After escaping the fifth laboratory, the 35th platoon escaped towards the surface through an underpass, finally arriving at a road 20 kilometers away.
Takeru opened the entrance under the bridge and checked the situation outside.
There was an unpleasant silence. He'd rather if there were gunshots and screams.
No signs of people.
"...a'ight, looks fine."
He closed the door and checked up on his comrades' state.
Ouka and Ikaruga were still sleeping. Other than that, everyone had wounds all over their bodies, were covered with mud and sand.
Mari's and Usagi's expressions were stiff, it was easy to tell that they're uneasy as to what's awaiting everyone ahead.
The situation wasn't funny at all, but Takeru still laughed.
"You really look horrible."
Enticed by his laughter, Mari and Usagi laughed as well. Kanaria had a dissatisfied look for a while already, but she properly carried Ikaruga on her back.
Next, Takeru turned towards the student council president, Hojishiro Nagaru.
Nagaru nodded to him, and started to speak about the future plans.
"Now, we're going to head to our, dissident's home. There's an entrance in the north-east, so we have to move there."
"North-east... that's quite far, is it all right?"
When Mari asked anxiously, Nagaru made a carefree expression.
"I-i-it's a-all rightt."
" " " "Hey!" " " "
She spoke with a trembling voice completely different to what her expressions suggested, causing everyone to retort.
"I'm just joking〜. I have prepared a car properly. There are many speed checkpoints, ETC's and camera's which makes me anxious, but I know loopholes on the civilian roads. Well, let's go there comfortably〜〜."
"...why are you so optimistic?"
As Usagi asked, Nagaru opened her eyes thinly, put a hand on her hip and laughed in an indecent manner.
"Because even if we think of it we can't help it. It's better if you enjoy this situation. It's elopement you seee? Ain't it thrilling? Think of it as of a school trip."
Nagaru's lack of tension and boldness made Takeru feel she was similar to someone.
Somehow, in his head he saw this white-haired man laughing in a cat-like manner...
It wasn't like he didn't trust her, but he was weak against that type of people anyhow.
Suddenly, Nagaru called out to Takeru while placing her hand on the doorknob.
The light from the outside leaked in through the gap, giving her a backlight.
Nagaru slowly reached out to Takeru.
Seeing her expression, he changed his opinion of her.
They weren't alike. This person wasn't like that man.
When he was reminiscing, Nagaru's expression from back then brought Takeru relief.
"From now on, in exchange for fulfilling your promise I will return the favor. That's why, let's go——we're starting the counter-offensive."
That is because she was different from that man who only thought of people as of pawns to use, she made an expression full of human emotions.
Takeru took her hand without hesitation.
However, six hours later.
With both of her hands placed on the steering wheel, Hojishiro Nagaru glared at the map and growled. Her car stopped by the end of the road and was being overtaken by the cars moving on the road.
Nagaru had remained in this posture for nearly 30 minutes already.
Takeru sat on the seat beside her and stared at her from the profile anxiously. Seeing her fold the map with a loud *flap*, he swallowed his saliva.
Sitting on the seat beside him, Nagaru made a warm smile.
"——Sorry, I lost my way!"
He retorted with abandon to the conclusion Nagaru made after having them wait for a long time.
"Tahaha" Nagaru laughed and joined her hands in front of her, apologizing to Takeru and the small fry platoon's members in the rear seats.
"A-aww〜. 'Cause, see, if I use car navigation or mobile system, our position might be found out by Inquisition〜... I'm a child of the modern age and I can't read a normal map〜."
"Didn't you tell us you were accustomed to reading these because of your daily training?!"
When Takeru's questions cornered her, Nagaru pouted.
"Since it's come to this, you read it Kusanagi-kun〜, you're sitting on the passenger seat so it should be your work."
"I can't do anything aside from swordsmanship, in the first place——weren't you the one who told me to sit here!"
"Ahaha, don't puff up so much☆."
"!...〜〜You're super annoying...!"
Clenching his fist, Takeru did his best to endure the anger.
I really can't deal with this person.
The car Nagaru was driving was an eight-seater. Nagaru was in the driver's seat, Takeru was in the passenger seat in front. In the first row of rear seats was Ouka, and Mari. In the second row there was Kanaria, Usagi and Ikaruga.
