The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume10 Stage2
Stage 02: This is the Chosen Final Stage
“RQ Cat. Standby!”
“Get ready, Sword of Truth. Obey my command (jh – a – ra – ou – v)!!”
(Stage 02 Open 08/23 12:23)
This is the Chosen Final Stage
In real time, all of this took only slightly more than three minutes.
They had not arrived at some grand cathedral or temple. This was Toy Dream 35, the city built by the world’s largest entertainment corporation in place of a rural city that had collapsed economically. The coastal city included countless attractions like roller coasters and Ferris wheels, its many skyscrapers moved past the coast and rose directly from the ocean surface, and innumerable giant bridges connected those. The intense heat of the midsummer sun must have been too much even for the urban crows because there were very few wild animals at this time of day. The only noise came from the cicadas on the trees planted along the midair bridges and the swimsuit-wearing guests who had descended from the steel and concrete city to enjoy some marine sports.
They were on one of those many bridges.
But despite being a bridge, it extended in every direction like the roundabout access roads leading away from a large train station. Dirt had been piled up afterwards for a nice meetup point with grass, trees, and a small fountain, so it was a lost like a small park at this point.
Pluto and Spica.
Compared to the planets and stars they had visited today, this might seem ordinary and boring.
But neither Kyousuke nor the Queen were laughing.
Tearing up and blowing away some dried and lifeless land they had never before visited would not inspire any emotions at all. But that changed now. This was a living place that played a role in plenty of stories and that had taken root deep in people’s souls. They could not allow this to be accidentally blown away. Every single attack would be an opportunity, but it would come with just as much responsibility.
That was how it was with fights to the death.
They could not just throw a lever and hit a button to have victory fall in their lap and they could not stop thinking about it all once they did win.
“What is it, you coward? Are you gonna take the entire city hostage next?”
“No, you chicken. I have only ever been looking at you, brother. What I must do at the ends of the universe is the same thing I must do here on earth. I would prefer you did not start coming up with excuses for after you lose.”
“Is fucking all you ever think about, you crazy girl?”
“My, my, what is this chicken even talking about (ob – ob – pi – u – ng – vd)? You don’t even have the guts to accept my advances (du – vo – a – lui – ei – lvz – ya – fu – iu – oo).”
Any attack now came with a risk.
Even if they won, there was still risk involved.
In reality, the true winners were the ones who never encountered the incident in the first place and lived in peace.
Then Kyousuke and the Queen spoke simultaneously.
“RQ Cat. Standby!”
“Get ready, Sword of Truth. Obey my command (jh – a – ra – ou – v)!!”
A gust of wind unrelated to the atmospheric pressure blew out in all directions from the Colorless Little Girl and the White Queen. It must have been a strange wind for a mere human like Biondetta. But the Unexplored-classes like the Wicked Green Woman and the Yellow Gills actually tried to flee behind the humans’ protective circles.
That wind was power.
It was the very source of what flowed from the other world to distort this one.
Just like formless electricity could damage the signal carried by a precise circuit, this chaotically scattered power could damage the orderly Materials.
Shigara Masami held her chest like she was in pain.
Meanwhile, Kyousuke and the White Queen had already begun to move.
The visible number of wounds meant nothing when she could repair them at any time if she wanted.
That made this chess rather than shogi.
Only after gouging into, tearing away, and robbing the functionality of the pieces set up on that human shaped board could they finally pierce the single core and achieve victory.
In other words…
“So you did indeed think it through that far, brother.”
“We only need to directly destroy your Silhouette!!”
To put it another way, she could only accept it if he crushed anything other than that. Not even the greatest chess player could win against a complete amateur without having a single piece taken.
While their raging power pushed at each other like a powerful wind, it was the Colorless Little Girl who took the first step forward. Was it to protect Shiroyama Kyousuke, or because she feared having the host of her ghostly possession taken from her?
The White Queen responded by taking a step forward as well.
They glared at each other from close range.
And a moment later, their right arms reached out to tear into each other’s chests.
The Silhouette was an organ located somewhere in a Material’s otherworldly body to carry the vessel’s mind. Its location changed from Material to Material, so it could be the brain, the spine, their single horn, the vulnerable scales below the jaw, the third eye, or whatever else. That was the one definite weak point of the Materials summoned with the Blood-Sign system and they would be killed instantly regardless of Cost or Sound Range if it was destroyed.
However, things were different with the Unexplored-classes, who all looked very similar to human girls. For whatever reason, their Silhouette was almost always located in their heart.
The Colorless Little Girl’s core shined at the center of her translucent body like a clione.
The few times the White Queen had been seriously injured in the past, Kyousuke had seen the core in her heart.
Once they were in arm’s reach of each other, the Little Girl and the Queen showed no mercy. Everything else was secondary as their right arms shot out like spears and pierced the other’s chest.
A wet sound of destruction burst out.
