After having Mari go support Ouka, Takeru ran through the Critical Point alone.
Not only Mamoru and Hayato were fast, he didn't know which way did they go. Even though Lapis searched for them, not only she was unsuitable for exploration, her searching range was further lowered in the Critical Point.
What Takeru could do was to follow footprints and not to miss even a faintest sound.
He had separated from comrades long time ago.
Just his impatience increased.
As if to add an insult to the injury, Lapis gasped.
《"Host... look at the plants around us."》
Doing as Lapis said, Takeru looked at the plant eroding a building in the Critical Point.
The plant had repeated rapid growth and death.
It wasn't just plants.
The sand and stones on the ground were sinking or floating against the force of gravity.
"...this thing's the abnormal Critical Point's phenomenon?"
《"Soon enough this place will be swallowed by the Sanctuary. In addition to that, this place is very close to the Sanctuary inside the Critical Point. Magic transmission won't work well."》
Takeru tried to communicate with his comrades through the radio, but their voices didn't reach him. it was also unknown whether his voice had reached them.
He stopped once.
A thought of going back had crossed his mind.
《"...as for Ootori Sougetsu, I don't know much about him. When my consciousness had surfaced, I was already under control of that man."》
Numerous times in the shadow of history a person who seemed like Ootori Sougetsu had appeared.
Alive for several thousand years, an immortal being. An irregular always being there behind the scenes of history.
A smiling man full of mysteries.
《"The information concerning Ootori Sougetsu is without a doubt critical to Heretic Alliance. However, I do not feel it necessary enough to have Host's and everyone from the platoon risk their lives to obtain it."》
Certainly, it was just as Lapis said.
Aside from the fact it could be justified as required in order to stop Kiseki from being used as a weapon, if they were to save Kiseki, he couldn't care less about Ootori Sougetsu.
But, since that day he had decided not to kill Kiseki, Takeru knew.
Even if he saves Kiseki, even if he saves comrades, it'll be all for naught if the world is destroyed.
If the world is destroyed, he will lose all he holds dear.
Magnolia said that Sougetsu's goal is to destroy the world.
In that case, there was one answer.
It was an answer he had arrived many times already.
"...certainly... I don't care about the Chairman... about Ootori Sougetsu in the least. I'm not really interested in stuff like war. As long as Kiseki, my comrades and you are beside me, I'm satisfied."
"But that... I thought about it earlier, but these exist because world exists, right? If this world is destroyed, everything will disappear."
"That's why I had decided. If that person wants to destroy the world, if he has the power to do it, I need to kill him. I have to kill him in order to save the world."
"The mission given to me, is most likely for the sake of that—— I can't afford to abandon it."
After he finished speaking, Takeru started to run again. He repeated in the radio for ten minutes that his comrades should withdraw. He has no idea whether it had reached them, but he believed they would surely survive.
Of course, he had not the least intention of dying himself. He intended to return alive no matter what.
After a moment of silence, Lapis spoke in low voice.
《"...really, what a foolish man... world... you're burdening yourself with more extra weight..."》
Hearing that, Takeru smiled wryly and responded.
"I'm not bearing it alone. Right? Partner."
《"Currently, inquisitor Jougasaki had taken away what Kurogane Hayato was looking for and is on the run."》
Listening to the report from the field, Sougetsu who was cleaning the Relic Eater "Innocentius" stopped his hands and closed his eyes in silence.
The caller wasn't the subordinate who had been keeping in touch an hour ago but a separate Banshee troop directed to the Critical Point at the same time.
The detached force was ordered to monitor all the inquisitors on the scene.
"And what was it that Kurogane-kun was looking for?"
《"Something... like a document. We cannot check the contents, thus cannot describe."》
Sougetsu put Innocentius on the table, erasing expression he slightly opened his eyes.
"You are absolutely forbidden to check the contents. If you happen to see the contents of the document, you shall be immediately executed."
He could hear the subordinate gasp.
...a document. Most likely Mineshiro had left it. That's just like him, a nostalgic ideologist. He feared knowing of me, erased the information from his memory and left it on paper medium.
That's troublesome, Sougetsu made a smile reaching his eyes.
Although he told the subordinate they would be executed if they checked the contents, in the first place Sougetsu had no intention of leaving a single one who had gone to the Critical Point alive. He had planned to have all of them die on spot after the mission is finished.
However, the 35th Test Platoon coming to the scene was beyond his expectations.
Kusanagi-kun is the last one I want to see that document's contents. In order to have him destroy the world on schedule.
Seeing a situation he was afraid of slightly emerge, Sougetsu laughed.
The element of difficulty was one of the things he enjoyed.
Well, if it comes to worst I'll just use Kiseki-chan.
When Sougetsu tried to call out to the detached force to have them continue the monitoring,
《"Currently... inquisitor Jougasaki is reading the contents. Although it's far, I have confirmed it."》
"I see I seee. Not a problem, continue monitoring."
Placing down the headset after finishing the call, Sougetsu heaved a sigh.
"...it can't be helped. To me too, it is difficult to rob a promising subordinate of his future..."
His voice tinged with sorrow, his expression said, Sougetsu muttered.
Turning the Innocentius in shape of a musket gun like a baton, he had set it up like a hunter.
With a familiar smile, he placed a finger on the trigger of betrayal.
