The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume6 Chapter4
Stage 04: The Strongest Summoner is Infatuated with the World of Man
“Ahh, ahh. This is why I hate myself…”
“No matter what, I always end up relying on the White Queen in the end.”
(Stage 04 Open 07/07 16:30)
The Strongest Summoner is Infatuated with the World of Man
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s mind was wrapped in something soft and fluffy. It was incredibly smooth, elastic, warm, and nice smelling. It was so comfortable he was tempted to stay there forever. But at the same time, that comfort seemed to dangerously guide him away from thinking about the future. Yes, it was like eating a large piece of butter without giving any thought to your health.
And he heard a voice from somewhere.
Hug☆ My, my. Brother, you’re so single-mindedly focused on clinging to me like a baby. Hee hee hee. Here, you can suck at my fingertip. Ah ha ha! All I did was put some baby food on my finger, but look at you go, brother!! Loooook, look, look. There is plenty more where that came from, so there’s no hurry. Hee hee hee. Oh, it’s such a shame that this paradise only lasts 24 hours… Where should I put the baby food this time? My toes? Or my navel? Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee.
“Ugwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!? Pant, pant!? Ah, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!? What was that!? What the hell was that!? A dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeam!!!???”
He violently sat up and found he was in a room of Aika’s luxury apartment. He was lying on a bed and it was evening. He felt like he had briefly had a truly horrific nightmare, but something was not right.
Biondetta was next to him in her yukata and she was shaking her aching head.
And she spoke.
“4:30 PM on July 7… That means it’s been more than a full day, sir.”
It was obvious what that meant.
They had lost to Elvast Toydream after his sudden appearance. A 24 hour gap had followed. What had happened to Shiroyama Kyousuke while he could not resist any external stimuli?
As he silently wept, his kind big sister hugged him to the chest of her Oiran-style mini-yukata.
“Oh, ohhhhhhh, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….”
“There, there. That must have been a frightening ordeal. 24 hours in front of the White Queen while entirely helpless? Hard to imagine anything more horrifying. Let’s hold off on any work for today and let your big sister comfort you.”
His free will had died.
Kyousuke had become pure white ash as he lay on the bed letting Biondetta do whatever she wanted, but then he heard a strange voice from the side.
“Hee, hee hee hee. Hee hee hee hee hee. Claude…that flawless brother is right here! And I can play with him while he opens his mouth like a defenseless baby bird. Here you go. Say ‘ah’. Say ‘ahhhhh’☆”
“You mustn’t, milady. I understand that you are happy, but you have already given him far too much to eat. Ho ho. But it is surprising to see that naughty boy so obedient.”
“Old man, Azalea might stop feeding him if you stopped passing her more Italian ham and melon. Sigh.”
The zombie-like state after losing lasted “more than 24 hours”. In other words, it was not a set length and there were individual differences. That man was apparently still dreaming.
Kyousuke once more began trembling like a phone on vibrate.
He was probably imagining himself in a similar position.
“Honestly, no matter where you look in here, it’s only going to make things worse. Come on, Kyousuke-chan, come with your big sister. Let’s go somewhere less scary. I’ll treat you well.”
Kyousuke’s kind big sister led him to the roof of the apartment. The green garden there was wrapped in orange light. Biondetta spotted a beach chair and parasol that Aika had likely placed there for herself and she walked over while guiding Kyousuke, who had lost his way in life.
As he sat in the beach chair with her rubbing his head and gently holding him in her arms, Kyousuke tried to recall what had happened, but he had trouble.
“You don’t need to force open your wounds now. You should drink something sweet to calm yourself, Kyousuke-chan.”
He accepted the drink sitting on the side table and was surprisingly willing to put the straw in his mouth.
And he began choking on the first sip.
“Bwah!! God, that’s sweet!!”
“Hee hee. How did you like your big sister’s special honey maple condensed milk? I’m glad to see you have a bit more energy now.”
Biondetta took the glass from Kyousuke, kept a hand around his arm, and leaned to the side. They lay down next to one another on the beach chair.
He realized that they had shared the sunset from an elevated location in the past too.
He was reminded of that memory from the Queen’s Miniature Garden when everyone had been happy.
Since her drink had been on the side table, Biondetta must have woken up before him, noticed the situation, and prepared for exactly this.
After pouring a great number of antibiotics into her mouth and washing them down with a sip from the straw, Biondetta held her traumatized little brother’s head with one arm and whispered into his ear.
“You don’t need to rip off the scab all at once, Kyousuke-chan. Take it as slow as you need, okay? You can do that, right?”
His mind was still a chaotic mess.
He could not think straight at all, so he would have to gradually unknot his mind by untangling the many threads one at a time.
(Government Award 1000…Elvast Toydream.)
He tried to remember, but his mind rejected it.
Nevertheless, he forced his memories open and continued onward.
What he found was devastating.
Was that man skilled in his control of the White Thorns? Had he broken out of the rock-paper-scissors arrangement between Materials? Had he done a brilliant job of understanding the terrain and incorporating it into his tactics? No, this was on an entirely different level.
It was just one attack.
The very first shot.
It was that first move that shattered the three-dimensional rose and sent the countless Petals into the Spots. There was enough of a random element there that every summoner could only secure one of the Cost 1 slimes of the Original Series. No one could break that rule.
And that was why it had caught Kyousuke entirely off guard.
With that very first shot, the White Queen had appeared.
Now, it was true that hole-in-one of a miracle was technically possible. To reach an Unexplored-class, a summoner normally had to summon 100 Regulation-classes and 50 Divine-classes. The White Queen was the peak of the peak, so the summoner would have to climb to even greater heights even after reaching the Unexplored-class. But there was a way to directly summon her. If the summoner hit the Petals into the Spots in the precise order that spelled out her name, they could skip past that cumbersome process and summon an Unexplored-class.
But pulling off that theoretical possibility in combat was very nearly impossible.
And it would be even more impossible on the first hit which was mostly random.
How could someone even do that on purpose?
Did that man simply wield the strongest luck?
(Whatever might happen, the battle is over once the White Queen shows up. If he can do that with his very first move, there’s no way to fight him. No matter what summoner challenges him…no, even if all 7 billion people on this planet faced him with Blood-Signs in hand, can that predator ignore them all and devour them?)
“Buonbetta, were the rest of you okay?”
Kyousuke’s voice was a bit muffled because his face was still buried in her large chest. The yukata demon looked surprised as she lay on the rooftop beach chair and placed her slender chin on his head.
“It seems we were completely fine. Of course, my memories are a bit of a mess since I also lost, but it seems the Meinokawa Sisters collected us shortly afterwards. That person who attacked us was a man, wasn’t he? He could have ordered me to do anything, so that could have easily gone in a much sleazier direction.”
A question finally stopped his mind from falling into the abyss of despair. He grabbed Biondetta’s shoulders and pushed himself away from her.
“Renge and Higan did?”
“If what you said is accurate, then that man was the Award 1000 who has a history in all three major powers. I seriously doubt some girls in the 300s could have done anything against him.”
“Oh, right. What happened to Sekurtiti?”
“She was also entirely unharmed. She wasn’t taken away either. Of course, if he was after the ancient map, he might have only needed to snap a photo of her back.”
