Chapter 4 – The Two’s Feelings
“Once morning comes, we will need to split up into at least two groups. Now is our only chance to explore Oodem,” Diana said.
It was three hours after they had met up with Nodoka and Ogawa. The sun had set and the day was already coming to an end.
“Luckily, the ruins of Oodem are not very big. Research has shown that this place was originally used by the ancient people for their rituals. It doesn’t have anything like a graveyard or a treasure vault. The entire place was also examined thoroughly after Hideo’s journey. We should go over all of the ruins by the end of tonight.”
“The Major is right. I agree with her as well. Once morning comes, we will need to escort the people of Japan to the base of the mountain. Also, I’m sure they would feel uneasy if Yasuo and Shouko, who are also from Japan, are not present while negotiating terms with His Excellency Leonid.”
“But we can’t just leave them here and go exploring, not after we have seen Shii appearing in this area. It would be unreasonable to expect Nodoka Kenzaki to fight any longer. The only people here who can be counted upon to fight are Major Krone, Second Lieutenant Feigreid, and myself.”
While Yasuo could exhibit certain abilities in a fight against the Shii, he wouldn’t stand a chance against wild animals. The opposite was true for Nodoka. As for Shouko, there was no telling when Raia’s power would turn upon them.
“Captain Gaius. Would you be willing to go and scout with Second Lieutenant Feigreid… and Shouko?”
“Eh? Me too?”
“……I suppose that method carries the least risk.”
Gaius agreed to Diana’s proposal, while Shouko was wide-eyed with surprise.
“Since we got the central figures of Baskelgarde involved, we need to ensure that Captain Gaius is the first person to discover any new information. By that, I mean anything to do with Raia Calgani or the magic abnormality detected at the ruins of Oodem.”
“The people here are all citizens of Japan with no fighting ability. In that case, the best person to guard them would be the Major who has lived in Japan and can relate to them. But that’s not all.”
Gaius shot a sidelong glance at Feigreid.
“If I try to hide any information from getting out of Baskelgarde, Second Lieutenant Feigreid would be able to protect Shouko. Besides, I don’t want to cause friction between the Krone family and His Excellency Leonid either.”
“What’s that, more shady political talk?”
Shouko eyed Gaius with a slightly cold gaze, and the two men showed that they were just joking.
“That’s just the way things are. Whether we want to or not, we are in a position where we are representing the interests of our respective countries. That is especially true for Major Krone and Captain Gaius.”
“Besides, if the Hero Hideo is truly here, we will need someone who is familiar with him to come along with us. Neither I nor Second Lieutenant Feigreid know anything about Hideo as he is now.”
“But if Yasuo goes deep into the ruins and the Shii once again appear en masse as they did in Galedeite, Major Krone might not be able to protect all the people from Japan on her own. As long as Yasuo is here, he can stall a large number of the Shii using the requiem.”
As for Nodoka, even Shouko understood that she couldn’t ask them to take her along instead.
Nodoka was tired out from using too much magic, so she probably wouldn’t want to be separated from her brother or Diana again so soon. Besides, she was younger than Shouko. There was no way she could dump any more unreasonable work on a kid from middle school.
“Fine, it looks like I have no choice but to go. But in exchange, make sure you protect me properly, okay? I don’t want to rely on Raia’s power anymore.”
Seeing Shouko resign herself to going, Yasuo ran up to Feigreid.
“……Sorry, but please take care of Tatewaki-san.”
It wasn’t that Yasuo did not trust Gaius. However, Gaius had already been defeated by Raia once, although that was because he had let down his guard.
Right now, what they needed to be worried about with regards to Shouko was not her getting hurt by some external party. The main threat was losing control of her mind and body to Raia.
“Leave it to me and relax. I have spent more time with all of you than the Captain. I promise I will do everything in my power to prevent the worst-case scenario from occurring.”
“The ruins themselves aren’t very big. Even if we take our time with the investigation, it shouldn’t take until late in the night. We will leave right after getting something to eat,” Gaius declared.
On the far side of the atrium was a large cave, much like in the movie mentioned earlier. However, all of the traps had been disabled by Hideo’s party thirty years earlier, and subsequent investigations had stripped away anything of note. Gaius had estimated that no matter how carefully they went about it, investigating the ruins would not take more than three hours.
“…Even just waiting around is hard. I feel like I can’t relax.”
“The best-case scenario would be for them to find Hideo and confirm that the anomaly that we detected was due to Hideo’s presence. Also, getting Uncle Leonid’s help to send Nodoka and the others back to Japan via Resteria would be nice.”
“That’s definitely impossible,” Yasuo muttered under his breath. Diana did not confirm or deny it, instead choosing to smile bitterly.
“If it comes down to it, I will convince my mother to cough up every last coin of the Krone family’s wealth for that purpose.”
This time, it was Yasuo’s turn to smile bitterly at the Magitech Knight who was attempting to mobilize funds on the level of an entire nation’s budget despite being only a year older than him.
