City Series:Volume4a Chapter 1

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Chapter 1: Protagonists (Prologue) — (12/17/1996)[edit]

Part 1[edit]

4:25 PM

A boy directly faced the sunset while holding his forehead over his bandanna.

Whenever he lost himself in thought, the scar on his forehead would throb.

Whenever he was nervous and surrounded by enemies, that scar below his bandanna would throb.

And that was why he asked a question with his kind-looking eyes narrowed in a troubled look.

“Um, do we really have to do this because the Emergency Teachers are off duty today?”

Several students holding weapons surrounded the boy on the schoolyard which had been dug up here and there for construction work.

The excellent quality of their weapons was enough to know they were from the Chancellor’s Officers who provided student defense for the Osaka region.

The boy scratched his head as he looked to them, the schoolyard, and the large boxy building of Osaka Prefectural #2 beyond them.

“I can’t believe this… I really don’t think you should be surrounding a transfer student for no reason.”

He really did sound like he could not believe it.

Suddenly, the circle of students around him took a step inwards.

The pressure of their presence caused the boy to hold his chest and take a step back.

That was enough for his back to reach the large concrete wall.

He could not escape.

Wow, I really can’t believe this.

He complained in his heart, placed a hand on his forehead again, and faced forward.

An odd heat enveloped the group surrounding him.

It was a suspicious heat that bordered on madness and a voice spoke from within it.

“Hizaka Shoui, Class 2-B Student #21, Critical Forcer. What brought you to our school? I don’t see what a Mountain drop-out needs with a school.”

The boy, Hizaka Shoui, raised his head at that.

He silently touched his bandanna and tilted his head.

“Well, it is true even a drop-out from the Mountain’s chancellor training knows more than a university graduate, but…”

“But what?”

“By any chance…are you bullying little old me because my smarts scare you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, you moron! Do you think we want to pick on a kid who just transferred in!?”

“Th-then why am I being cornered like this? And by the Chancellor’s Officers no less!”

Shoui frantically asked his question while pressing his back against the wall and the others exchanged a glance.

Finally, some voices of doubt escaped them.

“Hey…”

“What?”

“Are you sure this is the guy who trained at the Mountain for two whole years?”

“Yeah, I thought he would be weird since he spent two years when it normally takes half a year, but I didn’t expect this …”

“Maybe he was so bad at it he was held back that long.”

“It could be. All he’s been doing is complain.”

“He looks really weak to me.”

“That he does.”

“But Saki-san seems to know something about this.”

“Hey, hey, hey. I’m the one in trouble here, so don’t leave me out of the conversation.”

Shoui shouted back at the people talking about him loud enough that he did not need to use a Tech to hear it.

“What is this, anyway!? It’s my first day here, so what is this all about!?”

“You’ve been judged to be highly dangerous, obviously.”

A sharp voice broke through the crowd and the crowd split apart.

Shoui – Sight Tech – Auto-Take – Spot – Hit!

A tall, slender boy with a spear in hand walked straight through the center of everyone’s gazes.

His short-cut blond hair and sunglasses stood out the most.

The tip of his spear shined in the setting sun.

It shined with a scarlet light.

“!”

A phantom pain ran through Shoui’s forehead when he saw the almost damp scarlet light on the blade.

Instead of the earlier prickling pain, this was powerful enough to wake him up.

This is bad.

The phantom pain from the reflected light replayed a certain image in the back of his mind.

It was a scene from the past.

A raised spear was swung down through the darkness to split open his forehead.

He felt blood spraying from his forehead, he was filled with a scorching pain, and…

Yuuki.

A girl’s name appeared in his heart, but…

Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Self-Control – Hit!

After three heartbeats and some sweat on his back, he endured the replaying of his past and his fear.

The next thing he knew, the spear boy stood right in front of him.

“…”

They were five meters away from each other.

At just a few steps apart, the boy pulled a memo pad from his pocket using the hand not holding the spear.

He looked back and forth between Shoui’s face and the memo pad before asking a question.

“Hizaka Shoui. You have a tendency to compromise, so it’s never clear what you’re thinking. You used to live at the Nandaimon Shrine, you trained at the Mountain for two years, and…now you’re a Dis-Worder. Is that accurate?”

