Chapter 4 - Fear Cubrick / "Call x Compel x Conterminous"
The time was six in the morning right after dawn. One had to say they had slept for too long, but as a result, they had recovered their physical stamina. Naturally, the same went for mental energy too.
"Yes. Then Shiraho and Sovereignty stole that guy's cellphone huh.."
Haruaki was listening to Un Izoey on his cellphone about everything that had happened so far, the process that made it possible to communicate in this manner now.
This phone call was very important, but that did not prevent Haruaki from paying attention to what was before his eyes. In front of him, just as he was about to enter the living room, was the sight of fluttering silver. Close, almost to the point of pressing against him tightly, there was the fragrance of her hair.
And farther in front of them...
Inside the living room they were about to enter, Honatsu was there with Kirika who had already woken up from a nap, as well as Kotetsu and Konoha who had just returned from their surveillance task outside. Among them, Konoha was standing motionless with legs apart, glaring viciously at Fear.
"What is with that Venus de Milo-style attire of yours...?"
"Given the situation just now, this is the only thing I could wear. I'm getting changed as soon as things are settled."
Like earlier in the bedroom, Fear was simply wrapped in a blanket.
"W-What is the situation just now...? Wait, by the way, you finally decided to turn back into this form?"
Fear suddenly avoided eye contact.
"...Yeah. Because Haruaki said he wanted to see me in my human form and touch me like this. Since he can't bear it any longer, I had no choice."
Saying that, she even pressed her back tightly against Haruaki. Then keeping that posture, she moved her back up and down for some reason, rubbing herself against his body. Grabbing Haruaki's other hand that was not holding the phone, she guided it to the front of her abdomen.
"This child's attitude has apparently changed 180 degrees...!"
"Gah... I suppose this is an improvement in the overall situation... But in terms of feelings, I can only say... Honestly, this is... Absolutely ridiculous...!"
Sensing a murderous aura instantly filling up the living room, Haruaki held his hand on the receiver and said:
"O-Okay okay, everyone calm down. Anyway, let's focus on the phone call for now. Okay, hurry and sit down, let's sit down in harmony."
One could hardly call this business as usual, but at least everyone was able to find a space to sit down at the table. It would not be right to complain about the torn and tattered seat cushions either.
'My question... Did something happen on the other side? I guess this kind of guess.'
"No, it's nothing. Anyway, I've switched to speaker phone, so tell us everything you know. This includes what you think we're able to do and what you hope we can accomplish. We are willing to do anything and will also tell us everything we know."
Now that they had seized one of the enemy's communication devices, it was probably quite unlikely that their conversation would be suddenly cut off like last time, but not impossible. The enemy might take countermeasures against the stolen cellphone, hence every precious second right now must not be wasted.
The deadline for "Dominionization" was approaching, second by second.
Time was of the essence.
'So—' Un Izoey began to recount the information she had acquired.
The situation in school. The repeating lessons taking place due to hypnosis. The students' resetting memories. The person applying the hypnosis was apparently not inside the school.
Haruaki also explained what they had found out. The cursed barbed wire—«Auschwitz-Birkenau»—as well as its durability. The enemy had said it was "no one may enter or leave anymore"...
Honatsu looked up at the living ceiling and said:
"Hmm~ Known as Taciturn Chatterbox, the person applying the hypnosis is outside the school huh...? If only we could capture her. Then with that, we'd finally make a great stride in progress towards rescuing the students who are being held as hostages."
'My agreement: exactly. But her location is unknown.'
"There's also one major problem, that of «Auschwitz-Birkenau» preventing all people from entering and exiting the school... We must resolve this problem, right? A cursed power to completely deny entry, how absolutely ridiculous. There ought to be a solution."
With grave expressions, everyone went over the facts they had learned.
They were unable to come up with a perfect solution simply through discussion. In that case, they had no choice but to continue racking their brains in contemplation. They had no choice but to contemplate what was within their power to accomplish.
Haruaki reorganized the current situation in his mind.
Their final goal was to pull out or destroy «Dieu le veut» that was stabbed into the school sports ground, to prevent the Knights Dominion from achieving this town's "Dominionization."
To this end, the major barriers that must be overcome could essentially be divided into two problems.
One consisted of the students held in school as hostages. Even after releasing the students from hypnosis, they still had to prevent harm from coming to the hostages when charging into school. Conversely, if they did not take precautions on this front before charging into school—The Knights Dominion would probably not hesitate to harm the students. This absolutely must not be neglected. The countermeasure would be to locate and eliminate the woman named Taciturn who was said to be outside the school.
The second problem was how to enter the school, how to break through the cursed barbed wire that was securely defending this space of the school. A simple lack of information beleaguered this point. What should they do to penetrate that barbed wire barrier to enter the school? Whether finding loopholes in cursed powers or neutralizing it through destruction, what exactly should they do—?
Just at this moment, Un Izoey suddenly muttered:
'By the way, they still haven't arrived?'
"Huh? What did you say?"
'Nothing much. Before making this call, I contacted them first as a matter of priority. I remember they said they were going to head to your place...'
Incomprehensible. Haruaki tilted his face. Just at that very moment—
A patter of footsteps were heard.
They were coming from the unrecognizable veranda, in other words, from the garden outside the house. Konoha and Kotetsu instantly stood up, but after exchanging glances, sat down again.
Haruaki could also gather a faint idea that these footsteps probably did not belong to strong martial artists, because the rhythm was irregular and a little clumsy, reminiscent of a child running in panic.
In actual fact, what appeared was also a child running in panic.
A white-haired girl wrapped in bandages, panting heavily, Amanda Carlot. A former member of the Knights Dominion, she now owed her allegiance to the Lab Chief's Nation after a convoluted series of events—also having lived in this home for a period of time—a person with a complicated past and affiliations.
With sweat covering her forehead, she took a while to catch her breath while staring at Haruaki's group.
Then placing her hand on her skinny chest, as though swearing an oath...
"...I want to repay, the debt, I owe you all."
When Haruaki turned his head back to look at her, the introverted Amanda suddenly lowered her gaze in embarrassment.
"Umm... Also, because, that person, considered my senior, must be rescued."
"From my standpoint, I really wish she had said that as her first reason. Well~ I am the organization's leader after all. Keeping up appearances is a big thing in this country too."
Slowly emerging from behind Amanda was Yamimagari Pakuaki, dressed in his dashing black lab coat as always. Konoha and Kotetsu threw a wary gaze at him, Kirika frowned, whereas Fear kept staring straight at him for some reason. Completely unfazed by everyone's gaze, Pakuaki shrugged lightly and said:
"You guys should just think of this as a continuation of the earlier cooperative agreement. We can't lose Un Izoey either... A way must be found to save her. Would you allow us to join you in devising solutions? This former member of the Knights Dominion, Amanda, could help render many of your unknowns into knowns."
"Yes, I know, several things. Will tell you, everything."
Haruaki first looked at members of his group in turn. Everyone had plenty they wanted to say, right? But they probably all understood that there was no time now. In other words, they had no choice.
"...Fine. Thanks for the help."
"Now that's the right attitude."
Pakuaki grinned and entered the living room, pushing Amanda's back from behind. Taking a seat while saying "It's been so long since I last sat on tatami," he placed an object carried in his hand on the table.
"Just an ordinary notebook computer. Since we're strategizing, it's best to have all participants present, isn't it?"
Pakuaki opened the computer and operated swiftly, thus displaying the image of a familiar eccentric on the screen. The man in the gas mask.
'Hello, I heard that you've made contact with the inside?'
The superintendent was sitting with his back against what appeared to be a very comfortable seat with tinted car windows in the background. It looked like a stationary car that was parked somewhere.
"Superintendent, are you okay?"
'Thanks to everyone. Zenon-kun and Ganon-kun are alive and well too.'
After the superintendent's shoulders shook with light laughter, voices could be heard coming from offscreen: 'What do you mean, 'alive and well'? I'm totally tired to an unprecedented degree~' 'We are the same as always, so please do not worry.' Then—
'Boo~! I'm here too~'
A familiar little girl poked her head into view from the side.
"Oh it's you, Kuroe. Didn't you find a place to hide?"
'...Hmm, because quite a lot of things happened~ Anyway, I've been kidnapped by the superintendent and his subordinates, so I must listen to their orders obediently~'
"What are you talking about?"
In any case, Pakuaki's computer was providing teleconferencing functionality. In that case, the superintendent's side definitely could participate in the strategizing.
But at this moment—
"All participants... Hmm? That's right. That means everyone has gathered here. So, they also..."
Looking down with a complicated expression on her face, Fear suddenly whispered. She threw a glance at the cellphone on the table then said:
"Umm... Before we start strategizing, I want to confirm first... Rather, I want to settle this first... No, maybe it might not be settled. Umm—"
Fear was not being very coherent. However, Un Izoey seemed to understand everything just from what she said.
'I will put them on the phone.'
"Wha—? Wait, I need to prepare myself first as well!"
Naturally, Fear's panic did not reach Un Izoey. After a period of rustling noise—
'Hello~? Fear-chan~? How are you~?'
'Hey Kana, that's so unfair! There's me too—! Can you hear me?'
Fear's small face suddenly became distorted. Due to relief—as well as other emotions. Fear pursed her lips tightly, then nodding firmly as though encouraging herself, she said:
"Kana, Taizou, I—must apologize to you two. Actually... Umm, I'm... not human."
"H-Hey, Fear! It's better if I explained, right? Uh, first of all, thank goodness you're all safe. I think you two must have heard many things already, but since I'm sort of like her legal guardian, let me explain. Because it's my responsibility. Uh, where should I start...?"
"Haruaki, don't get in my way! I have to tell them personally—!"
Just as Haruaki and Fear's faces were pushing against each other...
From the phone came a very straightforward—
Truly, it was a very straightforward voice.
'Yeah, Un-chan told us already~ Both Fear-chan and Konoha-chan are cursed tools and not human, right? Oh dear~ We totally didn't notice... Also, you're both trying to lift your curses, right? It must be rough!'
