Chapter 2 - The Foolish Entity Known as the Weak; Its Sin / "The blade - It's ferocious"
That group of people gave off an exceedingly simple impression.
Namely, a bunch of extreme misfits.
Exactly as the word implied in its truest sense, these people's presence was very unsuited to this place, generally speaking.
Standing there was a group of young men, ranging in age from teens to the twenties. Vulgar men that one could find anywhere, truly anywhere. With hair either dyed blond or brown, they each had hairstyles of their own preference. There were dreadlocks as well as shaved heads. Some of them had ear, nose or tongue piercings, some were wearing a jangling set of bling and some were wearing sunglasses—In any case, the only thing common to them all was the oppressive presence exuded by their appearances. Judging from the way they interacted with one another, they seem to be mutually acquainted. The group looked like a street gang or a delinquent mob.
However, they had made their sudden appearance at this venue, one that was dominated by the supernatural. Perhaps the sense of dissonance from their ordinary appearances could not be judged by common sense. After all, the members of the Family had disguised themselves as ordinary people to visit Kuroe's beauty parlor in the past. It was impossible to tell purely from appearances alone. In other words, the superficial level of appearances could simply imply that these were people involved in the world of cursed tools but had dressed up as ordinary folk to lead ordinary lives.
Was this group one of those types? Then which organization did they belong to? A known organization? Or one that was unknown? The only answer ruled out as impossible was that they were ordinary people who intruded by coincidence.
This was a because they were each carrying weapons such as steel pipes or metal bats.
They seemed to have entered normally through the main door. The group was standing in a row at the garden's entrance, sweeping their excited gazes over everyone present. Haruaki's group had no choice but to look warily at the new arrivals as well as Nirushaaki's trio. Naturally, this resulted in a triangular situation between three factions.
Nirushaaki's trio also gazed in puzzlement and wariness at these people. Their eyes seemed to be saying—These people could not possibly be totally uninvolved. Surely, they must have come for some kind of intent and purpose. Which organization were they from?
At this moment, one of the men turned slightly towards one of his companions and asked:
"What do you mean, what now? Now that we're here, let's do it."
"Yeah. And just as we heard, they seem to be doing bad things. Even bullying that foreign chick there."
"So we're the heroes of justice now? Hahaha!"
"Heroes of justice, that's way too cool, man. Then just like we agreed, try to go one at a time?"
"Okay, then I'm up first! I'm gonna punish that sexy lady who's bullying others, heehee!"
"That's cuz you've got a thing for big boobs."
"Shut da fuck up! Guys, why dontcha decide now who's gonna punish who next!?"
As soon as one of the bat-wielding men finished speaking, he yelled vigorously: "Okay~ Here I go—!" while charging forward. His target was Nirshaaki's group, in particular, Konoha was who standing the most forward.
Haruaki noticed that Konoha's eyes had been glaring sharply all this while, but for the first time, she widened her eyes in puzzlement. Still stepping on Fear's body, she tilted her head slightly and said:
"Oh my... What is going on hither?"
The man approached her. As Haruaki watched, the silhouette of the man's back blocked Konoha from sight as he raised his baseball bat high. Then Konoha's voice was heard next.
"This fellow—Verily, an amateur."
At the same time, blood was splattered.
In the next instant, Konoha returned to Haruaki's view. This happened because the man had collapsed on the spot in an effeminate sitting posture, looking totally incompetent. Naturally, the splattering blood came from the man's body, a long, deep gash running diagonally from his shoulder straight to his hip.
"Indeed, 'tis a reaction from the distant past. Due to the excessive sharpness of my blade, many fodder peasants in militias, unused to war, failed to notice they had been cut. Only when they looked down in puzzlement upon their own bodies did they realize their lives were about to be extinguished, those visages were particularly exhilarating—"
"Ah, ah... Eeeeek—!"
"Verily indeed, 'tis the visage."
Screaming. Screaming. Screaming. Bathed in blood, the man rolled on the ground. Tossed away, his bat fell to the ground. Already sliced to pieces by the sword, the bat broke into a million pieces upon hitting the ground.
Konoha suddenly straightened up and retreated. This was due to Fear, who had been pinned under her, had transformed the Rubik's cube into a hatchet of execution. With an upwards swing, she freed herself from being Konoha's captive.
"Yes, I was taken aback because this fellow is too amateurish, resulting in a small opening. If this was deliberate part of ye plans, I could commend ye for executing a cunning plan. Even though 'tis quite roundabout."
"How... No way...!"
Still not yet recovered from the injuries from the fight with Konoha so far, Fear was panting heavily, standing unsteadily, her entire body covered with bleeding cuts. Holding the hatchet in a stance to restrain Konoha, she slowly backed away, finally reuniting with Haruaki and the rest of their group.
Nevertheless, Haruaki, Kirika and Kuroe did not have the luxury of chatting with Fear, because simply trying to comprehend the situation was consuming their full effort.
"H-Hey, look what happened to Take...!"
"This is totally bonkers, bonkers, man! But I can't believe that bitch dared to get violent, what the fuck did she do!? Hey, what're you guys waiting for, hurry your asses!"
One of the men roared and howled, forcing himself to get pumped, then charging forward with a metal pipe. He was probably trying to save his buddy. Presumably provoked by his words, two or three other men followed after him.
"—Truth be told, these are all trash standing in our way. Well then, this humble Kotetsu shall assist in cleaning up."
"Very well, there is no reason to decline."
"Well then—" Kotetsu took a leap on the spot, landing in front of the men within the blink of an eye. With a casual swipe of the tiger claw, the men's metal pipe and other weapons instantly fell apart in pieces at the same time.
"Eeeek—W-What's with this chick!?"
"What the fuck? She's unarmed, what the fuck!? I can't believe it got sliced!"
Haruaki listened to them in shock. Why were they making these kinds of remarks now? Konoha also called them amateurs just now. Were they uninvolved people? Did Haruaki and the others misunderstand? Or these guys made a mistake somewhere? If they really were delinquents, merely a group of people uninvolved with the world of cursed tools, Haruaki could not understand at all why they were here. Totally incomprehensible.
