Chapter 5 - The Future Known as Tomorrow; Its Anticipation / "The blade - It's too sharp."
While sipping black tea, Ontenzaki Satsuko spaced out and recalled what had happened several days earlier. She sighed.
"What's the matter?"
"Satsuko is currently reminiscing and reflecting. Satsuko is really so weak that Satsuko must work even harder..."
Although someone answered, the person who posed the question could not be seen. More precisely, everything in sight was part of the person who posed the question. Because Satsuko was currently drinking tea inside her body, the cursed house.
Several days earlier, Satsuko and Fourteen were summoned by the reason "because you two are nearby" and forced to serve as training partners. Perhaps to the other side, this was merely entertainment to prevent their bodies from going sluggish from inactivity, but for Satsuko and Fourteen who were on an inferior level, it was valuable combat experience. Satsuko had pulled out her true skills as much as possible, but still—
"It can't be helped. Preparations were not enough because we were called over at short notice. I was almost running out of ammunition towards the latter half while things would be definitely different for you, Satsuko, if even more powerful weapons could be prepared."
"But it's not like that kind of super strong top-level Wathe can be obtained that easily! Satsuko doesn't want to blame tools for an excuse~ In the end, it boils down to the issue of ability, ability! But if you ask whether Satsuko's level of combat skills are enough to match them... Satsuko will be very depressed... Ah, match? N-No, this isn't a lame pun, Fourt!"
"I didn't say anything. Perhaps I'm biased in favoring my partner to say this, but in terms of technique, I don't think the difference is large enough for you to have such an inferiority complex. If there really is a difference, it consists of experience as well as the 'level' of weaponry after all. Let me repeat myself. In the end, you can only explain everything with the difference in weapons. Because the opponents are precisely the kind of legendary Wathe you're talking about. This is the undeniable truth."
"Fair... enough. Especially «Muramasa»—"
Satsuko thought back. Muramasa's face was the same as during past encounters but her eyes were completely different. A beast's savagery, a warrior's dignity, a demon's insanity, a sword's beauty... Vigorous and strong eyes that seemed to harbor all these qualities.
After the sparring, Satsuko had chatted with her for a while but she seemed to have forgotten Satsuko completely. In other words, total memory loss. Existing now was the her that was connected directly to the past.
Thinking to herself, Satsuko wondered if that past was precisely the source of Muramasa's strength. The strength of a Wathe that had experienced warring eras and actual battles. The strength from knowing combat deeply and knowing deeply what battlefields were exactly.
Satsuko suddenly felt curious and asked Fourteen:
"That Muramasa-san and Fear-san, who's stronger?"
"In my view, that Muramasa is the pinnacle of weapons. She epitomizes the concept of the pure and sharp weapon. Even if Fear-in-Cube is the most cursed tool among cursed tools, her very essence is still that of the tool of torture and execution. Hence—"
Most simply, as though this was perfectly logical, Fourteen gave her opinion:
"In a battle between those two, without absolutely any doubt—Fear-in-Cube will be destroyed."
Hence, the only way Fear could survive was by not fighting anymore.
In hindsight, this was made possible by others. In order to rescue her from the logical result, they took logical countermeasures.
"Mode: «Mongolian Death Worm Yoshikado»!"
"Oh, what now? Some kind of ground worm?"
The moon overhead was shrouded in shadows. A certain creepy black entity was spewing large amounts of soil in Fear' surroundings, squirming while emerging upright from underground.
Perhaps even Konoha could not help but feel astonished. Stopping the movement of her knifehand, she looked around. The force of restraint from her feet stepping on Fear's arms lessened slightly. Instantly, Fear felt something wrap around her body followed by a sense of suspension. Then being pulled backwards. The conversation taking place at her original location became more and more distant.
"Orders, may I ask?"
"I do not believe there is any need to chase after them. Leave them be."
"Running here one instant, fleeing the next, how busy of them. Oh my, time for another drink..."
Even though the conversation moved out of earshot, Fear still found herself continuing to be dragged backwards. Dragged backwards nonstop. Even after getting swallowed into the darkness of the night where nothing could be seen, the dragging still did not cease.
