Chapter 4 - Music Festival / Painful Musical Movement Prompts Nostalgic Smile / "The best pain."
"You—What rubbish are you talking about!?"
"Eh, you don't want to?"
Pakuaki was sitting on a chair backwards, his head inclined as he spoke. Fear glared furiously:
"Isn't that obvious? I-I—The only reason why I'm here is because I don't want to do that anymore!"
For lifting her curse.
For becoming more human.
Wanting neither to hurt anyone nor hear anyone's screams—
Fear felt that her feelings and the deep-rooted wish in her heart were being defiled.
Faced with Fear's fury, Pakuaki acted as though it did not concern him.
"In that case, I won't force you. But what a shame~ If only you'd do what I asked, it's a rare chance for me to give up on making Kirika come home with me. Then I'd use the remote control to stop the bomb's timer and tell you where the doll is located. After all, I won't see Kirika ever again so I'd like to have a proper farewell with her. Then next, accompanied by a "Boom!", who is going to get blown away? A boy or a girl?"
How could such a person exist.
This man was truly the worst.
"I really don't understand. It's not like I'm asking you to torture your friends or your companions. This is the notorious 'First Matriarch' of the Bivorio Family—an enemy to you. All along, hasn't she been harming you and others? Moreover, I also know, weren't you following your own meaning of existence, using your emulated form, your own torture tool, to open up holes in her abdomen? Hence, what's different now?"
Different, this was different. In terms of significance... Absolutely... Different.
Fear clenched her fist, but for some reason, could not voice her objections.
"Furthermore—That's what she hopes."
"What did... you say?"
Fear glanced at Bivorio but her return gaze was different from before, seeming extremely helpless, as though she were afraid of something, like she would be flattened by something, as if her body was going to be drawn and quartered. Her face was covered in tears.
"...Yes, please punish me for my heavy sins. I... was wrong..."
Her handcuffs clattered as they rubbed together. Bringing her hands, which were cuffed together, to her face, she rested her forehead against her fists like a praying saint.
"...Guilt... Guilt... The sense of guilt in my heart tells me this—Accept judgment and endure suffering. Ahhh... Ahhh... People, people, people who unfortunately became the foundation of my sins, sorry, please forgive me...!"
Fear held her breath and looked back at Pakuaki.
"What did you do to this woman? Answer me!"
"I didn't do anything. Perhaps it might be related to your destruction of «Narrow Narrow Abyss»?"
That incident—It was quite possible. If that cursed cross had originally taken something away, the disappearance of the curse could result in regaining it again.
Even so, this reaction was way too weird—Hence, Fear shifted her gaze towards Bivorio again.
Her face was five centimeters away or so.
"I beg you... I beg you... I beg you... I beg you... I beg you, please punish me! I have really sinned heavily! This sin not only cannot be forgiven, but is also the retribution for cursing God, so... So, my body deserves to be gouged... Beaten... Abused! Ahhh... Ahhh!"
"Nwah!? W-Wait a minute! Calm down and don't come close! Don't grab onto me!"
"I beg you, please let me taste suffering! Please make me cry and scream loudly, please make me incontinent from pain, please remodel my stinking and ugly body, please make me experience such utter humiliation that I may never show myself in broad daylight ever again—Okay, hurry and do something to me... Anything, hurry... Hurry... Hurry... Hurry hurry hurry...!"
Fear felt bone-chilling terror and swung her arm with all her strength to get rid of Bivorio's grip—She ended up hitting Bivorio in the face accidentally. She was non-human, the other person was human. The strike ended up sending Bivorio collapsed on the floor, her long hair scattered messily.
Fear reflexively wanted to apologize but was taken aback by the sight. Bivorio was lying sprawled and unmoving, her naked legs sticking out from under the cloth that resembled a prisoner's uniform. Her cheek red and swollen, she looked up towards Fear—
"Ahhh... Aha... This... is it. So painful, this is the pain of deep sin... Please... Please hit me more. Hit me harder, torment me more, let me experience even more pain..."
She smiled like the Virgin Mary.
Fear could feel her own heart racing. Her own huffing and quickened breathing also sounded annoyingly loud.
"Just do it like that, do you understand now? Aren't you doing a favor by helping her fulfill her wish? Moreover, you do have reasons for doing so. Such as when Yachi Haruaki was abducted, you opened up holes in her abdomen. And now you have a reason for giving her new pain—She is the one who killed Tateoka Aiko, you know?"
Fear felt her own heart beating again. The heart, one that she was not sure if it actually existed, was beating once again.
Fear recalled Aiko's face. Unmistakably, this was the woman who launched the knife into Aiko's chest.