Konoha turned her head lazily and inquired behind her:
"Master, allow me to ask, just in case. May I kill these people?"
"It is truly unbelievable how amateurish they are. It might be necessary to question them afterwards. In any case, make sure they retain the ability to speak, at least."
"Yes, after all, one couldeth kill them any time. Understood."
"Furthermore, the two of you ought to have curses, yes? This is an excellent opportunity—Enjoy the meal."
"'Tis wonderful to have such an understanding master."
"This humble Kotetsu concurs."
Konoha and Kotetsu grinned with savagery as they faced forward.
Then immediately, they sprang into action at the same time. First, Kotetsu amputated two men's arms at the same time with a swipe of the tiger claw. Flying past, Konoha stabbed a knifehand strike into a third man's thigh. The three men screamed unpleasantly as they collapsed on the ground.
The men seemed to be understanding by now. They seemed to have realized that these two were not opponents they could handle on their own. Instantly, the group panicked.
"W-Wait, I was never told, I never heard that it'd be like this!"
"This is no fucking joke! Argh, come take this!"
Some of them turned around and ran while others gripped their weapons tightly with trembling hands. Some even collapsed on the spot. These people were all food for the swords.
"Guh... Ah... I don't really get what's going on, but we must save them...!"
"Fear, don't force yourself! You're hurt!"
Despite gripping her torture instrument tightly, Fear was stumbling around dangerously. Haruaki and the others caught her body and steadied her.
"It might only be a comforting effect, but I'll wrap up the deeper wounds first with my hair. Stay still, Ficchi."
However, Haruaki's group could only watch from the sidelines as the scene unfolded gradually before their eyes.
A banquet of splattering blood. Kotetsu and Konoha were attacking the men.
Against a backdrop of red, they leapt and danced.
Fragments of flesh and screams flew all over the place. The men swung their weapons desperately, but with a single turn of the body, Kotetsu knocked all their weapons to the ground, skirt fluttering as though in mockery. Only then did the men realize their fingers had already been chopped off. Using one hand to catch a knife the enemy was stabbing with in desperation, Konoha crushed the blade in her bare hand. Then saying "Thou canst have it back," she grabbed the man's hand forcefully in a handshake, pressing all of the blade fragments into the palm of his hand.
"Fufu... Haha! Look, oh my, what a vigorous group of leaping youngsters! Blood flowing out in such vigor, gushing, gushing, gushing! Haha, useless they may be, yet seeing their bleeding so vigorous, one cannot help but wonder if their semen down under gusheth out with the same vigor? Making girls cry every night, do they not?"
"Muramasa-sama, please refrain from excessive vulgarity."
"Why not? 'Tis fresh blood, a long-awaited sight. Yet if one had to criticize, the color of these fellows' blood seemeth to be lacking. Goodness knoweth what they eat for their everyday diet."
"Truth be told, this humble Kotetsu concurs. Surely they must be stuffing themselves with the convenient nourishment known as fast food."
Answering, Kotetsu lightly raised a blood-splattered hand.
"Most likely this is the reason why the taste is inferior to blood from the past. But perhaps I am just viewing past memories through rose-tinted glasses."
Then Kotetsu licked the fresh blood stuck to her fingers.
Extending her bright red tongue, she used her mucous membranes to wipe away the red color on her finger. Not satisfied with that, she inserted her finger directly into her mouth, thrusting it in and out slightly, producing faint slurps while licking, savoring in her mouth before swallowing down the depths of her throat. Exhaling deeply as though she had just drank a large of volume in one breath, Kotetsu spoke with slightly reddened cheeks:
"Nevertheless—It can't be said to be not delicious."
"Fufu, how wonderful... By the way, that fellow by your feet as well as that one yonder, they have stopped breathing, have they not?"
"Oh, their hearts have stopped, indeed. To think I thought I was holding back already..."
"Simply a little intestinal exposure, nothing more. How incompetent, to think one would die in such a manner. Insufficient fighting spirit, presumably—But a mere two deaths should not incur our master's disapproval. 'Tis meet if we think of this as two donors who shan't complain no matter how much blood is drunk, yes?"
"Truth be told, the blood of corpses rapidly deteriorates in taste. Let's find another."
A scene of insanity. A dialogue of insanity.
This is wrong—thinking that to himself, Haruaki suppressed the turbulent urge to vomit, rising from the depths of his stomach. While his vision was turning blurry for some reason, he was thinking that to himself.
Isn't it wrong? Konoha, isn't it wrong? Why are you unfazed by the sight of fresh blood? Why do you look so happy? Why are you smiling and trembling with excitement?
You—You're supposed to be... very afraid of blood... instead.
You're supposed to feel like vomiting as soon as you see blood, your whole body shaking to almost collapse... Instead?
Konoha. Konoha. That's the Konoha I know. Absolutely. That's Konoha.
Ah, but if the scene I'm witnessing before my eyes right now is reality...
If this sense of nausea, revulsion and despair is real...
Then that person over there, truly, completely, is no longer the Konoha I know—
"Muramasa-sama, how is the situation?"
"Fufufu, 'tis providing me with merriment. The master watching the show should feel this too... Because my curse is exceedingly simple, namely, a desire to see blood."
"My curse is also very simple."
"We are both simple weapons and tools, hence, 'tis only natural. No matter what, this long-awaited banquet of blood is not bad at all. Be that as it may, if one were to be slightly more greedy, the fresh blood of formidable foes one hath defeated would be even more beautiful a sight, even more exhilarating."
"I agree that the blood of strong enemies is more delicious."
"Blood flowing across the ground, blood flying through the air, blood dripping across the skin, frothing blood, blood splattering together with internal organs... Myriad different styles. This sight of thee, drinking blood, feeleth different from usual, quite interesting. Thou drinkest blood, I watch. In light of that, perhaps the two of us might be quite compatible."