“Also, there was no sign of the Diamond Master Key. It isn’t too surprising it was taken away since you were holding it in your hand, but…um, does that mean this Elvast person is after the Founder’s Gallery as well? The Queen has apparently been wandering around too, so could they be after the Natural History’s missing entries?”
If so, this made no sense.
Kyousuke knew the White Queen was fixated only on him, but what about Elvast Toydream? It was true a photo of Sekurtiti’s back would suffice, but why did that man have to worry about her safety? And what was he trying to do by summoning the White Queen? He could summon the Queen in a single move even without creating a bizarre doll using the Natural History’s missing entries.
(Does he want to solidify the foundation of his tactics by holding onto the White Queen through multiple methods? No, I can’t imagine how he would be afraid of failure.)
And even if that was not his main goal, that man was true to his desires, so why had he not made any kind of “detour”? Biondetta, Sekurtiti, and even 3A had been there. That man had readily restricted his former vessel woman by force and kept her in a cage like an animal, so why would he put on the brakes like a gentleman now?
Kyousuke felt a cold weight in the pit of his stomach.
This answer was something only someone who had seen that legend for themselves would reach. Only someone who had experienced firsthand what kind of man Elvast Toydream was. That man felt it was only natural he would rule over all 7 billion on the planet, but he trusted no one and got close to no one. Only a few people knew the truth of that man. And Kyousuke knew one other person who would have reached that answer.
“Biondetta, where is she? Where is Lu-san!?”
“Hm? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her. But this isn’t her home, so it’s not like she’s here 24/7.”
Kyousuke reached into his pocket and pulled out his smartphone. He did not have time to wait for an email response, so he made a call. There was no sign of the woman answering.
He stepped down from the beach chair and Biondetta supported him while asking a question.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Elvast Toydream was only after one thing from the beginning. Just like the Queen with me, only one person in this world can satisfy his selfishness. He tried to find a replacement, but no one else could quench that monster’s thirst. That’s why he overlooked the rest of you even though you were entirely defenseless. That’s all there is to it. It was that simple. …Because he is a ‘king’ who holds everything in his hand, he can’t invite in someone else so easily. That’s how exceptional a person a vessel is to him.”
His Repliglass Blood-Sign and hairspray-sized Incense Grenade should have been the ultimate weapons for a summoner, but they felt hopelessly insufficient now.
But he had to continue on regardless.
“Lu Niang Lan was the one and only person accepted by that ‘king’ of the world who had stolen the sword of justice and the shield of order. He was cast down into the depths of hell and somehow managed to crawl back out, but he’s still focused on that!?”
As evening turned to night, C Block’s Chinatown was filled with metal containers of various sizes. All of them were modules full of dozens or hundreds of fireworks. The hydraulic cylinders attached to a rotating base would adjust the angle and electric fuses would synch multiple containers to fire tens of thousands of fireworks per minute into the night sky. The modules were reminiscent of military rocket and missile systems.
The people living there were focused more on the exciting fireworks festival after the ban on light was lifted than they were on the calm Tanabata Astronomical Observation Fair. They preferred bright lights and loud noises, so while the rest of Toy Dream 35 was enjoying the event, this area was full of a strangely heated excitement much like the preparations for a cultural festival.
A man walked through that atmosphere with an icy aura of absolute zero.
Elvast Toydream. That legend had a tall beauty walking by his side and he was best described as “rusty”. While Claude Magentarain had been full of life even with an arm and eye missing, this man’s whole body was dull and lifeless. The long hair he had forgotten to comb was graying in places and the rest of it had lost its shine. His stubbly face and muscular body were decaying from alcohol and cigarettes and old scars were visible all over him. He wore a chic jacket that would have cost as much as a luxury car, but would anyone buy it for its original price now? It had countless blade cuts and bullet holes and dark red stains stood out in places.
But most noticeable of all were his eyes.
They contained the unique light of a killer, but there was more than that there. No matter how many cruel and dehumanizing acts someone carried out, even if they took part in a war and committed mass slaughters, they could not reach this level. Those icy eyes made one think he had to have killed a god or a demon to develop them.
There were multiple sides to the human species, but he seemed to be made exclusively from the predator side. He destroyed and did nothing else. Just as a fool who tried to harness the power of a black hole or the Big Bang would destroy themselves along with many others, no one could control this man.
He had not risen to the top of Government because everyone had wanted him there. No one had been able to stop him. It was because no one had been able to drag him down from his throne that he had been able to use the name of justice. He had enough power to singlehandedly clash with the rest of humankind.
So he did not call ahead for an appointment or even knock before entering.
Elvast silently stopped in front of a used tool shop and kicked down the door.
The modified China dress beauty inside was initially shocked by the barbaric action, but when she saw the offender’s face, she felt something squeezing her heart. She half got up from the counter and then froze in a pose that actually put a greater burden on all of her body’s muscles. Even the diaphragm in charge of her breathing stopped.
The predator did not care in the slightest.
Her eyes widened past their limit, a clear liquid pooled at the corners of her eyes, and her alluring lips trembled unnaturally without uttering a peep.
But the stubbly man ignored it all as he spoke to her.
“It has been too long.”
She screamed as if breaking free of her bonds.
Lu Niang Lan placed a hand on the counter, leaped over it, and then sent her foot toward the side of the man’s head. No, she did more than that. While almost entirely upside down, she reached for the chest of her modified China dress and pulled out every hidden weapon she could. She threw several fork-shaped Fei Cha up toward his jaw, threw a Wan Ren Di (a dried mud container full of explosives) to the floor to create a smokescreen, and performed a side flip to right her body while using the centrifugal force to swing a Fei Zhao (claws attached to the end of a rope) toward the side of the man’s head. It was all a single flowing motion. This was truly the full ability of the Perfect Dragon who could slay summoners without relying on a Material.
“That was sudden.”
“But surely there was more you could have done. You should know you don’t get a chance to prepare before every battle.”
He spoke calmly. Blocking her opponent’s view with the smokescreen seemed to have actually made the monster’s silhouette appear larger. Lu Niang Lan took a few steps back while throwing several Liu Ye Fei Dao throwing knives and also swinging around a Liu Xing Chui, fist-sized stones attached to either end of a long rope. It did not matter if her opponent was in a smokescreen, if he was an Award 1000 monster, or if he was a ghost returned from the depths of hell. She did not let him guard with his arms, she wrapped the thick rope around his neck, and she tugged him toward her.
The modified China dress beauty used enough force to snap a tree trunk as thick around as her own waist.
The one who was tugged forward was Lu Niang Lan herself.
The man had not moved a step the entire time. With more surprise than despair on her face, the Perfect Dragon watched her own smokescreen gradually clear.
It was not just that his neck had not snapped.
He had not shed a single drop of blood. Even if most of them had been to deter him from action, just how many hidden weapons had she sent his way? Each and every one of them had contained enough force to slay the average summoner or vessel before they could move a finger. Even if they had desperately guarded themselves with a bulletproof shield, the attacks had delivered enough weight to snap their arms. And yet the monster named Elvast had no apparent weapons and had not taken any sort of defensive stance. His hands were casually stuck in his pockets, several ropes were wrapped around his neck, and his face only contained a look of pity.
“What’s the matter? Are you still not done?”
She had no words.
The depths of her mind grew red hot and no words were forthcoming. Or so she wanted to believe. But she was actually overcome by a hopeless chill. And it was her heart that froze, not her mind.
