The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume9 Stage4

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to: navigation, search

Stage 04: The Truth About “Brother”[edit]

“White Queen.”

“Don’t you dare interfere.”

(Stage 04 Open 08/23 00:01)

The Truth About “Brother”

Part 1[edit]

The old-fashioned analog lock broke as he kicked down the door with a loud bang.

“Tch!!”

Someone had been here.

They had left signs of their presence in the room adjacent to the one Kyousuke was staying in. There were wrinkles in the sheets, water droplets in the bath, and a few mugs that appeared to have been quickly washed in the sink.

It was just past midnight on August 23.

The room was deserted. This was the 9th floor, but the curtain blew in a lukewarm breeze as if to provide an explanation. It would have been more convincing to hear they had vanished in a puff of smoke.

The White Queen had been here.

Until very recently.

Aoi soon caught up to him, but even outside of their room, she still wore the towel-material bathrobe which was too big for her. She did seem to have left her One Cup Yokozuna behind. Without her usual white sarashi, her breasts were jiggling a distracting amount.

“What is it, boy? Did you hit the jackpot?”

“That’s a prize I’d rather not win.”

She had gotten away.

And the Colorless Little Girl was responding to the cocoon’s growth.

The risk from both sides grew as time passed.

Kyousuke spat out the words, but he was also coldly analyzing the situation. He realized something odd when observing the position of the beds and chairs, the number of used mugs, and the amount of soap and shampoo that had been used.

“It’s more than just the two?”

“Hm?”

He had assumed it was just the White Queen and Shigara Masami working together, but this hotel room suggested there was a third person with them. Assuming the White Queen had not left intentionally misleading evidence, she had some other helper.

Kyousuke wandered around the room. No, he was pursuing each piece of evidence to figure out what the people here had done. Just like a profiler viewed a crime scene in a different way from a forensics team.

“…”

Who could it be?

He started to look puzzled as he pursued the unseen person’s actions.

And he opened his mouth just like the needle following the groove of a record.

“Don’t be dumb, you complete fuckhead!!”

“Eek!? Wh-what was that for? What did I even do?”

“?”

Meinokawa Aoi tearfully covered the top of her head with her hands when he suddenly swore at her, but Kyousuke was only tilting his head.

(Wait. An extreme sweet tooth and chugging the contents of a pill bottle???)

As he followed the signs, he found something in the gap between the TV stand and the floor.

It was a white pill that appeared to be an antibiotic. He also found a pellet of pet food. Probably for a reptile, specifically a snake.

That clinched it.

You too, Biondetta!!!???”


“Whew, we really screwed that one up.”

Still in her miniskirt waitress uniform, Biondetta stuck out her tongue while using the downspout to escape to the asphalt road.

The only things in that room had been their tools for a Blood-Sign battle and the bare minimum needed to spend a night in the hotel. Attacking someone in their sleep was standard practice, so their other clothing and items not needed to survive were in a coin locker at the train station.

But even then…

“This is honestly pretty bad. I was so focused on getting out of there, I left tons of evidence I was there. Caesar Kyousuke-chan is probably really pissed at me right about now!”

The White Queen and Shigara Masami were supernatural beings, so Biondetta carried the greatest risk of leaving evidence behind in the real world. The others had been aware of that when they let her join them, so they were not going to complain.

<But I wonder how he knew we were there. Did he hear us through the wall? Or did he just sense our presence???>

“He did it because he is my brother.”

It was not clear if there was any deeper meaning in the White Queen’s explanation.

She and Kyousuke were two sides of the same coin. Just as she sought love from him, he pursued her based on his combat instincts.

And that was not the main point here.

With her bare legs mostly visible below her short casual dress, the White Queen glanced back just once.

“Do you think he will pursue us right away?”

Her group wanted to avoid a fight with Shiroyama Kyousuke. After all, they could not stop the expanding cocoon or the responding Colorless Little Girl unless she accepted that Shigara Masami stopping her had been the best option for her and Kyousuke. Any major cracks in that now would bring them back to square one.

But Shigara Masami shook her head in her suit and lab coat.

<I doubt it. Because he has no surefire way of attacking us.>

“What? But he has the Colorless Little Girl he built specifically to use against me.”

<Queen, that might work against you, but what about me? I am technically Freedom Award 3000, which means I have more than 3 times the Awards he does. He is a combat expert in his own way, so do you think he would really be naïve enough to think he could defeat us both at once by rushing in without a plan? Especially when he has a contract with a vessel girl.>

“…”

That reminded the White Queen of something as the short hem of her thin casual dress fluttered in the wind. To make a long story short, Shiroyama Kyousuke had never defeated Government Award 1000, Elvast Toydream. Being defeated along with his vessel must have been a bitter memory for him.

And this time it was Freedom Award 3000.

This woman was a warrior among warriors who had traversed all three major powers and taken 1000 Awards from each.

No matter how the battle would actually go, Kyousuke would never take an optimistic view before it began.

<Let’s assume Kyousuke-kun has been working his brain around the clock to come up with a method of defeating us one-against-two since he learned I had taken your side. It would have to be a personal attack that pinpoint targeted some kind of critical weakness. But he would have only just learned that Biondetta-chan is with us, right? All of his assumptions have fallen apart. His assault on our room might look courageous, but he is the one who will be agonizing over all his plans going awry.>

The scary part about Biondetta was how she could pull off victories above her Award level by using underhanded tricks. He might be able to handle her one-on-one since he could keep his eyes on her at all times, but in a one-on-three fray, he would have a much harder time predicting what would happen.

They just had to look at it with some of the positions reverse.

Even if she was Freedom Award 3000, Shigara Masami would want to avoid rushing in to fight both Biondetta and the White Queen without a plan. That could easily end up more than just a normal Blood-Sign battle. Who knows what that waitress demon could draw out of the Queen.

Summoners would predict each other’s actions at a very high level, but that brought its own kind of doubts and anxieties. Shiroyama Kyousuke was not dumb enough to thoughtlessly rush in. Shigara Masami could guarantee that more than anyone. During the Secret War at the end of the Queen’s Miniature Garden, he had learned all too well what that kind of recklessness would bring.

The situation was in their favor.

As if the entire world were blessing the White Queen.

But the Queen herself looked like she would start gnawing on her thumbnail if she let her guard down.

“This must be very painful for him. Seeing the betrayal of a family member must be digging into his old scars.”

<Yes, that may be true.>

Her journey to learn what it means to be human was not over yet.

Shigara Masami agreed with her while walking along the night road.

But she had more to say while fiddling with the whistle around her neck.

<The more obstacles standing in the way of your love, the more exciting it is, Queen.>

Part 2[edit]

The White Queen and Shigara Masami had been joined by Biondetta.

Shiroyama Kyousuke knew he could not defeat them without preparing first.

Still, he did not currently have the patience to just sit and wait. To stop the Colorless Little Girl’s rampage, they had to stop the expansion of the cocoon. To stop the cocoon, they just had to kill the Queen. The Queen was right there. Perhaps he should have breathed a sigh of relief that he had escaped this time. This was primetime for an assassin. He just had to get one attack in even if it was by surprise.

“Ohhhhhhhh, you stupid dumb fool! Cool your head! Are you trying to get yourself killed!? If all you can do is stagger onto the battlefield without a realistic chance at victory, then you need work behind the scenes for now! Why don’t you get that!?”

His teacher’s prediction had been wrong. Meinokawa Aoi had grabbed at him from behind and he was dragging her down the business hotel hallway, but then he realized her voice was growing more distant. She was leaning her full weight on him, but her head and legs had been left behind after they popped off. The bathrobe was a complete mess now.

That was when they ran across another coincidence.

“This calls for a motherly punch to calm Kyousuke down!!”

“Wait, mom didn’t use her motherly tolerance this time!?”

Sinceria and Olivia were there.

And the royal mother played rock rather than paper.

As evidenced by Sinceria Highland’s long ears, the very structure of her body had taken a step outside the framework of humanity because she had held contracts with more summoners than any other vessel.

With the headless shrine maiden still clinging to his back, Kyousuke was knocked all the way to the hallway wall.

The kind and gentle woman smiled with one palm to her cheek.

“O-oh, dear. If you sell my hit that hard, it makes it look like I was showing off some kind of inhuman strength. With Hong Kong films, they do say the villain’s ability to throw themselves around is more important than the lead’s ability to punch or kick. Oh, Kyousuke, you’re just so good at everything☆”

“My queen. Smiling as you strike too quickly for a professional fighter like me to react places your muscles solidly above those of a mountain gorill-…”

“Rachel, one word more and it’s the Judas cradle for you.”

The glasses knight decided to hold her tongue because she could sense how serious her queen was behind that smile. Sinceria was known as a goddess with the three faces of a mother, a woman, and a ruler, but Rachel was left trembling at the hint of a 0th personality hidden behind those three. Meanwhile, young Olivia only looked puzzled since she did not know what that high-level term meant.

“What are all of you doing here?”

“Kyousuke, you always had an aura of seeing right through people, so this must be worse than I thought if you’re asking such vague questions. You probably still need time to recover. Hee hee hee. So if you go climb into the hospital bed like a good boy, I will lie down next to you and sing you a lullaby.”

“Was mom always the type to beat them into submission before hugging them!? I-I can’t let my guard down around her. Was she the final boss standing in my way this whole time?”

Blonde braided Olivia trembled in fear, but they ignored her for now.

“So you all were pursuing the White Queen too?”

“Have the gears finally started to turn, Kyousuke? Given the location of the cocoon, the future of Kingdom F hinges on this issue. No, given the danger if the Colorless Little Girl loses control, the future of the entire world is at risk. How could we possibly just sit idly by?”

Kyousuke sighed while shoving the most important part onto Aoi’s neck and sticking his hands up her bathrobe to attach her legs.

His response was blunt.

“You’ll die.”

“I could say the same to you.” Sinceria continued to smile. “You could not even dodge my fist, so how do you expect to do anything against the White Queen? Summoning Ceremony battles begin before the first Material is summoned. It takes five seconds for a thrown Incense Grenade to detonate and do you really think she is going to wait for the Artificial Sacred Ground?”