Then when Fear regained her senses, she found Kuroe's face before her eyes.
In a rare moment, truly an extremely rare moment, Kuroe's eyes were filled with anger. The instant she saw that, for some reason, Fear felt the depths of her throat tighten all at once and could only answer in a demoralized, trembling voice.
"Hey... Kuroe, what... should I do...?"
Probably because the voice sounded so pathetic that even Fear herself was surprised...
The anger in Kuroe's eyes suddenly subsided.
"To be frank, just this time—Even I have no idea."
After murmuring softly, Kuroe used her short arms to hug Fear's head tightly.
Thinking about the young master...
She discovered that he loved to run around all over the place, unafraid of curses, unafraid of her. It felt very refreshing.
At the same time, his eyes were sincere and forthright.
She could sense that his maturation was commendable. Since his father was quite undisciplined and arbitrary in doing whatever he wanted, she really did not feel that his education was commendable.
"What should we do about your name~?"
"As I have said, just use Muramasa."
"By itself, that won't be very convenient."
"Otherwise, how else should I be called? I, Muramasa, am Muramasa."
Unexpectedly, there were times when he was very insistent. He refused to give up despite her multiple rejections, always gazing straight at her while asking that inconsequential question.
Leaning forward over the table in the living room, he cocked his head adorably.
"I keep reminding you because it's inconvenient. Besides, you should also—How should I put this? Isn't it time you acknowledged me as master, right? Have you decided to lift your curse for real?"
She could not help but laugh. This child was still concerned about that kind of thing? Clearly she had not made any request of that sort from the start. She decided to gloss over the issue casually in a joking tone of voice.
"Ha. Not yet not yet. Because thou and I cannot be considered a true master-servant relationship."
"A true master-servant relationship?"
Pondering for some time, while recalling the valiant generals and soldiers who roamed the battlefields with her in the past, she said at the same time:
"Indeed. In a true master-servant relationship, there is no distinction between master and servant... Verily. The sword is the general, the general is the sword. Spurring the horse, galloping across the battlefield together, annihilating enemies nonstop. Even our lives are one."
"In other words, 'tis entrusting each other's lives to the other. The type of trust allowing one to trust the other to guard their back, a mutual relationship where both put their lives on the line to protect each other's lives. In conclusion—'tis a relationship where bodies and minds are merged into one. Uniting two into one in all respects. Becoming the same existence with each other."
Of course, she knew this sort of thing was impossible. She was a cursed tool. This child could not have forgotten that. He could not possibly trust her wholeheartedly. Likewise, she could not trust him completely... Asking her to rely on a child like him, that was probably never going to happen.
He tilted his little head in the opposite direction to earlier, but immediately smiled radiantly and said:
"I don't quite get it, but... Okay! Basically I have to help you if there's danger! Of course, that's very normal!"
"Speak not of normal, that sort of thing cannot happen in the first place."
Hearing his overconfident words, she wanted to laugh instead. Scoffing sardonically, she deliberately continued in mockery:
"Ha, very well~ If thou helpest me, whether using thy life or anything else, I shall help thee in return. However much thou helpest me, I shall repay thee accordingly. This is the contract. Because a true master-servant relationship hath yet to exist between us, something on this level would be an achievement already."
He pouted slightly.
"But I really want to make it a true master-servant relationship... If it's possible to become that kind of existence, then our wishes will become one, and you'll work hard to lift your curse, right? How should I go about it?"
"Who knoweth. 'Tis not something that is done just because 'tis decided. Rather, it has already come into being by the time thou noticest."
Listening to his dissatisfied protest—she thought at the same time: but...
If the other party believed that helping her was perfectly normal and also thought that trusting her was perfectly natural, then there was no issue but what lay in herself. It was simply her reluctance to get close to him, nothing more complicated than that. If she had to ponder why she was reluctant to get close to him, why she was unable to trust him wholeheartedly—
Putting down the teacup, she silently cast her gaze over the garden.
The quiet garden was dyed red by the setting sun.
It looked almost like the color of blood.
Perhaps it's that time, she thought.
