There was no sorcerer in this world who would possess perfect immortality.
Those who pursued immortality always stuck to one theme, and one goal. Undead, vampires, puppeteers, devil worshipers, alchemists. Those who aim to acquire immortality generally pursue these fields.
The representative of the Alchemist, Suginami Suzaku who had achieved immortality through gene inheritance. Elizabeth who had used magic in order to fake herself as a true ancestor possessing perfect immortality. Kusanagi Orochi who embedded vampire cells in order to make himself a Dhampir. They were all wicked heretics.
All of them not only left the path of humanity, but were also unable to acquire perfect immortality.
Of course, this man too——
"——HAHA! As usual, your strength's like a joke!"
Using Dáinsleif intrinsic performance Haunted left slashes behind himself as he retreated by sliding on the ground.
Stretching something like a spider web of slashes, he desperately tried to open distance between himself and his opponent.
Haunted's head was covered with sweat, it spoke of how cornered was the man who called himself to be the one who manipulates death.
Even during the brief moment he was moving away, Hayato with the black gun in his right hand and the silver gun in his left had easily crushed the slashes remaining in the air.
——He completely ignored the slashes. Having his body completely clad in armor, Hayato didn't attempt to avoid and plunged straight into the slashes left behind by Haunted.
It was as if they had no effect at all. Hayato's defense was abnormal as he used two Relic Eaters at once.
After crushing the last slash, Hayato slipped underneath Haunted.
There was a eerie glint in his eyes as seen by Haunted from above. Haunted made a twitching smile and increased his reaction speed by inserting magic power into his brain.
The brain processing speed acceleration magic equivalent to that of Soumatou's was magic ordinary sorcerers were unable to use. The very action of passing magic power through your own brain was very dangerous and required caution because of the vital points inside. Even a slightest mistake led to the user's certain death, so there weren't any sorcerers who would use it.
Most likely not even a first-class sorcerer would attempt to trigger it during battle.
The reason Haunted used this magic wasn't because he was a first-class sorcerer.
It was because he wasn't afraid to die. Even if he didn't succeed he still had his stock of lives so one or two deaths were nothing to him.
Whenever he uses this magic, he dies.
Hayato who slipped below had raised Caligula's muzzle against Haunted's chin.
Haunted who accelerated his brain processing speed had avoided Caligula's shot at the very last moment.
And although Haunted increased his speed slightly,
——This was Hayato's normal speed.
Hayato's silver gun, Maximilien was already pointed ahead of where Haunted avoided to.
The silver magic bullet fired from the Maximilien hit Haunted's abdomen.
The bullet Haunted received had scattered all the magic inside his body, including the magic that was increasing his brain processing speed.
Haunted clicked his tongue and faced forward.
Caligula's muzzle was pressed against his forehead.
"——Two thousand and thirty."
The meaning behind that count was the amount of times Hayato had killed Haunted over this short period of time.
At the same time Caligula's hammer was released, Haunted's head burst into atoms.
Losing his head he fell onto his knees and blood gushed from his neck like a fountain.
"Two thousand and thirty one."
Hayato let out a kick on the body right away.
Haunted whose head quickly reappeared was unable to react and received the attack.
He was blasted away from below.
"2032, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37."
Hayato's rapid attacks didn't stop. He continued to kill Haunted without giving him time to recover.
Mixing shooting and melee attacks, he delivered death without pause.
His countermeasure against Haunted's immortality was simple.
Continue killing him. To kill Haunted more times than Haunted has killed humans so far.
Caligula and Maximilien. The characteristics of those two Relic Eaters were nothing but a nuisance to Haunted.
First, Maximilien was able to diffuse the magic power inside Haunted's body and cancel his brain processing speed acceleration magic. Next, was Caligula which caused a storm of mayhem. It was impossible to recharge it directly and immediately, but once it was fully loaded it took quite some time for it to be depleted.
On the other hand, Haunted's magic immediately recovered his body whenever he lost his life. Death reset his body to a perfect condition.
His atrocious immortality was possible thanks to the "Despair" ancient property allowing him to contract with certain magical organism. The magical organism requested a human soul instead of magic power in exchange for its support. Whenever Haunted lost his life, the magical organism provided him with a new body in exchange for a soul.