“…”

“Oh, dear. Oh, dear, dear, dear. This is not good at all, Kyousuke. Did you think you alone would receive special treatment from the White Queen? Don’t you have this entirely backwards? Kyousuke, no matter how you hope for this to end, you need to first free yourself from the yoke of the White Queen. You are not even standing on the starting line yet. How do you like devouring the food your father made you while insisting you’re entirely independent, Mr. Rebellious Phase?”

“Yes, yes. I get it.”

The Blood-Sign System was created by Doctor S, Kyousuke’s father.

The White Queen had used her position as the strongest to stay by his side all this time.

So there was only one way to look at it.

“In the end, it was Shigara Masami and not me who created a situation the White Queen did not expect. Everything I’ve done has been in the palm of her hand and I haven’t taken a step outside that. Freedom Award 903? Hah! It’s not imaginary, it’s not an irrational root, and it’s even a damn integer! It’s all perfectly in line with the Third Style created by Doctor S and preserved by the White Queen. To hell with it all!!”

“Onii-chan…”

“The whole world is a cage.” Kyousuke roared with teeth bared like a beast. “If I want to break free of this naïve rebellious phase, I need to reject everything Doctor S created, beat down the White Queen, and take it farther than anyone ever expected. That’s what you’re saying, right? Well, I should be able to do it. Shigara Masami is a Divine-class, but she’s overwhelmed the White Queen who exists beyond the Unexplored-class!! I know the rules can be broken, so surely I can-…”

“You stupid child. This isn’t even a rebellious phase. You’re still sucking on your pacifier.”

This time it was Meinokawa Aoi’s fist that hit him on the top of the head.

When he stopped talking, the silver-haired shrine maiden (currently wearing only a bathrobe) winked at him.

“What, you couldn’t predict or dodge that one? Boy, you should really get some maintenance done.”

“~ ~ ~”

“And you two of noble blood, I know your kingdom is threatened by the cocoon and the Colorless Little Girl, but I must ask that you stop hoping to accomplish anything by stirring up this boy’s fighting spirit and directing him toward the Queen. I do not know what connection you have with him, but I am his vessel now, so back off. Do you really expect me to just sit here while you take advantage of his psychological exhaustion to drive him toward a flawed attack plan?”

Imaginary sparks flew.

And after some silence, fluffy blonde Sinceria spoke up.

“Do you really think you could fight me, woman against woman? Rachel took things much too far earlier, but you do know my skeletal structure itself is no longer quite human, don’t you?”

“Mwa ha ha. So this fight would be as a woman instead of a ruler or mother? How romantic of you.”

Aoi stepped forward and crossed her arms to pointlessly push up her large breasts (which were loose without her sarashi).

She was protecting Kyousuke so he was not directed down the path of justice while he was not thinking straight.

“Also, I am the world’s oldest Joruri Method, so I am not much different from you. I was never human in the first place, so don’t hold back. Bring it on, you mountain gorilla disguised as-…”

The ruler’s fist sent Meinokawa Aoi’s head flying before she could finish speaking.

Sinceria’s eyes widened, glasses knight Rachel covered her eyes with a hand, and Olivia screamed at the horrific scene. The headless corpse stood there with arms still crossed, forgetting to fall. But the head rolled down the hallway, bumped into the bottom of the icemaker, and started shouting something.

“Run away, boy!! Forget about me!! She really does have monstrous strength and isn’t afraid to use it!! Kyah, get out of here if you want to escape a night of fear with that carnivorous love monster who doesn’t know how to act her age!! Protect your chastity, boyyyyyyyyyy!!”

“Hold it right there!! I saw how easily your head came off earlier. I bet you’ve made it so it would come off if a kindergartner hit you. S-so stop treating me like I’m some kind of creepy monster. R-right!?”

“I can see you’re panicking over being insulted as a woman in front of the boy, but it’s too late now. Mwa ha ha. As an image of the Queen, I will grant you an Award: ‘Gorilla who rips off the heads of any female vessels she sees near the (much younger) boy she is preying on.’ Mwa ha ha ha ha!!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!???”

That was the moment when the ever-beautiful and capable mother snapped and became a splatter monster (whose weapon was her muscles). The worst part was how Aoi’s description did technically describe the situation. The truth could be easily distorted if you lined up the facts like playing cards.

Meanwhile, the blonde braid girl in a school swimsuit was staring blankly into the distance and the glasses knight was clenching her teeth.

“So mom really does have Onii-chan in her sights. Now there’s no avoiding the closed-room suspense theatre between mother and daughter. And with a royal as the culprit, it might involve some over-the-top trick that makes every single citizen an accomplice. So the key to solving it will have to be a traveler from another country! And that gives a logical reason for the three office ladies to bathe in a hot spring together!!”

“Dark clouds. This love of younger boys can only mean dark clouds for Kingdom F’s dignity!!”

A step removed from it all, Kyousuke sighed all on his own.

It was well known that CPR’s success rate dropped significantly as time passed, but the graph for successfully tracking someone looked very similar. If the timer began at the moment your target disappeared from view, then you had a chance of quickly chasing them down if you started within 2 minutes, but any longer than that and it would be a long-term affair where you needed the manpower to search a wide area and question people. And it was worse in this case because that target was the White Queen plus Shigara Masami and Biondetta who used tricks full of human ingenuity.

This conversation might be silly, but there was no taking back the time it had eaten up.

He could not expect to accomplish anything more tonight.

Or perhaps the pause had let him realize just how reckless he was being.

“Goddammit.”

Part 3[edit]

The next morning.

“Heyyyy, boy!”

On the way to that small house, someone called out to Kyousuke from behind.

He clicked his tongue.

“There’s no need to be that obvious about disliking me. And don’t just leave me behind at the hotel. That hurts, you know? But anyway, a summoner and his vessel are linked, so I really don’t see the point. I would be dragged to you once you threw an Incense Grenade.”

“Why are you here? I don’t need a vessel who puts the world in danger by wasting valuable time and running away from fighting the White Queen.”

“Hold on now. Why are you assuming you need to fight the White Queen to end this? I know the cocoon and Colorless Little Girl are a lot of trouble, but aren’t you letting those Kingdom F people influence you too much???”

“What are you-…?”

“Smooooch.”

“Wah!!” yelled Kyousuke as he jumped back.

That was a real close shave. And in her shrine maiden outfit and sarashi, Aoi opened just the one eye while still puckered up for a kiss.

“I have one question for you, boy. You seem to treat me very differently from the White Queen, but why is that?”

“That’s a stupid question. You’re completely different people, just like Renge and Higan are.”

“That’s nice and all, but let’s double check your definitions. I was created to look identical to the White Queen in every way. I’m like a statue of Buddha or the Virgin Mary in that way. In ooooother words, we are identical when it comes to appearance.”

Below the midsummer sun, the silver-shrine maiden took a very un-shrine-maiden-like pose by placing her hands behind her head and twisting her hips. She checked her bodylines in the round mirror used to see around a dangerous turn in the road.

“You go on and on about how much you despise the White Queen and how much she makes you want to vomit, but I didn’t notice any negative emotions when you saw me in my swimsuit or this shrine maiden outfit. And when you jumped back from that attempted kiss, it was not out of disgust, was it?

“…”

“Mwa ha ha ha ha!! There, there. No need to blush, boy. Teenage boys are so cute.”

Meinokawa Aoi seemed to have seized the initiative enough to make her own move. There was definite confidence in her mischievous smile. She had some nerve acting like this after nearly dropping her bento when he hugged her on the train.

However.

Something was different now.

Perhaps this was the Joruri Method ability to use the appearance to play the role.

It was probably impossible for Shiroyama Kyousuke to identify with the White Queen. The very thought of it made him feel like there were tons of little bugs crawling around under his skin.

“So your issue is not with her appearance. So where does your disgust come from? Is it how the White Queen talks, her personality, or some other internal issue?”

It was like an invisible switch had been thrown.

The cicada cries sounded more distant.

If so, you should start getting goose bumps when I talk like this, brother. Yet I do not see it.

“This is silly.”

She took on a sweet voice and a smiling personality that stomped right on into someone’s greatest depths.

But Kyousuke shook his head and spat out a rejection.

“Copy her mannerisms all you like, but you haven’t done anything wrong. A harmless person can’t create a connection to the Queen just by forcibly pretending to be evil.”

Oh, is that so, brother? You must be very particular about my behavior and appearance. Hee hee. I didn’t know you loved me quite that much. You’re going to make me blush☆”

“Aoi.”

“So it isn’t her appearance or personality. What does that leave? Something she did in the past?”

The heavy silence that followed made it feel like even the shimmering of heat above the asphalt had frozen.

“After everything.”

It was quiet.

But Shiroyama Kyousuke bared another part of his heart as if squeezing out the words.

“After everything she did, how else am I supposed to feel about her?”

So you could have loved her if not for that?

“Don’t give me that bull-…”

“But it’s true, isn’t it?”

There was no smile in Meinokawa Aoi’s eyes.

They were like mechanical lenses observing the expression and eye movements of a suspect in custody.

“The issue is not with her appearance or personality. The events of the past are the only possibility I can come up with. Boy, you said it yourself, didn’t you? He need not reject me because, unlike the White Queen, I am harmless. Then here’s a hypothetical for you: What if the White Queen had never killed anyone and you felt she was harmless? How would you behave around her then?”

“That’s a meaningless question.”

“Then why go to the trouble of refusing to answer? It isn’t like a yes or a no answer will change anything about reality.”

“So what?” he spat out in desperation. Was he harming the Queen or himself at this point? “So what!? Yes, it’s true. There was a time when I trusted the White Queen. I even made a promise with her in the Queen’s Miniature Garden! I had her promise not to kill anyone!! And you know what happened then? Look at the world around you! It’s still falling apart!!”

Claude Magentarain had not died.

So what?

Shigara Masami did not want revenge.

So what?

How could they look at those exceptions to the norm and claim they spoke for all the other victims of the Secret War? What about Shiroyama Kyoumi? What about the nameless guards? What about the old leaders of Government and Illegal? It was obvious, it should have been so stupidly obvious, but most of them had not survived. Seeing a miracle or two was not enough to erase the resentment from all the others.

“That’s nonsense. It doesn’t add up. I can’t disrespect all those victims by looking at it like that. Half the world’s tragedies are my fault and the other half are her fault!!!!!!”

“Mwa ha ha.”

But even after being pummeled by a deluge of words, Meinokawa Aoi was laughing.

