Chapter 6 - I, Who Am Together With Him / "Cube x Cursed x Curious"
—Rewinding time back to a little earlier, at the Yachi home.
Yachi Honatsu was alone, diligently sweeping the garden. The second floor of the accessory dwelling, where Kuroe and formerly Konoha lived, was damaged to a tragic degree. Windows shattered, glass shards scattered all around, crushed window frames dangling, tattered curtains fluttering in the wind.
Honatsu first cleared away the glass shards, which were the most dangerous. Using a broom to sweep, he then gathered them in a dustpan and threw the glass into a flame-resistant garbage bag.
"That's about it~"
He turned his head to survey his surroundings in a circle, confirming his handiwork. At least the area in front of the accessory dwelling had been made rather clean. Of course, he had not worked on the veranda or the interior of the house yet, which he was going to do later if there was time.
Seeing as no knights had visited again so far, it looked like they were probably in a state that lacked spare energy for attacking this home. Haruaki and company seemed to be making progress smoothly.
As for why he had left them, staying at home to sweep, he could only say "no choice." He would be of little help even if he went along with them. In that case, it would be better to get started on cleaning the house first.
Honatsu's gaze stopped at the storeroom part of the accessory dwelling. Caught in the earlier battle, the metal shutter was slightly contorted. Expending quite a bit of effort, Honatsu barely managed to raise the metal shutter.
He walked into the storeroom.
Although no earthquake had occurred, Pendragon and the knights had fought a disorderly battle all over the place. Honatsu hummed a song while broadly checking for anything out of place in the cursed objects placed either on the shelves or on the floor.
"Hmmhmm~ Of the slightly cursed tools... Yes, a couple of them have lifted their curse. I've got to take them out once everything is settled and replace them with new ones. The ones labeled to be returned to their owners... This one and that one~ I wonder if there are any packing materials in the house?"
Muttering quietly, he walked to the next set of shelves.
"No matter how small an object, no matter how minuscule a curse, nothing wants to be cursed after all. Because everyone here was created for the sake of helping others, more or less. Only because certain things went awry did they get covered by the negative emotions of foolish humans. It would be so sad if they were thrown away just because of that."
"Oh~" Honatsu looked at the storeroom's ceiling as though he thought of something at this moment.
"In other words—What I need to do is very simple. It's recycling. It's environmental protection, eco-friendliness. Although I just realized, I was actually a pioneer ahead of the times a long time ago, as expected of myself!"
He clapped his hands and praised himself.
"Even if slightly dirty or a little broken, they might still be usable or there might be other ways of existence. This is the resting place for the sake of slowly pondering such matters... Right?"
After muttering all alone, he cocked his head on his own as well.
"Why do I have to do this? Hmm~ If it's Haruaki, he might say that this is penance for the tools that we humans have cursed... Of course he's right but Daddy is the one who started this endeavor from day zero and I don't quite agree~ Actually, it's more like paying off debts."
He examined the next shelf then tilted his head the other way.
"Hmm~ Speaking in general terms... It's wanting to be kind? Not just towards humans but also things created by humans and things related to humans. Don't you find this to be wonderful? At least I purely think so. However, I think Haruaki also understands this point. Summing it up, it's love. Love. This home was built using our love, so plentiful that it overflows."
Honatsu nodded and walked over to the last set of shelves. At this moment, he suddenly giggled.
"By the way, I'm quite intrigued myself. Why am I muttering so much to myself? Yes, as usual, it's because of 'developments.'"
The directionality of "no choice." Something occasionally enveloping him, whispering to him, pushing him.
Something demanding that he "do this."
He called them "developments."
"By the way, let me add this, why I prioritized sweeping the accessory dwelling's surroundings is also for this reason. I was already sweeping when Haruaki and the others were here. Actually, it's probably better if I started sweeping from the main house or the living room. But just as 'developments' said, it's of course much better to wake up in clean surroundings. Although this is totally just a matter of mood."
Then Honatsu knelt down in front of those shelves.
His gaze settled on something on the lowest level. He stared straight at it.
Then he reached out and caressed gently.
"Are you worried about affecting Haruaki and the others' 'developments'? Hoho, what a kind child you are. But you're thinking too much. They will embrace you with open arms... Very naturally, matter-of-factly, unalterably. Like what those children have been doing all along. So, you don't need to be afraid."
Ahhh—Honatsu finally noticed.
Why he was here, why he came here.
"It's to help you, still half asleep, to realize your own 'developments'... In other words, my mission is to give the sleeping girl one final push."
Hence, Honatsu used just his fingertip to poke that object. It felt hard yet unbelievably warm.
"However, you don't need an alarm clock. Neither do you need a hand to shake you out of bed, nor words to rouse you, nor a spoon to whack a frying pan noisily."
Gently, only extremely gently—He then said:
"You just need to be aware of it... Got that? Long ago—You have already woken up."
In front of his gaze...
The indigo pot shook with a clatter.
Haruaki could not believe the scene in front of him and blinked repeatedly. Because it was too unexpected, he had to spend a bit of time before he could recall from memory what he definitely knew.
Just as an armored knight was about to swing his broadsword upon Haruaki, something jumped from the side, baring its fangs to bite the knight's throat. It was—
A beast made of indigo mercury.
Ahhh, this... This is hers—!
Then he heard a voice. So nostalgic that it brought him to the verge of hot tears, that voice.
"Indigo Venom No.28, Name: «Unknown». Indigo Venom No.29, Name: «Uranus»!"
She looked back.
Haruaki saw it.
With hair covering one eye, dressed in a large coat with many pockets, wearing tall boots for some reason, summoning to her side the cursed forms of her venom familiars—
He was not mistaken. It was definitely Aiko. During the battle against the Bivorio Family, she had suffered a grievous wound sufficient to kill. It was only last Christmas when they discovered that she was miraculously still alive, slowly waiting to recover—the girl whose true nature was a cursed pot.
With timid airs like a small pet, Aiko retracted her neck and fidgeted shyly. Indeed it was her, exactly as Haruaki remembered.
"Yes, uh, umm, it was Honatsu..."
In the middle of Aiko's sentence, Fear rushed over to hug her tightly. Fear's face went through myriad expressions while she rubbed her face against Aiko in one instant, or shook and stroked Aiko's body all over in the next.
"Ahhh, it really is Aiko! Why? How? When did you wake up? Are you okay? Running to this place!"
Aiko made that nostalgic sound while allowing Fear to keep shaking her. However, her gaze suddenly turned to the side—The approaching armored knight that a newly summoned large dog-shaped venom familiar had pounced on.
"Umm, Fear... I'm very happy, but right now..."
"Y-You're right. Right now... Hmm, it's not the time."
Fear finally recovered somewhat from her confusion and released Aiko's body.
"I'm pretty lost here but you mentioned Pops' name just now? I can basically guess everything from that... Are you willing... to help us?"
"That is exactly why I came here."
An unambiguous answer. Clearly for her, using venom familiars was not supposed to be a happy thing. It was supposed to be a power that she herself hated.
Haruaki felt very grateful for her well intentions. Nodding, he said:
"Kotetsu! Those animal-like things are on our side. Don't worry!"
"Guh, oh... Hmph. Truth be told, your allies are full of weird things. I never expected the arrival of even beasts as well—"
Despite wounds all over his body, Kotetsu was still valorously fighting the armored knights with his tiger claws, muttering in a gruff tone of voice. His reply seemed a bit strange to Haruaki.
"...Even beasts as well?"
Kotetsu silently lifted his chin, gesturing towards Kirika who had her abdomen pierced by a knight's broadsword earlier. Heavily injured, she was supposed to be focusing her attention on healing at the moment. Haruaki saw—
Arriving unnoticed, Yamimagari Pakuaki was standing there, looking down at the collapsed Kirika.
Next, after a wave of his arm...
A group of people dressed in lab coats suddenly appeared in the surroundings.
Pakuaki first glanced at Kirika then Haruaki.
"No need to be so surprised. I simply used transportation and concealment Wathes."
"No, I'm not talking about that, why are you..."
"Looks like there's no time to explain reasons right now. Although brawn is not in abundance on my side, there are a few skills just sufficient to handle combat. That's the main point, right?"
"Take this! Eat my punch! As for the name... I got it! Intellectual Fist of Destruction!"
"Kususu, surprisingly good, that gorilla-like and simple-minded speech of yours. But gorillas can't speak Japanese, so overall, it still adds up to zero."
"Th-Then... Ooh, ooh, ohhhhhhh!"
"Uwah, obviously human but imitating gorilla sounds, that's so revolting. Doing that is totally retarded, so it's minus points now."
"What the heck do you want me to do!?"
A familiar looking muscular researcher equipped with brass knuckles was punching an armored knight. A gloomy woman was wielding a taming whip. Other researchers who showed up were each carrying strange tools, some resembling rods, some resembling fans, some resembling guitars. Those were definitely cursed tools that were useful in combat.
If a re-introduction was necessary, there was also one researcher present who did not carry any cursed tools.
"I am late. Apologizing with this kind of apology."
A dark-skinned figure jumped over, sending a set of silver armor flying with a kick. Most likely, she finally defeated those living knights she was fighting earlier.
"Hi. Anyway, this is the situation now. You help out too."
"Although the reason is unknown... Orders acknowledged."
After nodding at Pakuaki, Un Izoey was just about to pursue the armored knight she had just kicked away when—
Someone landed on that knight's helmet with a thud.
