City Series:Volume4b Chapter 2
Chapter 2: The Battle Changes (Stage Selection Guide)
The night sky and the scattered winter stars were visible straight ahead.
Only that great expanse could be seen and the ground was nowhere to be found.
This was a view only available to someone lying parallel to the night sky.
Shoui was the one enjoying that view.
He felt déjà vu as his thoughts drifted in an almost sleepy sort of way.
“I’ve seen an expanse of stars like this before.”
For some reason, the thought was vocalized even though he did not open his mouth.
Before he could wonder why, he realized where the déjà vu came from.
It was from two years before.
After he had been defeated by Nagoya Vice Chancellor Yamashita Gihei’s sword strike, the night sky had filled his vision when he had come to.
But back then, he had seen snow rather than stars.
That scene was indelibly burned into his memory.
–Shoui – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Release Memory – Hit.
The memory was replayed as a video.
It was a video of the past.
It was snowing and he was indeed collapsed and staring up toward heaven.
…I have to fight.
If I don’t, I can’t protect Yuuki, he thought even though he had trouble moving.
That was likely paralysis from the Lightning High Rhythm’s additional attack.
But he could not accomplish anything if he did not move.
–Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Strengthen Mind – Hit.
“I have to fight!”
He muttered those words as he got up.
When he lowered his vision from the heavens to human height, he saw Yuuki.
The girl he had needed to fight and protect had her back to him.
Almost as if she were protecting him.
He could sense no strength in her.
He did not even need to use a Sight Tech to notice a certain fact.
A male right arm lay on the ground in front of her after being severed at the shoulder.
When he shouted, Yuuki looked back.
She had lost her glasses and the right half of her face was dyed red with blood.
A sword had stabbed her in the right eye.
The blood had yet to stop.
But her left eye looked to Shoui.
As he stood up, his gaze audibly clashed with hers.
She was tall, so her gaze was situated higher than his.
As if to accept their age difference, she narrowed her one eye in a slight smile.
Then she opened her mouth and spoke one simple word.
That was all.
She closed her eye and collapsed backwards.
He ran over and supported her.
As he did, great pain ran through his forehead.
As soon as that phantom pain struck his head like a hammer, the replayed memory was cut off by his own scream from two years ago and an external voice from the present.
“Yuuki!?” / “Shoui-san!”
He awoke in an instant.
His eyes came into focus on the starry sky before them.
A girl looked down at him with that winter sky in the background.
It was Takada Seigi, the girl with the Urban Name of Fast Reader.
“Please pull yourself together! You need to wake up!”
Shoui obediently sat up while placing a hand on his forehead.
He could see Osaka’s cityscape, but the neon and streetlights were flying backwards with surprising speed.
–Shoui – Mind/Sight Tech – Auto-Take – Confirm Situation – Hit.
As he felt a vibration reaching him through his butt, he realized he was sitting in the back of a dump truck.
The scene around him was moving because he was being carried down the road.
The city continued to move around him and he could hear the city’s siren.
Takada kneeled next to him with the Dog God.
His mind was still muddy, so he asked for some confirmation.
“We survived jumping down from that building?”
“You don’t remember? You kicked off a pole, kicked off a traffic light, and then rolled on top of here.”
Once she mentioned it, he did remember planning to do that.
“I see.” He nodded. “How long was I out?”
“Quite a while. While you were, some weird lightning struck over there. It was a completely straight line.”
She pointed to some clouds in the southern sky.
That was the only point in the night sky with any clouds and they were too small and oddly shaped to be natural.
They were rainclouds created by loud noise, ionization, or extreme atmospheric convection.
“A Word Particle Cannon, huh?”
He clenched his teeth, but stopped almost immediately and slowly stood up instead.
“They said Tokyo’s Chancellor and his group are escaping to Nagoya, didn’t they?”
The Fourth Alarm’s siren continued to sound even after Suzaku Ver. 40’s Word Particle Cannon had fired.
The battle was not over yet.
“Takada-san, this dump truck will probably stop at that light up ahead, so you need to climb off and get to safety. I’ll keep going to New Osaka Station.”
“Eh? Why New Osaka-…?”