He had apparently fallen asleep. Inside the dark bedroom, Harauki sat up blankly on the tatami floor. Moonlight was streaming into the room, causing Konoha's glasses on the desk to shine brightly. It was very quiet at home—After a bath, while he was thinking "I'd better prepare dinner," he had fallen asleep out of exhaustion. What were the others doing?
Perhaps too exhausted by training, his mental circuits still had not connected successfully with his body. Only his brain managed to start operating barely.
(This could very well be the first time in my life I've exercised my body the most...)
But speaking of exercising the body, Haruaki recalled Kirika several days earlier. He recalled how she had allowed part of her body to be chopped off for Lilyhowell's sake. He felt like he could see her resolve towards something. It felt as though she was saying that such resolve was necessary in order to go forward.
Did he have that kind of resolve? Haruaki asked himself introspectively.
Of course, he had long noticed the ambiguity in his surroundings.
Lilyhowell had not explained the specifics of what was going to happen when he wounded Nirushaaki using the poisoned sword borrowed from her.
He could predict it. He was no fool.
The opponent might die if he used that poisoned sword. She could lose her life.
But even so...
He had a goal, a wish that he wanted to accomplish no matter what.
(If Konoha must be taken back like this...)
Lying on the tatami floor, he lightly lifted an arm which finally managed to move, raising it towards the moonlight.
He did not know if it was due to fatigue or some other reason—His arm was trembling.
Hence, Haruaki realized concretely.
Extremely horrifying. So scary that he wanted to run away. A black shadow was crawling along his spine. His fingertips felt as though they were touching the asphalt that would trap him forever if he dipped his hand inside. Regarding this irreversibility, it felt like being entangled by a certain bottomless entity.
Ah, so this is what's meant by being cursed—?
Just as Haruaki clenched his trembling hand, a sound came from the front door. Forcing his body that was finally able to move to stand up, he walked over to the entrance.
Kuroe had returned with a bloody and filthy Fear.
"After you fell asleep, Haru, Kiririn called me and basically said that before she went home, she noticed Ficchi acting weird, so she's asking me what Ficchi's doing at the moment. Then I had a bad feeling because Ficchi still hadn't returned. I ran over to that place—And it was just as I feared."
By Kuroe's side, Fear simply kept her head hung. Simply from that, Haruaki seemed to realize what had happened to Fear and what kinds of feelings accompanied her actions.
He felt apologetic. At the same time, he found her very foolish.
Hence, Haruaki reached out lightly and stroked Fear's silver-haired head.
"Don't worry. I—won't die."
"That's why I'm also training in addition to the battle plan. I'm sure Konoha will recover soon. Maybe just by bringing her back to this home, her memories might recover all at once."
Haruaki deliberately spoke in cheerful tone of voice. Still not looking up, Fear said:
"You're willing to go so far just to rescue Cow Tits, but what does that have to do with me? What do you think...?"
The answer was simple.
"Well, there's basically something this home can't do without. There's this combo. It just doesn't feel right until a certain duo shows up together. That said, my explanation is very vague. What about you, Kuroe?"
"Agreed~ Ficchi, if the two of you aren't present together, it feels like this family is nuso missing something important. No, is it nunyu instead...? Or soho...?"
"Hey, there's no need to worry about that nonsensical onomatopoeia, right?"
While the two of them were talking, the silver-haired head under Haruaki's palm shook slightly.
"Is this... really okay...?"
"There's nothing bad, right?"
He truly believed from the bottom of his heart. That duo simply existed here. It had started a long time ago. By this point, it would be possible to change—Absolutely.
"You're really great big idiots..."
Standing at the concrete entryway, Fear moved forward without taking off her shoes. Leaning her upper body slightly foward, she bumped her forehead against Haruaki's stomach.
Because he knew what she was seeking—
For quite a long while, substituting for words, Haruaki kept caressing her head gently.
Meanwhile at the same time, Kirika was running.
After calling Kuroe and finding out that Fear still had not returned home, she had rushed frantically out of home—But before she reached Nirushaaki's location, Kuroe contacted her and said: "I've picked up Ficchi safely and on my way home now~" Nevertheless, feeling she would continue to worry if she just turned back to go home now, Kirika changed her destination to the Yachi home, deciding it would be best to check out the situation at least.