Kana was probably holding the cellphone, which was probably why Taizou shouted as loud as he could, transmitting his slightly distant-sounding voice.
'Haruaki, you're too sly! I can't believe you were living this kind of double life like an undercover agent! That's too cool! It's always been my dream to go "I've got a secret mission today... Hoho" while leaving school early! You've got to tell me your courageous exploits next time. So much must have happened so far, right? You hear me?'
Haruaki was left speechless. Fear was also staring with her mouth gaping wide.
They had not told Kana and Taizou the truth the whole time. Stated bluntly—They had been lying to them all along.
By now, they were totally consumed with guilt.
Even if Kana and Taizou were to get angry and shout profanities...
Or fearing their curses...
They decide to quit being friends, Haruaki and company would only accept it as unavoidable. That was what they had always thought.
And had prepared themselves to accept.
Kana and Taizou remained the same as always. Speaking with the same attitude, no different from when chatting after lessons, they said:
'Haha~ I think I can imagine what faces Akki and the others are making. Sheesh, don't underestimate us. My love for Fear-chan will conquer everything. Don't forget that I'm the girl who hugged her as tightly as possible the instant we met, okay?'
'Love... That's right, well said~ C-Cough, although it's completely unrelated, hello to you, Konoha-san! I'm doing good too! Oh, I'll be visiting your house next time, to listen to Haruaki's secret courageous exploits, so I'm looking forward to your company then!'
Haruaki had no idea if the response reached the other side, but in any case, Konoha answered ambiguously while staring wide-eyed with her mouth open. Kirika's shoulders were trembling lightly while she whispered her usual catchphrase with a gentle smile.
'...So, let's end the pleasantries here. What should we do next~?'
'We're willing to help out in any way, so just tell us. Rather, it's been too boring so far and my body's stiff. Hehe, I'm ready for anything!'
At this point, Haruaki felt Fear's shoulder shake intensely once.
"...Got it. I'm so happy, thank you. Umm, as for whether there's anything we need your help with, that's what we're starting to discuss next... Could you hand the phone back to Un Izoey?"
Fear's voice sounded vague and feeble.
She was trying too hard to suppress her feelings.
However, everyone present understood the reasons. Even the people not present understood too.
This was in order for her to hold something back.
In order to desperately hold back a certain thing that might start falling nonstop as soon as she relaxed.
Probably in the process of handing the phone back to Un Izoey, random noises were heard again.
During this time...
Like a massive water droplet finally dripping from a tightly turned tap...
In a voice so feeble that it was almost inaudible—
Fear repeated the same words.
These were the most important words that presumably occupied her entire heart.
Rewinding back slightly earlier—Last night.
After literally plunging Pendragon into smoke in order to escape from the Dan-no-ura, Kuroe was running in the streets.
"Oh man, I forgot to roar in laughter. Maybe I should have left behind the words 'Huhahaha, so long, Akechi-kun!'..."
There were probably no more future opportunities to use her treasured emergency escape device that she had originally installed in the shop partially in jest, she thought. What a shame to have wasted this rare opportunity.
Staring blankly up into the night sky, she was thinking "so, what should I do next?" when she noticed a car suddenly slow down after passing by her side. Then it started to move slowly, following her pace beside her.
In the next second, the car door opened and out reached a hand—pulling her into the car.
"Wah~ I've been kidnapped~"
"Hahaha, don't say something that will lead to misunderstandings."
For just an instant, her heart really skipped a beat, but she became reassured after hearing the voice. Sitting in the car's back seat, next to her was the gas mask-wearing superintendent. Kuroe looked over to the driver's seat to see Zenon nodding at her lightly as a greeting. Ganon was collapsed in the front passenger seat motionlessly with her limbs all limp.
"Renting a car to drive along the streets is also a great way to perform reconnaissance. And once we receive emergency news, we can also move instantly without worrying about the Knights Dominion finding our whereabouts and attacking us."
"In other words, a mobile hideout? Then take me along for a spin... What have you guys been doing so far?"
The superintendent explained what had happened so far. Back when the Knights Dominion showed up, they happened to be just outside the school, so it was truly a close shave. They then hurried over to help out at the Yachi home after Honatsu contacted them. In order to stall Pendragon, they had fought him again—
Hearing they had selflessly put themselves in harm's way to stall for time, Kuroe was extremely grateful to them, feeling that no amount of thanks would be enough. But as soon as she recalled how she had later stayed at the Dan-no-ura beauty parlor to deliberately wait for Pendragon's arrival, she felt quite apologetic because it was as though she had wasted their efforts to a certain extent.
"Then we rented a car and started roaming the streets. While calmly contemplating our next move, we also needed to gather information. Besides, there seems to be a few squads of knights strutting about in the town nonchalantly. If possible, we also want to patrol while we're at it, to prevent them from causing unnecessary commotions."
"What about the police?"
"We can't rely on them this time. Apparently, someone is putting pressure on the police. And it's coming from higher-ups that are impossible to oppose for the connections I've slowly accumulated over the years."
A sigh came from beneath the gas mask.
Then the level of seriousness increased in his voice.
"Right now, the Knights Dominion has occupied my school, so it is my duty to protect the school and the students within... It is also for this purpose that I've worked hard all along to acquire influence in this town. Now that all this is in peril, I must step up to fight with everything I've got."
"I will protect everyone. Whether it is the school, the students, this town... To this end, I will do anything."
As though swearing an oath to himself, his statement was strong and firm.
But next, as though to balance his excessive seriousness just now, his tone of voice turned light and lively:
"Especially on the town side, it's very hard for Haruaki-kun's group to take care of, right? I hope you can pass the message to them and tell them not to worry."
"Understood~ But specifically, what are you planning to do?"
"Hmm? Well, I guess I have to start mobilizing troops... Hoho, but not limited to manpower alone, for I've been training as a beast tamer lately. Now that I've decided I'm willing to do anything, I will make use of that side too."
"Beasts... Like a Doberman for example?"
"Haha, indeed, something akin to that. Judiciously using animal feed alternately laced with poison and antidote in order to tame them, like 'If you don't want to die, eat tomorrow's feed with the antidote.'"
The superintendent's shoulder shook while he spoke. Kuroe did not quite understand what he meant by animal feed, so she simply tilted her head in puzzlement and remarked "What are you talking about?"
"Next... During this time, we spotted a familiar figure from behind, so we tried to kidnap you. I can't believe you're loitering out in the open while under pursuit. That's really not a great idea."
"Ah~ Hmm~ Well, I guess this is part of a plan."
Actually, I was facing off alone against him at the Dan-no-ura and just made my escape—Kuroe really could not bring herself to voice these words. She simply explained how she had left Haruaki's group on her own to avoid putting them at risk, which was technically not a lie.
The eyes behind the gas mask could not be seen, but he might have realized something. Even so, he did not pursue the matter.
Kuroe exhaled. Now was truly a good opportunity.
"That person... Basically, is he very tenacious?"
"You mean Max? Well... I suppose."
"I believe his personal convictions can essentially be summed up as 'plain and simple' and 'rushing headlong into things.'"
"Too tired, agree with the above~"
A voice from the front passenger seat chimed in as well.
Speaking of which, Zenon and Ganon knew Pendragon too. Judging from their voices just now, Kuroe could get a sense like they were recounting a relative's naughty kid's exploits in exasperation. With such great familiarity between them, there was naturally no need to mince words. Kuroe felt deeply curious.
"I want to hear about your past. As his hunted target, I'd like to know more about him."
"I don't mind, but you probably know most of it already, right? Picked up and raised by the previous Commander, he is a Draconian through and through. Unbelievably, he and I got along quite well together, yeah, kind of like rivals. It was a sparring relationship."
"What about Zeno-Gano-san?"
"...You mean us?"
"Yeah, it's a short form to refer to us both. Fewer words, less tiring. Approved~"
"How should I put this? As one's «Blaze» rank increases, you gain the privilege to take in disciples. Hence, they started to follow me and naturally, they came to know Max."
"Then the same goes for the other side... Oh right, I think someone mentioned that those two weren't by his side back then, were they?"
"Granaury was present back then, except that she was not by Pendragon's side."
Slowly leaning himself against the seat rest, he looked up at the car's roof and said:
"Indeed, she was present since a long time ago. For some reason, she was very close to my partner Liz—the «Treason Piercer». The 'spear whose power increased the farther it was thrown' and the 'spear whose power increased the shorter the separation'... Like foils, the two of them were both spears full of contradictions. Perhaps it was like birds of a feather? Thanks to this layer of relationships, Max and I got to know her for a very long time."
"Ohoh~ I can imagine catfighting scenes like 'There is no spear better than mine!' back then. Oh dear, you breaker of women's hearts~"
"Hahaha, Liz and Granaury actually became friends first. I was just an accessory."
Hearing the superintendent's response, Kuroe noticed Zenon and Ganon exchanging sideways glances with each other while sighing in exasperation. As a girl herself, judging from their attitudes, Kuroe's sensor of maidenly feelings instantly reacted—But there was no need to expose things on purpose. And compared to Granaury, she was more interested in understanding Pendragon.
"Back to the subject, I'd like to ask about my stalker. Is he the kind who never gives up?"
"Hard to say. He can just as well fit in both extremes."
"Indeed. When full of fervor, he will chase to the ends of the earth no matter what obstacles he encounters, but as soon as he loses interest, he will cast it all aside without another thought."
"Hmm... I wonder which is it right now? If only there was a way to make him lose interest in me..."
"Did you do something to make him lose interest?"
Kuroe pondered for a while then shook her head.
"Oh dear~ I'm not too sure myself, but I only toyed with him a little. Besides, if his objective is my power, I think it's hard to make him lose interest... But somehow, I get this vague feeling that certain things could be changed..."
"Sigh... You really did do something on your own, after all. That's way too reckless."
Crap. A slip of the tongue.