“Y-yes. Perfectly accurate.”

Shoui looked the boy in the eye and quickly nodded several times.

The boy nodded just once.

“I see. I understand now.”

“Oh, good. You understand? Can we handle this peacefully now?”

“Yes, I understand you need to be executed.”

“What?”

“So we’ll be sending you to the hospital.”

Shoui pointed at the boy who was still calmly staring at the memo pad.

“Y-y-y-y-y-you rotten monster! What’s going on here!?”

“The details don’t matter. Word Accelerator Ixolde is being activated the day after tomorrow, so could you stay away from here until then?”

“I have no idea what you’re even talking about! Please give me a logical explanation!”

Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Intimidation – Hit!

The boy must have realized what the look in Shoui’s eyes meant because he gave him an upturned look and spoke.

“You spent two years at the Mountain before they kicked you out and you still didn’t become a Chancellor, so why are you joining our Prefectural #2 just before Ixolde’s activation? …After all, Prefectural #2 is home to the Osaka Chancellor’s Officers Headquarters and current Osaka Chancellor Nanba Souichirou.”

“Eh? W-well, I’d always wanted to go to school here. Besides, what’s wrong with me being here?”

“Why would you want to go to school here?”

“Well, it’s a mixed boys and girls school and it even has student dorms to live in.”

The boy silently held his spear below his right arm in preparation to fight.

“Ah, I can’t believe you! You just ignored everything I said, didn’t you!?”

“Shut up. I’m First Special Duty Officer Saki Seiji. As head of intelligence, I will eliminate you here.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m no good at fighting Strike Forcers, you know?”

“Oh? …Hizaka Shoui, I’ve long heard rumors of you and your lack of Words.”

“Wow, am I famous? I can’t believe it… Really, I’m gonna blush. What do I do?”

“Quit wiggling around. At the very least, any fighter these days will have heard your name somewhere or another. …Except for the last two years, that is.”

“…”

“Normally, you have to be sixteen to undergo chancellor training at the Mountain and it only lasts a year. So why did you go the Mountain at fifteen and what were you doing for those two years?”

“That’s what I’d like to know.”

“Hm? …What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t really matter. More importantly, could you maybe do something about this current situation?”

Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Expression Decoding – Hit.

“I guess not.”

“Oh? Is that how it looks?”

“I don’t think anyone could see it differently. I can’t believe this. And I’m supposed to be the ultimate pacifist. Nowadays, anyway.”

“ ‘Nowadays’? Then what about two years ago?”

“Two years ago?”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Saki nodded and a slight smile entered his voice. “On that snowy night when you, a guest at the Nandaimon Shrine, made the Koto Guardian kill someone.”

“…”

Shoui did not respond.

He remained silent.

He only pressed his back against the wall and lowered his bandanna.

He touched the scar on his forehead through the bandanna.

The bandanna was mounted on a forehead protector which was split in two down the center.

He touched the cold metal edge and took a deep breath.

Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Self-Control – Hit.

As he controlled his heart, words filled it rather than images.

Childhood friend.

My own lack of Words.

My duty to protect her.

Her injury and her eye.

Murderer.

“Do you see how dangerous you are now? From our perspective, we have no idea why you lack the Words all of us have, you’ve undergone some unknown training for an excessive amount of time, and you’re friends with a murderer.”

Shoui remained silent and his vision was mostly covered by his bandanna.

This was a method he had learned over the past two years. At the very least, his vision would not pick up any blades swung down toward him.

But he could hear his opponent.

“Whatever your situation is, your words are going to fall on deaf ears. All that matters are the facts I laid out for you. Understand?”

“In other words, you don’t want to have a deactivated time bomb anywhere near you?”

“At the very least, we don’t want you coming to this school until Ixolde’s activation is complete. Will you take a hit from my Pressure High and spend the time in the hospital, or will you stay home on your own? It’s your choice.”

“I can’t believe this. I don’t like either of those options… I really can’t believe this.”

“Then let me give you one piece of information.”

Saki used his empty hand to tell the other students to back away.

“It may not have reached your ears, but Koto Guardian and Koto Chancellor Yuuki Yuuki currently has a certain Urban Name.”

“An Urban Name?”

“Killing Holder.”