The first to smile was the White Queen. She spoke with her fingers still piercing straight through the girl’s translucent and undeveloped chest.
“My, my. Nothing there after all this? Did you make a last second decision to flip it horizontally?”
The Colorless Little Girl had always been expressionless. With her arm crossing past her enemy’s and piercing the left side of the White Queen’s chest, she silently tilted her head and gave a mechanical report.
<Something within her body is stopping my nails. It appears to be her ribs.>
With several high-pitched sounds, multiple Petals were absorbed by the Spots.
“High #813 (s – et – ag – td). Detonate it there.”
“I knew you would say that☆”
A blinding flash of light erupted out.
But it came from the White Queen’s wrist before the Colorless Little Girl could do anything. The attack came from the fingertips stabbing into that childish body. A welding-like shine came from the translucent Little Girl’s palm a moment later, but she had already been blown away and her hand had left the White Queen’s chest.
Her prey had escaped.
She instead detonated the bridge below their feet.
Kyousuke had thrown the Incense Grenade to set up the Artificial Sacred Ground, so a new one would be established wherever he set foot next, be it a wall or the ground.
(It is true brother is in control here.)
But the White Queen saw no reason to wait for that.
She even licked her lips.
(But the Spots needed to accept the Petals disappear during the gap between Artificial Sacred Grounds. That means he cannot give the Colorless Little Girl any instructions in that time. She is defenseless right now. With the wave of a hand, I can remove her entire weak point from her ribcage!!)
Her silver twintails trailed behind her as she lightly walked along the concrete blocks falling from the collapsing bridge. She approached the Colorless Little Girl who could not even recover her balance in midair. The Little Girl had experienced an explosion inside her body, but her Silhouette had not been destroyed. Regardless, she was damaged now. Whether she moved her core to the left or the right, the next attack would tear that Silhouette from her young chest. The White Queen’s eyes shined bright as she pursued her prey.
Just then, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye: Kyousuke spinning his Blood-Sign around.
Hitting the White Thorns was meaningless now. The old Artificial Sacred Ground had been destroyed and the Spots for the Petals would not return until the new one had been set up, so not even the godliest skills could earn him a single letter right now.
The White Queen questioned it specifically because she had driven him into such a corner.
That was when it happened.
The end of Kyousuke’s Blood-Sign did not strike a White Thorn. It hit one of the many concrete blocks pulled down by gravity. He pressed the tip of the rod against it and used the strength of his arms to forcibly push.
Almost like he was pole vaulting.
He repositioned himself.
He used his own body to protect the Colorless Little Girl.
A dull but deafening sound exploded out.
The protective circle guarded summoners against all causes of death, but it was still far from perfect. As soon as the White Queen’s fingers were launched forward, her arm was diverted off course by a resistance similar to punching an exercise ball affixed to the wall. Meanwhile, Kyousuke was far from fine. The sturdy barrier meant to protect him bent inwards, slammed into his body, and sent him spinning through the air.
The girl in love clenched her teeth.
Partially for the simple reason that she had harmed Kyousuke with her own hand, but also because the Colorless Little Girl could freely enter his protective circle yet she was immediately rejected when she only reached out her hand.
She was only an enemy to him.
Her mere presence nearby was considered a threat to Shiroyama Kyousuke.
The boy had been counting on being sent flying like this.
Summoner and Material had swapped places once more. The Colorless Little Girl let Kyousuke escape overhead after shielding her and then she held her small hand out in front of her.
She was not close enough to directly tear into the White Queen’s chest.
But she was close enough to count as point-blank range with a shotgun blast.
The White Queen clenched her teeth.
No matter what anyone said, the Colorless Little Girl was working on her own at this moment.
It was too late for Shiroyama Kyousuke to give her any instructions.
“If that’s all you’ve got, then die, you thief!!”
The White Queen’s pure white battle costume swelled out in response to her yell.
Separate from that, there was a solid sound of impact, like a baseball bat swung hard against a ball.
It came from the tail extending from the back of the Colorless Little Girl’s hips.
At some point, a weight larger than a bowling ball had been attached to the end and it had smacked down Kyousuke and his protective circle behind her. With an explosive roar similar to a lightning strike, Kyousuke crashed down to another bridge cutting by on a lower level.
Kyousuke had thrown the initial Incense Grenade. Wherever he set foot was where the new Artificial Sacred Ground would be created. And once it was set up, the Spots would appear in that space and he could resume sending instructions with the White Thorns and Petals.
The Colorless Little Girl, the White Queen, Biondetta, and Shigara Masami were all sucked in toward the new Artificial Sacred Ground.
And the White Queen heard some pleasant, light sounds of impact before she set foot there.
After knocking several Petals into the Spots, Kyousuke released a low voice.
(It might be logical, but can he really take it this far!? The Colorless Little Girl was accepted by the protective circle not long before that. The rules of the Summoning Ceremony have grown so vague and inconsistent, so the slightest confusion in the on-off switching could have reduced him to mincemeat!!)
