The rustling rain continued to steal away warmth from his chilly body.
But although his body was cold, just his head alone was clear and burning up hot, possibly an evidence that he was reaching his limit.
Kusanagi Takeru looked through his wet bangs, his gaze locked on the enemy.
This was the academy's, Inquisition headquarters' deepest part.
It was the backyard of the school leading to the forbidden area. Wet fallen leaves were spread all over the trackless road.
Kusanagi Orochi stood in open space in a forest of dead trees.
He must have been waiting, as he was turned in the direction Takeru was coming from.
Since it was cold, Orochi held his hands and steam could be seen as he breathed out. He continued to look at the dead trees around him.
"These trees, they're all Double Weeping Rosebud Cherries, huh... their blossoms absorb magic power. They planted them near the forbidden area so that magic power does not leak out... or so it seems, damn inelegant."
"The blossoms shouldn't be used but admired."
Right? Asked Orochi.
Takeru didn't reply and just stopped moving approximately twenty meters away from Orochi.
It was the optimal distance for Double-Edged style.
Orochi looked at Takeru and made a carefree smile, like a boy.
"Were this to happen a little later, they'd be in full bloom, eh."
After saying that, Orochi squinted and slightly tilted his head with a smile.
"............you, you overused Soumatou haven't ya?"
Hearing the question, Takeru didn't even nod, just continued to glare.
"Dat's why I told ya to use it well. That significantly reduces your lifespan as a swordsman. If you overuse it, you won't be able to return to being human."
"...that's the kind of thing Double-Edged style is in the first place."
When Takeru said that, Orochi smiled showing his white teeth.
"You ain't wrong. To say, this is a higher level of Soumatou. When Soumatou is exceeding the limit, you can feel your mind being squeezed down, right?"
Takeru had experienced the mental state where he only pursued one desire when he fought against Hayato. It was as if he was being replaced by some different creature, as if he was losing his human heart, that kind of feeling.
"I arbitrarily named that 《Demon's Heart》."
Demon's... very much like Orochi, it was a nasty name for a technique.
As if describing Kusanagi itself.
"Well, after goin' that far there's no goin' back..."
Orochi pulled out his hand from his pocket, scratched his head and held the sword's hilt.
Then smiling he pulled it out and said to Takeru.
"Welcome——to the world of demons."
The withdrawn blade shone with pale light.
Although Orochi's sword was made for using as a sword-stick, but now it had a collar.
Takeru admired that sword which had a very thing blade with a small curvature which made it close to being a short sword.
——The treasured sword "Hotarumaru". It was a Magical Heritage categorized as C-class and did not have any persona. Its intrinsic performance was "Will never dull, will never break".
Contrary to its simple intrinsic performance, the blade itself was beautiful and its light were ephemeral.
When Takeru turned into an initiate, "give it to me" he asked Orochi, he could remember even now how he was refused with a single word. Although the performance was plain, a never breaking sword was first-rate for users of Double-Edged style.
But now he also had an unbreakable sword.
Takeru's dear sword, "Mistilteinn", a magic sword that could even kill God.
Still, he didn't act conceited because of that.
The opponent was his master, the ultimate instructor of the Double-Edged style.
The best of best, it could be said that as a swordsman, he was in a completely different dimension.
However——Takeru was the same. He held the same blood and the same inhuman power.
He should be able to prevail.
——That's how it must be!
"...here I come!"
Words were unnecessary. Kusanagis proved themselves with a sword.
The moment Hotarumaru's blade flashed dully, Takeru closed the distance between him and Orochi all at once.
The step-in, timing of sword draw, everything was perfect.
Double-Edged style's Heavenly Evil Spirit. A technique that allowed to reach top speeds in an instant
He entered under Orochi and drew the sword at zero distance, cutting through.
Cutting through——or so it should have been.
Takeru stopped moving in close contact with Orochi.
No, he was stopped.
On the brink of drawing, Orochi held down the sword's pommel, preventing Takeru from using his technique.
Paling, when he looked up at Orochi, he was responded with a cold stare.
Takeru leaped away in a hurry and kicking off the tree's trunk, he soared high into the air.
Double-Edged style's Mantis Slope. Using the distance from the ground and the user's weight as well as rotation, it was an excellent skill with a high destructive power.
He jumped and raised the sword high up, rotating his body forward.
But——when he tried to rotate, Orochi jumped just like Takeru and grasped his arm.
Once again he was stopped before using it.
Once again their line of sight met in the air. Orochi was unchanged and cold.
Takeru held his sword only with the caught right arm and immediately grasped the sheath his left.
And he twisted his hips and back sliding his sheath to his back, and then released at once.