And on the side of a deserted road…

“I’m glad I heard that.”

“?”

“Boy, you don’t get to take back what you said. Not unless you go crying to the White Queen who can bend the timeline.”

“What…what are you trying to say, Meinokawa Aoi!?”

“Let’s get to the heart of the matter already. Boy, the one and only thing you can’t forgive the White Queen for is some incident from the past, right? The Queen was not harmless, so you can’t forgive her. You get goose bumps, feel nauseated and dizzy, get a headache, and feel other symptoms of a cold, but it all goes back to the same thing.”

“You can’t change the past.”

“Of course not. I’m sure the Queen can mess with the timeline, but because she is a singularity like that, she cannot change the things she herself has caused. Isn’t that how it works?”

If the White Queen directly killed someone, then that was the end. There was no way of bringing them back, even if you introduced time travel or parallel worlds.

And yet.

“But, boy, you are making one fundamental mistake.”

“?”

“There is nothing wrong with not being harmless. What I mean is, you need not remain bound by the past.”

At first, he honestly did not know what she was talking about.

His mind would not have been this blank if he were suffering from heatstroke.

When Meinokawa Aoi smiled from this close up, she looked like a mysterious being with no understandable language or thoughts.

“For example, what if we were to discuss the future?”

“The future?”

“Or you could think of it as possibilities. What if? What if the White Queen repented for everything she had done, swore she would never do it again, and gave up all of her power? Couldn’t you call her harmless then?”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Do not forget what you yourself said, boy. You admitted your hatred came from there instead of her appearance or personality.”

“This is utterly ridiculous!! So if she says ‘my bad’ and turns over a new leaf, we’re just supposed to pretend none of it ever happened? Do you have any idea how many people she’s killed!?”

“What, so the death penalty is the only option left?”

“Yes!!”

“But, boy.”

She smiled like an immature old woman who insisted on outdoing a young child in a battle of wits.

If the White Queen said she agreed and laid her head on the chopping block for you, could you really still call her evil?”

The cold sweat soaking Kyousuke was enough to completely forget the midsummer sun.

“Do you really think…?”

“Hm?”

“Do you really think that’s going to stop me? Do you really think some sweet sob story can get me to hug the Queen instead of killing her!?”

“This is nothing so shallow.” Meinokawa Aoi looked utterly exasperated. “Let’s say the White Queen really does accept all blame and really truly does let herself be executed. What happens then? And I am talking about a true annihilation without any resurrections, rebirths, or other loopholes. Boy, once the Queen has proven with her life that she is harmless, would you still have the guts to spit on her name?”

“…”

“It isn’t like history will suddenly end with her death. People’s bonds continue even after one of them dies. You should know that given how many of the dead you drag around with you. So it is possible you would be freed from your hatred. And if that happens, how could you accept the fact that you killed the Queen once she proved she was harmless? Could you really directly accept the fact that you had killed someone who did not need to be killed? I mean, I seem to recall a certain insolent boy saying he could never forgive the Queen because she killed someone who did not need to be killed. Wouldn’t you be the same for killing the harmless Queen? And where could you go once you found yourself unable to accept yourself? Wandering the world after breaking down from your excessive power sounds a lot like someone else we know.”

“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………”

Aoi gave a snort of laughter on the deserted road.

“You coward. What you are doing is no different from the witch trials that shoved a suspect into the water and declared them innocent if they drowned. What happened to trying to stop the cocoon and Colorless Little Girl? I am not obligated to take one side or the other, but this will not please the Queen either. Even she will flail around in search of oxygen when you force her underwater. It is just that her flailing arms and legs carry unimaginable power.”

“These questions are meaningless.”

“Probably. But I have pricked you with the thorn, hero. Not a nail or stake that will cause a fatal wound. The pain from this tiny thorn will stick with you for a long while. The what-ifs will stick with you. You will wonder if there was some path that would have let the White Queen live happily alongside everyone else just like any other girl. …Knowing and not knowing are very different things. So whatever result you aim for, keep this in mind: Boy, now you know. You can no longer claim you do not know what it means to remain dedicated to your goal of killing the Queen to the very end.”

Kyousuke said nothing.

He simply stood there, so Meinokawa Aoi spread her arms and pointed in a certain direction.

She pointed toward a small house.

“Now, let’s get going, cowardly hero. I will not support either side. I will simply take a step back and observe how you choose to save the world.”

Part 4[edit]

The entire shopping center was named Multiple.

This rundown rural city was not a part of Toy Dream’s revived city program, so the one lively place near the train station was the shopping center. It was crammed full of small stores primarily offering food, clothing, or electronics, but the fresh foods were definitely the foundation of it all. That was why the front gate was already open at 9 AM and cheerful music was playing on a loop while the names of supermarket chains were visible here and there. The hustle and bustle of people was joined by the chorus of cicada cries.

“Neat, they have more than 200 stores in a space about the size of a domed stadium.”

Biondetta bent over in her miniskirt to look at the map on the wall.

But she was not exactly impressed.

“They have so much empty land from failed redevelopment projects, so they could have easily built 10 or 20 of these domes. I wonder why they decided to cram all 200 in here.”

How could you describe the center as a whole? It was something like a colosseum built with modern construction. The main building was a giant circle, the roof was supported by thick columns, there were 8 entrances people could freely enter or leave through, and there was a large fountain plaza in the center for use as an event space.

The ponytail researcher named Shigara Masami glanced over at the White Queen walking next to her in a white casual dress.

<Are you sure you don’t want to revisit that house, Queen?>

“Yes.”

The White Queen walked gracefully through the crowd without disturbing the flow of people as she made her way from the exterior parking lot, through one of the gates, and toward the fountain plaza. Local children were gathered around a kiddie pool with water balloons floating in it. It was likely a game where you fished them out by their strings. The White Queen gave a curious look at a sign announcing the Colorful Sentai Hero Show would start at 11.

“I am more or less finished with it. You could say I had everything I needed to reconstruct the lost data when I saw that house. So let us wait here until my brother catches up.”

“So no matter what happens, the order doesn’t change, huh? The Queen in first and Kyousuke-chan playing catch up.”

Biondetta giggled like an alluring demon, but the White Queen winked and held a finger to her lips.

“You must not mention that to him. My brother has always gotten so worked up over that.”

<Biondetta-chan is doing it on purpose. She’s rotten to the core.>

“Nee shee shee.”

<Yes, you have always been the mischievous type that teases the boy she likes to get a reaction out of him.>

“Wait, what!?”

The waitress demon grew flustered on the way up the escalator to the second floor’s midair walkway. And Shigara Masami had something else to say.

<Queen, your dress.>

“Oh, whoops.”

…In the end, this may have been where it all went wrong.

The White Queen was of course the White Queen.

She was the strongest through and through and that had never wavered.

This was an age of upheaval, but if you looked back, Shiroyama Kyousuke was entirely unchanged. He had never insisted on anything other than defeating the White Queen. It was the world that changed. Shigara Masami had scored a critical hit on the White Queen and that mental blow had affected the fight for the top between the White Queen and the Colorless Little Girl.

Then why was Shiroyama Kyousuke so stubborn?

Given how selflessly he had saved those many Alices, it seemed strange for him to be so dead set on violence.

In other words…

<Kyousuke-chan is too reliant on you.>

Shigara Masami cut right to the heart of the matter.

The White Queen looked through the show windows of the small shops lining the curved midair walkway until the scrunchie woman lightly slapped her defenseless butt.

<He relies on you being the strongest who can’t be defeated no matter what. That’s how he knows you can handle anything he throws at you. At his core, he has a challenger’s mentality. I have no idea if he is even aware of it, though.>

“A challenger?”

<Yes. He comes running once the incident has already occurred. It can be hard to tell since he is one of the strongest with his more than 900 Awards, but he is not the titleholder waiting for the challengers to come to him.>

Yes, he was the challenger, so he did not know how to hold back.

He was the attacker, so he always went in with everything he had.

Shiroyama Kyousuke could not have gone as far as he had with any other opponent.

Not even with Biondetta, Shigara Masami, the Three of the Unexplored-class, or the Colorless Little Girl.

It was only because the White Queen was the White Queen.

She was as unreasonable as could be, but that also meant she sat in a special position that no one else could fill.

She was the only one that boy saw as sitting in that throne.

The Queen sighed while viewing her reflection in the window.

“This is very complicated.”

“Oh, is that why it was such a shock for him when you joined the fight, Shigara Masami? It might have felt like you were saying the Queen should be protected, pointing out that she has her weaknesses too, and calling him scum for attacking a girl instead of hearing what she had to say.”

<It might have felt like waiting for a death match to begin, but then having the monitors filled with photos from the champion’s private album, stirring up sympathy for your opponent. Now people will call you a monster if you don’t go easy on them, but you never wanted to see them smiling with their family and holding their baby.>

But it was not right to criticize Kyousuke either

Just think back on the fierce incidents he had survived so far. Could any of them have been solved with compromise or kindness? Freedom Award 903, Alice (with) Rabbit, had only just barely pulled through after pouring his all into it. After constantly looking up from the mud to see the White Queen laughing, who could blame him for wanting to strike back even more harshly?

What if he had reduced the tension just a little?

What if he had compromised and given up on revenge?

If more people had died, the White Queen had committed more misdeeds, and the girls close to him had been torn apart, he never, ever could have forgiven her.

<It’s like a game of chicken.>

Shiroyama Kyousuke would show no mercy.

But it was also true he could not have stopped the White Queen any other way.

Shigara Masami, who wore a lab coat over her suit, continued while observing a kit for growing algae in a wall-hanging container much like a picture frame.

<Last time, I was trying to point out that you can overwhelm the White Queen without fighting, but does Kyousuke-kun really have the courage to let go now that he has loaded his car with everything he cares for and floored the gas pedal?>

“We kind of have to hope he does, don’t we?” Biondetta sounded exasperated, but the devil’s tail extending from her miniskirt was swishing side to side a bit. “I mean, Kyousuke-chan has grown as much as he has through his obsession with the White Queen, but that won’t necessarily last forever. The White Queen has always been the White Queen. In RPG terms, she’s the final boss who never gets any stronger. But he is different. …To be blunt, you have a ridiculous 3000 Awards, but can you even keep up with what he’s doing? I’ve seriously been considering throwing in the towel on that ever since he started screwing with the world’s fundamental laws with the Colorless Little Girl. Like, why does that nonsense code even run, right?”