Jogging along streets at night, she finally arrived in front of the Yachi home's entrance—
She brushed past a woman. Only after walking past each other did Kirika halt, struck with a sense of dissonance.
It was perfectly commonplace to walk past other people along streets at night. However, that woman had walked out from behind the utility pole in front of the Yachi home. As though she had been observing the interior situation until now, the woman had pulled her gaze away from the Yachi home to face forward. Then when passing by Kirika—as soon as she saw Kirika—the woman even smiled faintly.
Kirika looked back in surprise but the woman's figure had already vanished into the night.
"Who was that just now...?"
There was nothing unusual about the woman's face but Kirika felt she had seen it somewhere before. There was even an inexplicable sense of affectionate familiarity. However, this should be her first time seeing that woman. Kirika had no recollection of her appearance itself. Furthermore, regardless of appearance, the sense of presence the woman gave off was in itself a problem. A vibe of confidence, a vibe of someone extraordinary, as though she was roaming the world and surviving on her own without depending on anyone—An aura of "strength."
Staring intently at the street at night where the woman had disappeared, Kirika narrowed her eyes. She could think of one possibility.
Then passing through the Yachi home's front gate, she walked towards the ajar entrance. Looking inside, she saw Fear and Kuroe just about to take off their shoes and enter the corridor. Haruaki was receiving them right there.
"Oh it's you, Class Rep."
"Oh~ Kiririn. Thank you for your call~"
Seeing Fear turn her gaze away in embarrassment, Kirika sighed. Fear was no longer showing the same expression Kirika had witnessed earlier before parting ways, that of the girl helplessly devoured by her own inner thoughts. This was probably due to that hand of his on Fear's head. At least it looked like Fear was not going to risk her life on her own again.
"How troubling... Absolutely ridiculous. But let's save the complaining for later. Fear-kun, go take a bath first to give your body a rest first. During this time, there are also things we need to do."
"Eh? Things we need to do?"
Seeing Haruaki make a puzzled look, Kirika explained what happened just now. The presence of the woman who seemed to be observing this home. The aura of an extraordinary person. On top of that—
"Nirushaaki said roughly a week, right? Tomorrow will be the sixth day. It's possible."
Presumably understanding what Kirika was implying, Haruaki's face suddenly went tense. Kirika nodded slowly before saying:
"Yes. Although it's slightly early—the time may have arrived already."
First they contacted Un Izoey to ask her to investigate if Nirushaaki's faction had shown any movements. Although Kirika was reluctant to approach them for favors, which felt like getting indebted to them, this was a time of emergency. Although it was unpleasant not knowing what the other side was thinking, at least Un Izoey would still act according to their demands. Finally, they were informed that Nirushaaki's side had not made any moves.
After asking Un Izoey and Mummy Maker to continue their surveillance, they then called Lilyhowell. After updating her on the situation—
'Let me clarify first. That woman is not the Draconian's Commander.'
"What are you talking about?"
Did they worry for nothing? This thought flashed across Kirika's mind. However—
'The current Commander is supposed to be male. But since that woman was intentionally observing the Yachi home's situation, there is an extremely high chance that she is related to this incident. One, the duel between the Commander and «Number Two» is a major event pertaining to the Draconians' future. Two, since the match's intent is to decide the stronger of the two, they will probably have the duel take place in a way arousing the least complaints as possible. That is all—In light of that, I conclude that it would not be surprising if one of the «High Singles» visited to serve as something like a "referee."'
"So that's the woman I saw?"
'Because a «High Single» of the Draconians would probably feel interested in your group. Perhaps she simply took the opportunity to check out the Yachi home's situation.'
"...Then what should we do next?"
'Just as a safety precaution, perhaps your home needs monitoring. But as I have mentioned just now, their duel is one that demands a fair match. I do not expect a late night fight where there will be many uncertain factors. It will most likely take place during the daytime tomorrow. In other words, we must take action one step ahead—'
The cellphone was set on speakerphone. Listening to this conversation close by, Haruaki and the rest were showing serious eyes.
My eyes probably look similar, Kirika thought.