Double-Edged style's Single Wheel. It was originally an omni-directional sword drawing skill, but in emergency it could be used in this way as well. This too, was what he learned from Orochi.
Taking advantage by the fact he was being held up, he smashed the sheath into Orochi's head.
But——that too, in the end, was easily stopped by Orochi's right arm.
Both of his hands were obstructed. Before Takeru realized, Orochi returned Hotarumaru to its sheath and dealt with Takeru's techniques with bare hands.
In desperation, Takeru kicked Orochi in mid-air.
Orochi sighed and used Takeru's kick as a scaffold, using his legs like a spring he nullified the kick and sprung up further into the air. Conversely, Takeru was blown away onto the ground.
Takeru should be the one who kicked, but for some reason he received an impact of a kick instead.
He reversed his body just before hitting the ground and landed awkwardly.
Orochi danced high in the air and slowly fell down.
——An opportunity. It would be one thing if Orochi could use magic, but he couldn't move mid-air.
Knowing the landing point, he should be able to aim at it at full power.
Takeru pulled half of his body backwards, entering a stance for thrust. He twisted the muscles in his body, bones like a spring to accumulate force in them.
And, charged aiming at the moment Orochi falls to the ground.
Kusanagi Double-Edged style's Unicorn's Destructive Lance. Twisting the entire body, the technique accumulated strength and upon releasing, resulted with a rotating thrust. It had the greatest penetrating power.
This time it's triggering wasn't stopped.
The sword's point headed straight for Orochi's landing point.
But, Takeru saw it. In slow-motion world, Orochi spun in the air like a top.
As Takeru's attack approached him, matching the rotation Orochi used his palm to hit Takeru's blade.
By delivering a powerful blow to the side of the sword's tip, he parried it behind himself.
Naturally, Takeru was unable to suppress the power of the thrust with his body and as a result of the parry he smashed into a cherry tree trunks. He finally stopped after mowing down three trees, he shook his head and piercing the ground with the blade he stood up.
Slowly, Orochi approached stepping on the wet, fallen leaves.
With an even colder look in his eyes than before, Orochi slowly put his hand on Hotarumaru's handle.
This is bad, Takeru thought and stood firmly holding his sword in front.
"First goes——Heavenly Evil Spirit."
As Orochi spoke, his blade glittered.
The next moment, the sword Takeru was poising let out a sound like a bell.
When he looked in the front, Orochi had already pulled out his sword.
A chill went down Takeru's spine.
The moment the sound had come late, so did the impact.
The cherry trees in the surroundings were mowed down.
Although he new it was coming and protected himself, Takeru was blown away just like the trees. By holding out his leg and scraping on the ground he somehow managed to stifle the momentum. The feeling in his arm has gone numb. As he felt the power transmitted through his bones up to his brain, Takeru's throat trembled.
"Sword-drawin' skills don't exert their maximum speed when the blade is pulled out, but right before the swing. It's pointless to hit yer opponent at zero distance."
Saying that indifferently, Orochi left one leg behind him... no, he put his leg on the only cherry tree's trunk that was left behind.
He leaped up for Mantis Slope. If Orochi was going to attack from above, all Takeru had to do was to find where he's aiming and avoid.
Takeru made judgment instantly and triggered Soumatou, exerting himself to avoid.
Since it was a technique of falling, it was easy to avoid. One of the ways was to stop it before it's triggered, but Orochi was the opponent. It was best to avoid it with everything he had for the sake of being safe.
Orochi kicked off the trunk and——didn't leap upwards.
At the same time as he kicked the trunk he plunged rotating in forward direction.
The timing shifted and Takeru was unable to avoid, he could only protect himself awkwardly.
The power of Orochi's Mantis Slope delivered with all his strength caused Takeru's body to sink into the ground. Cracks appeared on the ground in the whole area and it vigorously rose up.
It was unknown if it can be said that he blocked it. The shock was transmitted to Takeru's entire body and he received damage. He spat blood and staggered.
It was the first time he received such blow.
"This technique can be only used for the first, surprise attack. If you leave it to free fall and power up with the rotation, if noticed, it can be easily avoided."
After landing on the ground Orochi put Hotarumaru on his shoulder.
"However, it's different when you can use the terrain. Up to the point where ya kicked the stern ya did right... but then, you jumped up like damn role model. If ya damn accelerated, just rush at yer enemy."
He told that to staggering Takeru and returned the blade to the sheath.
Orochi slid the sheath on his waist and drew the sword all at once.
It was fast. But it wasn't too fast to avoid.
Takeru held his sword with his right hand and supporting his sword by pressing the back of the sword with his left, he blocked Orochi's Single Wheel.