"C-Compatible, you say...? Th-That would be my honor..."
Kotetsu blushed awkwardly, his shoulders shaking mildly. At the same time, she swept a shade of red, even more vivid than that of her face, towards the back of an escaping man.
Haruaki felt like vomiting even more. Wrong, this is so wrong.
Although it was a one-sided massacre, Konoha and Kotetsu were perhaps getting a bit lax due to boredom. A man had been sitting collapsed on the ground from the beginning, trembling in a corner all this time. At this moment, seizing the opportunity while they were conversing, while Kotetsu had gone off to eradicate another man who was trying to escape at the same time, this man fled. With an unsteady gait, stepping over pools of blood, he ran straight ahead. By the time Kotetsu looked back, he was already out of the garden, reaching a location that would free him of this mansion as soon as he went through the front door—
At this moment, he halted.
Intending to chase after him, Kotetsu also stopped, frowning.
This was because a figure had blocked the way in front of the fleeing man. A hooded figure wrapped entirely in a filthy mass of fabric. The figure's face was hidden under the hood.
Just as Haruaki expected the man to seek help from the figure—
"W-W-What the fuck is going on here!?"
He lost his temper with a trembling, cowardly and shrill voice.
The hooded figure answered with a woman's voice.
Using a low and calm tone of voice, almost akin to murmuring, she said:
"I have already paid."
"Yeah right, like hell a million yen per person is enough for this crazy mess! No fucking way!"
"Not my concern. You were the ones who accepted it."
"You said they were all young women and we could do whatever we want to them...!"
"Exactly as I said, you may violate them or otherwise as you please. Provided you get the job done first."
"Fucking shit! You never told me they'd be monsters like this! What the fuck, what are pulling, bitch—Damn it! Stop screwing around, save me, take my place...!"
The man pounced on the hooded figure as though he had finally passed his limit. This action was probably motivated by anger as well as his desire to be saved. Nevertheless—
As though proclaiming that this was connected to the same space as where Konoha and Kotetsu were occupying...
As though proclaiming to him that he had not escaped a single step from the scene of carnage at all...
The sword's piercing tip exited from the man's back.
The man stared at his own chest in puzzlement, looking at the sword that had stabbed deeply into his chest. Then trembling, he looked up, towards the hooded figure—
"No matter what... You people have experienced terror fully. My objective is fulfilled."
Still showing a face as though he had no idea what was going on, the man's body slid down. Reaching out as though calling for help, as though making a final plea, he grabbed the fabric wrapped around the figure.
Naturally, as the man fell, the piece of fabric came loose and slid off as well.
The hood came off, exposing the figure's face—
Haruaki and the others had also seen it before.
Expressionless, as though unconcerned at all that her face was exposed...
As though unconcerned that she had just murdered an uninvolved and helpless human being...
The knight from the Frontline Gathering Knights Dominion, Lilyhowell Kilmister, stood there without saying a word.
Lilyhowell Kilmister had made her appearance together with Neto the Avenger at Taishyuu High, intending to defeat Nirushaaki. However, it turned out to be a trap of misinformation laid by Nirshaaki, resulting in Lilyhowell escaping with an auxiliary in defeat. That was the extent of the information that Haruaki's faction knew first hand.
However, they had also obtained further information indirectly later on. Yesterday, Un Izoey had also mentioned the Knights Dominion slightly. The tool used for erasing Konoha's memory had originally belonged to the Dominion. Nirushaaki had lured them to Taishyuu High because she wanted to steal that tool. After Lilyhowell and the auxiliary fled the school, Nirushaaki had robbed them directly.
Haruaki recalled facing off against her during the previous incident.
The head of lustrous blonde hair, tied behind her head in a ponytail. A gallant and dignified expression on her face at all times. Silver-white armor that seemed to symbolize nobility and purity. The greatsword designed only for the purpose of breaking Wathes. Lilyhowell was indeed an enemy, but she was also a woman whose image was that of a "knight among knights," as though forbidding all deviations from the right path, as though scornful of cowardice and underhandedness.
However, she was no longer the same, whether in appearance or the atmosphere around her.
With her hair untied, her whole person exuded an air of disorder. Even the blonde hair looked slightly dull. Was it soiled from dust and dirt?
Indeed, her entire person was filthy. The piece of fabric originally wrapped around her was probably a cape, but due to excessive filth, it looked like a rag.
The silver-white armor on her body had also lost its shine, currently exhibiting a dull luster like that of scrap metal—More precisely, the remaining half. The armor equipped on her was missing its top half while the breechcloth was also riddled with many large tears. On her upper body, she was wearing a fitted, long-sleeved garment similar to what one would wear as underwear beneath armor. Furthermore, there were a number of belts wrapped around her upper torso, horizontally and diagonally, squeezing the distinct curves of the bulging bosom beneath her underwear, drawing further attention to it.
And all of those belts were—
Noticing the many silhouettes protruding from behind her, it took a moment before Haruaki realized those were sword straps.
Many scabbards and hilts could be seen behind Lilyhowell's back. Carried crisscrossed on her back, the number was unbelievable—four swords each on her right and her left, plus one more placed upright. Her entire body's silhouette seemed like a joke, even to the point of resembling a Buddha statue to some extent.
But among the many scabbards on her back, only one of them was empty.
The sword kept in it was currently in her hand.
Still dripping with fresh blood at the moment, it was a golden longsword. The grandeur of its design was no less than its own luster with ring-like decorations on the grip while a serpentine pattern was engraved along the blade itself.
Fear glared at the weapon, took a deep breath and yelled:
"I remember you're called Lilyhowell, right...? Why? Why did you kill that guy!?"
"Answer me! Why did you kill him!? There's clearly no need to do that!"
Lilyhowell took a step towards the garden while looking at Fear.
Her expression seemed to convey "no other way" as well as annoyance, seeming to say that she was answering only because Fear was forcing her to answer. Robotically as though someone had pressed a switch, she spoke listlessly as though without her own will:
"He was simply in the way after his purpose was served."