Rather than uniforms, everyone was in plain clothes. Since the 35th platoon was wanted, they couldn't afford to wear AntiMagic Academy's or Magic Academy's uniforms.
Takeru was in jeans and a town jacket. Ouka wore boots, a high-necked sweater and a skirt. Mari had a duffle coat as well as a hat and a scarf of different colors. Usagi had a white pleated coat and a skirt. Ikaruga had a black T-coat and black jeans. Kanaria wore a jersey for the ease of move and ear pads to hide her ears.
And as for Nagaru, she wore a leather jacket, damaged jeans and large sunglasses.
On top of not suiting her, it was suspicious-looking. Seeing Takeru's expression cramp up, Nagaru moved the sunglasses on top of her head with a grimace.
"When you say 'disguise' it's obviously sunglasses."
"Rather, it looks so unbalanced it can be only used as a gag."
Hearing Takeru's honest impression Nagaru went "ehh!" with a shocked expression,
"Um... President, how about I drive instead?"
Ouka leaned from the rear seat, asking Takeru and Nagaru.
Although she was still out of it after waking up, perceiving a strange atmosphere she leaned forward and volunteered.
Her expression wasn't the usual gallant one, she looked dazed instead.
Not much time has passed since she realized her life's goal, revenge, so it was no wonder it was so.
"No can do Ouka-chann. For both driving and reading porn you need to be eighteen years old."
"Actually, I have acquired a special Inquisitor's privileged driver license."
"But, you've had too much tension and you're tired, rest a bit longer〜. Also, if a child drives a car in the open others will get suspicious〜."
You're the most childish looking in here so that's not really convincing, Takeru thought. However, there was some truth in there.
"Don't force yourself. Your back must still hurt right? Even if the wounds dealt by spirit silver are healed, it should hurt for a while after."
"That's... it's all right. After releasing the Vampire form, the damage from the spirit silver was suppressed. Vlad fixed me up so it's fine. I've had enough rest too, if I slack any more it'll have adverse effects. I think I'll be able to distract myself if I drive."
Ouka said so while combing her disheveled hair with one hand.
Seeing Ouka right after she wakes up was quite a rare. The gesture she made to fix her hair was strangely sexy, unnerving Takeru.
"? What is it?"
Unable to withstand her stare, he turned away.
『"I don't want half. I want everything together with you." 』
After being asked for that and answering her request, he was strangely conscious of it now.
As he tried to suppress his perverse feelings, suddenly an elbow hit him in the solar plexus.
Although it was fairly light, Takeru twisted for a moment.
When he lowered his gaze to his abdomen, he saw something clad in black cloth sit on top of his knees.
Sitting on his knees ever since they got on the car and now squirming restlessly,
"I'm sorry. It was just a reflex."
Murmuring, was Lapis.
The reason she was sitting on top of his knees, was because she specifically requested it.
Right now, Lapis was wearing a magic-sealing fabric, her entire body was clad in a black robe up to the top of her head. It was to not allow Inquisition to perceive her magical power. Although she had forcibly released the control Inquisition had over her when the God Hunting form was invoked, but since they had data on her magical power the possibility of her being detected was high.
For the same reason, Vlad was currently in a box for sealing Magical Heritages.
Unlike Lapis, Vlad was still under Sougetsu's management and thus he was completely sealed. According to what Nagaru said, there was a way to remove the control. Although it was unclear whether there really was such a method, they had no choice but to believe her at the moment.
"W-what is it all of a sudden... it hurt."
"My apologies. It's an error. I do not understand why have I taken such action."
After curtly saying that, Lapis rudely faced towards the window.
Ever since they left Magic Academy, Lapis started to act strange quite often. When he asked her what was the reason for that, she always responded with "It's an error". Come to think of it, when he was interacting with Ouka back when she said 'I want everything together', he felt a black aura from Lapis.
Could it be that she was jealous as his partner?
He thought that could be so, but it wasn't limited to just Lapis. Although she wanted to monopolize Takeru as his Magical Heritage, she should have been uninterested in his interpersonal relationships.
"Are you upset? What is it, if you don't say it I won't know."
Smiling wryly, Takeru ground his chin on the top of her head.
"...I said I do not know. Please don't grind on my head."
When he peeked into Lapis' face, he saw her puff up her cheeks while remaining expressionless.