“The rest of Takada’s question was cut off by Shoui’s answer.
“Because Yuuki will be pursuing Tokyo’s Chancellor.”
“Why do you seek her?”
Shoui could not answer that question.
He had far too many reasons to pursue her.
He felt like he could sum it all up, found he could not, and ultimately said nothing.
The Dog God was unable to articulate his self-questioning, so Takada asked another question.
“Do you not know?”
He was unable to answer that and neither could the Dog God on his shoulder.
Takada and her Dog God smiled bitterly.
“Then I’m going to New Osaka Station with you. I’m supposed to go to Nagoya too.”
She pulled a ticket from within her stole.
Shoui noticed that it was a ticket for a designated seat on a bullet train.
“We can’t have a teenage boy and girl going on a trip without their parents’ permission.”
“What are you talking about? Despite how Hisahide-san acts, he won’t do anything to me. Unlike you, Shoui-san.”
“Y-y-y-y-y-y-y-you’re a pretty rude girl, you know that!?”
“Why are you getting so flustered? Honestly…”
She went on to smile mischievously and held the ring on her right hand to her mouth.
“But that’s not the only reason I’m going with you.”
“I also want to see you, Shoui-san.”
He thought on that for a bit and scratched his head.
“You ‘also’ want to see me, hm? I can’t believe this.”
“Hisahide-san is the main reason I am going there. …It’s the same for you, isn’t it?”
Unable to answer that, Shoui asked a question of his own.
“Why do you want to see me?”
“As I said before, there is possibility in indecisive people.”
“They have a great number of options. …I ended my indecision and closed off those other paths, but it is possible I could have escaped the fear I had of my own power. It is possible could have become a Tuner or Buster instead of a Fast Reader.” She spoke with the city of Osaka moving by in the background. “I gave up on indecision.”
“But you can’t just never make a decision.”
“Yes, that’s true. The time will come when a decision must be made.” Takada looked up at Shoui. “But the stronger one’s indecision, the stronger their resolve when that time comes. And the greater one’s resolve, the more they will wander in indecision.”
“In that case…”
“Your prophecy fits into Hisahide-san’s Words, so your indecision and the decision it leads to will certainly bring great possibility to us…no, to the people around you and me.”
She took a breath.
“And that possibility can bring everyone happiness…or bring them unhappiness.”
“I’m shocked.” Shoui smiled bitterly. “That’s why you’re staying with me? In order to point my possibility in as good a direction as possible?”
“Yes. And as I said, you have what I gave up on.”
“This is the first time anyone has been this deluded about what I’m capable of.”
“Liar. Someone else has cared for you since long before this.”
“I hope you don’t mean Old Lady Senga. I’ve already decided anything over 28 is too old.”
Shoui felt a slight shaking below him as he gave that serious comment.
The dump truck was coming to a stop.
The city of Osaka slowed down around them and Takada asked him a question as he looked out toward New Osaka Station.
“Please tell me one thing. When did you start thinking about her?”
“When was it for you?”
He returned the question as if bargaining with her.
She looked a bit hesitant, but after two breaths, her usual expression returned.
“At the summer festival two years ago. He said he needed my power and everything else about me. …Now, what about you?”
When she returned the question to him again, he sighed.
“Do I have to tell you?”
“I told you.”
“Girls are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, aren’t they?”
“There is no point in letting shame hold you back on vacation… Now, will you answer me?”
“It’s the continuation of the image you saw from my thoughts before. During the Kinki Riot, my house collapsed and I was…”
His thoughts must have been reaching her because a cloud fell over Takada’s expression.
At the same time, the dump truck stopped.
The lurch caught Takada by surprise.
The Dog God cried out for her and she started to topple over.
–Shoui – Gym Tech – Take – Pick Up – Hit.
He supported her and picked her up.
“I’m going to get off here. It would be dangerous to cause a scene on here.”
“I thought it was a happier story. I’m sorry.”
As she apologized, he smiled a little and responded.
“You sound just like Yuuki from two years ago.”
“…Two years ago?”
“When we first met wasn’t like that. After Yuuki worked with Old Lady Senga to pull me out into the light, she rejoiced that I was alive.”