Hearing such a cruel answer, Fear gritted her teeth hard and frowned.
Haruaki also felt intensely conflicted after hearing her words.
Something's wrong. Right, compared to back then, the most different thing about her is—
Her eyes—gloomy, dark, dismal, bitter. Her gaze simply harbored silent darkness, as though looking towards somewhere not present or perhaps nowhere at all. Her expression was virtually constant, with her former awe-inspiring dignity replaced by an air of somewhat intangible nihility.
Her eyes were not like this in the past. None of this air of intangible nihility. Back then, Haruaki did not believe she was someone who could kill an ordinary person without blinking an eye.
What had happened to her? What had changed her?
Lilyhowell advanced without hurrying. She stepped into the garden where there were many unconscious humans on the verge of death, all covered in blood. Approaching them step by step—
"Purpose... you say?"
"What exactly is their purpose? Absolutely ridiculous..."
"Yeah, I really don't get what's going on."
Haruaki's group commented while retreating slightly. This was for restraining Fear, who was leaning against Haruaki's shoulder but about to rush forward any moment, as well as because they noticed that Lilyhowell's steps were not directly straight at them.
"I know this is evil. But I must do it. That is all."
Lilyhowell slowly walked past Haruaki's group while lightly raising the golden longsword in her hand up high. Her gloomy gaze was fixed ahead. Speaking in a tone of indifference, she murmured lifelessly:
"This Wathe, the «Calamitous Sword of Sigarsholm», is a cursed sword that absorbs terror from the surroundings to serve as energy. I gathered these men only for this purpose..."
"What did you say!? So—you meant to incite these ignorant guys and make them flee all over the place!?"
"Indeed. They have worked for me in accordance to the sums I have paid them."
Haruaki was shocked.
Allowing them to attack Nirushaaki's group in total ignorance. Forcing them into a gap between life and death. Some even lost limbs or their lives. However, her goal was simply producing terror in their hearts, all this was for that purpose? Only for the sake of allowing her sword to absorb energy?
Too inhumane. This abhorrent behavior treated humans as nothing more than objects.
A righteous knight would absolutely not do something so demonic.
"You... weren't like this before, right? Why did you become like this?"
Probably not for answering Haruaki's question but simply because the timing coincided. Just at that moment, she happened to arrive at her destination. In other words, she had finally arrived before the group of people who had been watching the latest developments with interest.
"If you ask me why, the answer was long decided ago."
Murmuring quietly as though to herself, Lilyhowell slowly looked up. Gripping the sword tightly in her fist, she inhaled forcefully as though taking a deep breath.
"One, to avenge her. Two, to atone for my sins..."
Only in this instant was defiinte power infused into her eyes that were filled with hollow darkness. A stern power, gloomy and terrifying, pierced the being in front of her gaze.
"That is all—All this is to kill you! Nirushaaki!"
Upon hearing Lilyhowell—
"The live prey I released... has finally caught up? Returning grown up and matured."
Nirushaaki smiled, overjoyed.
Gripping the hatchet hard, Fear watched as Nirushaaki raised her hand lightly.
"A rare specimen of live prey, nourishment for one along the path to become a dragon. In that case, I shall devour her myself. Consider it a show of etiquette towards food."
"I shall be her opponent."
Using her raised hand to search through her suit jacket, Nirushaaki took out a certain object from around her back, handing it over to Kotetsu who was waiting on hand next to her. Lilyhowell was apparently biding her time for the chance to strike. Her shoulder shook once at this time but she did not move recklessly. Shifting her feet bit by bit, she slowly closed in.
During this time, Nirushaaki had apparently decided to remove her clothing.
Taking off the heavily wrinkled suit jacket, she casually tossed it onto a nearby chair. Not satisfied with that, she unfastened her skirt and readily allowed the skirt to slide all the way down to her feet. Due to the white shirt she wore as a teacher, still on her upper body, her underwear was not visible, but still—Too shameless, Fear thought. If possible, she really wanted to redirect Haruaki's gaze while she was leaning against his shoulder, but given the unpredictable situation, it would be too dangerous. Fear could only endure.
Nirushaaki then took off her shoes. Reaching her hand to her hip area underneath the shirt, she removed her black stockings all at once, separating them from her legs. Bare feet. How incomprehensible. Was she trying to seduce them? Clearly the only possible target present whom this could work on was the shameless brat alone.
Then she began to unbutton the shirt remaining on her upper body, going from up to down. First button, second button, third button. After unfastening all the buttons, she casually threw the shirt away without hesitation—Fear originally thought it would be necessary, but in hindsight, there was no need for her to poke out Haruaki's eyes.
Because Nirushaaki was wearing another shirt underneath.
Rather than a western garment with fine needlework, it felt more like a simple tribal outfit. Predominantly white but old and dirty, the shirt looked like it was bursting at the seams in many places. Fear could hear Kuroe whispering blankly nearby:
"What's that? It looks like something that American Indians would wear..."
Many tassels dangled from the shirt's lower fringe which barely reached the thighs in length. Hence, the shirt just barely covered her underwear—But just as Fear was thinking that...
"What? A-Absolutely ridiculous...!"
Kirika groaned. Fear felt the same way. Because Nirushaaki did not stop undressing. Reaching both hands under the hem and using the same motion with which she had removed her stockings earlier—She took off her underwear.
"Not ridiculous at all, because the effects of this one true Ghost Shirt, «Wounded Knee Massacre», are maximized when it has the most contact with bare skin."
Nirushaaki explained politely while tossing her black underwear casually on top of her removed clothing. Finally, she took off her swirly glasses and placed it on the table.
"Nirushaaki-sama, here you go."
In place of the glasses, she retrieved and put on the object she had handed over to Kotetsu for safekeeping just now.
It was a mask similar to a shaman's, possessing dual qualities of primitive vivid colors and modest simplicity... For some reason, the mask consisted of more than one face. Apart from the mask covering her face, two similar masks were visible, one on top of each of her ears. The three masks were strung together using something similar to a circlet which she then wore on her head.