The girl whose eyes were obscured by her bangs, her petite body flying collapsed on the soaking wet ground. Recalling these memories, Fear stared at Bivorio. While gazing at her, Fear posed a question to Pakuaki behind her:
"Why... Why do you want me to engage in that?"
His answer came rapidly.
"Do you really need to ask? Because I want to observe. I want to observe your torture tools, to see them in action according to their intended purpose. Of course, I will be recording it with a video camera."
So that was what the video camera was for? Pakuaki's excessive preparation made Fear burst out smiling.
Pakuaki was already telling her to hurry. Yes, there was no time left.
At this moment, Fear could hear nothing except the sound of her own breathing.
As well as Bivorio who now wanted nothing but self-punishment, pleading "Please let me suffer more pain" repeatedly.
Plus Pakuaki's soft mutterings, motivated by the desire to know, urging Fear to "Hurry up and make a decision."
This world in a mirror was very narrow. Looking up, Fear could see herself staring down, asking—
What should she do?
She could neither let the bomb explode nor allow Kirika to be taken away by Pakuaki. The way things looked right now, both monumental challenges could very well fail. However, currently presented before her eyes was a secret trick to solve all challenges.
What should she do?
—Then she made her decision.
Thirty minutes have passed. Very well, I can't stand it anymore, my impatience has reached a critical point.
"I feel it's necessary to punish you."
Sitting on the bed opposite to her, the boy curled up his body in surprise.
"Umm, by punish, do you mean... Why... We haven't done anything..."
"Exactly, because you haven't done anything. That girl is taking too long. So, I need to make her search more seriously... Let me state beforehand, I hate men. Do you know why?"
"No... No idea..."
Standing in front of the boy, Oratorie smiled, bent forward and looked him in the eye.
"Didn't I tell you about the origins of this oar? In fact, my situation was pretty similar. The only reason why I obtained it was because I was thrown overboard and drifting in the sea, thinking 'Ah~ Who would have thought I'd lose my life because a man betrayed me.' At the time, I was quite far from land amidst raging waves. If this oar hadn't drifted over to me, I would have perished without a doubt. This thing is my savior. A much better partner than the creatures called men... However, I think it's fun to inflict this kind of game-like punishment once in a while."
"That's right. You're actually quite lucky, for you get to be exempt from amputation-style direct punishments. That's owing to the tender smoothness of your skin, owing to the fact that you're a cute boy who resembles a petite girl so much... Even a man-hater like me wants to play with you. Therefore—"
The boy cocked his head in puzzlement. Oratorie's fingers, the ones that were holding the wooden oar, moved one after another as though she were doing finger exercises for a musical instrument. Then—
"I will slowly... slowly and gently, abuse you."
Oratorie ended up acting with speed completely contrary to her words. Swinging the oar straight down, accompanied by the sound of slicing wind, there was the sound of cloth ripping—Then a beat later, the sound of a button bouncing its way on the floor to a corner of the room.
"I forgot to remind you, weapons are weapons. I'd advise you not to act recklessly... Ufufufu, things would be over with a direct hit, then I won't be able to torment you any further."
Only now did the boy display a frightened expression as though he finally realized what was going on. Then with trembling eyes he looked at his own body. His shirt had already been split into two by the oar that swung past his body, exposing the pristine white skin underneath.
"Next is this, like this, there we go! Hey hey hey, you're going to bleed if you move!"
This time there were two diagonal attacks, one from the right and one from the left. Slight sounds of friction could be heard as the oar brushed past his neck. Oratorie's target was the shirt collar, moving it to the extent that the entire shirt was sliding off his shoulders. Furthermore, a few strands of hair were severed and drifting in the air due to getting swept up in the oar's high-speed motion.
The frightened boy shrank back, bowing his head tearfully. Smart of him to do so, for if he moved recklessly, it would not be surprising to knock off an ear in such circumstances.
"Sorry—It must be scary, yes—But what comes next will be even more fun and terrifying! Ufufufu!"
The boy's upper body was already entirely naked: a delicate neck, collarbones that did not resemble a boy's, a flat chest lacking in musculature, pink nipples, a navel so exquisite it seemed to be man-made, and a smooth and tender lower abdomen. On closer examination, one could see a faint, straight line wound of red swelling along the center of his body.
"Oh my oh my, the first attack brushed against you. If I did it again, it would look like this..."
She pressed the oar's tip against his skin and moved it back and forth along that trail of red swelling. For the boy, there was currently nothing more scary than this oar that was stained with the blood of many victims. He groaned as his body twitched once.
"Oh dear, I'm sorry. Does it hurt?"
"Y-Yes... It hurts... a bit..."
"Ufufu, what about over here?
The oar moved horizontally across the boy's smooth chest. Savoring the soft sensation that resembled a de-shelled egg, she slid the oar's tip over the boy's body—
"Ah! Mmm... Ah... Ummm... P-Please, could you... stop..."