“Do you not want to apologize to her?”
–Shoui – Mind Tech – Take – Control Emotions – Hit.
“I promised…to protect her.”
With that, he turned his back on Takada.
He could see the city of Osaka.
He jumped down in that direction and spoke too quietly for Takada to hear.
“I promised to fight…and protect her.”
His voice jumped down to the road and his body followed.
The hustle and bustle of Osaka’s night grew duller and duller the farther one got from the city center.
Northern Osaka’s border between noise and silence was the Yodo River, Osaka’s greatest river.
It was about a kilometer wide and it was spanned by a few bridges.
One of those was the New Yodo River Bridge which contained a wide road and had one primary geographic feature.
The bridge was the shortest route between Osaka’s city center and New Osaka Station.
There were no cars on the bridge.
That was due to the Fourth Alarm.
The ear-splitting siren rang from Osaka’s center.
The sound seemed even louder as it was carried by the river’s winds.
Two people ran across the New Yodo River Bridge as if pursued by that wind and noise.
One was a youth in a T-shirt and jeans.
The other was a girl with a large false left arm.
The youth asked a question as he ran.
“Are you okay? That Word Particle Cannon didn’t hurt you, did it?”
“It might’ve if it had hit me directly, but the Dragon Emperor’s roar is enough to handle anythin’ else.”
The false arm girl, Nagoya Chancellor Yamashita Taeko, lightly tapped the Dragon Emperor’s armor.
As if answering the vibration of the tap, steam burst from the gaps between armor panels.
“I can’t believe I had to take it up to the Seventh Activation, though.”
“Is bringing it to too high an activation a problem?”
“It eats up a ton of power. It’s a bit of a problem when I can only fire cannon blasts,” she explained as she ran. “And if I take it up to the final Ninth Activation, I’ll lose the Dragon Emperor’s arm itself.”
“Rumor has it that would wake up the lightning dragon contained inside the thing.”
“Don’t ya get too interested. When the Third Dragon Emperor was taken to its Final Activation durin’ World War Two, the wearer and everythin’ within a kilometer was turned to scorched earth.”
“Wasn’t that because someone other than the original wearer tried to use it by force?”
“The Dragon Emperor is a false arm with a dragon’s will, so it’ll try to kill any master it doesn’t take a likin’ to.”
“That’s pretty scary. So it’s a false arm that’s on the verge of being Death Techno, huh?”
“I guess. But it does seem that I’ve got some kinda connection with it. It’s probably watchin’ me while it sleeps inside this armor.”
Taeko smiled bitterly.
“I just hope it accepts me as its master when I go for the Final Activation.”
“Instead, how about you pray you never come across a danger warranting that?”
After that comment, Hisahide sneezed.
“Damn, it’s cold.”
They were in the middle of the bridge, where the wind on the river’s surface was strongest.
Taeko glanced over at him as he bent forward and held his arms around his sides for warmth.
“Maybe if ya hadn’t burned yer hoodie…”
“I had to. I needed some kindling to spread the Flame High to the Word Particle Cannon’s light.”
“And after Takada chose it for me and everything…”
“Oh, ya mean that girl who was hangin’ out with Shoui?”
“Don’t put it like that.”
He looked up at Taeko.
“Because she’s my prophet.”
“Well, she sees it that way too. What’s got ya so mad?”
“Of course not.” Hisahide briefly fell silent. “I’m Tokyo’s Chancellor, I’m the strongest, I’m definitely the star of this incident, and I’m going to be king. I have no reason to feel jealous of or indebted to that Hizaka guy.”
“Then what does that girl see in Shoui?”
“I can never tell what girls are thinking.”
“Ya can’t tell, huh? …Well, it sounds like ya trust her, so that’s fine.”
Taeko gave a pleasantly bitter smile.
“So all the resentment is directed at Shoui,” she said.
–Taeko – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Detect Killer Intent – Hit!
But then she gave a sudden shout.
For just an instant, they heard a roar from overhead.
A moment later, both of them saw several giant icicles fall from above.
“The Koto Chancellor!?”
The thirty meter transparent masses dropped down after they had leaped out of the way.