The swords met, Orochi's attack stopped.
Single Wheel didn't have that much power. It was relatively easy to block it.
After all, this technique was——
"This technique is for using when you're surrounded by multiple enemies. There's no point in usin' it in one against one fight. That's why, if someone stops yer attack like ya did just now——"
"——It's Monk with Iron Mallet, dammit!!"
Orochi kicked stopped Hotarumaru's back with abandon.
Kusanagi Double-Edged style's Monk with Iron Mallet. It was a technique that powerfully pushed the sword forward when locking your sword with the enemy, but Takeru didn't know it could be used with a kick as well.
Once again blown away, Takeru rolled on the ground.
Orochi hit his shoulder with the sword's peak repeatedly and sighed deeply.
And facing downwards, he walked towards where Takeru rolled to.
"What the hell yer tryin'... Takeru... can't ya swing the damn sword unless I point out the basic stuff to you?"
"That ain't it, right? It's not like that, eh? Did'ya notice? Don't tell me yer doin' it unconsciously."
Once he arrived by Takeru whose body was convulsing, Orochi's red ruby-like eyes peeked at him from behind his bangs.
"...who are ya fighting with now?"
"What are ya fightin' with?"
The dim sky was stained white with lightning.
Orochi's face was obscured with shadow and not visible. However, the red eyes could be seen staring at Takeru.
Questioned, Takeru realized he was holding himself back.
Not that he wasn't serious. He was thinking of what's ahead as he used all his strength to challenge Orochi.
Still... it could be said that there was some hesitation on his blade.
It seemed like Takeru was unable to properly recognize Orochi as an enemy.
...I know that... still...
When he tried to cut him, the memories of their training were revived. Despite hating him to the bone and being almost killed so many times, back then he would always forgive Orochi. Although he has kicked Takeru off the cliff, kicked him into muddy streams, he was someone who always waited for Takeru him home with a meal prepared.
And whenever Takeru returned all beat-up, he said this with a smile.
『"Oh, so yer alive."』
Be emotionless? Discard emotions?
It was obviously impossible, Takeru owed him countless times.
This was the reason why there was hesitation in his techniques.
That's why Orochi——was furious.
Of course, it was natural.
To him, it was an insult.
"Did ya chase after me to spar 'n swordsmanship?"
No. He didn't come to learn.
Takeru bit his lower lip and shook his head.
"Or maybe ya've come to speak wit' me usin' a sword?"
That too, was wrong.
It was already impossible to talk even through the sword. Orochi's word gave off the feeling that he won't listen to anything from Takeru.
Orochi had no intention of talking.
Takeru once again, shook his head.
"Then... what did'ya come here for... Takeru."
Squinting, Orochi questioned him.
Takeru held his sword and stood on the ground muddy from the rain.
And from behind his wet bangs, he turns his tinged with sadness eyes towards Orochi.
As if to reject that sadness, Orochi stared at Takeru with his red pupils.
The answer was already decided.
Takeru closed his eyes for a moment, the memories of the past flashed in the back of his head.
His training days he spent together with Orochi in the mountains.
Those days were like hell. Every day was so painful he couldn't bear it. He learned Double-Edged style single-mindedly wanting to get stronger.
At the same time, he felt fulfillment back then. He steadily grew stronger, and he had an irreplaceable mentor who would prove it was so.
To him, when the only thing he had was swordsmanship... he from back then, could affirm that those were his happiest days in his life.
But——Takeru of now had many things much more precious than those memories.
There were lots of existences much more precious to him than his mentor.
He had a person he wanted to save no matter the sacrifice he had to make.
Takeru opened his eyes, discarded those memories——and poised his sword.
"I've come here——to cut you down."
With red, deeply red eyes of a demon, Takeru glared at Orochi.
Orochi raised his face and made a smile, looking happy from the bottom of his heart.
"Then... let's begin, Kusanagi Takeru."
The two demons confronted each other.
Orochi once again poised the sword he had on his shoulder. Takeru raised his sword up.
The two glared at each other, their blades shone.
And——Takeru and Orochi released Soumatou, allowing it to go berserk.
The moment a lightning ran down from the sky, raindrops stopped in mid-air.
There, was a beautiful world.
Every raindrop shone like jewel, lightning had meandered in the sky slowly and gracefully like a dragon.
This was the world seen by demons.
The world of the two.
In the unmoving world——the two demons collided.
" "Kusanagi Double-Edged style——Ghost Light Firefly!" "
Using the same technique at the same time, they sprinkled the droplets with their blades.
In super-high speed world, they performed a super-high speed sword dance.