The superintendent then said in apparent exasperation:
"Listen carefully. Even if he seems easy to get along with and easy to talk to—He is the leader of the Draconians, all things considered. The strongest man, the closest thing to a dragon. This is not an analogy. He really could crush you with just a single finger. Do not lower your guard towards him for even a moment... I would advise you not to approach him again."
"That's what I'd like, but he's chasing after me anyway."
"By the way, you can't guarantee that this car is absolutely safe, right? Perhaps he's currently jogging in the adjacent lane right now... Hmm, just imagining that is scary enough already. I guess I really should find a suitable chance to leave this car, right? I can't get you caught up in this."
"No no no, rather, it would be better to say that we're here precisely to avoid getting caught up, so don't you worry... Even if he finds us, we've got a dragonslayer sword here that could buy some time at least."
"What, that kind of legendary weapon exists!? How much gold did you spend to buy it?"
Kuroe looked left and right, but could only find Ganon's hand waving from behind the front passenger seat. It was some kind of joke after all, right?
(Putting that aside...)
Kuroe operated a switch to open the tinted car window by a few centimeters. A refreshing night breeze caused what could be considered her other self, her hair, to flutter. The coolness made her exhale "Haww."
It was time to decide on the next move.
Given the current situation, was staying on the run the right choice? If the Yachi home were to be lost during this time, Kuroe could not stand back without doing anything. The deadline was noon tomorrow. Before that time arrived, what was the most correct thing to do?
Closing her eyes, lost in these thoughts...
Kuroe was gradually guided into the realm of dreams by the cool night breeze and the car's vibrations.
The signal that woke her was the sound of a cellphone ringing inside the vehicle.
Kuroe instantly opened her eyes to see the superintendent take out a cellphone from his pocket, then start speaking with a tilt of his head.
Several minutes later, a notebook computer was set up between the driver and the front passenger seat. Shown on the screen was the usual living room. Transmitted over was everyone's usual voice.
Fear was one of them. Her head of silver hair was glittering brightly. While she listened to her friends' gentle words, her shoulders trembled.
(Fufu, in any case, now's not the time for hesitation.)
Next up, in order to liberate the school, in order to release "Dominionization."
In order to protect the Yachi home—She had already decided to put in everything in her power.
She was definitely worried about Pendragon, but she also felt that the current situation did not allow her to go into hiding alone.
There was not much time left. Fear—and everyone else—was moving forward. Then she had to catch up to them too. No matter what happened next, the more help the better.
When the time came—What if that man were to appear again?
Hmm, she would decided when it actually happened. Kuroe easily swept away the worries that surfaced in her mind.
In the worst case scenario, she would simply have to finish off what she only managed to do halfway back in the Dan-no-ura.
The strategy conference had already ended.
The result was that they now had a target. The most fortunate thing was that Amanda originally belonged to the Knights Dominion and not as a combatant but an auxiliary mainly in charge of support and intelligence gathering. Combining knowledge from Amanda, the school's interior situation provided by Un Izoey's group, as well as external information they had obtained outside the school gates, they finally managed to determine their next target to work towards.
(It's just that for the moment... Some parts require a gamble on possibilities. Carrying out a crucial mission without concrete evidence as a basis, how absolutely ridiculous... But there's no time after all...)
Kirika was pacing aimlessly inside the house, pondering their next move again. There was no harm in putting more thought into it. Because this concerned their lives as well as this home's future.
It was currently seven in the morning or so, which could be considered preparation time before the operation. In particular, this time period was meant to wait for the superintendent's faction in their car to gather the final and necessary information.
Then using this free period of time to make necessary preparations—unlike Chihaya and the others in school—their group was not large at all. After setting off, they were most likely not going to return home until the incident was settled, hence, everyone took turns to shower and get changed, thus refreshing themselves. This already counted as the most important preparations.
Kirika had just borrowed the bathroom to take a shower. Deciding that now was the best time for checking over their plan in her mind and to cool down her body temperature, she had descended into the garden to take a stroll.
Had they missed anything? Was the operation going to be carried out without problems? Which were the riskiest parts? Suppose a flaw appeared, how should they patch it up then...?
Thinking over these matters, Kirika spoke aloud to herself on occasion, simply walking nonstop along the edge of the house.
Hence, when she turned the corner leading to the back of the house—until the person waiting there for her spoke up—she did not notice his presence. What a massive miscalculation.
"...! Yamimagari Pakuaki...!"
Kirika instantly backed away and entered a wary stance. After glancing at her bare right arm, she clicked her tongue and swiftly surveyed her surroundings.
"There's no need to be so wary of me. You're breaking my heart."
"Absolutely ridiculous. Did you really think I couldn't guess what the absurd deal you proposed was about? The method to remove this suit without dying.. Had I known about Fear-kun's situation at the time, the answer would've been dead obvious. Disregarding whether this method of using a large number of Indulgence Disks to forcibly remove this suit could work theoretically, in actual fact, I will absolutely not use it. I've already vowed from the bottom of my heart to never believe you again. Even right now, I swear I'll never believe you again...!"
"Oh my oh my, that doesn't really count as me lying, right...? Hmm, whatever, what I want to talk about now has nothing to do with the deal at all. I just have a present for you."
After taking out a certain object from his pocket, Pakuaki tossed it over to her.
Kirika involuntarily caught it. Unable to discern his intentions, she frowned with a troubled look.
She had seen this thing before. But why was he giving it to her?
"For you. Use it as you please."
"...What are you planning?"
"Nothing, totally nothing at all. Just this once, I sincerely wish to assist you and your friends. I not only hope for Un Izoey to return unharmed but also for you to stop the 'Dominionization'—Besides, I also want Fear-in-Cube to obtain the final Indulgence Disk."
These words were truly impossible to believe.
"That's why I will help in every way I can, in order to improve the odds of the plan's success. That's also why I'm giving my little sister a small present."
While Kirika remained stunned, Pakuaki swiftly turned around and departed. But in the last instant, he smiled at her over his shoulder—
"Of course... It's also because it concerns whether my precious little sister will return safe and sound."
For some reason, that smile—
Looked completely free of malice, without any hint of ulterior motives.
Seriously, it was like a smile a brother would make while worrying about his younger sister.
No way—Clearly... Absolutely impossible.
Not possible at all.
"W-Wait! But even if you say that, this thing..."
"You should be able to handle it. If you really have questions, there should be someone more suitable to ask than me, right? I'm off."
Pakuaki departed on foot.
Kirika could only stare at his back silently—
Then all she could do was accept the object that she had carelessly caught.
As though covering up something unpleasant, she stuffed it into her pocket brusquely.
Now was the bit of preparation time given to them while waiting for the superintendent's faction to gather the information they needed before setting off.
After shoving Haruaki into the bathroom forcibly, Konoha decided to finish final preparations first.
She decided to do what absolutely must be done first.
"Fear-san, please lead the way to your room."
The girl obeyed directions with unexpected obedience. Perhaps she had prepared herself already.
Leaving the living room, they walked along the corridor. During this time, the two of them did not exchange a single word.
After Fear opened the sliding door, Konoha walked into the room. It was a mess inside as usual. At least tidy it up a bit. Konoha was filled with contradictory feelings, wanting to do some major cleaning on one hand, but unwilling to clean up after this girl on the other.
"Both of them are here, right?"
The two of them conversed minimally as necessary. Fear rummaged through the mountain of clothing that had been left on the tatami floor after being worn, then finally took out the Rubik's cubes.
Held in her left and right hands, a total of two.
Konoha reached out without saying a word and snatched the Rubik's cubes from her hands.
"I know this is meaningless. Even without Rubik's cubes, you can use anything as long as it is something cube shaped—However..."
"I still won't be able to use them suddenly. Because what I'm the most familiar with is still the Rubik's cube."
Fear bowed her head, murmuring softly.
Regardless whether she was able to use other things as substitutes, this cube-shaped toy definitely could be considered the symbol of Fear's brutality.
Hence, despite the fact that it was meaningless in practice in terms of restraint, for the sake of expressing her clear and firm will, taking away these two Rubik's cubes first was definitely not meaningless.
It was like a ceremony.
In order to prevent her from forgetting what she must not forget, to place a set of shackles on her psyche.
"—Until everything is over, I shall keep these for now."
Without waiting for Fear to agree, Konoha stuffed the two cube-shaped toys into her pocket.
With that, the job was done. However—perhaps it was still necessary to confirm.
Surely, the other party understood this too. Fear spoke up on her own initiative:
"Hey, Cow Tits."
"What is it?"
"Do you remember back when Peavey showed up? The plan we practiced while hiding in the accessory dwelling."
How could she possibly forget? Because she had just recalled the situation back then.
"Of course, I still remember."
Fear gazed at her with serious eyes.
"So, I don't need to repeat it again, right?"
Konoha answered immediately.
Indeed. She could not possibly forget. In the end, things still returned to that time.
No, rather, perhaps one should say that things were backtracking only because there was a reason.
Right now, her answer had changed from before. Now that he really did get hurt, there was no guarantee that his life would not be in danger next time—
If Fear were to be devoured by darkness again.
When time came. When time came—
Their purpose of coming to this room was finished. Konoha turned around... But in the end, she asked a question. A suggestion akin to offering a choice. Turning her head, she said over her shoulder:
"—Wouldn't it be better to inform Kotetsu as well?"
"Hmph, not necessary."
Fear crossed her arms and spoke arrogantly.
Konoha suddenly narrowed her eyes and asked:
Upon hearing that—
Fear smiled cheerfully and replied somewhat refreshingly:
"Because I told him already. Earlier when I just woke up and was looking out the window. He happened to be walking on the outer wall in front of me, so I asked him."
In other words—
With this relaxed attitude as though ordering a pizza, as though setting a date to go out with friends to have fun—
She had already started preparations a long time ago.
For the sake of swiftly terminating herself, in case of emergencies...
Secret preparations, which must be kept from Haruaki's knowledge.
Morning, while Haruaki and company were making final preparations at the Yachi house...