<…>

The cicada cries were the only other sound.

“A Fourth Style to combat the Third Style? He’s not even fighting on a level that uses the Blood-Sign to hit balls around. The very laws of the world are collapsing. The only thing keeping him remotely stable is the impossible task of ‘defeating the White Queen’ still standing in his way. But what if he does actually break through that? What if he actually achieves what he was convinced could never happen and loses his bearings in life? How far will he go along with the Colorless Little Girl…or with something even nastier he creates? I can’t even imagine the answer.”

For the world at large, the White Queen was a source of great chaos. Her threat could not even be perceived as a threat because the weak-minded tended more toward worship than fear.

But what about Shiroyama Kyousuke, the one and only person who had sharpened his fangs in order to oppose her?

Depending on his decisions, couldn’t he become something even more fearsome than the White Queen?

<How did this ever get so complicated?>

The researcher knew the answer.

She knew it, but she still had to ask the question.

And the higher being naturally gave the obvious answer.

“Because this is my brother and me we are talking about.”

Part 5[edit]

Once they arrived, they found not much had changed.

Kyousuke looked at the small house.

“It’s faded somewhat compared to yesterday?”

“Are you telling me that? If you have a bad habit of talking to yourself, you should work to fix it.”

In what may have been a sign of caution, Aoi tightened the sarashi she used as a mental restraint and she pouted her lips.

Perhaps because it was his own house, Shiroyama Kyousuke showed no restraint toward the lost time here. Specifically, he walked right on in without removing his shoes.

How much had time been distorted with that first step?

In the worst case, they would find the human race destroyed when they left the house once more.

They heard small feet in the living room. The sound had enough weight to it that it was easy to forget it was no more than an illusion or hallucination.

The White Queen was the one who had stopped time in this localized area.

Which meant…

(The Queen isn’t here?)

Kyousuke was already lost in thought, ignoring Meinokawa Aoi who had said she would remain neutral despite sharing his fate as his vessel.

He saw a small figure when he looked in the living room. It appeared to be a boy. The boy came up to about Kyousuke’s waist and there was no need to wonder whose past this was showing.

The figure was not looking at him.

Kyousuke followed the boy’s gaze.

The living room was directly connected to the dining room and kitchen. There was a simple reason why the walls had been removed to secure such a large space in that small house. Doctor S had wanted a 20m space for performing the Blood-Sign Summoning Ceremony indoors.

There was a dull thud as a 180cm rod was tossed to the small boy’s feet.

But that was not the only sound.

A similar thud came from the dining room.

Only now could Kyousuke see the man in a lab coat standing on the border between living and dining room. It was his father, Doctor S, who had seemed so big and strong at the time and had been a symbol of fear and death. …But even that had been a lie. His mother and little sister had been in on it. They must have all been laughing at Kyousuke as they surrounded him.

So this had been inevitable.

The Blood-Sign Summoning Ceremony could not be done alone. Not only did the summoner need a vessel, but they also needed an opponent.

Who had Doctor S thrown a Blood-Sign to as his opponent?

Who was in the dining room?

“I don’t believe it.”

Not even Meinokawa Aoi could remain emotionless when she saw this.

There was another child there.

The girl there was just as little as Kyousuke, if not more so.

“The experiment has arrived at its final stage,” said Doctor S.

He was a man with slender jaw and black hair exposed.

He spoke with a solemn voice that made it sound like he had mistaken himself for the god of this small space.

His words might be of no use anywhere else, but they ruled this home.

His voice sounded different from the present, but that was likely due to the lack of the oxygen mask. This would be what he originally sounded like.

But Kyousuke had changed a lot too.

He had been made into a precision-guided missile, he had rejected that, he had completed himself again, and he had repeated the process.

It was the end of that painful process that had made Kyousuke who he was today.

The man was a thrill seeker.

Instead of rejecting fear, he secured his own safety so he could enjoy it as much as he liked.

“Or rather, drawing it out any longer would lead to diminishing returns, so I should view this as a success. It is time for the final appraisal. …A deadly battle between brother and sister. Whichever one summons the White Queen first will be declared a success. The success will be passed on to the next experiment to preserve the valuable data and samples. The other will be unnecessary and will be disposed of along with the house.”

They were frightening words.

There was no scorn or hatred there. He was simply providing a matter-of-fact report on the situation. And Doctor S would follow through on that. His previous actions had made that clear enough.

The small boy did not pick up the Blood-Sign at his feet.

He desperately shouted something while too upset to string together coherent sentences. But he must not have expected his words to get through to Doctor S because he instead directed them to his little sister who stood in the dining room like his mirror image.

“Laugh,” spat out the present Kyousuke with obvious self-deprecation in his voice. “I really thought she would understand. Unlike Doctor S, I thought my mom and little sister would still listen to me. But they were all in on it together. Worse, they had joined on thinking they were just playing a simple role, but after getting beating and bearing so much needless pain, they ended up hating me from the bottom of their hearts.”

“Don’t be silly, boy.” Meinokawa Aoi had clear anger in her voice. “Just looking at you over there, you’ve clearly been without food for at least two days and now your own father is ordering you to fight, yet there you are showing more concern for your little sister than yourself. How could I laugh at someone like that? In the present, you are a shockingly cowardly hero, but things were different back then. This is the same as your logic behind hating the White Queen, so I choose to root for you before you did anything wrong.”

“…”

No amount of sentimentality would change anything.

This was a vision of the past. It had all already happened.

“Hm?” Doctor S actually sounded surprised. “Do you think you actually have a choice in the matter?”

The little sister looked more frightened than Kyousuke. Looking back at the scene, she may have been giving him a look that said “I thought we were a team.”

“Surely you aren’t that stupid. I have kept a careful balance in all the previous abuse. I filled the cup to the limit, but it never did overflow. So did you think things would work out today as well? Did you think I would at least spare your life?”

It was all meaningless effort.

This was the madman who had designed the nightmare to apply so much pressure to Kyousuke, so any plea to his sense of camaraderie was bound to fall on deaf ears. He did not speak the same language. The word “team” meant very different things to him and the rest of the family.

So…

“Then let me show you how wrong you are.”

There was a horribly light bang of gunpowder.

They must not have known what it meant at first.

Had he done that just to push them further?

Really?

For no other reason than that!? When they were supposed to be husband and wife!?

Someone else had always been there. She had not been a powerful enough presence to shield the young siblings from danger, but she had to have brought them some gentleness and kindness. She had to have provided some kind of support.

Looking back, it would have been an act to set Kyousuke up, but that kindness still had to have saved his young heart countless times.

But now there was a dark red hole in her chest.

Even though she was supposed to be Kyousuke’s mother and Doctor S’s wife.

“Do you get it now? When you don’t need something anymore, you get rid of it.”

Research.

This man measured the value of all things through that lens, so he had no problem spouting such nonsense with a smile.

Was he insane or not?

The young siblings must have immediately realized just how foolish it would be to pursue that question. When an absolute monarch was wrong, pointing it out would only get you killed. Revealing the true nature of the emperor’s new clothes was not the end of the story.

A small hand grabbed a Blood-Sign.

The first to do so was the little sister. Now there was no changing what happened. The boy continued to shake his head in protest, but the little sister spoke in a low, dark, and heavy voice.

Every time Kyousuke made a mistake, she was the one who was beaten in his place.

She must have been laughing alongside Doctor S at first, but at some point she had lost any trust in that supposed ally.

Only then had she realized that she was as trapped as Kyousuke was.

“At this rate, we’ll die first.”

“You can’t, *****. You can’t save anyone by doing what he says!!”

“It’s all, all, all, all ————’s fault.”

She was driven by fear.

But her eyes also contained the aggressiveness of a rusted blade.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be an act. So why does he have to hit me? Why does this have to happen to me!? I’m not like ————!! Mom and I were supposed to be the ones laughing!! We – mom and I – weren’t supposed to be part of this. It’s all ————’s fault!!!!!”

There was a click as an Incense Grenade pin was pulled.

Shiroyama Kyousuke raised a meaningless cry as he kicked up the Blood-Sign and grabbed it in both hands.

Their vessels were the disposable mass-produced ones that Doctor S specialized in. In this case, they were silkworms, aka moth larvae. They were probably the smallest scale of the animal vessels. Basically, beneficial bugs tended to become deified. And these larvae had no venom and their mandibles were too weak to bite into human flesh. They were weak to environmental changes and difficult to raise, but they could be raised in large numbers for a much lower cost than a white snake or tiger.

Everything was in place.

So everyone knew what had to come next.

Kyousuke had the Original Red (b). Regulation-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 1.

The little sister had the Original Green (k). Regulation-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 1.

Both of them commanded colorful slime, but it did not end there. The two Blood-Signs sliced through the air, launched White Thorns, and knocked the floating red Petals into the holes known as Spots. In no time, the Materials were remade into something much more brutal and powerful.

Young Kyousuke only saw one option.

“I’ll kill Doctor S and end this!!!!!!”

“Oops.”

That was all Doctor S said while leaning against the wall inside the Artificial Sacred Ground without a protective barrier.

Yet the Material did not actually attack his hated father. It instead clashed with the monster summoned by the little sister he wanted to protect.

“Have you forgotten the basics, Kyousuke? Under normal circumstances, I would have had to beat your little sister yet again.”

“…!!”

“A summoner can only summon the Material and strengthen it. It is the vessel’s job to control the Material. …And who was it that developed that silkworm vessel? It has an understanding with me, not you. Isn’t that right???”

He could not escape these hopeless rails.

That man had whispered that he would spare them if she hit her brother, so now young Kyousuke was forced to essentially kill the family member he had shared such an abusive life with.

The piece of shit behind it all was right there, but he could not break free and attack the man.

“Then I won’t even use the Material. I can still kill you if I drive this Blood-Sign through your throat!!!!!”

“If you could pull that off, then you should have attacked me in my sleep, you stupid child. Besides, is this any time to work off stress by shouting threats you can’t follow through on? The more obedient child has been strengthening her Material this entire time.”

“What are you doing, *****!?”

“That’s what makes her so very boring. She can do pretty well, but she can’t hold it together when something surprises her. To be honest, I’m hoping you will win this one.”