The innermost part of the Critical Point. If he proceeded two hundred meters Kurogane Hayato would have entered the Sanctuary.
Hiding his body in the shade of a restaurant, he checked the square ahead.
There was a decayed fountain and at the square there were benches lined up exposed to wind and rain. Even now from the vestiges it could be felt that 150 years ago it was crowded with families.
Jougasaki Mamoru stood in the center.
Mamoru was dropping his line of sight at the document left behind by Mineshiro Kazuma. Hayato's fingertips had touched Caligula in the holster and he shown himself walking up to Mamoru.
Noticing the sound of footsteps Mamoru raised his face and looked up at the sky.
"...Senpai, did you betray us for information like this?"
"Why... even if this information is real... it's not a reason to betray Inquisition. So what if, is what it means."
"Senpai... what do you intend to do about Chairman?"
Wind blew passing between Hayato and Mamoru.
As Mamoru had asked, Hayato's expression didn't change at all.
"I'll decide on it after confirming that document. However, Ootori Sougetsu undoubtedly is already my enemy. No matter the method, I shall punish that man."
"Is it Hyakki Yakou's case? Since he plans to put it to military use Senpai had made Chairman his enemy?"
"That's not all. That man had exceeded what I deem acceptable by a wide margin. That's the reason."
"Then, was it really Senpai that had stolen Mephisto's body?"
"...to save Hyakki Yakou...?"
"If it's about Mephisto's body, it was to save Kusanagi Kiseki. Not for Hyakki Yakou."
Hayato said without hesitation.
A sound of Mamoru's fist being clenched had echoed.
"...right now the world is at war. I think that girl born as Hyakki Yakou is pitiful, but Senpai knows that unless we use what we can we cannot win against witches, right?"
"Of course. If we continue to allow the enemy one-sidedly invade as they are, Inquisition will lose this land."
"T-then——it's not time for beautiful acts!'
Mamoru swung his arm and shouted angrily.
"Using what can be used is Inquisition's way! Fight poison with poison! With how Senpai is thinking we too who use Relic Eaters are guilty!"
"Right now the humanity is half as numerous as it was before first Witch Hunt War! The witches had evolved in the sanctuary and had caught up with their science and technology to us, who spent 150 years for reconstruction! Whether guns or numbers, we can no longer win against them you know?!"
That's why it can't be helped that Hyakki Yakou is used as a weapon. Although what Mamoru said was cruel, it was also a sound argument.
"For such a thing, all alone you intend to make Inquisition your enemy?! Are you going to turn entire humanity into your enemies?! Senpai whom I know wasn't an idealist like that!"
"You from back when you were EXE's captain wouldn't be obsessed with such a short-term thing! Protecting humanity is our work!"
In silence Hayato had listened to Mamoru's shouts.
He thought it was all just as Mamoru said.
Humanity needed weapons that could serve as a deterrent so that they could avoid war. At the same time, if the war cannot be avoided, it might be true that they would have to show the might of their weapons.
However, to Hayato,
To Hayato's law——that was nothing but barbarism.
"What you're saying is correct. In order to aim for victory and peace, a deterrent is needed. Using the deterrent isn't a mistake either."
"——However, Kusanagi Kiseki is a human. Not a weapon. Using her as a weapon is against my law."
Hayato pulled out Caligula from the pocket and aimed at Mamoru.
Speechless, Mamoru had gritted his teeth in response to Hayato's decision.
"...human? Such a thing, is human...?"
"Her body isn't human, but her heart is human's. Regardless of what the person herself wants, Inquisition using a civilian as a weapon something I cannot forgive."
"Civilian...? Don't make me laugh... just how much people had that killed? Did Senpai forget how many comrades we have lost to capture that?!"
Hayato remained silent for a moment.
There was no way he would forget, the tragedy that had occurred in the small village mountain.
Hyakki Yakou's emergence and the operation to capture it.
EXE had been called in and while they used full force during the operation, including Relic Eater contractors there were many inquisitors swallowed by Hyakki Yakou.
At that time, Hayato's regrets increased by one. Since he was unable to hold her down with just his own strength, his comrades had died for naught. Mamoru and Iori who just had entered EXE had also participated in the operation.
It must have been too ghastly sight for a rookie. The tragic death of comrades had planted darkness in Mamoru and Iori.
Back then Hayato felt it was all his responsibility. If he didn't call his comrades and continued alone with just his own strength, the result might have been different.
"I wouldn't forget. However, because I know how terrifying Hyakki Yakou is, I cannot allow it to be used as a weapon."
Hayato was adamant. He carried through with his law.
In contrast, Mamoru had presented the Inquisition's law.
The conflicting individuals glared at each other, not budging an inch.
"That thing is heretic...! It deserves to be used! What Chairman is doing is right!"
"Ootori Sougetsu not only uses Kusanagi Kiseki, he also used witches as an energy source for mass producing Relic Eaters. That man went against law. I can no longer overlook it."
"What's wrong in using witches for human's sakes! Laws are for the sake of humanity... that's what Senpai had said...!"
"Wrong. Law is for people. Witches are people too."
Once again the wind blew, the two's hair trailed after it.
Mamoru's who hung his head down raised his face in anger, his shoulders trembling.
"That's your law! It's not ours, Inquisitions law!"
Then, he spread his arms and shouted.