"Well then, preparations are complete. What are your plans?"
"Speaking of which, never have I observed thy battle from the sidelines, master. Allow me to be enlightened."
"Then let this humble Kotetsu to serve you, master."
"Yes—Muramasa, you shall confirm by your very own eyes whether I am the wielder worthy of owning you."
Nirushaaki spoke in amusement while Konoha answered with narrowed eyes. What a great big idiot—Fear thought. Damn Cow Tits, why haven't you remembered yet? Your owner, the most suitable owner is—
But Fear's thoughts were interrupted by Kotetsu's sudden disappearance. After blinking, Fear immediately found an unsheathed Japanese sword held in Nirushaaki's right hand. Compared to Cow Tits' true form, it was slightly larger. Furthermore, perhaps due to psychological reasons, the sword somehow seemed more unrefined in appearance. Although slightly inferior to Cow Tits in elegance, conversely, Fear could sense how powerful the sword was.
"Kotetsu huh? The cursed Japanese sword. If you obstruct me, I shall have no choice but to shatter you!"
Lilyhowell had been inching her way to close the distance, but as soon as she saw the weapon in Nirushaaki's hand, she drew out another sword, the one kept in the largest scabbard, carried vertically on her back. This was the greatsword Fear had seen before, the one with the complicated, wavy blade—the «Wathe Breaker».
Holding the golden longsword «Calamitous Sword of Sigarsholm» in her left and the «Wathe Breaker» in her right, Lilyhowell sped up all at once.
In that instant, Fear wondered.
She mulled over how this woman had killed someone, how her demeanor made her almost like a different person, and how she belonged to the Knights Dominion, a hostile organization. Although there were many things she wanted to say—
"No choice but... to join the fray...!"
No longer leaning against Haruaki's shoulder, she gripped the torture instrument in her hand tightly. Much of her stamina had recovered already. The wounds caused by Cow Tits were also much less painful than earlier.
"This is a good chance, shameless brat. Cow Tits is currently observing whereas Lilyhowell's target seems to be Nirushaaki. In other words, now is the only chance for defeating Nirushaaki, the culprit responsible for everything, without Cow Tits' interference...!"
"Oh? Excellent. No matter how numerous, I welcome as many opponents in the game as possible."
Sharply noticing the situation over on Fear's side, Nirushaaki made her stance clear. Fear grinned.
"Ha, she says so too. Taking us so lightly... Of course I must join the battle!"
"You might have a point. Then I'll cover you."
"Me too. But Ficchi, don't force yourself too much!"
Fear did not wait for Haruaki's response. There was no need either.
Then Fear caught up with Lilyhowell and charged at Nirushaaki.
Wielding Kotetsu in her right, she stood still to wait for the enemies' attacks—Simply standing still? American Indian outfit. Jungle shaman's mask. Japanese sword as a weapon. No matter how you described it, simply standing still would be an understatement, the sight was totally dissonant.
"En garde! Nirshaaki!"
"Such full vigor!"
Lilyhowell and Nirushaaki finally engaged in frontal battle. Kotetsu and the «Calamitous Sword of Sigarsholm» collided with each other. The ensuing impact caused Nirushaaki's American Indian shirt to flutter. Due to the fact that she was barefooted and wearing nothing except for that garment, not even underwear, there was a sense of wardrobe insecurity disproportionate to the area of clothing.
Making flexible use of the advantages of dual wielding, Lilyhowell immediately made a thrust with the «Wathe Breaker». Unknown whether it was Nirushaaki's own skills or Kotetsu was manipulating her body, she spun her body while swinging her sword, swiftly blocking Lilyhowell's attack.
Fear charged into attack range as well. While shifting positions so that Lilyhowell was not blocking her way, Fear yelled:
"Mechanism No.5 impaling type, upright form: «A Skewer Loved by Vlad Tepes»—Curse Calling!"
Then she launched the execution stake. As though expecting Fear to enter the fray at this time, Nirushaaki dodged the stake with motions that could not be more fluent. Not so naive as to think the match would be decided in a single move, Fear swiftly pulled the stake back.
"Mechanism No.19 gouging type, spiral form: «Human-Perforator»!"
Holding the spiral drill, Fear charged the enemy from an angle different from Lilyhowell, clashing with Kotetsu's heavy and massive blade, but was parried. Suddenly losing the sensation of a resisting weapon, Fear looked up to see Nirushaaki engaging Lilyhowell a second time. Fear could sense that Nirushaaki's skill in movement was extraordinary. Simply the ability to engage two opponents in battle was already a testament to her astonishing capability. However—
"«Tragic Black River»!"
"Mode: «Penetrator Yoshimasa»!"
She was not handling just two opponents. Although Fear could not possibly share flawless and tacit coordination with Lilyhowell, she had already fought alongside Kirika and Kuroe many times by now. Furthermore, these were long distance attacks that annoyed the enemy without hindering her. Although Kotetsu's traits as a sword might hold the advantage against the belt and hair, merely diverting Nirushaaki's attention already changed the situation greatly. Simply stated, the enemy was forced to deal with four autonomous wills from four people. No matter how strong or skilled, she could not possibly last long.
(In the end, your arrogance and carelessness will be your downfall...!)
This could work. Probably soon. As long as this persists, this woman definitely could be defeated—
Believing this firmly, Fear poured her full effort into attacking Nirushaaki.
However—After defeating her... Suppose they succeeded in defeating this woman—
What was going to happen next...?
This question surfaced in Fear's mind but she decided not to ponder the answer for now.
Nevertheless, Haruaki was unable to imagine what would come afterwards.
What would happen after Nirushaaki's defeat? What was going to happen?
Was it possible that nothing might occur?
Of course, Haruaki had been racking his brain since the previous night to reach a conclusion. If Konoha had truly lost her memory just as Un Izoey and Mummy Maker had told them, the key to recovering her memory would be the tool that Nirushaaki had used on her—«Bartolomey Oblivion». Perhaps that tool had the functionality of returning memories to normal, or destroying it would cancel the effects?