Naturally, those inside the school also had their own preparations, although that meant taking risks to a certain extent.
"Say, I'd like to make a trip to the changing room first. I really want to ditch these gym clothes."
"Please allow me to say in fear and trepidation: There probably isn't time for that right now~ Once the break between periods is over, it will be difficult for us to move around, right~?"
"Gah... I can't believe Isuzu can give such correct reasoning..."
"You also need to consider the situation afterwards~ Perhaps you might be able to move around more naturally precisely because you are wearing gym clothes, although this does depend on the location~"
Another set of correct reasoning. Chihaya could only slump her shoulders and sigh.
Making use of the break when students started to walk around the school building—naturally, they were in a cycle under hypnosis—Chihaya left the secret room and began to make her way to the destination. Due to needing a bodyguard just in case, but Un Izoey's appearance attracted too much attention, she was accompanied by Isuzu, whose combat strength was only second to Un Izoey. However, Isuzu's shrine maiden outfit was equally conspicuous, hence she swapped outfits with Un Izoey's school uniform, thus giving rise to a mysterious being with the dark-skinned shrine maiden attribute.
There were other students dressed in gym clothes inside the school building, hence so long as she did not do anything out of place, Chihaya probably would not attract the knights' attention. Sometimes she saw patrolling knights in the distance, but there was no problem as long as she treated them as nonexistent just like all other other hypnotized students. Not looking at them, ignoring them.
After walking like this for a while, Chihaya and Isuzu reached their destination successfully.
In front of them was a corner in the specialized classrooms block. Next to the chemistry lab, there was a door with the nameplate "Chemistry Preparation Room."
Chihaya looked around discreetly to confirm the absence of knights nearby. Then taking out the purse from her pocket, she used the key holder inside to open the door. In the very beginning before seeking refuge in the superintendent's office, Chihaya had made a quick visit to the changing room to retrieve her cellphone and purse at least—Now that she thought about it, she should have took that opportunity to get changed as well.
"Excuse me~ Please allow me to ask in fear and trepidation, why do you have a key to this place~?"
"Because this is also the clubroom of the chemistry club."
Chihaya slipped inside and closed the door. Before their eyes was a room roughly half the size of an ordinary classroom, with a distinct odor hanging in the air. Inside was a large table used for experiments, locked chemical storage cabinets, as well as a massive cabinet filled with things like molecular models and reference books. It looked like one of the walls in the room had been converted entirely into that massive cabinet.
Isuzu tilted her head slightly.
"But Chihaya-sama, you are not a chemistry club member, are you?"
"I don't recall myself joining any club at all."
Chihaya played with her key holder while walking towards the large cabinet. To be frank, she could also open the locked chemical storage cabinets if she wanted to. There was a spare key on her key holder for that—Naturally, unbeknownst to the chemistry teacher in charge of chemical storage. However, there was no need for her to use it right now.
Because the substances in chemical storage were only needed to prepare these preparations. But she had already finished that stage.
"The chemistry club only consists of two cowardly boys."
"After I threatened them in full force, they became totally obedient."
Isuzu maintained her pleasant smile as usual with a stiff expression, as well as what seemed to be a drop of cold sweat.
"Speak if you want to say something. I'll hurt you!"
"Oh dear, you're already hurting me~ Uh, I have already understood in various ways, so there is nothing I wish to say~"
After a forceful twist, Chihaya finally released Isuzu's cheek from her fingers. Then she knelt down before the giant metal cabinet, the most striking presence in the room. The lowest part of the cabinet had a cupboard design, which was locked as well. More precisely, it was locked by her.
Through spare keys, she had simply made effective use of this location where nothing important was kept—in other words, excess space the teacher had not been using. Furthermore, she had inobtrusively added a second lock, hence there was no problem even if the teacher were to try opening this part on whim some day. She had also commanded... threatened... or rather, trained(?) those chemistry club members, equivalent to lackeys, to tell the teacher: "We totally have no idea there was a second lock. Of course, we don't have a key for something that was locked to begin with." In any case, the teacher probably was not going to insist on opening it even at the cost of breaking the lock.
Chihaya opened the two locks in sequence and reached into the cupboard.
Then she suddenly looked back at Isuzu.
"Say... Do you really understand just by listening to what I said?"
"Yes," answered Isuzu with a nod and her usual cordial smile.
"This is the 'in case of emergency' of legend, isn't it~?"
Chihaya frowned. Not because Isuzu's reply was too ludicrous, but because she was right. This slave was the same as always, unusually sharp in strange areas. After listening to this remark that seemed to expose her completely, Chihaya felt infuriated and reminded herself to give Isuzu pain later.
"...That's right, this is in case of emergency."
Chihaya sighed while sliding the cupboard open.
She expected Isuzu to be familiar already with the sight of the contents.
Because at least in vibes, this was almost the same as her own bedroom.
Handmade metal cans, bundles of wires, piles of plastic parts, etc. In addition—
In case of emergency, a substantial stockpile of her "creations."
Back during her days as a part-time "curse expert," Chihaya had gathered a lot of underground knowledge for self-defense to make all kinds of tools. Using that knowledge again, she had stolen chemicals and materials from the chemistry club bit by bit to process here.
"I see now... Speaking of which, Chihaya-sama, I often sensed you running to the neighborhood of this room when skipping class or after school. Now it all makes perfect sense~"
"Yeah, it's a perfect way to kill time."
Chihaya narrowed her eyes to look at the items she had made.
In case of emergency.
If anyone asked her "what kind of situation" exactly did emergency refer to—
The answer was determined long ago.
A situation the same as that time.
Surfacing in her mind was the image of the first friend she had made after enrolling in this school. The friend who would never exist again. Tall, boisterous, talkative and a bit of an eyesore, but she also left a deep impression on others.
The sudden arrival of abnormal days. The tyrannical events that had attacked the school. Chihaya had been left behind. Under completely bewildering conditions, everything had ended by the time she came to her senses.
Never again—She did not want to experience that sense of helplessness again.
Chihaya bit her lip lightly and tossed these thoughts away.
"Isuzu, a schoolbag is over there, right? Bring it over."
Together with Isuzu, Chihaya kept stuffing the tools that had been kept here into the schoolbag. As a safeguard against any kind of situation, she had made made plenty, in quantity at least... Since the schoolbag was filled, she grabbed a second one. She hoped that these numbers would be sufficient.
While working continuously on this task of packing, Isuzu chuckled in her throat as though she suddenly thought of something.
"No... Although it is under such circumstances, Chihaya-sama, it feels quite elating as soon as it occurred to me how your silent labors are finally bearing fruit~ Please allow me to say in fear and trepidation, Chihaya-sama, your perseverance and dedication ought to be commended by even more people—Owww."
Thinking this was an excellent chance, Chihaya decided to bring on the pain, together with what was owed earlier.
It was time to start the operation.
While traveling to the destination, Haruaki recalled the information that had been received during the strategy conference so far.
The Lead Auxiliary, Taciturn Chatterbox, possessed the cursed megaphone, the «Demon's Mouth», which was precisely the tool used to hypnotize the students. Just by listening to words spoken through that megaphone, one would be subjected to brainwashing and hypnosis effects. However, it was also possible to resist through personal strength of will.
Reportedly, this hypnosis effect would slowly weaken over time, but it was not going to release naturally, at least not before "Dominionization" finished, hence waiting for it to pass was not an option. Amanda had said that the most concrete solution to free the students would be to locate Taciturn Chatterbox outside the school so as to seize and destroy the «Demon's Mouth». But the hypnosis would most likely be lifted during the instant of the Wathe's destruction, hence further consideration was still needed to decide the actual moment. They must prevent the students from entering a state of uncontrollable chaos.
"By the way, why is she outside the school in the first place?"
Haruaki had asked a simple question.
"Because the «Demon's Mouth»'s curse, causes the user to be affected as well, if they hear the hypnotic suggestion. Hence she, stuffed the megaphone's speaker with soundproof material."
"Huh? Then no sound is transmitted?"
"Inside the speaker, a mic-like device is installed. Picked up by that device, the sound is emitted from another small speaker in her possession. Then the small speaker, is placed where the hypnosis targets are present, while she issues hypnosis orders from far away out of hearing range, I guess, this is the basic operation."
"So to avoid the curse, she has to minimize hearing her own voice as much as possible? Then leaving that small speaker in the broadcasting room—indeed, probably leaving it in the hands of a certain subordinate—She then issues orders from outside the school, indirectly through the school's public announcement system. Yes~ The knowns have increased."
After Pakuaki summed things up, Konoha threw a glance at him and said:
"...Then the remaining issue is her actual whereabouts, isn't it? Amanda-san, do you have any idea?"
"No, I don't have definite evidence. But, there are hints."
Next, Amanda provided three crucial pieces of information.
"One, the distance issue. If too far away, the «Demon's Mouth»'s long-distance speaker system, cannot produce cursed effect either. I remember, limit is 500m roughly. So she must be, near the school."
"Yes, indeed... Were there no limit, like a telephone, and any system could be used to transmit sound through a speaker without any concern for distance, that would mean one could freely control others, even from the other side of the globe? That would be far too absolutely ridiculous. This sort of restriction is only natural at least."
Amanda nodded after listening to Kirika and said:
"Second is personality issue. Taciturn Chatterbox—when executing the Dominion Lord's orders—is a perfectionist. She will make perfect preparations, prepare a perfect environment, to achieve a perfect result, so as to respond to the Lord's expectations. Also, the «Demon's Mouth» has another characteristic. Basically... when the user is applying hypnosis, the more noise in the surroundings, the worse the effect and the more likely the targets might resist. So—"
Haruaki gasped in sudden realization.
"She will be somewhere quiet without random noise...?"
Pakuaki also giggled and said:
"Haha, I see. As a perfectionist, she will definitely minimize chances of failure as much as possible. In a noisy country like Japan, quiet places are limited. Adding the restriction that it has to be near the school—"
"It's possible to guess locations. Basements, top floors in high-rise buildings, as well as—places with soundproof facilities? Since it's related to the town, Gab-chan is the one to ask."