I retract my previous statement. She is upset after all.
He smiled wryly once again, and then heard something like a growl come from the seat in the rear.
It was Mari who sat next to Ouka.
Mari clung to Takeru's seat from behind and directed a jealous gaze towards the three.
"Why did you three progress your relationships where I can't see? Why am I set aside despite being with you the entire time? Where's my flag? Heyy, why?! Why won't you raise my flag, Takeru?!"
"Guohh! Y-you, don't strangle me from behind!"
"I said that you're going to get interrogated when we were escaping right?! Speak! What happened between you?!!"
"What are you saying during emergency——sto—dying, I'm dying!"
Strangled soundly from behind, Takeru's face turned blue. Lapis faced away, and Ouka watched his suffering in a daze.
Although the third row was awfully quiet, the car was very chaotic.
"You're so popular, Kusanagi-kun〜, Onei-san would like to join the lovecom〜. Let's have a competition〜!"
Retorting to Nagaru who care-freely watched, he rejected her. In the end, Ouka was the one who drove, and about ten minutes later the car started up once again.
After another hour, thanks to Ouka replacing the driver, the journey proceeded smoothly.
However, the last row with Kanaria, Usagi and Ikaruga was completely silent for nearly an hour.
The entire time, Kanaria looked outside with an elbow on the window and a grumpy expression.
Ikaruga was being herself, and although occasionally she looked towards Kanaria, she didn't call out to her.
Without a doubt, the one who had it most difficult in this situation was Usagi.
It was awkward. Way too awkward.
Since she knew the two's circumstances, Usagi couldn't speak up. Ikaruga woke up soon after they left the underground passage.
When she woke up, Ikaruga said so with her face in Kanaria's hair.
Surprised, Kanaria immediately let go of her hands, dropping Ikaruga on the ground.
Falling on her butt, Ikaruga looked up blankly at Kanaria.
Although Kanaria tried to shout something, her shoulders trembling in anger, Ikaruga placing a hand on her cheek made her unable to speak up.
It was the first time Usagi seen Ikaruga make such an expression.
As if she found a once lost treasure... regaining feelings once lost.
With such an expression, tears trickled down Ikaruga's face.
And as if not to let her go ever again, she gently held Kanaria's body.
She didn't say anything. All she did, was to gently embrace Kanaria.
Of course, Kanaria didn't let her remain like that and pushed Ikaruga away. After that, she continued to ignore Ikaruga.
——W-w-w-what to do?!
Being the go-between in this parent-child relationship was too heavy for her.
Rather, why this seating arrangement?! Why do I have to be sandwiched between them?! I will resent that Student Council President forever for this arrangement! My squishiness isn't enough to act as a cushion for those two! I should propose a seat change. Ootori who can't read the mood should be sitting here. Having someone who can read the mood here causes adverse effects instead!
When she noticed that Ouka had suddenly moved to the driver's seat, tears appeared in Usagi's eyes as she went "whaat〜". Then she stared towards the front passenger seat at Takeru, asking him for help.
And saw Lapis demurely sit on top of his knees.
Anger surged up inside her.
UUUuuuuu! I want to be there! I too want to sit on Kusanagi's lap! Why does that girl alone get special treatment?! Kusanagi too, why did he obediently give up his lap to herr. Why isn't it mee. They're going deredere right under my nose! That philanderer! Rather than that skinny girl, it's obvious that I would be much more comfortable to hold——
When Ikaruga said a single word beside her, Usagi's jealousy-filled thoughts have frozen.
"There's so many things I would like to tell you... but I'm sorry, I can't say it well."
Conservatively, Ikaruga spoke in a calm tone of voice.
Still looking towards the window, Kanaria made an annoyed expression.
"Kana has nothing to talk with you about. Just stay silent."
"I can't do that. Until now, in order to meet you I have——"
"There was no need to for us to meet."
"...then why, have you come together with Kusanagi?"
"Shut up, it has nothing to do with you."
"It does. After all I'm your——"
Closing her eyes, Ikaruga looked for a word that would let her convey what she wanted to convey.
But before that, Kanaria's hair ruffled up and she said in a heavy tone of voice.
"Don't act like my mother...!"
These words were heavy enough to end the conversation.
Once again, a stagnant atmosphere has befallen the rear seat.
