Chapter 3 - The Rejected Daughter of Sin / "Child x Captive x Cacophonous"
A brief respite.
As soon as he stopped moving, Zenon threw three knives at him. He casually deflected two with his hand and left the third to Riko's movable armor protecting him.
"Hmm! Are you actually tired~? That's so rare!"
"Not my body, but if anything, I'm mentally tired. It feels like being forced to solve puzzles the whole time."
Pendragon shrugged and replied, looking at Ganon before him. She was covered in sweat, breathing slightly faster, but the precision of her movements remained unchanged. Slightly swaying, the sword tip waved back and forth.
"Houjyou... You've actually been training, haven't you? This isn't a level of skill achievable by someone who had neglected martial arts for years after deserting the Draconians."
"...Actually, I have been neglecting martial arts."
"Probably until recently? I also know that you have always been doing what you need to do, Onee-sama."
Saying that, Zenon took out new knives to hold between her fingers, preparing to throw them. Ganon glanced at her and sighed.
"Sigh... She was called Kokoro Pentangeli, right? After that incident with her, I started practicing a bit."
"Oh, that name sure brings back memories. I haven't heard from her for over six months already. Is she well? Or has she died?"
"Quite well, one could say."
The old friend was standing somewhere out of Zenon and Ganon's way when he spoke. Pendragon could not be certain but believed he was probably not lying. She was talented enough to be one of the «High Singles»—Since she was still alive, surely she would return to the dragon's path one day.
"So... After fighting Kokoro Pentangeli, did it make you remember something?"
"Remember... Remember something? Perhaps. Because I've neglected martial arts all this time, it felt surprisingly hard to perform when I picked up a sword again after so long. To be honest, the slightest misstep then and a irrevocable outcome might have resulted."
Between lethargic breaths, she continued:
"...Even though this sword style is clearly so utterly meaningless, the old man still taught it to me just in case. However—if that just-in-case really did arrive but I failed to do anything, now that would be truly meaningless... That's what occurred to me after the battle."
"Because now that Old Man Long is not around, you're the only one left who can use the Void Night Sword... Are you thinking it would be a shame to let it go to waste?"
"Roughly something like that."
Pendragon's lips curled in a grin while he simply thought to himself: "Honestly?" Indeed, it was one of the reasons, but he did not think that was all. He recalled the scenes he had seen many times in the past when she was learning the Void Night Sword from Long. He recalled her gaze at the time. The emotions in her gaze when she was looking at her master, who was old enough to be her father or even grandfather. Excitement, fear, admiration, a sense of mission to respond to his expectations, as well as—
(...Her taste for older men still hasn't changed, right? Oh my, what a shame.)
Well, whatever. No matter what the reason, now that she was seriously trying to stop him...
He decided to confirm again.
Seizing a gap in the conversation, Pendragon closed in with natural and smooth flowing motions. Ganon was completely unfazed by his sudden action. Controlling the timing of attacks was, in other words, "opportunity" which was within her realm of response.
"Granaury, shrink one millimeter."
The blade on the back of his right hand retracted slightly. Instantly, he could feel the blade's power growing more powerful. The shorter the distance to the enemy, the greater the power, this was Granaury's curse.
With multiplied power in Granaury's blade attached to his fist, Pendragon punched as hard as he could towards Ganon. She swiftly turned and made her body stumble clumsily as though she had snapped at the waist. But that clumsy movement was a uniquely correct choice for extending the time for which "instant death would occur unless this was done." The sword held in Ganon's hand was already making contact with Granaury. Considering the totality of Granaury's destructive power, it would not be surprising if that ordinary sword shattered instantly. However, through Ganon's meticulous shifting of her center of gravity and high-level techniques for inertial neutralization, Granaury was parried to the side as though sucked by her sword, drawn to a location different from where the attack was originally targeting—Achieving a similar effect as «Karma Speed» through pure skill alone.