However, the mask Nirushaaki was currently wearing on her face did not match Un Izoey's description. It was not «Bartolomey Oblivion».
Then where was it—? Haruaki could not help but shudder at the thought.
What if it was no longer around...?
Such as being sent away to somewhere they could not reach. Or perhaps—What if it was already destroyed but Konoha still remained in this current state...
Haruaki trembled. The unease surfacing in a corner of his heart instantly grew vines and flourished, pressing against his chest tightly.
Haruaki decided he must do something at this time, before certain things went past the point of no return. Because they could not possibly be past the point of no return yet. There could not be no return either.
Indeed. Even if Nirushaaki were to be defeated, it did not resolve the any problems. Their goal, what they needed to retrieve, was Konoha. To bring Konoha back.
He wanted to talk to her. Crushed by pressure, panting, Haruaki felt his mind's thoughts dominated by something coercive.
—As long as... As long as I call her a few times, will she recognize me? Will she remember? That's right. Definitely. Definitely—
He moved his legs. Listening to the sounds of weapons clashing from Fear and the others that seemed so far away, he forgot the meaning these sounds represented and simply walked over to where he was supposed to be.
In other words, next to her, the one who had her arms crossed while watching with delight the source of those weapon-clashing noises.
Haruaki called to her, causing her to throw a sideways glance of puzzlement at him.
Oh no. I can't use this kind of voice to call her. Smile. Smile as usual, as though this is nothing special, I must smile naturally like at home, I must call her again. Then it'll definitely be fine. Because she, because she's—
"—Konoha, let's go home, shall we?"
"Thee again...? Stop addressing me with that bizarre name. Muramasa is mine appellation, brat."
For some reason, Konoha clicked her tongue, frowning and speaking without deigning a further glance. Honestly, for some unknown reason.
"Hahaha. Uh, I already know you're Muramasa."
Just as Haruaki laughed and was about to say something else, he heard an angry roar.
"What the heck!? Hey, damn shameless brat, what are you doing!?"
"I forbid my enemy to look around, distracted!"
"Wah! Kirika, Kuroe, I'm counting on you two!"
"Absolutely ridiculous—that damn Yachi, take this!"
"Haru, wait up!"
Why was everyone so frantic? Clearly this is Konoha in front of me. She can't possibly be anyone else but Konoha.
"Don't you remember, Konoha? Muramasa is the family name while Konoha is your given name, right? That's what was decided in the beginning, right? Actually, you originally said that Muramasa wasn't that great to use as a family name, but I insisted that it's the only name you shouldn't change, so in the end—"
"Sigh... Verily, such cacophony..."
After Haruaki recounted his memories, Konoha sighed deeply and shook her head gently, causing her long hair, no longer in braids, to sway lightly.
Then as though at a loss for words—
As though feeling not a care from the bottom of her heart—
"Enough. Thou wouldst not lose thy life at such a young age, forsooth, if thou wert not so foolish."
She turned her shoulder in an extremely natural movement.
Still with a face of utter boredom...
She stabbed a knifehand strike towards his chest.
Haruaki thought to himself the instant just before her knife hand reached his chest. In a world of black and white as though time had stopped, he wondered: What's with Konoha? Isn't this very dangerous?
Just at that moment—
He could see black hair entangle Konoha's knife hand with lightning speed. Slightly slowing down the barehanded chop, the hair caused the attack to deviate slightly. Almost at the same time—
Haruaki felt an impact. Something struck his shoulder, causing him to stumble. Steadying himself without falling over, Haruaki looked up in puzzlement to see—
Right in front of him, Kirika's chest was being pierced by Konoha's knife hand.
Pierced absolutely beyond a doubt.
Konoha instantly sliced through Kuroe's hair that was entangling her arm but she tilted her head slightly as though unaware of having done that.
Incomprehensible. How did things come to this? This is clearly Konoha and Class Rep. Why is Class Rep bleeding nonstop from her chest and mouth? Why is Konoha's hand piercing out through Class Rep's back?
Grabbing Konoha's arm with her trembling hand, Kirika looked back at Haruaki over her shoulder.
"Absolutely ridiculous indeed, little lass. Why didst thou act in this manner? 'Tis meaningless, wouldst thou not agree? I do not find him a man worth protecting. Furthermore, he is simply standing there in a daze. I can draw my sword again any time to kill him."
Kirika swallowed the blood surging up in her mouth and looked up forcefully.
"Konoha-kun—No, Muramasa. To think the famed... Muramasa... would kill an unarmed brat who shows absolutely no will to fight...?"
"Oh? Not bad, thy rhetoric. Then what?"
"...I beg you. Don't... kill him..."
"I have no obligation to comply. 'Tis a battlefield. Once on the battlefield, one cannot complain no matter when death arriveth. Because a farmer who had apparently intruded the battlefield by accident could very well be a ninja aiming to target the general's head. To this date, I have slaughtered countless unarmed humans who showed no will to fight. Indeed, I have no obligation to comply with thy request—"
"Hmm. Already dead."
Konoha withdrew her arm, now vivid red, from Kirika's chest. Losing support, Kirika naturally fell over forward.
Haruaki's back was attacked by a certain feeling, unable to be expressed in words.
With that, Konoha took a step forward. Haruaki was still within her attack range.
Then Konoha lightly lifted up her bloodstained arm. Casually severing the hair that came flying in panic, she exhaled as though sighing.
"Goodness gracious. Indeed, I have no obligation. Bet that as it may, 'tis rare for a lass of her age to be capable of making that sort of request on a dying breath. As a tribute to her integrity, I shall agree to her request this once."
"Hmph, an unsightly showing of trembling legs, moreover. 'Twould be nothing to boast about even if one were to kill you... Nevertheless, thou must be punished for thy cacophony earlier."