“You could have acquired the title of strongest by doing nothing. By staying with me. But you instead chose to return to the wild by stabbing me in the back in the moment I achieved Award 1000. I thought you had acquired a wonderful power that not even I could duplicate…but it seems I was wrong.”
“Just to be clear, this visit is not fueled by vengeance. I was honestly impressed with you. Back then at that moment, it did not actually matter much that I had my back to you. The mere fact that you could maintain a desire to attack me, Elvast Toydream, after I had reached Award 1000, long enough to carry out said attack was truly admirable. After all, a normal person ends up like this the moment they are exposed to a hint of my power.”
Elvast reached out to the side.
But not toward Lu Niang Lan. If he had, she would already have gone insane.
He instead grabbed the head of his beautiful vessel. She was a tall and sensual woman in her early twenties. She had long wavy blonde hair and white skin. What she wore had likely been a full-body riding suit at some point, but it was barely recognizable now. After being exposed to countless thorough and intense burdens, more of it was torn than not. She might as well have been wearing leather belts over an otherwise naked body.
Lu Niang Lan recalled the life she had once lived.
She had lived in an animal cage and viewed the outside world through dark, lifeless eyes.
In all likelihood, the only difference between Lu Niang Lan and this unknown vessel was whether they had rebelled against or accepted those circumstances. It was hard to believe, but that woman’s eyes did not contain fear or ecstasy. They contained an almost naïve longing that would have looked more at home in a much younger girl. It was like she was proud of this opportunity to be a part, however small, of a heroic legend.
And that legend let go of her.
Reluctant to let the man’s fingertips go, the vessel…no, the sacrifice’s eyes pursued them, but she did not speak a single word of complaint. She had been completely corrupted.
Elvast gave her a horribly disinterested look.
“So I simply wished to see how far you had honed your strength ever since breaking your bonds to a legend and gaining your freedom.”
Lu Niang Lan’s slender fingertips trembled. Her entire body quavered. Her skilled hands, lithe body, and sharp thoughts were all part of her deadly skill, but she gave up on all of them. The core of her being begged her not to: don’t break your fangs and don’t hand over your claws. If she lost those, she would fall. The hunter would become the hunted and she would be unilaterally feasted upon, squeezed dry, and have every last drop of marrow extracted from her bones. She would fall so completely that she could never escape again.
“If you insist, I will give you one last chance.”
That legend was entirely unilateral.
He was not the type to have any concern for others. He made a proclamation as the tyrant who had created history while assuming the world would change for him.
“I will give you a chance to redo it all from the beginning. I am not ordering you to become my vessel. Feel despair once more and stab me. That is the compassion I am showing you.”
It was over.
This was checkmate.
She felt dizzy. A pressure from the past began to crush her mind. She had to repeat that one-in-a-million if not one-in-a-billion miracle? She could not. It was simply not possible. Did he have any idea how many people, things, money, information, and luck had been on her side at the time? If all of that had failed to break down the wall known as Elvast Toydream, there was no hope. She could only imagine living the life of a self-righting doll where she attacked but was knocked away and got up but was kicked back down.
As her vision grew dark due to lack of oxygen, her utter despair may have made her hallucinate.
She suddenly saw someone else walk in through the broken door.
“Oh, dear. I’m not about to take issue with someone else’s methods, but aren’t you putting too much pressure on her all at once? Go too far and people will lock the door to their heart and shut out the reality in front of their eyes. If you want them to maintain their ability to feel pain while you provide the greatest agony, you have to be more careful than that.”
She saw flowing silver twintails, a wedding dress elegantly cut down to size, and some silver armor added in places. It was the strongest of the strongest.
The White Queen.
“H-how?” The modified China dress beauty moved her pale lips to force out he words. “Kyousuke-chan and the others said they hadn’t located the Founder’s Gallery yet, so the Natural History’s missing entries shouldn’t have been found yet…”
The two did not respond.
The strongest human casually spoke to the strongest oddity.
“You? You aren’t obligated to assist me this far.”
“No, I’m not. But I feel like thanking you for giving me 24 hours with my beloved brother. This body and power supported by the Natural History’s missing entries are fragile, but the feeling in the fingertips is not bad at all. Please accept this reward. I am willing to show some flexibility concerning what it is you want.”
Lu Niang Lan’s head wobbled.
This time. This time it was truly over. The monster named Elvast Toydream was bad enough, but he had the White Queen on his side as well. She had her full power, she was not trapped in the Artificial Sacred Ground, and she was not restricted to 10 minutes. It was like playing a game of shogi with only a king and having every other piece targeting you. What good was any attempt she might make?
Elvast slowly breathed out as he looked at Lu Niang Lan’s face.
Immediately afterwards, his arm pierced the White Queen’s chest.
Lu Niang Lan was supposed to be his enemy, but even she could not understand what had just happened.
The White Queen was dead.
And in a single blow from a flesh-and-blood arm that had not even summoned a Material.
The Queen did not seem to be in any pain, but she did look somewhat surprised.
She tilted her head before being caught in a belated wave of destruction. Her smooth and seductive form lost all of its lifelike texture. Like a possessing spirit had left her, she became a mere doll with ball joints. When Elvast lightly swung the arm still piercing its hard chest, all of the joints fell apart and the pieces scattered across the floor. Stamp-sized pieces of paper spilled from the wound. They seemed to be old parchment or something similar. An oddly pleasant sound much like that of someone bowling a strike rang in Lu Niang Lan’s ears.
“Do not let this bind you, Niang Lan.”
“No matter how much this might copy the appearance, it holds less than 1% of her total power. It is inferior even to the Blood-Sign method. What value is there in a miracle that can be pierced by a human hand?”
That was nonsense.
Even if it was only the tip of her fingernail or a single hair, the Queen was still the Queen.
The Unexplored-class lurked beyond even the gods of legend and she was the peak of the peak there.
And a human had infiltrated that divine territory and killed her?
He did not brag about it. This was not the end result of a great struggle toward his life’s greatest accomplishment. He had done it casually, like it was nothing. That was the peak of Government, Elvast Toydream.
“But the Queen…”
“Are you asking how I did it? Or why I did it?” Elvast sounded exasperated. “How is simple. You seem to think that the knowledge sleeping in the Founder’s Gallery can be of some use, but that is no more than the result of my bloodline’s obsession with collecting. How can you be sure I did not use Toy Dream’s money and power for a similar ‘hobby’ of my own? Stop trembling over some missing pages. That was the product of a mere hobby. But that is not where my skills lie, so it was not all that well made. Use the original gallery and you could probably create something a little better.”
This was not Guard of Honor whose worship of the Queen would have filled the world with Materials.
This was not Telomere’s End whose deathless world would have destroyed the order of society.
This was not Liar Cat who would burn down everything for a single revenge.
“Who knows. I certainly don’t. I looked to the stars and was reminded of your face. If I had to give an answer, this is the best I can do.”
There had been no master plan here.
“Perhaps it was because this is Tanabata, when dreams come true. Isn’t that enough for this? Isn’t that enough of an impetus for the world to move?”
There was no connection to Azalea and The Saint of Bridesmaid or to Claude Magentarain’s interference. He had not been taking advantage of the chaos. His mere presence in this world was a crisis for all of humanity.
If the world could continue behaving logically as if nothing had happened, it would only be a fluke.