“RQ Cat. Low #44 (b – fh – fh), standby!!”
Yes, it was all for this.
But the most badly injured one here was not the Little Girl or the Queen; it was Shiroyama Kyousuke.
Regardless, the Colorless Little Girl’s attributes were greatly changed.
Several cloths flew in from every which way like white wings, but it was no use. The Colorless Little Girl’s path through the air unnaturally bent, her fist glowed red, and then a fearsome blow tore through all of those defenses and slammed mercilessly into the Queen’s head.
Even her shout was delayed.
The White Queen crashed down to the lower bridge like a meteor.
Their goal here was to target each other’s Silhouettes. With extraordinary Unexplored-classes like the White Queen and the Colorless Little Girl, the visible wounds were fairly meaningless. Any other wounds or broken bones were no more than the setup needed to restrict their opponent’s actions and reach the Silhouette at their core. This may have been similar to moving all the other chess or shogi pieces in order to kill the one and only king.
“Middle #81 (k – et – ag)!!”
The White Queen lay face up on the bridge and the Colorless Little Girl dropped feet-first toward her while also swinging her tail. The attack dropped like a lightning strike and produced a sharp frictional sound similar to a rifle bullet grazing the wall. But the very instant before her heels crushed the left side of the White Queen’s chest, the silver-twintailed girl moved. When she slid her slender arms from right to left, the Colorless Little Girl’s trajectory bent. She was launched to the side like an invisible wrecking ball had hit her.
Kyousuke reached out his arm toward the undeveloped girl as she spun through the air.
She clung to his wrist in midair and twisted her entire body to wrap herself around the boy’s body and safely reach the ground. It was a lot like something from a pair figure skating routine or a pole dance.
The White Queen perfectly understood the situation as she got up from the broken concrete bridge as casually as if she were getting out of a queen-sized bed.
She and the Colorless Little Girl were fighting within the same Artificial Sacred Ground, but there was one fundamental difference.
Whether or not Shiroyama Kyousuke acted as an obstacle.
“I’ll join in from here on, RQ Cat.”
“You can even use me as disposable if you want. Getting a finishing blow in on the White Queen takes top priority.”
<As you wish.>
The first to rush forward was in fact Shiroyama Kyousuke with his commercial Blood-Sign.
It was the mere human.
But when the Colorless Little Girl kicked off the ground shortly thereafter, she placed her feet on the boy’s back and did not hesitate to kick off of him to take a position above the White Queen.
With the sun to her back, the 12 ancient tomes arranged behind her like a clockface all opened at once.
This was the story of a mind-numbing amount of time into the future.
After the sun expanded too far, it roasted all of earth’s habitable zones in an inescapable scorching apocalypse. That was the identity of what rushed at the White Queen like a flood.
“Curse you (ru)!!”
She gave a shout.
An invisible shockwave became a solid wall that erased the entire storm of heat and light.
The White Queen thrust out her hand just as the Colorless Little Girl landed, but that was blocked and deflected by an unnatural power.
The translucent and undeveloped girl had rolled back and through the tunnel formed by Kyousuke’s legs to arrive behind him. The Queen’s pursuing attack had been deflected by the summoner’s protective circle.
She tossed a white rose decoration straight up.
It burst in midair and shot one million thorns toward the ground.
The Colorless Little Girl’s unexpected response was to kick the back of Kyousuke’s knees so he would topple backwards, casually grab his back with one hand, and use him as a shield to protect herself.
Inside the protective circle, a small hand passed below Kyousuke’s arm and it held a weapon out toward the White Queen. She had chosen a semiauto shotgun from the many weapons surrounding her hips like a skirt. Her eyes remained dull and mechanical as she whispered.
<Beginning joint attack with Nii-sama.>
Just as the loud boom sounded, the White Queen’s battle costume fluttered around her while she kicked the gun barrel to the side. While the shot scattered in the wrong direction, she tried grabbing the gun with her white-gloved hand. The Colorless Little Girl pulled the gun back to get it within the protective circle and thus out of the White Queen’s reach, but it was too late.
(Brother’s protective circle might deflect my hand…)
She grabbed it, stole it, and aimed it back at her opponent.
She spun the shotgun around, held it between her head and shoulder, and gave a roar.
“But what happens when it’s your power!?”
The explosive noise and shock of the gunshot passed through the Queen’s body.
The translucent form was blown away. The undeveloped curves of her chest were blasted apart and the clione-like pulsating light was exposed.
(Not quite enough.)
The Little Girl’s face was not twisted in pain or fear.
Although it may have been useless expecting a ghost to respond like the living.
(But if I get in another shot!!)
The Queen did not hesitate to pull the trigger.
That cat that reeked of death was willing to use her summoner to reach victory and her core still remained uncrushed.