Konoha's arm moved. Not a chop—instead, her fist attacked Haruaki's bosom mercilessly. The impact was so great that he almost thought his abdomen was going to burst. Gastric juices instantly flowed up in reverse. Pain, a sense of suffocation. In order to protect the mind from these sensations that had instantly transcended the limits of toleration, the brain forcibly shut down.
"Noisy and unsightly. Take him away wherever... If thou valuest thy life, never show thyself before me again, brat."
After hearing these final words—
Haruaki's consciousness slipped into total darkness.
While Fear continued to battle Nirushaaki, it was taking her full effort just to observe the situation from the corner of her eye.
She knew roughly what had happened. After taking a vicious punch, Haruaki had fainted. Kirika had died. However, this also proved one fact, namely that Cow Tits did not know of that outfit's existence. Fear could see Kuroe mobilizing her hair desperately to move the two unconscious bodies away, transporting them to safety.
"Truth be told, how confident you are to be diverting your attention to the surroundings!" "Indeed!"
Just as Fear suddenly lowered her guard for an instant, a Japanese sword came flying. She blocked with all her strength using «A Hatchet of Lingchi».
(Guh, so strong...)
Pure strength. But Fear also felt that there was more to it, despite being unable to articulate what felt wrong. No, or rather, this inability to articulate the dissonant sense of contradiction was precisely part of why Nirushaaki was so strong?
I must think of a solution—Just as this thought crossed Fear's mind, Lilyhowell suddenly changed her combat rhythm despite fighting vigorously together all this time with tacit cooperation. In other words, had she continued fighting in the same manner, she would have silently allowed Fear to continue the offensive at this moment, however—
Instead, Lilyhowell elbowed Fear in the back, forcing her to fly towards Nirushaaki.
Fear lost balance and was only able to deflect Kotetsu using her hatchet's hilt purely by chance. She broke out in cold sweat.
But at the same time, Nirshaaki's left arm went whoosh, striking Fear's chest with the base of her palm. Fear had no idea what kind of martial arts it was but she felt all the air in her lungs forced out in an instant as this powerful impact sent her flying—Nevertheless, from Lilyhowell's perspective, the instant when Fear's body blocked Nirushaaki's view was precisely an excellent opportunity.
"«Calamitous Sword of Sigarsholm»... Terror resides in the tip of this sword!"
Lilyhowell's voice. Instantly, Fear felt something pass through her underarm. Rolling several times on the blood-splattered ground, she ignored the pain in her body and her lungs, looking up forcibly only to see—
"Did it... succeed...?"
The golden longsword's blade had extended quite a few meters, its tip piercing Nirushaaki. The serpentine design on the blade glowed red faintly. As though the snake was crawling forward, the sword had extended with speed faster than the eye could follow clearly. In this regard, it could be considered a long-distance weapon impossible to evade.
Fear was furious that Lilyhowell had used her as bait to create an opening, but if this had defeated the enemy—Just as she thought that, Fear stared wide-eyed in surprise.
"Hmm, do you really believe you can defeat me using such a thing?"
Nirushaaki was calm and composed. Not a single drop of blood bled from her body. As she twisted her body lightly, somehow the calamitous sword's blade slid off the side of her body like a kitchen knife cutting through bean curd.
Guessing that the sword could shrink back, Fear watched as Lilyhowell retracted the blade back to its original length. Pulling back the calamitous sword's tip, Lilyhowell gritted her teeth and groaned.
"«Wounded Knee Massacre»... A Wathe that renders all attacks ineffective. It turns out to be true?"
Never heard of it. So that was the shirt's curse? That would be—so powerful to the point of being unfair. That woman was very strong to begin with. Armed with that kind of power, how could she be defeated...?
Foreboding thoughts silently retreated to the back of her mind. Immediately next—
"Hey, Kotetsu, allow me to vent my frustrations from being hassled by the bizarre brat and little lass. Time to swap."
"No matter. Kotetsu, you may take a break. Muramasa, are you thoroughly satisfied?"
"Ha, 'tis sufficient. Master is worthy of controlling me indeed."
Two things happened simultaneous. First of all, Kotetsu jumped up, returning to human form—
Fear was instantly plunged into confusion, because Kotetsu's body lacked something it was meant to have, yet also possessed something that was not supposed to exist. He—Kotetsu—hastily picked up the clothing he had taken off then covered up his body.
Another thing was that Cow Tits had turned back into her original form.
Namely, a Japanese sword. However, this was not the appearance that Fear had seen many times before. This was not the appearance of a sword sheathed in black metal when wielded in Haruaki's hands.
Instead, the white blade was cold to a terrifying degree.
The blade was as clear as ice, its curved form as transcendental as moonlight.
As a true Japanese sword, as Kotetsu's kindred, she allowed her original appearance to be exposed to the air.
This was her form that was only visible for an instant when performing the «Sword-Kill Counter» technique. She only permitted her true appearance to exist for those instants of time. Nevertheless, the blade currently in view was her true self.
"'Tis been so long since I last returned to this form. Allow me to amuse myself as a distraction."
"Lilyhowell Kilmister, I ask you. That move just now cannot be the end, can it?"
Fear was sent flying into the distance by the palm strike earlier. As a result, Nirushaaki proceeded to target Lilyhowell who was nearer. As before, Lilyhowell still continued to dual wield the «Calamitous Sword of Sigarsholm» and the «Wathe Breaker» together. A Wathe with a weapon for breaking Wathes. Truly a paradoxical case of dual wielding.
"Oh, so thou art able to control the range of attack freely. Verily, a special toy. However—"
Dodging the tip of the freely extending calamitous sword, Muramasa switched from defense to offense. However, Lilyhowell also anticipated the counterattack, or perhaps, she had deliberately allowed the opponent to attack her. Lilyhowell instantly used her other sword to intercept.
That's right, she has that thing—Fear thought.
Namely, the «Wathe Breaker» on her right. Using this to counterattack, the enemy's weapon could be broken.