Parrying opponent's attack and using the technique to turn it into their own power, they continued to accelerate endlessly by having the same abilities collide.
An instant of hesitation would probably destroy the balance and make one fall prey to the other's blade.
To the two, there was nothing as silly as hesitation or openings.
Kusanagi Double-Edged style's Demon's Heart. The two have become demons striving for just a single goal.
In the world of raging demons, the demons cut each other. That was all.
Cut. Cut him up.
That was all the two craved, their only desire, their earnest wish.
" "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!" "
In the soundless world, the two demons roared.
The blades didn't emit any sound, but spread sparks and their lightplay was reflected in the raindrops.
Orochi's prowess was overwhelmingly higher, Takeru's armor broke and his blood and meat mixed in among the raindrops. On the other hand, not a single attack of Takeru's reached the opponent. Orochi's mind was dyed with that of a demon and was no longer Takeru's mentor nor the leader of Valhalla.
It was appropriate to call him a Sword Demon.
Although he was overwhelmingly out-powered, Takeru felt comfortable. He felt euphoria of discarding everything for one purpose. To a man of Kusanagi who had the soul of a demon, this was the only way to be released from the cramped human body.
What happiness was it. Even though he would lose at this rate, he was so happy he couldn't bear it.
However, in order to cut his opponent up, he had to win.
He won't win unless he slices him up.
Although his voice was unheard, he shouted to his partner.
In response, Lapis performed the change. On the verge of touching Hotarumaru, Mistilteinn's blade changed from a Nodachi to a Kodachi.
Orochi's swung blade missed and cut through the empty air, Takeru's Kodachi tore Orochi's meat.
Continuing, next was Shotel, Kukri, Oodachi, Zanbatou, Great Sword. By changing into various small and large shapes, they disturbed Orochi's rhythm and delivered their attacks.
They weren't picky with their means. Their goal was to cut enemy down.
It wasn't a fight of swordsmen. It was the fight of demons. They didn't care about good or bad means.
Orochi smiled in response to Takeru's offensive. And displaying his fangs he further increased his speed, using Ghost Light Firefly.
A Sword Demon wouldn't be taken down by something on the level of shape change. If there were changes of length and shape, he only had to assess them and match the flow.
There was no need to predict it.
He only needed to see through it.
See through, and cut.
That's what Soumatou was for.
Takeru's offensive ended immediately. Once again Orochi has become dominant.
But that wasn't a big deal. Although improving in an instant was impossible, it was possible to raise one's speed in an instant. If the opponent was more skilled, Takeru just had to deal with it by raising his speed.
If he increases his brain's operation rate he'll be able to see through any of opponent's skill.
Just like Orochi had dealt with shape change, Takeru could do the same against Orochi's skill.
See through, and cut.
——That's when Takeru was startled hearing Lapis' voice.
Although he had Demon's Heart activated, he closed it up hearing Lapis speak.
Still, that was great help. Takeru was still able to return to normal. If he continued like that he might have been unable to return.
As if to end it with the last blow, Takeru released Unicorn's Destructive Lance.
On the other hand, Orochi swung down Yamata no Orochi.
Although he slipped by series of eight attacks and grazed Orochi, two of the eight attacks gouged Takeru's shoulder.
Blown away by the impact, the two made distance and——released Demon's Heart.
Immediately after they returned back to normal state by putting a lid on their brains, unspeakable headache assaulted them.
While pointing his sword at Orochi, Takeru panted from the headache he felt. It felt as if a bullet continued to ricochet inside his skull.
He looked at himself and saw blood flowing from all the pores in his body. The blood didn't stop flowing even from his eyes and nose.
《"I'll perform treatment on your body... so please back off for now...!"》
Both apologizing and thanking Lapis, he looked at Orochi with his barely-functioning eyes.
Takeru was clearly outmatched. He received far more damage.
But, Orochi too, was suffering. His face was pale, there was clearly blood mixed in with sweat. Even though he had transplanted vampire cells and had the same physical abilities as a Dhampir, the structure of his brain didn't change.
In the end, his brain was in the same state as Takeru's.
No, still... probably, that wasn't all.
There was one thing Takeru noticed as they fought. The damage Orochi dealt to him and he dealt to Orochi exhausted something else other than Demon's Heart.
He had no idea what was it, but something abnormal was happening to Orochi's body.
"Haa... we're both...too greedy...! Once we turn into demons, we forget completely about efficiency."
Smiling, Orochi forced his convulsing body to move.
He entered a sword-drawing stance. His cells were momentarily healed thanks to vampire cells.
《"!! Our regeneration speed is inferior! Intercept!"》
Just as he was told, Takeru tried to raise his sword, but with his entire body trembling all he could do was to hold the sword.