"Stopping means I can't punish you. How about this, does it hurt? Hey, does it hurt?"
"Mmm! Y-Yes, it... hurts. Ahhh... No... not there... A-Ahh!"
"Ufufufu, you sound so much like a girl. Looks like this really is your first time."
Oratorie brought her face close to his neck and whispered in his ear. As for her oar, naturally it was still moving because she wished to give him more pain, she proceeded to apply more force.
"Mmm... Ah... Ouch! Huff... No more, I can't take any more of this, stop..."
"The real show hasn't even started. This is punishment, you're not allowed to resist. Ufufufu."
Wanting to see more of his frightened expressions, Oratorie wished to inflict more pain. Next, she decided to target his lower body. She tried to tear apart his pants using the same method as before, but it proved rather challenging. Let's hope it only results in a trail of red.
Just as Oratorie was thinking "Let's go let's go, this is getting more and more fun," licking her lip as she stood up...
"U-Umm... Excuse me, I'm back."
Someone was knocking at the infirmary's door, earlier than expected.
"You found him—?"
"No, umm... I'm sorry, not yet..."
Oratorie clicked her tongue disapprovingly. Well then, I'll have to show off the process of this punishment to her. Only by letting this girl watch in person will she be punished.
Hence, Oratorie stood up from the bed and unlocked the door. Then she called the girl inside.
"I've waited a long time already. From this, I can only conclude that you have not searched seriously."
"H-How could you say that, I did search very thoroughly..."
"So, ufufufu, this is the so-called punishment. Do you want to have a look?"
Oratorie brought the girl by the bedside. As soon as she saw the boy's tragic state, she instantly froze on the spot. Panting heavily, the boy tried to pull his open shirt together in embarrassment.
Oratorie spoke to the back of the head of the girl who was possibly scared motionless:
"I was about to do something even worse. After that, although it's quite unfair to you, I will kill you both. Hence, until I have my happy fun, you must search desperately. Got that? If you get it, then hurry and return to your—"
The girl's time unfroze again. She took a deep breath, causing her shoulders to move up and down accordingly.
Next, Oratorie had expected the girl to simply turn around and look back at her, but instead, she walked over directly in a huff—
And aimed a slap towards the face.
Although her movements were very sudden, Oratorie could not possibly get caught by such an amateur attack, hence she moved her neck back and evaded.
What admirable courage. But what happened next was even more thought-provoking—Looking at the girl, only now did Oratorie realize that she looked different. The lively and chattering personality was completely gone without trace, leaving only a pair of eyes that burned extremely quietly with pure rage.
"Ahhh, seriously enough—I'm not entertaining this any further!"
She pulled off her glasses and dashed it to the floor by her feet. Completely unconcerned with the glasses' distorted frame, she glared viciously at Oratorie. Simply by removing the thick glasses, the impression she exuded was altered substantially. This was due to the exceptional beauty of her exquisite face, enough to surprise even a woman like Oratorie.
"...Sh-Shiraho... I-Is this really okay?"
The boy asked frantically, but in response, the girl simply glared straight at Oratorie.
"Yes, the act is over, Sovereignty. Even though we accepted a request, why must we tolerate things to this extent just for the sake of that human? To go so far as to tolerate someone playing with you like a toy? I cannot tolerate this no matter what. Indeed, I absolutely cannot tolerate this! Sovereignty, you too are to blame, why didn't you run away before the situation deteriorated to this point?"
"B-But, I was thinking it'd be more appropriate to tolerate until I couldn't stand it anymore."
"The issue here is that toleration has its limits! Seriously..."
In front of Oratorie who was still baffled by the situation, the girl took out her cellphone and contacted someone.
"—It's me. I am absolutely displeased now, hence the operation is terminated, human. You will come here immediately—What, the bomb still isn't found? Someone will die? That does not concern me. If you don't hurry over immediately, there will be two dead bodies here."
She ended the conversation curtly in an inexorably furious tone of voice.
Oratorie finally grasped the situation at hand.
"...You two were deceiving me?"
"Yes, indeed. If you thought I looked like a very enthusiastic, altruistic, innocent and gentle girl, then your eyes really are no better than blind, human. Wouldn't it be better to gouge those useless eyeballs that are getting in the way, so as to let woodpeckers make their home in those sockets? That would also be much more environmentally friendly."
"Your goal... was stalling for time, was it? Telling me you were searching for the boy, it was completely a lie too."
"To me it was a total waste of time. Especially on this rare occasion of the cultural festival."
Arms crossed before her chest, the girl arrogantly returned Oratorie's gaze. At this moment, Oratorie felt an urge to burst out in laughter.