“Would that really work? I don’t see that happening, even if people continue to praise me as the Saint and I become one of the braves. What do you plan to do after using up all of your wealth?”
“Who knows? Maybe my mother and I will move to Tokorozawa and find part-time jobs along with the Colonel.”
“That would probably make Nodoka happy.”
Yasuo looked at Nodoka who was fast asleep near the campfire with Diana’s cloak wrapped around her. They had taken Ogawa’s help to get all of the others to assemble and get some rest where Diana and Yasuo could keep an eye on them.
If any of them had to go to the toilet, Yasuo would accompany the men and Diana would do the same for the women. They had also given instructions that everyone was to gather around Yasuo in case of an emergency and to obey Diana’s commands without fail.
Yasuo slowly looked around at the people who were sleeping in various poses. From what he could see, they were all ordinary Japanese people.
After talking to each of them separately, he had found that all of them lived in the general area around the outlet mall which had been their destination. Even Ogawa’s house was within the Tokyo area. One of the people had apparently graduated from Kitahira Middle School around ten years ago, Yasuo’s alma mater and the school that Nodoka currently attended, and they had enjoyed a conversation about the school for a little while.
Not a single one of them had any business being sent off to another world. Thinking about it calmly, the same must have been true for his father and mother as well.
Nodoka had learned some magic because of the circumstances of their family, it wasn’t like she suddenly became able to use it after coming to this world. Yasuo had only talked to the others briefly, but he confirmed that none of them had developed any special powers or felt capable of doing something that they couldn’t do before since coming to this world.
Apart from Nodoka, they were all over twenty years old, with Ogawa being the oldest.
“I suppose we won’t understand the reason just by sitting here and thinking about it.”
“Is something wrong?”
“I was just thinking, if we still have time, I’d like to go and take a look around as well after Tatewaki-san and the others come back. We probably won’t come back here again, and I want to see the stuff that Dad and the others saw in the past. Well, there’s also a part of me that just wants to see the sights like a tourist.”
“I think that should be fine. If that happens, we can leave this place to Second Lieutenant Feigreid and the others and go together.”
“We should take Nodoka with us, or she’ll bite our heads off later on.”
“Oh my, how cold. And here I was trying to ask you out on a date.”
“……What’s up with you since yesterday? Diana, there’s something strange about you. Please spare me the heart-attack-inducing jokes.”
“Are you scared that Shouko will get mad at you?”
Yasuo turned away, unable to discern the intention behind Diana’s eyes that reflected the flickering light from the campfire a short distance away.
“A little bit. Remember what happened at Galedeite?”
“Oh, yes. My thoughtless actions led to Shouko feeling jealous.”
Diana had hugged Yasuo tightly after being overcome with emotion at seeing him safe. After seeing that, Shouko had been in a bad mood for quite a while. Yasuo smiled vaguely after remembering that.
“……I don’t understand it. Honestly. Even though she said… I mean, even though she confessed her feelings to me, I don’t remember doing anything to make her feel that way. If anything, I’ve given her plenty of reasons to hate me recently.”
“I wonder if that’s true.”
“Of course it is. Ever since we came here, I haven’t done a single thing on my own. Tatewaki-san was the one who chased away the wolves in the forest near Catalina-san’s house, and she was also the one who directly got rid of the Shii that attacked the House of the Fireflies. I’ve just been continuously relying on somebody else. I mean, that’s not much different from how I am usually, but… still…”
Yasuo looked like he was taking damage from his own words, and put his head between his knees as if he was depressed.
“I just have no confidence.”
His own strength. Their future from here on out. What he had achieved so far, and the path he had taken to get there. The reason why Shouko held feelings of love for him. And whether he deserved that love, or had done anything worthy of it.
Yasuo was probably talking about all those things.
“And Nodoka has, well, always been like that.”
Even though little sisters in general were often harsh with their brothers, Nodoka was especially so. Also, as her mastery of the Flame Wheel magic had clearly shown, she had a lot more talent for magic than he did.
Not much time had passed since she broke into a heavy sweat just by producing a tiny flame on the palm of her hand in the Kenzaki family house, and yet she had gained enough strength to stall the Shii, even if she wasn’t able to defeat them entirely. Perhaps she had secretly trained her abilities alongside her daily life using her fearsome powers of concentration.
Of course, her magic was self-taught and she had completely skipped over learning the basics, so she would run out of energy and become powerless to move so much as a finger if she overdid it, just like what had happened earlier. Despite that, if she took the time to train properly, it was obvious that she had far more talent to become a Magitech Knight than Yasuo did.
Even though it had only been for a brief time, she had fought with her own strength and protected several people.
“You know, Nodoka’s grades at school are much better than mine were at her age. It wouldn’t be so bad if that was the only thing, but after seeing her ability even in these kinds of situations… I just ended up thinking about a bunch of stuff.”