At the same time, they were listening to Lilyhowell's final statement that served to sum up the current situation:
'Our battle plan will be put into action early tomorrow morning. Rest and recover your energy properly before then.'
Everything needed to be done was already done. Haruaki convinced himself.
Lilyhowell had mentioned at the end of the phone call that his sword swings were already looking decent compared to the beginning. Assuming the target was completely restrained, if all he had to do was deliver a strike to an arm or a leg as prescribed by the plan, he should be able to do it without any problems.
Hence, everything needed to be done was already done—However...
(...Is it really the case?)
Starting just earlier, he was unable to banish this thought. There were probably certain things that were needed as preparations for tomorrow, right? But he could not figure out what they were no matter how he racked his brain.
Then no more preparations needed to be done. Everything needed to be done was already done. What remained was recovering energy for tomorrow, in other words, just going to bed earlier—His brain knew very clearly but the depths of his heart felt inexplicably unsettled, preventing him from sleeping. Haruaki simply lay in bed, staring intently at the ceiling.
He turned his body with a rustle. The cellphone by the side of his pillow entered his view. He casually picked it up and scrolled through his contact list—
Haruaki stopped where "Konoha's cell" was displayed. Driven by impulse, he pressed dial and held the phone to his ear, closing his eyes. His heart pounded uncontrollably. "The number you have dialed is currently unavailable or has traveled outside of coverage area..." After making a sigh that resembled both relief and disappointment, he hung up. This had persisted all this time ever since Konoha went missing. A result that could not be more clear.
Haruaki absentmindedly scrolled through the contact list. Names of classmates. Names of friends. He was reminded that apart from his inner circle, there were also many people waiting for Konoha's return.
Un Izoey's name was outside the listing of Japanese kana. She and Amanda were still unwilling to join the fight. But this could not be helped, Haruaki thought. They had their own standpoint too.
The contact list also included names such as "Superintendent" and "Houjyou Zenon-san." Haruaki had already explained the entire situation and the superintendent had expressed his willingness to do everything to help—However, they were ordinary people after all, despite knowing how to fight to some extent. This time, their enemy was stronger and more merciless than any previous foe. Too dangerous. Haruaki also did not want to see Konoha fighting Zenon or the other staff. Furthermore, although they had not met Nirushaaki before as former members of the Draconians, coming into contact could still give rise to many troubles—Based on these reasons. Haruaki did not want them to get involved.
This also applied to their friends such as Shiraho and Sovereignty or Chihaya and Isuzu. Although they were likely to refuse preemptively even before the request was made, this situation was way too dangerous. Irrevocable results could even arise.
However, suddenly, he wanted to hear other people's voices.
He could not help but press dial. The cellphone ringed for a long time. Just as he was about to give up and hang up—
"Oh... Hello, are you Shiraho? I'm sorry for calling you this late."
'Sigh—' An obvious sighing was transmitted from the other side.
'It finally arrived. Transcending rape by vision and rape by smell, now comes rape by phone call. How unbearable. When a pervert wishes for female contact, even the telecommunications company's signal towers can be used as sex toys, pervert.'
Still the same as usual—Haruaki smiled wryly.
'What's the matter?'
"Uh... Umm, we've been absent from classes lately, so I was a bit curious about the situation at school."
'Summed up in a word, terrible.'
'The reason given for your household, the class representative and the dark-skinned girl's absences is that you are all down with influenza. The timing is completely wrong, the lack of creativity is off the charts. Please think up a slightly more reasonable excuse, okay?'
"Haha... Well, that's because we left everything on the school side for Kaidou-sensei to handle..."
Then for the next while, in a manner that one could tell if she was reporting or complaining, Shiraho explained about the latest happenings at school. Although cursing of 'die' and 'perish' were thrown at him nonstop, to be honest, Haruaki found it a little unbelievable that she did not simply hang up the phone as expected.
For some reason, Shiraho's displeased voice, her cold and uncaring voice, sounded very pleasant to his ears.
Haruaki wondered if he was hoping that someone could abandon him completely, not caring at all like this—You're none of my concern, your nervousness and worries are nothing at all. In the end, he had simply grown weak. He simply wanted liberation.