'I'll send someone to investigate immediately. Zenon-kun.'
'Understood. Please give me some time.'
Voices could be heard from the computer.
Thanks to Amanda, they were now starting to see the path ahead of them.
Haruaki exhaled in relief and smiled at Amanda.
"Thank you. You really helped us a lot... Looks like we'll find a way to get out of our predicament."
Smiling alone was not enough. Haruaki also patted her on the head.
Her cheeks reddened somewhat.
"After Knights Dominion, protected me, I became auxiliary, Taciturn happened to have nothing to do, served as my instructor."
"Oh... So that's why you know so much inside information? Everything was thanks to your coincidence. Oh, but—uh, were you... close...?"
For Amanda, Taciturn might have been a colleague or a boss. Just as Haruaki hoped that she would not feel sad about what was going to happen next—
Amanda narrowed her eyes.
"Taciturn, in matters unrelated to the Dominion Lord, is a hedonist. That's why I, became her toy—"
Seeing her show a sad expression for an instant, Haruaki shook his palm and ruffled Amanda's white hair.
Her hair tousled, Amanda looked up at him with a blank expression.
Haruaki's lips grinned as he said to her:
"Now there's one more reason why she must be defeated no matter what."
Roughly two hours passed after this conversation.
Before their eyes was where Zenon's investigation had determined as the most likely place to find Taciturn—namely, a mixed tenant building near the school. Haruaki and company were standing in front of the building.
Looking up at the window of the targeted floor, Haruaki muttered:
"...Will she be here?"
"It would be troubling if she were not."
"Yeah," said Haruaki as he nodded to Konoha. No matter what, they were not going to stop advancing here. What needed to be done was mostly decided already.
The final target was destroying «Dieu le veut» inside the school. To do that, they absolutely must release the hypnosis on the student hostages and eliminate the barbed wire preventing them from invading the school. The former had to be undertaken by Haruaki's team because Taciturn, the owner of the «Demon's Mouth», was outside of school. On the other hand, the cursed barbed wire «Auschwitz-Birkenau» could only be damaged from within, hence the latter could only be entrusted to Un Izoey's team who were confined inside the school. This division of labor was naturally decided.
Barging into school would only give the enemy cause to exploit the hostages, hence, as a matter of sequence, the hostages must be liberated first, but it would lead to many problems if the hypnosis were to be released while the students were still completely isolated from the outside world. As soon as they were suddenly jolted back to reality and discovered they were unable to leave the school, they could very well enter a state of chaos. In other words, even if destroying the «Demon's Mouth» could lift the hypnosis, the ideal outcome desired by Haruaki's group at the current juncture was taking the «Demon's Mouth» from Taciturn's hands, thereby allowing them to cancel the hypnosis any time. That being said, if this outcome could not be achieved when time came, they would just have to break the «Demon's Mouth» directly instead.
In the end, if the safety of the students was top priority...
In order to fully resolve the two problems, within and outside the school, both had to be undertaken simultaneously as much as possible.
They initially agreed on a time that they had to steal the «Demon's Mouth» before then. The in-school team would take action according to the predetermined schedule and destroy «Auschwitz-Birkenau». Then Haruaki's group would immediately storm the school while breaking the «Demon's Mouth» at the same time to dispel the hypnosis on the students, allowing them to leave the school—That was the specifics of the operation.
They had already decided with the in-school team on the time to start executing the operation.
Matters of consideration included the preparation time required by the in-school team to destroy «Auschwitz-Birkenau», the time needed by Haruaki's team to locate Taciturn and actually storming the place, as well as what needed to be done after that operation was accomplished successfully. Namely, the time needed to enter the school and destroy the spear in the school yard, plus the approximate deadline of 2pm. Taking into account all factors and putting in a buffer period to handle various unexpected situations, the deduced conclusion was—
The operation was set to start at noon today.
It was currently around ten in the morning. No matter how accessible the town's inside information was to the superintendent or how superior Zenon's information processing capabilities, they could not possibly know every corner of this town. They had to spend a lot of time in order to rule out Taciturn's possible hiding places—but precisely because of who they were, it only took as little as this amount of time. Haruaki did not think that anyone else could have filtered the results down in such short time. Let alone complain, he could only feel gratitude towards the superintendent and Zenon.
Haruaki's group was currently doing what was in their power. This included the usual members: Haruaki, Konoha, Kirika, Kotetsu, and Kuroe who had met up with them—as well as Fear.
As a side note, everyone was dressed in school uniform apart from Kotetsu and Kuroe. Since they must head to school once it became time for the operation to start, it would be less of a hassle if they wore school uniform to begin with. Although there was probably no need to care about attire at all right now, but seeing as they were going to school, being in uniform was only natural. There was the feeling that adhering to this rule would be akin to evidence that the school still remained a place where they belonged.
Fear spoke while looking ahead, without her usual Rubik's cube in her hand. Haruaki guessed that she had entrusted them to Konoha for the time being.
Conversely, she clenched her fist that now stood as her only weapon. With her back completely straight, without the slightest faltering in her eyes, she was very calm and collected—That was what Haruaki could see.
"I'll focus on defense, so Cow Tits, you guys take care of offense."
"You don't need to tell me that."
Taking point, Konoha tiptoed up the stairs to their destination, the entire fourth floor that was being used as a ballroom dance studio. This place had excellent soundproofing and seemed a best fit for the requirement of being near the school.
No more hesitation. Considering the scheduled tasks, they must incapacitate Taciturn at least before the in-school team starts their operation at noon. If this location proved to be a dud, that could not be helped and they would simply have to rush to the next candidates.
Haruaki and company looked at one another quietly and nodded. Then Konoha broke the entrance's lock and quietly slipped inside. There was no one in the narrow space that looked like the lobby. It was quiet all around. Then they found a heavy door with a massive door handle.
Confirming one another's opinion by exchanging glances again, they opened the door and entered. This seemed to be a place for many people to gather and practice dancing. A wide open space roughly the size of a classroom. One entire wall was made into a mirror to allow dancers to examine their own movements.
Then—There were two things that were exactly as expected, in a certain sense.
"Heeheehee, welcome. Although there is nothing here, please relax and take a good break."
The first prediction coming true was good news, namely, the woman described by Amanda was present in the classroom.
The second was one that could not be helped—namely, there were five or six knights standing around the woman.
"If only you were alone... But of course, developments are not going to unfold so smoothly."
Konoha grumbled with a frown then lowered her stance in preparation for combat.
In contrast, the flamboyantly dressed woman, Taciturn Chatterbox, simply curled her lips in a smile. Without moving, she remained sitting on a railing-like metal bar on the wall.
"Because Dainsleif already reported the stupid news to me that the idiot Coenraad had his communication device stolen, it's obviously conceivable that someone might attack me outside if you people were able to make contact as a result... Hence, I called for bodyguards."
"Hmph... I can't believe you are still so complacent and chose not to run. That being said, we do count our blessings that there is no need to waste time anymore."
"Indeed, because there's no guarantee that this place would be found for sure. Whether being discovered here or escaping to another noise-less place to be discovered by you people, chances are the same. All along, my mission is to execute the Lord's orders, to allow myself to issue additional hypnotic suggests any time, rather than arbitrarily running all over the place."
The woman was wearing stockings that were mismatched between left and right, a jacket with too many decorations, and gaudy clothing in vivid colors. Combined with a pointed hat reminiscent of a witch's, she looked somewhat like a clown.
Held in her right hand was a certain cone-shaped object, pointed downwards and swinging back and forth.
It was most likely the cursed megaphone «Demon's Mouth». It was one or two sizes larger than the megaphones one would normally see. Yellowed and decrepit, its coloration looked quite aged. Its major characteristic was that the cone's opening was covered up with a lid. This was to prevent the fact that even the user would be affected by its cursed power if the emitted sound was heard directly. After picking up the sound, the microphone inside the lid would transmit it to a small output speaker that was presumably kept in the school's broadcasting room right now, thereby issuing loathsome hypnotic suggestions to the students through the microphone of the school's public announcement system—
She must be stopped. Now that they had appeared before the enemy, they must not retreat at any cost. Given an opening in this situation, she could very well seize the chance to issue fatal orders to all the students in the school.
Hence, Konoha did not hesitate at all.
Without wasting further breath on words, she stepped forward as a sharp blade in human form. At the same time, Kotetsu dashed forward. Kuroe also extended hardened hair towards the «Demon's Mouth» in Taciturn's hand.
"Mode: «Killing Machine Masakado»!"
"Oh dear, you guys have to protect me properly."
Taciturn jumped down from the metal railing. The knights shielded her behind them and used their swords to intercept Kuroe's hair.
"Very well, you shall work as hard as you can! Knights, our victory condition is exceedingly simple, namely, the «Demon's Mouth» must be thoroughly protected—However, with risk comes opportunity. If you succeed in killing them here, the mission in this country could be considered essentially accomplished. I will certify you with perfect A as a present. Naturally, our Lord will also be delighted!"
Hearing her, the rest of the knights also drew their swords with a roar, stepping forward to engage Konoha and Kotetsu in battle.
"Haruaki, Kirika, you two fall back."
Fear took a step forward to protect Haruaki and Kirika. But that was all. Clenching her fist, she stared intently at Konoha and Kotetsu's intense fight. If any knight were to rush out from between them, Fear probably intended to fight with her fists.
Compared to holding a drill in her tiny hand while attacking the knights proactively, which would be better? To be frank, Haruaki was not sure either. However, at least this was better than her transforming into a cube, giving off vibes of weakness and unease that did not suit her, trembling nonstop.
"By the way... Ooh~ Wah~ Another one got taken out. Seriously, it's gotten to the point where I wonder how meaningful my encouragements just now were. How odd~ There shouldn't be much time left before 'Dominionization' is completed, so you guys ought to be more durable and resilient than normal instead. How useless, show some more spirit, will you?"