Now, would anyone actually be delighted to hear their abusive father say they had a talent for violence?

The answer…might surprise you.

“Why is it always ————?”

A voice of pure resentment reached their ears.

But it was not just lamenting the hopeless state of their family.

“Why do you always focus on him!? I do everything like I’m supposed to, but all you ever do is hit me!!”

Extremely biased values tended to rear their ugly head in closed environments. For example, in schools. College-prep schools, technical schools, boy’s schools, and girl’s schools would all have their unique colors. Philanthropists ranked themselves based on how much they had helped people and prisoners formed a hierarchy based on the scope of their crimes, with criminal organizations at the top.

This was the same.

In this thoroughly rotten household environment, someone had decided they wanted their father’s praise no matter what form it took. She knew it was wrong, but there were still times when she wanted to escape the abuse like that.

She wanted to be told “good job”.

She wanted what most children took for granted.

But Doctor S did not sound remotely interested, despite being the root cause of it all.

“Do something about her, Onii-chan.”

“Kh.”

“This is your last chance. If she successfully summons the White Queen and becomes a completed summoner, there will be no stopping her. Being the strongest is a tragic thing. Even if you become a tyrannical ruler, no one will dare criticize you for it. No one wants to die, do they? So they’ll all plaster creepy smiles on their faces and insist you aren’t slaughtering people. They will swear up and down those are the deeds of a proper hero, saint, and genius! Ah ha ha!!”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!”

He was nearly in a frenzy.

Yet his fingers controlled the Blood-Sign with unmatched accuracy. They were like the robot arms attaching the ultra-thin gold circuits in a semiconductor plant. His movements were fully cut off from his emotions and they built up his Material with abnormal speed.

Kyousuke had a Divine-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 7.

That ruler of demons had a name starting with “l”. His deadly sin was pride. He was a leader of rebels symbolized by Venus and he was the wicked influencer who had led a third of heaven’s population down the path of evil.

The little sister also had a Divine-class. Sound Range: Low. Cost: 9.

That fat lord of the flies had a name starting with “b”. His deadly sin was gluttony. He had a unique origin distinct from the legend of Canaan and he was the ruler of the Witch’s Sabbath who was worshiped by all witches and blessed them on that special night.

“The same Sound Range and a Cost difference of 2! I can still attack her from here!!”

“No, Kyousuke.”

A dull rumble overturned the young boy’s assumptions.

“Your Material is panicking. I taught you to be extra careful with Divine-classes from the same or similar mythologies, didn’t I? Did you think they were equal because they both rule over one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Just look at Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. Beelzebub is the ruler and Lucifer is only one of the officials.”

That meant he only had to switch to some other Divine-class, but that meant a slight time loss.

And when the change was forced onto him by outside circumstances rather than his own plan, his options were drastically reduced. And a reduction in options could easily mean incredible risk.

“You can do better than that. Right, Onii-chan?” Doctor S chuckled while still leaning back against the wall. “Weren’t you going to save your mother and little sister from your cruel father one day? Well, that day happened to be today. You weren’t in time for your mother, but what about your little sister? What will happen to her if you let go now? Which one of you will reach out for that monster? If you don’t stop her now, the entire world will turn on her.”

“Shut uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup!!”

He shouted.

He shouted and yelled and wailed.

But he may have actually realized the truth: now that it had started, there was no stopping it. There was no stopping this until he or his little sister summoned the White Queen and ended it.

So.

He shouted until his throat was raw because he wanted to stop his little sister before that happened.

Kyousuke had one of the Three. Unexplored-class. Sound Range: Middle. Cost: 18.

The Wicked “Green” Woman who Fills the World with Empty Treasure (lu – o – np – e – qo – ei – r – k – a – rum – pl).

The little sister also had one of the Three. 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).

“I have the superior Sound Range.”

When young Kyousuke said that, there was no joy on his face.

In fact, he looked like it sent a chill down his spine.

“No, don’t kill her!!”

The silkworm vessel obeyed only Doctor S and the Unexplored-class was not supported by a Box, so did his words even reach it?

The Material had the upper body of a lovely girl and the lower body of a sinister serpent. Countless scepters symbolizing the patriarchy stabbed into the serpentine lower body and never-before-seen crimes bubbled up from her. That Unexplored-class only glanced at the young boy as if to scoff at him.

Then came the whirlwind of violence.

She would not last. The little sister would be defeated. Kyousuke quickly tried to summon a different Unexplored-class, but that was no more than switching around without building the Material up any further. He was approaching a dead end.

Brother and sister.

This battle would never end unless one of them ended it. And they had already arrived at the Unexplored-class. The end was nigh. They would summon the White Queen. Once they reached that point, it was all over. Only the winner would survive. The one whose skill was not up to snuff would be disposed of in accordance with the withdrawal manual. That ridiculous plan would become a reality!!

“I will win.”

Resentment filled her voice.

His little sister had absorbed the information too well.

“I will win, win, win!! I will win and survive! I swear I will, no matter what it takes!!”

“No, you idiot!! What future will you have if you survive by doing what that awful man says!?”

Yelling would not stop time.

She was going to reach that point.

The situation was approaching the theoretical limit.

They could practically see the pure white already.

iu – nu – fb – a – wuh – ei –kx – eu – pl – vjz.

“Just one letter.”

Kyousuke must not have had a long-term plan for victory.

He just wanted to delay the ending as much as possible.

That was the only thing on his mind.

“If I can get her to miss just one letter!! If I can stop her from completing the name!!”

This resulted in a fight over an “f”.

The little sister used a forceful power shot and young Kyousuke used a spinning trick shot.

That Petal would normally just be one of many, but in this moment, its value skyrocketed. Both Kyousuke and his little sister sharply launched a White Thorn toward it.

And.

While young Kyousuke continued fighting in the illusion, the Shiroyama Kyousuke watching it groaned some words.

“You don’t have to watch.”

“Which one of you ultimately summoned the White Queen?”

“It doesn’t really matter.”

There was no hope in those words.

“Wishes don’t come true.”

Part 6[edit]

The first step was crucial in all things.

If you did not stand on the starting line, you had no chance whatsoever of winning first prize.

The midsummer sun ruled the clear blue sky and the few cumulonimbus clouds, but the surface was filled with even more energy.

“W-wait, aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves here? How will this help me learn what it means to be human? We haven’t solved all the mysteries surrounding my brother yet.”

“Oh, shut up. You and Kyousuke-chan need to get closer before we can do anything about the world! And that means one of you needs to approach the other. We both know Kyousuke-chan is too stubborn to do it, so that means it’s up to you to approach him!!”

They seemed to be flirting in front of the show windows along the midair walkway of the shopping center’s second floor.

Waitress Demon Biondetta moved behind the barelegged casual dress White Queen, grabbed her slender shoulders, and pushed her in front of one show window in particular.

“Time for a change of clothes.”

“Eek!”

“Time – for – a – change – of – clothes!! I mean, you’ve been wearing that dress since Kingdom F just because it was on hand! It’s lazy!! That’s why you’re showing off your thighs like that and your clothes should mean something when you’re meeting a boy! So come here!!”

“Wait, um, Shigara Masami, please say something.”

<Yes, I really should set an upper limit. Try to keep it under 30,000 yen, okay?>

After she was betrayed with a smile, the White Queen was dragged away by everyone’s big sister, Biondetta.

And from inside…

“You don’t need to make up your mind right away. Queen, let’s start with the standard options. So how about this?”

“Wait, how is that standard!? And can you even call it clothing when so much of it is see-through? Are you sure this isn’t a kind of underwear?”

“If you want to go the boyish route, this would be the way to go. Try on this T-shirt and shorts.”

“I didn’t know they made shorts that short. Japan’s extinct bloomers would cover up more.”

“Oh, that’s not a bad idea, actually. Wanna try some on?”

“Do I need to explain why they were driven extinct!?”

“Yeah, but Kyousuke-chan is ultra dense, so if you don’t make your intentions super obvious, he won’t catch on. Maybe this femdom police uniform? Ooh, or this riding suit.”

“A bunny? Cat ears??? Are you sure this is a clothing store and not a party goods shop!?”

“C’mon, Queen, hurry it up! There’s still a ton more to try on, so you need to get a new outfit on at least once every two minutes!!”

“Wait, this is the dressing room!! Don’t just open the curtain like that!!!!!!”

Shigara Masami sighed.

She had lost her chance by just watching them go.

She regretted not joining in like she had wanted to.

The Multiple shopping center was supported by the three pillars of food, clothing, and electronics, but the shops along the midair walkway were mostly interior and accessory shops rather than the necessities. The White Queen had been so uncharacteristically timid because of the many couples gifts they offered like pair rings and mugs.

The non-automatic glass door burst open.

<Oh, my.>

Shigara Masami was surprised by what she saw.

The White Queen left the shop in something other than the short casual dress. She now wore a summery yukata with pure white lily flowers on a light blue base.

“Honestly, when this is the only decent thing in the shop, you can tell they have too much variety in a very bad sort of way.”

<I think it’s a good choice, Queen. I bet Kyousuke-kun will be surprised.>

The White Queen did look pleased.

She toyed with her silver twintails which were now tied using Japanese-style strings and she twisted her body around to look at as much of the yukata as she could manage.

But then the demon snuck up behind her.

And Biondetta whispered in her ear.

“(Uh. oh. I already did the mini-yukata thing back during the Elvast Toydream incident. I’m a little reluctant to say so, but the second yukata of the summer will have far less of an impact.)”

“!!!!!!”

The White Queen marched right back into the shop.

In the end, she was right back in her white casual dress.

“I made the right choice the first time. I need to stick with the classics if I am to keep brother’s attention!!”

“Don’t blame me if that limited-time-only shiny dress SR card is your undoing.”

Biondetta’s muttered comment was enough of a shock to the White Queen that she started trembling.

<She may not be completely off-base, Queen.> Shigara Masami laughed with a hand over her mouth. <It was a huge shock to Kyousuke-kun’s psyche when I covered for you. So even if he has been doing nothing but reject you on the surface, he is less sure deep down. It is because of his doubts and hesitation that something like this can shake him so badly. It shakes him so hard the signs show up on the surface. Or to put it much more simply, he is currently checking to make sure he has been doing the right thing all this time. He wants to know if he has gone too far even if his opponent was you, the White Queen.>

“…”

The White Queen could not immediately respond to that.