But whenever he was reset, he had no way to respond and was killed again.
Without Hero form he was unable to bear Hayato's attacks.
Hayato fired the fifth bullet from Caligula.
The total number of bullets Caligula held were five and Maximilien had to be reloaded every shot.
Continuing attacks with his body Hayato attempted to reload Caligula.
However——his attacks were stopped just for a second by a rose variant that appeared beneath his feet.
"Don't get full of yourself, monster."
Haunted had quickly recovered and let out five consecutive thrusts with Dáinsleif.
He didn't thrust at Hayato himself, but at the magic bullets he was trying to load.
The magic bullets received the thrusts, were blown away and turning into magic power particles they disappeared.
Hayato tried to switch to reloading Maximilien, but the prepared magic bullet was also blown away by a thrust.
The initiative in the offensive had changed.
Haunted immediately activated Hero form and attacked Hayato with 《Berserk Enchantment》 triggered.
The next moment, along with a growl Hayato had burst out of the roses constraining him and headbutted Haunted.
Hayato's headbutt with the full body's strength behind it caused Haunted's head to burst, despite the fact Haunted was in Hero form.
Haunted backed down unsteadily having lost his head.
By the time his Hero form was cancelled and he fell to his knees, he had already recovered.
He shook his brand-new head and stared at Hayato displeased, meanwhile Hayato had leisurely reloaded Caligula and Maximilien.
《"...You should try harder, Haunted."》
"...No, he's just too strong."
He ended up saying what he actually meant.
Although only mere five seconds passed ever since they locked in combat just now, but he was easily killed over a hundred times. These engagements between the two repeated many times already and Haunted lost over two thousand lives.
Told he was too strong, Hayato stretched his neck soundly, as if he was still just warming up.
"How many times more left, monster?"
Haunted made a bitter smile hearing Hayato's question.
"No matter how many times you repeat this, it won't work. How many people do you think I killed so far?"
"The only people that count to your stock of lives are probably those you killed directly with your magic."
Hayato must have been correct, as Haunted's smile cramped up.
"Moreover, you should have been killed countless times so far. Toughness is your only merit, I look forward to seeing how much death given by me you can you withstand."
"B-being told that by a musclebrain is a bit... Still, this is unusual, it's the first time I see you so motivated."
The black rose that was restraining Hayato was torn apart and as he finished reloading, he performed a gunspin with his both guns.
"Of course. I'm angry now."
The word "angry' had completely shocked Haunted.
"That's unexpected... is that so, so you're angry."
"It's not just my anger. It's two people's worth of anger."
Two people's worth.
Just like Hayato told Takeru——"I will take your anger on myself".
Haunted recalled that and a happy sparkle appeared in his eyes.
"Aww, here I treated you as a mere hindrance, actually, you are a hindrance, but is thaaat so! So you're angry for Kusanagi Takeru's worth! This is the first time an interest in you had sprung inside me!"
Delighted by Hayato's anger, Haunted happily raised his sword.
"——If it's you of now, there might be some worth in killing you!"
And his hair was ruffled as he expanded an enormous magic circle never seen in the past.
Generating lightning around himself Haunted spoke in language of another world.
【"Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young! O' Black Goat of the Woods! Receive my sacrifice!"】
It was the despair magic property's chant from a mythical world evil gods were dwelling in.
Hayato anticipated an alien threat to crawl out from the magic circle so he immediately fired Caligula's bullet.
However, the bullet was blocked by a barrier that was erected. It was the same magic barrier that was expanded during mock battle tournament – the 《Number of the Beast》.
He tried firing with Maximilien, but only one piece of the barrier could be scattered. It was difficult to release as the magic circle and the operative procedure constantly flowed, moreover to break through it one had to take fire at all six hundred and sixty six pieces of barrier. It was difficult to break using Caligula that focused firepower in single blows, and Maximilien that had only a single shot.
The magic circle's class was that of great magic's. Most likely a type of summoning magic.
Hayato gave up on interrupting it, instead he reloaded his bullets and prepared himself to fight.
Whether it's a demon or a snake that'll come out, he was prepared. When the despair magic swept away and the chant of black blessing was complete, Haunted's appearance in the center of the magic circle was revealed.
His form had changed.
He had the Hero form's armor and on his head, he had an ominous mask reminiscent of a skull.