Just as the Queen had bent history to her will, a single step by that powerful man could alter the world of man.
“You want to know the reason why? You really have to ask? You, who have observed the man named Elvast Toydream more closely than anyone?”
“I wish to break these bonds. These bonds of my legend, of being the strongest. But a doll of that level isn’t enough. That was far too convenient for me, so it failed to function as my natural enemy. The most it could be was a sparring opponent or a tsumeshogi program. It is true I wanted to take a peek at the original gallery to check the Natural History’s missing entries. I wanted to improve the accuracy of my doll. I wanted a more worthy practice opponent.”
Lu Niang Lan searched through her past.
And she came up emptyhanded. She found no information that helped her understand what was in his heart or how to escape this situation.
“But enough about me.”
She was out of ammo for buying time.
All hope was lost. She tried to move back on trembling legs. This was clearly not the act of Illegal’s hidden blade who could make the Summoning Ceremony industry tremble in fear. She lost control and a tremor spread across her entire body, her thighs naturally turned inward despite how illogical and inefficient that was, and her eyes widened with the fear of prey about to be eaten.
Unsurprisingly, she did not make it even a single step.
Her heel caught on something and she fell pathetically onto her butt. She had tripped over what had once been the regal White Queen. It was one of the pieces scattered across the floor. As soon as she realized she was the same, Lu Niang Lan lost even the power to push herself up from the floor. The doll’s fate would be her own.
This man had control of her every action and even held her life in his hands.
But this was not a strict guillotine execution. He was acting on a whim, but his absoluteness would not be swayed. This had to be the feeling of a hostage with a gun held to their forehead.
And the trigger that was his tongue moved to fire the bullets that were his words.
“Come with me, Niang Lan.”
Once they were fired, silence was not an option.
Yes or no? If she made the wrong choice, she too would be scattered across the floor.
“Let us take that fattened body and rusted soul and hone them anew.”
There was no escape.
As Lu Niang Lan trembled and looked up at the man, she chose…
The action Shiroyama Kyousuke took in that instant was a simple one.
He fired a bazooka toward the used tool shop.
Lu Niang Lan herself was his usual source for that sort of heavy weaponry, but she was not his only option. For example, he could rely on Biondetta who had a bolt-action sniper rifle built into her Blood-Sign.
Explosive flames and a shockwave blew away the shop’s wall.
Even from a distance, the blast was powerful enough to toss Kyousuke’s hair and flip up the hem of Biondetta’s yukata.
He had not had time to worry about who was inside or if Lu Niang Lan herself would be caught in the blast. If this was really Elvast Toydream he was up against, not even a portable nuclear rocket would be enough.
Kyousuke tossed aside the empty launch tube and ran toward the shop that was starting to partially collapse. He did not need to bring Sekurtiti with him as his vessel. Once the Incense Grenade detonated, the summoner and vessel would be drawn to the same place.
So he simply gave a yell.
“Come here!! Lu-san!!”
Something flashed beyond the smokescreen.
He thought it was some kind of projectile and pulled the Repliglass Blood-Sign from his back, but the blow that struck it was powerful enough to nearly shatter his wrist. He just barely managed to deflect the first hit and somehow managed to avoid the second because Biondetta stuck her silver Blood-Sign in from the side. But that was enough for her weapon to break like it was made of plastic. She could no longer participate in a battle using the Summoning Ceremony. She grabbed the two halves in her hands and wielded them like twin blunt weapons to support Kyousuke.
Only after the two of them deflected a few more of the deadly projectiles could he identity one of them that shot skyward and lost its speed. It looked like a sharply pointed ceramic shard.
(Are they pieces of a broken doll!?)
This was not a legendary weapon that only an expert could wield. He could not say what this doll had originally been. He recalled that this tyrant, the uncontrollable Government Award 1000, had been the type of person who rejoiced in destroying his own accomplishments.
But there was no time for fear.
Kyousuke gave Biondetta a look and the Oiran-style mini-yukata demon moved away while her boots sounded on the ground. At the same time, Kyousuke gave up on defense. He maintained his momentum from running full speed ahead and slid across the ground. Several shard bullets passed by overhead as he dove through the large hole in the wall and into the dust-filled shop.
By happenstance, he ended up sliding between the legs of a woman in the tatters of what had once been a riding suit.
Seeing the Thousand Eater swing up his arm with enough force to sever that woman’s thighs, Kyousuke thrust his Blood-Sign forward as he slid. He slightly diverted the man’s fingers, but his own Blood-Sign was knocked away, sending him rolling along the floor.
After narrowly avoiding death again and again, he finally reached Lu Niang Lan.
Still sitting on the floor, the modified China dress beauty spoke his name in a daze, but they did not have time for that. With his momentum intact, he grabbed Lu Niang Lan’s hips with both arms and pushed her down. He then raised his voice.
Another explosion came from outside.
Rubble and dust filled the shop and flowed over Kyousuke and Lu Niang Lan’s heads as they lay down on the floor. Elvast’s unknown (and possibly truly nameless) vessel in the tattered riding suit was still standing, but Kyousuke seriously doubted this was enough to defeat them. He doubted they had even braced against the impact of the first bazooka blast. She was overshadowed by Elvast, but the blonde vessel was a monster herself.
He got a fresh start while holding Lu Niang Lan and crouched low.
As the doll’s nails, eyeballs, and other parts tore through the smokescreen as countless sharp bullets, Kyousuke ran just a few meters through that hell to roll out the back door. It was all a mess. So many factors were outside his calculations that he was amazed he was still in one piece.
Biondetta softly caught both their body weights on her large breasts and then dragged them out through a large hole in the wall.
Sekurtiti was waiting there with her.
“Sir, do you have your Blood-Sign and Incense Grenade? Do you still have all your limbs? Are you strong enough for a Summoning Ceremony battle!?”
“I’ve got everything I need. More importantly, take Lu-san and get out of here. Sekurtiti and I will finish off Elvast.”
He heard strange explosive sounds from all around. He had fired that initial bazooka blast and then Biondetta had blown up this wall. Sparks were raining down everywhere and igniting the container modules full of fireworks. This could easily develop into a great conflagration that enveloped the whole Chinatown.
“Shiroyama Kyousuke. I have a suggestion.”
“What is it?”
But even in that extreme environment, Sekurtiti crouched down in her bandages, tiara, and Y-shaped lace to speak calmly.
“Cancel your contract with me and bind a new one with that woman. If you do not, there will truly be no helping her.”
He had not expected that suggestion.
It was true Sekurtiti had no reason to get directly involved in this. Lu Niang Lan was much more deeply connected.
But could this modified China dress beauty do that? Could she make that choice? Her extreme skill with martial arts and hidden weapons was the result of her firm rejection of entrusting herself to the Summoning Ceremony for life as a vessel. Could he really make her break that conviction?
“You are looking at this wrong, Shiroyama Kyousuke.”
But Sekurtiti spoke up to correct a fundamental mistake.
“The very fact that she is firmly rejecting that life is a sign that she is refusing to face her past and continues to be bound by it. If she had truly been freed from those bonds, then she would not care one way or the other. The firmness of her rejection is equivalent to the strength of those bonds, so she has yet to conquer them. And this is probably her last chance to free herself. No matter how it happens, she will never break free if she misses this opportunity. Even if Elvast dies today, his ghost will continue to haunt her heart. I do not want to create that kind of fruitless grudge in the pharaoh’s tomb. This city should be where the pharaoh’s remains sleep peacefully as they await the return of his soul, not a haunted place where people fear a curse.”