Usagi's shoulders twitched from tension, she looked towards Kanaria, then at Ikaruga.
Ikaruga narrowed her eyes and made a small sigh. She moved her line of sight outside of the window just like Kanaria did.
She was aloof as always.
Usagi didn't know what Ikaruga felt. She never became a mother herself. The feelings of Ikaruga who became a mother at her age were probably impossible to understand.
Seeing Ikaruga act as usual, Usagi felt like sighing.
How about making a slightly upset or dismayed expression at a time like this?
When Usagi thought so and tried to endure the silence, Usagi saw it.
Ikaruga's hand on top of the seat was slightly trembling.
Usagi was the second one after Takeru who knows Ikaruga best.
She always acted like a grown-up and there was no way to get a grasp on her, but even she could be hurt.
The Ikaruga Usagi knew, was in fact more clumsy than Usagi herself. She was not good with displaying emotions of sadness and loneliness. Although it was unknown whether it was caused because of the environment she grew up in, Ikaruga never showed her sadness.
That's why, the only ones to notice it were those who knew her for a long time. Usagi stared at Ikaruga's trembling fingertips and finally understood the meaning behind this seat arrangement.
I see. I am the only one who can fulfill this role at the moment.
Without hesitation, Usagi grasped Ikaruga's trembling hand.
She squeezed her hand strongly.
Usagi couldn't say 'It's all right'. After all, it wasn't all right at all.
That's why, Usagi only held Ikaruga's hand in silence.
Still looking outside, Ikaruga said with a quiet voice no one else could hear.
Usagi clenched her lips, let out through her nose and nodded strongly just a single time.
Ikaruga moved closer to Usagi and leaned on her shoulder.
This is where I continue holding Ikaruga's hands in silence until we arrive at the destination.
While looking at the tumult on the front rows, Usagi swore to herself.
"Ouka, are you listening?"
"?! Takeru? What is it?"
It took him about a minute to call back the absent-minded Ouka who focused herself on driving.
Finally, Mari and Nagaru on the second row had quieted down, and Takeru called out to the dazed Ouka, but she didn't respond despite being called many times.
"I've called you over ten times and you wouldn't notice it at all."
"Is that so? Sorry, I'm concentrated on driving. I was driving a bike quite often, but it's been a while for me to drive a car."
She tried to appeal to him as not to make him worry, but Takeru's eyes weren't deceived.
"You're tired after all, aren't you? It's better if the driver changes..."
"I said I'm fine haven't I? Or is my driving rough? Am I drunk?"
"That's not it... ever since we left the underground passage, you've been worried about something..."
After fulfilling her revenge, it wouldn't be strange for her to lose sight of her purpose, but it didn't feel like that was the case.
Having a certain hunch, Ouka narrowed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I'm not really worried nor I'm being depressed. It's just that I don't think it's over yet."
"...you mean Laugh Maker's case?"
When Takeru confirmed, Ouka made a small nod.
"I... believe that it's not over yet."
"What do you mean?"
"Laugh Maker... Mimulus Wallenstein told me "I escaped from Inquisition". Laugh Maker was once arrested by my father, Mineshiro Kazuma before. However, what happened nearly nine years ago, was her escaping during transportation and killing my family. Thinking hard upon it, it's strange... Laugh Maker had an A-class risk designation, they should have been very careful with her transportation."
If she was designated as A-class risk, she was supposed to be placed in an Iron Maiden. It was impossible for such a dangerous criminal to escape normally.
Moreover, Laugh Maker's actions were strange.
"...if she escaped, that means she must have had a collaborator...?"
"That's what it would mean. However, I looked for the information about the jailbreak in a frenzy and didn't find any detailed records of it."
Ouka cut her speech there and squinted sharply.
"What worries me about the jailbreak event, was that there was not a single victim among Inquisition during her jailbreak. A-class designation is for dangerous murderers. I can tell since I fought against her... it's impossible for her not to kill anyone during a jailbreak."
"*sqssh*, Ouka strongly squeezed the handle."
"I think that Inquisition let her escape. I met father's acquaintance on the battlefield... from that person, I have heard that father was a nuisance to Inquisition. That's why, the possibility of Inquisition using Laugh Maker to kill my father and family is high."
Hearing what Ouka said, Takeru gasped.