"Ahaha... Amazing, I really fell for it. What painstaking arrangements, it must have been tough for you?"
"Indeed, very tough. All that human knows is how to send trouble along our way. He deserves to die."
"You really wasted a lot of my time. I have something I need to find out as soon as possible... So, I really can't forgive you two. It looks like I'll have to punish you well."
"What a coincidence, I cannot forgive you either. Because you have committed an absolutely unforgivable act, human."
The girl's glare suddenly became even sharper. Clearly the intimacy in the couple's relationship was no act.
"Judging from the way you speak, you're not human? I see, if you happen to be a transcender as amazing as the Patriarch, your confidence wouldn't come as a surprise."
"You are very right, but that applies not to me but the child behind me."
"Sh-Shiraho... Please don't say anything more, hurry and retreat behind me!"
The boy's shirt hem swayed as he caught her hand and made her step back behind him. The girl named Shiraho clutched his hand tightly as though declaring him "mine" and said:
"This child will now give you a sound beating. Prepare yourself to cry and beg for mercy."
"E-Eh~... I will try my best, b-but I don't really think that's possible. What I can do is stall for time until Haruaki and the others hurry over!"
The boy frantically shook the bag that he had grabbed at some point. Perhaps because it was not closed properly, the contents came tumbling and flying out as the bag struck the bed.
Those were superalloy robot figures and teddy bears—Dolls.
"Ahhhhhh, however, no matter what, I must protect Shiraho here... I hold sovereignty over every doll. Those bearing visual semblance, listen and show proof of your worship—Obey!"
The instant the boy recited his lines solemnly, the dolls suddenly stood up and sprang into action. Solemnly, they even took out boxcutters and sculpting knives from the bag.
Oratorie gripped the oar tightly. Since they had already summoned her target, there was no need for her to go looking for him. While he was hurrying his way over, she could probably make the most of this time to thoroughly punish these two for deceiving her.
"Haha... Although our organization's stance is to offer love and protection to dear children like you, the Matriarch has never issued orders "forbidding combat with interlopers"... A transcender able to control dolls is quite amazing, so amazing that it gets me quite excited. Hence, once I break off your arms and legs, I'll play with you like a doll. This counts as one of the ways I show my love towards enemy Wathes!"
"Wa—! She's coming—! P-Please show mercy—!"
"You shouldn't speak like that to the enemy, Sovereignty. During times like these, you should say: 'Bring it on, swimsuit freak! Once you are defeated, I will viciously flatten you under my foot. Why don't you hyperventilate in anticipation of that like a freak! Or I'm going to do it right now, so you'd better lie down flat and wait for me there!'"
"Eh~ Isn't getting way ahead—!?"
The androgynous Wathe and the arrogant, outspoken girl.
Thinking that "rendering either one of them immobilized first would definitely be more fun," Oratorie raised her weapon and rushed right into the center of the doll army.
«The World Seen by Alicia Pitrelli»—Inside this low-ceiling and restrictive space, a female voice was heard.
This voice was sometimes in pain, sometimes acute, sometimes murmuring softly—
The place was shrouded in nothing but pain, pain, pain and more pain.
Because she was the object created for this purpose. Apart from pain, she could not give birth to anything else.
"Mechanism No.21 hanging type, hook-claw form: «Spanish Spiders», Curse Calling!"
This torture apparatus was like a stage in a certain sense. A canopy. Pulleys for adjusting the lengths of chains. Four chains whose ends were each connected to two hooked claws as though for pinching something between them. As for what targets were possible, that would be totally obvious.
Flesh, bones, heads, ears, eyes, noses, breasts, buttocks.
But currently, they were being applied to shoulders and thighs. With the hooks clamped firmly to the bone, torn flesh would not fall off so easily.
Next, the chains connected to the hooks rattled as they hung the victim up while the hooks firmly held her body that was being pulled down by gravity, preventing her from falling no matter what. Next, the body was lifted like a marionette. From where the hooks were embedded deeply into the shoulders and the thighs, the most familiar color in the world was seeping out.
"Ahhh... Guh, ahhh!"
Screams. Suspended in midair, the hooks would bury even deeper if she were to shake her body. Watching her trembling legs, Yamimagari Pakuaki gave off faint moans of pleasure from behind the video camera he had set up.
"I see I see, this is not bad at all. Let's prepare for the next one."
"...Mechanism No.18 stretching type, framing form: «The Duke of Exeter's Daughter», Curse Calling!"
The horizontally suspended body was now being hung up vertically. More accurately, it was being stretched by a rectangular outer frame. As she breathed out with sounds resembling moans, her joints also rattled noisily. Her body height was slowly suffering abuse. At this moment, a strange sound of "crish" was heard from somewhere as a viscous liquid slid down her thigh that was injured by the hooks, creeping over her kneecap, calf, ankle and toes as though licking her, finally dripping on the the floor to produce a crown-like shape.