At this rate I'm done for.
The moment he thought so,
"Double-Edged style——Mantis Slope!"
Receiving a surprise attack from above, Orochi grit his back teeth.
In order to change the sword's trajectory, he reversed the sword in the sheath pointing upwards and used the sword-drawing technique in reverse grip.
A high-speed sword-draw aimed upwards.
Hotarumaru's blade met with the surprise attacker's sword.
Upon clashing, the surprise attacker's sword spouted flames.
A blue-haired girl appeared from among the flames.
Making a smile, Orochi finished swinging his sword.
Pushed away with a sword, the surprise attacker leaped and landed beside Takeru.
Without looking at Takeru, Kanaria poised Lævateinn and didn't remove her gaze from Orochi.
Orochi's face distorted painfully and he snorted.
"...which means the Heretic Alliance bunch's come at full force, huh...shucks...and we haven't found that Sougetsu bastard yet..."
Still holding Hotarumaru in reverse grip, Orochi looked at Kanaria.
"...what did'ya come for. This is Kusanagis' fight. Don't get involved."
"Ya met yer mother right... can see it in face. Ya've reached yer goal."
Don't get involved. Being told so, Kanaria faced down a little sadly.
She was ignored. Orochi's attitude must have been that painful.
Disregarding Takeru who somehow managed to keep standing with his sword pierced into the ground, she took a step forward.
"Until, Takeru recovers, Kana will take Orochi on..."
When Takeru tried to stop her, Kanaria said so.
"Wait...!! Think who's the opponent...! You can't——!
"——Kana's from Double-Edged style too!"
Turned with her back to Takeru, her shoulders trembling, she interrupted him.
She grasped his hand he extended to stop her.
"Kana isn't Kusanagi but... is from Double-Edged style...!"
She cleaved with her sword and was clad in flames.
Inside Takeru, the feelings of wanting to stop her and of wanting to let her go fought each other.
Kanaria was aware that her skill was inferior to that of Takeru's. She was also aware that she's no opponent for Orochi. But even though she knew that, she was hoping to speak with Orochi through the sword.
She didn't inherit Kusanagi blood.
But unmistakably, she was a member of Double-Edged style. Just like Takeru she studied Double-Edged style under Orochi.
She didn't come here because she was Kusanagi.
But because she was from Double-Edged style.
In other words, unlike Takeru and Orochi, she came to speak with the sword.
To ask a question with her sword.
Holding Lævateinn in correct posture, she confronted Orochi.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style certified... Kanaria."
"Please... take care of me."
Hearing polite speech from Kanaria's mouth for the first time, Orochi was slightly taken aback and laughter leaked out from his mouth.
It absolutely wasn't that he made fun of her nor made light of her feelings.
In this last moment, on this scene of carnage, in this crucial stage, his dear disciple acted selfishly complicating things for him.
Her acting as a Double-Edged style member reminded him of his human self slightly.
Orochi suppressed himself as a demon and made a kind, wry smile.
"...geez...there's no helpin' you, really."
Seeing Orochi hold the sword in reverse grip, Kanaria held her breath.
To fight fair and square, she pointed her blade at her teacher.
Said Orochi, spreading his arms as if to welcome his child.
There were two people watching the fight in the space between school and the forbidden facility from a long distance.
They were Usagi and Ikaruga.
In the Seelie's building at the window overlooking the forest, Usagi held the sniper rifle prepared.
After watching the inhuman fight between Takeru and Orochi through the scope, now she was monitoring Kanaria's battle.
"...if you're doing it, it should be now..."
Hearing Ikaruga, Usagi's pride shook.
Although she had seen high-speed battles since all this started, it was something she couldn't keep up with her eyes, and it was impossible to predict ahead and land a hit.
She had only one chance to snipe. If she misses, Orochi will immediately find Usagi's position and come to deal with her accordingly. If that happens, there were no chances of victory.
Still, Orochi's speed was normal now... that said, he still was using Soumatou for high-speed combat, but miraculously Usagi was able to see a shadow of his movement trajectory's.
It wasn't as fast as not to allow her to predict the movement patterns. For Usagi, who continued to cover Takeru so far, this was speed she was familiar with.
If she aims for the moment he stops, with Usagi's skill she should be able to bring him down.
She aimed for his right leg. During combat, Orochi made some unnatural moves. Usagi didn't notice it in ultra-high speed combat, but now during the combat with Kanaria it stood out.
Either his right leg hurt or he was suffering from some kind of illness. There was something about his right leg that was impossible to heal even with a vampire cells' transplantation.
Was it all right to hinder them here, Usagi wondered hesitantly.