Momentarily, an ultramarine-colored magical circle appeared beneath Mamoru's feet and ultramarine magic had begun to converge behind him.
And, suddenly it had appeared.
Looking like a mass of iron, a rugged silhouette. Strong tracks that looked like they could trample even big trees. A huge gun barrel made to slaughter everything.
The Relic Eater "Heliogabalus". It's initial form was that of a tank.
Made at the same time as Daji, they were the youngest among Relic Eaters.
After summoning the tank, Mamoru and Hayato glared at each other.
"...It seems pointless to speak any more than this. That document is a tool needed to punish Ootori Sougetsu. If you do not feel like giving it up, I'll take it away by force."
"If you don't feel like surrendering, I'll make you surrender! I'll drag you back even if I have to use force!"
Hayato had resolved himself to fight his subordinate.
He no longer saw a way to push through other than to fight.
The two had clad themselves with the law they believed in——
"Summis desiderantes affectibus!"
An ultramarine and jet-black magical circles had wrapped around their master's bodies.
Caligula's magical circle was accompanied by black lightning as it turned Hayato into Witch Hunter form.
The jet-black armor was simple. As if to embody Hayato's beliefs it was black and smoothly protected his body. The exterior was reminiscent of wet lacquer, for some reason filling the ones who see it with awe. Slightly, something like a black miasma had drifted up from the armor.
In contrast, Mamoru's Witch Hunter form was very abnormal.
Not only it completely covered his body, but also wrapped around it. That figure was exactly like one of a modern tank operated like a Dragoon.
It was far more massive than Hayato, more mighty.
The right arm had a tank gun mounted on it, its muzzle was about the size of a human head. Hayato's Caligula had taken form of a 0.50 caliber revolver, looking incredibly small.
《"Aren't you going to use Maximilian?"》
Mamoru's voice had resounded from inside of Dragoon-type Relic Eater.
Still aiming Caligula at Mamoru, Hayato answered indifferently.
"Against you, this is enough."
From inside Heliogabalus Mamoru's laughing voice had resounded.
He had raised his right arm, poising the tank gun forward at Hayato's face.
《"You'll regret it, Senpai."》
And the next instant——the gun had blown fire.
Hayato avoided it just by slightly sliding to the side.
From just the shock the fountain and benches were blown away, the shell hit restaurant directly ahead and changed the building into a pile of rubble.
Mamoru must have guessed it would be avoided. He delivered a blow from the left arm, striking Hayato from the side.
In front of the huge fist approaching, Hayato attempted to escape by jumping.
Reading ahead it would be dodged by jumping, Mamoru stopped in middle of the blow. Despite being a huge bulk, the arm's movement was faster than Hayato. Heliogabalus had instantly bent its knee and its attack had changed into an uppercut, Mamoru's fist attacked leaping Hayato.
Got you, Mamoru didn't think anything like that. It was because the man called Kurogane Hayato had always surpassed everyone's expectations.
Hayato put his feet on the extended fist and on top of killing the uppercut's power he had used his legs as a spring
His body was blown 100 meters far into the sky.
《"Did you plan to end up flying?!"》
Aiming from below at the falling target was a great chance.
Mamoru expanded a stopper that supported Heliogabalus from the back and aimed the barrel towards the sky, preparing for the incoming recoil. It's body had tilted by forty degrees, aiming straight up.
And aiming for the moment Hayato starts falling, a shell was fired. With a loud sound and impact, the shell approached Hayato.
Falling, Hayato aimed his muzzle downwards and fired the Caligula on the verge of being hit.
Caligula's bullet had collided with Heliogabalus' shell. Despite the fact shell was many times larger than the bullet, the power was evenly matched offsetting each other's explosion.
《"That's something only Relic Eater's specializing in destructive force can do! But——"》
In no time, Mamoru had begun rapid fire.
Two, three, four——five shots.
And then, he fired the sixth shot.
Hayato didn't intercept it. No, he couldn't.
《"Ammo loaded into Caligula is five shots, it takes three seconds to reload! I haven't looked at your back until now for naught!"》
What Mamoru said was right on target. Although Caligula had a tremendous destructive power, the magical bullets had to be filled directly into the cylinder manually with the user's fingers.
It was unavoidable. Delay between magical power's injection and firing was too long.
Knowing that——Hayato had swung his right arm.
It can't be, Mamoru was horrified.
Exactly, it was that "it can't be".
Hayato had swung his fist and hit the shell. Normally even with a Witch-Hunter form he wouldn't survive such a blow.
However, Hayato had opened the cylinder latch and performed a reload before resurfacing from the explosion's flame.
He was intact. Heliogabalus' destructive power was comparable to that of Caligula, it was neutralized just by being punched.
There were only 10 meters remaining until landing. Hayato's muzzle had captured Mamoru.
While raising a cry, Mamoru had fired a shell at Hayato from nearly zero distance.
At the same time Hayato fired Caligula's magical bullet.
The two's power had collided again.
They weren't evenly matched. This time Hayato's magic had penetrated through Mamoru's shell and hit him directly.
As soon as it landed, shockwave had mowed everything down. The tiles on fountain square were peeled off and even the ground had deformed.
Caligula's destructive power was legendary. Just like Mamoru said, it was a Relic Eater specializing in destructive power and the Caligula's 'Tyrant' magical property just like 'Dragon' property held destructive force in the magical power itself.