Furthermore, viscous magic power had filled his surroundings and let out eerie voices.
"Sacred Treasure Summoning, huh."
With heavy tone of voice Hayato spoke the name of the magic triggered by Haunted.
There were three great summoning magics, the Hero Summoning which was impossible for a single witch to achieve, Legend Summoning, and the Myth Summoning. What Haunted used was a quasi-Myth Summoning.
Sacred Treasure Summoning, just as its name stated, allowed summoning of Sacred Treasures such as Mistilteinn, Lævateinn or Gungnir. While it was impossible to summon a Sacred Treasure completely even at expanse of the entire human race, it was possible if only temporarily.
With that said, although there was a time limit on it, it was said to require over ten thousand souls.
So how did Haunted devote that many sacrifices?
A foolish question.
《"Aaa-ah, you've used it... now there's no going back, Haunted."》
"Nhah! It's fine! I need to pay respect to his anger and respond to it! Whaat, I just won't be able to die any more, that's all!"
In extremely high spirits, Haunted knocked the mask lightly with Dáinsleif's blade.
Hayato squinted sharply.
"...So you used your stock as sacrifices."
"I have concluded that it's a price worth paying in order to knock you down to the depths of despair now that you're angry! You have acquired qualification to become part of my dinner!"
Haunted spread his arms and made an exaggerated pose in his bone mask.
Nacht muttered "why the hell are you acting so high and mighty", but it didn't reach Haunted whose tension was maxed out.
Raising Nacht in front of his chest and taking a knightly stance, Haunted glared at Hayato.
"Think of it as of an honor. You are the first one in this world to fight against me in this form——"
"How convenient——now die."
Interrupting Haunted, Hayato pulled Maximilien's trigger.
Having his declaration interrupted as he faced forward with an exaggerated pose Haunted saw the magic particles floating around him converge.
Maximilien's intrinsic magic, re-condensing the diffused magic power.
——And causing an explosion from it.
"Oh fuck, I forg——"
Light filled the place before he could finish.
All the magic power that was diffused so far had assaulted Haunted.
The silver explosion was so concentrated that the ground beneath had melted. Destruction as if that of a nuclear reactor core's explosion had enveloped Haunted.
Maximilien's empty shelling fell to the ground before it turned into magic particles and disappeared.
Although the scale was very small, the power was comparable to that of a nuclear explosion.
If one received such a thing and survived they would be——
Hayato growled, lowered his waist and at the same time the explosion had subsided, plunged towards where Haunted was.
At the same time, appearing from inside the muddy melted ground——
And raising a mad roar, Haunted jumped out from inside the molten ground.
Haunted's sword and Hayato's gun clashed in mid-air.
The fight between the superhuman and the monster still continued.
Although it wasn't clarified how does a soul manifest in a Magical Heritage, but sometimes materials holding magic power appear to have personalities.
There was no one who knew the mechanism behind it. Even Magical Heritages themselves.
However, although not many, there were records of some Magical Heritages converting their souls into magic power.
The amount of magic power acquired in exchange for Vlad's soul was unimaginable.
Activating 《Vampire》, Ouka chased after the smell of her comrades' blood.
They were nearly a hundred meters underground and separated, she wrapped each of them in a barrier and brought them back to the surface.
What she received in exchange for losing her partner, were lives of her comrades.
Since her comrades were also connected to Hyakki Yakou, Kiseki immediately realized what happened. It was thanks to the fact that Ouka's feelings have passed through Kiseki onto the entire Hyakki Yakou.
Extending her hand, Ouka didn't smile nor was angry.
She just stared at Kiseki seriously.
Kiseki took a step backwards while making a scared expression.
"...Protect Kiseki... that's a lie..."
"It's not a lie. You should know me already."
"...I don't believe it..."
"I might be a foolish and shallow person, but I will never betray your feelings. It's because I already know you."
Kiseki knew it already as well.
There were no lies within Ouka's feelings, there was no resentment nor dislike towards Kiseki in them.
What there was in her, were compassion, empathy and desire to save Kiseki.
Seeing Kiseki scared of Ouka, Mari stared at Ouka.
"Foolish, shallow and impulsive at that."
"...Don't poke fun at me at a time like this."
Ouka's serious expression cramped up a little.