Pendragon did not force a counterattack, allowing his fist to be deflected towards the ground. Then he deliberately allowed his fist to smash into the ground. The delivered impact caused the ground surface to explode. Amidst the cloud of dirt and dust, he made a flying kick. Riko's armor moved swiftly to reinforce his kick, increasing the armor's thickness to the point that the opponent might break their arm if she tried to block recklessly or attack his leg. However, Ganon evaded with a backflip, resulting in a fluttering of her skirt. Then the battle resumed.
"Haha~ Is that black lace? Nice panties. You've become a mature woman."
"Don't sneak a peek without permission. I'm charging you a fee now."
"No problem, I'll pay up. What forms of payment can I choose? ...Oh."
In the next second, a knife flew straight at his eyeball. After he dodged lightly, Zenon, the thrower of the knife, narrowed her eyes and glared at him, saying:
"How repulsive and nauseating, to hear comments about my family of such an obscene nature."
"As a businessman, I'm actually quite curious whether the price she demands is reasonable or not."
Zenon glared viciously at Gabriel. Pendragon laughed, his shoulders shaking lightly.
This felt so nostalgic.
Gabriel used to be ranked second in the Draconians. The Houjyou sisters, always following him loyally, were akin to his disciples. To be honest, starting way back—They were just like family.
But how far did this distinction extend? As Gabriel's best friend, best rival and competitor, what about Pendragon? After sparring with the sisters a few times as a way to pass time, he had started to chat with them like Gabriel. Despite their differences in power level, it was still a relationship allowing them to joke around with one another, spar and say whatever they wanted without reservation. The non-human ones also stood on the side, laughing together, frowning or pouting—Liz who used to be Gabriel's and Granaury who used to be Long's. The two of them were very similar in various ways. Deep friendship, birds of a feather—They were even alike in ways they should not. Hence, Liz's gaze remained focus on one person the whole time, whereas Granuary never stared.
Ahhh, perhaps it was not just the Houjyou sisters. In that space, perhaps there were brothers and sisters alike. Perhaps including himself, they were like a family—
(...It's all in the past, anyway. I can't keep reminiscing just because I miss it.)
Pendragon warned himself and shook his head lightly.
After a sigh, he renewed his focus on reality before his eyes.
"What should I say? I'm finally understanding what this is about. Using the earlier analogy, your dragonslayer sword won't kill me. You possess neither the intent nor the actual skill required to kill me. That's a fake trenchant blade, even if it carries the significance of being the one and only existence that can resist the strongest person."
"Kill you? Haha... Don't get alarmist on me, that goes without saying."
Sarcastically, exhaustedly, Ganon twisted the corners of her lips to say:
"Forget about killing, I am a goddess of healing, you know? Because I'm the school physician."
Pendragon laughed wryly in exasperation while whispering at the same time:
"Riko, concentrate on strengthening the springs on the legs. Prepare to jump."
"Tsk, no helping it..."
Centered around the legs, «Corpse Armor Rikongarowa»'s armor began to shift positions and rearrange itself. Through overlapping and rebounding, the armor strengthened the movements of the leg muscles. Then immediately, Pendragon jumped high up and backwards—
He landed on the roof of the Yachi house.
Gazing down at Ganon and the rest, he said:
"I guess by now, I've tired of playing with my old friends... There's really no more time to waste with you. You've also managed to fully achieve the task of buying time, right? I'll let you off this time. Dismissed."
They were ordinary humans after all without the supernatural powers of Wathes. In other words, Ganon and Zenon were physically unable to reach the roof in a single leap. He should have done this earlier—But he could not help immersing himself in the nostalgia of fighting them.
He was just about to jump again, intending to exit the house's premises in a single bound—
"Hey... Let's continue that cliched and embarrassing subject of the dragonslayer. If my sword cannot kill you—"
Those eyes of hers, looking up towards him—
They were filled with lethargy and drowsiness as always—However, they were also as sharp as fine needles.