Haruaki could only stare wide-eyed. Because it was too unbelievable, he could not trust his own eyes.
Kokoro Pentangeli. Her hair was cut short and she was dressed in a pantsuit like a businesswoman, but unmistakably, it was the Draconian whom they had defeated in the past.
"Kaha. It's been a while, Hunter, boy... Woah!?"
The armored knight under Kokoro's feet stood up forcibly. Somersaulting in the air, she landed and casually picked up someone's sword that had fallen on the ground. After clashing a few times with the armored knight's broadsword—perhaps due to a difference in mass—her sword broke. Backing away, she picked up another sword.
"Tsk, how fragile~ But whatever, this is also a good training handicap."
"Oh? You didn't hear about this? I'm now being kept by that unscrupulous and inhumane masked man. He even threatened me with poisoned food... So that's the story. Anyway, that's why I've no intention of fighting you guys at the moment."
Indeed, they had handed Kokoro to the superintendent to take care of. Although she was a villain who had committed unforgivable crimes... Haruaki did not believe that the superintendent would execute her privately. Presumably as punishment, he forced her into becoming his subordinate.
Kuroe tilted her head slightly.
"Come to think of it, the superintendent seems to have mentioned something about a beast tamer..."
"Although I think what he said about poison was 99% likely to be a lie, I can't ignore the possibility that he really laced my food with poison. Anyway, that guy currently holds the power to determine my life and death... Usually, he sends me to do his bidding by handling gangsters or other boring conflicts. Now that there's a rare chance for a big fight, I have to enjoy myself! Kahaha!"
Obtaining weapons from the scene, Kokoro charged the armored knight.
Haruaki then saw Kirika stir restlessly to move her upper body, so he reached out and helped her up. The abdominal wound seemed to have finally healed.
"...Absolutely ridiculous, the situation seems to have descended into chaos."
"It's way too chaotic! By the way, huh? There's even one of Sovereignty's dolls mixed in there!"
Haruaki suddenly discovered there was a doll mixed among Aiko's venom familiars, jumping around, trying to divert the armored knights' attention. Haruaki turned his head to see a figure on the school roof far away. Not just Sovereignty but Shiraho, Isuzu and the others were also there.
"They were clearly asked to hide in the secret room..."
In his hand, Konoha shook lightly.
"I understand their feelings. It's quite painful to just wait without doing anything."
"And right now, the knights probably don't have any spare energy to give them a hard time... Even if they do, Isuzu would be able to handle one or two of them using the power of norito. Anyway, let's feel grateful for Sovereignty's support, it's enough to disrupt the enemy."
Haruaki nodded in agreement with Fear, then readied Konoha in a stance. There was a continuous stream of slight pain from his left hand just from holding the sword. It was when clashing against armor and swords that the force of impact would bounce around inside his body, causing a vague and ambiguous numbness. This elusive pain, too small to pinpoint tangibly, actually felt more annoying.
However, staring at the battlefield before his eyes, Haruaki slowly began to ignore it. Slowly, he forgot the pain.
It felt unbelievable.
They were facing the «Wittelsbach Knights», sixteen of them, threats with mechanical vibes like robots.
Kotetsu swung his tiger claws. Kuroe extended her hair. Kirika controlled her bandage. Un Izoey brandished the knife in her foot. While the doll controlled by Sovereignty distracted the knights, Aiko's venom familiars would seize opportunities to bite. Waving around their respective tools, incomprehensible to Haruaki, the members of the Lab Chief's Nation handled the knights. On the other hand, Kokoro was swinging her sword like a beast.
Everyone was there. Enemies, friends, as well as people who were difficult to classify as enemies or friends.
Haruaki felt his heart heat up unbelievably. He thought back to all the details of everything that had happened to this date. Times they had spent—interacting, knowing, clashing with certain individuals. At the same time, he immersed himself in the feeling.
Without these times in the past, surely this currently scene would be impossible to witness. The situation would not have developed into this either.
(Sure enough... it's because of Fear, right?)
He believed that Fear was the origin. Everything started after she came here. Meeting all kinds of people, experiencing all sorts of things. To be honest, every incident had good and bad aspects to them—but thanks to her, many things were definitely put into motion.
Even so, what was waiting ahead of them was assuredly going to be "something good."
Of course, what they desired was a happy ending.
He did not want to see an ending with people crying. He did not want to see an inconsolable ending.
Power surged silently within him. Standing in front of this scene, it was only natural.
This scene, allowing him to see everyone, seemed to be saying "step forward towards the happy ending."
At this moment, gazing at the battlefield like a commander, issuing orders to the researchers, Pakuaki suddenly said to Haruaki:
"Hey hey, what are you spacing out for? We're not jocks, after all, intellectual exercise is our specialty. Although we can buy some time, things won't look pretty if you expect us to wipe out the enemy."
Pakuaki extended his arm lightly and pointed somewhere.
The far end of the red carpet.
The Dominion Lord was sitting in his throne, the wheelchair. Beside him was the maiden knight—as well as the cursed spear stabbed in the ground.
"You guys have things to do, right? Then go, Yachi Haruaki."
"This guy is correct. Our goal is not the complete destruction of these sets of armor."
Fear nodded with a serious demeanor. The Japanese sword in Haruaki's hand also shook lightly.
"Got it. Then excuse me, I'm leaving the rest to you!"
Saying that, Haruaki started sprinting. Kirika also followed. Kuroe, Kotetsu and Un Izoey wanted to rush over but were blocked by the armored knights. Without extra energy to spare, they had no choice but to stay where they were and continue fighting the knights.
In the end, they were the only four who broke free from being surrounded by the «Wittelsbach Knights». Haruaki, Konoha in his hand, Fear, and Kirika.
"Haruaki-kun and I will be in charge of close quarters combat. Ueno-san will take care of long-range attacks and provide treatment in case any of us are injured. Finally, the one who doesn't matter... I suppose this is the most basic lineup."
"Don't call me the one who doesn't matter, accursed Cow Tits!"
"Konoha-kun, are you going to fight in that form?" asked Kirika.
"To be honest, I also hope that Haruaki-kun could stay in a safe place."
"Let me help please. Now that we're here, how could I do nothing but watch? My hand is totally fine too."
Haruaki asserted firmly, prompting a sigh from the Japanese sword.
"Indeed, the opponent does not seem to be a target that could be handled with knifehand strikes alone... And I don't want to suddenly see a set of armor approaching Haruaki-kun from behind and swinging a a sword at him after we separate to fight."
Immediately, Konoha's voice turned serious.
"I will put my life on the line to protect Haruaki-kun. Haruaki-kun, may I complete an important preparation for this purpose? However, that means changing back to human form for a moment."
The Dominion Lord and Dainsleif were right in front of them. However, since Konoha said it was an important preparation, Haruaki could not ignore her, of course.
"Of course it's okay, but since you're turning back into human form, shouldn't I close my eyes first...?"
"Oh, either way is fine. I don't mind even if you don't close your eyes. Yes, this is a good chance to find out Haruaki-kun's preference."
By the time he tilted his head in puzzlement, Konoha had already jumped up before his eyes and returned to human form. Confronted with the vast view of bare skin, just as Haruaki reflexively tried to close his eyes, Konoha reached out with both hands to lift his face then—
She kissed him on the lips.
It was quite unlike the kiss last time. A certain something slid into his mouth, stirring boldly, sucking with a slurping sound.
"Puha... Excellent—! My motivation is surging! Come, Harauki-kun!"
Konoha's body bounced up and turned back into the Japanese sword.
"Cow Tits! What are you doing!? T-Too shameless!"
"Konoha-kun! You're doing this kind of thing again! A-Absolutely ridiculous!"
"I don't hear anything at all!"
"D-Damn it...! Haruaki, I want motivation too! But it's way too shameless if I imitate her, so, uh, I'm doing this!"
"I-I want some too! Although it's absolutely ridiculous! But it can't be helped!"
Fear wrapped her arms around his back and hugged him tightly, pressing her silver-haired head against his chest. Kirika grabbed his arm and embraced it tightly in her bosom. Haruaki felt his arm sandwiched between two soft objects.
"Hey, you've totally lost me, now isn't the time for this kind of behavior, right!? Although I do agree that motivation is definitely needed!"
In this manner, noisily...
The four of them moved forward, in a style very much unique to them in this sense—
Fear was using the entire front half of her body to feel Haruaki's body warmth.
Through his warmth—She smothered what was within her.
The black mud pulsating in the depths? That did not disappear, it still existed.
After seeing the dead bodies Satsuko created, it became restless. After the «Wittelsbach Knights» appeared, it became restless. The more the battle situation intensified, the more it became restless. After Konoha acted unreasonably, it became restless.
In other words, a feeling of displeasure. A wish to cause mayhem.
However, apart from her own willpower right now, there were other things capable of suppressing that impulse.
Rubbing her forehead against his chest, she savored his smell.
This alone was not enough. She recalled the taste of his skin.
She used his entire being to smother her impulse. Trying not to think. However, she still thought accidentally.
The squirming in the depths of her body. A shred of unease.
What was going to happen next? —Future options were definitely limited.
Hence, she could easily imagine them. Good futures, bad futures, the worst future.
She did not know which type of future among them would be chosen. Just as she did not know whom Haruaki wanted to be with the most between Konoha, Kirika and herself, she had no idea at all.
