal.”
Natsume tossed one of the sausages to Griffon, which the bird skillfully caught and gulped down.The independent avatar types consisting of Jin, Griffon, and Byakusa also partook of meals, just like ordinary animals——though there is no need to worry about things like hawk, cat, or dog food, as they eat everything given to them from meat to fruit. Since they hadn’t observed any abnormalities up till now, it was likely there weren’t any restrictions like there would be on a real animal.
In the first place, whether it was even necessary for Jin and the others to eat, of this Tobio was not sure. For now, until they could discuss it with the ‘Governor General’, they were just going to ask around.
“Va-kun, good boy good boy.”
Lavinia was patting the pouting Vali’s head.
“Like I said, don’t pat my head! I am not a child!”
This normally cool-headed boy, after only a little teasing, was displaying a face appropriate for his age.
Unexpectedly, as far as Tobio was concerned this mealtime scenery was quite relaxing.
After each of them had finished their meal, the meeting commenced.
——After three whole days had passed, it was finally time to decide upon their next course of action.
“And so, what're we gonna do? We gonna do something today?”
Gulping down his after meal coffee all at once, Samejima inquired of Tobio and co.
Natsume nodded, and spread the aforementioned file from the ‘Governor General’ out on top of the table. There were notes written around a certain region on the map.
Natsume spoke regarding the map.
“Yes, we are taking action. First of all, as we previously discussed, we’ll be investigating the whereabouts of the bereaved families of our fellow students.”
Indeed, three days earlier Natsume had pointed out that, regarding the bereaved families of the fellow students that had been turned into Utsusemi, they had mysteriously changed residences. It had not been determined where the families had gone.
“Since the time of the great accident, this ridiculous story of mass disappearance has not been noticed by the media.”
This was roughly what Natsume had said before. This was only a domestic disturbance. Since all of the bereaved families had gone, one would expect the media to have noticed it. However, it wasn’t being reported on. It was to the unnatural extent that there wasn’t even any gossip about it.
“……The Agency, that is those that were previously from the Five Principal Clans are controlling the information or something?”
Tobio asked like this. This was the group with supernatural powers that had been part of the underside of this country since antiquity. Tobio felt that with that unusual power something of that extent was not impossible.
To this Natsume nodded her head in confirmation.
“……So for example if some journalist were to even become suspicious, it seems that they'd be erased.”
“I am all but certain that they would be erased.”
Lavinia calmly spoke such frightening words.
Vali spoke while folding his arms.
“For those who were deemed deficient from among the members of that foundation——those of the lineage of the Five Principal Clans, it is an absolute commandment to redress such deficiencies. The exiles belonging to the ‘Utsusemi Agency’, it would seem they are composed of people who were purged by the present Five Principal Clans. Simultaneously, the people from the Clans have started to erase that agency of deficient individuals. That is to say, their stance is to not exempt even those who merely have come into contact with the Five Principal Clans.”
……Those who become involved, they would be completely erased then? In that case, those that were in the agency, they included those who had become involved in the ‘Four Fiends Project’ for the sake of triumphing over the Clans……? In that case, then they themselves as well——.
Arriving at the same thought as himself, Natsume and Samejima’s expressions became subdued. Not just themselves, it seemed they were also concerned about their close friends who had been unexpectedly drawn in.
Concerning the family members of Natsume and Samejima, not much was said. Regarding the circumstances of where those two were born and raised, it was a topic they didn’t want to discuss. However, the organization of that ‘Governor General’ has been placing the people close to the survivors, like the ‘Four Fiends’, under their protection, so the present situation was that they should be able to immediately know if the ‘Utsusemi Agency’ were to try to lay a hand on them.
It was simply the ‘present situation’. Hereafter, with circumstances continually changing, without warning something may happen that it’s impossible to protect them from. It wasn’t unlikely that they might abduct their families and make use of them for the sake of luring them out.
It would appear to be fortune born from within misfortune that Tobio no longer had anyone he could call a blood relative. At the time when his grandmother had died, Tobio had lost anything he could call family. But, regarding himself……he was connected to ‘Himejima’. Whoever those guys were there was a likelihood he would be seeing them. ……Hereafter, it would not be strange if they targeted him for that reason.
After shaking her head, Natsume continued speaking.
“Either way we mustn’t simply act aimlessly or we will fail to overturn the present situation. ——Let us take action.”