Saki gave a brief answer and continued with a bitter smile.

“It means she holds death inside herself. Since she killed someone.”

Shoui’s body gave a single quick tremor at the word “kill”.

But his silence did not seem to bother Saki Seiji.

“So what’ll it be? At this rate, I’ll be acting as a member of the Chancellor’s Officers to eliminate someone I’ve deemed dangerous…but how do you want this to end, ‘Dog of Nandaimon’ Hizaka Shoui-kun?”

“I can’t believe this.”

Shoui’s voice remained light and his shoulders drooped.

After a beat, he immediately took action.

Part 2[edit]

4:31 PM

Shoui jumped straight up.

Shoui – Gym Tech – Take – Great Leap – Hit.

His long leap gave him plenty of air time and his blue uniform-wearing form landed on top of the wall between the schoolyard and street.

Without losing his balance, the wind washed over him five meters from the ground.

Below him, he could see Saki Seiji, the students who had surrounded him, and the schoolyard dug up for construction.

“Is that for Ixolde, the giant word accelerator installed underground? This place looks like a tilled field.”

“What are you talking about? The Nandaimon Shrine was the only place that opposed creating the ultimate Rhythm using Ixolde. What about you!?”

“What about me? Sorry, I’m not interested in politics.”

“Then what are you interested in!?”

Shoui suddenly brought his fists to his waist and spread his hands.

“!”

The Chancellor’s Officers students scattered at the combat stance.

“I’m interested in…”

He used his spread hands to mime grabbing something from below.

“First of all, girls.”

His tone was entirely serious.

“Next would be honor and finally money. Aren’t those the main three driving forces for guys?”

He asked with his serious expression intact and received only silence in response.

The wind blew and more silence followed.

Finally, he looked down at the others and asked a question.

“Am I…wrong?’

“That settles it. I’m killing you even if I don’t have a good reason.”

Saki pointed his spear at Shoui and clicked his tongue.

“Besides, you’re a hell of a guy. Even with a Tech, jumping up onto a five meter wall isn’t easy.”

“That’s because I don’t want to fight if I don’t have to. I’ll jump five meters if it means getting out of this.”

“You went to that much effort to weasel your way out of this!? Hey! Don’t run away!”

“Oh, c’mon. I’m just heading out to play until you’ve all left and I can sneak into the dorm behind the school building. I still have to unpack my things.”

“That’s called running away!”

“Oh, what a quick retort.”

“Why you…”

“Calm down. There’s no rule saying you have to accept a fight someone picks with you, is there? Right? Right?”

Shoui lifted the bandanna from his eyes and smiled.

“And with that, I’ll be going. Farewell.”

With a quick wave, he tried to jump back, but…

“I’m not letting you get away, you moron!”

Saki – Draw Tech – Take – Throw – Hit!

The spear rotated as it flew toward Shoui. He had just taken his stance to jump, so it audibly slammed into the side of his waist.

“Wah!”

It did little damage, but the inertia of the rotating spear knocked him to the side.

He fell from the wall and into the schoolyard again.

Shoui – Gym Tech – Take – Land – Hit.

He spun through the air and managed to land right next to the main gate.

He could leave the school ground by taking a jump backwards, but…

“I said I’m not letting you get away!”

Saki charged forward with a weapon shaped like a short sword.

When he swung it, the hilt extended to create a spear.

This was a new spear.

City v04a 055.jpg

When Shoui realized his enemy had not lost his weapon, his mouth tensed.

“H-h-h-h-ow many of those do you have!? No fair!”

“Just shut up and die!”

With that conclusion, Saki used his empty hand to stick headphones into his left ear.

Saki – Spear Tech/Pressure High Rhythm – Take – Charge – Hit.

Saki’s Words were spoken in a low, quiet voice.

Heaven, please answer the longing found in the sky of my final moments

Simply let the white snow fall on the heavy darkness as you raise your cry

The spear tip flew straight toward Shoui’s gut as a black force of high gravity surrounded it.

A hit from that would take out two or three ribs in a concentrated attack.

“…!”

Shoui did not respond by singing or uttering his Words. Instead, he stuck his left hand in his pocket and his right straight forward.

Will I make it in time!?

He shut his eyes and wished for power in his heart.