Even so, she still mustered her resolve.
The resolve to believe this to the very end: a wonderful future was what was going to arrive.
She inhaled forcefully again, allowing Haruaki to fill her interior.
Then as before, her unease was easily smothered.
Simple. Wonderful. At ease. Relief. Perhaps she had already gone through a makeover to become like this. To become an existence that was healthy in body and mind as long as she used Haruaki to fill up herself.
Okay, let's go. Everything was about to finish. A wonderful future was about to arrive.
Not like they could stay stuck together forever. The instant before the finish line was just ahead.
Seeing Kirika on the other side releasing Haruaki's arm with her face all red, she took this as the signal to slowly let go of Haruaki. His warmth, smell and texture departed.
Of course, she was definitely reluctant to part from these sensations, but conversely, she gained new pleasures. Because only during temporary separation could she ruminate and savor these experiences in her mind. She decided to immerse herself in them for now.
Just the thought of touching him again brought unbelievable joy to her heart.
She found this incredible and felt very happy at the same time.
The girls' warmth departed.
When Haruaki turned his attention back to reality, there were only two people before his eyes.
Sitting on the wheelchair, the Dominion Lord, and standing beside him, Dainsleif.
Dainsleif shook her head in disapproval.
"Impossible to comprehend. Like a parade of idiots, what are you people thinking?"
"A foolish question—Likewise, they do not comprehend our justice or our will. Simply a group of children... A group of children who jump up and down in rage after seeing their pile of sand in the park is about to be leveled."
"This place is not a pile of sand in a park. What you are trying to destroy is a place dear to us. That's why we must stop you."
Haruaki glared at the Dominion Lord and spoke. Sitting in his wheelchair and throne, he was gazing upon Haruaki with eyes marked with age.
Dainsleif rapidly and nimbly moved herself between the two of them.
"...Do you think you will succeed?"
"Hmph, you're the only ones left. I'd like to toss the question back at you: Do you think you can stop us?"
Hearing Fear's reply, Dainsleif answered with her shoulders shaking:
"So long as His Lordship and I remain, a minimum knightly order can be formed, a battlefield for a crusade to eliminate loathsome curses can be formed. Don't make me laugh."
She took a further step, stepping directly in front of the Dominion Lord.
"The only thing that saddens me is that I must request assistance from His Lordship himself."
"A foolish question. You are my sword. Now that the enemy is here, the sword must naturally be swung."
The Dominion Lord declared in a solemn voice:
"Hence—permission granted to unsheath, Dainsleif."
Dainsleif answered sternly then raised her arm as though rebounding. The visor-like helmet made a clong sound and moved—Underneath, below the visor that had bounced up...
It was a pair of violet eyes shining like ominous gemstones.
In the next second, while the Dominion Lord extended his hand towards her from behind, her body jumped up.
Then by the time anyone noticed—
A sheathed broadsword was already held in the Dominion Lord's hand while he remained seated the whole time.
The base of the scabbard had a component shaped like a clasp. In material and structure, the clasp resembled Dainsleif's visor-like helmet very much. The clasp was already open, revealing a glimpse of the blade beneath which was unbelievably glowing with violet light. Using a Japanese sword as an analogy, this would be the state of koiguchi, loosening the sword slightly in its sheath for immediate use.
The Dominion Lord stroked the scabbard with his hand. Since the clasp was already open, all he needed to do was wait for the scabbard to slide off.
The red carpet underfoot received the scabbard's weight, producing a tiny thud—
Left in the Dominion Lord's hand was a sword flashing with ominous violet light, filled with murderous intent.
The shape itself was quite commonplace, a double-edged broadsword with thickness to its body. Attached to the blade's body was a thin steel plate with patterns engraved on it, thus increasing the blade's thickness. Subtly blinking as though breathing, the violet light completely enveloped the steel-colored body of the blade and the silver-white blade itself.
"That's... Dainsleif's original appearance—"
"Ha, don't overestimate them, Haruaki. Using a battery to glow might be a fun mechanism for little kids, but take a look, the sword's wielder is an old geezer. He intends to fight while sitting in his wheelchair."
Haruaki suddenly realized. Indeed, the Dominion Lord holding the sword was still seated in the wheelchair. «Dieu le veut»'s curse dictated death for the owner as soon as one stepped out of the territory under its rule. Because the town's "Dominionization" had not finished, the Dominion Lord was currently in a forced state of compromise, relying on another «Dieu le veut» spear, using that wheelchair as his temporary fiefdom—called the Mobile Territory, right?
In other words, until "Dominionization" finished...
The Dominion Lord could not walk from that wheelchair, Zilch Ground.
"Fighting on a wheelchair? Absolutely ridiculous. This can only work by staying impeccably on guard.. right?"
"A foolish opinion. You people have no idea about Dainsleif's curse."
Saying that, the Dominion Lord turned the sword's tip lightly towards them.
In a girl's voice, the sword explained her curse.
"My curse is... 'once drawn, a victim shall be killed.' Hence, I have been called a demonic sword."
"No need to sound so full of yourself. This type of curse is very common. I am a demon blade too."
Konoha remarked in disdain. However, Dainsleif's tone of voice did not change.
"Ignorant to a pitiful degree. As one would naturally expect from a lowly Wathe whose value is equivalent to dirt, but you fail to understand the meaning of the words 'shall be.' Once drawn, I shall move for the sake of killing, I shall exist for the sake of killing, the sword itself will be guided for the sake of killing. Putting it another way, once my sword is drawn, the result of 'killing someone' is already predetermined."
"The predetermined outcome, destiny and causality of 'a victim shall be killed' drives my sword forward—Its direction and the driving force behind the causal relationship is precisely the manifestation of my curse."
"—Foolish children will not understand, Dainsleif. Just let them witness with their own eyes: the ending reflected upon your blade, predetermined death that follows immediately, and the driving force of guaranteed death led by causality!"
"Yes, my lord!"
Instantly, the pair—
Together with the broadsword in his hand, the Dominion Lord sitting in his wheelchair rushed towards them.
With the speed of a bullet, with the momentum of a cannonball.
The wheelchair tilted, but probably secured by a belt or something, the Dominion Lord's body did not fall off. Together with the wheelchair's mass, he swung Dainsleif at high speed.
Konoha barely managed to block the attack, deflecting the sword. Against this massive impact as though blocking a giant rock, Haruaki felt his entire body's muscles screaming before it turned into an electrical current that rushed out of his left hand's amputation wound. He gritted his teeth to endure the pain.
The Dominion Lord's wheelchair slid backwards and landed, but immediately, the twisting wheels made a 180-degree turn. Clearly, the Dominion Lord was not operating it at all.
This time, the wheelchair did not advance in a straight line. Instead, tilting the wheels alternately, it approached with dance-like movements—Fear was the target.
This was not something she could block barehanded. Probably not imitating Kokoro on purpose, but Fear instantly picked up a sword that had fallen by her feet, probably one of the knights' supplies, thus barely managing to block Dainsleif's attack. However, the Dominion Lord attacked relentlessly, chopping consecutively. Fear defended desperately—
Behind the Dominion Lord, Kirika extended the bandage in an attempt to strangle his neck or pull out the «Dieu le veut» spear embedded on the back of the wheelchair. However, the Dominion Lord stood the wheelchair up on one wheel and spun like a top, slicing through the bandage. Finally, Fear took this opportunity to distance herself.
"Tsk, I can't believe it... moves. So weird~"
"Dainsleif is the one pulling... Right!?"
"It appears that the speed and path can be controlled too. They mentioned a driving force of causality and guaranteed death, anyway, that means 'towards the enemy,' this kind of broad vector... Then making use of the vector, they created this method of fighting."
"I thought it was simply a charging thrust, but... Absolutely ridiculous. From the start, I should have calculated they would combine attacking motions with the wheelchair's mass and mobility. This might turn out to be even trickier than a normal battle."
"Indeed, we have never fought a wheelchair-bound opponent before, after all. But let us put this topic aside."
Konoha waved lightly. Haruaki guessed that she was probably looking at Fear's hand. Looking at the weapon she had picked up on the spot.
Still staring ahead, Fear pouted slightly and said:
"I don't want to hold it either, but there's no other way. Stop picking on me for such a simple weapon."
"Yeah, it's definitely challenging to handle a broadsword with bare hands... Konoha, it's fine, right?"
After Haruaki spoke on Fear's behalf, Konoha sighed several seconds laters.
"Fine—with a weapon like that, even if an emergency came up, I could still destroy it instantly. I'll treat it as an extension of your arm. However, carelessness is forbidden. What I need to do still hasn't changed. Listen carefully, on the first symptoms of trouble, immediately—"
"I know I know... Anyway, forget about me for now and focus on them! Their movements definitely startled me but it's pretty much just fighting on a wheelchair as a substitute for legs, right? Nothing to be afraid of!"
Shifting the wheelchair as though drifting in motorsports, the Dominion Lord adjusted his position and held up Dainsleif again. With a calm gaze, he said:
"—Foolish concerns. Whenever someone says there is nothing to be afraid of, the speaker is already afraid."
The wheels screeched. Both sides clashed again.
Haruaki and Konoha desperately fought the Dominion Lord together. Dainsleif was a cursed sword and was moving according to her own will—Hence, the Sword-Kill Counter would not work. Even by using the powerful True-Kill Counter—
"I am known as the legendary demonic sword! How could a mere demon blade from a remote island nation shatter me!?"