"What about Sovereignty?"
'...Why are you asking that?'
"Eh? No, it's nothing."
'Stop lying. She is sleeping right beside me. You intend to ask about her sleeping posture or you're going to have me place the receiver against Sovereignty's skin, saying you are able to sense the texture of her skin through the reflection of electromagnetic waves. Both requests are denied. I absolutely refuse to allow Sovereignty to become the target of your dark lust, human.'
"I'm not a superhero with amazing powers like that... But anyway, forget it if she's sleeping."
If someone was sleeping next to her, chatting for too long would not be appropriate. Time to end the call. Haruaki finally said:
"Sorry, but we'll still be absent tomorrow, because there's something important to do. But it does mean that I expect things to be over tomorrow."
The message behind these words probably reached her.
However, she simply answered in a refreshing manner:
'I see. Not like it matters to me.'
That nonchalance seemed to be saying "don't get too fired up," causing Haruaki to recover his calm. This trivial matter was nothing. Come tomorrow, Konoha would have returned to this home. That was all. And the day after that, school life was going to resume as usual.
'By the way, I won't be telling Sovereignty about "the game you intend to play." Because if she might want to go if she knew. However, even if it means crying or begging or stripping in the streets, I will absolutely stop her.'
"Your methods of stopping her are baffling, but I understand. We'll be fine on our own. Umm, I'm so sorry for suddenly calling you—"
'...Hold it right there. I forgot something. You wouldn't be planning to contact other girls like this apart from me, to engage in late night rape by phone call, would you? Or is that exactly what you intend to do next?'
"O-Of course not. I'm planning to sleep."
Only after a second, as though in deep thought, Shiraho said:
'...I see. Good.'
Then she hung up. Haruaki smiled wryly as though feeling troubled.
In any case, he felt his mood lighten slightly. He should be able to sleep now? Just as he was about to flip his cellphone shut—
His cellphone vibrated, informing him of a text message. The timing was too perfect. Has my phone ever been this active within such a brief period? Thinking that, Haruaki opened the text message. He was thinking perhaps it came from Shiraho who had just finished the call, but no—even rarer than Shiraho, a miraculous person had sent this text message with miraculous timing.
This was the girl who lived far out west. The girl who lived with her family.
The title read "In rehab." Just like her usual tone of voice, the contents read gruffly: "They kept insisting I send it, totally annoying, so I'm sending this." At the same time, a photo was attached. "Rehab" might have a double meaning perhaps, Haruaki wondered. In the photo, using a hand that was slightly bandaged, she was stroking a big dog while making a sulking expression. This was the same breed as the large dog whose misplaced faith was abused, leaving mental trauma in her heart. She was currently stroking the dog. Also, behind her and the dog, there was also an adult woman watching them with gentle eyes.
Haruaki could imagine who was the one who took this photo, as well as his dialogue with the girl. "Try finding a friend to send this to." "Shut up." "Why not just send it to those people from earlier?" "Th-They're not friends!" "If you don't send it, I'm gonna take that as proof that you have no friends. Eh, I can't believe that I've got a coworker who's so lonely that she doesn't even have a single person to send text messages to!" "F-Freakin' incompetent...!" Something like that, probably.
Speaking of which, Bivorio had also sent a text message a few days earlier with something similar to a report. As mentioned by Pakuaki during the school excursion, the Lab Chief's Nation had apparently contacted them about the date for returning Hinai Elsie. Soon after, perhaps the number of people was going to increase in similar photos.
Looking at Kururi in the photo, Haruaki suddenly thought of something. Then he pondered for a while. The feelings of acceptance and denial fought each other. But in the end—
"That's right. No matter what, everything that can be done should first be done properly—"
Haruaki silently got up and out of the futon.
This was nothing much.
Simply preparation for what needed to be done tomorrow, he finally discovered another one of them.
Before Lilyhowell Kilmister's eyes, on a table that was left behind in the abandoned building, several Wathes were spread in a row under the moonlight. She was making final adjustments for tomorrow.
