The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume1 Chapter4
Stage 04: There’s No Meaning to It
“ ‘I haven’t the slightest interest in anything except you, brother.’ ”
“Who said that?”
There’s No Meaning to It
(Stage 04 Open 04/15 16:03)
“I bind this covenant of blood in the name of The Spirit of Fluttering ‘Yellow’ Gills that Rules the Heavens (s – a – so – voz – tix – ei – yw – za), one of the Three which manage and guide the summoning ceremony. You are of human flesh with a proper heart and soul, yet from this moment onward, you shall be a limited vessel that can hold all things.”
“You shall be a lord of emptiness that uses the power filling you to at times bend the laws of this world.”
“So I shall prepare this vessel. I am a summoner, unable to leave the world of man, yet a symbol of haughty intellect that uses power from beyond the world of man to guide the world of man to the next age!!”
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s contract with Higan had been stolen in an irregular fashion, so he had restored it to its proper form.
He had already discussed this with her sister Renge.
“I think we would both be in agreement that we need to search for every possible means of saving her.”
“Get to the point.”
“Which one of us can make better use of Meinokawa Higan as a vessel? If you want to increase her odds of survival as much as possible, then I want you to hand her over to me.”
He felt that was an inhuman opinion.
He was basically telling her to butt out when her sister was in great need.
Even so, he forced it through.
That was why he was known as Alice (with) Rabbit.
“Fwahh… I-I’m finally back in my shrine maiden outfit.”
Below the countless crisscrossing bridges of Toy Dream 35, cruisers and boats were moored in the evening sunlight. There, Higan lightly patted the waist of her shrine maiden outfit.
To her, that was likely about as important as the fate of the world that hung in the balance
“B-but where are we going to sneak in? Guard of Honor’s headquarters is located in those staff-only passageways covering this city like a spider web, right? Doesn’t that mean any part of this thirty kilometer square city is a candidate?”
According to Aika, the passageways covered a combined total of three million kilometers. One could not cover all of that in a lifetime while wandering around randomly.
“There are entrances everywhere.” Kyousuke did not sound worried. “And even if this looks like an over-the-top setup with a complex ceremonial process, it’s really just a treasure hunting game set up by her and her love for being in love. There’s no meaning to it. So I’m betting the first place that comes to my mind will be the right place. That’s just how it’s set up.”
He did not need any obvious evidence.
His confidence came from the long time they had spent together.
“W-we have to do everything we can,” said Higan. “They’ll finish in three hours and then uncontrollable Materials will pour out, swallow up the people of this city, and wreak havoc on the entire world. We have to do something.”
“Yes. But to be honest, fighting the White Queen is more than enough of a threat on its own. Going up against her at full power is more frightening than fighting a million summoners.”
“The White Queen…”
“Is it still a shock?”
“Yes. Of course it is. But we have to do something… If the White Queen will really bring that kind of catastrophe, um, we can’t just ignore it.”
Higan sounded more sad than afraid, but that may have been because she did not directly remember the White Queen’s violence.
She had managed to shake free of her dependence, but that likely had nothing to do with herself. It would have more to do with seeing the painful-looking injuries left on her sister’s body.
“Fortunately, Guard of Honor’s Sewn Realm Summoning is apparently full of holes. The White Queen’s perfection is unstable and she might have a few extra vulnerabilities. It looks like there might be something we can take advantage of.”
That was not a lie.
However, there was something Shiroyama Kyousuke was not telling Higan.
“This is the only way.”
A certain girl had literally tried to chop up and sell her body to protect her family.
“Thanks to this, the normal theories of organ transplants don’t apply.”
She could have run away if she had wanted to. If she had given up on this one thing, she would have been free to live a completely different life. But out of those infinite possibilities, she had chosen death in order to protect her sister.
“Why not? I’m a Joruri Method machine while she’s human. Protecting her is my only reason to continue functioning. The optimal answer is right before my eyes. We don’t need to bet on the ridiculous possibility of defeating the White Queen. I can save her like this! So…!!”
That was beautiful, but it had to be mistaken. Just like a sculpture that ignored proper anatomy in order to increase the apparent beauty, it was praiseworthy but wrong.
So Shiroyama Kyousuke had broken her heart for his own convenience. And he had drawn a certain word out of her.
“If you think you can help us, then prove it!!!!!”
Kyousuke lightly cracked his neck.
He shifted his focus from inward to outward.
“Now, let’s get started.”
“Wh-what exactly are we going to do? Guard of Honor is a collection of summoners powerful enough to face the aces of Government, Illegal, and Freedom head-on, right? And they even have a Repliglass army. A direct attack on them would turn into a real war, wouldn’t it?”
“I have an idea.”
Higan heard a thunk. It was the sound of Kyousuke lightly kicking something in the evening road.
She hesitantly looked down.
It was a Horseshoe Crab.
It was a cutting-edge amphibious Repliglass soldier with a giant hemisphere of armor on its back.
Including the tail, it was about four meters long. It was one of the things Kyousuke had fished up while scouting out their strength. An unarmed boy could not defeat that cutting-edge weapon covered in a shell and artificial muscles made of silicon. But if he threw an Incense Grenade into the center of the enemy formation, a great number of guards would notice and it would cause a huge commotion.
However, that had not been enough for Shiroyama Kyousuke to give up.
He had started by spotting a single Repliglass soldier carelessly moving out alone on the very edge of their patrol route. He had then walked right up to it and thrown the Incense Grenade backwards.
The Artificial Sacred Ground had opened with its outside edge just two meters ahead of Kyousuke. He accurately brought in that nearest Horseshoe Crab without including any of the other guards. The surprised target had tried to fight back with its close-range weaponry, but Kyousuke had already been automatically moved back to the center of the Artificial Sacred Ground. Then, as the Horseshoe Crab stared in confusion at the spot where its target had dodged with inhuman speed, he had used his Blood-Sign to summon the weakest and simplest Material and quickly defeated it. He had dumped the defeated Horseshoe Crab into the ocean directly below the bridge and then collected and towed it away using the cruiser he had waiting in case he needed to flee.
It had been over in less than five seconds after the Artificial Sacred Ground had opened.
They would almost certainly have seen that two meter glowing cube from the outside, but it had only lasted five seconds, there was no report of an intruder or a battle, and searching the scene would turn up nothing.
A group that takes in so many summoners would first assume an Incense Grenade had gone off by accident. Of course, if they checked the reports of all the summoners working for Guard of Honor, they would eventually find out that no one had done that. However, it would take some time before that happened.
Finding a definite hole was easy, but checking to see if “no one did anything” required going through what every single report said and deciding if they were telling the truth or not.
“Either way, they’ll get suspicious as time goes on and this Horseshoe Crab doesn’t make its periodic reports. It doesn’t really matter if they figure it out sooner or later. We just have to get in before that.”
Kyousuke calmly answered Higan who looked worried.
She nervously peered at the unmoving Horseshoe Crab.
“There’s, um, a bunch of stuff underneath that shell, isn’t there? …I don’t know what it’s all called though.”
There was indeed a Gatling gun made for underwater use, a super-high temperature saber that reached temperatures of five or six thousand degrees using a plasma jet also made for underwater use, and amphibious guided weaponry. A specialist in that sort of thing would probably have been drooling if they saw all that cutting-edge technology, but that was not Kyousuke’s focus.
“So it’s completely reliant on the detachable visor during night battles. Infrared, ultraviolet, ultrasound visualization, and light amplification… It combines them all into a single grayscale image. It looks like a modified version of the Quad Motors CE-30.”
Summoners and Material did not appear on mechanical sensors when the Incense Grenade was in effect. The visor was detachable so they could switch between the naked eye and the mechanical sensors.
After checking over the equipment, Kyousuke grinned.
“I think we can use this.”
“One: the advantage of numbers doesn’t really apply in summoner battles unless it’s a large battlefield like a desert or plain. If you can build up a high-level Material with a Chain, you can defeat all of the others that have to start from scratch.”
He bent another finger down as he continued.
“Two: Summoners can bend the laws of physics, but even they have to follow a few steps to summon a Material. To put that another way, they’re almost completely helpless if you can seal off those steps.”
At that point, he asked a sudden question.
“Just to be sure, you don’t have glaucoma, do you?”