Government Award 1000.
This required the defeat of Elvast Toydream, a man who became a living legend.
But not by Shiroyama Kyousuke. Lu Niang Lan had to defeat him herself to cleanse her of her past.
“Can you do it, Lu-san?”
“Can you break your own rules to overcome your past!? Can you!?”
For a while, she did not answer.
No, perhaps it was simply that difficult for her trembling and charming lips to form the words. That was how close to breaking she was.
But she managed.
She sat on the ground, crumpled up her face, and showed no sign of her usually confident and alluring appearance. She was worn down, beaten, and battered.
Even so, that woman who had again had everything taken from her spoke the words.
“I want to move on.”
It was almost like her feelings were a damaged record that kept repeating as the needle skipped.
“I don’t want to be bound by the past. I want to walk forward on my own feet. I don’t want to be imprisoned by anything. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by a life where I thought I had escaped but only get attacked from behind.”
But there was something she had never lost.
No matter how much she was hurt or how much she suffered, this would not be lost as long as the record itself did not shatter.
It would never be lost.
“It didn’t have to be Illegal! I just wanted to escape Government!! The underworld wasn’t particularly comfortable. I didn’t want to turn my back on justice! But as long as it let me shake off that awful shadow! I just wanted to leave that cage. I wanted to be freed from that oppression. I wanted to spread my arms and bathe in the sun without having to ask anyone’s permission!! So!!”
He had thought he understood her.
But he had not.
Because now Shiroyama Kyousuke came in contact with her truly exposed soul.
“Help me, Kyousuke-chan. I never want to go back there!! I want to seal up that hell here and now. I want to say goodbye to my past and continue on to the future! So help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”
He never would have hesitated here.
When faced with that much heat, it would have been hard to find even the slightest reason to do so.
“As you wish.”
He only needed a small blade.
As long as he cut his index finger and let a single drop of blood well up, the door to the divine would open.
As Lu Niang Lan licked up the drop of blood and swallowed it, the thoroughly destroyed shop remained entirely silent. Almost like their enemy was watching over them. He had to have had countless opportunities to kill them, but the legend named Elvast Toydream still did nothing to intervene.
“I see. So that is your choice.”
They heard a voice.
“Most unfortunate. You honed yourself so far and had the willpower to stab an Award 1000 in the back…and yet you still cannot escape the bonds of the Summoning Ceremony.”
She no longer needed to let his nonsense drag her spirit down.
Kyousuke pulled out a hairspray-sized Incense Grenade and pulled the pin out with his mouth. Once he threw it, an Artificial Sacred Ground would be swiftly set up and he would be able to invite a Material into Lu Niang Lan’s body as his vessel. This could easily be the trigger that would bring back a powerful nightmare for her.
“Do it, Kyousuke-chan.”
But the modified China dress beauty still spoke while placing her hand on Kyousuke’s holding the lever.
“I will end this here and now. So this will be the final nightmare!!”
There really was no reason to hesitate.
The two of them threw the Incense Grenade together and their one shot at this began.
Just as Biondetta swiftly left the scene with Sekurtiti, a 20 meter Artificial Sacred Ground surrounded the back alley and the half-destroyed shop. Enemy and ally faced each other with the three-dimensional red Rose floating between them.
Government Award 1000, Thousand Eater.
Elvast Toydream and the nameless beauty.
The supreme man lightly stepped on his own shadow and something shot up vertically. It was a reddish-brown mass of rust. But when he casually caught it and tossed it against the wall, the rust peeled away from the surface. This revealed a glittering gold Blood-Sign that gave off a bright light.
As far as pure skill as a summoner went, he was probably history’s strongest. A single hit to the mostly random Rose and he could accurately knock the exact sequence of letters into the Spots needed to summon the White Queen and declare checkmate with his very first move. If he could do that with 100% accuracy, no summoner could hope to challenge him. It was like working to gather a decent hand while your opponent was always dealt a royal flush. No amount of effort or even cheating could defeat someone who possessed such incredible luck.
Just as two White Thorns shattered the Rose, something happened.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say something did not happen.
The legend had made his first shot, but the White Queen was not summoned. Petals fell into the Spots like normal and the two vessels transformed into the Original Series slimes like normal.
Because she had seen that hopeless legend from closer than anyone, Lu Niang Lan voiced her surprise directly in Kyousuke’s brain.
Elvast himself sounded amused.
He sounded like someone who had cast their fishing rod without expecting anything but then felt a small fish biting.
“There are two ways of getting past your first-move win. The first is to hit and break the Rose before you can, but I’m sure you have some simple countermeasures for that one.”
Kyousuke was not speaking up just because he liked to explain.
By revealing and crushing his opponent’s methods, he could reduce the man’s charisma at least a little. Shiroyama Kyousuke was familiar with this man’s legend. And he had lost to the man once already. If he did not do this, his legs would give out. The boy would utterly fail to reach the battered image of the strongest he wanted to be.
“And your first-move win looks like it leaves a lot to chance, but that isn’t accurate. The Rose is formed by a three-dimensional arrangement of the 6 x 6 x 6 = 216 Petals. The arrangement of those letters and the location of the Spots seem random, so calculating out where to send your White Thorn might seem pointless, but that isn’t true. …The letter arrangement and Spot locations are based on the terrain. So if you accurately search out all the terrain conditions in advance, you can calculate out those seemingly random factors. And that leads to a nightmarish attack that summons the Queen in a single move!”
Of course, knowing how it worked was not enough to actually pull it off. Even Kyousuke had merely been able to guess that it might be possible to calculate that out, but he had not actually reached the level of making those calculations. No, they were no longer calculations. This man had reached Award 1000, so it was a miracle only possible for him. It was a complex combination of natural intuition and vast experience, like a fortuneteller outdoing a weather satellite’s forecasts just by reading the wind and looking at the shapes of the clouds.
But interfering with that method was much easier.
Everything he had needed had already existed across C Block’s Chinatown.
“That meant we only had to distort and destroy the entire terrain to throw off the timing of your attack. For example, setting off hundreds of thousands of fireworks and starting a fire that entirely changes the terrain!”
(Y-you mean you broke that monster’s unbeatable method?)
“You thought you had perfectly calculated the Rose’s internal arrangement and the Spots’ locations, but we altered them at the last second so your surefire attack won’t work!!”
“I appreciate the vigorous effort,” said the legend as he shook his jacket covered in blade cuts and bullet holes, and raised his Blood Sign which shined with the golden color of a king. “But all you did was seal away my trick homerun. I still have plenty of options left: hitting a double to center left field, stealing bases, a sacrifice fly, or a drag bunt to name a few.”
Yes, it was not that the Thousand Eater could only do that.
He had simply chosen the simplest and easiest option from his great arsenal of strategies. And that had been so unbeatable that it had shaped his legend.
It should have been obvious, but Elvast could do more than just that.
And whatever he did, it would be with the greatest, fastest, best, toughest, and strongest accuracy.
“Don’t be ashamed of your fear, Lu-san. Use it to reach for victory!!”