The Relic Eater's intrinsic performance was a thing called 'Destructive power is dependent on the strength of contractor's life force". Along with the official name and numbering, just like Innocentius had "prototype" engraved, Caligula was had "test type" engraved in. It didn't have an anti-magic performance like other Relic Eaters.
What Caligula sought was "strength". When Caligula had found a strong contractor that satisfied it, it had sucked their life as a price.
A person with Hayato's talent had born once per 100 years, a human mutation that had boasted of overly-high specs since birth, "Hero Vessel". It was proven by Inquisition's Seelies during examination that he was a "Hero Vessel".
After landing on the ground on his knees, Hayato stood up soundlessly.
In the smoke, he closed his eyes.
"...you're all talk."
Hayato had muttered with a sigh.
As if cutting through the space dense from smoke, it was then that something had attacked aiming for Hayato's head.
It was the enormous Dragoon fist. Heliogabalus and Mamoru.
Mamoru's fist was received and stopped with a single hand of Hayato's.
The fist huge like a rock had been stopped with a single hand, not even faltering.
But Mamoru didn't stop. Undaunted he challenged Hayato in close combat.
All of Mamoru's attacks were lightly caught by Hayato, with a single hand.
He had entered the gap in the giant bulk and squeezed the trigger after poising the gun against its abdomen.
Caligula's bullet was emitted at zero distance, exploding at Dragoon's abdomen.
In response to the impact Mamoru bent and was about to fall.
Blowing magical power from a booster, Mamoru had immediately used the Dragoon's fist to punch Hayato.
*bang*, a hook hit Hayato's head.
《"If Caligula specializes in destruction, my Heliogabalus would be the one specializing in defense!"》
Defense. Heliogabalus' characteristic was just as he said, an outstanding anti-magical defense.
Heliogabalus' magical power property was "Dragon".
He was able to compete with "Tyrant" magical bullet because the shell had been built with "Dragon" property magical power. However, Heliogabalus' characteristic was defense. The substance boasting of the highest hardness and anti-magic resistance wasn't Blue Crystal nor Weiss Crystal, it was "Dragon's Scales". Heliogabalus' magical property was capable of reproducing the dragon's scales as armor.
The characteristics of another EXE member, Gou's Relic Eater "Ivan" was "being unaffected by magic" which meant things made with magic and magical bullets, it was awfully weak against physical attacks.
In Heliogabalus' case, it had boasted of "outstanding defense against everything". It was impossible to penetrate through the dragon's scales without Magical Heritage on the level of those from legends and held by legendary heroes.
If Caligula was the strongest spear, Heliogabalus was the strongest shield. Looking purely at combat capability, Heliogabalus' magic cannon had fired "Dragon" shells and was very high spec.
However, Hayato's specs as a contractor were overwhelming.
And Caligula had greedily responded to the contractor's specs.
No matter how much Mamoru had extruded the most out of Heliogabalus' performance, not even a fist that could destroy a building with a single blow could reach Hayato.
《"Why do you betray us when you have so much power?! Why do you forsake us?!"》
As Hayato had easily blocked an attack with one hand, Mamoru had raised a bitter cry.
Hayato did not answer. Since he had determined talking was pointless, he would definitely not respond.
《"!! Why——WHY ARE YOU LEAVING US BEHINDDDD!!"》
Mamoru pulled his arm back and swung it.
The forearm part of his right arm opened up like a flower and expanded a magical circle. The clenched fist was tinged with ultramarine magical power and started violently rotating.
It was intrinsic magic of Heliogabalus' that had concentrated the destructive power of the Dragon property to the limit, the 《Bahamut Enchantment》.
Hayato had furrowed his eyebrows in response to Mamoru's cry, then closed his eyes.
A memory of the past had revived in him.
The time when that man had left EXE, turning his back on him. The words he said to that man.
——Are you leaving us behind.
Burdened and alone, all the obsession, confusion and anger towards the man who shouldered everything alone and died.
Unexpectedly, Mamoru's words were the same he used when he spoke towards Mineshiro Kazuma.
Temporarily making Caligula vanish, Hayato swung his fist backwards in the same manner Mamoru did.
On the elbow part, three jet-black magical circles had appeared.
His fist was clad in black lightning, pitch, endless blackness swirled around it.
And the two's fists clad in extreme destruction have collided.
The nature of two magical powers specializing in destructive power was evenly matched.
However, the difference between the two was clear.
Hayato's fist had shattered Mamoru's fist, the arm itself had burst.
Crushed with a full body blow, Mamoru had staggered.
That's when Hayato had the enchant's magical power dissipate and stretched his fingertips forming a chop.
"Sorry, there's no time."
Pulling his elbow backwards, he had pierced through armor-clad Mamoru.
The armor whose hardness was equal to that of dragon's scales let out a high-pitched cracking sound.
With his right eye Mamoru had peeked out out the cockpit through the crack.
The two's gaze tinged with sadness had crossed each other and——Hayato had Caligula reappear.
The muzzle was aimed at the scales.
Seeing Mamoru close his eyes and prepare for death, Hayato,
Hayato had slightly shifted the muzzle's direction and fired a magical bullet.
The bullet hit and Heliogabalus' body had decomposed.
Heliogabalus had barely retained its original shape, it could no longer answer to Mamoru's will to fight and wobbled on its knees, backing away.