"Speaking of spirit—We are not going to lose to you people!"
"No matter how much power they receive, small fries remain as small fries!"
Konoha and Kotetsu sent their respective opponent flying. By the time Haruaki noticed, the knights in charge of protecting Taciturn had been greatly thinned in number, leaving only one person standing—The remainder were either collapsed unconscious or sprawled on the floor, groaning.
Kuroe persisted in extending her hair towards Taciturn. Although the «Demon's Mouth» could not be snatched away so easily, at least this achieved the effect of containment.
Taciturn loaded the «Demon's Mouth» onto her shoulder then turned her neck as though going "oh dear oh dear."
"Ah~ Now this is bad. As expected of loathsome, filthy and nauseating Wathes. How strong, how strong. There seems to be no chance of victory for a mere auxiliary whose sneakiness might count as her only strength and a bunch of knights who only number six people no matter how strengthened their powers~"
Konoha suddenly frowned.
"...What diabolical plan are you coming up with now?"
"No no no, I'm just describing the truth as it is. We cannot win on our own. Hey, you guys—What do you think needs to be done during times like these?"
While blocking Kuroe's hair in front of her, a knight answered without looking back:
"A knight should act like a knight, willing to die for their cause!"
Hearing that, Taciturn grinned.
"Indeed, we are the Frontline Gathering Knights Dominion. Along with our Lord, the mission of gathering and destroying Wathes is everything to us—!"
Then she used the megaphone in her right hand to strike the wall behind her.
Haruaki was rendered speechless. What was she doing? Why do that? An act of surrender? Knowing she was going to lose, was she breaking the Wathe on her own initiative to release the students?
—Of course not. That kind of thing would be impossible.
Struck by the impact against the wall, the lid covering the megaphone cracked and came loose, falling to the floor.
The moment he saw that scene, Haruaki felt an intense chill across his spine. No way—
"You're going to use it!? But you'll be affected too!"
"How knowledgeable you are~ Furthermore, when issuing orders directly without transmitting to a long-distance speaker, the cursed power will increase to an incomparable extent. It's not something that can be resisted with willpower alone."
A compact device resembling a microphone could be seen among the remains of the broken lid on the floor. Presumably loosened from its socket, the microphone's wire was dangling, most likely unable to perform its function of picking up sound anymore. Taciturn was probably no longer able to send the megaphone's sounds to the school.
However, the danger level here was rapidly rising. Kuroe instantly sprang into action.
"You're not going to succeed!"
The final knight turned himself into a shield to block Kuroe's hair. In addition to deflecting it with his sword, he also used his palm to catch the hair that was extending like a spear, making the hair pierce the center of his palm on purpose to allow him to ensnare the hair securely. The resulting bright red color made Konoha frown.
"Fufu... Now that direct orders will be given, I can issue hypnotic suggestions that normally do not succeed, i.e. those that threaten the targets' lives directly. What will you do? Would you like mutually assured destruction? By the way, let me tell you that this is a closed space. Whether covering your ears will succeed in blocking out the sound or not, it's something you won't know until you try it."
"By the way, let me tell you this, whether Wathes or humans, the effects work on anything that is self-aware. As soon as I order 'die,' even if you turn back into your forms as tools, your consciousness will still die off."
Taciturn's shoulders shook with delight while she spoke:
"Heeheehee, none of you have apparently noticed... This thing has a very high chance of killing anyone, as long as I have no concern for my own life. In other words, this is a Wathe that can achieve mutually assured destruction with almost 100%, you know? What a shame~ So, what will you do? Would you like to die together with me? Or will you choose something else?"
Everyone stopped moving. Both sides glared at each other. Taciturn was serious. She was already prepared to die for the Knights Dominion's cause, even to the point of bringing Haruaki's group down in mutual destruction. What to do? They must not let her escape now, but they must not die with her either. What to do—
Konoha was the first to take action. She suddenly turned her head back and yelled:
"Haruaki-kun! Hurry and cover your ears—"
Hence, Taciturn reacted and instantly raised the megaphone to her lips to shout.
A hoarse and grainy voice came out of the megaphone. One could sense the surrounding air instantly fill up with a cursed presence.
According to Un Izoey, this was the keyword uttered prior to issuing hypnotic suggestions. As soon as the one listened to the next words—
Once she said the word "die"—Their entire group was going to do so together with her—
But these thoughts only lingered in his mind for an instant.
Fear and Konoha both collided into him, pushing him down on the ground. Both of them even reached out gruffly to cover his ears up with their hands. Idiots! Then you two will—! As soon as Haruaki looked up, he saw Kuroe's hair cover up Fear, Konoha and Kotetsu's ears like earmuffs.
But during her efforts to protect everyone, Kuroe's face suddenly turned to alarm as she watched a certain scene.
Haruaki also followed her gaze—He then understood why she was making such a face.
There were two reasons.
One, Taciturn was running towards the exit as fast as she could.
Two—Without covering her ears at all, going so far as to brush away Kuroe's hair that intended to protect her ears like with Fear and the others, Kirika was chasing after Taciturn.
Haruaki's entire body froze as he yelled:
"No, Class Rep—!"
But he had no way of knowing whether he was actually shouting loudly or that his voice was reaching her ears or not.
(Tsk... What imbeciles. I was giving you a chance to escape.)
Taciturn clicked her tongue mentally.
Just as mentioned earlier, their victory condition was thorough protection of the «Demon's Mouth». Indeed, killing Yachi Haruaki's group here would be a perfect Grade A outcome, but there was no need to obsess over this result. Despite the many losses incurred, the option of escaping also had sufficient value to be certified Grade B.
Hence, if there was a chance to escape, fleeing the place ought to be prioritized over killing them—That was what Taciturn originally concluded.
If the enemy tried to obstruct her escape, then she had no choice but to use hypnotic suggestions. The hypnosis would definitely work 100% on that reckless girl who was trying to block her way, right? As for Haruaki and the others who had their ears covered, there was probably a 70% probability of success.
Under such conditions, the hypnotic suggestion could not be too long. Ambiguous and complicated suggestions were also unsuitable. She could only use an exceedingly simple sentence. Ultimately—She had no choice.
Indeed, her victory condition was to protect the «Demon's Mouth» thoroughly—
Not protecting Taciturn Chatterbox thoroughly.
(Yes. However, if they were to capture me then destroy this Wathe, there would be absolutely no benefit to me~ I must prevent this Grade D outcome at any cost. This would be best in the Lord's interests.)
Hence, in the end, for the sake of a Grade C outcome, the lowest tolerable...
Taciturn opted for mutual annihilation as she had threatened earlier. It was definitely going to work on the unguarded girl before her and would eliminate a number of these troublesome characters with extremely high probability. Not a pointless course of action, probably.
Taciturn calmly raised the «Demon's Mouth» to her lips and ordered:
"Everyone listening, commit suicide immediately."
The job of auxiliaries included gathering information. Hence, Taciturn recognized the girl before her. Ueno Kirika, Yamimagari Pakuaki's younger sister, the wearer of the cursed bondage suit «Gimestorante's Love» which conferred the cursed power of immortality.
Facing those released cursed words, even that cursed power of immortality and its ilk would be meaningless.
Because this hypnotic suggestion would compel her to die by her own volition—Her only way of freeing herself from that cursed power of immortality was presumably removing «Gimestorante's Love» then dying.
In fact, Taciturn could see the girl, who was blocking her path, reach for her own sleeve.
At the same time, Taciturn could feel her own tongue starting to tremble like mad. An irrepressible urge—loathsome and filthy—an urge known as a curse. Immediately, her front teeth moved autonomously to bite her own tongue. Then came excruciating pain. The stench of blood began to spread inside her mouth. Biting one's own tongue was extraordinarily impractical as a method of suicide, but without proper and timely treatment, it would still lead to death. Dying for the Lord, she felt rather honored, except for the displeasing fact that the process involved a loathsome curse.
The intense pain was sharpening her five senses and time felt like it was moving exceedingly slowly. From the corner of her eye, she saw one of the knights whose legs had been broken by Kotetsu. Raising the sword in his hand, he stabbed himself in the chest. No one was spared once they heard the hypnotic suggestion.
Then—The girl in front of her.
She rolled her sleeve up to her elbow.
And stopped there.
She did not undress any further. After merely rolling her sleeve, she stopped her action.
With fierce determination in her eyes, she stared straight at Taciturn.
She was not hypnotized.
Taciturn was greatly shocked.
Why? How could she possibly have resisted? This was a closed space surrounded by soundproof walls. At extremely close range, a hypnotic suggestion issued at maximum strength without transmitting through a speaker. How could she possibly have defied the suicide command—?
"Sorry, I can't hear what you're saying."
The girl said with a solemn expression.
At the same time, she pointed lightly at her ear.
"I was thinking you might try to use hypnosis, so just now—while you were breaking the lid—I damaged my eardrums first."
No way! Just a second after Taciturn stopped moving—
A certain object pried her lips open and entered her mouth, wrapping around her tongue.
"Let's see... Is this how it's used?"
As soon as she heard the girl speaking softly, her tongue transmitted the sensation of intense pain, intense pain, intense intense intense pain. The cloth-like object wrapped around her tongue—It was absorbing her blood. That kind of pain was difficult to articulate.
Confronted with this slow torture of pain that would drive one insane...
Unable to withstand it any longer, Taciturn fainted.
While Haruaki was staring in shock, Kirika picked up the «Demon's Mouth» that had fallen from Taciturn's hand.
Glancing at the knights who were stabbing themselves with weapons or committing suicide by biting their tongues like Taciturn, she directed her lips to the «Demon's Mouth» and called out:
"—Hört!! Stop committing suicide!"
Outside his covered ears, Haruaki could sense a grim reaper's presence deliberating ominously whether to enter his body or not, riding upon Taciturn's voice to approach discreetly—It instantly drifted away as a result of Kirika's command.