Several deafening noises and powerful impacts followed.
One, two, and then three ice spears with sharp points stabbed into the New Yodo River Bridge.
The destruction continued without stopping.
–Taeko – Dodge/Gym/Savate Tech – Counter-Multi-Take – Running Dodge – Hit!
“That’s a helluva lot of power!”
“This is no time to be praising her! She’s figured out my weakness as a Harmonist!”
“An attack with greater speed than my paradox. In other words, a surprise attack.”
The giant icicles formed within the ether light that suddenly appeared overhead, so they were impossible to predict.
Seven of them stabbed into the ground ahead of Taeko and Hisahide.
They were well over ten meters in diameter, so they blocked the way as a wall.
The two stopped and briefly saw ether light twinkling overhead.
More were coming.
And come they did.
Eight icicles appeared overhead and giant hunks of rock came into view directly below.
The Lives of the ether that formed the space around them was altered to change everything into ice weapons.
This was the technique of the Cold High Rhythm user. It was the technique of Koto’s Chancellor.
But Taeko fearlessly took action.
She had already activated the Dragon Emperor, so she recited her Words as the dragon gave a cry.
She shouted the song that summoned lightning.
Nobody takes the middle road
Nothing lives or dies
It all either falls into ruin or survives
Everyone, everyone, everyone
The Dragon Emperor released bluish-white electricity from her shoulder, fist, and claws.
Taeko took action in a big way.
–Taeko – Gym Tech – Take – Step Forward – Hit.
- –Taeko – Savate Tech – Take – Leap – Hit.
- –Taeko – Lightning High/Boxing Tech – Multi-Take – Ether Strike – Hit!
She jumped and made a simultaneous smash uppercut with the Dragon Emperor to destroy one icicle.
But the overwhelming difference in mass pulled the icicle down and tried to slam Taeko to the ground.
Her jump was forced to a stop and her feet reached the bridge.
But she managed to fully support the icicle with her one fist.
“I can’t let myself die here!”
With that cry, she finished swinging the Dragon Emperor.
She was supported by the Dragon Emperor, her Techs, her Rhythm, her own physical strength, and the anti-shock inner suit she wore.
The Dragon Emperor gave a roar.
Then the icicle flew back up into the air, lightning surrounded it, and it broke.
With the sound of a broken waterfall, a transparent spray scattered through the sky.
Taeko sighed as she looked up at it.
“That was a close one… This is no laughin’ matter!”
As soon as she said that, the ninth icicle arrived without warning.
It dropped in no time.
Taeko had already lost her chance to dodge and she was not prepared to attack.
She could not move, but…
Hisahide leaped over.
He had his MD’s headphone in his ear.
He spun in midair and swung up a foot that produced fire.
The fire immediately grew into a flame that illuminated the ice while drawing a trail behind his foot.
The clash of ice and heat was over before it began.
The icicle burned.
It became a giant torch thirty meters tall and ten meters wide, it lost its qualities as ice, and it was blown away by the pure flame.
The mass of heat and flame fell over onto the New Yodo River Bridge and rolled loudly.
The other icicles that had stabbed into the bridge were caught in the flames and ignited.
The Flame High’s fire was spreading.
And these icicles had been created by altering the ether’s Lives, so they burned especially well.
Several giant pillars of fire were created.
The ice burned.
The seven giant icicles piercing the bridge became fiery towers.
Their light called in a scorching wind.
As the flames grew stronger, so did the wind.
The bridge itself ignited and was enveloped by hellfire.
Taeko and Hisahide maintained fighting poses as they looked across the burning field that had been a bridge.
–Taeko – Hear Tech – Auto-Take – Hear – Hit.
“…!? The bridge is burnin’ down!”
The flames reacted to her shout.
With a blast of scorching wind, the flames rose up like a wall and the bridge was crushed.
The collapse began at the locations weakened by the icicles piercing it.
The center of the bridge crumbled over a length of three hundred meters.
The road, the sidewalk, the railings, and the bridge girders all burned and sank into the flowing river.
“Man, the Flame High kicks ass!”
Hisahide acted like this had nothing to do with him even as the sounds of destruction surrounded him.