In that instant, his right fist stuck Saki’s spear.

“!”

The explosion lasted only a brief moment.

The black light burst with a sound like a breaking board.

The spear shattered and Saki was knocked backwards.

“The hell!?”

Saki – Gym Tech – Take – Landing Control – Hit.

Shoui, on the other hand, remained motionless. His right fist was still held forward and he stared silently at Saki.

Saki’s gaze turned toward Shoui’s right fist and Shoui listened to his question.

“What is that!?”

Saki was pointing at the black light residing in Shoui’s right fist.

Lives at an Octave of about 100,000 had emitted a powerful Word Color and summoned some ether.

“Did you instantly call in the same Pressure High as me without using any Words!?”

Shoui did not answer.

To let the music of a Rhythm flow through one’s body, the user normally had to sing their own Words and place the Rhythm’s Message inside those Words.

But Shoui never sung the necessary Words when he used a Rhythm.

In fact, he could not sing them.

That was why his Urban Name was Dis-Worder.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Saki. “Can you use any Rhythm indiscriminately because you don’t have the individuality of Words?”

“I don’t know how it ended up like this, but it seems I’m a popular guy when it comes to Rhythms.”

“…”

“Um, by any chance, are you still going to try to fight?”

“Yeah…”

Saki Seiji stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out another new spear.

Shoui looked up into the sky when he saw his opponent’s weapon.

“Ahh… Can’t you stop this?”

“I have no reason to.”

“But I really don’t get why I’m being attacked here.”

“Then let me tell you one thing.”

“?”

Saki pointed the new spear Shoui’s way.

Saki – Talk Tech – Take – Long-Distance Conversation – Hit!

The movements of Saki’s lips became noise which sounded directly in Shoui’s ears.

Only Shoui could hear these words.

“Ever since the Kinki Riot thirteen years ago, Osaka’s 1st Special Duty Officer has been given the following information.”

“Information?”

“The Dis-Worder must not be allowed near Osaka’s Chancellor’s Officers.”

“Th-that’s completely unscientific!”

“This information is backed by something that I can’t tell the likes of you about. But if you knew what I did, you’d probably leave the city of your own volition.”

Saki’s words were backed by absolute confidence.

“Plenty of people lose their Words due to aphasia or other disorders, but every decade or so, one moron impaired by that silence will still rush into the world of Rhythms and Words. This year, it’s you.”

“But this wasn’t supposed to be an unlucky year… Are you sure you can’t overlook me?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. You’ve heard the theory that people without Words of their own can influence other people’s Words, haven’t you?”

Saki switched back on the MD in his pocket.

The Pressure High Rhythm’s music replayed from the beginning.

“In that case, your actions could easily influence Osaka during the tension of the Ixolde problem. Do you get what that means?”

Saki took a step forward, but his aura was completely different now.

Instead of observing or asking a question of his opponent, he simply moved forward.

Shoui took a defensive stance.

I can’t believe this. How am I supposed to escape?

He lowered his hips in preparation to move.

At the same time, Saki charged forward.

“Seaaaaaaahhhh!”

He pulled his spear back as far as it would go as he made his charge, but he never finished his war cry.

Something unexpected cut in between Saki and Shoui.

It was a wind.

The air gently fluttered and a shimmering of heat rose between the two boys.

“Is this-…!?”

Before Saki could finish his question, a voice raced in a straight line across the schoolyard.

“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!”

It was a deep male voice speaking a simple, monosyllabic Word.

That Word caused the air to explode.

The tearing raced across the schoolyard in a straight line.

The destructive roar created an echoing ensemble.

“!?”

The tearing wind and impact slammed into the ground.

Dirt and sand were blasted skyward with a great noise.

This Rhythm!?

“Is that Kusanagi, the ogre-slaying Wind Rhythm!?”

Before Shoui was even done speaking, a loud metallic sound instantaneously distorted the surrounding scenery.

And before that distortion returned to normal, the great roar suddenly vanished.

The sudden silence was followed by plenty of dirt and sand falling from the sky.

And in that downpour of dirt, Shoui was looking toward the schoolyard gate instead of at Saki.

The attack had flown form that direction and two people stood there.

One was a boy and the other a girl.

The boy wore a student combat coat and raised a sword in his two false arms.