That was thanks to a small power.
But that definite power intruded from the side to slightly shift the shotgun barrel to the side before it fired.
It was Shiroyama Kyousuke.
Specifically, the tip of his Blood-Sign.
“Must you stand in my way at every turn!?”
“RQ Cat. High #474 (s – fh – sv – fh), standby.”
Even while this close to the action, Kyousuke skillfully struck a White Thorn.
And the Colorless Little Girl obeyed his command.
She obeyed as accurately as possible.
<Okay, Nii-sama. As you wish.>
From directly behind him, she stabbed a spear through his side.
Biondetta saw it happen.
Shigara Masami would probably have made a bigger fuss about it since she strived for benevolence, but she was unfortunately too preoccupied at the moment.
Something like a wind was blowing through the area.
That power disturbed this place and it was much too powerful.
For Materials, this place was more dangerous than a star or outer space.
The Regulation and Divine-classes would be too stricken by fear to oppose the White Queen and even the Unexplored-class was no match for her. And this place had the Colorless Little Girl on top of that. Not even the Three could maintain a presence while those ridiculous monsters were clashing. Something like intense static ran through the Yellow Gills before her outlines suddenly collapsed and she was blown away. Shigara Masami’s squirrel-like animal vessel was dumped onto the ground in her place.
<When you get down to it, this is their fight. The hierarchy of the Summoning Ceremony is meaningless at this point.>
Shigara Masami herself was propping herself up using her Blood-Sign and it was hard to believe she had not been annihilated as well. She was the Freedom Award 3000 summoner, but she was also a Divine-class. It was odd for her to remain in this world when a much more powerful Unexplored-class had been crushed and annihilated by the pressure.
“Wait, your Material was just destroyed, wasn’t it? Why haven’t you been incapacitated for losing?”
<Who can say. I am a Divine-class right now, so maybe “the shock of seeing a god killed” isn’t as strong when it’s more like seeing a death of one of my own. Or maybe I’m being protected by the Box that is supporting my presence outside of the Blood-Sign system.>
That meant she could pretend to lose while secretly being just fine. Crafty Biondetta could think of many different ways of using that ability.
The waitress demon’s own Material, the Wicked Green Woman, was also filled with static. Her outlines had already begun to collapse, so she was unlikely to last long. And Biondetta did not have any tricks up her sleeve like Shigara Masami did.
“So this is it, huh?”
<What are you talking about, Detta-chan? You are probably the last one here who can move.>
But the ponytailed researcher, who acted like the children’s guardian, said something unexpected.
According to her…
<I somehow escaped being incapacitated by my loss in the Summoning Ceremony, but I am a Material and I cannot last long in this pressure from the Queen and Little Girl’s battle. To be blunt, I’m barely hanging on as things are, so moving around is out of the question. That means only you can move freely, Detta-chan. But that ends once the Wicked Green Woman breaks down on her own.>
<There is no time, so decide here and now what it is you want to do.>
Shigara Masami looked Biondetta straight in the eye and spoke as plainly as possible.
<Set aside the Queen’s hatred that lives inside you, set aside your revenge business you love to indulge in, and set aside your assigned role as an older sister. What does Biondetta Shiroyama want to do in the very, very end? No matter how it happened, you took Kyousuke-kun’s hand. Were you really only acting based on some mechanical rules? This can only lead to ruin as things are, but you have the chance to throw a wrench in the works no matter how small it is. So take responsibility and choose. Will you steer things in a kinder direction, or a crueler one? You once took Kyousuke-kun’s hand, so what kind of future do you want to see now!?>
Red. Blood red. On Kyousuke’s own orders, the Unexplored-class stabbed a spear into his back, producing a venomously bright color.
Even the White Queen.
Even her thoughts briefly ground to a halt.
But her body moved all on its own. She twisted with all her might to escape the bloody tip of the spear, but then the entire spear shook unnaturally.
The protective circle had reacted.
The Colorless Little Girl had been reclassified from harmless little sister to life-threatening evil spirit.
But how foolish could that protective circle be? Deflecting the spear after it had already pierced through Kyousuke would not allow him to avoid it.
All it did was widen the pierced summoner’s wound and pursue the White Queen with an unnatural change of direction.
It hit her.
It stabbed into her just below the navel.
With the spear pinning her in place, the White Queen saw the Colorless Little Girl let go of the spear and poke her head out from behind Kyousuke who she had used as cover.
The translucent girl spread her five fingers as if preparing to claw at the air.
Did she intend to directly target the Queen’s Silhouette if she had the slightest opportunity?
“Why go this far?”
That question was not directed at the black cat who reeked of death.
With a red trail of blood dripping from the corner of her mouth, the White Queen was of course staring straight at the boy.
“Do you have no fear of death, brother?”
“When you get down to it, I’m just a puny human. I couldn’t even earn a thousand Awards. So I can never reach your level if I worry about life and death like normal. That was how I had to look at it.”