Taeko asked a question next to him.
“If Tokyo’s Chancellor had this much power, how’d she die during the Kinki Riot?”
“Well, according to Iba, she was killed by his master, Yuuki Senga.”
“A corporation was involved in the Kinki Riot and they wanted to end it via single combat between a representative of Tokyo and a representative of Osaka. …The corporation’s troops surrounded the two of them, so they had no choice but to go through with it.”
The din of destruction drowned out Hisahide’s voice.
But he did not stop speaking.
“Then Yuuki Senga arrived and the two of them died. That’s all Iba is willing to tell me. I don’t know what Yuuki Senga did, but her arrival must have triggered the end. In other words, their death.”
He added that he did not hold a grudge against anyone over that.
His words vanished within the roaring of the flames.
The only sounds were that roaring and the splashing of water.
Pieces of the bridge were turning to fire in midair and vanishing into the Yodo River.
The scene of destruction continued.
And as it did…
–Taeko – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Detect Killer Intent – Hit.
“Hey, ya’ve noticed this, haven’t ya?”
“Yeah, I have. You mean this killer intent, right?”
Taeko and Hisahide let the intense noise wash over them as they stared straight ahead.
Three hundred meters away, the other end of the break in the bridge looked like a distant cliff.
A girl stood there.
She wore a red blazer modeled after the Suzaku and held a staff that resembled a giant tuning fork.
She was Koto Chancellor Yuuki Yuuki.
Across the crumbling bridge and through the gaps in the red forest of burning pillars, they could see a blazer colored an even brighter red.
“So the Killing Holder really is here!”
There was excitement in Hisahide’s voice, but he turned around.
“Ya aren’t gonna fight here?”
“I’d be at a disadvantage in a wide open space like this. She’d just attack from above like before.”
There was a smile on his face.
A smile also appeared on Taeko’s lips and she nodded.
“Yeah, I suppose so…”
“And our real goal is getting to Nagoya. Takada will be on her way to the station too.”
With that, he started running.
Taeko followed while keeping her focus on Yuuki.
Just as the two started running toward New Osaka Station, the destruction reached its climax.
One of the bridge girders burned away and sank into the river.
Flames scattered like snow and spread across the river’s surface as the air shimmered.
The destruction of immense heat signaled its end.
Aoi and Ikemaru stood on the twentieth floor hallway of the Osaka Hilton.
They stood before their room and they were repelling the enemies who had entered the hotel.
The battle had a light start when Ikemaru turned the floor into an ocean while the Osaka Chancellor’s Officers members approached.
As soon as the carpet-patterned ocean appeared everywhere except where Ikemaru and Aoi stood, Aoi used her Shinkage Style to copy Taeko’s lightning attack and used that on the ocean.
That instantly defeated all of those who had sunk into or were sinking into the ocean.
It was a nice combination.
The two of them stood on the isolated island of floor located in front of their room.
Beyond the end of the hall, they could hear quite a few people talking and moving around. It was most likely a second wave from the Osaka Chancellor’s Officers.
Aoi spoke as she looked that way.
“It’s ironic. Some of our enemy probably use the Modified Purple Electricity Style.”
“Please do not let your guard down. The next group will soon-…”
“Don’t be so strict. …I’m trying to gather my thoughts.”
Aoi closed her eyes before saying more.
“Takahiro…did you know this?”
“The Dance Combat style born from the Kage Style split between an Osaka and an Edo Style that fought for supremacy.”
“But the eastern style fell into decline after the war. Then…was it twenty years ago? The elder of the Aoi family unscientifically claimed the reason behind the decline was in our blood and snatched a girl away from the main western family.”
“Now, the sole survivor of the eastern style…is kicking their asses like this. It’s kind of ironic, really.”
When she said that, Aoi felt someone gently embrace her from behind and heard a whisper in her ear.
“You did not come here to fight.”
Hearing that, she opened her eyes and smiled a little.
“Yes,” she began. “That’s right. Once this battle is over, let’s go look for those cherry blossoms. If we can find those, then a Shinkage Style created to fight may not be so worthless after all.”
“Can you make that decision in the place your parents first met?”