In the square, a dry wind had blown passing between the two.
The fight was over. The ending was too decisive not to call it settled.
"............I knew...that I can't win against you."
Hayato approached Mamoru and aimed his gun.
"Still, I...wanted to follow after your back...I wanted to catch up to you."
Facing downwards, Mamoru spoke in hoarse voice.
"Why did you...leave us behind...! Are we...that useless...?!"
Squeezed sad voice, words depending on someone.
Hayato had finally understood the feelings of his past self.
Mamoru was the same as Hayato's past self. He had admired Hayato.
In the same manner Hayato was envious of Kazuma. That he had a place that looked like his destination, Hayato too wanted to see it in the depths of his heart.
He wanted to keep chasing after that back forever, he thought.
After being taught about the law in his heart he was left. The feelings he had towards the man who had betrayed him was hatred, jealousy, sadness and made him sick.
That's why, Hayato had decided to at least convey his words to Mamoru
"Jougasaki, that's not it. I didn't think of you or Himemiya and others as useless."
Begging him, he looked up at Hayato.
Squinting, Hayato let out the emotions he was suppressing.
"I... never again want to..."
Never again I want to lose someone.
I don't want to regret.
Turning Ootori Sougetsu into your enemy, was turning the entire human race into your enemies. Involving himself in such a catastrophic rebellion he himself was enough.
After taking over EXE from Kazuma and leading it as the captain, before he noticed he found many things precious to him.
Even a man who clings to the law had made things he wants to protect.
The law he had defined didn't allow to involve even a single one person he held dear.
As he attempted to convey it, Hayato's throat shook.
I don't want you to lose, he said.
——These words didn't reach Mamoru.
Suddenly, Mamoru let out a panicked voice.
Heliogabalus that should have been destroyed started moving.
Creaking body rose up and stood again.
"What's happening...?! Why does it move on it's own...?!"
Mamoru desperately tried to take control of Heliogabalus, but as if it was in autopilot it hadn't responded.
Hayato opened his eyes wide and instantly aimed the muzzle at Heliogabalus.
"——Jougasaki! Cancel Witch-Hunter form immediately!"
Along with an furious roar, Hayato put a finger on the trigger.
"C-can't cancel it...! It can't be, this..."
In panic, Mamoru looked at Hayato from the cockpit.
His eyes were asking for help.
Hayato instantly reached out, hoping he could make it in time.
The moment Mamoru was to say something——the cockpits inner walls had squashed him.
Blood had splashed at Hayato's cheek, the outstretched hand had grasped nothing but air.
Hayato was stunned with eyes wide open.
Just when he thought he doesn't want to lose, he lost.
Too suddenly. Too abruptly.
Once again his mind filled with regret.
Despite losing its contractor, Heliogabalus moved making metallic sounds.
Heliogabalus' raised the gun barrel attached to the right arm and directed it at Hayato.
And, the ultramarine-colored eyes had glowed red.
《"——HAHAHA, HAHAHAHAHAHA, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!"》
Heliogabalus' low, laughing voice had echoed.
Hayato realized who was the owner of the laughing voice.
The tone of voice was different. Completely different.
Even so, Hayato knew. Who was manipulating it, he knew who had killed Mamoru.
——His anger had burst out.
Poising Caligula, with a furious expression he called that name.
Both muzzles had spouted fire at the same time.
Ouka and Mari combination had a very good balance of offense and defense. The two might not like each other, but when it came down to combat they were surprisingly familiar with each other's moves. Among the enemies they had encountered so far, they wasn't a single one they didn't beat down.
However, the fight against Himemiya was extremely fierce.
Ouka soared and aiming at troublesome the missile pod, she fired 《Count's Fang》.
However, Iori avoided it with a slight move.
When 《Count's Fang》 was avoided, there was a big chance. At the same time Iori had avoided, she had kicked Ouka's belly.
Thanks to Mari activating 《Aurora Field》 on the brink of Ouka hitting the ground's surface, Ouka hadn't clashed into it.
Ouka held her belly with a hand and looked up at the sky in anguish.
When Ouka shouted, far above Iori hovering in the air, Mari deployed a huge magical circle.
As if to say she waited for it, Mari licked her lips.
"Mari-san's full power! 《Stardust Aurora》!"
Mari aimed the huge magical circle below and pulled her right arm back in order to release all magical power available to her. Then, with abandon she had hit the constructed magical circle with her arm, causing the huge magic burst out together with the magical circle's crumbling. The outburst had consisted of multiple overlapping 《Aurora Cannon》 magic.
As the magical circles were crushed before the operative procedure fixing the magic into rays was completed, the magic had been forced to activate.
As a result, numerous swirling 《Aurora Cannons》 had poured down in all directions.
Iori has shown impatience and devoted herself to defense.
However, swallowed by a storm of auroral bullets each having a size of a car, her figure had become invisible.
The shells had landed and the ground was messed up as if a nuclear explosion hit it.
Seeing that scene, Mari put a hand on her hip and made a smug, arrogant expression.
"Fufufuunn! How was that, how? Even if you can predict my actions, you can't predict the trajectory even I can't predict, can you? It's magic I instantly made after seeing your missiles. Mari-chan's a genius after all〜."
Growing impudent, Mari laughed loudly with "Oh ho ho".