"How about you add that you're stiff and cannot read the mood."
"Even Saionji... could you stop that?"
Ouka rebuked Usagi who also jumped on the opportunity.
"............And she loves anpan?"
"——That's no bad point of mine, c'mon, what's wrong with you all!"
Back to normal, Ouka yelled at her comrades.
I'm trying to convince her here so stop getting in my way, while Ouka said that, Ikaruga took a step forward.
"Let me tell you this, I still hate you. I have no intention of protecting you."
Ikaruga squinted and glared at Kiseki.
"I won't forgive you for what you did. The world's a mess thanks to you, and what I prepared for you is also a mess. I think it's natural for you to be hated by the humans all over the world."
She lifted her bangs and put in a mint candy in her mouth, then exhaled lightly.
"...But... well... I won't laugh at you, I'll spare you from that. The pain you felt was honestly, really harsh. I wouldn't be able to withstand it if it continued for whole fifteen years."
"...It might have been unavoidable that you ended up this way."
Ikaruga rubbed her right arm and averted her gaze from Kiseki.
What she experienced when she tasted Kiseki's pain in the dream world, must have been unimaginable. Ikaruga didn't apologize, but she did acknowledge Kiseki's suffering.
"Suginami is just clumsy. Surely in the dream she must have instigated you, Kiseki-san, but she actually wanted to know more about you."
"No, that didn't happen."
"You don't have act all bashful now〜."
Usagi poked Ikaruga's cheeks, resulting in Ikaruga taking revenge on her by crushing her cheeks with both hands.
While the two messed around with each other, Mari stood beside Ouka and poked her with an elbow.
"So she does do good things from time to time."
"Who the hell do you think you are..."
Ignoring Ouka who glared at her, Mari smiled gently to Kiseki.
"...This is how we are, we might not be reliable but no matter how much the world hates you, Kiseki-chan, we will never betray you. Most likely you are the most important person to Takeru, and we too... well, we like Takeru. We love him."
Mari as she said that honestly and smiled with embarrassment, Ouka stared at her a little enviously, but did not try to stop her.
"But that's that and this is this. Just like Ouka said, humans aren't all about love There's lots of other fun things. There's as much painful things out there, but it's not all bad things."
"That's why first... well, um..."
She scratched her cheek and then put a hand on her chest.
"...be my friend."
Blushing slightly, Mari stared firmly at Kiseki.
Kiseki's shoulder trembled slightly.
"Yup, friend. You don't have any yet, right? Let's become friends and talk plenty! Let's do plenty of things together! I want to know more about you!"
Hearing Mari's straightforward words, Kiseki's lips trembled as she tried to say something.
But soon she calmed down and then spoke.
"...With Kiseki? When she has a body like this? It's impossible."
"It's all right! There definitely is a way to return you back to normal!"
"Kiseki killed a lot of people, there is no way she can live a normal life... she turned the world like this..."
"——Even so, we can become friends!"
Mari said with her voice turning slightly rougher.
Her pupils shook as she spoke further.
"You probably know about me already, Kiseki-chan. Many people died because of me. And yet, I can be together with everyone like this... the dead probably won't forgive me, but I put an effort to use my power to save people..."
"It's not like you will be forgiven if you die. And it's not like everything you destroyed will return. Certainly you did something terrible. But you had a proper reason for that. That's why... that's why there's no reason for you to be alone."
"...Even if the world doesn't forgive you for being happy, I will."
Overlapping her own sins with Kiseki's, Mari let out all she had to say.
Kiseki had remained silent until now, but tears started trickling down her cheeks.
Considering it was Mari, who had committed crimes in the past, what she said must have reached Kiseki. Being told by someone else other than her brother that they'll be by her side, had made her happy.
While Mari seemed to have been overcome by emotions seeing Kiseki's tears, Usagi had popped up forward.
"If you become our friend, Kiseki-san, then how about I teach you how to cook? Do you know maybe what food Kusanagi likes best?"
"...I don't... know..."
"Theeen〜, I will teach you once we become friends. Let's make some home cooking for Kusanagi together!"
Usagi joined her hands as she proposed that and then made a broad smile.
Although she was still facing downwards, Kiseki embraced her shoulders more strongly.