"Max-kun, that's only because you aren't a dragon yet. Conversely... If you become a dragon, perhaps I will be able to kill you."
"Haha~ That would be more exciting. I'll look forward to it."
He did not look away.
After a long silence—
"...You still refuse to give up?"
"Of course. This is my only current goal. By obtaining Ningyouhara Kuroe, I will truly become the strongest dragon. That is what I live for and the way I've lived all this time—Having forsaken this way of life, you lot cannot stop me."
Finally, he saw wavering flash across the silent Ganon's eyes.
Pendragon applied force through his legs, breaking the Yachi house's roof underfoot as he took a leap.
Flying through midair, then came a feeling of descent.
Even if he were to become a true dragon, wings probably would not sprout out of his back.
He felt a bit disappointed about that.
In front of Zenon...
The older sister exhaled forcefully while her shoulders heaved up and down.
"Haha... Hear that? Zenon... Using his full power to make a young girl his property, to think that's the way to become a dragon? I knew it... It's too unseemly..."
Then her knees collapsed as though her legs suddenly lost strength.
"There, this is the least I could do."
While Zenon was rushing over in panic, the superintendent caught Ganon in his arms just as she was about to fall on the ground. Likewise, he was sighing beneath his gas mask.
"You should rest for a while. Right now... Even if you chase after him, it won't do any good."
"Yes~ ...Ahhh, honestly... So tired..."
At this moment, in a fluid manner that made one suspect how familiar she was with this, a long-haired woman (strictly speaking, perhaps "woman" was debatable) swiftly crawled out from under the eaves.
"I was being considerate by hiding and not get in your way, but it's time for me to enter the stage now. Although the living room is a wreck, the other parts of the house should be okay, so you can come in to rest."
"Thank you so much. Before that, the fallen knights here need to be taken care of first."
"Yes. As much as I don't want to involve others, I guess I must count on the help of some friends dealing in underground businesses~"
"I'll also use connections on my side."
Honatsu and the superintendent started to discuss how to clean up the aftermath. Zenon took Ganon from the superintendent's hands.
"Ow~ ...Even saying 'so tired' is tiring~ ...What should I do?"
"You can remain quiet and not say a single word. You can also go to sleep directly."
"Oh, really? Yay~ Today is a weekday, but I can skip work and take a nap, that's so awesome... Zzzzz..."
Ganon instantly leaned her entire weight on Zenon after closing her eyes and began to breathe smoothly and regularly.
She had been overexerting herself, probably. Facing off against the strongest man. Neither winning nor losing, a technique that relied excessively on deceit and obfuscation. Miraculously good fortune, combined with the opponent's complacence, carelessness, underestimation of his enemy... This result was obtained precisely by gathering all of these elements. This must not be forgotten.
While gazing at the face of her older sister sleeping as though in a coma, Zenon continued to ponder.
If she were to face him in battle next time...
Surely—The result was going to be different.
Haruaki felt his face shake on its own as though it were laughing.
"You... What are you talking about? It doesn't make any sense. You... created Fear?"
Behind the gates, the man sitting in the wheelchair—the Knights Dominion Lord who called himself Trinac Agana—nodded without smiling at all.
"Absolutely ridiculous. Fear was created during the time of the Inquisition—That's already centuries ago. Ordinary humans cannot possibly live that long. Or are you a Wathe?"
"Lowly and deplorable peasants! How dare you keep addressing our lord directly as 'you,' what utter insolence!"
Turning her helmet towards them, Sleif scolded but the Dominion Lord raised his hand lightly to stop her.
"Foolish action—They are merely ignorant children. No matter."
"...Yes, my lord."
Sleif nodded reluctantly. Then the Dominion Lord cast his gaze towards them again.
"I am no foolish Wathe. I am human."