When she did, a shout could be heard from her intercom.
《"*cough*, *cough*...you!! Don't involve me in all that!"》
It was Ouka who was in the vicinity of the ground.
Speaking of which, you're right. Mari stared wide eyed.
She hit the palm of her hand with a fist.
"I believeth that Ouka will avoid it!"
The intonation of "believe" was strange.
Ouka soared through the smoke at breakneck speed and delivered a chop to Mari's head.
"You just thought of that now, right?! You just made up that excuse, right?!"
"Ow, that hurt! Even hit by them you wouldn't die! Rather, it's your fault for relaxing yourself in 《Aurora Field》's bed down there!"
Because the chop was too serious, Mari had refuted with watery eyes.
"Still, who the hell would mercilessly bomb people like that! I really thought I'd die!"
"I saiddd, my magic has lethality suppressed and won't kill someone who's in Witch Hunter form! Did you forget my "Non-Killing Witch" nickname?!"
"Hell-if-I-know! Who cares about nicknames! I have one and I don't go around boasting about it!"
"It's fine to boast! I don't care! Also, your nickname is disgraceful! It's Calamity (lol)! What "Calamity", mine's cooler!"
"I-I didn't give it to myself! Y-your magic name is lame too!"
"L-lame...?! I-it can't be helped, right?! Since Aurora magic doesn't have official name I named it on my own! It's not lame!"
Ouka and Mari started to quarrel like a cat fight.
Even if their moves matched, the two were same as ever.
"............I'm being underestimated here. Non-Killing? With such way of thinking do you think you can beat me?"
The two looked towards the voice at the same time.
They saw Iori slowly raise from the ground.
"N-no way... while lethality is low, Aurora property deals damage directly to the soul... why..."
Speechless, Mari confronted Iori.
Once again entering battle readiness Ouka made a stance.
"If you consider she avoided them all, she'll be fine."
"Exactly. Let me say, Daji doesn't read thoughts of the enemy. It reads the flow of magical power... I told you, as long as you rely on magical power it won't work on me."
With a cool expression Iori put a hand on her cheek.
"In a place like this with a lot of magical power in the air, even if you didn't have any magical power in your bodies I could understand everything as long as you exert force."
She rotated the machine gun on her shoulder.
"My weaknesses are decisive instead. Well, in exchange for that I can suppress my power consumption and continue battling almost forever."
"If you want to fight me, come with intent to kill. If you don't want to kill me, surrender. The only choices left to you are those two."
Despite her frosty expression, the machine guns on her shoulders heated up.
Ouka heaved a deep sigh and lowered Vlad.
"It can't be helped... Nikaido, relax your stance."
"It's fine, do as I say."
Mari was surprised, but she bit her lower lip and had the magical circles disappear.
You don't really intend to surrender like this, do you? If you are, I'll beat you up and then bash your character in shape, Mari thought.
With a cold expression, Iori laughed faintly. At the same time she stopped the machine gun's rotation.
"That's wise. Unlike in the past, you've become obedient, Ouka-san."
"No. I'm sorry, but I have no intention to surrender. I just want to ask one question."
Scratching her ear with a finger, Ouka said in a loud voice.
Once again, Iori's expression had turned cold.
"...what is it. Ask one thing you want then. It's pointless to make any strange moves, you know?"
"I have no intention to do so. Vlad said that Daji has sensing range of 2000 meters. Is such vast range of searching really possible...?"
Iori was puzzled, but she shrugged.
"Here I wondered what... even if that's true, what of it?"
"I thought it's amazing."
Sighing, Iori had the machine gun rotate again.
"Thanks for that. Really. Are your silly questions over? You're not going to surrender are you? Is it fine now?"
"Yes. Thank you very much as well.
——There you have it, Saionji."
With Usagi's name suddenly appear, Iori furrowed her eyebrows.
Mari too, wondered what she suddenly started talking about.
Was she buying time by asking a stupid question? Iori started the booster on her back——and was horrified when a certain possibility had entered her head.
"......——————It can't be...!"
Iori tried to look behind her, that moment.
Something had hit her shoulder at a tremendous speed. Her shoulder armor was blown off and the machine gun stopped functioning, scattering sparks.
Daji had instantly provided an analysis on the object that had hit her shoulder.
WC bullet. A brutal projectile that could even destroy a Relic Eater's armor. Daji's own armor was very weak. After getting hit by that, there was no way it wouldn't have its armaments blown off.
When it comes to anti-magic bullets, there wasn't a single person who could take it.
Holding her shoulder down, Iori stared into the distance.
She couldn't see. Even with the information from Daji's sensing, she couldn't see.
It was natural.
Saionji Usagi——wasn't at such close distance.
"No way, that girl is aiming from outside the sensing range?!"
Immediately after her bewildered mutter, this time the bullet had hit Iori's right leg.
"——I never let a prey I have in my sights escape."
On a rooftop of a slightly elevated building.
With a bandaged head Saionji Usagi was on one knee, holding the rifle with both arms and firmly captured the target in her sights.
"Nice shot, as expected of our Usagi-chan〜."
Standing next to her was Ikaruga, who with binoculars was checking if the bullets hit and reported in her usual languid voice.
When Ikaruga checked the distance measurement on the binoculars, the distance between them and the objective was 2900 meters.