"Mechanism No.7 thorn type, sitting form: «German Interrogation Chair», Curse Calling!"
Finally, the victim was allowed to sit down, but this icy-cold chair was covered with steel thorns. Chains restrained her arms and legs. Then a heavy iron ring was fastened around her neck. Despite the lightness of her body weight, the body still sank down in the chair, or rather, the thorns buried themselves into flesh.
"Guh... Ohhh... Ohhh! Arghh!"
Back, waist, inner thigh. The brightly colored dye, squeezed out from her entire back side like a waterfall, was starting to paint the black chair into a different color.
"Oh my oh my, this really is the best. Fear-in-Cube-kun, how are you feeling right now?"
"Haha—the best, obviously."
She smiled too. Then she continued to torture.
Fear-in-Cube continued to carry out the torture.
Smiling as she continued to carry out torture that she had grown accustomed to a long time ago.
"Ah~ Sheesh, I still haven't dealt with you...!"
Sovereignty instinctively jumped from his original spot. As the oar struck, the bed was twisted out of shape and sent flying. Instantly, the bed blocked the view—Although it could be used as a shield, there was still no room for carelessness.
As expected, the oar's follow up attack penetrated the bed and approached, causing Sovereignty to hastily crouch down to dodge.
But dodging alone would not help very much, hence Sovereignty activated the rare, collector's version superalloy robot that was stolen from the action figures club (by Shiraho). Wielding a boxcutter, it slashed towards Oratorie's back.
"Get out of my way!"
As expected of a superalloy, the robot had survived many waves of attacks already. But this final strike broke it completely. No good, how many dolls were left...?
Suddenly, Sovereignty saw Shiraho desperately kicking the remains of the metal-framed bed that had just been blown away. Just as he thought "What is she doing?" to himself, the remains went "crack" and broke down even more.
"Sovereignty, can you use this?"
"Y-Yes I can! Thanks!"
Controlling the remains of the bed frame that could barely be considered humanoid, Sovereignty banked on its hardness and attacked the enemy. Regrettably, it was destroyed in a single attack. You're way too weak, Mr. Bed.
"Wow~ Even something like that can be controlled and moved... You two are really too troublesome. I guess I'll have to take out that girl first, ufufufu."
"N-No, you can't—!"
Frantically, Sovereignty sent the remaining dolls flying towards Oratorie, but it was a trap. Oratorie instantly jumped up high to dodge the dolls' attacks. Rowing her oar against the ceiling, she combined the force with the momentum of her vertical jump to attack Sovereignty.
Sensing danger, Sovereignty retreated but bumped his back against a table. There was no escape—!
Summoned back urgently, the dolls desperately hassled the oar. Having closed the distance in one go, Oratorie clicked her tongue but nonchalantly used her empty left hand to choke Sovereignty's throat. In the process of being lifted up, Sovereignty's back swept up the documents and other objects on the desk but still could not oppose Oratorie's strength. As the back of his head pressed against the glass window behind the desk, the entire window shattered loudly next.
"Ah, that really hurts..."
Sovereignty heard Shiraho's voice but could not see her face. With his head pushed backwards, all he could see were the desk's scattered documents, shattered glass as well as—the enemy's face.
Muttering "...«Tragedy Method»" to herself, Oratorie made the oar pass through the dolls then smacked them flying. She proceeded to lick her lips.
"Ufufu, okay~ Now everything's over."
"Damn it... Let go of Sovereignty!"
Looking over Oratorie's head, Sovereignty saw Shiraho beating her on the shoulder with a chair. However—
"Like I already said, you're very troublesome. I'll let you play with me later!"
Shiraho was easily sent flying by a casual swing of the oar. How terrifying. Sovereignty tried his hardest to suppress the ominous imagery surfacing in his mind. Handle this slowly later, she should be fine for now—Probably. It must be so.
"Okay. I'm sorry, dear Wathe. I am supposed to treat a child like you with love, but you're really obstructing me too much... However, if you manage to survive this, I will be taking you with me. Say your prayers well."
The oar is swinging down. I can't dodge it. In order to control a doll, I must be able to see the doll.
(Ooh, where? Where? None... none? Within my field of view, is there any doll—)
In that instant, Sovereignty blinked in surprise.
In terms of his upside-down view, it was outside the window where his head was.
Many things had flown outside from the table, such as documents, the box of Pocky, unfinished beef jerky, etc. Perhaps drawn by the aromas—
A dog was standing there in bewilderment, carrying a strange hero doll in its mouth.