Tobio agreed with that opinion. If they didn’t act, he could never meet up with Sae. If he were to simply curl up in fright in this situation, he would never be able to reunite with her.
Natsume continued the conversation.
“I think we should visit the homes of our fellow students that have been vacated. We might be able to find some clues. ……That everything would have vanished is surely impossible. Besides——“
Natsume directed her gaze towards Lavinia. Lavinia nodded once.
“Indeed, by going to those homes, I can make use of investigative magic. Surely, I believe I can find something.”
She could use magic to investigate, huh. However, Lavinia’s goals still had many mysteries. Those people her organization was supposedly pursuing, they were cooperating with the ‘Utsusemi Agency’……. Those exiles from the Five Principal Clans, just how far did their influence extend……?
A group with supernatural abilities, magicians……. An unknown world, strange events……. How comforting it would be if it all turned out to be a dream.
Samejima asked Natsume.
“Within the same grade as us, there are over two hundred others. Which place d'you believe we should choose? Just choose one at random?”
As Natsume was hesitating to speak, she looked over at Tobio.
Having traveled by train and by bus, they had arrived in the vicinity of their destination from which they began walking towards a residential area. A short distance up the main street was the house of Toujou Sae. The house was a monotonous two-story building.
Indeed, Tobio and company had agreed to go to Sae’s house. This was based on Natsume’s intuition.
Natsume had said at the condominium.
“Those guys mentioned the names of Samejima-kun’s companion and Ikuse-kun’s childhood friend. From among our fellow students they at least recognized that they were people especially close to us. That is to say——“
Tobio continued her words.
“They probably expect that we are likely to show up at a place we have a connection to.”
Natsume nodded her head.
So while they were proceeding to their destination, there was also a significant chance of an extreme emergency due to them having laid a trap. They had already lured out two of their leaders and seen their faces, and since then had become to some extent aware of the details of their plan.
In comparison, those guys were growing in power day by day. While remaining cautious of those guys, it wouldn’t be at all amusing if they were watching this place they had aconnection to in order to spring a trap on them.
Up till now they had had the cooperation of the ‘Governor General’s’ organization——the Grigori who were also observing those guys. The inexplicable action of all the bereaved families of their fellow students moving away simultaneously, this seems to have been within their expectations.
“Apart from that though, since they would understand that we would try to rescue our friends and acquaintances, they know that we won’t just remain in hiding.”
“Since we've been furnished with power, it’s obvious those guys would use places we’re clearly connected to as bait for a trap.”
While nodding towards Tobio, Natusme clearly declared.
“Even greater than this power we have been furnished with is the irregular that is Ikuse-kun who has become involved in this situation……given that this is the case, wouldn’t laying a trap be the minimum we could expect them to attempt? Even if it is quite frightening, we must proceed if there is a chance of finding clues in the homes of our fellow classmates. Either way, I believe that probability of finding something connected to them is high.”
Such being the significance of visiting their fellow students’ homes, that’s why you’re so hopeful for progress huh. ……Putting aside the last of what Natsume said, the former part about how “that being the least they would attempt” was indeed a frightening expectation.
However, if you think about it from that side’s perspective, all of their traps so far have been ineffective so it seems there next move would be different. This would seem to imply that this time the attack would exceed the previous ones.
……With the power they had been furnished with, it would become a fierce battle……. He had made excellent accomplishments during his special training for the past three days……you could say that his blade had been tempered. He was getting closer to Sae one step at a time, but on the other hand his anxiety had grown.
And now, as a result of the discussion at the condominium, they were now traveling to Sae’s house on foot. The reason, while it was certainly to uncover clues relating to the relocations, above all else for Tobio——it was to search for something that was connected to his grandmother.
“……Baa-chan had been intimate with Sae’s parents, as when she was alive they would often be heard speaking about various things relating to after her death.”
Indeed, after his grandmother’s funeral, he had been summoned by Sae’s parents, and was informed of what had been requested of them. From practical life needs to financial needs, it was wide-ranging.
Within that was also contained an entreaty that she wished for her grandchild to be shown something when he grew up, which she had informed them of in advance.
Sae’s parents had not been in touch with him as a result of the relocations, so their current location was unclear. Now that he thought about it, Sae’s prosperous Oji-chan and Oba-chan had also gone on a journey without so much as a farewell greeting, so it was impossible for there to not be some reference to heirlooms his grandmother had left behind. After the shock of losing Sae, when Oji-chan and Oba-chan arbitrarily distanced themselves from him, his kind-spirited mind was filled with fury.