The place looked like giant ruins from the BCE period.
There were disaster-relief waterways that gathered the rainwater, subway tunnels, and passageways for buried high-voltage lines and high-speed communication lines. The underground area of this great city was a collection of cutting-edge technology, yet people viewed it just like ancient ruins.
In the end, the awed fear of giant structures beyond an individual’s understanding remained unchanged in the modern era.
Uniquely Selfless stood in one of those sealed areas that overwhelmed everyone who saw it.
She had already abandoned the name of Freedom Award 954, L.D. 250. She had also been a part of Government and Illegal in the past, but she had repeatedly abandoned her past to move ever onward and forward.
She had even lost the ability to think of those things as abandoned.
So she had nothing.
“Point 13: nothing to report.”
She was in her early twenties, her long hair was tied back, and she wore a cheap track suit. She wore no real makeup. Just like a shut-in who had forgotten how to interact with other human beings, she had lost any distinction between at-home clothes and outside clothes and she essentially wore pajamas year-round. Although it was impressive in a way that she could still attract others despite completely losing the ability to focus on herself as an individual.
“Do we really need to make these periodic reports, Uniquely Selfless?” she asked.
“How are we supposed to know who you’re talking to? Maybe we should have at least added numbers to the end.”
“It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to as long as I get the right answer.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
This was a giant tomb surrounded by thick concrete in every direction. Uniquely Selfless sat on a pile of construction materials and spoke with another Uniquely Selfless over her cellphone.
All the while, she looked down at the countless Repliglass soldiers, those giant bugs wriggling down below.
“Periodic reports are the standard for guards. We can’t rely on mechanical cameras and sensors when an Incense Grenade is active, so a report from a physical voice is all we can use.”
“Ha ha. But these phones are mechanical, aren’t they? We can’t use them if we’re swallowed up by an Artificial Sacred Ground.”
“Yes, but then we will notice the lack of periodic reports. We would be unable to detect a summoner’s attack if we only had you call in during an emergency.”
That textbook answer led Uniquely Selfless to briefly recall someone.
However, she could not remember who they were or which of the three major powers they were from.
Everything from her past was simply placed under the category of “the past”. Both the living and the dead.
“Hey, who do you think will be first?”
“It doesn’t matter who.”
“Government, Illegal, and Freedom… None of them are functioning at the moment and none of them is a match for us. Out of the 450 we instructed, at least 70 of them rose to the higher 800s, so we can survive even a full-on war.”
Her use of the word “war” was no laughing matter.
By making Incense Grenades from wood and glass, they could be carried in secret and slip past metal detectors and searches. If anyone looked away for just a second, they would be completely forgotten. All cameras and sensors for defenses and guided weaponry were useless inside an Artificial Sacred Ground. With the protective circle, they were immune to all kinds of firepower. If they continued a Chain at length, they could continue their paranormal battle without resupplying.
Simply put, heading out with a party like this, they could reach the president of a great nation. Before the so-called “industry rules” had been created, wars meant to target and kill just the top commander had been quite common.
So to Uniquely Selfless, her enemy would be nothing more than someone who had disappeared into the past.
Whoever arrived first, it would be nothing more than someone whose name and face she could not remember.
A moment later, all of the lights went out at once.
The giant windowless structure felt like ancient ruins. Darkness filled every inch of the space, as if to remind her this was a thick concrete tomb.
At the same time, she heard a quiet yet solid sound. It came from the cellphone held to her ear, and it was the sound of the LCD backlight breaking. It seemed to have been pierced by something sharp, not hit by a blunt object.
With every light source gone, true darkness reigned.
She heard someone breathing nearby.
She reached for an Incense Grenade on reflex, but then she remembered something.
If she could not see her target with the naked eye, the Incense Grenade would not create an Artificial Sacred Ground.
Even with someone right in front of her eyes, there was nothing she could do if she could not see!
She had not given any thought to this possibility she had buried in her past.
A dull sound burst out as killer intent rushed out to surround the entire area.
Kyousuke felt his enemy’s defeat through the Blood-Sign he had thrust out like a spear.
The summoner had been crushed.
But there was still the vessel and the countless Repliglass soldiers.
He gestured to Higan and ran through the dark.
Yes, he gestured.
They did not need to defeat all of the enemy soldiers. Their top priority was reaching the deepest area where the White Queen’s Sewn Realm Summoning was being carried out. The two of them slipped past the Repliglass soldiers as they ran.
Those soldiers armed with cutting-edge weapons pulled down their visors for night-vision the instant their own vision went dark. They also turned their heads toward the footsteps.
But they could not “see” Kyousuke and Higan.
However, Kyousuke doubted this cheap trick would last for long.
“(We need to slip past as many as we can while this confusion lasts!! Unnecessary fighting will only use up what time we have!!)”
They moved from the giant stone tomb to a narrow passageway and ran down a stairway with a metal pipe railing forcibly attached. They ran into a few two meter Repliglass soldiers that resembled praying mantises or pill bugs on the way. Normally, they would have had difficulty with those monsters that could crush an armored car and dig through a concrete wall, but they slipped right past them and kept running. Their progress was oddly smooth.
They continued down, down, down, and down.
There were no windows and no sunlight reached them. Partially thanks to that, they gradually lost track of whether they were currently above or belowground.
It felt like a Mobius strip or a Klein bottle.
They were gradually afflicted by a sense that they were plunging into some alternate world removed from reality.
There was great confusion.
But as soon as new footsteps rang through the large transformer substation, the summoner Uniquely Selfless did not hesitate to shout out.
“Fire at those footsteps!!”
A deluge of gunfire burst from the walls and ceiling. That was not due to echoes. The giant bug Repliglass soldiers really were clinging to those surfaces.
The intense strobe light of their disturbed vision showed something fluttering through the air.
It was a gray plastic sheet about the size of a blanket.
(The bugs’ night vision visors use grayscale, don’t they? So just like the color red vanishes under a red light, their vision is weak to the right form of gray. So that’s why the intruders have slipped past before the Repliglass can react.)
But now they had lost their means of camouflage.
Uniquely Selfless called out again.
“This summon-sealing darkness means they can’t use their summoning ceremony either! Your bullets will reach them now!!”
Countless gunshots and explosions followed.
And that was why Uniquely Selfless was so slow to notice the much smaller bursting sound hidden behind the deluge of noise. Specifically, the sound of someone throwing an Incense Grenade.
Uniquely Selfless’s voice trembled in the darkness.
He had heard the characteristic sound of bullets being deflected by a protective circle and felt the sensation of something wrapping around himself.
“How can you summon Material here? You created this darkness! You need to see your target with the naked eye rather than mechanical night vision just as much as we do! Otherwise you can’t open an Artificial Sacred Ground!!”
He received no answer.
The true darkness was torn apart by the explosion of scarlet lines and broken music created by the summoning ceremony’s Petals.
One of them could use it and one could not. The difference that created was demonstrated with overwhelming destruction.
As reports came in of the battle lines crumbling one after another and panicked voices reached her ears, Azalea Magentarain sighed with the old butler by her side.
“I see. So that’s his trick.”
She understood it now, but it was too late to pass the information along. The enemy had already broken through. On top of that, the attacker was not serious about this. He was only using the trick to gain as much ground as he could.
“Yes. Get everything ready for me.”
A deep sound, much like a giant drumbeat, reverberated more in her gut than her ears.
This was two hundred meters below Toy Dream 35. Pure white bubbles filled the inside of the giant spherical bacteria pool created from silicon as a Repliglass water purifier.
“At this rate, he will definitely make it here. When you get down to it, greater numbers mean nothing in a battle between summoners.”
She grabbed a few reels of ribbons.
“It would seem we need to crush him ourselves.”
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s vision was dazzled among the strobe light of so much gunfire. The protective circle defended against all paranormal and physical phenomena now that he had summoned a Material, but anything that did not threaten his life would pass through the protective circle’s filter. There was nothing he could do about this.
“(Dammit. So our trick isn’t going to get us any further. Higan, we’ll have to force our way with a Chain from here on!!)”
It was too dark to see even the hand in front of one’s face with the naked eye.
However, they could not use the summoning ceremony when relying on mechanical night vision equipment either.