It was slightly beating the world record in sniping for this era.
"Without this gun, it would be an impossible distance."
"It's a good thing I made it possible to use gunpowder for times like this."
"Yes. I am more used to this——and above all, this scent after shooting is something I very much like."
Staring through the scope Usagi sharply narrowed her eyes, another gunshot had sounded.
Usagi, what a dreadful girl you are! Ikaruga beside her was trembling, but what she said didn't reach Usagi's ears.
The second shot also hit the target thanks to the fact Usagi had learned Iori's habits from observing her battle with Ouka and Mari.
She had predicted Iori would stagger after the first shot and to immediately fire the second one.
It was because since firing until the impact there was a five second lag.
"Ootori, Nikaido, attack her as to seal as many movement patterns of hers as possible. I shall finish her off."
The two's high-spirited response lit a fire under Usagi's calm fighting spirit.
She knew the gun's habits in full now. Fortunately, the wind has ceased to blow, weather was practically windless.
If there was a problem, it would be how the rifle sat in her arms. It would be easy if she could expand a bipod, but then she couldn't cope with it if enemy raised higher. Usagi was incredibly strong for a normal woman, but it was inevitable that her arms would grow numb.
But, she had no intention of complaining nor crying in pain.
Despite all, Usagi was the 35th Test Platoon's sniper. She had survived so far with just sniping. This was the only thing for her and the skill she continued to polish.
Usagi too, had her pride. Her fright and pride had no relation. If anything, her pride being hurt had blown away all the tension.
That woman, with the same sniping had hurt Usagi's pride. She couldn't forgive her.
She needed to pay a high price for that.
"Now, let's have the unnecessary things you are clad in——all stripped off you."
Saionji Usagi had declared with an incredibly cold voice.
Having her leg and shoulder hit, Iori was flying at high speed using her boosters.
Himemiya Iori didn't think there was a sniper this outstanding in the 35th platoon.
She wasn't conceited. Iori who was good at analyzing information continued to refine this advantage of hers after Daji had contracted with her.
Processing the information passed to her by Daji wasn't a task possible for someone having a normal information processing capability. Precision and computing power similar to that of a computer was required.
She had covered her own missing abilities with information, in order to cover everything.
That was her only saving grace.
Above all, she was able to expand her own strength this far thanks to the fact that she, a dropout, was praised by that person.
Having her only advantage sealed, Iori was upset.
Enemy should be in high spot! In that case I'll proceed in the shadow of the building flying very low until I approach the sniper and capture her within my sensing range! The priority is defeating the sniper!
Wavering, Iori had left Ouka and Mari, descending.
She flew between convoluted buildings in order to find the sniper.
Fierce bombing had assaulted her from the sky. Randomly pouring down rainbow-colored shells had destroyed all the buildings she could hide behind in a wide range.
Seeing the enormous destructive power and absurd amount of magical power, Iori was horrified.
As far as she could see, nearly all the buildings have turned into rubble.
"As if I'd let you hide!"
Continuing to destroy the buildings Mari dropped down below Iori, then started to fire a meteor shower from below.
It's impossible to take them down with missiles' power... in this case I have no choice but to avoid raising up until I reach the atmosphere! If I somehow leave the range of the sniper's range I'll be able to avoid everything!
"I won't let you——《Tepes Rain》！"
The moment she moved up with a booster, a voice had come from directly above her.
When she raised her face upwards, she saw Ouka's figure raising both her handguns towards the sky.
On the sky's entirety was drawn crimson magical circle.
And what had rained down, was an enormous amount of huge stakes.
Iori was speechless. Both above and under there was hell. Her escape route was cut off. Although it was possible to avoid it, the problem wasn't Ouka or Mari's magic.
She could read it. She couldn't read from where and how the sniper would shoot her.
Relying on the information too much had become her foe.
If she's targeted in the meanwhile, she might be shot down in worst case.
In that case she had no choice but to give up on avoiding the barrage and had to shoot everything down!
She couldn't lose here. The EXE's pride was on the line.
Spreading mechanical wings, she expanded pale magical circles on their surface. She had used all the weapons she had left to their fullest.
Interception lasers in the wings, one missile pod on her leg and a machine gun.
Intrinsic magic 《Full Burst》. An omnidirectional interception magic of Daji's "Beguile" magical property.
"TAKE ALL PROJECTILES DOWNNNNNNN!!"
As she appealed the sparks have been spread all around. Daji had granted her information and she had locked on all the targets. Starting the interception.
Ouka and Mari didn't lose and continued to maintain the rapid fire, but not a single shot had reached her.
To Iori, not having any information on the single blow of Saionji was the problem.
However, it was impossible for it to circumvent this barrage.
She can try to hit her in this situation if she wants to.
I'll shot down any attack there is.
In that instant, Iori had certainly caught it in her sight.
Between the rain of stakes and the meteor rain of shells, slipping through Iori's desperate interception, a white bullet had approached directly at her——
The bullet had slipped through everything and directly hit Iori's machine gun, destroying it.
The following bullet fired in rapid succession had destroyed her remaining missile pod.
Isn't a human... skill.
And in the end, two bullets fired in rapid succession had pulverized her two mechanical wings.
The wreckage had returned back to magical particles, melting into the air.
With the string of magical pulled, Iori's body fell down.