Several White Thorns ricocheted around the half-collapsed shop. A detonated container spun through the air, crashed through one of the shop’s few remaining walls, and tumbled across the center of the Artificial Sacred Ground, but it changed nothing. Amid all the fierce explosions, flashes of light, and shockwaves, even Kyousuke had difficulty keeping up with the battle. No, he was clearly overheating. He normally could not draw out this much speed and accuracy. He was so desperate to keep up with and snap at the heels of this living legend that his internal skill was dragged out like a car surpassing its limits using the slipstream created by the car in front of it.
Their Materials rose from Regulation-class to Divine-class in no time at all.
And their monsters did not stay there as they were seamlessly built up further.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 3.
That extremely venomous snake put its prey to sleep with its gaze and then finished them off with its unavoidable venomous fangs. That precision-guided assassin could be controlled by a curse and sent after the desired target.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 6.
That monstrous fish would latch onto the bottom of a ship and stop it from moving, no matter how large the ship was. Then that marine grim reaper would bewitch the crew into leaping into the ocean.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 6.
That quadrupedal holy beast gained divine speed in exchange for never being able to get back up if it fell down even once in the arctic land in which it lived.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 6.
That spirit bird was reborn in fire about every 500 years and gained eternal life through its continual rebirth. Legends of that transcender of life were said to be passed down from Egypt but there were no such legends there and its origins were wrapped in mystery.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 8.
That ruler of a volcano crater welling with red-hot boiling copper was a minute insect yet had a dragon’s head, four legs, and beautiful wings.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 8.
That quadrupedal beast caused chemical burns with a wide spray of its own filth. A single attack could cause damage to an entire theatre.
Divine-class. Sound Range: High. Cost: 9.
That white holy bird could absorb the illness from someone’s body. That master of purification had the power to swallow evil and would not allow anything else to follow it.
Divine-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 11.
That venomous snake had a head at each end to more efficiently spread the powerful venom brewed in its body. That user of evil intoxication was powerful enough to hold a position opposite that of the god of alcohol.
Kyousuke’s vessel’s thoughts exploded in his mind. They had easily moved beyond a level that would normally require defeating several summoners and using a Chain to reach.
Their Materials were built up again and again at dizzying speed and a lot of them were monsters described in Pliny’s Natural History. It was hard to simply define the strength of the gods, but in the Blood-Sign method where the letters determined everything, these monsters’ power could be efficiently drawn out and they could fight on equal or greater footing than the gods of other mythologies.
Elvast Toydream spoke with an almost carefree air as he acted like the leading car inviting the challenger to a realm of abnormal speed down the hellish twists of turns of a mountain road at night.
“What do you think of this world?”
Kyousuke felt Lu Niang Lan’s heart leaping like it was his own. But he did not have time to respond to the question. His thoughts were already past their limit and his hands were moving with no time for his surface thoughts to keep up. He could just barely come up with a list of candidates for his next Material, but he was mostly running on instinct and had no real “track”. He felt like he was driving a racecar at 300 kph through a thick forest. As everything flew toward him at great speed, the slightest mistake would mean a head-on collision that split the car down the center.
(The spear-wielding head of the Norse gods who tore out an eye and hanged himself… Sound Range: Low. Cost: 4. The wild head of the Greek gods who cut open his father’s stomach to rescue his many brothers… Sound Range: High. Cost: 4. No good. They have too few letters, so they’re not well suited to the Blood Sign method! I need to build up more letters to draw out more power. …Oh, I know. Aztec mythology. That great feathered serpent that wraps around a great evil to endlessly create and destroy new worlds! Sound Range: Low. Cost: 12!!)
Kyousuke’s thoughts raced so quickly his mind nearly burnt out as he came up with his next move, but even through all that, Elvast had the resources to spare for a conversation.
“Worship the White Queen. Oppose the White Queen. …And to do that, you must master the Summoning ceremony where the White Queen stands at the peak. In the end, everyone is the same. We say so many impressive-sounding things, but we never actually intend to escape the White Queen’s bonds. In fact, we seem to be actively trapping ourselves in that spider web.”
(Is that something for a legend to say? How can you say that when you can summon her with your first move and achieve the easiest and greatest victory!?)
Kyousuke accepted his vessel’s rage. He was too focused to speak, but Elvast must have read the emotion in his eyes because the man smiled thinly.
The legend exposed the contents of black box that could not be seen on the surface.
“I am trapped by the White Queen more than anyone. And I could not forgive my soul for being so fragile.”
The vessel’s confusion nearly filled Kyousuke’s thoughts as well.
But even now, time was moving even faster. Almost like a form of superhuman acrobatics.
(That monster…that tyrant…recognized his own imperfection?)
Several White Thorns whizzed around every which way far too quickly for Kyousuke’s surface thoughts to follow as Elvast and Kyousuke’s Materials left even the Divine-class behind. They were now in the Unexplored-class. These were those who lurked beyond the gods.
Kyousuke summoned an Unexplored-class with a Sound Range of High and a Cost of 14.
The “Gold” Harlot who Serves the Killer Boxes (hs – a – te – ei – yw – az – a – hq).
A gold woman wore a skimpy, jewel-covered dress so gaudy it actually looked cheap. A pile of countless treasure chests and coin bags moved all on its own at her feet. They were all largescale traps that trembled with wicked hunger and contained digestive organs lined with teeth. The Unexplored-class with flowing hair of pure gold leaped toward her prey while those traps followed her.
But Elvast was not concerned. He had an Unexplored-class with a Sound Range of Middle and a Cost of 19: The Lady of “Purple Lightning” that Separates Good from Evil (iu – ao – eu – ei – kub – miq – a – ci – pl). A short-haired girl wearing only the bare minimum of purple cloth sat in a wheelchair. She slowly moved her finger and fought back with beams of light.
“Yes, yes. That is why I had such high hopes for Niang Lan. No, why I envied her.”
“Just as I achieved Award 1000 and was shifting to the other side, she stabbed me. It was perfect! She is a true and undeniable ‘human’!! After all, that means she threw out her worship of the Materials and chose to remain in the human world! No matter how powerful I grew or how much of a legend I saw myself as, I was never able to throw out the Summoning Ceremony, but she turned her back on it and announced she was starting down her own path!!”
Lu Niang Lan’s thoughts could no longer be converted into words.
It was not just that she could not believe the reality before her eyes. She had spent a lifetime building up so much hatred and the foundation below it all was threatening to crumble away. Or perhaps she was ashamed that she had called him a tyrant without ever realizing his true intentions.
That was how transparent Elvast had been.
It was almost as if the surface of that lake had been colored by the crass humans surrounding him.
“Is that why you’re still fixated on Lu-san?”
Words finally left Kyousuke’s mouth.
Kyousuke understood why that long-haired stubbly man would seek Lu Niang Lan as the only person he had ever accepted, but would he really adore her to this extent?
He worked his thoughts while moving even more than before. This may have been the moment when the boy’s skill, drawn out by contact with the legend, began to leave Elvast’s expectations.
“And now you’re ordering her to redo everything because she didn’t develop in the way you wanted?”
The demonic beast named Elvast still had it in him to smile.