Kanaria challenged her master as a member of Double-Edged style. She wished a fight between a master and disciple. Wished to speak with him through sword.
Orochi accepted that too. It was different from when he turned into a demon and wouldn't respond to Takeru's questions, investing himself in the battle completely. He faced Kanaria as her mentor.
It was a fact that Kanaria would despise her for interfering.
She would be cursed and told off.
However——resolved, Usagi put a finger on the trigger.
She resolved decided to hinder them.
This battle wasn't a fair and square match.
——It was war.
Both the enemies and the allies did fought using any means available to achieve their desires.
Therefore, Usagi didn't intend to be picky with her means for the sake of the one she wanted to protect.
She had no intention of apologizing. It didn't matter that she will be despised as cowardly.
This was Saionji Usagi's war.
"...I shall definitely protect him."
She muttered quietly and matched her sniping with enemy's movement.
The loaded bullet was a Spirit Silver bullet generated by Ikaruga's "Nanomachines". Spirit Silver was a substance that was a natural enemy for the vampires. Although the Dhampirs weren't susceptible to daylight or crosses, they have inherited their weakness against Spirit Silver. Although it would be difficult to kill him with it since he's half-human, by aiming at his leg it was possible to make him impossible to continue combat.
Kanaria was blown away by Orochi's slash and fell on her butt.
Orochi stopped his movement and thrust his blade at Kanaria.
He probably didn't intend to kill her. His expression was gentle, he was waiting for Kanaria to say "I lost". It wasn't the face of a demon, but of a teacher.
Usagi mercilessly aimed her shot at that gentleness.
Takeru was the only one who saw the silver bullet pierce Orochi's leg.
He was surprised, but he immediately realized it was Usagi's doing.
Orochi pierced the ground with his sword to support his body, he made an expression of agony.
Takeru too, had noticed the disorder in Orochi's right leg. The Spirit Silver bullet had precisely aimed in there. Cracks appeared on the spot the bullet landed and the wound turned into ash.
His right leg was not just unable to move, but would break off soon enough.
Seeing this completely merciless shot, Takeru grit his teeth.
"...well done, Usagi..."
After saying that to intercom, Takeru stood firmly on his legs and looked at Kanaria.
She stared at this sudden happening, but then her pupils shook in chagrin once she had come to realization.
"...I get it...Kana understands..."
This thin and trembling voice caused Takeru's chest to tighten.
But Usagi was correct. She did work as Takeru expected of her.
She covered them as best as she could.
For the third time——Takeru confronted Orochi.
"...haa, your comrades are quite something."
Twisting his mouth in a smile, Orochi said that with a serious expression.
It wasn't sarcasm, but a honest praise.
"Yeah. I trust them."
After responding without hesitation, Takeru raised his sword.
That's when countless presences approached from outside the cherry tree forest. There were both human footsteps and those of Dragoon's.
It seemed like Orochi had noticed they were reinforcements from Heretic Alliance.
The members of the Heretic Alliance who rushed over have all turned their muzzles at Orochi.
At the same time, there was a muzzle flash in the distance at the partially-destroyed tower with sealed Magical Heritages. Most likely, it was Oonogi Kanata aiming at Orochi.
Furthermore, Ouka and Mari had approached Takeru from behind.
"Great! Are you all right?!"
Takeru didn't respond to the two.
He continued pointing the sword in Orochi's direction.
"Everyone, we're in mid-combat."
He mercilessly instructed his comrades.
Mari and Ouka were surprised for a moment hearing Takeru's ghastly voice, but then realized what he felt.
Mari expanded magic circles. Ouka turned Vlad's muzzles at Orochi.
Completely surrounded, supporting himself on the sword pierced through the ground, Orochi looked up to the sky and sighed.
"...dis's bad. I'm driven into a corner... first time experience."
Orochi spoke sarcastically.
Takeru and the Heretic Alliance did not intend to tell him to surrender not intended to capture him.
Even Orochi knew that.
He smiled seeing his own leg turn to ashes.
"I sucked 'dat much blood to get myself refreshed and this is how it ends... work to turn a human into a God sure is deep."
"But——I don't intend to end it here."
Once again, Orochi's pupils were stained with color of a demon.
Takeru too, activated Demon's Heart in the same way.
That's when Orochi discarded Hotarumaru with a furious expression.
"I'll become a God and get Mikoto back! Ya can do whatever you want with the world! We can't let them stop us——right?! Gungnir!"
The moment he said that name, Mother Goose appeared behind him along with a pure white magic circle.
《"Yes. It's as you say——my Host."》
The atmosphere in the location changed completely. Heretic Alliance's members' sense of urgency reached the climax.