Sovereignty controlled the doll desperately, making it fly like a rocket, straight into Oratorie's face. Perhaps out of surprise, she slightly relaxed her grip on Sovereignty's throat. Seizing this opportunity, he shifted his head, causing the downwards swinging oar to strike the window frame violently not far away from his ear. That was dangerously close.
(B-But the next wave of attacks...)
Will I be able to dodge them? Was there a way to dodge? Cold sweat was breaking out all over his body.
Oratorie easily removed the doll from her face, took a deep breath and raised the oar again—
Just at this moment, Sovereignty saw something like a black belt entangling the oar.
"«Tragic Black River»!"
"You're really doing as you please...! But I won't allow you to commit any further atrocities!"
They made it. Although Kirika's belt instantly fell down because the oar phased through it, Konoha had already rushed into the deepest interior of the infirmary.
"Uwah, what a tragic scene...!"
Haruaki looked around the room and saw a pair of legs. Near the wall, a pair of well-proportioned legs extending from a flipped up skirt—
"A-Are you okay!?"
Just as Haruaki and Kirika rushed over to speak to her, Shiraho slowly sat up. Apparently, nothing too severe had happened to her. She was only blown away intact.
"Nngghh... Ouch. That... swimsuit freak... Ah!"
She instantly pushed her skirt down. It was already too late for Haruaki to shift his gaze away. He found himself pierced by a gaze that he did not experience even during the Sovereignty incident. A gaze filled with murderous intent. However, Shiraho's face was blushing slightly in a rare moment.
"You saw it, didn't you? Human! I-I have never shown anyone apart from Sovereignty! You must take responsibility by dying! Immediately! Go and die immediately!"
"S-Sorry! It was an accident, an accident!"
"I can guarantee to you that it was an accident. However, your insignificant apology has aroused my killing intent as a fellow female. If I were a juror, I'd definitely reduce your points so low that you'd be equivalent to guilty."
"Even you, Class Rep, why are you talking like that... A-Anyway, now is not the time to be arguing about this!"
Haruaki turned his gaze towards Oratorie as though he were escaping. While Konoha battled the oar with her knife hand, Oratorie could be heard grumbling with a frown.
"Your knife hand cannot be penetrated, huh? It's the same every time, I really can't understand... Because it's bare-handed attack?"
Apparently, the oar could not phase through Konoha's knife hand. Even so, the tides of battle did not instantly shift in Konoha's favor.
"Whatever, you're a Wathe as well, right? Then again, your bust is truly magnificent... Once I render you immobile, I'll also target that body part with my love. Do note that I'm quite amazing."
"Oh~ really, it was the same last time... Are members of the Family all perverts and freaks?"
The karate chops continued to face off against the wooden oar. During this time, Sovereignty crawled along the ground and approached Haruaki's group—
"Wow~ We're saved... Eh, Shiraho Shiraho, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, apart from my chastity."
"In other words, I was visually violated. Sovereignty, the next enemy is this human. You may kill him."
"D-Didn't I apologize already...!?"
Shiraho was displeased to an unprecedented level. The accident just now had angered her. Naturally, making an unreasonable request of their assistance was also part of the reason.
Indeed, in order to eliminate the worry of Oratorie's attack and allow them to focus their attention on finding the dolls—Haruaki had asked Sovereignty and Shiraho to stall for time by hindering Oratorie's movements as much as possible.
Even if Pakuaki had not taunted her, as long as she remained in the school, the infirmary was the only place where her wound could be treated. Hence, Haruaki had concluded that Oratorie was highly likely to be there. Consequently, in consideration of "would it be possible to keep her pinned down at that location," he had ended up asking Sovereignty and Shiraho for help.
One of the reasons was that it was very likely that Oratorie already knew what Konoha looked like. Hence, the instant Konoha visited the infirmary, they could very well end up in a fight. On the other hand, Shiraho's contact with the Family only lasted but an instant, hence there was a much lower chance of being recognized. That said, the probability was not zero so Haruaki asked them to disguise themselves. Shiraho was a genius in acting while Sovereignty could turn into a boy. Since Sovereignty had debuted in front of Bivorio as a maid, perhaps that shocking image would make the disguise even more effective—Those had been Haruaki's considerations.
Hence, these were the roles they played: Sovereignty would act the part of the guard who would stall for time as much as possible, even if his identity were seen though midway. As for Shiraho, she was responsible for using her acting skills to create a situation where Oratorie would be persuade to rest while Shiraho searched on her behalf. The original plan was to have Shiraho proactively offer to search, but the hostage situation and other developments arose, turning out even more dangerous than expected.
In other words, uh, in order to make the plan work, I really did make many unreasonable demands of them.
"I seriously apologize to you two, but you really helped us out a lot."
"E-Ehehe—Really? I'm very happy we could help!"