“Yes. And if we do find that place…I have a request, Takahiro.”
“What is it?”
“Hold me tight…and don’t let go.”
She giggled and gently elbowed confused Ikemaru in the chest.
“The battle isn’t over yet, but don’t push yourself too hard. I don’t want you collapsing like you did when you created Seigi’s Dog God.”
“I believe I have grown since then.”
“It’s only been five years, right? Your height’s the only thing that’s grown.”
“Aren’t you judging me rather harshly?”
“But you have the exact same look on your face as back then.”
“The same look on my face?”
“Whatever you might say, you always get this hint of a smile when you know you can use your power to its fullest.”
She sighed and added, “That’s the opposite of me.” She then looked to Takahiro’s hands as he hugged her.
When he noticed her gaze, he spoke.
“Do not worry. I cannot speak to the Lives while holding you in my arms.”
“And you don’t need to worry about me. …Why do you think I was training in the Shinkage Style?”
“Wasn’t it because your mother asked you to?”
“Do you really think a girl of five would train under that man for nothing more than that?”
Aoi smiled bitterly.
Then the cellphone in Ikemaru’s pocket rang.
With that, he let go of her.
Aoi leaned back against the door as he pulled out the phone and held it to his ear.
“It’s from Nakamura. It’s about my cousin.”
“In other words, it’s for me, huh?”
She gave a troubled look as she took the phone.
“Hey. Just won. On my way to New Osaka. Any word on Takada?”
“Could you maybe speak in complete sentences?”
“I’m in a hurry. I was having some fun and got hit by a Word Particle Cannon, so I burned my hoodie and now I’m freezing.”
“Burned it? So I take it you stole the Flame High?”
“I put a lot of work into it.”
“That was all thanks to Takahiro’s charm, wasn’t it? You didn’t lose the other one, did you?”
“No. I’m about to use the charm to steal a bullet train with Nagoya’s Chancellor. …So where’s Takada?”
“Seigi, well… Y’know that boy we picked up earlier? She left with him.”
“I see… Oh, crap! She’s catching up, so I’ve gotta run.”
“Koto’s Chancellor! I haven’t re-listened to the Flame High yet, so this is bad timing. …Later!”
Just before he hung up, Aoi heard Nagoya’s Chancellor shouting.
The shout apparently accompanied some kind of attack. Probably aimed at their pursuer.
“I see.” Aoi nodded and returned the phone to Ikemaru. “Sounds like everything’s more or less going as planned. Iba must be doing well outside.”
As soon as she said that, a change came over the ocean.
Starting from the far end of the hallway, the slightly wavy carpet turned white.
It was ice.
The ocean was being frozen.
“It would seem they called in a holy spell user. …They are cleverer than I gave them credit for.”
“What should I do?” asked Aoi. “Fire Kusanagi?”
Ikemaru suddenly embraced her again.
Before she could ask anything, he opened their room’s door with one hand, placed her inside, and closed the door.
He shut only her inside the room.
She blankly stood there for a few seconds, but then she realized what had happened and turned back toward the door.
“H-hey! Takahiro! What do you think you’re doing!?”
She received an answer from beyond the door.
“I shall crush Osaka’s Chancellor’s Officers here. But there is a danger of you being caught in the middle…so please stay in the room.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“To use my power. I shall use my kotodama power to its fullest.”
His answer was punctuated by gunfire.
Aoi heard the almost pleasant bursting sounds through the door.
“Is something the matter?”
“You idiot! Why are you getting yourself shot!?”
“Calm down. I have not been hit ye-…”
He paused for a second.
“I have been grazed once. My apologies.”
“How can you be so calm!? Open this door. I’ll support you!”
“Become a wall.”
The door became a wall.
“Stop that! Takahiro!”
“Please. I am trying to focus.”
“Focus…? What are you trying to do!?”
“One of the hotel’s main supports runs through the side wall here and I can only speak to it from the hallway.”
Before he could finish speaking, Aoi kicked at the wall that had been a door.
“What are you planning to do with the entire building’s kotodama!? If you just want to defeat them, there are better battlefields!”
“But those would not function as a diversion… And those would not allow me to understand them.”