Because of that, Tobio had believed that these heirlooms had become lost. It now appeared that these items were still at Sae’s house. Even thought they had already moved away, there did not appear to be anyone living in that house……. However, if the search for confirming their destination was successful the chances of finding them would be even higher.
These items left behind by his grandmother might be somehow related to the ‘Himejima’, or else perhaps connected to his supernatural power. In the case of the former, some dangerous information regarding their opponents and his ancestry would become known. In the case of the latter the nature of Jin’s ability would become clear.
Presently, for Tobio and company it’s just as important to learn about his own ability as it is to find information relating to their opponents. Taking that into account, all members had agreed to go to Sae’s house.
However, only Vali,
“Sorry, I have a personal request from the ‘Governor General’ which I am in position not to listen to. Today, I am not able to act together with you guys.”
Leaving behind such words, he had left the condominium before them.
As a result, only the foursome of Tobio, Natsume, Samjima, and Lavinia were en route to Sae’s house. For Samejima who was used to traveling by motorcycle, when they traveled by train,
“……In no way can I become used to taking the train.”
So he grumbled.
And so, the foursome had up till now been traveling and had now arrived in front of Sae’s house…….
Even just observing from a short distance away, there was no sense at all that anyone lived in this house. The windows were all shut and the name plate on the door had vanished. The grass on the lawn had grown unkempt.
He remembered how Oba-chan would water flowers in the garden. Oji-chan would sit on a chair in the garden on holidays reading a book.
In this garden, this was where he had had that hard fight against the golden retriever……Tobio missed such things.
While recalling that incident, he remembered Sae’s smiling face. Looking at this house of hers was bringing his memories of her to the surface, his chest tightened, and for a moment he stopped investigating the house. Changing his mood, he resumed his survey of the house.
As far as he could sense, there wasn’t any human presence in the vicinity of the house. Presently they were the only ones present, which felt extremely lonesome. Even though it was daytime, it had a dark atmosphere. Previously this had not been the case. However, the present surroundings did not transmit a feeling that people lived here.
The foursome, opening the gate, proceeded until they had set foot jump in front of the front door. They then confirmed whether the lock was secured. The front door opened easily. With Tobio and Natsume understanding what it meant for the lock to not be secured, the group exchanged glances.
Samejima spoke while looking up at the house.
“……If there was nobody already living here, one would think the locks would be shut. Unless, that is, if the landlord of this location is incompetent.”
While speaking such sarcasm he placed the white cat on his shoulder. It was good to emphasize caution when you don’t know when something might happen.
Like that, they checked to see whether or not there were traps.
“Rather than that, this whole area has been covered by a magical technique to drive people away with this house at the epicenter. It has been made so that exempting people with special powers like us it is impossible to perceive, the significance of this being that they have absolute and complete control. Houjutsu, Shintoism, and Onmyoudou are systems that excel in ‘exorcism’ powers such as ‘concealment’ and ‘repulsion’.”
……That is to say, it’s been made so that ordinary people are unable to perceive this house, huh? That we are capable of perceiving this house, this is because we possess Sacred Gears and magic? However, in that case it wouldn’t just be this house, but it is also predictable that the houses of the other fellow students had become subject to the same conditions.
The Sacred Gears——Jin and Griffon were in position nearby. It being unknown what would be here, they had temporarily traveled while avoiding the public eye, this being Utsusemi domain. It wouldn’t be strange for them to be attacked at any moment. Even though they had done so, it was possible that the Utsusemi were approaching them from behind.
Timidly opening door, they trespassed upon the entryway. In the entryway, Tobio looked at the various accessories and framed pictures. They brought back how this scenery had looked in the past.
……Although it was said they moved away, none of their belonging were moved with them? This action conducted by the ‘Utsusemi Agency’, it doesn’t seem at all like a simple relocation.
As a result of being completely closed off, the house’s interior was dim despite it being daytime. The foursome voluntarily entered this interior. They did not remove their shoes at the entrance. There was no telling when they’d have to make a run for it.
Natsume turned on a flashlight, illuminating the dark interior.
To start with, she began with the closest room. Calmly turning the doorknob, she opened the door slightly and shined the light over the interior. ——There appeared to be nothing.