Even Ikaruga who kept averting her gaze from Kiseki, had stood beside the others.
"...You don't have to worry about your body. We can turn you back into normal human, but there's an even better method. If you could continuously control Hyakki Yakou like you are now, that is."
Kiseki slightly raised her head in response to Ikaruga's words.
Ikaruga stared straight at Kiseki and while turning around a mint lolipop in her hands, she smiled.
"Who do you think I am? Just believe in the number one among Suginami, the outstanding Ikaruga-sama. I will surely convince the world."
It was also the first time the platoon members had seen Ikaruga be this reliable.
When Ikaruga also accepted her, Kiseki's trembling stopped.
Once again, Ouka took a step forward and extended her hand in front of Kiseki.
"——You are no longer alone. We're with you."
"I promise we won't let you feel lonely."
——So take my hand.
The hand Ouka extended was white, warm and seemed very soft.
Kiseki stared at her own palm as she shed large tear droplets.
The activity of Hyakki Yakou around the world had already ceased.
The giant demon tree tower over the city started wither and turned into ash starting from its leaves.
And the ash covered the city like snow.
Kiseki looked up at the rain of ash in the sky.
She looked at the world for the first time.
She felt that her field of vision which was only focused on Takeru, had expanded a little. People other than Takeru were willing to help her. They were willing to accept the abnormal existence Kiseki was.
She was happy. Very happy.
Why hasn't she noticed earlier?
Why hasn't she tried to learn more about them earlier?
She looked only at Takeru, sought only Takeru, and drove the world to this.
She should have looked around her more.
She should have tried to learn more, much more about the world.
That this world——was not only cruel.
I was so foolish, Kiseki ridiculed herself.
While staring at the hand Ouka had extended in front of her, Kiseki has——
Moved away from Ouka.
Ouka looked at her questioningly.
Kiseki raised her head and showed everyone a smile on her tearful face.
"...Thank you... but..."
Momentarily, Hyakki Yakou had converged beneath Kiseki's feet.
Although confused, Ouka had moved away from the gathering Hyakki Yakou.
Ouka looked questioningly at Kiseki, asking what is she trying to do, in response to which Kiseki said,
"Kiseki... shouldn't stay alive after all... she can't live."
Horrified, Ouka aimed Vlad's muzzle——at the gathering Hyakki Yakou.
And without hesitation, she squeezed the trigger.
However, the stake was blocked and shattered by highly-concentrated Hyakki Yakou's tentacles.
No matter how much of it was blocked, Ouka did not stop shooting.
The members other than Ouka had also realized what Kiseki was trying to do.
The gathered Hyakki Yakou would wrap around Kiseki, all the tentacles would turn sharp——then Kiseki would turn all of them against herself.
Kiseki had wished for her of death..
She, who wouldn't accept death from anyone but her brother's hand no matter how much pain she was in, had wished to die by her own hands.
And Hyakki Yakou had fulfilled her wish.
"This is for the best... I don't want to hurt anyone else..."
Anyone else. Kiseki knew that these were just some pretty words.
It wasn't "anyone else", but "myself".
It might have been just as Mari said, and the world wasn't all painful things. If she had other people by her side, she might have been able to bear the weight of her sins.
But Kiseki was different from Mari.
All of this devastation was something she herself wished for. There was a crucial difference between Mari who didn't want to kill, and Kiseki who wished to kill.
The weight of their sins was way too different.
It was too difficult for her to live on. She endured a variety of things, gave up on various things, gave up on everything. Kiseki was grateful to the comrades who gave her one more chance
But she couldn't bear it.
This was Kiseki's escape from her sins.
The one who understood that best and was furious, was Ikaruga.
In anger she tried to moved closer to Kiseki.
But Ouka had grasped her shoulder.
Ouka shook her head and stared at Ikaruga.
"Let's stop. This is all we can do."
"What are you talking about now! If we let that brat die now——"
"——No. I'm saying we should leave the rest to him."
She said and looked up to the sky.
Following her, Ikaruga and others also looked up.
Ouka smiled bitterly and welcomed the person coming from the sky.
Leaving behind a twilight-colored rainbow made from magic power, he descended making lots of noise.
"Geez... he always comes late."
The man descended from the sky.
He must have flew in a hurry. Spreading magic power he recklessly swung his arms to gather strength and then——
He finally arrived in front of Kiseki.