The pure white magic circle shone brilliantly and Mother Goose's body disappeared, turning into particles of magic power.
In that moment, the scenery of the surrounding area changed.
Cherry trees toppled during the battle have flowered in an instant, entering full bloom. Also the vegetation other than the cherry trees also had become verdant.
The space with the cherry trees cleared up in a moment and the evening light poured down.
It was as if life was going berserk. Although he had no idea what characteristics did Gungnir have, he understood that it was on the level of overturning the world.
Standing in the center of the magic circle, Orochi clenched his teeth, his hair ruffled.
The Sacred Treasure Gungnir and Kusanagi Orochi who held the soul of a demon.
There was no one who knew what will happen with those two together.
However, as for who was capable of standing on the level of the two——they knew that much.
"...change of orders. Everyone, retreat from here."
The man clad in azure armor took a step forward, turned to everyone with his back.
Ouka and Mari looked at each other and tried to call out towards Takeru's back.
But, they couldn't.
They knew that he was the only existence capable of competing with those two.
They couldn't stop him. They could only leave it to him.
Feeling themselves to be miserable because of that, they have seen him off.
——Come back to us.
Even without their voice, their feelings were relayed to him.
Takeru clenched his fist and lightly raised his right arm.
That was his answer.
Walking slowly, Takeru sought power from Lapis.
After a moment of silence, Lapis responded to his wish.
A magic circle appeared beneath his feet and changing from azure, it was stained with colours of twilight.
He could tell Ouka and Mari moved away along with the Heretic Alliance. Feeling a little lonely, Takeru challenged the final battle.
As Takeru approached——Orochi made a slightly mean smile.
"You, ain't ya quite popular."
Takeru was taken aback seeing Orochi crack a joke at this moment.
However, this was the last time.
It didn't feel too bad to have a human conversation at the end.
The topic was quite cheap and much like Orochi, but amusing.
"I've got no clue but... what about Master?"
When he asked in return with a wry smile, Orochi made a vulgar smile.
"Ah, ya don't even know how!"
"Liar. There wasn't a single woman who'd visit the house."
"Ooo-oh, sinful men sure know how to speak. Makes me envious of yer leeway. Old man'd like you shared with him."
"Don't call yourself an old man with that appearance... makes me feel old. To say, we're so similar it's disgusting."
"So are ya' sayin' that yer own face is disgustin'?"
His master always had a comeback.
In the dusk forest full of dancing cherry blossom, the two had their last chat.
After letting out a cackling laughter, Orochi squinted and looked at Takeru enviously.
"...well, it's good to have a woman waiting for ya."
Takeru didn't deny that.
Rather than a woman waiting for him, there were comrades who fought together with him. He was able to stand here like this thanks to his comrades.
"——But unfortunately, yer' never goin' to return to those girls."
Those words put an end to the chat between the mentor and the disciple.
Brought back to reality, Takeru had the demon dwell in his chest.
"——That's my line. You'll never going to reunite with Mikoto-san."
Clashing the feelings they can't yield to anyone, they poised their swords.
Takeru's azure blade was clad in twilight flames.
Orochi had a pure white sword clad in white flames appear in his hands.
"Takeru... one blow. Look well before you die. I'll show ya Double-Edged style's secret art."
"Since you have Demon's Heart, you should know the way to do it. If you want to overcome it, you better challenge me with the same technique."
Orochi had his white sword take shape of a broadsword and lowered it.
Takeru had returned the azure blade into the sheath and took a stance for sword-drawing technique.
And——asked his partner, with whom they trust each other, for power.
【"I am Herjann. I am Uzr. I am Alfozr. I am Vizurr and therefore——"】
【"Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort am Rande des Rheins zuhauf Hoch und hell lodre die Glut——"】
【"——I become the avatar of furious Odin."】
【"——Die den edlen Leib des hehrsten Gott verzehrt."】
The two's bodies were wrapped with armor from toes up to the top of their heads.
When magic circles shattered, reigning in there was a God Hunter and——a God himself.
It was power changing the user into an existence equal to that of a god. A god of a parallel world... that power was unimaginable, it allowed to bend the laws of the world, revive dead people, returning decaying tree's into lush ones, it even allowed one to create new life and transcend time.
However, Orochi was currently incomplete. The time when this power would shine, would be after killing Ootori Sougetsu.
There was only one more time that Orochi's body could withstand this power.
Orochi was sure that once he gets over this fight, he'll challenge Sougetsu and will obtain the right to become a God.
However, standing against him were Takeru and Lapis holding the power of 《God Hunter form》.
It was the power for killing God. To Orochi as he was now, it was the worst power to confront.