Even though she was known for her wisdom and beauty as much as for her extreme violence.

“Well, I know I can’t go too far. I want him to look my way. That is the only thing on my mind and I have done so much to achieve it.”

<It is because you can think of it that way that are worrying over how to approach him now. In a way, things are a lot easier when you’re up against a mindless and absolute evil. But that isn’t the case here. Although he really should have known that as far back as the Queen’s Miniature Garden.>

That failure had left him afraid.

It had felt like a punishment against the fools who tried to measure the White Queen by human standards.

So he had mentally sealed her away.

He had decided she was fundamentally incomprehensible and an absolute evil, so there was no need to even try reasoning with her.

She was starting to see the answer in her journey to learn what it means to be human.

<It’s like how a kitten learns. When a kitten hops up onto the stove and gets burned, it will never approach the stove again. The same happens if it nearly drowns in the tub or sink. Kyousuke-kun has set up rules for himself to avoid danger based on his own experiences. He has told himself he will suffer a fatal wound if he approaches you.>

This was further complicated by the fact that Kyousuke was a combat expert. He would fight with everything he had even if it was just to escape danger. Because he could never defeat this opponent under normal circumstances, he honed himself for combat as much as possible to increase his odds of success.

A similar phenomenon could be seen in adult society. When people were able to logically explain their emotions, they would quickly justify their actions and refuse to change. In a way, using the phrase “I’m doing nothing wrong” as a weapon could produce pleasure signals.

They were producing results, so they felt no one could complain.

And in fact, how many people had actually protested what Freedom Award 903 was doing? Freedom Award 3000, Shigara Masami, had become a crucial turning point as far as that was concerned.

But the White Queen shook her head in her thin casual dress.

“He isn’t wrong, though.”

<It covers too wide a range. Queen, it is true you are a higher being who is much too risky for people to try to contact and use. But at the same time, it is unnatural and frankly impossible for anyone to remain entirely unaffected by you. If someone decides to stay away from all water for fear of drowning, they will have nothing to drink and they will die of thirst.> Shigara Masami relaxed her shoulders at this point. <To be blunt, everyone is influenced by you in some way just by living in this world. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a normal person with no knowledge of the Blood-Sign Summoning Ceremony or an extraterrestrial lifeform in the far-off reaches of space. Queen, that is how much weight your existence carries. It is a basic fact of life with no room for issues of morality or preference. It is on the same level as no one getting motion sickness from the rotation of the galaxy or feeling nauseated by the flow of time.>

Shigara Masami had researched it all as something that simply existed, so that was how she viewed the laws of the universe. Those laws were simply there and not even the people who discovered them could alter them based on their personal plans. They were not something you could resist or push back against. The heliocentric model had overturned the geocentric model, so everyone just had to accept it and keep living.

But Kyousuke refused to accept it.

To him, a black hole was no more than an all-destroying incarnation of evil. He did not stop to consider the fact that the gravity that caused the black hole was what allowed people to keep their feet on the ground. He had learned to avoid danger just like a kitten, so he kept away from the White Queen without checking to see whether that would really be beneficial or not. He had discovered this new law, so it was his responsibility. He had to cross out the simple equation to protect the world.

And the Colorless Little Girl was the two lines he used to cross it out.

It may have seemed like a good idea to his juvenile sense of justice, but from the viewpoint of a researcher, it was something he never should have done. There was no such thing as absolute justice. Kyousuke was wrong for trying to reject the White Queen’s absolute authority to do whatever she pleased, but from someone else’s point of view, Shigara Masami was wrong to shake her ponytailed head in response to Kyousuke’s decision.

<There is an extremely simple way to show a kitten there is nothing to be afraid of.> Shigara Masami raised her index finger like a teacher. <Just place it on the stove or in the bathtub. Take the kitten to the site of its painful experience and overwrite that with a new experience. It’s very simple, Queen. Human history and the fate of the world is really just a collection of people doing just that.>

“And that…”

The White Queen knew what the researcher in a lab coat and suit was trying to say.

But she frowned and pointed into a show window.

“…is this?”

“Hwa ha ha. I call it Operation Gift Giving!! Giving physical form to unseen things is always the most effective method. Now, it’s usually the guy who gives the girl a bag or a ring, but if you wait for that the densest boy alive to figure out what you want, you’ll be waiting until the end of time. So go find something you like and have an employee wrap it up all nice for you!!”

Now.

That was a little much to throw at the White Queen all of a sudden.

She pressed her soft hands to her cheeks as she worried over it. She had done plenty of complaining about Kyousuke and how obsessed with fighting he was, but she was much the same. She had tended in that direction when she followed Alice (with) Rabbit’s style to get his attention. She had ended up thinking of everything in terms of fighting. She was not sure what to think or say when asked to approach this from a more normal angle.

“This is all so sudden. …But I can think of several ways of surprising my brother.”

“It doesn’t count if it would make him cry.”

“…”

“W-wait. Why do you look depressed? Hold on!! You can’t do that to me! If the boke doesn’t do their part, the tsukkomi just looks like an asshole!”

Why did emotionally unstable people get so serious out of nowhere like that?

As the life of the party, Biondetta Onee-chan knew it was her job to cheer everyone back up.

“Just picture it!! Let’s say you set aside Blood-Signs, Materials, and all that stuff and go on a date like a normal boy and girl! What would you want to do!? Don’t lie to yourself with this serious aura! C’mon, you wanna do all sorts of flirty things with Kyousuke-chan, don’t you!?”

“W-wait, don’t say that so loud! What if someone hears you? Oh, dear. This is the popular destination for dates, isn’t it? I just realized. Kyah☆”

<Biondetta-chan, step away from her immediately. Touch the Queen when she’s electrified from embarrassment and you’ll be blown to smithereens.>

The hem of the white casual dress fluttered and the White Queen floated up into the air a bit. To keep everyone safe, she established a ground line to allow all the energy escape and the earth had to work overtime to absorb it all.

<It doesn’t have to be anything special. Just choose something you want to give to Kyousuke-kun.>

“…”

This effort was almost guaranteed to be wasted.

The world was not simple enough for anything else. No matter how much the White Queen approached him, Shiroyama Kyousuke would slap her hand away with pure hostility. If she wrapped up her weak and gentle side and handed it to him, he would only throw it to the ground and stomp on it.

She had done enough to deserve it.

The White Queen was aware of that.

But.

Even so.

(I don’t care.)

She bit her lip as she thought.

(If it won’t reach him, I just have to keep it up until it does. If he won’t accept it, I just have to keep it up until he does. The impending rupture of the cocoon is no excuse. In fact, the idea that you have to push everything else aside because of an emergency is the reason the world has accepted everything I’ve done.)

Shiroyama Kyousuke knew the pain of having your feelings stomped on.

That was why he had never accepted it when others played the historian by saying “can you really blame them when you look at the big picture?”

(I won’t make any excuses. I won’t confront him with the emergency known as the White Queen. In fact, I’ve attempted this so many times before. I’m just changing my method this time. So even if he throws it down and stomps on it, it’s sure to become the foundation of something. In the final moment before the cocoon ruptures and the Colorless Little Girl starts to move.)

Shigara Masami and Biondetta had said something worrying.

They had said Shiroyama Kyousuke could become an even greater monster than her if the circumstances were right.

She had to prevent that at all costs. He was like a kitten. He had established his own rules based on his past experiences and that had led to creating the irregular rule known as the Colorless Little Girl. And there was no guarantee he would stop there this time, so if she was to soften the result before that happened, she had to make him a normal boy again.

When her thoughts reached that point, she tugged down the bottom of her short dress with one hand and shook her head.

<Queen?>

“No,” she faced her own thoughts once more. “That won’t work. I’m pretending I understand, but I’m really just interpreting it through the Blood-Sign System and using logic to justify my actions.”

That was a very embarrassing thing.

She did not want anyone other than herself to go on that kind of rampage.

There was something she could see now thanks to her journey to learn what it means to be human.

It might seem silly after the mess she had made of the world. Shiroyama Kyousuke was certainly not going to forgive her. But even so, she had to face her own thoughts. She was supposed to be accepting that she had been wrong all this time, so why was she trying to save face by coming up with logical excuses for her actions? No one needed excuses for their feelings.

Her feelings might not reach the boy she loved and he might cruelly trample on them. It might take tens of thousands of attempts for a miracle to finally occur. The cocoon and the Colorless Little Girl might be on the verge of destroying the entire world. But none of that was a reason for taking this lightly. None of it was an excuse for holding back during this final day. The situation was not going to change the feelings in her heart.

There was no need to keep those feelings inside.

She no longer needed her hedgehog spines or her charisma that masked her true essence.

She had to face him without hiding anything.

What did it matter if he rejected her, trampled on her, and scoffed at her?

That boy had taught her what to do.

He had always crawled through his own coughed up blood while reaching toward an unachievable goal.

If she had not learned anything from that, it would mean everything in this world was a lie.

“That’s right.”

The girl had made up her mind.

The gears turning inside her were entirely different from the usual ones and they transferred a great power.

“Then I will take one of these. Yes, and wrap it in red and black.”

She had to face defeat.

A blow to this would mean this attempt shattered in failure. But that could still produce something.

However, would it happen before the world ended?

Part 7[edit]

And.

And.

And.

It felt like that single second of time stretched out for an eternity. And in that place, it was possible time really was being distorted.

The color white blew through a small house.

It had all begun in July of 1999.

Doctor S’s research group had completed their theory, but something was missing when they tried to do it in practice. They only managed to see some light and the White Queen never actually took form. It was an imperfect result.

With a complete failure, he might have given up.

With a complete success, he might have been satisfied.

The imperfection of it was the problem. It was that longing that grasped Doctor S’s heart and would not let go. It was his desire to reach one result or the other that had created this hell.

That was why he had not built a grand temple or a cold lab. In a way, it had been inevitable that those wings of light would descend upon that completely ordinary looking house. The house had been built for this purpose. It was a type of “door” of uncanny thickness created by young blood, sweat, and tears.

“So we meet again, Queen.”

Doctor S sounded like he was speaking to an old friend.

“And welcome to our world.”