Inside was a table and a sofa. Nothing had been relocated from within. What had been moved was——the people. Only Sae’s parents. In all likelihood, this was the case at the rest of their fellow students’ houses.
“Split up, let’s investigate. If you find anything, contact us through Lavinia’s magic as usual.”
Tobio and company nodded in response to Natsume’s comment, the glowing crystals produced by Lavinia’s magic were inserted into their ears, and splitting into two groups to search the interior they advanced on foot.
The team of Tobio and Lavinia opened the door to the living room. A TV, a table, and a withered decorative plant were visible. The leaves had fallen from the decorative plant, and were scattered all over the floor.
In the kitchen, the electronic appliances such as the refrigerator and microwave had all been left behind. The electricity having been cut, the resulting condition inside the refrigerator was one of rotten food that was releasing an offensive smell. Turning the water faucet, as one would expect no water came out.
Sometimes, Lavinia would stop and draw a circle on the floor with her wand and say something that appeared similar to a spell. As light emerged from the circle that had been traced on the floor, shortly after the momentary brilliance would be emitted it would go out.
……Magic, or so it would seem. When he had asked earlier about what she was doing, it seemed she was investigating the movements of the inhabitants.
Hearing footsteps, they became vigilant, but it was only Natsume and Samejima who appeared. Confirming with them, they shook their heads. They hadn’t discovered anything that way.
Setting out from the central living room, the foursome again began surveying the vicinity.
“This place, was it like this previously?”
Tobio nodded in response to Natsume’s query.
“Yeah, it’s as it was. Nothing has been moved. The only things that aren’t here——are Oji-san and Oba-san.”
That was Tobio’s reply. The things had been left behind, and only the residents were not currently present. That is to say, that which the ‘Utsusemi Agency’ desired was only the blood relatives of the second year Ryoukuu High School students——. What the significance of that was, Tobio and company had no idea, but they couldn’t help but feel a bad premonition about it.
Tobio pointed his index finger up.
“I’m going to investigate the second floor.”
In response to Tobio’s suggestion, Natsume replied, “Well then, we’ll continue investigating the situation of the first floor for a little longer,” and the four people once again separated.
Tobio and Lavinia, returning momentarily to the entrance hall, began ascending the stairs. He spotted something possessing a human-like appearance on the second floor. Glancing over at Lavinia, she had seen the same thing, her gaze directed upwards. She seized her ear and said.
“……Natsume, Shark, I want you to be cautious.”
This was an announcement of preparation for battle. In an instant a tense atmosphere dominated the house.
Tobio, calmly summoning his partner, gave such an order. As he swallowed his saliva, the puppy ascended the stairs from behind him.
With all the effort in his small body Jin ascended one step at a time. Reaching the second floor first, he began sniffing around with his nose. Discovering it was nothing, he turned towards them with his tail wagging. A little relieved, Tobio ascended the stairs.
Jin was clearly a great asset. For such a small body, he provided much reassurance. If it had just been him by himself, he would have been overwhelmed with fear at the sight of that human silhouette, and likely would have started to panic.
In the midst of his nervousness, his mind was stirred with the aid of Jin and his colleagues.
Having ascended to the second floor, Tobio turned his feet towards Sae’s room. Progressing conspicuously through the dusty corridor, he slowly turned the doorknob to Sae’s room.
This room, he’d been in here so many times. It was clearly nothing more than a typical girl’s room, the interior of which had been kept tidy and was clean.
The bed and the desk were as they had been. On top of the desk, nothing had been placed. Tobio, who was familiar with this desk, opened the drawer. It held some study materials and notebooks.
Searching through Sae’s desk almost made him lose his nerve, but even so he opened the drawer, and Tobio recognized a certain notebook. What he took out was Sae’s diary.
Holding it in his hand, he began flipping through the pages. It was a silly diary. Reading the numerous descriptions relating to himself made him feel embarrassed from the bottom of his heart, so he couldn’t look at them directly. However, each and every detail that had been written was amusingly funny.
He stopped at the entry from the day before the trip.
‘May: Tomorrow is finally the formal day of the trip to Hawaii, however Tobio’s condition hasn’t fully recovered. I had wanted for us to go together, but it can’t be helped. Tomorrow, after only seeing Tobio’s face in the morning, I expect I’ll head to the airport. Tomorrow will be here soon. If I don’t go to sleep early’
Right after that day’s description, the diary was interrupted. It was natural. Since the owner was presently absent——.