He knew only one person who could have done that.
If it was that man, he would pull it off in order to conceal information.
"I have no proof. I'll have to investigate it one day."
"I'll help you. If that's true, I definitely won't forgive it."
"That's a great help... but it has to be postponed until everything is over."
He was surprised hearing her unexpected response.
Ouka smiled wryly towards the confused Takeru.
"My personal revenge is already over. I was able to finish it together with you. I don't want to act based on hatred any longer."
"From now on, I intend to stand up against the enemy as a member of the 35th Test Platoon. I want to act in order to help my comrades and your little sister."
"My revenge is finished, Takeru."
Her expression as she said so, wasn't radiant.
The expression she had had emptiness, and felt like she carried a sin.
But the relief was certainly there. If that relief was something he granted to Ouka, then it was something to be proud of.
He could confirm that he shouldered the half of her burden.
Takeru smiled lightly and faced forward.
"Rather than mine, it's your turn now. Among the platoon members you're the one most uneasy, isn't that right?"
"Although you're acting cheerfully as not to make anyone anxious, you're worried about Kiseki. I can tell."
"...well, if I said I don't worry, I would be lying."
In fact, he would like to rush to where Kiseki is immediately and save her.
He had already learned Kiseki's whereabouts. According to Nagaru, she is imprisoned as an experimental object in Alchemist's first laboratory. It was unknown what kind of treatment is she receiving there. However, without a doubt she was suffering beyond imagination.
Alchemist's first laboratory should be guarded like a fortress on par with Inquisition's after they started conspiring together. It wasn't at the level of fifth laboratory. Mounting a surprise attack on first laboratory was no different from attacking Inquisition's headquarters.
With the amount of people they had, they would be annihilated without being able to do anything. Once they reach the dissident's home base, they'll have to gather forces.
"Your concerns are splendid, as a captain. Your nobility is far beyond mine, who was easily trapped by hatred and exposed comrades to danger."
"But." Adding that, Ouka's face was dyed red in embarrassment.
"...y-you can complain to me all you want. Um... when I said I want to do everything together, you agreed so... I too want to do something for you."
When she spoke in such manner, Takeru felt flustered.
"Somehow, you said something similar in the jail before. It feels like it happened long time ago——"
He tried to talk about the past to deceive her, then suddenly, clothes on his chest were pulled.
Looking towards his knees, he saw Lapis look outside while pulling on his clothes.
Her eyes were opened unusually wide, the landscape was reflected in her glass-like pupils.
"What is it, Lapis?"
Even when he asked her, Lapis didn't react immediately.
Spitting white breath while looking into the distance, she grasped Takeru's clothes tightly.
White fluffy crystals were falling from the cloudy sky to the ground.
Fields and trees were dyed white, covered with snow.
"Woah, true. So we're in the north already... the view has suddenly changed."
He moved his head closer to Lapis and they enjoyed the sight outside together.
Even though it was February, winter wasn't over yet. Even though there is no longer any concept of a country, the island's administrative division of prefectures remains unchanged, they were divided and called with names like old Tokyo and old Kanagawa prefectures. The place they should be in now would be the old Gunma prefecture's north. In the past, people passed what used to be Mikuni mountains once and entered Niigata, the scenery changed into one covered with snow. However, this area became a battlefield during the war and some mountains were destroyed in the aftermath of a battle. Therefore, the snow clouds from over the Japanese Sea extended further since they weren't blocked by the mountains.
"Lapis, is it your first time seeing snow?"
"...yes, probably, but I can't tell with certainty. For some reason I feel like I saw a similar landscape before."
It wouldn't be strange if she did. The battlefield Lapis traversed along with her previous contractor, Kusanagi Mikoto, might have been in this area.
Embracing some kind of emotion, Lapis stared at the snowy landscape.
"...do you like snow?"
In response to Takeru's question, Lapis squinted.
"...I don't know, it's an error."
Along with her quiet voice, strength entered the hands grasping his clothes.
That gesture was somehow similar to that of a child, seeing a scary dream.
Sitting in the second row, Nagaru stuffed herself with potato chips contentedly and listened to the conversation in front and the back.
It was as if the conversations in front and the back rows were progressing as she intended them to, and she was pleased with it.
"...this guy, he's always flirting whenever and wherever."