The girl wore personal clothes and her long ponytail fluttered in the wind as she brushed it back with a false arm far too large for her body.

The previous attack had been made by a diagonal upwards slash of the boy’s sword.

He spoke as he sheathed the sword.

“What are you doing, Saki? Depending on your answer, I, Osaka Chancellor Nanba Souichirou, will pass my judgment on you.”

Nanba Souichirou looked to Shoui and Saki with his one eye.

Shoui whistled at the one-eyed gaze.

“Wow. I can see how you slayed an ogre with that.”

“You don’t think our Chancellor’s a Chancellor, do you?”

“But I was complimenting him. …Man, that’s way more powerful than the Over Rhythms we use.”

His eyes briefly stopped on the sword guard eyepatch, but then he looked to the girl standing next to Nanba Souichirou.

The ponytailed girl with a giant false arm attached to her left shoulder bent her eyes in a cheerful expression before staring intently at Shoui.

When their gazes met, her mouth moved.

“It’s been a year, Shoui. How’ve ya been?”

“Oh, it’s you, boss.”

When he heard Shoui’s troubled expression, Souichirou turned toward the girl behind him.

The girl nodded.

“That guy…Shoui’s, well, a friend of mine.”

She smiled a little.

“It was beatin’ him at the Mountain last year that got me my spot as Nagoya Chancellor.”

“Don’t tell them that, boss! You’ll hurt their impression of me!”

“Don’t worry about it. More importantly, it’s good to see ya again.”

She took a breath.

“Shoui, if ya get caught in anythin’ too weird, I, Nagoya Chancellor Yamashita Taeko, will give ya some advice in place of your parents. …Okay?”

When they heard that, a stir ran through the boys spread out in the schoolyard.

Hearing those overlapping voices, Shoui held his forehead over his bandanna.

The phantom pain had vanished at some point.

Part 3[edit]

5:39 PM

In south Nara Prefecture, a hill existed on the border between the cities of Nara and Koriyama.

It was a small hill.

Just an hour before, the setting sun had washed over the slope and trees, but it was now dyed in the pale color of the moonlight.

The most moonlight reached the top of the hill which contained a large one-story estate and a single large shrine colored by vermilion lacquer.

It was a large shrine with sanctuaries on either side.

An old wooden panel was nailed to the eaves of the shrine.

The panel had fallen into darkness and had grown dark from the rain and dew, but the stickily shining lacquered writing was still visible.

It said Nandaimon Shrine.

Nandaimon referred to the Suzakumon and the Rashoumon.

During the Nara period, a city had existed on the plain visible from this hill.

Heijou-kyo, Nagaoka-kyo, and Heian-kyo.

The great gate built to protect those cities from the south was known as Nandaimon.

Nandaimon Shrine was the shrine that worshiped Nandaimon.

As time passed, the city had transformed and Nandaimon had been remade several times, so Nandaimon Shrine had been moved to the hill where the gate would be visible no matter where it moved. Over a thousand years were said to have passed since.

Needless to say, Nandaimon itself had vanished during that long time and the shrine had been remade a few times.

Only the cherry and pine trees on the hilltop accurately recorded the passage of time.

A silent winter chill surrounded those trees as a slight breeze and produced a lonely rustling from the leaves.

Called by the rustling, the chill sitting in the shrine’s grounds began to move.

That chill called someone in.

A single figure used the path to the shrine to climb into the winter wind.

It was a girl whose long black hair shined in the moonlight.

Hidden below that black hair was a blazer red enough to be seen even in the moonlight.

The uniform had a feminine yet weighty outline and the wearer held a large staff in her right hand.

The right arm wielding the staff had large writing stitched into the blouse’s shoulder.

The golden stitching that shined in the moonlight said “Koto Guardian”.

That title belonged to the individual who put to rest the spirits in the grounds of the Koto region to prevent natural disasters.

She silently finished climbing the shrine path and stepped onto the gravel of the shrine grounds.

The wind blew gently as if stirred up by her refreshing footsteps.

It cut across the shrine grounds, past the main temple, and to the side of the estate.

The footsteps on gravel soon stopped as they followed the wind. The girl had stopped walking.

She looked up to the moon and the moonlight covered her face.