While keeping Satsuko and Fourteen under watch, Konoha spoke:
"Fair enough. It is already surprising that a cursed tool could become a knight. I doubt if the organization could be established if even the leader were one as well. Since you are human, it means that what you just claimed, that you created Fear-san, was a lie after all? Ordinary humans cannot possibly live for multiple centuries."
"This is a curse."
Haruaki's group gasped in great surprise. Just by one sentence, the truth was conveyed.
The Dominion Lord turned his head lightly as though gesturing towards what was behind him.
Behind the wheelchair he was seated.
Planted upright was a rod-shaped object. It seemed familiar in appearance—
"«Dieu le veut» curses its owner with death as soon as one steps out of the defined territory. At the same time, so long as the owner remains within the territory, it will confer eternal longevity. It will force the owner to remain as the land's king forever."
Haruaki was rendered speechless. Indeed, given that type of curse—Everything then made sense. However, did this man truly accept that curse willingly to live all this time? Living all this time till now, without taking a step outside his territory, without aging at all?
—It really was true, Haruaki thought.
He could only believe.
...After seeing Fear's appearance—shaking with clattering, various components popping out from her body, her breaths sounding like suffocated sobbing and vomiting.
"Th-Then you really..."
"It was my foolish act from the past. In search of authority, wealth and fame, I created numerous objects at the orders of nobles. One of them—rather, the most abominable yet outstanding masterpiece I created using the most time, labor and skills—was Fear-in-Cube."
"B-But... Why did someone like you found an organization like the Knights Dominion...!?"
"Foolish question. My past self did not know this was a sin, but now I know. This is the answer."
Kirika groaned after asking her question. The Dominion Lord answered simply. Then drumming his fingertips on the wheelchair's armrest, he said:
"Things that knows only to hurt, injure, kill and violate human beings, should they exist? No, they should not. Because they are cursed. Only hurting, injuring, killing, violating human beings, should they exist? No, they should not. Because they will continue to hurt, injure, kill and violate human beings."
Fear groaned. She was listening even though she did not want to listen.
"What have my creations done? What did they represent? When I became old and authority, wealth and fame were no longer useful, I finally understood. Then I realized my sin—namely, the foolish behavior of spreading curses all over the world."
The wrinkled face exhaled a sigh. Still unchanging in expression, his face was very calm.
"Hence, I vowed to use what little remained of my life to rectify my sin. To destroy all cursed tools in the world... In other words, Wathes. To gather and destroy all Wathes, regardless they were created by my hand or not."
Then during his wanderings across the world, he presumably obtained «Dieu le veut». Gathering and destroying all Wathes in the world was undoubtedly beyond a single man's ability. Hence, he assembled like-minded comrades to create a "domain" to establish a organization whose sole goal was gathering and destroying Wathes—
Haruaki moved his stiff throat, only succeeding in forcing out dry laughter.
"Haha... Then several hundred years later, things turned out like this? The scale is too great, frankly speaking, it doesn't feel real to me at all. It's like listening to a fairy tale."
"—Precisely. The Knights Dominion was very weak in the beginning."
The Dominion Lord seemed to narrow his eyes slightly. He turned his gaze towards Sleif who was waiting on the side.
She looked up with her visored helmet to face the Dominion Lord's gaze.
"Through the long passage of time, although the quantity and quality of knights have changed—Only the Dominion's true nature has remained constant and unwavering."
The Dominion Lord's voice carried a slight increase in emphasis. Not due to anger or excitement, but it seemed more like he was ruminating his own words. The pressure exerted by his voice seemed to leave definite weight in the listener's heart.
"We of the Frontline Gathering Knights Dominion will gather and destroy Wathes, whether past, present, or henceforth. This is undoubtedly true justice."
Haruaki glared at him and retorted:
"That's really something to decide on your own. I do happen to know what you guys have been doing till now. Honestly, it's impossible to agree that it's justice...!"
"No, considering the tragedies born from curses, there is no question that we are right. You people should know, shouldn't you? The foolish behavior brought by Wathes and the consequences of foolish behavior."