Nagaru held out potato chips towards Mari who crossed her legs to the side and complained.
Mari casually grasped the potato chips, threw some in her mouth and started to chew them.
"It's the first time I'm speaking to you properly. It might be rude, but is watching people move as you want them to so much fun?"
She said so while looking at Nagaru.
Nagaru licked the salt from the potato chips attached to her finger and blinked with a blank look.
Mari moved closer to Nagaru as not to let the front or the rear hear, and continued in a small voice.
"The seating arrangements, you set up them so that comrades can follow up on each other, right?"
"Ohh, how sharp〜. That's right. Kusanagi-kun and Ouka-chan both have straight personalities, but they understand each other so they fit. Suginami-chan and Kanaria-chan have a problem others can't help with, but Usagi-chan should be able to support Ikaruga-chan at the very least."
"...what's that, am I excluded?"
"No, no, you can tell the mood the best in the platoon right? Even in a situation like this where your love rival Ouka-chan is rapidly getting closer to Kusanagi-kun, you have taken content of the conversation into consideration and didn't intervene. Women are very jealous creatures so that's quite something〜."
Being patted on the shoulder repeatedly, Mari clicked her tongue.
"You have a similar smell to that of Inquisition's chairman. A smell of someone whose hobby is to treat people like chess pieces as they play."
"Wow, what an unexpectedly straight girl."
Despite the exaggerated reaction, Nagaru was having fun.
"I don't know whether I'm similar to that white-haired ghost, but certainly, I'm happy to see people move as I want them to. And yet, seeing people go in a direction I think is right makes me even more happy."
"Ever since I was born I had a mental defect. Even as my family and friends died, I didn't feel any sadness. Even as the student council members were wiped out, all I could think was 'how unfortunate' or 'what a waste〜', but there was no sadness."
Nagaru said so indifferently, as if it was nothing.
For Mari, it was the first time to hearing it. When she looked at Nagaru from the side profile, she saw her laughing and it didn't feel like there was any defect.
"But, it's not like I can't understand the sadness or suffering of others. It's just that I cannot sympathize with them."
As despair surrounded her, she alone remained happy.
Even if she understood the reason for the despair in her surroundings, she would never feel the same.
I can only imagine it, but it must be incredibly lonely, Mari thought.
"Since I cannot sympathize with the suffering or sadness of others, I have no choice but to make those people who're filled with negative feelings happy. This world is full of things I cannot sympathize with, so unless I make them happy I'll feel lonely. I don't understand loneliness, but having others feel the same as I do seems interesting."
After being told that, Mari somehow understood.
"And as I did so and others became happy, it became very entertaining for me. Seeing people act as I intended them to and end up with a smile has become unbearably fun for me. As I continued to use that as my reason for living, before I realized I became a person like this."
Seeing Nagaru's laughter, Mari narrowed her eyes.
"Soo, what? Are you saying that you're trying to help just for your self-satisfaction?"
"Mm〜, I'm standing as the dissidents' top so it's not all for self-satisfaction, about a third of it is I guess."
"............what's the dissidents' objective?"
"I'll explain that after we reach our home〜."
The person called Hojishiro Nagaru didn't seem to have come to help the 35th platoon out of good intentions and in good faith, and not necessarily as the dissidents' top.
Self-satisfaction. Everything for the sake of satisfying her own greed... making everyone happy, starting a revolution in order to make a happy world.
Such a thing, Mari snorted.
If it was only to sympathize with others, and she was really acting accordingly to her ego, then there was no reason for her to manage the dissidents. The dissidents were by no means a loose organization. They were a bunch that wanted to change this bloody world.
And the main problem was that they didn't know what their objective was.
Inquisition would destroy magic, creating a world in which people can live in peace.
Valhalla would spread magic, the witches would make a world of freedom and equality.
And the dissidents?
Just what on earth is this woman and the other dissidents aiming for.
"Snacks〜 snacks〜♪ snacks〜 at 3'o clock〜 snacks〜 are the best♪."
Nagaru herself was acting carefree, sniffing the sweets she had in her backpack.
"Here, Mari-chan's share."
"It's okay〜. They aren't poisoned or anything〜♪."
She handed chocolates to Mari. She had her eyes thinly opened and her actions seemed forced.