The bespectacled features were those of a girl with hint of sharpness.

A single color could be seen in the pale moonlight on her face: red.

It was the color of her right eye.

In the shadows, a faint red light filled that eye like a fire opposing the moon.

It was a false eye.

She used that eye to view a point in the sky, as if searching for something.

She spent a few seconds like that.

“One hour until the Suzaku reaches its standard position.”

Her lips barely moved to form the words and she lowered her gaze once more.

Instead of the sky, she looked to the Nandaimon estate where she lived.

Light filled the one-story vermilion estate that measured more than thirty meters across.

She had family there.

But the girl’s face still showed no hint of an expression.

Her thoughts were a complete mystery.

And…

“…”

After a moment, she turned around without speaking a word.

She turned left and her footsteps on the gravel took her to the estate’s detached room.

She walked over to the small detached room placed alongside one of Nandaimon’s sanctuaries.

She heard a sudden metallic sound from her left.

It was a bell.

Her left hand held a key attached to a small keyring.

At the same time, the footsteps on gravel stopped.

But she had not stopped. There was simply no more gravel on the ground.

There was a five square meter area of exposed dirt in front of the detached room.

Even in just the moonlight, it was obvious that ground was oddly hard.

That dirt ground had been packed down so much that not a single weed was allowed to grow through and it smoothly reflected the moonlight.

As she crossed the dirt, she saw a single wooden pillar standing up from the center of the small clearing.

It was thirty centimeters thick and about two meters tall, it contained several shallow mortar-like indentations, and the top was badly broken.

Her left hand touched one of the many indentations driven into the pillar.

A bell rang and her hand stroked across the gentle curves of the indentation.

The curves were identical to the ones that formed a human fist.

“…”

The bell rang again and she walked forward.

A few steps were all it took to arrive in front of the detached room’s main entrance.

She did not hesitate to stick her key into the sliding door’s lock.

Part 4[edit]

5:45 PM

The bell rang and the door opened.

In the moonlight and gentle breeze, the girl remained motionless in front of the small rectangle of darkness.

The wind searched through and washed over that darkness as her eyes turned to the nameplate next to the door.

The old, darkened nameplate gave a certain boy’s name: Hizaka Shoui.

She simply stared at the name without really reading it.

A few beats later, she suddenly moved. She stepped into the darkness and into the detached room’s entranceway.

Closing the door further darkened the already dark room.

The external world was shut out.

All she could see was the moonlight shining in from the glass of the front sliding door, but she reached an arm into the darkness without relying on that light.

“…”

A bright fluorescent light turned on.

She leaned her staff against the small entranceway’s wall.

The sound of the staff bottom hitting the concrete floor reverberated solidly through the entranceway.

Next, silence fell.

After a few breaths, she very quietly opened the sliding door dividing the entranceway from the room itself.

She almost seemed to be trying to spy on who or what was inside.

After confirming that the dark space was fully opened, she removed her shoes, climbed the step, and made sure her shoes were properly aligned.

The series of actions had clearly become a habit.

She was now standing on the detached room’s tatami mat floor and she switched on the light here too.

At about seven square meters, the room before her eyes was only meant as a space to sleep in.

There was no closet and an unmarked futon was still folded up on the floor.

A large sand-colored dresser sat in front of the identically colored wall.

The only thing on the wall was a calendar hanging next to the dresser.

It was truly a dreary room.

It had almost no coloration. Everything was either the color of the walls or the color of the tatami mats.

Someone had clearly avoided bringing any color into the room as a way to suppress something. It felt like a method of restricting oneself.

The girl’s vermilion uniform stood out strongly below the fluorescent light.

Her eyes turned to the calendar on the wall.

It contained a picture of a snowy Kyoto mountain along with the days for December, the current month.

However, the year given on the calendar was 1994, which was two years in the past.

The girl remained silent when she saw that.

Her eyes then moved to top of the dresser. The owner of the room had allowed two pieces of color there.

The first was a folded karate uniform.

It had somewhat faded from numerous washings and a black belt lay with it.

The name Hizaka was spelled out at the end of the belt in bright gold, somewhat twisted stitching.

The other color sat next to it.

It was a trophy.

The extravagant trophy rose almost to the ceiling and the shine of its gold plating had not dulled in the slightest.