(No, wait a sec. This is very bad, right? At this rate—)
Fear felt her heart beat intensely, but her worries turned out to be unfounded. Even from a bystander's perspective, Lilyhowell's counterattack was flawless. Fear could even see an illusion as though the complicated shape of Lilyhowell's blade had broken the opponent's weapon. However—
The opposite happened in reality.
"The other sword is merely ugly and so boring too—I shall show thee my power. Ha, please do not make a laughable display of third-rate swords in front of one so beautiful as I!"
The blade's brilliance flashed powerfully as it crossed with Lilyhowell's «Wathe Breaker».
Instantly, a number of lines seemed to appear on the surface of the twisted blade's complicated form, then—
As though robbed of its title, the «Wathe Breaker»'s blade shattered and scattered.
At the same time, blood gushed from Lilyhowell's shoulder. The aftershock of Muramasa's swing had gone as far as to injure Lilyhowell's body. The bleeding was not minor—but in spite of that, she still faced forward resiliently.
"Oh?" The Japanese sword could be heard exclaiming, slightly impressed.
"'Tis impressive thy arm was not chopped off. Despite toys for weapons, thou art evidently an accomplished swordsman."
"This person is also skilled in counterattacks. With similar timing, she swung the greatsword knowing the significance that counterattacking represented. Precisely because of that, she was able to evade a critical wound, just barely."
Fear witnessed it again. After turning into a sword, there was still no change. That girl was still unafraid of fresh blood, hesitating not the slightest to kill the enemy. That girl had already turned into this kind of existence...!
"This is bad. Looks like Haru and Kiririn won't be waking up any time soon! Ficchi, let's retreat for now!"
Taking care of Haruaki and Kirika, Kuroe called out urgently to Fear.
Looking at the Japanese sword in Nirushaaki's hand again, Fear gritted her teeth hard.
She really wanted to roar angrily at those people, but did not know what to say.
—What could she say? What could she say to those people?
From her own perspective, what kind of existence was that Japanese sword? Fear pondered but could not even answer this question. An enemy? A friend? Right now? What about in the past?
In any case, Haruaki and Kirika could not be left alone. Also, Fear was very worried about the ordinary people who were left on the scene, injured (and almost all of them unconscious). It was not difficult to imagine what fate lay ahead of them if they were left here. All she could do right now was follow Kuroe's directions, retreating for now then regrouping.
"Kuroe, this might be hard... But those guys collapsed here... As long as they're still alive, can you move them all out together?"
"...If I go all out, I can probably manage, barely."
"I'm counting on you."
Standing up, Fear retreated while paying attention to Nirushaaki and the others' movements.
Ignoring the blood drenched shoulder, Lilyhowell forced her arm to turn, drawing another sword from a scabbard behind her to replace the «Wathe Breaker». A western rapier with a needle-like blade.
"McLachlan's Adultery Penetrator, «Stick Me Please»..."
"Oh? What curse does this sword have?"
"You shall know once you die from being stabbed!"
The needle-like blade's tip was barbed with a design similar to the «Flower Sword Verazella». The rapier stabbed into Nirushaaki's chest, but the result was the same as before. Direct penetration. Still, Nirushaaki did not die.
"To display such recklessness even after witnessing this «Wounded Knee Massacre»'s power, you must have believed in your chances of victory. Judging from the shape—That sword probably carries the kind of curse along the lines of 'impossible to pull out once stabbed'?"
"When curses contradict each other, naturally, the stronger curse wins."
Nirushaaki simply moved her body to the side and the rapier slid out from her flank. "Another sword with such a frail form." The Japanese sword flashed again, easily destroying the rapier.
Lilyhowell groaned while retreating. Nirushaaki stroked the aged shirt while she spoke:
"This belonged to an American Indian, the only man who survived a massacre, shielded by his companions. Claiming 'the ability to resist the white man's bullets,' this type of clothing, ghost shirts, was quite popular among the American Indians. Fictional to begin with, but thanks to the lies of the man who survived by luck, this shirt became the only 'genuine article' capable of manifesting the claimed effects. Then it was cursed by the resentment of those who had died in the massacre, acquiring its taboo abilities at the same time. Hence, this is the one true Ghost Shirt, «Wounded Knee Massacre». Despite this tool's relatively short history, surpassing its curse is no easy task."
"...One, I am injured. Two, curse is already confirmed. That is all, I conclude... Now is not the time yet..."
In a voice that sounded as painful as vomiting blood, Lilyhowell muttered while gritting her teeth.
Using those eyes that were still guided by dark willpower, she glared ahead.
She was still exuding an ice-cold aura of vengeance.
Lilyhowell proceeded to retreat, pulling away from Nirushaaki. Stated bluntly, she was preparing to flee. Just like Fear and the others.
Fear understood. Perhaps Lilyhowell was driven insane by the desire for vengeance, but she was not mad to the point of forgetting her objective. She still had an objective that she must achieve at all costs, determined to do so by any means necessary—She was simply harboring resolve to the point of near insanity.
Showing no intention of chasing after Lilyhowell who was about to escape, Nirushaaki spoke without hurry:
"Non-foolish avengers are very strong, nourishment for one to reach the side of the dragon... As I have said, we must currently wait here in the meantime. Consequently, we shall neither run nor hide. Come challenge us all you want."
Fear could see her masked head turn lightly. It seemed like these words were not only meant for Lilyhowell to hear but Fear's group as well.
However, by this time, Fear already had her back towards Nirushaaki's faction completely, sprinting at full speed. There were no signs of pursuit. She could see Kuroe ahead, moving her tiny legs desperately, meanwhile using her hair to support Haruaki, Kirika and roughly ten other people. Although Fear had no idea what happened to Lilyhowell, she was pretty sure the knight would escape successfully.
(Come challenge you all we want...?)
Fear gnashed her teeth violently. Without needing Nirushaaki to say so, Fear had no intention of letting things end here. Her group was definitely going to make another visit.
However—after visiting, what were they going to do?
When the time came, for what purpose were they going to visit this place?
Currently, Fear had no idea at all.
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