"Then may I request something that I want as my reward? It starts with the letter 'd,' ends with 'e' and contains the letter 'i.' A three letter word. All you need to do is use yourself as a demonstration, a piece of cake, right?"
Sovereignty was scratching his head as he spoke in his seldom-displayed male form. On the other hand, Shiraho had her arms crossed before her chest, glaring with eyes as cold as permafrost. These two remained completely the same as usual.
However, the plan they were asked to execute could only control the situation from deteriorating—They could not help things get better. And currently, the situation was finally deteriorating.
Once again, they were stuck in a battle with Oratorie.
But the final bomb still had yet to be found.
Time was ticking away, one second, one minute at a time—
"Anyway, let me assist Konoha-kun, there's no time left."
Extending her belt, but still with one hand on Haruaki's shoulder, Kirika spoke.
"D-Directly like this? Wouldn't it be difficult to move around? But definitely, we need to help her... And it so happens that Fear is not around. Damn it, this really makes me want to buy a cheap cellphone for her to carry around next time!"
"Since we can't contact her, it can't be helped. There's no time, let's hurry and settle this."
Faced against such a troublesome enemy, could things really be settled so easily? Even with such a severe wound on her thigh, Oratorie still fought as though nothing had happened. This was due to the Family's insanity and fanaticism. Precisely because of that, Haruaki knew they had to avoid starting a fight recklessly—Were they facing a weaker enemy, they would have mobilized Sovereignty and Shiraho to look for the bomb and sent Konoha to the infirmary to defeat this woman directly.
However, Kirika's suggestion was the only solution in sight. Although Haruaki could not be certain if it would work, there was no choice but to do it—
Just as Haruaki made his decision and clenched his fists.
"Oh, so these are the so-called reinforcements?"
Someone jumped in through the broken window, prompting Konoha and Oratorie to distance themselves reflexively. However, Oratorie immediately frowned and said:
"What, it's the little miss helper? I remember you saying that our cooperative relationship had ended... Are you here to help me?"
"No, I have my own difficulties."
It was the knife-wielding skull mascot. Unlike the time back in the calligraphy classroom, he did not approach Oratorie this time. Naturally, neither did he approach Konoha. Hence, a tense, three-way situation resulted.
In terms of positions, the intruder was closer to Haruaki's group than Konoha. Kirika pushed Haruaki behind her at this time and stepped forward. Does she really intend to fight while the two of them remained in close contact? That could cause many problems... Such as feeling someone's hip pressing against him through the uniform.
But the intruder threw a glance at Haruaki's side and muttered purposefully:
"Fear-in-Cube is at the kendo hall together with the gray-haired girl and the other man. Hurry!"
Just as Haruaki comprehended the message, the skull mascot rushed towards Oratorie without even glancing at Konoha.
"What are you doing...? Isn't your target that man?"
"I already said I have my difficulties! Also, from the very start—I dislike you very much!"
"Eh, actually I thought there was something not right about you from the beginning too! If you get in my way, I won't show any mercy!"
Water droplets flew everywhere from the oar's swinging motions. The mascot managed to dodge barely and made thrusts with the knife. While the dazzling exchange of blows was occurring, the pair somehow jumped out of the infirmary's window at some point, shifting the battlefield outside. Although it might be too late to say this, it really was a miracle that there were no students nearby.
"So what's going on now, Haruaki-kun?"
"I'm not too sure myself. Anyway, she told us that Fear is currently at the kendo hall with Pakuaki's group."
"H-How did that happen?"
Who knows, perhaps they're fighting right now? If that's the case, we'd better hurry over and help her.
"But the bomb problem still isn't resolved, arghh~ Damn it, what on earth should we do..."
"By the way, Yachi, you may find me absolutely ridiculous for asking this, but I must ask as a matter of principle. The doll on the floor over there, am I imagining things?"
Kirika pointed towards a battered and broken infirmary bed. Naturally, it was no illusion.
"Th-That's the doll that helped me in a crisis just now, although it was only for an instant."
"W-Where did you find it?"
"I don't know why, but a dog was carrying it."
"A dog?" Although Haruaki could not figure it out, it was not important at this moment. He frantically rushed forward and reached for it—
"Wait, Yachi, let me check it. If it's really the target doll, it would be very dangerous."
Saying that, Kirika cautiously picked up the doll and removed its head. Peering inside, she frowned for some reason. Then reaching slowly into the doll, she took out something.
"It's a key."
"You don't say! In other words, that's the target doll!"
"Indeed, but it's very strange."
"By strange, what exactly do you find strange?"
Next, Kirika inspected the entire doll even more carefully and answered Konoha's question.
"—There's no bomb installed inside."