Of course he knew. The results caused by cursed tools were bizarre and terrifying, disrupting the lifes of the owners and the people around them. However...
Haruaki was also aware of what the Knights Dominion had been doing all this time.
Peavey Barowoi. The knight who used to be Aiko's owner. The knights who had appeared at the school's welcoming festival. Neto the Avenger. Lilyhowell Kilmister. They had a committed numerous atrocities that were utterly inhumane. Things were the same now as well, to think they would seize completely innocent students to serve as hostages...
"Even if curses did not exist in this world, people will still murder. But curses will affect curses. There is meaning in stopping these chain reactions, so as to reduce the total number of future deaths."
"But there are also those who are working hard to stop themselves from letting such things happen!"
"In the meantime, people still die. Truly naive optimism. Your—"
Lifting a finger, the Dominion Lord pointed at Haruaki.
As though pursuing the issue, as though condemning, as though accusing.
"Your fingers were only lost due to a curse left to roam free out of optimism, weren't they?"
Haruaki groaned and hid his left hand behind his right. He hid the amputation wound that was suddenly as painful as though struck by lightning because he had subconsciously clenched his fist tightly.
He really did not want to hear it from this man. What do you know? —Haruaki thought.
At the same time, a strange clattering of sounds were heard. Fear's body of steel was shaking genuinely, so dramatically that one could not help but wonder if she might scatter into pieces.
The words, coming from the man who allegedly created her in the past, also reached her ears. A gaze of pity and regret was cast upon her.
Probably due to hearing her cry out in pain, the Dominion Lord addressed Fear directly next:
"Fear-in-Cube, your existence is my greatest pain. Perhaps refusing to let anyone else take his precious belonging, that castle lord hid you during his downfall. You could not be found even after his execution, remaining missing over the long years—You are precisely the pinnacle of my folly and greatest taint."
Ahhh, what a great shock this produced. Her creator, a being akin to God to her. A reunion after centuries with someone akin to her father. The words uttered from his mouth were—
Unmistakably, rejecting her existence.
"Wait for me all you like. Once the Second Knights Dominion is completely established, I will surely gather and destroy you. This is my responsibility as your creator."
"Ahhh, ooh, ah... N-No, don't..."
Fear moaned to form words, trying to resist with her entire body and mind. However—
"Foolish opinion. You have no right to refuse. Since you are unable to understand, as the father who created you, I shall tell you in no uncertain terms—"
Don't say it, Haruaki thought, but he was unable to stop the Dominion Lord from continuing to speak. If the Dominion Lord was right in front of him, without the cold bars of the gate blocking him, no matter how many knights there were beside the Dominion Lord, even if it meant rushing in punching and kicking, Haruaki would still try to stop him.
However, those words were mercilessly delivered into Fear's constantly trembling ears.
"You should not have been born in this world."
Fear listened to her own screaming. A world without color. Her field of view shook, causing nausea. Her ears were ringing unpleasantly. However, only the voices nearby could be heard clearly. Including what she did not want to hear, and her own murmurs.
Sure enough, the fact of her existence itself, was it a mistake?
The fact she had thought she could do something, was it a mistake?
In the end, she was ultimately the cube created for torture and execution. These immoral uses were not meant to exist. But at least, it was true that someone had created her out of anticipation for making use of her functions. However, if the one who created her rejected her existence... Indeed, that meant that she was undoubtedly something that should not exist in the first place. It meant that before making use of her functions, the root of her being, the origin of all causality for her as a tool, should not have existed in the first place.
A mistake starting from the very first step. She had simply failed to realize it until now.
Not supposed to exist, not allowed to exist.
Should not... have been born in this world...
"Ahhhh, ah, ah...!"
Her consciousness was overflowing like hyperventilation. Her thoughts were out of control. About to breakdown. About to breakdown.
She did not want to look at anything, hear anything, or think anything anymore.
Hence, she was unable to resist the onslaught of the second wave.