However, the opponent was a cursed broadsword with a long history. The two swords bounced off each other. Haruaki could feel they were evenly matched. It would be too naive to think the match could be concluded in a single strike.
Glowing faintly with violet light, the broadsword was swung with power, speed and spectacularly varying trajectories difficult to imagine coming from a man in a wheelchair. How could the elderly Dominion Lord's arm be so strong? His own swordsmanship was also astounding in skill. Difficult feints, combos, counters... He was not an opponent to be trifled with at all.
"Gwah... How can I... just keep defending... Take this!"
"Wait, Fear-san, you are too impetuous!"
But Konoha's warning came a step too late. Fighting like a caged beast, Fear lunged to attack using the sword she had picked up earlier, which ended up getting struck by the Dominion Lord's counter. The ordinary sword broke and flew away, leaving a scratch on Fear's cheek. Probably taking evasive action from more serious injuries, her petite body suddenly flew backwards and rolled on the ground. Then reaching around to search, she picked up a nearby sword.
"I'm not done yet...!"
She stood up and glared at the Dominion Lord. A fighting style relying on willpower and conviction instead of technique. Most likely displeased by this, the Dominion Lord scoffed from his wheelchair.
"—Foolish behavior. You are cursed. Do not fight as though you were a knight with a mission."
"Shut up, I... I have no choice!"
Tossing all concerns aside, Fear charged head on.
"...Mission? Of course I have one. I will defeat you in my rightful form! Then I'll return the town, the school and that home—back to normal! I absolutely won't give up!"
Haruaki could not watch quietly either and charged together, attacking with Konoha. Kirika also sent a flying bandage to cover them.
Silver hair fluttered by Haruaki's side.
To be honest, Fear's contribution to combat strength was negligible, but Haruaki was very grateful that she was willing to stay by his side and fight alongside them. He also felt saved.
However, even so—They still failed to harm the Dominion Lord and Dainsleif after all this time.
Although their fighting style was very eccentric at a glance, the pair's strength was like a straight fastball, relying on pure power with no gimmicks. Pure to the point of having no openings, there were no obvious weaknesses.
Haruaki's group kept consuming stamina. The fatigue accumulated from battling continually so far was weighing heavily on their backs. Even though Konoha was controlling his body, it did not prevent the physical body's base consumption. The shock from impacts felt concentrated on the end of his left hand, even giving him an illusion of the pain materializing into fingers. A matter-of-fact feeling there. A feeling impossible to forget. Forcing himself to forget was making him feel weary.
Hence—When he blocked Dainsleif's horizontal slash, swinging as though gliding through the air, Haruaki's knees suddenly lost strength and gave way.
Konoha had no choice but to endure the blow, absorbing the impact to jump to the side—or rather, allow Haruaki's body to be struck flying.
As the view receded away rapidly, Haruaki saw the wheelchair's wheels turning from the recoil of Dainsleif's attack, then as though executing a spinning back kick, it knocked Kirika away in the opposite direction.
Haruaki gritted his teeth and waited for the next impact. Meanwhile, he could only pray for the girl who was left on the spot—
He prayed for the safety of the girl who was facing off against her actual parent.
The screeching wheelchair landed after knocking Haruaki and the others away.
Fear faced off against the Dominion Lord head on, holding just a fragile and ordinary sword she had picked up.
Possibly to relieve boredom or to control the driving force, the Dominion Lord rotated his wrist, spinning Dainsleif in front of him as though performing a sword dance. Afterimages of violet light were left upon the viewer's retinas.
The Dominion Lord's expression remained constant throughout, completely emotionless, simply gazing at the justice he was meant to enforce. But at this moment, a slightly troubled expression seemed to surface in his eyes.
"I shall ask you... A continuation of the earlier conversation, although it is a foolish notion."
Fear frowned but the Dominion Lord continued unfazed:
"Why must you fight in this manner? Like an orthodox knight who gets up relentlessly for the sake of the mission."
Similar words as before. Fear could only respond with the same remark, namely, "Shut up."
"You are cursed. This manner of fighting is contrary to what I expected. Even if Indulgence Disks have sealed away several mechanisms, there should be others remaining, right? How about «A Skewer Loved by Vlad Tepes»? «The Teeth» or the «Flower Sword Verazella»? Try conjuring them."
"Hmph, you want to see them?"
"A foolish question. Every mechanism stands as evidence of my sin, hence obliterating them would contribute to penance. This is my duty as your creator—Your father."
She felt her chest tighten. Just like when she was listening to him in the form of a box, this man's words were poisonous. She found it difficult to breathe, her heart was pounding, and she almost broke into tears.
But she did not want to admit defeat. Taking a deep breath, Fear said:
"To you... Am I just a collection of errors?"
"Indeed. As your creator, I can assert that your birth was an error. You were born in error, used in error, and most of all, shrouded in the error known as curses."
Without spending time to think, without spending time to agonize, the Dominion Lord answered immediately.
As though saying this could not be more obvious and logical. As though saying there was no other answer.
Fear was struck by an urge to laugh at his assertion, but while suppressing it, she said:
"Okay... Then I'll ask something a bit more specific. What you do think exists inside this body of mine that is such a great big error?"
Like issuing a challenge, she used that word on purpose.
Staring straight at him, she grinned and said:
"'Father,' tell me. What is inside me?"
"—A foolish question. There are thirty-two mechanisms of torture and execution along with loathsome curses."
Still showing a poker face, the Dominion Lord answered in full seriousness.
Hence, Fear could no longer restrain herself and burst out laughing.
"Haha... Ahaha! You think you're so smart, right? What an idiot!"
"Insolent wretch! Are you insulting His Lordship!?"
The tip of Dainsleif's blade shook intensely, but did not charge at her. As though contemplating Fear's true intentions, the Dominion Lord stared intently at her. Since he did not understand, she would have to explain for him.
Fear placed her hand lightly against her chest.
Heart beat. Warmth. What lay inside.
"Inside me—Yes, for example... I know how to solve a Rubik's cube. Did you design that?"
The Dominion Lord frowned as though saying he did not comprehend what she was talking about. This also amused her.
"There's lots more. Such as feelings of liking rice crackers, feelings of liking furry animal, or content from the lessons in school that are stored in my mind. I've gained so much knowledge. I can also perform the dance I learned for the sports festival. Learning part-time jobs was also a piece of cake, like being a waitress or a salesperson. Also—oh right, knowing how to make chocolate. I can make very~ tasty chocolate, you know? Of course, including everyone in school, everyone in the shopping street, everyone in town..."
After pausing for a breath—
"Along with Haruaki... Haruaki and the others, my feelings of love for them all."
Feeling shy, she had to change her words at the last moment. However, she was telling the truth. These feelings really existed in her heart.
"Haha, so let me ask again. Did you design these feelings for me by using that prided mouth of yours?"
Once she articulated herself, she no longer felt afraid.
"—The matter-of-fact error, me, that you created in the beginning... has already been diluted by other things. Because I am shaped like a box, of course there will be many things stuffed inside, even to the point that the original contents no longer matter. Every space that used to remain empty all the time in the past has been filled up, even overflowing."
Beneath the palm she had pressed against her chest, she could feel those things that were breathing.
Those things that had been inserted bit by bit ever since she came here, less than a year ago.
Before she even noticed, these things had piled up in layers like flower petals.
Hence—Fear looked up.
She did not smile at her creator—Instead...
She stared straight at the Dominion Lord as though piercing him.
"Even if my birth is an error, the fact of my being here, coming here, and meeting everyone—all these things are absolutely not errors. This is the only point I can be certain of! You have no right to deny all this!"
Then she declared loudly to him.
The Dominion Lord shook his head lightly as though evading Fear's forcefulness. Reversing the direction of Dainsleif's rotation, he made a preparatory motion for a thrust.
Empowered by the driving force formed from the intent to kill, the wheelchair rushed towards her with lightning speed.
A threat, but she was not afraid.
She had already realized that this man was nothing so extraordinary. Dominion Lord? A ruler like a king? An ancient alchemist? The enforcer of justice? These meanings were insignificant. To her, there was only one meaning.
Fear gripped her sword tightly. Entering a battle-ready stance, she yelled:
"Ha! Insisting your daughter is very foolish when you clearly didn't try to understand her—From my perspective, I think this kind of father is even more foolish!"
The force of impact was substantial. Kirika did not think she could land safely.
Perhaps I might die again, hopefully I'll revive sooner—she thought, but the next sensation was not pain. Fabric and frame. She felt a melded mixture of softness and hardness envelop her body. A clatter of collapsing noises. Apparently knocked too far away, she had collided with one of the tents set up nearby. What unexpected fortune.
A sharp end of the broken frame stabbed into her arm, but it was already several times better than breaking her neck or cracking her skull open from smashing into the ground or a wall. She pulled the frame out and sat up while pushing the tent's remains to one side. Due to moving her body too quickly, she felt dizzy.
Merely knocked away by a wheelchair—She gnashed her teeth secretly. Her body's only advantage was immortality. She was useless once she died and would end up worrying others instead, which she did not want.
(Is there really nothing... that could give me more power? If there's a way to help them...)
Just at this moment...
Amidst the remains of the collapsed tent, her hand, which was on the ground to support her body, touched something.
Kirika involuntarily turned her head to look at the object—
Then she laughed "haha."