“Don’t you find them to be baffling? Why can they not do what we do? And why can we not do what they do?”
Aoi could hear a slight smile in Takahiro’s question, so she asked a question of her own.
“They? Do you mean Seigi and that boy?”
“ ‘Everyone but us’ may be the better answer. I have never before seen anyone who can act while filled with such great indecision.”
“Well, Seigi would say we’re the ones who’ve cut off our own indecision. …And open up already. I can hear all that gunfire!”
“You said you were jealous of Takada, didn’t you?”
She stopped moving when she heard his question.
And he said more.
“I had already met you when I created the Dog God from Takada. That is why I could not allow her indecision to contin-…”
“She was the one who decided to close off her path to being a Tuner or Buster! That wasn’t because you gave her the Dog God. Don’t be so conceited.”
His silence was filled by gunfire.
Aoi ignored the sounds of bullets as she spoke.
“The fact that you aren’t honest, that you’re strict on Hisahide, and that you’re blunt with Seigi are two sides of the same coin, aren’t they? Just like with the Shinkage Style’s raison d’etre, the one side is strong because the other side is also strong.”
“Well? Am I wrong?”
“Making assumptions about others’ thoughts is a bad habit of the O blood type.”
“The blood type horoscope doesn’t matter, so just open this already.”
“Unfortunately, that would not fulfill the prophecy.”
“The prophecy of the king’s birth. The red flower should bloom toward the sky, not underground.”
A moment later, a giant glowing blade stabbed through the door before Aoi’s eyes.
It was an anti-demon round.
That special sort of bullet had been developed in Europe.
The blade was created by solidifying the ether’s Lives as light and it rolled across the room.
She could see Ikemaru’s face in the narrow gap created in the door.
He had lost his glasses and his face and clothes were both stained with blood.
That was the result of the gunfire.
Aoi honestly gasped.
But after a moment’s hesitation, she finally smiled toward him.
“I see… So Seigi wasn’t the only one you were jealous of.”
“You’re really cool, Takahiro.”
“I was waiting for you to say that.” He smiled a little. “Whether or not you find the cherry blossoms, whether or not he becomes the king, and whether or not the east and west reunite are all an issue of possibility.”
“And so we too need to step inside that ring of possibility?”
“At the very least, that boy increased his possibility by jumping out that window. That should have left him with zero possibility, but he transformed it into an uncertain future.”
“Then do you know why he jumped out that window?”
“In that case,” she said. “You’ve found someone to pursue, just like that boy and Hisahide have.”
“My apologies. This does not mean I have any complaints about the current state of affairs.”
“It’s fine, if it’ll help everyone out.”
“You’re a businessman, aren’t you? Then you need to make everyone happy.”
When he heard that, Takahiro’s smile grew bitter.
At the same time…
“Please leave this building. I will now turn it into a flower.”
Hijiri obediently began to run.
She turned her back on Takahiro and did not hesitate to run for the window.
As she did, leaf veins appeared on the walls and floor.
Just before she jumped out the window, she looked back.
“Takahiro! I’ll see you again below those cherry trees! Don’t give up and continue searching!”
A bitter smile came to her lips as she spoke.
“Honestly. You deny it, but you really are a competitive boy!!”
Her voice was soon a part of the night sky.
Rectangular New Osaka Station was longer to the east and west.
When Yuuki stepped inside the eastern entrance of its bullet train platform, the first thing she did was raise Housei and use a spell.
On the way, she had called Senga on her cellphone and had the station evacuated.
She poured all power into the spell.
–Yuuki – Cold High/Shot Tech – Take – Icicle Drop – Hit.
She aimed Housei above the front car rather than the third car in front of her.
Three icicles around ten meters tall appeared below the atrium platform’s roof and gravity pulled them down into the bullet train’s front car.
After the great roar of destruction, the bullet train could no longer move.
She then held Housei at an angle to aim it toward the bullet train itself.
She swept it across the entire car for a broad-range spell that could sweep through the enemy as well as the car.
She did not bother searching out the enemy’s exact location and challenging them to a duel.
If her enemy was cornered, she just had to crush their hideout and them inside it.