No, instead, she accepted it willingly—
Her consciousness suddenly disconnected.
Fear's shuddering body suddenly stopped unnaturally. Silent. No moaning or screaming. Had she fainted?
Haruaki glared at the Dominion Lord furiously, clenching his fist hard.
The Dominion Lord only stared back at him with calm eyes of pity. However, Sleif swiftly stood up from her kneeling position, taking a step forward to come between Haruaki and the Dominion Lord. The iron bars, entwined with the cursed barbed wire, still stood before Haruaki's group. Even with throwing weapons in hand, it was probably impossible to hit him. Did she forbade even murderous gazes from reaching her master?
However, Sleif's action seemed to carry other significance. Haruaki noticed that her eyes beneath the helmet were not directly towards him but further back. Behind him, Satsuko was currently observing the Dominion Lord with interest while muttering quietly to herself.
"Hmm~ This is so deep. With advanced age, gentlemanliness equals or surpasses the Commander in every way... If his strength is also on the Commander's level, perhaps the secret to strength is about gentlemanliness. If Satsuko puts on a fake moustache, perhaps..."
However, instead of addressing Satsuko, Sleif was talking to her surroundings.
"Have you arrived? All humans and Wathes present are enemies. Wipe them out swiftly."
Alarm appeared on Satsuko's face while Fourteen yelled at the same time as the two of them jumped apart in opposite directions. By the time they realized, a number of similarly dressed people were present.
"A detachment... from the Knights Dominion?"
"Speaking of which, she was apparently calling them earlier. I almost forgot."
Haruaki asked quietly and Konoha closed in while answering him.
Of course, Haruaki did not remember their faces clearly, but he gathered the impression that this group was different from the knights who had attacked their home. Was that group still fighting Pendragon? Or had the battle concluded already?
"Satsuko, what's the next move?"
"Right~ Let's practice by watching a group fight. It's the first time after obtaining this «Karma Speed»."
"Understood. But what about them?"
"Let's save the main course to enjoy later. Also, Fear-san cannot fight right now."
Satsuko slowly blocked a knight's attack while looking at Haruaki's group with a smile. Konoha and Kotetsu were likewise intercepting the attacking knights while exchanging brief glances at the same time.
"Is there any point in fighting now, Muramasa-sama?"
"Of course not. The main gates cannot be broken through whereas the enemies are durable pawns. We should regroup."
Konoha and Kotetsu nodded lightly at each other then sent their opponents flying at the same time. Then without following up the attacks, they swiftly turned around.
"Let us retreat for now while leaving those two to handle them, Haruaki-kun!"
"Agreed. Fear-kun also looks very weird... There's no point staying here any longer."
Kirika agreed with Konoha and Kotetsu. However, Haruaki was unable to tear his gaze away from the people behind the gates.
The people who had taken the students hostage. The people who intended to completely destroy the Yachi house and this town. The people who rejected Fear's existence on a fundamental level.
Haruaki did not want to agree. He could not agree either. He still had many things he wanted to say, many rebuttals he wanted to offer—
"Tsk... Truth be told, you are man who can't read the situation. Time is of the essence!"
Kotetsu forcibly picked him up in his arms, loading him on his shoulder like a sack of rice.
"That is a bit forceful, but it can't be helped! Let's go!"
"Yes, I'll push Fear-kun!"
The group ran as fast as they could. The knights outside the gates seemed to rush the belligerent Satsuko and Fourteen all at once, leaving only a few to chase Haruaki and friends. Konoha fought and repelled them as necessary.
While on Kotetsu's shoulder, Haruaki saw the final moment.
Behind the gates, Sleif—as well as the Dominion Lord sitting in wheelchair.
They completely lacked the anxiety to hunt them down at all costs, simply showing calm composure.
Then Haruaki's group managed to escape the area in front of the school gates.
Haruaki did not want to know at all how many times they had been fleeing today.
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