Seeing the knights release their weapons and collapse on the floor, Kirika said:
"So that's how it works, I see... To use it any further would be absolutely ridiculous. I am not obliged to force myself to help you people either."
Then Kirika looked towards Haruaki and the others and nodded as though saying "Are you okay?"
Haruaki looked at her right arm. Wrapped around her right wrist, also twisting like a snake and wrapped around Taciturn's tongue, the ribbon-like object was not the «Tragic Black River» that had been taken away by the enemy.
Instead, it was the cursed bandage that used to belong to Amanda.
"Oh... This is «Chupacabra Bandage», a bandage that is able to heal wounds while absorbing blood and inflicting intense pain. When Amanda came under the protection of Himura—the Lab Chief's Nation—this thing presumably came under their safekeeping too. That being said, I've no idea why Pakuaki handed this thing over to me, how absolutely ridiculous..."
While listening to Kirika murmur as though talking to herself, Haruaki gulped.
Indeed, he did have many questions about that bandage. However, there were more important matters at the moment. Haruaki stood up.
"D-Don't be so reckless! Class Rep, what the heck were you thinking?"
Then he approached Kirika. He really thought his heart was going to stop just now. What happened next was not something he could accept. Even with his ears covered, he could understand everything simply from Kirika's gestures just now. To think she damaged her own eardrums, she must have used Kuroe's hardened hair that had been severed by the enemy.
After Haruaki strode over to her, Kirika frowned and said:
"...Sorry. I can't hear anything, but I think it'll heal up very soon."
Seeing her troubled expression, Haruaki sighed.
Kirika's face looked like a child who knew she was about to be scolded by her parents.
Since she was unable to hear, I'll do this at least—Hence, Haruaki definitely acted as though he were scolding a child, making a fist to give Kirika's head a light knock. Then—
Clearly, he was angry.
But for some reason, Kirika relaxed her expression and made a demure and happy smile.
The cursed barb wire—«Auschwitz-Birkenau». Once encircled by this Wathe, an area would become impossible to enter or exit. Although the effects were apparently not forever, they were most likely going to persist at least until «Dieu le veut» finished "Dominionization." It would be pointless to wait for it to lose effect naturally.
The only solution was to neutralize the Wathe from within, by taking down the encircling barbed wire. But in practice, the Knights Dominion would likely have sent a sizable force to defend the barbed wire. Since they had discovered that Un Izoey's group had not been hypnotized and had remained in school as well, this was only natural.
'My question: if severed instead of taken down, how about this suggestion? If severing, can be done instantly.'
"...Probably, doable. But, «Auschwitz-Birkenau» has self-repair abilities. For example, if severed in one place only, it won't work, will reconnect immediately. Several, dozens of places, must be severed at the same time."
"The result remains still the same. Under the knights' surveillance, cutting the wire all over the place would seem to be very challenging."
While Pakuaki remarked with a shrug of his shoulders, the voice coming from the cellphone's speaker phone changed.
'But action can only be taken by us who are inside the school. We will find a way.'
The voice continued in a sulking tone:
'Because I really want to change out of these gym clothes as quickly as possible.'
—Right now, Chihaya was holding up her cellphone to confirm the time.
"It's almost time."
The agreed time to start the operation, noon, would arrive soon. In other words, there were still two hours and a bit before the deadline of 2pm. This schedule was chosen in consideration of the time required beforehand for prior preparations as well as the time needed afterwards for storming the school and destroying the spear—A decision reached by combining these two factors, hence there was not a lot of buffer time. There were no second chances.
However, the team outside of school had just contacted them to report the success of external operation. Although the period of preparation time gave the team outside of school substantial leeway, time was tight for the in-school team. They were still preparing until just earlier.
There was no time to take a breather either. The final task was just about to begin.
"So, we have to do our best for the next part!"
"Please allow me to say in fear and trepidation, good luck~"
"My warning: please do not get careless."
Led by Un Izoey, the group gathered at the secret room's exit to standby. It would be a race against time as soon as things started, hence they could no longer hide here.
Chihaya looked down at her cellphone again...
The LCD proudly showed a perfectly round number—
Finally, it was time to begin the operation.
Just at this moment, Chihaya and the others heard a number of noises in the distance.
The sound of certain objects exploding, as well as the screams of students.
At the same time, the fire alarm began to ring noisily.
Chihaya and company rushed out of the secret room all at once.
Instantly, as one would expect, the knights also noticed the unusual situation.
All over the school, there were explosion sounds and the nonstop fire alarm.
Present in the sports ground, Dainsleif rushed out of the main tent and looked in all directions.
Looking in the direction of the school building, she saw a large amount of white smoke emerging from the windows. Not only that, but clouds of white smoke were rising outside the school building too, such as the bushes next to the building, the roots of decorative plants and near the garbage dump.
Narrowing her eyes behind the helmet, Sleif gritted her teeth and murmured:
However, those were not explosives.
What Chihaya had prepared were simply timer-operated smoke grenades. While making large noises, they did not cause explosions.
"Mmmfufu, don't look down on the commoners~"
"To hide trees, use a forest! Our commoner-ness really can't be underestimated!"
The task of mixing among the students, placing smoke grenades in various places inside the school, was mainly undertaken by Kana and Taizou along with the disguised Shiraho. However, Chihaya still had to help by setting up the smoke grenades in the bushes outside the school building, pretending to be returning to the classroom after PE lesson. Reluctantly leaving her shovel in the secret room, Kaidou the teacher also helped by setting up smoke grenades in places where students would look out of place as soon as they entered.
In response to this extraordinary commotion, the students in class all rushed out of the classrooms. The corridors instantly turned into noise and chaos. Although the students were hypnotized not to see the knights, they could not possibly ignore this kind of simple disturbance.
"What's going on?" "What's going on?" Chihaya and company weaved through the noisy students and ran. Just as they had planned, the school building was filled with white smoke. However, this was harmless to human health, a simple diversion.
"Is it a fire!?"
"Possibly an enemy attack! Stay vigilant!"
They could also see knights standing in the connecting corridor, surveying their surroundings, shouting to one another. Just as they had predicted and going according to plan, the enemy's attention was entirely diverted to this commotion—because they were taking things seriously, they had no choice but to handle matters seriously.
Ignoring the knights, the in-school team pretended to be fleeing students scared by the smoke, running inside the school building. Following the staircase, they ran up and reached the roof. The instant they opened the metal door at the top of the staircase, a knight entered their view, presumably in charge of guarding the roof.
"What!? Who are you people—Gwah!"
However, Un Izoey dashed forward without a word and swiftly rendered him helplessly collapsed. A perfect surprise attack, what a great help.
Then the team walked over to the fencing and looked down at the school grounds.
The knights' gazes were directed towards the school building while they hustled back and forth. Their attention was focused on the white smoke—Conversely, this meant that their attention had been diverted from a certain place.
In order to destroy the self-regenerating «Auschwitz-Birkenau», they had to damage the barb wire in dozens of different places at once while staying clear of the knights. This was the plan they had come up with to achieve this goal.
"Excellent! Let's do it with great gusto—!"
"Please allow me to say in fear and trepidation, the spectacular show has finally arrived~"
Sovereignty and Isuzu were standing precariously on the fencing with a large schoolbag prepared on the side.
"Do your best, Sovereignty."
"You can count on me—!"
Hearing Shiraho cheer for her, Sovereignty made a thumbs-up in return then reached into the schoolbag to take out a doll. This was borrowed by slipping into the dressmaking room. Tied tightly to the doll's arm was a pair of scissors that was likewise found in the dressmaking room.
"I hold sovereignty over every doll. Those bearing visual semblance, listen and show proof of your worship. Obey!"
"Wow, it's starting~"
"Hold it right there, let me help too. No matter how I look, I'm on the baseball team after all... And as catcher too, I'm very confident in my throwing skills!"
Taizou picked up the doll, rotated his shoulder several times, then launched the doll after a long running start. The doll struck the outer wall surrounding the school and fell down. However, the doll instantly got up and using the pair of scissors tied to it, it started to cut the barbed wire that was entwined on the wall. However, cutting a wire was not as easy as cutting paper. It took quite some time before the wire was finally severed.
Having lost tension, the wire would be expected to fall down there—However, the severed ends began to move like nematode worms, writhing in a creepy manner. The regeneration ability of rumor. However, the rate of regeneration was not so fast that the severed ends would rise up and reconnect within the blink of an eye... Hence, to render the entire wire completely non-functional, they must hurry and repeat the same action in other locations before the severed ends reattached themselves.
And that creepy regeneration could probably be used to determine whether their plan had succeeded or not. If dozens of simultaneous cuts damaged «Auschwitz-Birkenau» beyond its limit, truly "killing" it, the self-regeneration ability would presumably die as well. In other words, once the barbed wire stopped regenerating, when no part of it showed any regeneration movements, they could then conclude that «Auschwitz-Birkenau»'s destruction had succeeded. What they sought was that moment.
"Great~ Let's continue! Charge—!"
"Leave it to me!"
"Well then, we shall put on a grand performance too~"
After Isuzu spoke, certain objects hovered around her as though surrounding her neck.
Like the doll earlier, all the bells had scissors tied to them.
"Move out, everyone!"
The bells flew away in all directions while Isuzu commanded.
Like the doll, the bells collided with the school's boundary walls. One of them fell into the bushes directly below. As soon as the bushes rustled, out emerged a girl identical in appearance to Isuzu on the roof. Despite being completely naked, the girl remained unconcerned and started using the pair of scissors tied to her little finger to cut the barbed wire—So did the other bells. They were the kagura bells who existed as one set of fifteen.
Nevertheless, the knights could not possibly fail to notice these movements despite their focused attention on the school building.
"Hey! What are you doing!?"
Apart from Isuzu who was borrowing half of Chihaya's voice, the silent kagura bells were unable to speak. The questioned bell only worked faster with an alarmed expression.
Chihaya silently searched the schoolbag and took out an object, shoving it to Taizou.
"Hurry and throw this over there!"