He had already been fatally wounded.
But even if there was no saving him, was repeatedly taking even more wounds really the logical and efficient thing to do as a human?
“But I know how frightening you are.”
What did the boy think of how the White Queen’s face had crumpled up?
What did he think about the Alice (with) Rabbit name he had tasked himself with?
“It isn’t just how strong you are in a fight. In fact, the real terror comes from your ability to distort the world around you with your mere presence. It’s reached the point where everyone in the world would say you’re blameless despite everything you’ve done … There’s no use trying to argue. That’s why I decided to use that power against you.”
“What are you-…wait, you don’t mean…”
“I will die here.”
He was blunt about that.
Could a high priest with a century of mental training have accepted it so resolutely?
“And I don’t mind if I die. Not as long as I’ve set things up so the battle can continue afterwards. I was still skeptical with Elvast, but Shigara Masami’s presence confirmed it for me. Humans can become a Divine-class if the conditions are right… So it isn’t over even if I lose.”
“You can’t mean it…”
Humans and gods.
But when the myths were viewed academically, the distinction in definitions could be vague. The gods created humans and gods were defined by human worship. So what if you could intentionally control that act of worship?
More specifically, what if someone could spread a convenient form of worship throughout the world?
“Brother, are you saying you created an original religious text that rewrites you as a Divine-class Material!?”
When Shigara Masami had appeared without warning and sided with the White Queen, Shiroyama Kyousuke had refused to come out of his cruiser’s bed with the covers pulled over his head.
But did you really think that was all he was doing?
Freedom Award 3000. She had gone beyond even Elvast Toydream. Did you really think he was simply wallowing in despair after seeing that new territory opened before his eyes?
With a tablet, anyone could create a collection of data using only their fingertips.
“There once was a boy who refused to budge an inch in his battle against the White Queen’s tyranny.”
It was the story of a fall.
It was the story of a hopelessly reckless and foolish attempt.
But it was the kind of story that contained a hidden beauty that inspired people to tell it and spread it around.
“Maybe I can’t accomplish anything on my own, but the connection to you and your extreme distortions will evolve this document into a legend. So even a puny human will be given the chance to become a god. Although it might take centuries or millennia for it to sufficiently cover the world.”
The White Queen provided cheap emotions filled with artificial colors and flavors.
But again and again, this boy had seen how everything was manipulated and destroyed by those things.
Humans would seek out the simplest things, indulge in them, and support them.
After fighting that powerful current on his own for so long, the boy was making a major change of direction here.
“If I win, it ends here. If I lose, I will eventually have my chance. …So it doesn’t matter to me either way.”
He moved his bloody mouth.
And his sticky hands grabbed the spear that had pierced him on his own command.
He would throw out his own life if it would create even the slightest opening.
Thinking back, his actions had been consistent from that initial moment when he slit the side of his throat.
The White Queen had her doubts.
She may have noticed this only because she had spent so long pursuing this person she had never stopped loving.
(But is this really brother’s logic? Even if his story spreads and people begin to believe that recklessly standing up to me is the right thing to do, that will lead people all over the world to do the same. How many doomed attempts will be made and lives lost in the centuries or millennia before he becomes a Divine-class? This might be logical, but it does not sound like something he would strive for. Then someone must be guiding him this way. Someone must be steering him toward this action that is so unlike him.)
The White Queen bit her lip.
Shiroyama Kyousuke raised his voice to rely on someone other than himself.
“So do it, RQ Cat!! Win or lose, I won’t hold it against you! Just give this a proper endiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!!!!!!”
She was within firing range.
The Colorless Little Girl’s chest had been destroyed by the shotgun blast and the faint pulsating glow of her Silhouette was exposed, but the White Queen could not move from that spot with the spear piercing her lower stomach. She could not get that final attack in.
<Okay, Nii-sama. If that is what you want.>
Still expressionless, the Colorless Little Girl accurately circled to the Queen’s blind spot while the twintailed girl could not even twist around. She only had to swing her small fingers as if tearing through the air to gouge into the center of the White Queen’s chest and end this.
There was no reconciliation.
There was no talking it out.
There was no attempt at mutual understanding.
All of that was eliminated by this brute force resolution.
An unpleasant tearing sound came from the White Queen’s body as she tried to forcibly aim the shotgun around, but she could not manage it.
She did not care if she lost.
She did not care if that loathsome hand tore into her weak point and exposed it to the open air.
Did they really expect the White Queen to help remake her beloved into some strange monster they called a god!?
She bit her lip.
And then an explosive sound rang out.
That settled it.
The Colorless Little Girl slowly tilted her head with her right hand’s fingers still partially bent. And with that pose intact, she looked down at her own chest. She acted just like a small girl looking down to see if some meat sauce had splattered on her favorite clothes, but this was something else.
There should have been a fist-sized light glowing like a clione in the center of her translucent body.