So how had Kyousuke and Higan conquered that darkness and summoned a Material?
The answer was quite simple.
“Um… Are these eye drops?”
“They contain homatropine, a parasympathetic nerve blocker. It’s an over-the-counter drug you can buy at a train station drugstore, but I had Lu-san’s help concentrating it a fair bit. It’s a mydriatic…which, simply put, causes your pupil to dilate unnaturally wide.”
“Basically, it gives you really good night vision, but in exchange makes you more susceptible to camera flashes and the like. Anyway, you don’t have any eye diseases like glaucoma, do you? This is a concentrated version of a drug you can’t give people who have things like that.”
They only put the special eye drops in one eye.
As soon as they were swallowed up by the dance of gunfire, he squeezed the one eye shut and switched to using the other one, but that did not entirely eliminate the effect.
Still, he ignored it.
He shook off the sharp headache stabbing into the core of his head and they took out more and more of this normally unbeatable firepower.
They kept the Chain going and kicked through the thick door leading even deeper.
His mind was shaken.
For just a brief moment, Shiroyama Kyousuke’s “awareness” grew distorted.
First, there was an overwhelming light. The underground structure had been like a construction zone with the power cut off, but this large area was filled with old-fashioned lights such as gas lamps, candles, and chandeliers. Those directly disturbed the eye he had used the eye drops on.
Second, it was an utterly luxurious palace.
It was so very unlike the exposed concrete from before. It was filled with so much gold and art from all around the world that he could hardly believe this was more than fifty meters underground. It felt like that door had led into another world. Kyousuke’s brain was shaken as if in a waking dream and he completely forgot where he was and why he was here.
Lastly, there was a giant spherical container.
The ten meter sphere bubbled near the ceiling of that palace and it shined like a star. It was filled with a white bubbling liquid and it just barely retained some traces of its original form as a bacteria pool using Repliglass technology.
And that slight pause was a fatal lag when it came to first-rate summoners.
“So it comes down to this in the end, does it? Well, if this world revolves around Her Majesty, I suppose this makes sense.”
She would have been absorbed by the Chain-state Artificial Sacred Ground regardless, but she still threw her own Incense Grenade. It was likely a symbol much like throwing a glove at him. The noble blood in her veins had wanted a way to signal the beginning of this duel.
And Azalea did not care about the handicap created by the cost difference in the Material already built up in the Chain.
She had her non-consuming strategy that created an endless loop of her White Thorns with incredible speed and precision.
She could immediately catch up and surpass that difference.
A gorgeous ribbon wrapped around in midair to form a long rod.
With her Blood-Sign in hand, the young lady spoke directly below the unique bacteria pool that resembled a giant crystal ball.
“Now, how about we settle this? You or me? Which servant can move closest to Her Majesty and which one is most worthy of her deep love!?”
A clear voice filled the air.
The White Thorns launched from the Blood-Sign collided precisely three times with the walls, floor, decorations, edges of the Artificial Sacred Ground, and the low, middle, high, and lowest sound Petals to draw a variety of different squares and accurately return to her.
It was not quite a dance.
Nor was it like a circus act.
The many White Thorns were released one after another to draw different squares and different loops in a process that accurately built up her Material at great speed. Azalea viewed it like a Gatling gun.
The structure was simple, so there was no fear of error.
The amount was great, so it could break through any obstacle.
There was a deafening deluge of noise. The bright red dance of light and chaotic deluge of noise were the song of a mad god that desired war and bloodshed. Azalea’s Material normally would have been easily crushed by the difference in cost level, but it caught the giant claws rushing at it. It stopped them. It endured them. And all the while, it was being built up further. It grew stronger and greater and would soon catch up.
Azalea had the Crimson Calamity of Countless Bestial Heads (nic – a – zx – a – c – ei – tf – b – qux – wzb – a – hatl).
Countless red eyes glowed from a hideous ball-like Material made from dozens of dragon and beast heads, each over a meter tall. Each mouth produced a shockwave-like roar that evenly crushed all foreign objects in its territory.
Shiroyama Kyousuke had the SSC for Puppet #2000 (yi – a – ns – ou – wh – ia – iu – seb – e – hig – o – sd – c – li – dr – oq).
The giant empty armor was controlled by invisible threads attached across its body and two red lights escaped from gaps in the armor like eyes. The twenty meter monster was inorganic, yet it gave off a bestial odor and tore its prey’s internal organs to shreds using sharp claw- and fang-like protrusions. It was simple yet effective, so “as long as it could get close”, it could tear open an aircraft carrier’s flight deck like a can.
There was little meaning in describing the details of their Materials.
Before it even reached its perfect form, Azalea’s Material changed form. It never obtained a stable body, so it almost looked like a melting amorphous stew.
(Normal people might be able to frighten their opponent by taking slow shots and letting them see the result.)
This was Azalea Magentarain, who had once been known as Golden Luxury.
(But my Gatling gun readily destroys the concept of numbers. Cheap, plentiful, and certain. In the face of an “army” that washes away the “individual”, the skills and strategies of a single summoner are meaningless.)
She was certain of her victory. The elegant young lady licked her lips as she manipulated her Blood-Sign.
The cost difference had vanished.
The puny savings and tiny handicap were no help when it came to stopping Azalea.
From here on, it was her turn to drive out Shiroyama Kyousuke.
But something odd happened.
With a pleasant sound, a White Thorn flew in the wrong direction.
All of the Thorns should have been moving in square paths to accurately return to her. They would never vanish while her stock naturally replenished itself. That should have allowed her ferocity to grow as time passed.
But a slight fray caused it all to fall apart.
The flying White Thorns were sent off course. The amount returning to her shrank. The speed of her Material’s growth dropped and the advantage of the Gatling gun-like quantity collapsed.
She was baffled, but her mind worked furiously to analyze the situation. She reached calculation speeds rivalling a ballistic prediction program and concluded that the mistake had not come from her.
But the fact remained that her Gatling gun system had failed.
“What did you do? What did you do to me!?”
Azalea shouted in anger but also attempted to bring back the accurate movements of her Blood-Sign. Sometimes she successfully completed the White Thorn loop and other times it flew off in the wrong direction. Overall, “something” was tripping her up, but she could not figure out what that was. The situation simply continued.
Meanwhile, Shiroyama Kyousuke adjusted his grip on his Blood-Sign and responded calmly.
“It’s true that infinite loop technique will sweep you away if you face it head-on. If I took aim at each individual White Thorn, well, I’d probably never fill the cost gap.”
That was how it was supposed to work.
What made no sense was Kyousuke’s unconcerned expression. He should have been sweating bullets with a look of despair as he saw his Material chewed to pieces by the overwhelming cost gap. That was how the equation was set up. Just as one plus one was two, no other result should have been possible!
“But that accurate square loop is a simple structure. You bounce the White Thorn off of the wall, floor, ceiling, decorations, furnishings, Petals, White Thorns, or edges of the Artificial Sacred Ground three times to continually draw that rectangle. That’s really all it is.”
It was a simple and basic structure, but that did not mean it was stale.
It was the same idea as a trustworthy weapon having been simplified to the point that it would not malfunction.
But at the same time…
“If the structure is simple, it’s also easy to mess with. You send out a ton of White Thorns and open up the cost gap with overwhelming speed, but as long as I can escape the panic that brings, it isn’t that difficult to think up a way to bring an end to your undefeated legend.”
“And I’m asking what exactly that is!!”
“You still haven’t figured it out? There was likely a hint in the chaos that Guard of Honor caused before we even met.”
Azalea strongly reminded herself that she could not let her thoughts go blank.
She began to suspect that her opponent’s words were no more than a form of psychological warfare meant to keep her from thinking.
“April 14, 10:30 PM. Block R’s harbor region was overrun with the Divine-class Materials you set loose: Fafnir and Yamata-no-Orochi… At several dozen meters tall and twice the height of a gantry crane, their ferocity must have looked like hell on earth. But that brings a certain question to mind.”
“They were too big. The Artificial Sacred Ground is initially a cube with twenty meter sides, but you’d have a hard time fitting Fafnir or Yamata-no-Orochi in there. At the very least, they wouldn’t be able to fight. So how were those Divine-classes being used so effectively?”