That said, there was not much that could be done. Some Wathes would activate their curse-granted abilities simply when unsheathed. At most, all she could do was carefully scrub the hilts and the scabbard to prevent slipping from her hand in a critical moment. She also pulled the belts and straps used to secure the Wathes on her back, confirming their conditions and lengths so as to adjust them.
Having finished what needed to be done, she gazed at the table again. A collection of swords of differing lengths and shapes. Originally there was a total of nine. Among them, the «Wathe Breaker», the only sword not a Wathe, as well as «Stick Me Please» had been destroyed, leaving seven swords currently. Most important among them, the key to tomorrow was—
(...It is a given.)
Her gaze rested on that sword. At the same time, she recalled what happened a few days earlier. The conversation with them. Back when they had asked about this Wathe's origins.
This sword came from the Saga of Asmund the Champion-Killer—This answer was not fabricated. Suddenly questioned, believing that hesitation would be very dangerous, she could not help but let the true answer slip.
(I definitely took a risk. It is truly most fortunate that they are not familiar with sagas... If they were to investigate out of curiosity, it would be troublesome, but that has not happened, apparently.)
In other words, the risk was over. Preparations were complete.
Preparations for killing Nirushaaki.
Preparations for achieving that goal which must be achieved at all costs.
Then all that remained was waiting for the arrival of the moment when this cursed sword activated its taboo power according to its characteristics.
Lilyhowell continued to stare at the sword before her.
Staring at that black longsword which those people believed to be a poisoned sword—
There was a balcony on the western mansion's second floor. A silent space where pale moonlight was quietly descending.
Nirushaaki was sitting on the floor of the balcony with her back against the railings.
Using her palm, she popped a small mountain of pills into her mouth then crushed them with her teeth. Then tilting the cup held in her other hand, she allowed the liquid to flow down her throat. A liquid containing a mixture of protein and powdered medication. The meal was not over. Taking out powder wrapped in paper, she poured the powder onto her fist and snorted it with her nose.
Only now did she finally get a drunken feeling. Next came a sense of nausea and disrupted balance. However, she suppressed all this with her willpower. Not once was she devoured by that discomfort or sense of ecstasy. This was a given. Because this was simply refilling behavior that was undertaken out of necessity.
"A curse necessitating the intake of drugs? How troublesome."
"...It stems from the origins of my mask. This cannot be helped either."
Walking out of the house, Muramasa was twisting the corners of her lips in disgust. She moved forward silently, walking over to Nirushaaki's side. Then resting her elbows on the balcony's railings, she looked up into the night sky.
Nirushaaki went on to take out a sheet of capsules from her front pocket. Ripping open the packaging noisily, she popped the capsules into her mouth like candy. Although narcotics producing powerful intoxication definitely worked best on the curse, blindly ingesting narcotics would be bad for the body's health after all. Despite off-the-shelf cold medication's weak effects, since it was considered "a type of drug," she would ingest large amounts in this manner to stall the curse.
"Thou wouldst ingest the likes of opium on occasion? I am surprised that thou art still able to maintain a normal presence of mind."
"Because I only use narcotics at the minimum required level. Besides, a dragon's willpower is also very strong."
"Ha, I suppose."
After chewing the capsules, she then swallowed digestive medicine in powdered form. This was like dessert after a meal. Although the cold medicine was sold over-the-counter, eating too much of it also took a heavy toll on the stomach—although the digestive medicine was partially taken for its soothing effects.
While sipping the last of the protein drink, Nirushaaki said:
"—It is almost time."
"Borrowing thy words, master... Dragonslaying, is it?"
"No. The dragon refers to the concept of strength, the pinnacle of strength that no one has ever reached—Even the Commander cannot be considered the dragon itself. Because he shall lose to me."
"Hmm, that doth make sense."
Looking down towards Nirushaaki, Muramasa curled the corners of her lips.
"This is merely a contest for the position nearest to the dragon—namely, the «Head». But of course, the concept of the dragon lies ahead of that. Only by dining on its flesh and blood does it count as the ritual for us to approach the dragon..."
"In other words, a change of heads. No matter what, standing at the top is superior to standing below, of course—By the way, I have yet to ask so far, how strong is the current «Head»?"