A spare smoke grenade, but instead of being timer-operated, it was switch-operated. The smoke grenade thrown by Taizou fell in front of the knight who was just about to run towards one of the kagura bells, causing white smoke to billow upwards—It should be able to buy a bit of time.
"My dolls are replaceable, so it doesn't matter, but the bells shouldn't strain themselves!"
"Yes, I will pull them back if things get truly dangerous. Please don't worry~"
Severing complete. Seeing the knight rush over, Isuzu turned her back into a bell and performed a motion akin to tugging a rope, causing her to fly back to the roof. Then she pulled another bell back. This bell had not succeeded in cutting the wire. Caught on the barbed wire, the pair of scissors was swaying back and forth.
"Wah~ They broke that doll!"
"Hurry and throw the replacement doll! Let it cut the wire!"
"Wait, Toonisuzu has been discovered! Hurry and cover her!"
"I shall do it since that is within my throwing range. Give it to me!"
Kaidou also joined in the smoke grenade throwing to provide cover. Several knights could be seen below, pointing at the roof and shouting. They were discovered. Quickening their pace was imperative.
Using the timer-operated smoke grenades as a diversion while Sovereignty's dolls and Isuzu's bells worked separately during this time—This plan was theoretically feasible. If they made use of all available manpower to cut the barbed wire, even if they failed in several locations, in the end, they still ought to be able to inflict enough damage to destroy «Auschwitz-Birkenau»—
That was what those present believed.
Meanwhile, the team outside the school was standing before the gates, waiting anxiously for the moment to arrive. The mission must not fail. Since there were no second chances and it was unknown when the knights outside would show up at the gates, the school must be liberated as soon as possible—
(...I couldn't care less whether they believe or not.)
Chihaya bit her lip.
(My pride won't permit failure after I accepted this mission with full confidence, saying I will find a way. Or having made preparations for times like these, only to be useless after all...!)
Not yet? Still not yet? Chihaya looked down at scene below with a pleading mindset, staring at the wires that were starting to wriggle after being severed. Hurry and stop them from regenerating! Hurry and destroy them!
Some of the kagura bells had completed their task successfully. Other kagura bells were cornered by the knights and returned to Isuzu's side one after another. As the main entity of the kagura bells at the moment, Isuzu was unable to leave. Worried and anxious, she watched her alter egos.
Kana checked the situation busily and said:
"Quite a few spots have been cut...! Still not enough!?"
"It should be almost done...!"
Chihaya glanced at Shiraho. In a connected call with the team outside the school, she had the cellphone pressed against her ear. Returning Chihaya's gaze, she moved the receiver away slightly and shook her head:
"Not yet, apparently. They are shouting and screaming like monkeys, saying they can't get in."
Just a little more. Definitely, just a bit more—
However, wails were heard at this time.
"Hey! We're out of smoke grenades!"
"In other words... Ah~ The final doll has been—! Sorry, I can't carry on anymore!"
"Can we send the returned shrine maidens out again?"
"We could, if they severed the wire successfully and returned with their scissors. But right now, the alert level is truly...!"
The enemy had apparently figured out by now that the white smoke in school were simply diversions on the level of smokes and mirrors, originating from neither fire nor explosions. They could also see that gradually, the knights were no longer losing composure and were beginning to handle the situation at hand calmly. In other words, they had started to focus on protecting «Auschwitz-Birkenau».
In addition, there was one more problem, namely, the barbed wire's self-regeneration ability. Now was no longer the time to confirm the operation's success through the wire's movements. Once too much time had passed, the parts that had been severed successfully earlier would reconnect, rendering prior efforts moot.
Chihaya leaned forward in agitation. Currently next to the barb wire encircling the school, trying hard to cut the wire—There was one more kagura bell farthest from the roof, on the far end of the sports ground. Chihaya recognized her, it was Musuzu. Since Musuzu's location was hidden behind the Knights Dominion's tents, right under their noses, she had surprisingly evaded detection so far. At this rate, once that part was cut, surely—
However, Chihaya saw at that moment—
A knight on the sports ground suddenly discovered Musuzu and started to dash towards her at maximum speed. Unlike the other knights, this knight did not seem like someone that could be handled by Musuzu, who could not even chant norito prayers at the moment. A girl wearing a visor-like helmet—
Meanwhile, Haruaki's team was also in great anxiety.
Noon, in front of the school gates. This was the operation start time they had agreed with the in-school team at the end of their strategy conference.
A number of minutes had already passed since noon—
"Still not opening!"
Fear roared and knocked on the school gates with a slam. Konoha shoved Fear way with her shoulder and swung a karate chop, but the metal bars remained unscathed.
Probably drawn away by the commotion inside the school, not a single knight could be seen behind the school gates. Besides, white smoke was rising from all over the school's premises, making for poor visibility. It was impossible to check out the situation inside the school from their vantage point, hence Haruaki's team could only rely on sound.
"They seem to be very preoccupied! Hey!"
Haruaki yelled into the cellphone whose call had persisted for a while now.
'You're unbearably noisy, human. As usual, you are experimenting with audio rape again, testing out which wavelength can cause vibrations in my ear, thus making me pregnant, aren't you? What a nuisance. Let me tell you some good news, if you were to dial 110 before firing off obscene sound waves, I expect something universally beneficial to occur for sure. Putting that aside, are you people still unable to open the gates?'
"That's what I wanted to ask your side!"
There was no time to complain about her usual scathing tongue. Haruaki retorted in a roar and heard a dialogue of "not yet, apparently" in the background. Surely, they must be trying their hardest on the other side too.
When was it going to open? Was it really going to open?
Just at that moment—
'The final bell was discovered by the enemy. A female knight wearing a strange helmet.'
"It's over... That's Sleif!"
Dainsleif bit her lip as she dashed forward.
They had fallen for it, diversionary tactics. Back in their home country, attacks would not come as surprise no matter how large in scale, but here in Japan where even firearms could not be carried freely, especially inside a school—How could someone possibly detonate explosions?
However, «Auschwitz-Birkenau» was still intact, its effects had not disappeared. Since it was capable of self-regeneration, it should not be too late to salvage as long as further cuts in the wire were prevented.
"Hence—I shall not allow you—to succeed!"
Behind the tent, the nude girl holding a pair of scissors to cut the wire on the fence—no, a vile Wathe—looked back in alarm. Sleif did not even draw the sword at her waist. After all, it was just an ordinary sword. Right now, she felt as though the act of sword drawing would be a waste of time. She did not want to slow down her running speed even for a millisecond.
If all she wanted was a blade, her own body was enough.
Raising her hand in a spear hand strike, Dainsleif accelerated while maintaining a forward leaning posture. Within a breath, she was going to enter into attack range. Presumably in a last ditch effort, the nude girl hastily worked at cutting the wire. Just as Dainsleif was about stab her hand into the girl's back—
She shivered in that instant as a chill ran along her spine. Instinctively, she spun around and chopped with her hand, deflecting the deadly dart aimed at her neck, flying at her helmet gap like a bullet. While catching the dart's glint from the corner of her eye, she glared at the source.
Then with superhuman vision, she caught sight of the dark-skinned girl sitting on the roof fencing, whose leg was extended in her direction.
(From the Lab Chief's Nation... The Hunter!)
But compared to her, the vandal here needed to be taken care of first. Dainsleif gritted her teeth and looked back, only to see—
The pair of scissors falling to the ground with a thud, as well as two dangling ends of barbed wire.
And then there was the small bell crossing over her head, flying towards that roof.
Hatred, fury, chagrin, humiliation.
Driven by these emotions, Dainsleif roared as loud as she could:
"...Curse you all—!"
Instantly, on the roof...
Long before any other sound...
A high-five between a certain pair could be heard loud and clear first—
"Ufufu~ ...Oh, umm, deliberately pretending to make a face that seems to be saying 'I raised my arm intending to do a high-five, got a problem with that?' but immediately switching to an iron-clawed attack to hide your embarrassment, that's truly your style, Chihaya-sama. How magnificent, but you really need to hold back. Unyoni, it really hurts—"
"H-Hurting you is exactly what I want!"
Haruaki heard two kinds of sounds at the same time.
One was the sound of Konoha personally bifurcating metal bars with a slice of her hand.
The other was the sound of Fear's punch sending metal bars flying.
Fear turned her head back, causing her silver hair to flutter.
"Opened... It's opened, Haruaki!"
However, he then heard Shiraho sigh deeply from the other side of the phone call.
'Sigh... How regrettable. Truly how regrettable.'
"H-Hey, did something happen?"
Did mutual annihilation happen? Despite destroying the barbed wire successfully, did someone in Isuzu's group fall to Sleif—?
'Looks like my Sovereignty has a chance of making contact with the perverted human again. Until just now, I didn't need to worry about that, at least. Listen carefully, if you dare hug Sovereignty, I will kill you.'
'Because you are a natural-born pervert, believing single-mindedly that hugging is the first step towards getting someone in bed, also believing single-mindedly that saying hello is the first step towards penetration, you are mentally removing a girl's panties by the time she crosses your mind. Warning you beforehand is only natural... Oh, stop it! Don't strip Sovereignty's panties!'
Haruaki could hear Sovereignty's perplexed voice going 'Eh? Eh?' in the background. Imagining the scene, he made a wry expression.
The operation had gone off without a hitch.
They were finally able to storm the school.
Struck by an excessive sense of relief, Haruaki decided to play a small joke on Shiraho in a rare moment.
"Then I won't hug Sovereignty. I'll hug you instead. Wait for me."
'Eeek!' The last thing Haruaki heard before the call disconnected was a truly acute scream that Shiraho had never emitted before. Silently, Haruaki felt rather hurt by the response.
Translator's Notes and References
- Reference to "The Fiend with Twenty Faces"(怪人二十面相), a fictional gentleman thief who serves as a recurring antagonist in the mystery fiction written by Edogawa Ranpo.
- 110 is the emergency telephone number in Japan, equivalent to 911 in North America or 112 across much of Europe.
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