The world’s first complete summoning of the White Queen was underway. The fact of the summoning would remain the same no matter which sibling arrived there first. And the one who summoned her would swiftly crush the other to prove which one it had been.

“So which one was it?” Meinokawa Aoi was focused on the vision of the past. “Which one summoned her and won?”

The grown Shiroyama Kyousuke could not bear to watch.

And he spoke in perfect unison with the small boy.

“That’s enough!! Please don’t!!”

“That’s enough!! Please don’t!!”

That suggested it was his little sister who had reached the White Queen first. Had young Kyousuke been devoured and his little sister was taken away by Doctor S as the success?

“Please. I beg you.”

“Please. I beg you.”

But no.

That was not what happened. He had more to say.

“Please don’t appear!! I don’t want to win!! I don’t want to hurt my little sister!! So…so…so just let me save her!!!!!!”

“Please don’t appear!! I don’t want to win!! I don’t want to hurt my little sister!! So…so…so just let me save her!!!!!!”

Part 8[edit]

At that time, the White Queen had long since grown bored with everything.

She had already defeated the laws meant to stop her tyranny in the other world – in other words, the Unexplored-class.

The door to this world had opened in July of 1999, but what had she found waiting for her there? Those humans had talked big about conquering the occult with technology, but when the light of a mere fraction of the White had touched them, they had easily succumbed and become yet more worshipers.

There was nothing certain there.

Even though she had wanted something sturdy enough to attach her lifeline to.

“…”

Two young siblings had been abused and then ordered to battle each other by their own father. It was a cheap tragedy that felt like a hackneyed drama dragged out into reality. So many people had sought the White Queen for salvation, so this was not going to move her heart. She would simply destroy things, people would say she had brought salvation, and another lovely story would be passed around without her knowledge. She was honestly sick of it. She was sure they would come to her with tears in their eyes, show off how tragic their situation was, and demand she share her blessings with them. People seemed to think they could get away with anything if they could move you to emotion.

And that was why.

“That’s enough!! Please don’t!!”

Those hopelessly incoherent words rang loud in her ears.

She felt their weight directly in her heart.

For the first time, the White Queen felt the weight of the world.

“Please. I beg you.”

She knew what it meant.

She trembled.

Here was someone who would reject her despite knowing who she was. Here was someone who would stay true to their beliefs even when awash with her overwhelming white light. She had wanted someone she could attach her lifeline to. Was this that person?

Was finding someone who could support her really such a pleasant feeling?

“Please don’t appear!! I don’t want to win!! I don’t want to hurt my little sister!! So…so…so just let me save her!!!!!!”

So while trembling, the White Queen asked a question of the world’s wisdom. She asked a question of something that would drive a normal human mad if they simply gazed upon it.

What is that?

“A predecessor, one who shows the way, one you can rely upon, the master of an apprentice.”

The answer was simple.

When she searched that wisdom it always provided the same result.

“In other words, a being known as an older brother.”

The White Queen found herself tracing a finger along her own lips.

She did not really know what that word meant, but her trembling lips repeatedly sounded it out.

“Brother…”

She had established a definition for herself.

And she quickly responded to the summons from the human world.

“Brother!!”

Part 9[edit]

So in the end, it did not really matter which of the siblings summoned the White Queen.

From the moment the Queen responded to the summons, she had intended to protect Shiroyama Kyousuke.

“Ah…”

The young, young girl felt fear.

But the White Queen did not care.

That was the enemy.

That was the enemy who intended to harm Shiroyama Kyousuke.

So what she needed to do could not have been more obvious. An Unexplored-class Material and the summoner’s protective circle were trivial matters. The White Queen had decided to do something and that was the one and only absolute rule.

She looked to the young girl.

Did the girl even realize her fate had been decided in that moment?

Help m-…”

She did not even have time to speak those two words.

A sword of concentrated white light eliminated the threat.

Part 10[edit]

“Ah, ahh.”

Not even the theory of relativity could be trusted in that warped coordinate.

A voiceless voice rang out.

No matter how much force was placed behind it, there was no meaning in it.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!”

He knew the truth.

Young Kyousuke did know the truth.

Complaining that it violated the rules would change nothing. What he had seen occur before his eyes was a simple fact. Combat was not a game or a sport. The protective circle was supposed to keep the summoner safe no matter what, yet it had been shredded like mere paper. No Material could stand up to this, not even one of the Three of the Unexplored-class. And there was blood. The little sister he had wanted to protect so badly fell to her knees and then collapsed to the floor.

The original murder.

The first sin.

The Artificial Sacred Ground and his own protective circle meant nothing to him now.

He ran over and desperately tried to prop up his little sister even as her blood soaked him.

She was light.

Far too light.

She felt so fleeting, like she was missing some vital part of a human body.

The grown boy had to look away again.

“No…”

Young Shiroyama Kyousuke did not care how he looked.

He shouted at the top of his lungs with tears and blood soaking his face.

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!”

“G-…”

A breath escaped the girl’s bloody lips.

He did not want to think of this as the end. He did not care how hateful her words might be. He just wanted to hear any sign of life from his little sister.

But it was not hate he heard.

Had she been freed by whatever was possessing her? No, it was not even that.

“Good… ————, you’re still alive.”

“…”

When Doctor S had thrown out his toys, who had stolen them back and hidden them in the attic?

They might have been chosen as staff members. The mother and little sister might have been playing a part to set Kyousuke up.

“I finally know…what I want to say. Being praised for that was meaningless.”

But if that was all it was, she would not have had to do that behind Doctor S’s back. If she had been caught, she would only have been hurt even more.

But she had still done it for Kyousuke’s sake.

She had been unable to stick to the malicious role given to her.

“I was…wrong. I was wrong this whole time. I didn’t know how to save you. Not just today. But all this time. I’m so tired of being the good girl. So I’m glad…I finally found what to do…”

They had fought over the “f”.

They had launched their final White Thorns.

But in that moment, the little sister’s aim had strayed just a bit.

“No.”

He clenched his teeth and trembled.

Kyousuke shouted at the top of his lungs while holding that disconcertingly light body in his arms.

A minicar, a ball, and an animal encyclopedia.

He recalled the toys hidden in the attic. They held no strategic purpose, but they had still helped bring peace to his young heart.

And yet.

What had he just done here?

“That isn’t true!! I won’t say it! I won’t let anyone say something like this saved me!!”

“I failed…again?”

He could not nod or shake his head.

He could only wail and tremble while his little sister looked up at him and smiled.

“Then I’ll do better next time.”

“*****?”

She probably could not even see anymore.

But she still managed to smile like an angel and speak.

“When I’m reborn, then I’ll take your side and help you, Nii-sama.”

That was the end.

He almost forgot the definition of death when he saw the smile on her face.

He no longer needed words.

Kyousuke screamed so loud he thought his lungs and throat would tear, but then Doctor S, the man with slender jaw and black hair exposed, spoke to him.

“So it didn’t even last a full second.”

His unpleasant voice was like having someone take a file to your eardrums.

“But I learned a lot from this. Kyousuke, looks like you were the success after all. Now it’s time to analyze this result, figure out how to mass-produce it, and spread that system around. We don’t need this house anymore, so let’s clean up what we no longer need and leave.”

“…”

“That includes that filthy lump of flesh in your arms there. I don’t know why she thought she could hold onto the privileges of a good person when she was betraying you. God, and she really made a mess of things, didn’t she? This is going to be a pain to clean up. Hey, Kyousuke, I’ll take care of it, so you go take a shower and a put on some fresh clothes.”

“………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..”

Shiroyama Kyousuke rebooted with the stiff movements of a doll in dire need of some oil. He gently placed his little sister’s body on the floor and picked back up his Blood-Sign with blood-slick hands.

A red light did not do it justice.

How could you even describe the look in his eyes?

“Hm? What do you hope to do with that?”

Doctor S scoffed.

He had no trouble watching his own child soaked in blood.

“I control the silkworm vessels. Throw an Incense Grenade and you’re done for. And the battles in this cramped lab are not like those in the real world. My experience far outweighs yours in true combat using pure Materials. Do you really think a kid like you could beat me?”

He did not respond.

Shiroyama Kyousuke instead spoke to someone who was not even there.

“White Queen…”

“Wait, wait. Wait, wait, wait!! The Artificial Sacred Ground is gone and the original field has returned. You haven’t kept a Chain going, so how do you expect to get help from that higher being!? You are the product of my research, so if you keep acting so dumb, people are going to doubt my intellect!”

But Doctor S was wrong.

Why didn’t he realize the truth?

The look in Shiroyama Kyousuke’s eyes was beyond that of a hound. That boy had the eyes of an untamable and bloodthirsty wolf, so he would never pray to a higher power and rely on optimism. He would rip flesh and spill blood using a much more direct and surefire method.

So.

So.

So.

The humanoid wolf made his demand of the Queen.

Don’t you dare interfere.

Young Kyousuke spun his Blood-Sign like a baton.

That was as much as Doctor S could see.

It was truly like an awakening.

That fool of a researcher must have entirely forgotten the task he had set for himself.

He had used violence and abuse to draw out the killer intent and hatred needed to complete the precision-guided missile.

He had filled the boy with those emotions.

He had fit the many gears together.

And this may have been the moment when the ultimate weapon was completed.

At this point, there was no time to leisurely pull the pin of an Incense Grenade. The Blood-Sign flew, struck, jabbed, crushed, pierced, and drove all forms of destruction into the researcher’s body.

In the present day, Doctor S used an oxygen mask to regulate the amount of oxygen sent to his brain to control his emotions.

But it was not necessarily the White Queen who had made that necessary.

Part 11[edit]

Tah dah!! It is now 11 o’clock. The Colorful Sentai Hero Show is beginning, so now is your chance to gather at the central fountain plaza!!

On the midair walkway at the second floor of the Multiple shopping center, the White Queen, Shigara Masami, and Biondetta sat at a round table in front of a café. They could view the show in the plaza from a different angle here.

“Okay. Shigara Masami, you had a hot dog and a weak coffee, right?”

<Yes, with some brandy for flav-…>

“No, you fuckhead.”

<Umm, what is that you have, Biondetta-chan?>

“Eh? Just a special whip honey syrup crushed nuts caramel custard chocolate matcha strawberry milk iced latte.”