"Absolutely ridiculous... Because it's too trivial, they could not even be bothered to destroy it?"
After getting knocked away, Haruaki spun his body and entered a defensive posture, although it was Konoha controlling him to do that.
Even so, he still braced himself for an impact against the sports ground's hard surface. The instant he tensed his entire body—
However, what he felt was a body of flesh.
"Huh... That's odd? Kotetsu...?"
Kotetsu had spared his arms to catch him. More precisely, he was holding Haruaki in a bridal carry.
Naturally, Haruaki felt embarrassed and left Kotetsu's arms as though rolling away.
"Kotetsu? Thank you for saving me but how did you..."
"Because the number of armored knights decreased slightly. If it is just me, running over here should not be a problem..."
Haruaki glanced at the surroundings. Aiko's venom familiars, Sovereignty's doll, and the members of the Lab Chief's Nation including Un Izoey were still fighting. However, he could definitely see several sets of silver armor fallen on the ground, no longer moving.
"Really? Then that'll really be a great help to us. We're actually about to run out of energy here, if you could join in—"
At this moment, Kotetsu directed an unfriendly gaze towards him, glaring at Haruaki as though he had something to say. But seconds later, he shifted his gaze away immediately.
"To be honest... Truth be told, I am also tired. I cannot attack in my usual condition."
"R-Really? Uh, then it can't be helped..."
"So... Hmm, umm, basically..."
At this moment, Konoha bounced up in Haruaki's hand.
"Ah, could it be... Kotetsu, would you like me to speak on your behalf?"
"N-No, Muramasa-sama! Ultimately, this sort of thing... is only proper for me to suggest myself, so..."
What was he talking about? Haruaki tilted his head, then Kotetsu faced him again as though committing his resolve. Slightly pouting, he said:
"...This is just a temporary measure."
"I have yet to offer you my approval or my trust. Truth be told, you are truly incomprehensible and weak. Despite being weak, for some reason, you sometimes look very strong as well. Originally, I would never suffer such a fellow, but umm... Right! Because the magnanimous Muramasa-sama has taken the lead and done it, I am merely emulating her magnanimity, or perhaps one could call it learning, it would be nice to have a look at the world through the same kind of perspective... So!"
Kotetsu grabbed Haruaki's collar and brought his face up close in a very fierce manner.
Haruaki was thinking he was going to be killed—but in the next instant, Kotetsu went red in the face without warning and avoided eye contact.
"Just this once. Just this once... I permit you to make my body your plaything as you please."
These profound words make Haruaki's heart skip a beat.
While the Wa Lolita outfit was silently fluttering to his feet—
Haruaki found his left hand holding a scabbard-less Japanese sword.
"...Quit staring at me. You do have a thing for males after all? Ugh! Noo... Truth be told, I cannot believe you are using your fingers to play with that part immediately..."
"I-I'm holding you for the first time. At least let me confirm the grip's sensation!"
"Muu, somehow your comment sounds totally awful."
"Not at all!"
Haruaki was clearly just moving his fingers lightly to confirm the sensation of gripping the sword.
Although his left hand was missing fingers, the grip felt unexpectedly tight. Or perhaps Kotetsu himself was helping him out a bit.
"...Hmm, very well. But I still retain priority over Haruaki-kun's body, okay? Kotetsu."
"Certainly, I will provide support with the precondition of not obstructing you, Muramasa-sama."
Priority over his body sounded a bit weird but Haruaki decided not to dwell on the matter.
In any case, Kotetsu probably possessed a certain level of ability to assist the wielder's body. Combined with Konoha's power, Haruaki felt his body become much lighter. Naturally, this was his first time dual wielding Kotetsu and Konoha, but he felt that this should work.
"...Thank you, Kotetsu."
"Quit yammering. Shut up. All you need to do is move while holding me. This will be over immediately."
A gruff voice.
Haruaki smiled wryly and started walking back to the battlefield. Fear was currently facing off against the Dominion Lord.
He could hear—
Straightforward words, filled with her conviction.
Get back there immediately. Fight alongside her. She is already fine.
Just as he took a step while thinking such thoughts, Konoha spoke.
For some reason, as though in resignation towards something, her words were mixed with a deep, deep sigh.
"...Oh~ Excuse me, Haruaki-kun, could we go somewhere first?"
Returning as soon as one it had been dodged, attacking as soon as one thought it had been withdrawn, that was the kind of power driving the sword of Dainsleif. Despite attacking in straight lines, the trajectories were strange and complicated. Just as Fear desperately blocked an attack—
She saw something behind the wheelchair, twisting in a serpentine manner to take on a scythe-like shape.
And there were two of them.
In the next instant—
"«Chupacabra Bandage»! And the... «Tragic Black River»—!"
Kirika suddenly rushed over, waving her arms as though dancing. The white bandage, which had been transferred to her left arm, and the black belt on her right arm—returned to its original location—formed two writhing spirals.
The Dominion Lord groaned and turned the wheelchair while swinging Dainsleif in a horizontal slash. However, the two monochrome strips, one black and one white, differed slightly in timing, extending independently like using both hands to attack consecutively, assaulting the Dominion Lord in wave after wave.
"Hah... Although I'm bringing this to a fight without practicing, I didn't expect it to work so well...!"
Easier said than done. In fact, it probably required substantial willpower and concentration. Her forehead covered in sweat, Kirika said:
"I happened to find it in the adjacent tent. They probably thought they didn't need to go out of their way to destroy a mere belt... Or they simply forgot. Anyway, this is mine. Although I took it back without asking, they're not going to object!"
"All you did was retrieving an insignificant and frail Wathe! Don't get too full of yourself!"
Yelling, Dainsleif used her own blade to slice through «Chupacabra Bandage» and the «Tragic Black River». Then the wheelchair slid between the two of them to close in on Kirika. Long before Fear gripped her sword, someone had already squeezed his way in front of her.
Obviously, it was Haruaki.
For some reason—He was holding a Japanese sword in each hand. In his right was an elegant Japanese sword in its black scabbard. In his left was an unbridled and unsheathed Japanese sword.
After blocking Dainsleif, Haruaki instantly counterattacked with speed and power, a consecutive offense that made use of complementary advantages. Fear originally thought Haruaki's left hand which she had maimed would have trouble holding a sword, but Kotetsu looked even heavier than Konoha and through judicious use of both sides' weights according to the principle of leverage, thereby compensating for grip strength while generating destructive power.
After clashing evenly with the Dominion Lord for several rounds, Haruaki jumped away greatly as though saying "enough."
"Compared to Nirushaaki-sama, you are too lacking in stamina. I am very dissatisfied."
"...That's only to be expected, right? Don't compare me with that kind of natural-born battle maniac."
"Kotetsu, you may exert more force on the left arm without any concerns. Although not to the point of tearing muscles apart, so long as muscle ache is the only aftereffect, Haruaki-kun will just have to endure it."
"Uwoah~ What a spartan approach..."
Haruaki sighed and slumped his shoulders. Then as though lifting his spirits, he grinned and looked at Fear over his shoulder.
"It's not all over yet. You want to punish that idiot father, right? Let us help."
"Yeah, count me in as well. I suppose he's one of those monster parents who've become fashionable lately. Although it's absolutely ridiculous, he won't understand unless we resort to force."
Kirika also chimed in. Had they all heard what she said to the Dominion Lord just now? Fear felt a little embarrassed—But immediately, she thought candidly to herself: "Fine, whatever."
She felt her courage multiply just from the fact that she was facing the same direction as Haruaki and the others. She glared at the Dominion Lord.
"Foolish behavior... Just as Dainsleif stated, the mere increase of one or two insignificant Wathes will not turn the tide."
"Really? How will we know without trying...? If anything, I believe the gap in combat strength has definitely shrunk."
"Even this statement is also—a foolish answer."
The Dominion Lord suddenly extended a wrinkled finger, pointing at—
The spear standing upright next to the throne area.
Fear shuddered and swiftly turned her head to confirm the large clock installed on the side of the school building. Time. The current time—
Their time limit of 2pm had already passed.
As though saying there had been enough stoppage time, the clock's minute hand kept advancing.
Then when Fear held her breath and looked back at the Dominion Lord's direction—
He had his hands on the wheelchair's armrests.
Walking down from the wheelchair, he stepped onto the sports ground and stood up straight.
Dying as soon as one exited the territory under their rule—Governed by this curse, for him to accomplish such an act meant that—
"'Dominionization' is complete."
The Dominion Lord glanced at the spear tip's progress—it was entirely buried in the ground now—and exhaled.
Then quietly, he spoke simply to inform them of the truth.
"This land where I stand is already the Second Knights Dominion."
Fear and company were staring at the spear in shock.
"We failed to make it in time...!?"
A hair-raising, icy cold and dark feeling shrouded their backs. Try as they did to push it away, it hassled them relentlessly, refusing to let go, whispering softly in their ears to face reality.
The time had passed.
The spear tip had entered the ground completely.
The Dominion Lord who would die as soon as he left his territory was currently standing away from his wheelchair.
The meaning represented by all this.
Really? They did not make it in time? For the sake of eliminating them, the Knights Dominion was already able to bring out 100% of their power; that home's meaning was already lost; the place they belonged to had already vanished?
No way, no way, impossible.
It felt very unreal. Consciousnesses grew hazy as though paralyzed. Senses used to detect the surrounding situation were plunged into turmoil.