"W-What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know. If everything was a lie, then setting this game up was completely meaningless. So basically, there's meaning behind making us play the game, but there was no need to have a real bomb, is that it? In other words, it doesn't matter whether we find this doll or not... If that's the case, then ultimately—?"
Kirika's eyes flashed with surprise. Asking Haruaki's group to step back, she inserted the key into the collar and took it off.
"This smells fishy, Yachi. Very likely, that guy's goal is not bringing me back to the Lab Chief's Nation."
"Eh? Then why did he do all this... No way?"
Konoha's expression changed with alarm. Haruaki realized the same thing.
All it took was careful thinking about what those guys were doing and the answer became easily found.
The report, which they heard just now, would take on an entirely different meaning.
Glaring at the collar she had taken off, Kirika spoke resentfully:
"That guy's goal is probably Fear-kun, though I still have no idea what his ultimate intentions are."
Inside the kendo hall, the girl was like a warrior, standing upright while exuding a cold and merciless aura. The dark-skinned girl was the only one visible with Pakuaki nowhere in sight.
Haruaki and Konoha had arrived along with Kirika whose collar had been taken off. The trio stared at Un Izoey tensely. Aware of the danger, they had not asked Sovereignty or Shiraho to accompany them.
"My suspicions: your knowing of this place."
"That's not important. Where is Fear! What are you people planning to do with her!?"
Un Izoey did not speak and simply put on the handcuffs beside her that she had taken off earlier. Then bending her right leg, she began to search inside her skirt. Once her dark-skinned foot touched the floor again, it was already wielding a knife. This was her answer.
"Haruaki-kun, you stay back. This girl looks like she wants people to compel her to talk through force."
"I agree. That man's absence makes me very displeased—But I'm going to go all out now to compensate for the regrets I felt back when I was hindered by that weird collar."
Konoha narrowed her eyes as she stared through her glasses. On the other hand, Kirika extended her belt from her right sleeve.
Then they advanced slowly.
Un Izoey nimbly raised her foot up high. Instantly, Konoha attacked with a chop of her hand but she dodged. Then while turning her body, her foot shot out from below with the knife as a counterattack. Konoha responded with a sharp kick in kind but Un Izoey easily blocked that move as well. Immediately, Kirika's «Tragic Black River» attacked from the side. But despite Kirika's intentions to entangle her limbs, Un Izoey effortlessly severed the belt using the knife in her foot.
Clearly it was a two-on-one battle, but Un Izoey still remained calm and composed. Closing in slightly as though she were saying "It's my turn to attack," Un Izoey moved her unarmed left foot. As though performing a vigorous dance, she lowered her stance and kicked forcefully towards Konoha and Kirika with her left leg—
Then at this moment, the skull-masked mascot broke through the window and jumped into the kendo hall.
The humanoid mascot brandished his knife at Un Izoey's back as he descended.
Jumping swiftly, Un Izoey engaged him in turn with the knife on her foot.
The two flew past each other.
Their blades produced the same result, namely, they slashed each other's body lightly.
Un Izoey's knife had tore through a large part of the mascot's face, but there was no bleeding. Either the costumed attacker had seen through her motions with millimeter level accuracy, or he was just plain lucky.
On the other hand, the attacker's knife slashed through Un Izoey's lab coat, as though he had specifically aimed for that spot. Only the lab coat's pocket was sliced open spectacularly, and along with it, a certain object inside was also chopped into two.
Looking at the object fallen from her pocket, Un Izoey displayed anxiety for the first time and groaned softly.
Then in the next second—
Entities, which definitely did not exist inside the kendo hall previously, suddenly appeared. Many entities, but for Haruaki, only one of them was very important.
"Where have you suddenly run off to, swift and agile heroine? What on earth are you planning...?"
First of all, Oratorie followed closely behind the humanoid mascot and jumped in through the broken window. Her eyes widened in surprise at the sight of something. However, that was not important for Haruaki.
Second of all, the kendo hall was suddenly filled with all sorts of objects. It looked as messy as an earthquake aftermath. There were countless books, fallen bookcases, tables, chairs, a video camera, etc etc. Nevertheless, these were not important for Haruaki either.
Third of all, after pushing various books and miscellaneous objects aside, Pakuaki stood up. He was surveying his surroundings with a touched expression while Un Izoey stood on guard by his side. They were unimportant for Haruaki as well.
Fourth of all, face covered in tears and helpless—Alice Bivorio Basskreigh. Handcuffed, she looked like a prisoner but her body was visibly unharmed. For Haruaki, she was not important either.
Fifth of all—Now that was the most important one.
To be honest, nothing else mattered the instant Haruaki recognized the sight. He could not comprehend, how did this come about? He could not figure it out at all, but she was definitely here.
That girl was currently using her own torture tool to hurt herself.
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