“Where else can you find such talent? Even if you searched through all 7 billion people on Earth one by one, where else could you find someone who can pull herself away from the draw of the White Queen!? I continued down the one path but never reached that level. I hated the White Queen more than anyone, but I was never able to throw out the easy and simple power of the White Queen!! So she must hone herself once more. I knew this sword was too great for someone like me, so I cast it into the outside world, hoping it would be honed even further, but now I find it covered in rust in a cheap pawn shop! How can I overlook that treatment? How can I abandon humankind’s last hope!!!???”
There were no words from the vessel.
The king’s proclamation was probably accurate.
Lu Niang Lan had loathed, hated, and (most of all) feared that man, but Elvast respected her from the bottom of his heart and had – for that very reason – not shown her any special consideration. He had given her a daily life that would have shattered every last pillar supporting a normal person’s personality in order to raise her up to what he considered the ideal form for a woman.
It was true that Kyousuke had not shaken free the bonds of the Summoning Ceremony.
No matter how much he hated the White Queen, he still held his Blood-Sign in the end. Even though he knew a great evil reigned at the peak and it was all done in the palm of her hand.
The one truly worthy of fighting back against the White Queen may have been this beautiful woman who had shaken off the Summoning Ceremony’s temptation and lived by her own two hands. It was not Shiroyama Kyousuke or Elvast Toydream; it was Lu Niang Lan. And by inviting her back into this world as a vessel, Kyousuke had rusted her soul.
Lu Niang Lan had fled.
She had fled from Elvast Toydream’s hopes and expectation and everything they entailed.
And to gain her freedom and avoid fighting the White Queen, she had stabbed her own king in the back.
Kyousuke understood all that.
And yet he still said it.
“To hell with that.”
He did not have time to say much.
He was still only barely hanging on, so even an unwanted twitch of a finger could lead to death.
But he simply had to say this.
“All you’re talking about is your idea of the ideal Lu Niang Lan. That doesn’t mean Lu-san has to go along with any of it.”
He shifted his thoughts up to their limit.
He was amazed that he still had a higher gear to shift up to.
“So what if she’s ‘worthy’. How does that help her conquer the fear?”
No, Kyousuke may not have been opposing the tyrant before his eyes.
He may have been opposing the other person he was linked to.
He may have been opposing the woman who felt absolutely cornered and was hanging her head.
He may have been opposing her to get her to raise her head once more.
“So what if only she can do it? That’s no excuse for forcing her through more suffering than other people!! Everyone would be afraid of facing the White Queen head on!! You couldn’t do it yourself and you fled to this gentle peace, so you have no right to corner Lu-san. If you don’t have the courage to stand by her side to fight with her…no, to tell her it’s dangerous and have her stand behind you to protect her, you have no right to say anything about her!!!!!!”
She did not have to become a hero. She did not need to bear the hope of humankind. No one would honor her if she recklessly challenged the White Queen as some kind of human representative.
No matter what anyone said, Lu Niang Lan should have been the kind of normal girl you could find anywhere!!
An especially large container of fireworks exploded nearby.
The store no longer had any walls standing and the area had become nothing but an empty lot. All the while, Kyousuke accurately threaded his White Thorns through the gaps in the container pieces that blew around like scraps of paper in a storm.
(I want to stop him. I want to overcome this peak and reclaim my life!! So Kyousuke-chan, please!!)
“Yes, let’s end his selfishness here!!”
They had already reached the Unexplored-class.
Their Materials all possessed extraordinary power that surpassed the gods of legend. No matter what they chose, it would have enough violent power to end any normal battle.
And Shiroyama Kyousuke’s selection was perfect.
Unexplored-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 20.
The “Red-Eyed” Lady who Sees Through all Sin and Calamity (fa – ao – ab – ei – fj – cib – b – du – a – eif).
She was one of the Three who stood near the peak of the Unexplored-class. Her power was devastating even among the monsters of the Unexplored-class. She was the guardian of Government and she wore a partially removed kimono and a one piece swimsuit. She had long hair and she had two horns on her forehead. Her hair was caught in countless giant gears behind her that connected the hair to all destiny like a loom. The words that left her mouth were already definite truth and, if she were to open her coolly closed eyes, it was said she would fix the future in place.
I’ve won, thought Kyousuke.
He had prevented the White Queen’s immediate appearance, worked his way up to the Unexplored-class the old-fashioned way, and successfully reached the Red Lady who was one of the strongest once that greatest evil was removed from the equation. Elvast may have been a living legend, but he could not turn things around now. No matter what Unexplored-class he summoned, Kyousuke could crush him with brute force. There was nothing higher than this. Or so he thought.
But he was forgetting something.
He had indeed prevented her immediate appearance. He had made sure Elvast had to fight the old-fashioned way. But that did not make it impossible for the White Queen to appear.
The first to catch the “scent” was Lu Niang Lan who had stood by that man’s side for so long.
(What is this? This is the usual “scent”.)
“Ahh, ahh. This is why I hate myself…”
Kyousuke heard a lamenting voice.
Standing next to Elvast Toydream was one of the Unexplored-class who all had feminine forms.
“No matter what, I always end up relying on the White Queen in the end.”
He had to do it the old-fashioned way.
His greatest cheat had been sealed away and he had needed to start from scratch.
And yet Elvast Toydream had arrived there.
This was not just one of the Three. He had summoned 100 Regulation-classes, 50 Divine-classes, and then arrived at the peak of even the Unexplored-class.
Unexplored-class. Sound Range: None. Cost: 21.
The “White” Queen who Wields the Sword of Unsullied Truth (iu – nu – fb – a – wuh – ei –kx – eu – pl – vjz).
(Kyousuke-chan, you did nothing wrong. Yes, you were just up against too fearsome an opponent.)
That was the end of it.
The slender index finger held to her lips swept sideways and the world was bisected.
The battle was over.
The explosion was so white that it brought silence to the Chinatown. The massive blast blew out the surrounding blaze. The White Queen’s attack had been truly childish, like using a 500kg bomb to blow out the few candles on a birthday cake.
But the unbreakable legend remained standing all alone. He dropped his golden glowing Blood-Sign at his feet and muttered to himself.
“…I want to die.”
No one in the world, not even Freedom Award 903, had been able to keep up with him. That stubbly man with long, messy hair was alone no matter where he went.
Only the White Queen acted the same as always.
She clasped her soft hands in front of her ample chest and smiled.
“Oh, dear. It isn’t often that brother loses to the same person twice. If I wasn’t involved, I’d be jealous. Seeing his expectations betrayed so many times is reminding me of the Queen’s Miniature Garden☆”
Elvast gave her a look of wholehearted resentment, but the Queen did not care. A shrewd eye could tell it was really the White Queen who Shiroyama Kyousuke had lost to twice. As if to prove that they were bound by a powerful destiny.
If Elvast did not use the Queen, this might have ended differently.
“Once the 90 second Chain is over, I will disappear into the ether.” The White Queen spoke in a singsong voice. “And I have no interest in anyone other than my brother. You spoke of bonds, puny human. But in truth, I have not done anything. Do not forget that this is no more than your own soul pursuing me.”
“And one last thing. To reward you for distracting me from my boredom, I have a prophecy for you.”
“Your wish will soon be granted. Bye☆”
Like a light switch being flipped or like waking from a dream, it all vanished. Containing the White Queen in her body must have been quite a burden because the woman in the shredded riding suit gasped for breath and slumped to the floor. No, she collapsed to her side and passed out.
Elvast did not care.