Among all this, they even noticed something else.
The Dominion Lord was standing. His facial features. Cheeks. Back of his hands. His wrinkles seemed to be decreasing—
Possibly a psychological effect? He looked like he was getting younger.
Konoha said as though groaning:
"Your face...! How could this kind of thing be possible...!?"
"A foolish question. Zilch Ground is simply the minimum soil to provide me with mobility, but the Second Knights Dominion is a territory far more vast and even more official than Zilch Ground. A feudal lord standing on an official fiefdom deserves to be granted commensurate and proper dignity. My semblance earlier was only temporary. This is truly my usual appearance as the Dominion Lord."
To confirm Dainsleif's weight, the Dominion Lord swung her with his hand which had decreased in the number of wrinkles. Not rejuvenated to the extent that one could call him a young man, he was still an elderly man. However, he did not give off any vibes that ought to belong to an elderly man who had just gotten off his wheelchair, simply exuding a mind-boggling air of strength, resembling an ancient tree that still stood young and flourishing.
Strong, robust, vigorous. Rather than quantity in muscle, these adjectives adorned his body through exuded vibes difficult to articulate. He looked downwards at the Dainsleif he was swinging.
"My first knight, there is no need to hold back any further. Remove even more of the scabbard."
"But what of your body?"
"A foolish question. Given this current body, there is no cause for concern."
The Dominion Lord swept his hand across the violet-glowing body of the broadsword's blade. In the next second, the thin steel plate with the patterned surface fell off from the blade's body. No, it was no ordinary plate anymore. Fallen by the Dominion Lord's feet was a slender piece of steel. It felt understandable. The Dominion Lord was correct, this was the Dainsleif broadsword's final scabbard. Something serving as a stone weight, serving as shackles.
Remaining after the scabbard's removal was the elegant appearance of Dainsleif, thinner in thickness than before.
An outline of orthodox and intimidating straight lines, a bare blade clouded by nothing. Enveloped in a faint violet glow, it even looked mysterious and fantastical. One could feel that it had shed all redundant and forced additions to reach perfect balance. This appearance convinced any viewer that this was truly her original and rightful form.
The Dominion Lord looked down slightly towards the sword in his hand and said:
"The demonic sword of mythical times did not unleash its full power on every occasion... Sometimes, it was beyond the ability of the wielder's body to withstand, sometimes it was mired in the inability to react and adapt on the spot. Hence, I crafted this set of shackles to install on her."
"Hmph. Truth be told, I hope you are not bluffing. There was once a man named Sasaki Kojirou who tossed his scabbard away with gusto, but ended in defeat."
The Dominion Lord remained expressionless after Kotetsu's remark but his voice answered in a tone of exasperation:
"Under the incomplete power of Zilch Ground, my elderly body is a poor match for Dainsleif's nature. However, things are different now—"
The Dominion Lord had been moving the sword tip slowly so far, but just as his motion suddenly seemed to stop—
His body had already appeared behind Haruaki.
Haruaki groaned. It was incomprehensible for a moment. What happened?
The Dominion Lord's appearance and condition was so different from before, he was like a different person. The two Japanese swords crossed before Haruaki's eyes. Haruaki stumbled and fell, sitting on the ground. A bloody scratch appeared on his cheek—With that, he finally understood. It was a charging thrust. As earlier, the Dominion Lord had charged Haruaki with his entire body to execute a slash, propelled by Dainsleif's driving force of guaranteed death—thus achieving supernatural speed. Kotetsu and Konoha had blocked instantly, but not completely. Thus, Haruaki was cut lightly on the cheek.
Just the cheek. Had there been any minor deviation, a difference of a few centimeters, a change in the sword's positioning—
Haruaki shuddered, involuntarily bringing his hand against his chest.
It's okay. It's—
Haruaki got up frantically while muttering in disbelief:
"W-What's going on? That was way too fast just now...!"
"Ha, that terrified face of yours was like a caged pig's, an excellent match for one who lives in cohabitation with filthy Wathes. Did you think those slow movements were the extent of my curse as a demonic sword? What the curse of guaranteed death represents—Savor it with your own body!"
While Dainsleif was yelling, the Dominion Lord kicked the ground and jumped. The bare blade approached as though gliding through the air, fast as an arrow, like a bullet.
This time, their target was—This side!
A strange snapping sound. The instantly raised sword broke and flew up. A the same time, she was confronted with pressure and impact that felt like a car collision, sending her flying helplessly then roll on the ground. Or maybe she had jumped subconsciously. No idea. Striking the sports ground, her body creaked but at least she had avoided a critical injury. She forced herself to stand up, but just at that moment, the Dominion Lord immediately turned around after knocking Fear away and charged in the opposite direction. Probably having anticipated herself to be the next target, Kirika rapidly reacted and jumped to the side, but—
"Gah... Damn it, absolutely ridiculous...!"
"Kirika, are you okay!?"
"Just a scratch on my arm. It'll be okay soon!"
Judging from the amount of Kirika's bleeding, Fear did not believe that it was just a scratch on the arm. Her arm dangled limply while she forcibly stood up. Despite anticipating the attack and dodging at what she believed was perfect timing, she had failed to evade completely—This meant that the opponent's speed was beyond expectation.
Fear felt her heart rate rise. Her body kept shaking. The aching all over her body was such a nuisance.
Truly, the combination of Dainsleif's unshackled speed with the Dominion Lord's fully unleashed strength under «Dieu le veut»'s blessing was overwhelmingly powerful. Fear could not help but admit that.
"Don't clump up together, everyone! Spread out a bit!"
Haruaki was out of breath, but he still readied the Japanese swords in a stance.
The demonic sword flew again like a cannonball. Instead of blocking for now, Haruaki chose to evade—but failed to dodge completely. The result was Konoha and Kotetsu crossing blades with that demonic sword again, deflecting its trajectory with much difficulty. Haruaki frowned, was it because his shoulder was about to dislocate? Or his left hand was in pain? Or maybe both. Just as she tracked the Dominion Lord's whereabouts with her gaze, Fear rolled while sprawled on the ground. The blade swept past, over her head. She could feel several strands of silver hair fluttering into the air, sliced into many pieces.
They were struggling to resist in a one-sided fight. They were being toyed with in storm-like brutality.
The charging slashes were faster than the naked eye could see clearly. However, the opponent's high speed did not translate to agility. In the moment of contact, it was possible to feel the broadsword's sense of weight. Speed was being enlisted to convert into destructive power.
It was like having murderous trains rushing at you from all directions endlessly.
Although they endured desperately, it was impossible to stay uninjured. Whether Fear, Haruaki or Konoha, the wounds on their bodies were increasing bit by bit. Their bodies were also slowly starting to have trouble keeping up with their thoughts and intents. Even if Fear wanted to counterattack, she had no weapon and did not even have the time to search for a sword that had fallen on the ground. There was a feeling of darkness before her eyes.
Was there no solution? No countermeasures... at all?
This darkness and anxiety was probably occupying Haruaki's heart as well. He looked at the Japanese sword in his right hand and asked:
"Konoha...! Can you find an opening?"
"The speed is admittedly astounding... But their movements are constrained in straight lines like a pinball the whole time. As long as the attacks are seen clearly, it might be possible to counterattack..."
That made sense, she was right. So far, the Dominion Lord had simply charged like a train and backed away repeatedly. Even while wielding supernatural speed and power, he could still be taken down as long as they were able to see through his movements.
Having decided their temporary direction, they looked at the Dominion Lord again. At this moment, he happened to have stopped his incessant charging. Standing in front of them, he was twirling Dainsleif's blade tip just as he had done while seated on the wheelchair earlier. Was he using that motion to control the vector of charging?
The Dominion Lord glanced at the broadsword in his hand and said:
"Dainsleif—You are rushing into things too impetuously. Are you unable to exert restraint, having lacked activity for so long?"
"Yes! My utmost apologies for my poor patience."
"The simplicity of jousting has its merits, but only charging straight like this would be foolish behavior. Concentrate, refine and control the power of causality from the curse of guaranteed death—With that, your sword will be able to continue seeking causality like a knight's consecutive strikes without traveling through unnecessary distance. Can you accomplish this?"
"...If you would permit me a little time to calm down."
The Dominion Lord stared intently in Fear's direction and continued to brandish the sword's tip.
Kirika healed the new wounds all over her body while murmuring in puzzlement:
"What are they talking about? Why aren't they attacking...?"
In a hoarse voice evocative of a twitching smile, Konoha answered:
"From what I can see, they will immediately render our new strategy moot. Judging from the contents of their conversation, as long as they take a break to focus their concentration, it would be possible to perform movements different from the charging so far."
"...Putting aside whether that is actually possible, but supposing that sort of speed could be used to attack fiercely like using a normal sword, then it would be a bit..."
Kotetsu stopped mid-sentence. Most likely, his pride did not permit him to say more. It did not permit him to say anything that could be construed as doom and gloom.
At this moment, the panting Haruaki glared at the Dominion Lord and said:
"...But even if that's the case, we can't run away, right? We're almost completely exhausted, so let's use this time to recover our energy a bit. Regardless whether the enemy's movements will change, I think it'll be easier than doing it right now—"
"Oh? Can you lot really afford to be so laid back?"
Dainsleif's voice carried obvious mockery. Konoha shook.
"What do... you mean?"