Despite being suspicious, Mari took the chocolates immediately. They made a nice crunchy sound.
"I think it's natural for you to want to know our objective. In fact, I know that you're the most cautious one among your platoon's members."
"So you're saying I don't fit in. Well, that's true though."
"No no, the platoon needs a girl like you. But that's why, I want to talk about our organization after we reach our home."
Mari frowned at Nagaru's stubborn attitude whereas she won't reveal the truth no matter what.
"——Probably, it'll be too crazy for you to realize it's real."
Nagaru spilled that absent-mindedly, while watching the snow outside of the window.
"——Yahoo♪ My my it's the two of you, where are you going now?"
European Shelter, Magic Academy's East Side. Haunted appeared from the darkness near the spot Mother and Orochi tried to use transfer magic to head for the peace talks.
This man has always appeared abruptly and disturbed the situation.
Neither Mother nor Orochi were surprised. However, Orochi already grasped the sword on the verge of Haunted appearing.
Haunted flaunted a radiant smile and moved closer to the two with sound footsteps.
"...what do you want, pervert."
"I don't remember calling you. Could you disappear? You're dirtying the air."
In response to the two's heartless words, Haunted shrugged exaggeratedly.
"Even if you handle me in such a crude manner all of a sudden, I'm already used to it and won't get excited at all. On the other hand, since I changed sides to East Side, I thought it would be nice to deepen our camaraderie. Look, after all, we were comrades in arms in the previous war."
As Haunted pouted and started fidgeting, Orochi made a genuinely irritated expression.
"Changing sides...? In the first place, you've no intention of obeying anyone. Rather, if you're with us, obviously everything will be ruined. It was the same during the Witch Hunt War. You're a bother so get lost."
As Orochi waved his arms to shoo him away, Haunted made a dissatisfied pout. Although their exchange made it seem as if they were on good terms, their eyes weren't laughing. It would be correct to call them incompatible.
"As expected of someone with whom I have had such a long relationship, you know me well. Certainly, East Side can eat shit for all I care, yours and Mother's hypocrisy is so disgusting it looks lovely to me instead. I'm getting goosebumps at the thought of you becoming my allies."
"Oh-hoh, same here."
"But however, but however! But however, just this time I think it would be better if we went together just this once. I might not be your ally, but without a doubt Ootori Sougetsu is my enemy."
*tch* *tch* *tch*, Haunted waved his index finger and said such a thing with an annoying expression.
"What that man is seeking is destruction, right? That's inconsistent with the despair I seek. If everything is destroyed, there will be no despair. Listen, despair only stands out when there's happiness in the world, making a world without happiness despair is boring! If despair becomes routine, it'll become worthless! That man who wants to destroy this balance is without a doubt my enemy, or rather, a nuisance and obstacle——you're going for peace talks right, I'll go with you. Rather, it's an event that won't start without me, isn't it?"
Haunted made a fervent speech, and at the end he smiled pleasantly and concluded with "take me with you".
Shady. Definitely shady.
Still, the two knew what Haunted said was not a lie.
However, honestly it was "it's not a reason to take you with us".
Orochi squinted and started the transfer device. As the sound of magical power charging echoed, Haunted smoothly slid into the transfer device, entering between the two.
Seeing Haunted smile with satisfaction, Orochi spat out a huge sigh.
"Irritating... annoying... annoying... Gungnir, can I kill this guy?"
"I don't mind, but you'll just exhaust yourself. He's extremely difficult to kill, Host should know that he's the most troublesome existence in the world once it comes down to fighting. Above all, removal of the highest priority target is more important. Knowing that, do as you please."
"Ah, so you won't help me..."
"Yes. I refuse."
Orochi with a genuinely disgusted expression, and expressionless Mother.
Haunted spread his arms exaggeratedly and placed his hands on the two's shoulder in an over-familiar manner.
"Haa〜 how nostalgic. Back then when we were 150 years younger, us two men vying for one woman! Heart-rending love triangle! Our sweet and sour youth revives!"
"You didn't age at all since then, and we never had such a relationship!"
"Host, you will only tire yourself out with him. Ignoring him is most efficient. Good grief... why did Nacht choose such a man I wonder... I still can't understand that."
Their bodies began to emit light, and the moment magical power was released, the three's bodies suddenly disappeared from the spot.