The man landed in front of Kiseki while retaining his momentum.
That was when the magic was released.
At the same time he landed, the flames of magic power have enveloped the city with him as the center.
Flames emitted by 《Ragnarøkkr Enchant》 have absorbed Hyakki Yakou in the surroundings in the blink of an eye, and erased it.
It was instant.
In an instant Takeru had purified Kiseki's surroundings.
It was so bright and powerful, it seemed as if it had wiped Kiseki's sins clean.
All of it happened so fast, Kiseki could only stare at the sudden visitor in shock.
In an instant everything was taken from her and made as if it never existed, causing her head to turn blank.
The man clad in twilight flames had stabbed the sword into the ground and slowly stood up.
Unable to see his face behind the armor, Kiseki timidly called him.
The next moment, Ouka who stood behind him fired a stake that forcefully canceled the knightly armor.
Standing there, was without doubt Takeru.
Her brother stood up and in front of Kiseki.
"——Sorry, I'm late."
And Takeru apologized to her with a serious face.
It was always like this. Whenever he visited her he apologized with "Sorry, I'm late".
The situation was completely different, she was trying to commit suicide just a moment earlier and yet,
Just by hearing those words... Kiseki was relieved.
Right after apologizing, he looked down at Kiseki with anger.
"I don't know what were you tryin' to do, but don't disappear in the middle of a quarrel. I still haven't told you everything I wanted to."
"And I didn't get my answer yet, so stop running away, dumbass."
And he lightly chopped her head.
There was no pain, but dumbfounded Kiseki naturally raised her hands to her head.
No matter what she tried to say, no words had come out. There was also no Hyakki Yakou around her to reflect what she wanted to say.
Her head was empty, blank.
She couldn't think of anything.
She could only stare at Takeru's face, dumbfounded.
While Kiseki dazed off looking as if she had just woken up, Takeru frowned angrily, but soon his expression changed and he smiled bitterly.
He lowered himself and matching Kiseki's height, he brought his face closer to hers.
"Hey, Kiseki——do you love me?"
"It doesn't have to be as your brother. Do you love me as "Takeru-kun"?"
Kiseki didn't know what meaning did that question have.
And yet she felt pain in her chest.
She was in so much pain she couldn't bear it.
Hunching over and squeezing her fist against her chest she answered while bearing her tears.
"............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................I do... I love you..."
Hearing the answer, Takeru squinted quietly.
He didn't smile, he wasn't embarrassed, he just narrowed his eyes sadly.
"I see... but I'm sorry... "Takeru-kun" that you know no longer exists."
That definitely wasn't a rejection.
But it didn't mean that he accepted Kiseki's feelings.
Takeru tried to convey something to her.
"Standing here is your onii-chan. In the past he might have been "Takeru-kun", but now he's your onii-chan."
"Yeah, that's right. You called me that earlier, right. "Onii-chan", that is."
Seeing his gentle expression Kiseki felt really sad.
She wasn't rejected. She wasn't accepted.
However——she was dumped.
"I can no longer be——a "Takeru-kun" just for you."
Tears trickled down from Kiseki's eyes.
While crying, she moved away her hand from her chest, bit her lower lip and squeezed her fists at the height of her waist as she endured the sadness.
"Takeru-kun isn't... here any more, right... he doesn't love Kiseki..."
"He... hates Kiseki now, right...?"
She said while sobbing like a child.
Although she herself wanted to be hated by Takeru, but now despite feeling unsightly, she still said it.
Kiseki's beloved "Takeru-kun" was nowhere to be found.
He won't come back again.
She got what she deserved. She knew that.
Although she knew that, she didn't want to know and thus, she couldn't help but ask.
"I don't know because he's gone, but there is one thing he has to say."
Kiseki raised her face and opened her eyes in surprise.
It was because tears were flowing down Takeru's cheeks.
The tears had come from remembering the past and the feelings he had lost.
"The past me... loved you. He loved you, and not as a brother. There is no doubt about that... my first love... was you, Kiseki."
Takeru too, was Kiseki's first love. As a child, Takeru didn't understand that.
As he matured, he had realized that Kiseki was his first love.
Kiseki was happy from the bottom of her heart that their feelings were the same.