"As expected of wretched Wathes that only know curses, too foolish. To think you have forgotten—You failed to make it in time, didn't you?"
"'Dominionization' is already complete. As king, my master is the first to receive its blessings. Naturally, the rest of them are next. Those who have lost consciousness are no exception... Of course, the dead are a separate matter."
Presumably as a sign of confidence, Dainsleif continued to speak fluently:
"Right now, the spear is slowly giving everyone the blessing of righteousness, turning knights into perfect knights. And perfect knights do not lie sprawled on the ground in unseemliness, because this power will make them stand up again. How much time do you reckon is required for the transmission of power to complete, for all of the unconscious knights to wake up?"
What she meant was: The many knights, the many dozens of knights, whom they had spent so much effort to defeat, were going to wake up? They were going to attack with hatred, resentment and righteousness once again?
Fear swiftly looked behind her to the people who were holding back the «Wittelsbach Knights». Several sets of armor were collapsed on the ground but unbelievably, even the fallen armor seemed to be shaking slightly as though preparing to stand up and attack again.
Fear's back ran cold. Dark mist surged from the depths of her mind.
Even after telling herself not to think, she still could not help but think.
The Dominion Lord with Dainsleif, having obtained abnormal speed and power. High-speed charging attacks like cannonballs. Then there was the possibility of the two of them using that kind of speed to engage in normal swordfighting. Under such conditions, would they be able to resist? No idea. No idea.
They still did not know if they would be able to defeat the Dominion Lord and Dainsleif, who stood as an overwhelming threat—
And now, added to that...
The threats left behind them were going to reawaken? By this juncture, the knights' strength would be completely reset? No, if the enemy's combat potential, which they had spent so much effort to reduce, were to return at greater strength, then, in that case, no matter how much of a struggle they put up—
Haruaki yelled. The firmness in his tone of voice startled Fear, blowing away the dark mist in the depths of her mind.
"It's not over yet. Before other knights make their way here, before the situation changes, we will end things now! That's our only option!"
"Although we still need to recover a certain level of energy, the next strike... will probably be the last chance..."
"Truth be told, this is a last stand."
"Hmm... We must do it. It's absolutely ridiculous coming from me, but even if this life had to be put on the line...!"
Well said—Fear encouraged herself again. We must do it. Now was too soon to think it was over. Too soon to despair. Since they had things to do, since there was a possibility, they must take action—
However, would it work? Were they really able to defeat—
The Dominion Lord who had obtained the full blessings of "Dominionization" first as king? And also the ancient demonic sword Dainsleif, cursed with the causality of death?
After defeating them, were they able to destroy the «Dieu le veut» spear behind those two...?
"Konoha, can you do it?"
"Hooh... I don't think there is a choice."
At this moment, Haruaki waved to Fear. Warily keeping tabs on the Dominion Lord's movements, she approached Haruaki.
Clamping Konoha under one arm first, Haruaki used his free hand to search his pockets—then tossed something familiar to Fear, something that even felt nostalgic. Two of them to boot.
Two Rubik's cubes.
"I took these from Konoha's removed clothing just now."
Staring motionlessly at the Rubik's cubes in her hands, Fear only managed to say:
"Cow Tits, is this... okay...?"
"Of course it is not okay. But it cannot be helped."
Konoha answered gruffly with displeasure. However, Haruaki's shoulders shook lightly as he said:
"Haha, Konoha, you didn't even complete your sentence... Fear, what she means by cannot be helped isn't referring to having you do this in order to defeat that guy. Instead, it's because she heard what you said earlier to the Dominion Lord."
The Japanese shook as though protesting "Hey, Haruaki-kun!", followed by a sigh.
"...Since you said that you are filled with many things, show me. With that, if only for this one instant—That was simply my conclusion. In other words, I was only preparing myself."
If only for this one instant, you should be fine. You won't go berserk, right?
Then taking a gamble, she prepared herself.
That was what she meant, right?
A certain emotion surged in Fear's heart. After she clutched the Rubik's cubes tightly, the Japanese sword in Haruaki's right hand shook then spoke in a cheerful manner as though suddenly remembering something:
"Yes, basically that, like a certain occasion. Even if you go berserk, I will simply destroy you while humming a tune, so there's no need for you to think too much."
Konoha was clearly speaking in a joking tone.
Probably knowing it was just a joke, Haruaki simply shrugged.
Then, Fear also committed her resolve.
Holding a Rubik's cube in each hand, she confirmed their hardness while saying:
"..It feels like now is the only chance, so let me tell you guys something. Dainsleif here in front of us has the final Indulgence Disk. By putting in that last disk, I will 100% never go berserk again, to become a harmless being. Definitely... Without a doubt."
"What!? Fear, are you serious!?"
"Yes, I am. Yamimagari Pakuaki told me."
Kirika reflexively frowned but Fear smiled and said:
"I don't think he's lying. If he tricked me, the one who knows far more about me than anyone else will have voiced a correction."
She turned her head to look. The Dominion Lord raised an eyebrow.
"—Foolish question. Indeed, that would be the result. However—"
Currently, she did not need to hear the rest, so she interrupted him.
"Yeah, as for what I actually wanna say... This will probably be my final act of torture, the last act of violence. So, I want to explain the meaning of this first."
"Although it doesn't change anything by this point even if it's revealed, I don't to... hide things from you guys. This is about what kind of thing exactly I am."
Haruaki tilted his head, grinning in a slightly forced manner.
"Really, by this point. Although I can't say lightly that I knew a long time ago... As to what kind of thing you are, I already knew from the beginning, so—"
"There are things you don't know, which I wanna tell you."
Haruaki shut his mouth.
Then Fear thought back to yesterday when she had turned into a box to close off her mind.
Inside her room, back when she was conversing with Pakuaki over the communications device—
Do you still remember what happened at the cultural festival?
That's right, while you were operating your mechanisms, I recorded it for observations. This video is definitely very useful. We watched it repeatedly after the fact to analyze, investigate, and run calculations.
Even to the point of creating imitations.
However, we encountered a bottleneck at this step. On further thought, it was only natural.
Hey, don't you find it strange? Don't you think this is an unknown?
A steel box that can transform into thirty-two different mechanisms, can something like that really exist? No no no, aren't you actually existing right here? Not a philosophical question of this sort, but something more practical—Purely from the perspective of science and physics.
In terms of volume, mass, robustness, structure, mechanisms.
A transformable mechanism of that sort shouldn't be able to operate.
Physically impossible. A structure like yours breaks the laws of physics.
You're probably making a face right now that's saying "what's the point of telling me this?" Yes, I understand how you feel. After all, you were created in the real world. You never noticed the whole time because the most fundamental unknown inside your body is located at the very heart and root. Just like humans don't notice their hearts beating.
So, let's return to the subject of Indulgence Disks. An individual disk is able to prevent you from using one mechanism while applying a "curse weakening" effect on the remaining mechanisms.
Why would something that restrict your mechanisms have this power to weaken curses?
You guys might not have considered this at all, so let me give you a hint. Once you come up with this answer, you'll be able to explain what I just brought up, the issue of your mechanisms whose operation is physically impossible.
Fear slowly breathed in.
She turned her awareness to the Rubik's cubes in her hands.
She imagined the last of her simulated forms that remained. The shape of something like her.
"Mechanism No.19 gouging type, spiral form: «Human-Perforator»—"
Indeed. Thinking back, she should have known a long time ago, right? How did this body of hers work? What was the power driving her, this mechanical box?
Putting aside for now the many different things that filled "her current self."
She did not deny what the Dominion Lord said, that she was an existence of error from the very start.
Because she could not deny it.
Hence, she could only accept and admit it.
There was neither terror nor anger in her heart, nor cowardice, nor unease.
Only a bit of sadness.
That was all.
She took another breath. This was the last delay.
Clutching tightly as though praying—
The cube she had found in cupboard, which Haruaki had given to her.
And the cube from her very first underclassman.
Then Fear said those words.
She said the words that represented her as an object, words which she had never paid attention to before—
Something appeared in her left and right hands respectively, then she felt their weight.
The sensation of two drills.
After gazing upon them as thought they were her own children, Fear turned her head lightly to look at Haruaki and the others.
With a sad smile, she said:
"I... Before getting cursed, I was already machinery that operated by using the power of curses."
"This body, this block of steel that is me, was originally something forged by melting down cursed tools. Cursed swords, cursed shields, cursed hammers... In other words, that cursed steel was my raw material. The power from curses compensated for the paradoxes in the mechanism that is me. Otherwise, operation would be impossible with normal steel."
The Dominion Lord did not refute her. Of course.
She was forced to realize and recall things about herself. The process of her birth. What she said could not possibly be mistaken.
"...Before that castle lord used me as a tool of torture and execution, to be cursed by the negative thoughts of the victims—I, my body, was already cursed. Cursed at birth, hence—"
She wanted to ask: very disgusting, right?
She wanted to ask: your entire body is creeped out, right?
She wanted to ask: I'm even more cursed than cursed, right?
"What? It's just something so trivial."
Haruaki remarked, stroking his chest as though greatly relieved.
Then with his usual smile, he looked at her.
As though saying that her confession was nothing to be concerned about at all.
As though saying it would be very stupid to be hung up over something like this.
In an upbeat tone of voice, he asked her:
"So, is that all?"
Relaxing the corners of her eyes, smiling as though to oppose him, Fear shed a tear at the same time.