"He is the existence closest to the dragon. It goes without saying that he is the strongest among the Draconians. Before obtaining you, if he and I were to duel, chances of my victory would be roughly 20%."
"Hohou, how impressive. But then again, 'tis possible that Kotetsu is not up to par. Well then, now that thou hast acquired me, what are the chances of victory?"
Muramasa asked as though watching a good show. After hesitating for an instant, Nirushaaki decided to answer truthfully.
"50%—slightly optimistically, 55%."
"What is that, thou sayest~?"
Only this little? Murmamasa was clearly displeased. Simply the fact that there was a possibility of winning in a duel against the Commander was already a miracle. But even if Nirushaaki explained to her, who had never faced him in actual combat, she probably would not understand.
"But if you, Kotetsu and I bring out our full power and even fight with the resolve to put our lives on the line, we are 100% certain to seize that 55% probability of victory. Muramasa, do you have that resolve?"
"Always, from the very start. 'Tis the usual way of wars. No matter who the enemy may be, one must always carry the resolve to be ready to die anywhere, any time. The strength of resolve determineth the speed the sword is unsheathed."
Murmamasa answered instantly, giving off vibes that seemed to say "did you really have to ask?" How dependable of her.
"Hearing you say 'no matter who the enemy may be,' I am reminded—Before fighting the Commander, those fellows may appear again. Namely, Fear-in-Cube and Lilyhowell Kilmister."
"Thou speakest of those deplorably weak fellows?"
"At the very least, Lilyhowell Kilmister's obsession cannot be underestimated. The nature of obsession lies in the fact that it grows stronger with every defeat—Perhaps her next showing might prove to be more promising. Overconfidence could very well lead to the breaking of your blade, Muramasa."
Nirushaaki warned in a half-joking manner. Muramasa also chuckled in her throat in response. She turned around and leaned her back against the balcony railing. This action was probably pointless. By facing the same direction as Nirushaaki, all she would see was the interior of the house. All she would see was Kotetsu, sprawled in bed, sleeping soundly in exhaustion after being toyed with for so long, his hair an utter mess, having been forced to go through repeated changes of hairstyle.
"I did mention just now, did I not? Although 'twould be akin to teaching fish swim. Upon standing on the battlefield, one must carry the resolve to be ready to die any time. The same goeth for a sword—The resolve preparing one to be broken any time. I have witnessed it countless times. Blades reaching the end of their lives, breaking for the most trivial of reasons. No matter how unworthy of mentioning the reason may be, swords break inevitably."
Such as—She proceeded to list examples.
Facing a general pulled down from his horse, about to deliver the killing blow, a sword ended up breaking when struck by a stray arrow. Smug and complacent after vanquishing a general, a sword broke when ambushed by a member of peasant militia. After a heroic duel, a sword broke because the master's hand slipped, letting it fall to the ground where it was trampled by a horse.
"Swords are sharper than anything else, but consequently, they are also more brittle than everything else. The danger of breaking any moment... Haha."
"What is the matter?"
Muramasa's shoulders suddenly shook with laughter. Nirushaaki looked up at her face. With the night sky and the bright moon as a background, she was currently smiling with narrowed eyes.
"Oh my, I must have grown old. To think one such as I would ponder such inane matters. Like that of an enlightened monk's, simply meaningless drivel. Having lived to such an age, I cannot help but feel that those known as swords..."
Her voice sounded like she was joking. It also conveyed mockery towards herself... no, the existence called the sword.
However, as though gazing out into the distance, as though reflecting the water surface like a sword sunk into the bottom of a lake—only her eyes were showing a mysterious, ever-changing light of varying intensity.
"Perhaps sometimes, I am waiting for day when I shall be broken..."
After a moment's pause, Nirushaaki asked:
"Ha. I have absolutely no intention of breaking at the hands of others. Nevertheless..."
Muramasa continued to gaze forward with profoundness in her eyes.
Still carrying a faint, wry smile as she gazed upon Kotetsu sleeping soundly in the house—her fellow kin sharing the same destiny.
In an extremely calm tone of voice, she continued:
"There existeth no sword in this world that doth not break. Even if one existed... 'Twould finally rot away in time one day."
|Back to Chapter 4||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 6|