She had already been hit once by the shotgun the White Queen had stolen. The undeveloped girl’s faint curves had been blown away and the rhythmically throbbing light of her Silhouette had been exposed to the open air.
Just one more hit – even the slightest scratch – would have killed her instantly in that state.
The White Queen should not have been able to make that final attack.
Then what had caused that explosive noise in that final moment?
It had not come from the Colorless Little Girl or the White Queen.
There was another summoner in the Artificial Sacred Ground, even if she had been ignored as not a threat.
Freedom Award 920, Liar Cat.
The silver Blood-Sign that Biondetta Shiroyama so loved functioned both as the Summoning Ceremony tool and as a bolt-action sniper rifle.
Just one more attack had been necessary.
Even the slightest scratch.
A normal army was no match for even the Original Series at the very bottom, but Materials were not actually defended by the protective circles. After stepping away from Kyousuke and with her Silhouette exposed by her destroyed chest, a normal bullet with no connection to the occult was enough to shatter that critical weak point that was like a self-destruct switch requiring only a gentle push.
“You want to continue this in a few centuries or millennia?”
She laughed weakly.
But separate from that, the waitress demon, who had replaced half her bones with artificial ones, made oddly precise movements.
This was not the revenge helper fueled by the Queen’s hatred or the older sister given her position by the adults.
She spoke here as the human being named Biondetta.
“You really are dumb. No matter how ridiculous and selfish it is, it doesn’t count as revenge if it doesn’t satisfy your heart, Kyousuke-chan.”
However it had happened, a conclusion was a conclusion.
There was still no fear or pain.
Her voice was flat and emotionless.
Yet it carried the slightest hint of a small child being abandoned in an unfamiliar city.
<I will always…be with you, Nii-sama.>
She could say nothing more.
That extraordinary Unexplored-class’s Silhouette had been destroyed, so she was killed instantly. Her body collapsed and disappeared, leaving behind the silver-haired shrine maiden named Meinokawa Aoi who had been supporting her existence.
As for Shiroyama Kyousuke…
The White Queen thought she was going to collapse on the spot.
She felt no joy in her victory.
In fact, the true despair began here. After all, Kyousuke had slit his throat in the protective circle and had his side pierced by the spear meant for the White Queen.
Yes, that spear had not vanished even after the Colorless Little Girl herself had.
It was still there.
Pinning the White Queen in place must have been her top priority to the very end, so she had left behind some kind of clever trick.
In other words…
(This is not the spear itself. Just like with my attacks, did she tear into the space of both worlds and thoroughly coat the surface of the spear with the wreckage!?)
It was similar to adding gold leaf to a blade. Even if the blade within disappeared, the gold leaf on the outside would remain. And the “wound” left by that spatial rift was far stronger than any heavy metal or composite armor.
That alone was enough.
So what would happen without the protective circle preserving his life?
This battle had not been between two summoners, so the White Queen did not take over the Artificial Sacred Ground after winning.
There was no 90 seconds of leeway for starting a Chain. The Artificial Sacred Ground ended immediately.
That also applied to Kyousuke’s protective circle that was supported by the Artificial Sacred Ground.
There was a horribly wet sound of doom.
It came from the neck of the person she cared about more than anyone else. Lots of red blood erupted from his carotid artery now that it was released.
The White Queen desperately reached out a hand, but she could not even apply pressure to the wound. The spear piercing her lower stomach was in the way.
And she could not carelessly remove the spear since it was also stabbing through Kyousuke’s side.
That was plugging up the wound and removing it would only increase the bleeding.
The silver-twintailed girl grabbed the spear with bloody hands and pushed her own body back. She moved herself toward the end of the shaft which was thicker than a clothesline pole and the sharp barbs at the tip shredded her wound, but she still forcibly freed herself from the spear’s bonds.
She doubled over and coughed up a clump of blood.
The dark red also dripped from her lower stomach thanks to a wound thicker than her thumb.
But she could not let herself collapse here.
No matter what.
She moved her unsteady body forward.
She supported Kyousuke as his body went limp and began to fall to his knees and she forcibly pressed her palm against the side of his neck.
“No!! Brother, brotherrrrrrrrr!!”
She screamed so close, yet he did not react.
He did not even convulse like you would expect for a living being.
Even his looks of revulsion and hatred seemed adorable now. His eyes remained open and entirely motionless and his lips hung slack with no breath passing through them. But their color was fading dreadfully fast as time passed.
There was no resistance from him.
The blood was draining from his body, yet he disturbingly seemed to be growing heavier as she lifted him up and buried her face in his chest. She felt strength leave her own legs as the red stained her. They both collapsed down onto the bridge together. She could only consider it lucky the spear piercing his stomach had not caught on the ground.