In the middle of the fall, Iori looked back at her past. Before she realized, she thought of back when she was a student. She was shy and withdrawn back when she had entered the 35th Test Platoon, every day she had desperately earned points together with her comrades. When she was in her second year, they lost three comrades because of her mistake and a serious injury was inflicted to Mamoru. She recalled Hayato rushing to their help as a member of EXE.
Her life had began back then.
Since then, she had desperately chased after Hayato's and Mamoru's back.
Yes...we just chased after his back...we didn't care about how to be an...inquisitor..."
Like that, Iori had reached the ground.
Despite being given power as part of EXE she had lost to her juniors and lost her wings, thinking she had no right to live, she closed her eyes.
She was strongly grabbed with an arm.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Ouka's figure spreading her wings, holding her arm.
"Ouka-san... why did you save me?"
"I didn't intend to kill Senpai right from the start."
"...I'm your enemy... if it was you from before, you would kill me mercilessly."
Ouka made a slightly vexed expression.
"Even myself from before wouldn't kill Senpai who was my former colleague..."
"If I did that, I would go against the law that had settled inside of me."
Saying so, Ouka slowly let Iori down on the ground.
Accidentally, Ouka said the same thing Hayato did.
Having law inside of myself. Iori didn't understand the meaning of these words. The difficulty of their work was to ruthlessly catch criminals, emphasizing just the law as an inquisitor.
To think that a girlie like this understood Hayato's teaching faster than she did.
"What are you saying. Just a while ago all you said was 'revenge revenge'〜."
Mari who had landed beside Ouka using flight rings pursed her lips.
"〜〜!! I... it's fine. I've put an end to that already."
"Even she, just recently had begun to strive as not to kill anyone〜."
"Shut up there. You be silent as well."
As the two had started to quarrel again, Iori raised her face.
It was as if she was looking at past Mamoru and herself.
The 35th Test Platoon. A special platoon that had collected strange people... just like back when Iori was in it.
In this nostalgic mood, a smile had naturally spilled on her face.
It was a complete defeat. These girls were one step ahead of her. Overtaken by her juniors, she lost her position as the one was first. Catching these children was no longer possible for her.
Thinking so, Iori had released her strength.
It was then, that she felt a pain inside of her chest.
Along with her confused voice, blood had spilled out of her mouth.
When she moved her line of sight to her chest, she saw a pale yellow piece of armor pierce it.
It was left behind not turning back to particles, a piece of Daji's wing.
Ouka and Mari noticed it too, rushing to Himemiya. Blood had flowed endlessly, dyeing the ground red.
Ouka had embraced Himemiya.
"What's happening...?! Why is a Relic Eater...?!"
Iori didn't know either.
The only thing she knew, was that she'll die very soon. She had organized everything in her head by the priority. Organized the information. Before she was interrupted she had to relay what was most important.
The one who rules over Relic Eaters is Ootori Sougetsu. Hayato was right. Chairman had ordered them to chase after him, desperately wanting to conceal what is in the document.
Thinking of relaying that, Iori.
Iori's heart, had cried that wasn't it.
The words she wanted to relay was not information.
It was her feelings.
Squeezing out the last of her strength, she put her bloodied hand on Ouka's shoulder.
And shedding tears from her eyes, she said.
"N-not...to leave me............let me be...in......EXE forever..."
"For being beside...you...forgive me......tell...him that..."
Hearing Iori's request, Ouka nodded with a bitter expression.
She felt all the strength leave Iori's body.
Ouka had lowered the hand on her shoulder, Iori's vision was shrouded in darkness.
Unexpectedly, there was no regret. No sadness.
Just a little bit of satisfaction echoed in the back of her chest.
But as if she was tired, the curtain of her life closed.
Looking down at dead Iori, Ouka had put her on the ground.
After closing her open eyes, she stood up.
"...why, did such a thing..."
Holding her mouth, Mari muttered unable to accept this situation.
Ouka clenched her fist in front of Iori and grit her teeth.
"It's Chairman... that man has control over the Relic Eaters in his grasp."
"Just now, Jougasaki-senpai had the document. Jougasaki-senpai must have read it. Since he wants to hide his identity, that man killed his subordinates."
Ootori Sougetsu is that kind of a man. Ouka experienced it before. On the day Takeru had contracted Mistilteinn, Vlad disappeared in middle of the battle with the Einherjar. The moment Ouka was convinced of enemy's defeat, she was deprived of the Relic Eater and unable to do anything.
"Am I right? Vlad."
《"............yeah, it's King's doing. King hath control ov'r us. If not for coating like ours, Relic Eaters cannot go against his orders. That's how we wast made."》
Hearing indifferent and dignified voice of Vlad, Ouka turned around on her heel.
Mari timidly stretched her hand out.
"W-wait a second, are we... leaving this person?"
"...it can't be helped. There isn't time, soon this place will be swallowed up by Sanctuary."
With Vlad in both her hands, Ouka scowled.
"Takeru is in danger."
If Sougetsu wanted to conceal the document, life of everyone in here was in danger.
Bahamut Enchantment (バハムート・エンチャント) - It's written as "Dragon Ruler's Enchant" (覇竜の付与) and read as "Bahamut Enchantment".
Stardust Aurora (スターダスト・アウローラ) - It's written as "Auroral Meteor Shower" (極光流星群) and read as "Stardust Aurora".