Takeru didn't know what was the power of Gungnir's 《Deification》, but he was sure that he was able to kill Orochi with his power.
To speak the truth——there wasn't much difference between the two's raw power.
God's power and the power capable of killing God.
Confronting themselves, they were in fact the same.
If there was a difference——it was in the user's abilities.
Takeru and Orochi opened their eyes wide inside the helmets and released their heretic powers.
Double-Edged style——Demon's Heart.
They discarded emotions, ate their own hearts and squeezed out their desires.
They only sought speed.
The dancing cherry blossoms stopped in the air. The particles of sunlight passing through the foliage had poured down sparkling.
They could see the movement of light.
Inside this beautiful world, the two were only ones moving.
However, they didn't make their moves.
It wasn't enough. Faster, even faster.
Orochi and Takeru dreamed, pursuing the fantasy.
They left behind.
Anything and everything, wind, sound——in order to reach the light!
I can't see it. I can't see it yet. More——more!
"Double-Edged style's secret art——"
The one who moved first was Orochi.
He was at the demon's limit. Pursuing the light he can't catch up to, he approached the world of speed of light as much as possible. Orochi rushed inside the slowly-moving particles of light.
Takeru could see Orochi move as well.
However——Takeru didn't move yet.
No, he couldn't move. It was because he could still go on.
The technique allowing one to step into the area humans should not step into was called Soumatou.
The technique allowing one to walk into the area demons should not enter was called Demon's Heart.
Then, what's ahead? What is there ahead of here?
It can be only light, right.
A world even a demon could only approach but never catch up to.
Takeru understood what was required in order to get there.
Shut your eyes——shut down sound——shut down smell——shut down pain too.
And, when he shut down even his heart and soul——he finally touched it with his hand.
Yeah, so it can be reached after all.
The moment he learned that truth, Takeru opened his eyes.
In front of him, Orochi who was about to swing his sword had solidified like stone.
The sub-light speed slash had stopped.
It was quiet. Nothing could be felt. There was no warmth nor dazzle of the light.
That was because Takeru, was right now light itself.
Unconscious, he pulled out the sword from the sheath at his waist.
And, he spoke the technique name he shouldn't have known.
"Double-Edged style's secret art............Snake-Slayer of Takamagahara."
He didn't feel the sensation of cutting. He didn't have the awareness of cutting something.
To Takeru only the phenomenon of cutting had existed in the speed of light's world.
The speed dropped by a single stage and Orochi's body started to move.
At the same time, Takeru's helmet shattered and his consciousness as a demon returned.
The soul of a demon who embraced nothing but speed had returned.
——The moment Takeru cut Orochi, a single line of tears had spilled from his eyes.
Swinging the sword, Orochi stood under the twilight sky.
The world drenched in light with cherry petals dancing in it was beautiful enough to forget his heart as a demon.
A hundred and fifty years ago was the same. Back then, the sky had the same twilight appearance.
"...beautiful, isn't it."
Mother Goose agreed with Orochi.
Their voices were calm.
"This is as far as we go."
《"It's our loss, isn't it."》
Orochi made a light smile and squinted.
"...I've been in your care."
《"...likewise. Since I have remaining work I need to do, I shall join you later."》
The sword fell from Orochi's hands.
Leaving Orochi's hands the sword fell so slowly it looked practically unmoving.
Orochi exhaled lightly and then his life so far had crossed his mind at high speed.
I see, this isn't Soumatou, but what'cha call revolving lantern...
Bullshit, he made a bitter smile and entrusted himself to the memories.
His childhood as a wild kid, meeting with Mikoto, war, every day life in battles... the memory of the moment when he killed Mikoto... idly spent 150 years... meeting with Takeru, their farewell... the days spent training with Kanaria...
After he finished watching those memories, unexpectedly something warm touched his back.
He felt someone standing back to back with him.
It wasn't Takeru.
It was a woman with body much smaller and more delicate.
——It's all right now, right?
That woman's nostalgic voice spoke as if patting him gently.
Having his human heart released, he trembled in relief.
Orochi faced the heavens and while looking at the twilight sky, he replied while breathing out.
After saying that in cheerful voice, Orochi closed his eyes relaxed.
The moment world had began to move normally, Orochi's chest was torn apart by the energy of Takeru's light-speed slash and he was swallowed by the impact.
Snake-Slayer of Takamagahara (天羽々斬) – It's the same Ama-no-Habakiri technique Orochi had used. However, so far in the novel it was written purely with katakana (アマノハバキリ). It was written with kanji for the first time when Takeru used it. In Japanese mythology it was the sword wielded by Susanoo and used to slay Orochi.