After Lavinia finished engraving her magic into the floor, they left Sae’s room, and Tobio and company began heading towards Oji-chan and Oba-chan’s room.
Inside the second floor room belonging to Sae’s parents——. ……Since the family had disappeared, and since this included Sae’s parents, in regards to the item Tobio’s grandmother had entrusted to Sae’s parents, this was only remaining place in the house where it could likely be.
Having entered Sae’s parents’ room, Tobio began searching the drawers and shelves while feeling apologetic. However, it seemed that it absolutely could not be found. ——Then, he discovered a safe inside of the closet. Perhaps here……Tobio had such thoughts.
At that moment, the door to the room opened with a *kii* sound. Tobio and Lavinia looked over that way, where there was a single young girl standing on the other side of the door. That figure was recognizable. It was obvious.
Appearing right in front of his eyes, this person was his childhood friend Sae. She was *jii* staring in his direction.
……At last, we’ve met up!
His eyes moistening, driven by a sudden desire to immediately rush over to her, he frantically resisted.
“Sae, it’s me. Can you understand me?”
However, despite Tobio’s cry, the figure he had perceived over there, Sae, showed no change. Before his eyes Sae was merely wearing a thin ominous smile. Tobio’s gaze perceived something.
The prayer beads on her left hand——.
That, it was something recognizable. It was the precious prayer beads he’d inherited from his grandmother. It was something he’d passed to Sae before the trip.
Tobio could do nothing but show a sorrowful expression.
Keeping the chronology up until now in mind, she should have become an Utsusemi. If that was the case, there was no point in rescuing her during the present situation.
But, he could not issue simple instructions to Jin. That Sae would be killed, this was not something he could permit.
Sympathizing with the present situation, Lavinia was carefully observing.
“As expected, slaying her is impossible huh.”
The voice of a third party was heard from the corridor. Entering the room——was a middle aged man wearing a three piece suit. He was recognizable. Indeed, from that time when they’d battled at the department store. The mysterious man who appeared to assist the guy called Doumon……. That guy had appeared before their eyes.
……This guy, Doumon had called him ‘Himejima’.
The tough looking man spoke slowly.
“I am the one called Himejima Hanezu. As you might already be aware, I have undertaken the role of leader of the organization called the ‘Utsusemi Agency’.”
Indeed, this guy was the head of the organization that began this series of events——.
……Without warning, the opponents’ boss has made an appearance. By no means would he have thought for an instant that this man would appear accompanied by Sae.
“……The Five Principal Clans”
Tobio murmured in that way.
Hearing that the man——Himejima Hanezu, put his hand on his chin with great interest.
“Hrm, it seems you’ve received information from that black winged gang. If that’s true then it makes things simple. ——Those of you who possess the ‘Four Fiends’ will be retrieved.”
He himself was not one of the ‘Four Fiends’. In regards to the plan, he was an irregular existence.
However, the man laughed.
“Of course, you are also something we consider necessary. Ikuse Tobio. ——No, I guess I should call you Himejima Tobio?”
……They’ve already investigated my circumstances.
The man——Himejima Hanezu continued speaking.
“It may seem strange to you, but your grandmother——Ageha was a member of the ‘Himejima’ Clan. Unfortunately the Himejima are not overflowing with desire for this power that issued from their family but……”
“……I am Ikuse. Himejima was nothing more than my grandmother’s maiden name.”
“Although you may think so, as far as those in the underside of this country are concerned the Himejima bloodline takes precedence. However, it’s ironic. For the ‘Dog’ to be of the genealogy of one who was expelled from the Clan……”
Himejima Hanezu, looking downwards, gazed at Jin. His pupils were dark, containing absolutely no emotion. Although he had smiled before it gave off the sense that it had been manufactured.
“……Speaking honestly, I believe my only desire has been partly fulfilled. ——Ikuse Tobio, was how you introduced yourself huh. A ‘demon’ beyond the daughter of ‘lightning’ has been born from that Himejima. Moreover, it is an authentic creation compared to the aforementioned ‘lightning’. The degree of comedy is boundless. Rather than the ‘red’ of the ‘Suzaku’ of Shintoism that the Himejima rule over, they’ve given birth to ‘jet black’. Having acknowledged you since your face reminds me of the previous ‘Himejima’ clan chief, I guess I am sufficiently satisfied.”
The man shook his head.