“The Artificial Sacred Ground can grow under certain conditions. It’s probably based on the size of the largest Material inside it. And you use all the obstacles inside to set up your loops. In that case, obstructing you couldn’t be easier. I just have to change the size of my Material again and again, which changes the size of the Artificial Sacred Ground each time. …Those “moving walls” are all it takes to overturn your accurate calculations.”
That was all it took.
“I’ve managed to gather a bit of information on a celebrity like you. Government Award 930, Golden Luxury. You specialize in high-speed battles in complex areas such as cities or inside buildings. Is that why you’d never really thought about it? Because you generally use the building walls and ceiling rather than the edges of the Artificial Sacred Ground?”
But an excellent weapons developer like Azalea knew first hand not to underestimate simple things and simple structures. She would come up with a countermeasure for his countermeasure. If she did not pour her all into thinking up a way to crush “that”, she would simply be cornered.
She adjusted her grip on her Blood-Sign and used the solid sensation on her fingertips to restructure her mental combat manual. She recovered her fighting spirit from the confusion.
“Tch!! Then I just have to take back the right to determine the Artificial Sacred Ground’s size for myself. If I always summon a bigger and larger Material, I can maintain control!!”
“Perhaps. But surely an expert like you knows how risky it is to continually choose Materials based on their appearance rather than their sound or cost. Head that route too easily and I’ll bite back immediately. I’m already prepared to do just that.”
“…!! Then I only have to complete my loops without using the edges of the Artificial Sacred Ground!!”
“Perhaps. But reducing your freedom will trip up your high-speed tactics. If it isn’t too fast for me to react, there are all sorts of things I can do.”
His spoken provocations were proven in actual battle.
They both sent out their White Thorns, but Azalea’s lacked their former brilliance. Kyousuke’s did not provide an overwhelming threat, but she could tell he was gradually nipping at her heels. Her position reminded her of the fallen royalty, whose blood flowed in her veins, when they had been dragged down by the people in a revolution.
That was a mistake.
A moment later, Kyousuke’s speed surpassed hers with a deafening noise.
Even if it had declined, her square loop Gatling system was still active. She believed her inferior position was due to his cheap tricks, not a notable difference in pure skill.
She tried to believe it. She wanted to believe it.
“Who said I only had one countermeasure?”
With those words, Kyousuke once more launched a White Thorn. Solid collisions sounded again and again. If Azalea’s was a Gatling gun, Kyousuke’s was a shotgun. Each time, he produced a wince-inducing deluge of noise like someone slamming their hands down on a piano keyboard.
“Your system accurately draws out a square so the White Thorns always return to your hand, but that means you can’t move a bunch of White Thorns at once. Since you need three points for your square, I guess it’s three at the most. But the loop is so fast that it ends up looking like you’re hitting the Petals into the Spots all at once.”
This was Shiroyama Kyousuke’s second countermeasure against Azalea.
“Then don’t I just have to go the opposite route? If I hit five or ten Petals into the Spots with each White Thorn, I can fill the gap.”
That was easier said than done.
Once or twice could be written off as a fluke, but it would be incredibly difficult to constantly and reliably knock multiple Petals into the Spots. To be blunt, it involved a lot of luck on top of simple skill. It was only possible if the Petals were conveniently clumped together, so it was not something that could have a steady supply. Including that kind of uncertain element in a weapons system should have led to a malfunction.
After thinking that far, a shudder ran down Azalea Magentarain’s spine.
(All of the Petals in Toy Dream 35 right now are being influenced by Her Majesty to some extent. But…it can’t be… Is he pushing past even that influence and ignoring the main arrangement of Petals to use the seemingly coincidental scattered arrangement…?)
She felt like a great number of eyeballs were staring at her.
Those red spheres were scattered around the Artificial Sacred Ground. Those many Petals had looked like weapons and opportunities worthy of entrusting her life to, but now they seemed to surround her and look down on her.
Conversely, a king stood in the center of it all. He took the form of a boy and spoke to Azalea.
“This plan was also meant to handle you at your full strength. But now you’re a far cry from that, so it seems obvious to me how this will turn out if we continue.”
“Don’t be ridiculous… It…it isn’t possible for me as Uniquely Selfless to lose to something like this! My Gatling gun will tear through any obstacle. Even you have been driven to the precipice of death!!”
“I was judging you.”
It was a quiet voice, but it was enough to make Azalea gasp.
“Was your high-speed loop tactic just one of many options or was it all you could do? I waited until the last second, but I’m glad to see that was all you had,” said Kyousuke. “For us, the key to all this was whether you would use the trump card we’d already seen and knew about.”
Those were not words one spoke to a nightmarish threat.
But Azalea’s noble blood refused to say what they were spoken to.
“Who ever said you stood at the top of the world?”
But she could hear him. His voice slipped into her ears.
As Azalea’s shoulders trembled and she faced her nemesis head on, Kyousuke simply spoke.
“For us, another summoner like you is nothing more than one point along the way.”
Solid sounds followed.
A White Thorn collided with Petals, the Petals were swallowed by the Spots, and his Material changed form again and again.
Above Azalea’s head, a fifteen meter pitch black dragon clashed violently with a ten meter giant wielding a magic sword.
The monsters had already surpassed the Regulation-class and reached the Divine-class.
Crimson eyes glowed from both giant Materials as they repeatedly clashed above the Summoners’ heads.
(I’m breathing heavily.)
Azalea Magentarain was failing to control herself.
Her mental combat manual was falling apart.
The cause was obvious. Anyone could tell which of them was being pushed back.
(I can’t keep my fingertips from shaking. What…what is this feeling…!?)
Someone had told her to be happy.
She had not understood the value of that at the time, but after pursuing that target of her admiration, she had finally realized just how difficult that was to say in this world.
So she had pursued happiness.
She had swept aside the other potential heirs who shared her blood, she had crushed underfoot all the bugs that swarmed in from outside hoping to gain something for themselves, and she had obtained the power of the highest rank in the world of the summoning ceremony.
Even so, one thing had always eluded her.
“I wished for the greatest achievement.”
She spoke under her breath as she recalled the past.
This shaking went by the name of “fear”. She recalled the days so deeply dyed in its colors and she recalled the crude and violent man who had so unreasonably and overwhelmingly saved her from it.
“To reach something that achieves balance when placed on the scales with what I once lost, I can’t fall back now!!!!”
Shiroyama Kyousuke narrowed his eyes a little at that.
Meanwhile, he accurately moved his Blood-Sign and used the gigantic Divine-class black dragon to definitively corner Azalea and her Material.
That boy likely had no idea what she meant.
Her fragmentary words would not allow him to picture the detailed scene in her mind.
“Yes. I don’t know what happened to you.”
He spoke of a hypothetical.
“But if the order of things had been a little different, you might have been the one I was working to save.”
Those words destroyed the perfectly composed young lady’s expression.
The name Alice (with) Rabbit told her he had the skill to make that kind of idealistic hypothetical a reality.
Azalea Magentarain shouted something as she thrust her Blood-Sign forward with all her might, but Shiroyama Kyousuke did not show a single opening or any mercy.
They were divided between enemy and ally.
One of those sides used a great dragon’s maw to grasp definite victory.
The pitch-black dragon’s sharp fangs bit deep into the throat of the giant that held a burning magic sword. It tore the throat out. Ink-like black light burst from the wound at point-blank range. After the horrifyingly primitive violence, the enemy Material vanished. Azalea, who had been held inside the protective circle, and Fractal, her vessel, rolled along the floor after being hit by the shock that had killed a god. They were nearly zombies in the original sense of the word. After controlling the gods and losing, they were ironically made to dumbly obey any instructions. To prevent any unnecessary injuries as Azalea crawled slowly off, Kyousuke lightly pushed on the back of her head with his Blood-Sign so she would lie down where she was.
He had won.
He had achieved victory.
He pulled out his smartphone during the few dozen seconds of their Chain state. The screen indicated they had less than an hour until the limit.
<U-um…is something the matter?>
Higan said something, but Kyousuke did not respond.
(Unless we defeat the White Queen who Guard of Honor worshipped, we can’t remove the three thousand or more thorns from Higan’s body. And they’ll definitely take her life once enough time passes. …What should I do now? It would be very bad if the White Queen showed up, but I can’t save Higan without someone summoning her!!)