Her mind went blank, but her arms moved all on their own. The white Sword of Truth battle costume wriggled, balled up, and pressed against the wound on the side of his neck. The bleeding had to be stopped no matter what. She could not allow even one more drop to be spilled, yet the cloth was dyed red in no time.
It would not stop.
She could not stop the life from leaking out of him.
She had done everything she could to treat him. She was the White Queen and her true value went beyond simple destructive power, but not even her perfect treatment was enough to handle something on this level.
This went beyond the depth of the wound or the amount of blood lost.
The problem was how Shiroyama Kyousuke showed no resistance to death or attachment to life.
Almost like he was being dragged away by the vanishing ghost of his sister.
“…p me (jg – ra).”
The White Queen gave up on logical thought.
Her face crumpled up, she did not bother wiping the tears from her eyes, and she redirected all her strength to her voice.
Even though she knew from the beginning it would never reach him.
“Please no (nc – pa)! Help me (jg – ra)!! Brotherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!”
The Colorless Little Girl had been defeated.
That meant there was one thing to check on.
And since Shiroyama Kyousuke was pale from bleeding out, it may have been better to observe Meinokawa Aoi, his partner vessel, than the boy himself.
She was like a baby.
She was curled up on her side on the broken bridge with her thumb in her mouth. That would normally be unthinkable for her, but you must not forget.
She had lost a Summoning Ceremony battle.
The god she had believed in and worshiped had been killed before her eyes.
The shock of that would leave the loser unable to resist any kind of external stimulus for more than 24 hours. They would enter a defenseless and mindless state where they would repeat a simple action and unconditionally grab at a finger waved in front of their face. That penalty may have been a fate worse than death.
One person’s eyes wandered vaguely.
That person was Shiroyama Kyousuke.
He had lost all mental resistance and his body was headed toward death. Treatment from the White Queen might have been enough to save him, but after losing, he lacked the willpower to even try to live.
Unbeknownst to him, there was a single exception: Government Award 1000, Elvast Toydream. Shiroyama Kyousuke might not remember since he had lost his battle against that man, but it was not the Summoning Ceremony that brought an end to that fight.
Lu Niang Lan.
When she was in that mindless state of loss where she could only repeat a simple action over and over, what had she done because the action was carved so deeply into her soul?
She had driven her fist into Elvast Toydream’s heart, destroying it.
So after losing in the Summoning Ceremony, the human soul was stripped bare. All the camouflage and sweet lies were removed, exposing the hidden instincts and desires that the person could not bring themselves to face. That was part of what made this a fate worse than death.
“…p me (jg – ra).”
What if those words reached that boy’s ears?
Normally, it never could have happened.
With the many veils of reason, guilt, anger, and humiliation covering it, his true soul hidden deep down may have never made it to the surface.
The Colorless Little Girl’s defeat left him with no pride or self-respect.
He could not even lie to himself while under the effects of this penalty.
…Deep down, he had known that the White Queen had done nothing wrong.
He had known that, but he still could not forgive her. He had worked so hard to protect something in that small house even as he was beaten. He had hesitantly reached out in the Queen’s Miniature Garden to build up a new mountain of sand for himself. But when those treasures were destroyed, the sorrow had been too much to bear and he had converted it into anger.
He had found nothing other than being the strongest to rely on.
It may have been wrong to even try to compare a dangerous love to a family’s love. They belonged to different categories. It was as absurd as using the exact same ruler to measure whether your mother or your schoolteacher cared more about your future or to measure whether your little sister or your girlfriend was nicer to you.
Family was family, friends were friends, and lovers were lovers.
There was no contradiction in using separate rulers to measure each category.
“Please no (nc – pa)! Help me (jg – ra)!! Brotherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!”
Victory made people look beautiful.
But no matter how ugly defeat was, it had a way of showing you who someone truly was.
Just like someone at the summer baseball tournament swallowing their tears and gathering up some dirt from the field.
Shiroyama Kyousuke revealed the glow of the true soul deep, deep inside him.
At the very end and on the verge of death, his lips moved.
This was not of his free will.
It was not a conscious act.
Nevertheless, his hand slowly reached out and wiped the tears from the girl’s eyes.
And he spoke clearly.
“…As you wish.”
Freedom Award 903, Alice (with) Rabbit.
This was the moment when that name carved deep in his soul rose to the surface.
Between the Lines 2
Shiroyama Kyousuke was already barely conscious in that mindless state of defeat.
But one thing remained in his mind as it faded in and out.
He had sliced through his own carotid artery.
And then he had intentionally taken one of the Colorless Little Girl’s Unexplored-class attacks despite being a flesh-and-blood human.
There was a limit to what miracles the White Queen’s battle costume could bring about. Not even wrapping it around the wounds like bandages could overturn death.
The costume was just a costume; it was not the Queen herself.
The White Queen bit her lip.
There was no need to tear into her flesh with her canine tooth. Her side had already been skewered by the Colorless Little Girl’s spear. She really should have been coughing up blood already, so she got what she needed simply by bringing the rusty taste in her throat up onto her tongue.