“However, the minds of my own brethren don’t think that way. ……I must conform to the ‘Project’ until the end as the one whose responsibility is to govern that organization.”
……What this man is saying is incomprehensible. For Tobio, the things Himejima Hanezu was saying, he couldn’t understand them at all. But, he sensed that everything he said was mixed with deep-seated enmity.
The man continued without caring.
“Ikuse Tobio, why not lend us your power? No, for argument’s sake, apart from cutting us down, for the present——instead of us, why not overthrow those monsters from the Five Principal Clans?”
“……You’re saying what’s convenient for you. Moreover I don’t understand the significance of that……!!”
Tobio expressed his displeasure at his unilateral way of speaking. To think that it had reached the point of him speaking of him lending his power this late in the game……!! More than anything else, to proclaim such ridiculous words while Sae was beside him, rather than assuaging his feelings, it was intolerable.
Seeing that, the first emotion that man showed was to put on that pleasant smile.
“……Draw that ominous blade of yours, and you shall be made aware of my responsibility.”
The man gestured with his finger. At that instant——Sae, who had been standing beside Himejima Hanezu, took one step forward, her left hand slashing horizontally. Thereupon, the shadow at her feet began to wriggle as though it possessed intention, spreading throughout the room. The darkness in the room was being controlled. The shadow that had spread out bulged, forming a figure.
Tobio could do no more than to widen his eyes in shock at what appeared before him——filling almost the entire room was a single enormous wild beast. Jet black fur——it was the mane of a lion. Its body appeared to be larger than the Barbary Lion which is the largest lion. Its flashing golden eyes were filled with bloodlust. Baring its bare sharp fangs, it raised a low growl.
Through the pores all over his body, a chilling sensation was transmitted——. Since the pressure was seemingly piercing through his skin, Tobio was forced to realize it. ……This lion, it was different from all the Utsusemi he had fought up until now. From the basic ‘structure’, it was a monster on a whole other level——.
With Tobio’s whole body trembling with fear, only Jin boldly faced the lion, completely without fear, and not relaxing his menacing posture. Without understanding the difference of his opponent’s power he did not pointlessly raise a growl.
——For the sake of protecting the master, he confronted it while frantically pumping up his small body.
Regarding Jin’s state of excessively brave loyalty, Tobio was deeply moved by this behavior to the point that he was no longer shaking in fear in the least. In such a situation, he would not betray Jin’s courage. He absolutely would not. It was his duty as this puppy’s master.
Himejima Hanezu spoke from beside the lion that had appeared from Sae’s shadow.
“……This was developed by a group of magicians who are cooperating with us. ——It’s called the ‘Cowardly Leo’. This one experiment is the bearer of the nucleus of our ‘Four Fiends Project’. Toujou Sae alone was the only test subject who could adapt to it.”
……Sae is commanding this lion? The atmosphere that lion is releasing, the killing intent enveloping its body is keenly distinguishable.
Lavinia scowled at the lion with a rare face of annoyance and spoke to the man.
“……Lion……one of the three has already finished being manifested? This is the reality behind ‘their’ experiment?”
“……The young lady of Grau Zauberer . What I report to you at this time, it would be good if you could convey it to Lord Pheles. ——They are serious.”
Hearing that Lavinia let out a voice of complete displeasure.
“…………How utterly unpleasant.”
As Lavinia pointed her wand at the man, Tobio heard Natsume’s voice through the magical communicator in his ear.
‘Ikuse-kun! The house, it’s been surrounded!’
Hearing that Tobio turned around. Turning towards the room’s verandah, he caught sight of a monster——an Utsusemi accompanied by the figure one of his fellow students there. Its hostile gaze was releasing a thirst for blood. Arriving on the verandah of the second floor, in the house’s surroundings, as well as in the garden, it seemed there was no mistaking that there was a swarm of Utsusemi.
He gave Himejima Hanezu a fleeting glance. The man shrugged his shoulders.
“You want to quarrel with me here? It doesn’t particularly matter to me. ——But, one suggestion.”
The man raised one finger as he continued to talk.
“If it’s okay with all of you, we could show you around our research facility. All of your fellow students you’re looking for are on standby there, along with their relatives who are in good health. Consider first, with this lion, and the house being surrounded by an abundance of Utsusemi, I’m sorry to say there’s no safe way out. Given that this is the case, can we ask that you come along as peacefully as possible?”