That was when he heard air bubbles bursting so loudly he felt it in his gut.
He looked up at the Repliglass water purification system. Its core was an artificial bacteria pool made from silicon. The contents of the transparent hundred-meter sphere had grown and were bubbling madly. When Kyousuke saw that, he felt sweat pouring down his body.
The equipment was meant to change seawater into fresh water in order to mass produce fresh water.
Pure water welled up from within, so it symbolized a spring.
Azalea…no, Guard of Honor had rethought the existing summoning ceremony from the ground up and attempted to build a new system to eternally control a Material.
That meant the normal process was unnecessary. There was a chance they could overwrite the rules that required summoning one hundred Regulation-class and fifty Divine-class or to accurately hit the Petals in the Spots in just the right order if you wished to summon an Unexplored-class.
“Don’t tell me…”
In a way, this was what he had most wanted.
In a way, this was what he had most feared.
“Is that it…? Oh, no!! Higan, get ready. No, maybe it would be best to tear through the bacteria pool before it’s complete!!”
His warning proved meaningless as it happened before Higan could react.
The spherical container burst from within and stained the entire golden palace with its living soup.
It was like a white downpour.
It was a similar phenomenon to the red tide where an excess of plankton gave the seawater a rusty color. In this case, the world was dyed white rather than red. It covered up the colors of Golden Luxury in the blink of an eye. All of the decorations and artworks were thoroughly stained to display their master’s color: white.
That was the color of the Queen who ruled this bloodthirsty world that reeked of rust.
“It’s been too long, brother.”
“She” floated calmly in the spot the giant crystal ball of a container had been.
There was no real reason for it, but since she preferred to stand in the same place as him, she floated down to the palace floor so slowly that gravity did not seem to apply.
He had seen his new enemy.
The Chain state changed to something else and the enemy was taken into the Artificial Sacred Ground.
“Hmm. I have a feeling you met a different me a little ahead of time, but every day away from you feels like a thousand years…no, a trillion years. …So I’m glad everything advanced as planned. If you made me wait any longer, I might just have been angry enough to split apart an earth or two☆”
She had loose pure white clothing and a silver coloration.
Her waist-length twintails were closer to white than silver.
Shiroyama Kyousuke was forced into silence.
He had toyed with the summoners of Guard of Honor who were powerful enough for a direct war with the aces of Government, Illegal, and Freedom and he had coolly defeated Azalea Magentarain who had ruled over them, but one look at the Queen’s face was enough to silence him.
It was best to view her as just that great an opponent.
She was not controlled by a summoner or bound by a vessel. She was not restricted to the Artificial Sacred Ground or to the ten minute time limit.
The White Queen had been released upon the world.
Just like the mistake a young Kyousuke had once made in his ignorance.
“There is no need to tremble like that. Heh heh. But I kind of like it when you act like a cute little animal, brother.”
The White Queen laughed gently yet insanely as she spoke.
“Everything Guard of Honor had to offer just wasn’t nearly enough to reach your intellect, brother. They failed to control me with their Sewn Realm summoning and there are countless weaknesses all throughout their methodology, but that has not affected my specs all that much. I seem to be restricted to about the same level of power as with the Blood-Sign method you usually use.”
“But not to worry. The ‘things that crawl from the sea’ won’t appear unless I’m exposed for 180 seconds in a row. Right now I’m bound to your Artificial Sacred Ground, so you just have to throw a new Incense Grenade once the time limit arrives. Of course, that will mean building up your own Material from scratch.”
Their work had come to nothing. Their efforts had been wasted. The White Queen had indeed appeared in this world, but she was still contained to a smaller frame no different from the Blood-Sign method.
But she felt no frustration or anger over that.
That had been Guard of Honor’s desire, not the White Queen’s. Plus, she was already the strongest. It did not matter if some details had changed a little, if she was not at 100% purity, or if she was only the mere remnants of what she could be. Her position at the top would not be shaken.
She spoke calmly, like a songstress speaking to the audience from a large stage.
“I have failed just as you wanted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for you. Not taking advantage of this perfect setup would be a disgrace to your masculinity. Now, now. You can start whenever you like. Or if you want, you can stay on the run to delay things until I run out of time.”
(Like I can do that…)
He spat out the words in his heart without speaking them aloud.
The White Queen was not relying on an Incense Grenade this time, so she likely had no ten minute time limit. It might be a minute and it might be an hour. He knew Guard of Honor’s Fairy of the Spring style of Sewn Realm summoning had failed, but he had not analyzed how exactly it had failed. Going for a lengthy battle now would be like running full speed in an endurance race without actually knowing where the goal was. He would be unable to pace himself.
(No, it’s also wrong to think I could fight a defensive battle against someone with firepower as extraordinarily high as the White Queen. Whether it’s just a minute or just thirty seconds, we’d be worn down and killed. I’ll have to look for a way to attack, no matter how dangerous it might be. As she said, this is my best chance at this since Guard of Honor’s method failed.)
It may have been like taking a dose of poison one hundred times the lethal limit after diluting it one hundred times.
It may have been like getting hit by a three hundred kilometer per second bullet train after slowing it down three hundred times.
Either way, it was a threat. Either way, it was fatal.
<Let’s do this.>
His vessel’s voice slipped into his mind.
<We can’t just ignore this. We may have been wrong to force our ideal onto her and she might actually be something else entirely, but if this goddess mocks human efforts and simply watches as her encouraging push actually pushes them off a cliff, then she’s nothing but evil. …Let’s defeat the White Queen here. We have to!!>
Her words could be seen as naïve, but it gave the push his frozen heart needed.
The summoner slowly inhaled and gave a shout.
“Higan, let’s go for it all at once! She isn’t at her best now, so we can defeat a foe we could never normally-…!!”
He was unable to finish.
A brilliant band of white light instantly slammed Higan into the wall in her gigantic black dragon form.
The strike had pierced straight through her torso. Knowing where the Silhouette that held Higan’s mind was stored, the sight was enough to feel his throat dry up.
But Kyousuke could not even watch the Material’s giant body slide down to the ground.
There was a flash of light.
The pure white laser beam of an attack burned a seemingly permanent afterimage into the air. No…
(Did she tear away the world itself to make it pure white!?)
The standard theories no longer applied. Even the Petals and Spots that no one could normally touch were swallowed up and vanished. Everything from this world and the other world was torn away and deleted.
After a lag of a few seconds, the pure white remnant receded. The world returned with some static.
That compressed power was meant to kill a summoner and the Material.
No master plan was needed to destroy the world. If she lost control of her power and it scattered outward, that single attack might have caused the planet to crumble like a biscuit.
“Ahh, brother. …How could you speak another girl’s name during our date? What the hell are you thinking?”
The White Queen was not bothered that she had only temporarily deleted space-time.
The naturally regenerating rifts in the world must not have been worthy of surprise.
She did not bother running around or approaching. A portion of the white clothing loosely wrapped around her transformed in silence. It took the form of a hammer, flew through the air on its own, and dropped toward Kyousuke like a shooting star.
The summoner was contained within a protective circle that defended against any physical phenomenon and Material attack.
The impact that rattled his brain easily overturned that assumption.
It was not an issue of any actual injury. He could clearly sense “the presence of death” approaching.
He gasped, his mind grew muddy, and his vision twisted as he worked desperately to grasp the situation.
Fresh blood dripped to the floor from his forehead.
The next one came before the confusion faded. The protective circle might as well have been a plastic balloon as the corner of a shield thrust up into his jaw and a club knocked him back down before his toes could leave the ground. His mind was shaken as he rolled away from the scorching light of the scene.
The damage of the white rampage was clearly arriving within the protective circle. That circle protected the summoner…or rather, the ceremony itself from any external attacks, internal illness, or anything else that might get in the way. But that assumption was rejected by the approaching chill of death.
“Ah hah hah!! Even in this state, I am still the extraordinary Queen that stands at the top of the Unexplored-class☆ The circle that protects the summoner…or rather, the ceremony is generally made from the excess energy of the Material. That small fry can’t hold a candle to me even if it goes all out, so did you really think the life support environment created from its dregs would be enough to block my lethality?”
She was insane.