The liquids of different densities were forming layers inside. It looked more like a parfait or sundae with the colorful layers of white, pink, light green, brown, and more inside the clear container. It looked fine like that, but if she mixed it up with a spoon, it would probably form some horrific mixed drink. She had only ordered a drink, yet the ponytail researcher who had also ordered some food still seemed to have the healthier option.

“And the Queen ordered…”

“A white mocha.”

“Right, right. And you also had the white wiener in a steamed white bun with cream cheese.”

“If only I could have gotten a cauliflower and white asparagus salad and some milk custard for dessert. …Oh? Why are you two looking at me like that?”

“…”

“…”

It was all extremely white. In clothing and food, she really was the White Queen. She was generally perfect in every way, but there was definitely something wrong with her taste in colors. It would be one thing if she were making it herself, but it looked far more bizarre when she managed to get it all to match when eating out.

There was a small box unrelated to the food sitting on their table.

She must have had the boy’s tastes in mind because it was wrapped in red wrapping paper with a black bow.

It was about the right size to hold a large apple.

<A mug, hm?>

“Nee shee shee. With a bunny on it to boot.”

Shiroyama Kyousuke would eat nothing but cereal given the option, but he had shared a cake with everyone back in the Queen’s Miniature Garden. He was not entirely immune to luxuries.

The White Queen faintly smiled while gripping the skirt of her thin casual dress below the table.

“Yes, but he isn’t going to accept it.”

Even the noise of the cheerful hero show seemed to grow more distant.

An eerie wind seemed to blow through.

“But even if he throws it to the ground and stomps on it, I will just do the same thing again. I will do everything I can until the very moment the cocoon and Colorless Little Girl burst. This is the first step. I just have to think of it as the foundation for teaching brother he was mistaken about the danger, like a kitten on the stove.”

<Non.>

However, Shigara Masami was quick to correct her.

<Have you learned nothing on this journey, Queen? The feelings behind this aren’t that shallow, are they?>

The White Queen’s expression silently changed when she heard that. And she covered her face with her hands before anyone could tell what emotion had caused the change.

She knew it would never happen.

Failure was inevitable.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

“…Hey.”

She spoke quietly while covering her face and hanging her head.

I really want you to accept this, brother.

That was her wish.

You did not make wishes because you could see a realistic way to achieve them.

You made wishes specifically because you knew they could never come true.

Part 12[edit]

He had seen everything.

He had learned everything.

Finally, Shiroyama Kyousuke had retrieved the blotted-out faces of his mother and little sister.

But there was no chance of speaking to either one as both had been killed.

Time was distorted in this place, but he still forgot all about the flow of time for a moment.

“Are you satisfied?”

He had more than just his “help me” syndrome.

He had gone on a rampage of his own.

He was a human with every last emotion that entailed and there was definite shame and resentment in his voice.

“Are you satisfied now, Meinokawa Aoi? If so, then laugh. Look down on me like you always do. Say you’ve taken a neutral position so my sob story is none of your concern!!”

The silver-haired shrine maiden said nothing for a while.

She simply embraced Kyousuke’s head and held him to her sarashi-bound chest. She had felt it was necessary. If she simply accepted it all, she was no different from the White Queen. There were times when she had to push him away to apply the brakes. But this was the result? She regretted it now, wishing she had been kinder to him.

He could be a child throwing a fit if need be.

As long as there was a human heart behind it.

The Shiroyama Kyousuke before her now was battered, pitiful, and had cast aside the title of strongest, but he was not the precision-guided missile some odious person had designed him as.

For that at least, she was glad.

He had broken free of those chains, saved a great many people, and stood here now.

He could be proud of that.

His life might have been a series of losses to the White Queen, but there was no need to look down on the path he had taken.

“Cry.”

“Shut up.”

“Boy, don’t bottle it up any longer. This is what it means to be human, right?”

“I said shut up!!”

And.

While holding the trembling boy, Aoi bit her lip and finally opened her mouth once more.

“But still.”

She knew not all of it had been right.

She hesitated and questioned it, but she still spoke to the boy at her chest.

“I cannot bring myself to place the blame on you or the White Queen. You were desperately trying to find a way to save your family to the very last moment and she was only protecting you, even if she was oblivious to what her actions would mean. The blame clearly lies with Doctor S, does it not?”


I know that, you idiot.

The White Queen and I thought the same thing during the Secret War.

I joined a plan to kill her, but I let my emotions get the better of me and befriended her.

I baselessly thought it might turn out all right.

I wanted us to be happy.

I wanted to live alongside her.

But.

In the end.

Nothing changed.

She hadn’t learned her lesson. It felt like she was denying my little sister’s death.

So I had no idea what to do.

Part 13[edit]

The White Queen suddenly looked up.

Without warning, the barelegged girl in a casual dress provided an oracle.

“Brother is coming.”

Shigara Masami and Biondetta’s expressions changed.

Just like always, if the White Queen said so, then it had to be true.

Sinceria Report 05[edit]

“…”

“Do we really have to keep researching, mom? Are you sure you aren’t using this to stay away from Onii-chan after what happened last night!?”

Despite what Olivia said, Sinceria continued her investigation.

This time, she had set her sights on Isabelle and Murasame Kuina.

Two vessels was an unusual pairing, but the report she had read said they were split between enemy and ally during the battle against Biondetta.

“Shiroyama Kyousuke?”

“Ugh. Why do you have to bring up someone like him after intruding on our class trip?”

The girl with short blonde hair was Isabelle. The one with brown hair was Kuina. It was surprising, but Isabelle’s real name was Kawamo Sayuri and she was Japanese despite her skin, eye, and hair color. The very structure of her body had been changed by the Anthill experiment led by Government.

(Yes, that’s right. I am not the only one. This girl must be the same. She must be just as strong as me after the changes to her soul from making contracts with so many different summoners. Hee hee hee. Ah ha ha. So no one can call me a mountain gorilla. That hunk of junk should really be calling me an absolute monarch with unparalleled beauty. Mutter, mutter.)

“I guess we can talk, but could we move into the shade first? This girl is surprisingly frail, so she could get heatstroke if we stand out in the sun for too long.”

“Gwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

“Calm down, my queen!!”

Her faithful knight managed to restrain her and prevented anything unfortunate from occurring.

The doll-like girl called Isabelle silently tilted her head.

“My impression of Shiroyama Kyousuke? Hmm (deadpan).”

It took her a while.

But once short-tempered Olivia started getting irritated, she finally answered.

“A baby?”

“Bffh!?”

Everyone else spat out the contents of their mouths. That word had come as a complete surprise.

But it did not look like Isabelle was trying to be weird.

“It is true he is a top-level summoner, but he doesn’t give any thought to what happens after he saves someone. He goes around saving a super-sized amount of people and then just leaves them there like a baby that gets tired of playing with his toys and falls asleep.”

Sinceria flapped her mouth wordlessly and glanced over at Murasame Kuina, but the brown-haired girl only gave an exaggerated shake of her head.

“S-sorry. I was with his enemy, Biondetta, so I didn’t spend any time with him. But I think we can trust what Sayuri says. Still…a baby???”

“I don’t think he knows how to maintain a connection with other people. Not even a small-sized amount.”

Isabelle’s cold eyes did not even waver as she said that.

She had approached the crux of the issue.

“Whether you’re talking about a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a lover, he does not think the connections between people can or should ever change. He thinks they should never change or be altered. That is why he cannot forgive the incidents caused by the White Queen or her worshipers when they shake and sever those bonds. And at the same time, he does not think ‘merely’ saving someone can create such powerful bonds. Yes, he does not think even that can change things. So when the incident is over, he always severs his contract with the vessel and irresponsibly returns them to the world they left behind. Grr, grr (deadpan).”

“…”

Merely saving someone could not create an eternal bond.

Was that a concept he came up with so he could reject the link between the White Queen and her worshipers?

“The thing is.”

Most likely, that was a view of him exclusive to someone who had been with him during that specific time.

The quantity and quality of the time was not the issue. This was a puzzle piece only seen in the time Isabelle had spent with him, so not even Meinokawa Higan, Librarian-chan, Himekawa Mika, Sekurtiti, Lu Niang Lan, Olivia Highland, or Meinokawa Aoi could have provided it.

“He wants love more than anyone, but he does not know how to accept love. So he respects anyone who can do it. It has nothing to do with the Summoning Ceremony or Awards. I do not know how he ended up like that. I fought alongside him against Biondetta, but I did not see his past. It isn’t about whether or not he is broken. What matters is that he knows he is broken. So he has drawn a line in the sand and he makes sure not to drag anyone else down with him. Because he does not want to destroy everything around him with his combat-oriented rules. And yet he does not actually know if that caution is even necessary.”

Silence followed.

No one could say a word.

Even the wind had died on that midsummer day. That was how long it took for them all to process the information Isabelle had given them.

“In other words.”

Finally, Sinceria Highland restarted the stopped time.

“Kyousuke is suffering from a love deficiency, so what is it he needs? Nothing could be more obvious! It is finally my time to shine!! Now, does he want my love as a woman, a ruler, or a mother!!!???”

“Oh, no. That would be too much of a shock to Onii-chan’s system when he’s so exhausted. He really would develop a mother complex then.”

Facts[edit]

  • Sinceria’s long ears are a sign of structural changes on the skeletal level that make her more powerful than she looks.
  • There is no Award called “Gorilla who rips off the heads of any female vessels she sees near the (much younger) boy she is preying on”, so Sinceria can rest easy.
  • The woman who was Kyousuke’s mother and Doctor S’s wife was disposed of when they withdrew from that house.
  • The White Queen was only summoned for less than a second. It can be speculated that the data was erased from the world because she was trying to protect someone for the first time ever and did not know how to hold back.
  • It is unclear whether Kyousuke or his little sister summoned the White Queen. Based on what they said afterwards, the odds are good it was Kyousuke. But either way, the Queen killed his little sister to protect him. The driving force behind the Queen has not changed since then and she made the exact same mistake when she fought to protect Kyousuke in the Secret War that affected Biondetta and Shigara Masami as well. Just because the evil deeds did not start with you does not mean anything can be forgiven unconditionally.
  • Young Kyousuke was unable to hear his little sister finish saying “help me”.
  • Shiroyama Kyousuke’s little sister seemed to call him “Nii-sama”?


Back to Stage 03 Return to Main Page Forward to Ending X-01