That was the Killing Holder’s decision.
She frowned a little while wielding Housei.
Before she hit the firing switch, some words escaped her lips.
“Even after this is over, I doubt he will have changed…”
The words faded and vanished.
In their place, she emitted a tense or solid presence.
All expression left her face.
The area was filled with a strict atmosphere that did not allow the slightest tremor or movement.
And just as she was going to use her power through Housei, the train produced a metallic sound and shook violently.
This was not a slight tremor. It was the sudden lurch of a train about to move forward.
Yuuki did not move in the slightest as she held Housei at the ready, but she did stop firing.
She narrowed her eyes and looked ahead with her natural left eye.
The next movement began with a sound.
It was the metallic sound of the train cars’ connectors bumping together.
Another vibration ran through the platform.
Then something changed.
The front car suddenly started forward as if it had been kicked.
Yuuki’s shock was ignored as the three icicles piercing the train’s roof were broken.
With the sound of shattering glass, one fell on the platform, one on the opposite track, and the last one straight forward where it crushed the front of the car where the driver’s compartment was.
The front car continued its attempt to move forward.
Something was not right. It was definitely not the train’s internal engine providing this driving force.
The bottom of the icicles was still connecting the front car to the track, but the car moved as if writhing and the icicles broke there as well.
The bullet train trembled as it moved forward.
It very, very slowly picked up speed as it left for Nagoya.
The open doors closed far more slowly than normal.
Yuuki started to run.
The train was still moving slowly, so she ran faster than it and jumped to the front door of the second car.
And as she did…
–Yuuki – Sight Tech – Auto-Take – Spot – Hit!!
It was just an instant, but she saw someone arriving through the platform’s central entrance.
It was a boy with a bandanna over his forehead and a girl in a white stole.
But Yuuki did not bother to watch them as she landed on the narrow deck over the connector.
The door closed behind her, cutting off all noise from the outside world.
She looked out the window and found they had already left the station. She saw a residential district over the elevated track’s wall.
The bullet train would travel above that residential district for a few minutes after leaving New Osaka Station.
The lights of the houses moved by faster and faster as the train accelerated above the sea of lights that meant people lived there.
Yuuki remained silent as she watched them move by. Without saying a word, she looked away from the window and faced forward.
A passageway led to the front car.
She aimed Housei down it and set the output adjustment switch on the grip to the lowest setting.
She used one hand to remove the Cold High Rhythm disk from the MD in her pocket.
She pulled the Aqua High Rhythm disk from her pocket and stuck it inside the MD instead.
She switched it on.
She held Housei below her right arm and thus between her blouse and the collar of her unique blazer.
Then she moved forward.
The door between cars stood in her way like a wall.
–Yuuki – Aqua High/Shot Tech – Take – Water Spell Shot – Hit.
With a bubbling sound, the door’s lock was blown away by high pressure water.
The door opened when the train shook slightly.
She took a step forward to enter the connection between the second and front car and fired at the lock of the next door in her way.
She continued onto the rear deck of the front car.
As she walked, she glanced to the window installed in the wall.
The view outside was moving backwards quite quickly, but they had yet to leave the residential district.
With no change of expression, she fired Housei into the door leading to the front car’s passenger area.
After a solid sound, this door too slowly opened.
She could see the smaller passenger area up ahead.
She saw two people standing in front of the wall that divided the driver’s compartment from the passenger area.
One was Tokyo Chancellor Nakamura Hisahide.
The other was Nagoya Chancellor Yamashita Taeko.
Once she confirmed who they were, Yuuki looked to the wall behind them.
There was a single red charm in the center of the wall.
The wall had transformed around it and vein-like lines bulged out.
The deeply-rooted veins were all pulsating equally.
–Yuuki – Unknown Spell/Sight Tech – Multi-Take – Determine Spell – Hit!
“So you used the charm to recite speed.”
Hisahide nodded in confirmation.
“That means this thing ain’t stopping until it reaches Nagoya.”
With that, he took a step toward her.
–Yuuki – Aqua High/Shot Tech – Take – Water Spell Shot – Hit.
As she held Housei under her arm, light filled its Live Accelerator and it fired water.
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