Her actions completely ignored the laws of the world.
No other Material could replicate this.
Did the Queen’s clothing physically exist or was she just manipulating light to make it look that way? Before even judging her power, he had more fundamental doubts. And on that note, what was she herself? Could something like that really exist?
More than the pain, it was the absurdity of what was happening that nearly robbed Shiroyama Kyousuke of his consciousness. He nearly forgot what he needed to do and lost sight of his very first assumption.
He wavered. He wobbled.
The extreme confusion turned that ever-composed boy into a mere human.
(No matter what happened, should I not have faced this monster using the rules of a summoner? Should I not have placed Meinokawa Higan in front of her?)
A gigantic being collapsed atop several crushed pieces of artwork by the wall, but now it began to move.
It was the pitch-black dragon. The will inside it was sent to Kyousuke via their contract.
<Don’t worry… I can keep going. If we don’t defeat the White Queen, th-this city is in trouble. No, it might not stop at Toy Dream 35. So we can do this. We can definitely do this.>
Her rebuke may have been misguided.
<At the moment, we might not have as much power as you had thought. In fact, there might not be any summoner in the world with the power to stand up to the White Queen. But still…>
She may have had the wrong objective in mind as they had intentionally kept information from her.
<When someone says “help me” and asks you to save them, it’s never wrong to want to reach out your hand to them even if you know it won’t end well for you! And you aren’t alone now. When a summoner has a vessel, then they have a hand to reach out to someone!!>
<Right now, the two of us are Alice (with) Rabbit! So I’ll support you!!>
Those words saved him, even if just a little.
That nickname had actually been given to him by the nemesis before his eyes.
If he looked back on this later, it might seem like a traumatic mistake.
But at the time, Shiroyama Kyousuke was definitely saved by those words.
That nickname had been forced on him from above as he sank into humiliation and defeat.
But now he felt like it had been given new meaning.
Meinokawa Higan knew nothing.
She had not noticed the true meaning behind the original job at the harbor, she had mistaken Government for Guard of Honor at the school, she did not know the White Queen held her life in her hands, and she did not know Renge, Kyousuke, and the others had risked their lives to free her from that. She knew nothing from beginning to end.
But despite that, she was the one who had reached the most correct answer.
He spoke her name again.
Just one of the White Queen’s eyelids twitched, but Kyousuke continued regardless.
“We’re about to defeat the White Queen, the peak of the Unexplored-class. Let’s end this farce as soon as possible and fix everything that was twisted! So lend me your strength, Meinokawa Higan!!”
In truth, what was there that they could still do?
The Queen had destroyed the small kingdom made just for her. She spun around and around at the center so that her loose white clothing and long twintails fluttered around her.
The cloth on her back instantly changed form and burst out like giant wings or a bed of spikes.
A total of 256 spikes wholly tore apart the opposite walls.
One of the black dragon’s wings was torn off and the rest was cruelly pinned down.
One of them flew toward Kyousuke. It easily penetrated the protective circle, so the boy himself used all his strength to swing his upper body out of the way.
A single line of blood appeared on his right cheek.
Kyousuke did not overestimate his ability by thinking he had dodged it. If a Divine-class Material had been unable to dodge or defend against the attack, a mere human never could have.
The White Queen was clearly toying with him.
“Oh, dear. What seems to be the matter, brother?”
The white light that seemed to have been burned into the air by the attack was proof that it had damaged the world itself.
“If you were going the futile resistance route, you could have jumped a little further than that. Why, it almost looks like you were using the protective circle to protect your enemy lying on the floor there.”
Kyousuke clicked his tongue.
Azalea and her elderly butler were still crawling around behind him. If he had not slightly diverted the white spike’s trajectory by intentionally letting it pierce the protective circle, one of them would have died.
“Did they speak the cursed words of ‘help me’?”
“This isn’t about that. I decide what happens to the enemies I defeat. These days, Alice (with) Rabbit doesn’t just apply to allies. Times have changed, Queen.”
“But it’s too bad.”
The twintailed Queen giggled as if to reward him for a perfect answer.
“That means you can no longer move from that spot, brother.”
<Kh, what is this…?>
Higan’s thoughts cut in.
<It won’t make any attacks… Is it…afraid? There’s no attack command to base it on, so no matter what I do, my commands won’t lead to an actual attack!?> Vessels did not have complete control of their Material.
When and how to attack was left up to the Material’s own desires and the vessel only forced it all to work out by determining “who” to attack.
That meant the vessel could not continue fighting if the Material itself lost the will to attack. The pitch-black dragon’s crimson eyes were filled with the frightened light of a helpless prey.
This too ignored the usual way of things. A Material was normally a cruel creature that destroyed anything and everything it set eyes on.
“Didn’t I tell you, brother?”
The metal wings vanished and elegant fabric covered the White Queen’s back once more.
This time, she gave a quick wave of a hand.
Most of the clothing on her right half formed a giant fist and slammed into the black dragon from the side.
“I stand at the peak of all Materials. Opposing me is simply out of the question. Everything in the other world serves me. If you would just become mine, I would be willing to give you half of them, though☆”
It sounded like a full-speed bullet train crashing into a truck stopped on the tracks. The Queen’s clothing transformed further. Metal balls, metal rods, hatchets, and other pure white weapons rushed out to torment the giant black dragon from countless angles. All the while, the world itself was carved away into whiteness.
Kyousuke used his Blood-Sign to launch a White Thorn. It hit various Petals into the Spots and the Material changed form. A dance of crimson light and a broken song swept over that small world.
He had already reached the Divine-class. That meant these were the gods of mythology. He searched for something with even the slightest will to oppose the White Queen.
——A pure white spear pierced through a great man with golden eyes who summoned lightning with a vajra.
“…I tell you…”
——Three red-eyed sisters known as goddesses of revenge were crushed one after another by a massive maw.
——A violent dance of white arrows rained down on a golden-eyed god of death known as the smoky mirror.
The incredible destruction was entirely one-sided, the very structure of the world crumbled, a portion of the scene filled with the color white, and the palace that Guard of Honor had decorated with treasures old and new from around the world finally collapsed. Decorations and works of art that had untold historical value were cruelly crushed. This was the greatest way for that master of violence to enjoy them. The White Queen looked like a lovely girl, but a portion of her true nature could be seen here.
Higan’s screams echoed directly in Kyousuke’s head.
He just barely managed switched her to a new Material right before she was annihilated, but they all refused to fight the Queen. They stepped down from the stage before doing so.
“The Divine and Unexplored-classes are entirely different categories. This is like racing a normal luxury car against a custom drag racer that can reach half the speed of sound using the rocket engine forcefully strapped to it. Ah☆ I made an effort to learn about this world so I could speak with you, brother. I think that’s worth at least one head pat.”
If the White Queen’s mischievous-sounding comment was correct, he at least needed to push their Material up to the Unexplored-class.
“So I’ll give you a chance, brother.”
The White Queen clapped her hands in front of her chest and gave him a beaming smile.
“Hurry up and raise your Material up to the Unexplored-class. With your skill, that shouldn’t be difficult, should it? …If I don’t get in your way, that is☆”
The White Queen walked slowly closer like she was strolling around an art museum and enjoying the exhibits. But hers was truly the royal road. No one could stop her advance.
Kyousuke clenched his teeth, but he had no choice but to go along with her suggestion. In fact, the summoning ceremony battles were all about changing from one Material to the next, so the White Queen was the odd one for never changing and ignoring the sound range and cost.
Solid sounds rang out again and again as Kyousuke built up the Material containing Higan. The mad dance of red light and the broken song were so quick and accurate that they could only be perceived after the fact. She became a giant bird that produced all the world’s winds and she became a hero who had fished up an island in the southern sea. Each one was a power great enough to influence the outcome of a war, but Kyousuke continued using his Blood-Sign as even those gods were only midway points.
That soon crossed a certain line.
With a brilliant light, the design of the Material greatly changed.
It became a short-haired girl in a wheelchair who wore purple cloth that only covered the bare minimum. But perhaps due to how very skinny she was, she looked more sickly than alluring. Her head lolled weakly and her limbs dangled limply, but her right hand alone rose up to express her will.
She was one of the Unexplored-class.