Not only because Haruaki's response made her very happy—
But also because Haruaki had not discovered the true meaning behind her confession, which was a relief.
Well then—with a drill in each hand, Fear faced off squarely against the Dominion Lord.
Haruaki also confirmed Konoha and Kotetsu's weight in his hands. The process of Fear's birth definitely surprised him, but he still felt: so what? Even if Fear was steeped in error in the moment of her birth, an insane creation of a mad alchemist, the current Fear should not be despised.
Allowing the ribbon-like weapons on her left and right arms to wriggle like living creatures, Kirika asked:
"I don't think there is time to devise a complex plan now. Neither is there time for putting one into motion. Our only choice is to simply rush forward."
Konoha's reply caused Fear to toss her silver hair.
"Hoho, Cow Tits, looks like we're finally on the same page. I agree too. Since there's no time, we'll have to decide the battle in one strike—A one-hit kill. You guys have to find a way to give me the chance to land one attack. Then I'll handle the rest."
Fear's suggestion did not offer anything concrete. The Japanese sword rose up as though inspecting the expression on her face.
Then she sighed.
"I am not responsible if this fails."
"Leave it to me."
Fear grinned and replied. Thus, their preparations were complete.
However, the same went for their opponents too.
Waving the tip of his sword, the Dominion Lord changed his rhythm slightly.
"Foolish behavior—This is my last offer of mercy. My objective is already complete. Putting the loathsome Wathes aside, you humans might be able to preserve your lives if you choose to flee."
"Ha... You want us to survive alone after running away, and feel grateful to you as well? No thank you!"
"What a choice that feels absolutely ridiculous from the bottom of my heart!"
Haruaki and Kirika both rushed at the Dominion Lord.
Holding Dainsleif, the Dominion Lord approached at high speed to engage them in battle. Filled with murderous intent, the broadsword led his elderly body and legs to advance at extraordinary speed.
Unlike before, the broadsword stopped in front of them.
"Your deaths are now even more certain! Prepare to accept causality!"
Dainsleif's voice. Then maintaining the distance he had closed in, the Dominion Lord swung the broadsword.
No longer a simple charging attack as before, the Dominion Lord's body remained on the spot while the violet-glowing broadsword accelerated unnaturally, as though thrusters had been added behind the sword.
Just as they had said, Dainsleif was starting to control that death-directed driving force with greater precision. Haruaki panicked for an instant but did not forget what he had to do.
(I must make them... stop...!)
Instead of dodging, he chose to meet the attack head on. Entrusting his body to the two cursed swords, Konoha and Kotetsu, he desperately blocked Dainsleif whose speed was so fast that it seemed like it would slice space open. It did not end with one strike. There was a second, a third, more than he could count. Coming at him like an explosion, the broadsword attacked him endlessly. Haruaki gave up understanding a long time ago how his and the opponent's bodies were moving.
"Gahhhhhhhh—This speed and power, it's almost like that time...! Kotetsu! Spin at maximum speed! We won't last if keep considering consequences!"
At that moment.
Hearing Konoha, Haruaki suddenly recalled what things were like back when they were facing off against Hinai Elsie, a former member of the Family, who was using «Clockwork Life», a cursed pocket watch capable of compressing the owner's time. Nicknamed as the "Strongest" and "Four Minutes," that was what she used when going all-out. The movements and power demonstrated by the Dominion Lord and Dainsleif currently felt comparable to Elsie's level—
In other words, a single mistake would mean instant death.
Just as what he had felt from Hinai Elsie, this was overwhelming brutality to an absurd degree.
But conversely, this also meant that they already had similar experience, which was why they were instantly able to deploy the only countermeasures. Konoha was right, they must ignore consequences and pull out all the stops. They must do that, even if it would only last a few seconds. Because the alternative was losing their lives in the next second.
Propelled by a curse, the broadsword's mass jumped and flew unhindered, showing unparalleled destructive power. Barely managing to deflect the attacks, Haruaki's arms felt numb. Konoha and Kotetsu groaned in pain. The shock of impacts also attacked the wounds all over his body, not just the left hand. The surging sense of nausea, was it the result of injury or lack of oxygen?
Trying to turn the tide in the deteriorating situation, Kirika circled to the side and prepared to extend the weapon on her right arm. But most likely predicting this, Dainsleif's propulsion changed direction all at once. Without a running start or any preparatory motion, the Dominion Lord's body instantly reached top speed like a bouncing pinball, approaching Kirika head on. Even though Dainsleif had switched to executing consecutive slashes, it did not mean she could not move around by charging as before.
Entering the vortex formed by «Chupacabra Bandage» and the «Tragic Black River», the Dominion Lord approached Kirika while swinging Dainsleif. The Dominion Lord narrowed his eyes at the bondage suit visible from the gaps in Kirika's clothing, tattered from the battles so far.
"«Gimestorante's Love»—Letting it go would also be foolish! A Wathe that should not exist in this world!"
Dainsleif's massive blade chopped at Kirika from above. Haruaki's back froze. Of course, the Dominion Lord knew about the bondage suit, hence his attack—compared to attack Kirika's body, his aim was more about destroying «Gimestorante's Love». Crap!
But just in that instant, Kirika's face suddenly changed dramatically—with miraculous timing, she lost balance and fell on the ground. Did her legs stumble from fatigue or did something trip her? Haruaki could not be sure but it still stood as a fortunate accident. After Kirika fell, Dainsleif simply swept past her hair. Just as the Dominion Lord was musing "hmm"—
"Yes, we are on it!"
"Do not order me so casually!"
To prevent the Dominion Lord from following up on his attack, Harauki charged at top speed. While using his entire body to sense Konoha and Kotetsu's intent, he added his own strength without opposing them, pouring in his full might to swing the Japanese swords. Without extra thinking, he simply attacked randomly with all his strength.
Seizing an opening when Haruaki was catching his breath, the Dominion Lord swung his sword faster than the naked eye could discern. Konoha and Kotetsu formed a crossed in the nick of time, sliding before Haruaki's chest to block the attack. Otherwise, he might have been chopped cleanly into top and bottom halves. However, the slicing attack's power was not deflected entirely, causing Haruaki to fly away backwards. Without any mental energy to get into defensive posture, he simply fell on the ground and rolled.
Tasting dirt from from sports ground on his lips, Haruaki looked up to see Kirika sprawled on the ground similarly. «Chupacabra Bandage» and the «Tragic Black River» were extended, entangling the Dominion Lord's left and right feet respectively. While Haruaki was attacking with Konoha and Kotetsu, she had cautiously extended them. The haphazard attack earlier was not a waste.
Perhaps for only an instant, the Dominion Lord's movements were definitely halted. Only now.
Holding a «Human-Perforator» in each hand, Fear sprinted and jumped up high.
Looking up at her, the Dominion Lord and Dainsleif prepared to attack in return.
"Don't waste your energy. I am a sword while you are just a meaningless tool of torture! On completely different levels, do you think that my sword can be shattered by that thing of yours!?"
"Indeed, your purpose is not being a weapon. Know yourself properly, my sinful daughter. You cannot accomplish anything except torture and execute humans!"
Without evading, Fear confronted their gaze and words head on.
"That's why! I want to change, and I've tried hard to change the whole time!"
The drills Fear was holding in her hands began to make noises. Click-clack, they began to transform.
Indeed—Haruaki watched the scene with tremendous pride swelling within him.
Fear still had infinite potential.
The potential for infinite change, held equally by every person.
She believed in this fact. He also believed in this fact.
Hence, nothing was impossible.
Anything was possible.
Even creating a brand-new self—
Fear brought her hands together in midair. Naturally, the two «Human-Perforators», transforming gradually partially as though they were disintegrating, were brought together as well. As though they were complementary to each other, one drill melded inside the twisted form of the other drill, with one drill filling up the expanded portion of the merge, one blade connected together with the other blade where spaces had appeared—
The two drills were forcibly merged in union to form one gigantic drill.
That was hers—
The manifestation of the wish of "wanting to change."
The evidence of the fact of "being able to change."
"...Foolish behavior, foolish behavior! How could that be possible...!?"
"If it's me! Then it's possible!"
Of course it's possible—Haruaki agreed in his heart.
Because Fear possessed the resilience to endure this change. Because she had been nurturing it the whole time.
He knew long ago. How could he possibly not know?
As a box, she was already filled with the necessary parts. Just as she had said herself—
Hence, all requirements were met. Nothing was impossible. Everything was already connected.
The strength Fear had obtained in this town had filled the spaces, serving as lubricant, turning into glue for making connections.
Then born from this was—
A gigantic and even more gigantic, unique, unfinished and undeveloped...
But stronger than anything else, more dazzling and striking than anything else...
Honest and straightforward at all times, as though capable of piercing all substances—A drill.
"This isn't a tool of torture! Nor a tool of execution! Nor a weapon! This is the current me right here! Using this me—I'll crush you, Dainsleif!"
Spinning the blade of this super gigantic drill, Fear descended upon the Dominion Lord.
Swinging Dainsleif, the Dominion Lord engaged the drill.
The demonic sword's curse of "once drawn, a victim shall be killed."
To the bitter end, it came true correctly and lamentably.
An acute noise stood as evidence that Fear's enormous drill had shattered Dainsleif's blade from the middle.
Spinning in the air, the tip of her broken blade fell from the action of gravity.
Deeply, it pierced the Dominion Lord's chest.
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