He had won. And by borrowing that loathsome white power. He was hopelessly strong and, at the same time, hopelessly weak. He wandered through the collapsed shop and approached that woman who had been his one light, who had possessed the possibility of shaking free of the Summoning Ceremony and severing the temptation of the White Queen’s power.
The words escaped his lips.
He did not expect anyone to answer him.
“I was so very glad when you stabbed me in the back. I thought I had been saved.”
At first glance, his words may have seemed baffling.
But they were the undeniable truth.
“If it could have ended here, I wouldn’t have had to reach Award 1000 or move to the other side. I would have been able to die a human without becoming a strange Material. So nothing mattered to me more than you, someone who stopped me at the very last second even if it meant stabbing me in the back.”
In the end, he had pathetically survived.
A single blade had failed to stop the legend.
But the bright light he had received then had continued to shine in his chest the entire time.
“I had no one else. Government is just the world’s largest law and order organization. Everyone applauded with fake smiles plastered to their faces as they shoved my fearful back ever onward and upward. The only one with the strength to stop me, even if it meant staining their hands with blood, was you, Niang Lan.”
As he had wandered the world, he had sought countless replacements. He had crossed paths with many women, made them his vessel, given them great power, and made them a part of his legend. To the majority of the world, those women would have seemed like successes. Everyone would have envied their lives and the women themselves never doubted their own happiness. But every time he saw their smiles, Elvast had sensed something indescribably wrong and cast it all aside. No matter how much power they had, they were the same as the Government aides. They had been pathetic puppets who were too afraid of something to directly face the threat and simply tricked themselves into believing they were happy. From that point, he had already detected that white scent.
“There was no one else…”
He would find her.
He would find that person who had changed so completely since he had last seen her that it was hard to look at her. Like a rusted sword, she had been dragged back into the world of the Summoning Ceremony and now she repeated the same action again and again with empty eyes. Elvast bit his lip, knowing he never should have let her go. He should not have thought it was over when she stabbed him in the back. He should have crawled across the floor and grabbed her with his bloody hand to stop her.
He had been unable to show her his weakness.
That inability may have been the root of Elvast Toydream’s weakness.
“I do not care how much you loathe me. Killing me can be your greatest desire.”
He slowly crouched down.
He held his weakened target of longing in his arms.
She was an obedient doll, a zombie in the original sense of the word, and someone who had received the same shock as seeing her god slaughtered before her eyes. The cowardly man was only able to reveal his feelings to her after tearing her down to this level, but that was why he spoke the undiluted truth now.
“I will hone you again or as many times as it takes, Niang Lan. I will ensure you can reach the choice that someone as weak as me never could.”
He pressed two objects into her back: the Diamond Master Key and the Golden Treasure Chest.
Combined with the ancient map on the brown girl’s back, they would take one to the Founder’s Gallery. Someone who had broken their bonds to the Summoning Ceremony and the White Queen might think up another use for them.
“But if I asked you to do this all again, it would probably break you. So this is a hint and some bait. Use it as you wish and then come to kill me. …If I showed you my own personal collection, I doubt you would be able to break your bonds to me. This distance is just right.”
Elvast respected this woman more than anyone but he spoke softly to her like he was trying to get an unruly child to listen.
But then something else happened.
The sound was actually very quiet. But oddly enough, the strange sound rang endlessly in the long-haired and stubbly man’s ears. No, in the center of his chest.
The sound came from Lu Niang Lan in his arms.
More accurately, from her small fist.
Elvast looked down in surprise and saw her fist embedded in the center of his chest. It was only a few centimeters, but the pressure was devastating. As he watched, her fist smoothly rotated and released all of its built up power.
She did not have her feet planted on the ground and she had not spun her hips to build up power. She had used only the strength of her arm and she had only swung it blindly. It was a truly tiny attack that only used the short distance between her fist and his chest.
But it exploded.
The pressure on his heart sent immense pressure to all of his blood vessels. His sternum and ribs shattered in the blink of an eye and the spine behind his heart snapped with a solid sound. Already covered in blade cuts and bullet holes, his jacket tore and violently burst.
What happened to his heart goes without saying.
He forgot to breathe in his surprise, and that may have been the only reason he did not spew blood everywhere.
Lu Niang Lan had lost the Summoning Ceremony. She had received a mental shock equivalent to seeing what she unquestioningly believed to be a god slaughtered before her eyes. For more than 24-hours, she would repeat the same action endlessly and she would be unable to resist outward stimuli, no matter who they came from. So it should have been impossible for her to make an attack after intentionally tricking him into lowering his guard.
So what was this?
What was the meaning of this refreshing barehanded attack that had instantly killed Government Award 1000 without using the Summoning Ceremony in any way?
A laugh spilled from his lips.
That breath brought an explosion of fresh blood flowing up from his torn lungs and out his mouth. Even so, Elvast did not stop laughing. In fact, tears of joy welled up in the corners of his eyes.
After losing the Summoning Ceremony, people’s normal masks were torn from them to reveal their exposed souls.
Was that what this was?
If Elvast Toydream approached her, she would not hesitate to slay him, even at a subconscious level. The Summoning Ceremony was irrelevant. It was Lu Niang Lan’s soul that she had continued to hone all this time.
It did not matter that he had reached Award 1000, that he was the world’s strongest, or that he used the Queen.
She did not rely on anyone.
And she used only her own fist to face the enemy blocking her way.
Death assaulted his body as if he had suddenly remembered to die.
He could tell on an instinctual level that there was no saving him. But he felt no fear. He had been shown hope. Even if the rest of the 7 billion people on the planet were hopelessly dyed white and even if all those summoners and vessels spoke of plans to defeat the White Queen and yet relied on her, this woman still existed. She had snapped the thread of temptation. Now that she had demonstrated that, he felt no more attachment to the world. He felt no pain or fear, only the gentle embrace of death that would sever all his bonds.
His entire body was destroyed and he endlessly coughed up blood, but Elvast Toydream embraced humanity’s hope even tighter.
He shut his eyes and spoke his last words.
“You really were…an amazing woman.”
- The one who reached 1000 was named Elvast Toydream and he was a direct descendent of the Toy Dream Company’s president. He had his own collection separate from the Founder’s Collection, had acquired knowledge equivalent to the Natural History’s missing entries from a different source, and had successfully created the doll he used for the White Queen’s permanent summoning.
- But the Queen’s quality was inferior to the Blood-Sign method, so she was weak enough to be killed instantly by Elvast’s fist. Unsatisfied with that, he grew somewhat interested in the Natural History’s missing entries, hoping to create a more worthy sparring partner.
- The location of the Spots in the Artificial Sacred Ground and the arrangement of the Petals inside the Rose are dependent on the territorial effects such as the floor of the Artificial Sacred Ground. But the only one capable of performing those detailed calculations was Elvast Toydream who had both a genius intellect and a wild beast’s instincts.
- Elvast reached Award 1000, but he was afraid to pass over to the other side.
- Elvast sought the Founder’s Gallery to promote Lu Niang Lan’s growth without directly giving her any power. He hoped she would eventually complete a technique to kill him and the White Queen.
- Lu Niang Lan is skillful enough to subconsciously kill her target even after losing the Summoning Ceremony. Elvast had always been bound by the Summoning Ceremony, so he left the world trusting in the human strength he felt there.
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