She was the Lady of “Purple Lightning” that Separates Good from Evil (iu – ao – eu – ei – kub – miq – a – ci – pl).
<Yeah, this should work.>
Higan honestly thought that. Even with her green-glowing eyes lowered and covered by her bangs, the Lady of Purple Lightning extended her one slender hand that wriggled like a living creature as she pointed the index finger at the White Queen. A purple light glowed at the tip of that finger. She was not afraid. She knew her opponent was the White Queen, but she still demonstrated the will to fight.
<I can fight like this. I can stand on the same field. At the very least, um, it hasn’t given up before the fight even begins!!>
Higan remembered this Unexplored-class slicing apart a giant metal bridge and artificial waterway at the end of that battle at the harbor, so fear of it had permeated her bones.
And Kyousuke had once said that it did not matter if you were a rookie or an expert, everyone had the same chance at any strategy and any Material.
So for the first time, she decided to fight back.
A moment later, a deafening sound of destruction burst from the Lady of Purple Lightning’s body.
Meinokawa Higan was appropriately dumbfounded.
It had happened just after the White Queen’s skirt had fluttered.
As soon as she thought the entire large piece of cloth had transformed, there had been countless thick chains with anchor-like three-pronged hooks at the ends. The Queen had spun around, creating a steel tornado for several dozen meters around her. The world itself was wiped away and that massive white light also pursued her target.
A hook lodged itself in the Lady of Purple Lightning’s left shoulder and tore all the way into her chest. For better or for worse, the rapidly rotating hook launched the Lady of Purple Lightning’s body so she rolled along the floor rather than having her heart torn out. The heart had to be where the Silhouette storing Higan’s mind was.
<Ah, gahuh!? Agbah!! Cough…!!???>
All of this was just one attack.
“If you build your Material up past the Divine-class and to the Unexplored-class, it is true you can oppose me to an extent.”
The White Queen laughed as she returned her skirt to normal.
She was completely unchanged.
“But so what if you can oppose me? Even if you have the #2 or #3 of the Unexplored-class or even one of the Three that support Government, Illegal, and Freedom, they are no match for me at the top. #1 is known as #1 because there is no one else there. Do you understand now?”
“Of course, that’s assuming a one-on-one structure.”
The White Queen smiled as she placed her index finger on her jaw and slightly lifted her gaze as if recalling something.
“I am in an imperfect state at the moment, so you might have a chance if you make a saturation attack using several dozen Unexplored-classes. Yes, just like when your theory succeeded but your equipment lacked the strength to hold onto my reins and you could not send me back to the other world. If only you had about 10% of the fighting force sent to that largely unknown war where so many summoners and vessels died to clean your mess.”
Kyousuke finally cast everything aside and shouted at the top of his lungs.
This was not the veteran summoner or Alice (with) Rabbit. It was the remaining child within him that could not stand how hopelessly unreasonable this was.
He had thought he would have a chance when she had her guard down. He had thought he could stab her in the side if he could slip away from her playful attempt to suppress his actions.
But this was all he had managed.
She had given him that chance just to provide all the more despair by taking it away. It had all progressed according to her plan and he had not moved even a millimeter outside of it. And the resulting suffering had been placed on Meinokawa Higan. Kyousuke was the underlying reason why her life was at risk.
The White Queen smiled.
The strong did not change and were not shaken. She was the most extreme example of that.
“Now, now, brother! What shall we do now? Is it time to entertain me by begging for your life? Using a hostage to make you my servant might be nice. …Oh, but I know what to do. I love you more than anyone else in the world, so wouldn’t it be a lovely symbol of our love to enjoy your tearful face as I wreak havoc around you? Eh heh. Eh heh heh heh heh heh.”
Shiroyama Kyousuke gasped for breath while desperately working his mind.
——Was there really nothing he could do?
There was not. The Regulation and Divine-classes could not even fight. And while the Unexplored-class could choose to oppose the White Queen, the difference in strength was simply overwhelming. Not even the #2, the #3, or the Three that protected the three major powers could defeat the White Queen who reigned at the top.
He could not make a saturation attack with several dozen Unexplored-class. A summoner could switch between Materials, but they could not summon multiple at the same time.
——Could he just give up?
He could not. But what realistic action could he take? No matter which of the three sound ranges his Material belonged to, he could never defeat the White Queen. She existed outside the rules of the summoning ceremony, so he could not defeat her as a summoner fighting according to those rules.
——Then what had he resolved himself to do before coming here?
After thinking that far, Shiroyama Kyousuke smiled a little.
He realized he had yet to use everything available to him. No, he realized something in his heart was still holding him back.
He needed to remember what he had told Meinokawa Higan when she had been cornered at the school.
Don’t reject the fear.
Accept the fear and smile at the fact that a method like that even exists.
“Oh, what a lovely expression… Of course, any expression of yours is perfect. By the way, what are you thinking to put such a photo-worthy look on your face?”
“Oh, I just remembered a bit of a promise is all.”
Kyousuke used both hands to lightly spin his Blood-Sign around.
“The thing is, Queen, I made a promise. It isn’t about money and I didn’t sign a strange contract on parchment, but it was still a promise.”
The White Queen continued smiling as she tilted her head a little.
Alice (with) Rabbit stood there, but that name meant something different from when she had given it to him.
“I promised to save a strange set of twins named Meinokawa Renge and Meinokawa Higan. I promised to do whatever it took to accomplish that. Yes – ha ha – what could be more basic? I can’t believe I didn’t realize this until the very end. I was fighting yet I’d forgotten the promise I made, so I must have gotten careless. So it’s time I remembered Alice (with) Rabbit.”
“You dare speak not one but two girl’s names in front of me, brother? That is worthy of quite a few deaths. Yes, perhaps I should kill you about ten times for it…”
“Weren’t you listening?” said Shiroyama Kyousuke as he raised his Blood-Sign in both hands. “I said I would do whatever it takes, didn’t I? I announced I would use whatever dirty trick necessary to save the Meinokawa Sisters. That means I’ll even place my allies in danger to utterly defeat you.”
“Oh, dear. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.”
An ominous shadow fell over the White Queen’s smile.
This was not a woman catching her beloved boyfriend in the act of cheating. This was not that sort of appropriate anger. This was the look of someone who had yet again caught their beloved dog tearing up the sofa and cushions while they were out and were now pondering whether they should beat it to death with a bat and stuff it in a garbage bag.
“Are you so angry that some boyish power blossomed inside you? Or are you the type whose latent talent (ha ha) comes to the surface when your life is in danger? I don’t care if your hair turns gold or you become a savior in full-body tights, but what can you actually do?”
“Then you might not make it in time.”
The cloth on the White Queen’s arms turned to particles of light. They became primitive and giant scissors that resembled a stag beetle and would crush its target from either side.
This was a method of providing the greatest suffering without killing the target too easily.
“After all, brother, I’ve lost just a bit of my patience.”
As soon as Shiroyama Kyousuke made a pointless strike with his Blood-Sign, great cruelty rushed back at him.
It was said a mother cat would sometimes get so worked up protecting her kitten from an external threat that she herself would kill that very kitten.
The boy’s fate was sealed.
Low, middle, and high sounds. Regulation, Divine, and Unexplored-class. The White Queen could easily ignore all of those categories and she was, in all seriousness, coming to kill Shiroyama Kyousuke. The protective circle meant to defend the ceremony more than the summoner had already been proven entirely useless against her fierce attacks and they could not be dodged with human reflexes and kinetic vision.
That meant the boy’s fate should have been sealed.
Even with the supernatural power of the summoning ceremony and a Material, he could not stop the White Queen. She would twist the world’s destiny and the natural laws to fulfill her personal objective and at the moment that objective was to kill Shiroyama Kyousuke. That was nothing more than data entered so it could be fulfilled.
A moment later, “something” deflected the giant stag beetle scissors.
For a brief moment and likely for the very first time, the White Queen’s smile froze on her face. Her ever-confident thoughts had momentarily come to a stop.
No Material could stop her.
That meant there was no one in this world or the other world that could reach her level.
Nevertheless, Shiroyama Kyousuke was still alive.
The Lady of Purple Lightning had grown dark and discolored as her arms forcibly pushed at the giant stag beetle scissors from within!!