Meaning that they were being personally invited to their hideout. But then, there was no doubt they would be taken as unconditional captives……. However, they were wholeheartedly pursuing the truth behind that location.
——Was this a chance, or was this a desperate situation?
Either way, cutting their way out of here would come with a sacrifice. Regarding victory……in all honesty, such an outcome was unreasonable. Notwithstanding the restricted conditions of the ‘Blade from the Shadows’, even though he’d been learning over the past three days, with this lion and Himejima Hanezu in front of them, he was certainly lacking decisive power.
Even in the case that man called Doumon, he possessed more power than a multitude of Utsusemi. As the man who commanded those of such supernatural power, the possibility that he was weaker than Doumon was nonexistent.
More than anything else, in the confined space of this room, the ‘Blade from the Shadows’ would appear to be an ordinary attack, due to the restriction on mobility. Even though Jin possessed a small body it would seem that his movements would be slightly affected……the chance of injuring Sae as well was far too high.
……Then, should we escape? No, even supposing we escaped, someone would invariably be seriously injured.
……In no way losing interest in the current circumstances, Himejima Hanezu took something out of his breast pocket.
——It was a square wooden box.
There were talisman with magical characters affixed to the box. Seeing that, Tobio instantly reached a thought.
That, it must be what his grandmother passed to Sae’s parents which is connected to his roots——.
Himejima Hanezu spoke.
“There is something contained within this strongbox. I have been borrowing it for some time. What it is, I haven’t checked at this point. Is it the same for you, Ikuse Tobio-kun? In terms of the contents——“
The man pointed his finger at Sae.
“Which one you desire more I wonder?”
The man’s calm way of speaking was affecting his nerves. ……Directing his sights towards Sae, her eyes didn’t contain any emotion towards Tobio.
Lavinia spoke to Tobio.
“……I entrust this decision to Toby. Surely, Natsume and Shark will also understand. If I can also speak honestly, I am frightfully curious about their institution.”
As though sensing Tobio’s inner thoughts Lavinia had spoken thus.
After several second Tobio bowed his head, his face showing an expression that was full of bitterness, and grasped his ear to instruct Natsume and Samejima.
“……Minagawa-san, Samejima. ——Withdraw from here! Leave without minding us! We’ll meet up afterwards without fail!”
What Tobio chose——was for Natusme and Samejima to get away. They couldn’t have all of their members go. He thought it would be better if they had multiple options. He and Lavinia would remain for the sake of Natsume and Samejima escaping. The final goal of those guys was the ‘Four Fiends’. In that case, the two who are included in that ought to be the ones to get away.
‘——!! Ju-just a minute, Ikuse-kun!? What you said——‘
‘Ikuse! What happened up there!?’
In contrast to the surprised Natsume, Samejima seemed to somehow or another suspect Tobio’s true intentions.
‘Let’s go, Birdbrain! It seems that magical girl together with the distinguished Ikuse have gotten themselves into a situation! In that case, since those guys outside were drawn to gather here for us, it seems we ought to beat them all down in one go.’
‘B-but! Aah geez! Ikuse-kun, Lavinia, I forbid you to die okay! We will absolutely welcome you back!’
Listening to the voice of his comrades as they departed while repulsing the Utsusemi, Tobio glared at the man.
The man exhaled.
“Indeed, since it’s only us who remain, the ‘Four Fiends’ will get away huh. Whether for all member to fight, or for all members to escape, both are far from prudent decisions.”
Himejima Hanezu, saying this, tied some kind of token to his hand and the space inside the room warped. From the warped space a fusuma appeared. A scarlet divine bird had been elegantly painted on it. The fusuma opened, and before them they perceived a single room in an unfamiliar building. It seemed to be something like a ‘gate’ for crossing between locations by linking one point to another.
Himejima Hanezu made an inviting gesture while speaking to Tobio and Lavinia.
“Well now, after you.”
Holding Jin in his arms Tobio addressed him in his thoughts.
——Jin, please accompany me to the bitter end. I, by defeating these guys from within the whale’s belly, will save Sae and everyone.
In spite of the fear that was clinging to his body, Tobio’s fighting spirit did not waver.
- TN: As in personal history
- Literally uncle and aunt but here is used by Tobio to refer to Sae’s parents
- Japanese magical arts
- Vermillion Bird
- The ‘their’ used here is feminine
- Grau Zauberer is German for Grey Magician, which is also the reading of the Kanji used
- Japanese sliding screen
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