A red drop.
That liquid was more beautiful than any natural gemstone.
She did not care about her own injures. For an Unexplored-class with such exceptional power, the number and severity of the surface wounds was not all that important. The human was what mattered now. This boy could not be saved in the same way. If he died, then it was over.
She could sacrifice herself as many times as it took.
Because she had found something she cared about more than anything else in either world.
“I won’t let it end here. I will not, no matter what it takes.”
This was a miracle of blood.
It was the greatest of divine acts that required she reject her own color to save that boy.
Her soft hands held the boy’s cheeks.
She softly shut her eyes.
There was no sound.
Lips touched lips and she forced her supernatural medicine deep into his throat.
The rusty flavor reached him.
It reached his tongue and his stomach.
There was no greater blessing and she had used it to save just the one life.
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s heart finally approached stability.
But nothing was certain yet.
She took his arm and lent him her shoulder. She needed somewhere – anywhere – that was safe enough for the summoner to rest.
His limp body was disturbingly heavy.
The White Queen could lift the entire universe while humming a tune if she wanted, but she felt like this weight would crush her.
“I’m sorry, Mary.”
The White Queen softly bit her rust-flavored lip.
She refused to let him die.
She swore that to herself once more as she took a step forward.
This was by no means an easy path for her. She still had the wound from the Colorless Little Girl’s spear piercing her side along with Kyousuke’s, so dark red blood dripped out whenever she tensed up even a little.
But even so.
She had to do this.
The twintailed girl clenched her teeth, lent the limp boy her shoulder, and dragged her own body along to keep walking.
If it had been possible, she had wanted to shake the boy awake when he overslept and feed him the breakfast she had made.
If it had been possible, she had wanted to live in the same world as him, attend the same school, study in the next desk over in the same classroom, and play in the pool with him.
If it had been possible, she had wanted to rush to the battlefield when he was in danger and fight alongside him.
But where was she supposed to go?
Was there anywhere that would lead to that bright future?
A graceful voice reached her.
At some point, a woman with a long black ponytail had approached the boy and the girl. She was Shigara Masami, Freedom Award 3000 and a Divine-class.
<His blood pressure seems to have stabilized, but this isn’t over yet. With the unpredictable rocking of the waves, bringing him to his cruiser increases the risk of his wounds reopening, so using his friend’s apartment would probably be best.>
The lonely girl weakly brushed aside the woman’s outstretched hand.
The White Queen could display a different expression than normal in front of her. She could react in a different way than she could around an extreme exception like Shiroyama Kyousuke.
“I will bow my head to whoever I must. If they demand I apologize, I am willing to cry and beg and humiliate myself.”
It could be heard to tell with her head lowered, but the girl was definitely sniffling.
That action seemed so far removed from the title of Queen.
“But saving brother is my job. Do not interfere, Shigara Masami.”
There was no logic there.
It was a desire to have him to herself and it was very similar to the immature stubbornness of a child.
Shigara Masami made no attempt to argue.
In fact, she sighed and relaxed her shoulders. And she stepped aside to clear the way.
But not for the fearsome peak of the Unexplored-class.
She may have done this because she felt she could trust that look of a stubborn girl.
And was it the boy’s reckless attempts to challenge her that had ultimately drawn out that look? Anyone could see those attempts had been misguided, but if he had not taken that so seriously, neither he nor the girl may have ever reached the honest feelings within them. Being too good at things could be a problem at times.
And the adult woman had more to say.
<Continue this way and you will reach a park. Turn east there to reach another bridge. The apartment building you want is located there.>
After hearing that, the White Queen slowly resumed walking while lending Shiroyama Kyousuke her shoulder. She did not include any strange supernatural phenomena like flying through the sky or warping through three-dimensional space. There was no room for that. This was her story. She would not allow any third party to interfere with that, even if they were a god or a demon.
She absolutely refused to let go here.
She could not allow her knees to give out here.
There was no need to fight.
And there probably never had been.
- By turning his beliefs into an original religious text about the heroism of standing up to the White Queen to the bitter end, Shiroyama Kyousuke hoped to create his own legend that would make him a Divine-class without reaching Award 1000. He guessed it would take centuries or millennia for the legend to spread across the entire world, but it is unknown whether or not this method would have actually worked.
- The Colorless Little Girl was defeated by human Biondetta.
- When the Silhouette is exposed to the open air, it can be destroyed by normal attacks not belonging to the Summoning Ceremony. If even the thinnest layer had been in the way, Biondetta’s gunshot would have been deflected.
- In a battle between summoners, the winner has the right to keep the fight going with a Chain, but if a winner is determined in any other situation, the Summoning Ceremony and protective circle are removed immediately.
- Beyond the veils of self-deception and rejection, it was a desire to save even the White Queen that smoldered deep within Kyousuke’s soul.
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