“What is this…?”
“Didn’t I tell you I’d use any dirty trick!? Using the standard rules of summoning, isn’t there one really, really bad plan that can actually defeat you!?”
Taboo 1: A summoner must not knock in an equal number of low, middle, and high noises.
Taboo 3: When a summoner runs out of White Thorns, none of their White Thorns remaining on the field must be knocked into a Spot.
Something like amorphous black mud rose up like a tornado. The top spread out like a trumpet mouth and would be packed full of sharp and disturbingly uneven fangs that could be seen as organic or inorganic.
It was a symbol of execution.
It was every summoner’s greatest fear.
“And in battles between Materials, the strict numbers matter most. Even if the difference only amounts to a scratch or the slightest bit of exhaustion, if the exact same Material is summoned on both sides, the one summoned first will be at a disadvantage!! Normally a summoner would use their Blood-Sign to swap it out for a different Material, but you can’t even do that right now, Queen!!”
“Impossible… Brother, do you really understand what this means? That Black Maw is punishment from the gods. It attacks the one who summoned it, not their enemy. That means you will be the first one it attacks!!”
“Perhaps,” bluntly admitted Shiroyama Kyousuke. “But won’t you save me? After all, you love me. Even if it’s still you, can you really just sit idly by and watch a different version of yourself kill me and steal everything from you?”
He ignored her and continued.
“You wanted to fight alongside me and you wanted me to rely on, right? In that case, aren’t you yourself your greatest rival since you’re the only one that can put up a fight against you?”
The White Queen’s face had nearly melted and Kyousuke shuddered as he realized what that meant.
“ ‘I haven’t the slightest interest in anything except you, brother.’ Who said that?”
Some thin thread within the White Queen’s head seemed to snap from immense joy.
“Heh…heh hah…heh hah….ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!”
At the same time, a dull sound rang out as the giant black tornado-like jaws burst from within. The pieces splattered around with a sticky noise and something squirmed at the center. It had black skin, black clothes, and black hair tied in waist-length twintails. And it had pure white eyes that stood eerily out from the rest.
It had revealed its true identity.
As if she had been provoked, this alternate form of the same individual destroyed her own expression.
“Brother! Oh, brother!! Hee hee hee heh heh heh heh ha ha!! F-finally, the day has come when I get to chew apart my beloved brother’s body from head to toe. Heh heh heh. Ah ha ha. Ee hee ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!”
Two voices rang with laughter.
Two gazes intertwined.
Two faces lost all expression.
Two thoughts made a single decision.
“She’s in the way. I can’t have brother to myself with her here.”
“She’s in the way. I can’t have brother to myself with her here.”
Immediately, the end of the world played out before Shiroyama Kyousuke’s eyes.
He had never seen more destruction.
The boy had said he would use any dirty trick if it meant saving that girl.
Cut, bite, crush, pierce, shoot, squeeze, scrape, repel, soak, burn, sever, uproot, freeze, beat, squash, strangle, split, break, throw, twist, gouge, rip, absorb, and smash.
It only lasted a few seconds, but after the light and darkness caused enough destruction and catastrophe for the world itself to crumble around them, only one of the white and black remained.
It had come down to a hint of exhaustion or a slight scratch.
That had determined this battle between Materials with identical specs.
Just as Kyousuke had expected.
“Ah hah…ah hah hah… Brother. Oh, brother…”
It had been cannibalistic. It had been the slaughter of one’s own. It was amazing that the black-dyed Queen could even stand. In fact, she did not even have all four limbs anymore.
She may have been standing and she may have been floating, but she slowly approached all the same.
“Now, that nuisance is gone… No one in the world can stop me. Ah ha, ah ha ha. It’s time to chew you apart…from head to toe…”
“That’s one idea.”
Kyousuke smiled a little as he spoke.
The Black Maw was a symbol of the taboo. Once she devoured the offending summoner, she would vanish on her own. To save Meinokawa Higan, he needed to have the Black Maw leave as soon as possible. Her actions were restricted by a clear objective and set rules, so there was a lot more hope than with the White Queen who had gone on an indiscriminate rampage with the power of the “spring”.
A sticky sound spread as what had once been the beautiful Queen approached.
If she devoured him, it would all be over.
In exchange for Shiroyama Kyousuke’s life, Meinokawa Higan’s life would be saved.
But a certain thought came to his mind.
He considered what that meant He wanted to live and see what happened afterwards, but what was it he wanted to see?
“Wouldn’t count as saving them…”
He had told Meinokawa Renge that sacrificing someone would not truly save her sister Higan.
Meinokawa Higan had said they were both Alice (with) Rabbit and that she could support him.
So in that moment…
Shiroyama Kyousuke fought back. He raised his Repliglass Blood-Sign and used his one and only chance by forcefully launching a White Thorn.
The black Queen did not even bother looking that way.
She bit at the feast before her eyes. The protective circle was meaningless. Kyousuke kept his eyes on the White Thorn while ignoring the intense pain and disturbing chewing noise coming from his shoulder.
It was a simple method listed even in Government’s strict textbooks.
The White Thorn flew straight out and hit a low sound Petal. That Petal was absorbed by a nearby Spot and a single pure sound rang out.
This abnormal Material had been created from the even number of low, middle, and high sounds, so this shot broke that balance.
“Th-this might be a first. Normally, the Black Maw kills the summoner as soon as it appears, so they don’t have time to try this.”
“Farewell, Black Maw. …I don’t need to cheat, so I’ll defeat you within the rules. You’re still a Material. And even if I lost control as a penalty for the Taboo, you’re still a Material under my command!!”
The balance had been broken.
She shifted to another Material.
“Brother. Oh, I can still taste you, brotherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!”
That catastrophic love was swallowed by a vortex of transformation and erased from this world.
The Material became one of the Unexplored-class, but once the ninety seconds of the Chain waiting period passed, it too would be released. The enemy was gone. With no one left to fight, the summoning ceremony could not continue.
Still covered in blood, Shiroyama Kyousuke watched as the strange monster transformed into a certain girl.
As the girl collapsed from extreme exhaustion, she groaned and that told him she had been freed before her heart was entirely eaten away.
He determined he had fulfilled both sisters’ requests to save the other.
He slowly breathed out.
He grabbed the Blood-Sign with a hand that had nearly been torn to pieces, used his unharmed hand to place Meinokawa Higan over his shoulder, and slowly looked up at the ceiling.
He heard quite a few hurrying footsteps. He had taken the shortest route here while avoiding as much combat as possible. He had defeated the White Queen at the center of it all, but Guard of Honor’s elites were still active.
And his goal had not been to save the world or defeat the Queen.
It had been to bring Meinokawa Higan safely back to her sister Renge.
“It isn’t over until we’re back home.”
The door was thrown open from outside.
Kyousuke looked over.
He could no longer use the summoning ceremony that used the Blood-Sign.
They would have put together a countermeasure for his surprise attack using eye drops and darkness.
But he had not given up.
After all, he was Alice (with) Rabbit.
- The size of the Artificial Sacred Ground grows or shrinks based on the size of the Materials.
- Regulation and Divine-classes lose their will to fight in front of the White Queen. Even other Unexplored-classes have little hope of putting up a fight.
- The White Queen’s attacks can destroy the basic components that make up both worlds. If her concentrated and controlled power were to disperse outwards, it could destroy the entire planet.
- The Unexplored-class Lady of Purple Lightning looks like a normal person and her Silhouette is in her heart.
- When the White Queen once appeared in this world with a Sewn Realm summoning, a great number of summoners summoned hundreds of Unexplored-classes and somehow managed to settle matters with a saturation attack. This is known as the Secret War.
- The Black Maw that appears to punish those who violate the taboos is actually a girl who looks just like the White Queen.
- As she was summoned by a new system, the White Queen should not have had the weakness of a Silhouette, but since the Black Maw had identical specs, it is thought she had a temporary weakness to take its place.
- Hit a Petal into a Spot after the Black Maw appears and it will turn into a different Material. …But that’s only if you have a chance to.
- Shiroyama Kyousuke became the first to earn the Award named White Slayer on one’s own.
- Despite being at a disadvantage, Shiroyama Kyousuke took control of every battle facing him and kept his promises to the Meinokawa Sisters.
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