A vermilion and white ribbon was double-knotted at the top.

Without speaking a word, the girl faced the futon folded up in the corner.

Some new colors had been added behind the futon: a red vacuum cleaner, a metal bucket, and a dry rag on the rim of the bucket.

Those colors looked out of place in the monotone, sand-colored room, but she did not seem to care as she reached for the vacuum cleaner.

But then…

“Yuuki.”

She slowly turned toward a voice from outside the detached room.

A woman’s voice came from the large window on the east end of the room.

She did not hesitate to unlock the window and open it to either side.

The empty night spread out before her eyes.

A square of bright light fell onto the tightly packed dirt ground out front.

Two figures stood there.

One was the wooden pillar rising from the dirt and the other was a short old woman.

The woman wore a shirt and jeans and she had a slight smile on her aged face.

“Doing your daily cleaning, Yuuki? You sure are faithful.”

A hint of a bitter smile filled the lighthearted tone, but the girl called Yuuki said nothing in response.

The old woman realized her teasing would accomplish nothing, so she placed a hand on her back and looked directly at Yuuki.

“A Nandaimon child was attacked at Private Showa, so weren’t you on your way to deal with that?”

“I still have sixty-seven minutes until the designated time. This is a duel following the school rules, so they won’t run away.”

“If you give them that much time, I expect they’ll gather some friends to help. You do always tell them they’re free to get help, after all.”

“I prefer to take care of those pathetic people all at once. More importantly, what do you really want, Grandma Senga.”

The old woman looked up at Yuuki with a look of exasperation.

“They’re holding a meeting between the Chubu and Kansai Chancellors at Prefectural #2, but are you really not joining them?”

“What good would the Killing Holder do there?”

“Really? Are you sure it isn’t that you don’t want to disturb things too much? Like with the Nagoya Chancellor and-…”

Yuuki – Mind Tech – Take – Intimidation – Hit.

Senga – Mind Tech – Counter-Take – Intimidation Reflection – Hit.

“You sure do get scary when it comes to that topic, Yuuki.”

“And you get in a bad mood when I mention your spear,” said Yuuki. “Specifically, that Yuuki Senga was known as Kansai’s greatest spear-user but that she set aside her spear thirteen years ago.”

With that line, silence ruled their surroundings.

But that rule of silence was broken by a movement rather than a sound.

Senga shrugged her shoulders in exasperation.

And…

“Then how about this information? …That idiot Shoui has returned from the Mountain.”

She looked up as if to peer into Yuuki’s face, but the girl gave no visible reaction.

“I see.”

When the girl accepted the fact without even nodding, Senga frowned and leaned against the wooden pillar next to her.

“Is that all? Don’t you have something to say to him? Like why he didn’t stop by to say hi, about two years ago, or maybe that you’ve been cleaning this place ever since?”

“It’s no use.”

“What?”

“None of that would make bring him back.”

With that, Yuuki turned her back on Senga.

Her eyes fell on the karate uniform and trophy on top of the dresser.

A question from Senga reached her silent back.

“You don’t want to see him?”

“…”

“Or are you no longer waiting for him?”

“…”

“Do you not need a man who doesn’t keep the promise he made to you?”

Yuuki moved her head in response to that question.

It made the small up and down of a nod.

“I don’t need Hizaka Shoui.”

Senga had stopped talking, so Yuuki took over.

“It’s not possible for a guy like that to protect me.”

“That’s quite a statement. It’s not possible even though he won the West Japan Middle School Karate Championship? He won that title by defeating Ichimura Yuusei in the finals, but isn’t Ichimura now Nagoya’s Vice Chancellor who you’ve asked to spar with a few times since?”

“I don’t need anyone else’s opinion.”

“Then in your own opinion, do you truly think you don’t need him?”

“…”

“Even after picking him up from the ruins left by the Kinki Riot, healing his aphasia…and spending so much time with him?”

“…”

“If so, why have you been taking such good care of this detached room for the past two years?”

“It’s a linchpin,” said Yuuki. “The linchpin needed to keep the Killing Holder the Killing Holder.”

With that said, she closed the window behind her.

With a sharp sound, the light was cut off from the night.

Only the lingering tone remained in the air.


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