“……Let me ask you one thing. Shouko has already seen all of that and is well aware of it. What are your thoughts about that?”
“She knows all of that, and yet she made it apparent that she loves you anyway. How does that make you feel?”
“W-What do you mean, how…”
“Are strengths and achievements the only things that define a man? You may not have those, but there’s something about you that has always caused Shouko to find you attractive, can’t you think of it like that?”
Yasuo thought that he wouldn’t be struggling so much if he could think of it in that way. However, there was a hint of anger in Diana’s voice that did not allow him to reject her idea out of hand.
Yasuo instinctively stood up after sensing Diana’s anger, something he had never experienced before.
At that moment.
After hearing Shouko’s voice, both Yasuo and Diana raised their heads and their expressions turned stiff.
She was alone. Shouko had come back by herself.
“Back there, Feig-san and Captain Gaius told me to come back by myself!”
“Stop right there!!”
Yasuo immediately rushed to Nodoka’s side, and Diana shot a bullet from Castor at the ground near Shouko’s feet.
“Woah!? Diana-san, what was that for—”
“Don’t move, Raia Calgani! What did you do with the two of them?”
“I’ve seriously had enough of you! Are you doing this on purpose!? Nodoka, wake up!”
“Uhh… W-What is it!?”
“……Oh?” Shouko said after seeing Yasuo shaking Nodoka awake without a hint of indecision on his face.
“……What gave it away? I thought I did a pretty good job.”
She dropped the act right away and made a show of putting her hands up. As Yasuo and Diana had guessed, it was Raia borrowing Shouko’s body.
“You really want to know!?”
Raia had made a mistake with how she addressed Gaius. The fact that she had referred to Feigreid normally made her mistake stand out even more, making it more jarring than even she suspected.
“What the hell do you want!? What did you do to Feig-san and Gaius-san!?”
“Eh? W-What’s going on? Onii-chan, Diana-san, what’s the matter? Why are you talking to Shouko-san that way!?”
“Hello~ Nodoka-chaaan~ It’s nice to meet yoooou~ I’m Tatewaki Shouko’s roommate, Raia Calganiii~ Didn’t you hear about me already~?”
“Nodoka, get back. Right now, Tatewaki-san is being controlled by the Shii that possessed her.”
“Wow, that’s haaaarsh~ Saying I’m controlling her is so mean. Yasu-kun, just how many times do you think you’ve been saved by my poweeeer~?”
“……Yeah, I think I get it. She sounds like she’s got a terrible personality. That thing is not Shouko-san.”
“Eeh? Is it so bad that even a girl who’s meeting me for the first time thinks that way? I suppose I’ve still got a long way to go~”
“Didn’t I tell you to never come out again!? Also, I highly doubt Feig-san overlooked your appearance. What the hell happened!?”
“I mean, even if you ask me that…”
Raia used Shouko’s face to grin at them.
“Diana-san, have you heard about what is contained within these ruins? The place where the Hero Hideo awakened the full power of his holy sword.”
“In the depths of the ruins of Oodem… I heard that there was nothing there.”
Yasuo was the one who looked surprised by that statement.
Thinking about what had happened so far, it was true that Diana, Gaius, and Leonid—the people who looked like they were well-versed in the lore of Oodem—had not mentioned anything about what the ruins contained. He had assumed that someone would give him an explanation once they arrived at the ruins, but the unexpected reunion with Nodoka had pushed the matter to the back of his mind.
The fact of the matter was, while the presence of Nodoka and the others and the arrival of the Shii was certainly a surprise, the ruins themselves were completely unremarkable. That said, hearing her actually say that there was nothing there came as a bit of a surprise.
“……I’ve heard that in the innermost area of the ruins of Oodem, there is a spacious room that is the same size as the entrance here. There are apparently traces of ancient rituals being performed there, but there is no ritual altar or idol of any sort. Hideo and the others originally came here because the demons were using this place as a fortress and they were asked to clear it out, or so I heard. But…”
Without taking her eyes off Raia, Diana pointed the blade of Pollux in her left hand in a different direction.
The atrium beside the entrance where they were currently situated had multiple holes in the walls and ceiling that acted as skylights through which the starry sky and moon outside were visible.
“The ancients performed their rituals twice a year. They were performed here, in Oodem. I believe that the researchers came to the conclusion that the innermost room was an observatory used to study the summer and winter solstices.”
“Right answer. Now allow me, dear old Raia-san, to teach you something interesting. In ancient times, the climate here in the northern reaches of Baskelgarde was so unforgiving that the various tribes that lived here put a lot of time observing the heavens. They considered the sun on the summer solstice to be a metaphor for the beginning of life, while the sun on the winter solstice marked the end of life, and they used these as reference points to mark the passing of a year. Hideo did awaken the true power of the holy sword Liutberga here in the ruins of Oodem, but… Why do you think that happened in such an unremarkable place?”
“Why do you know the answer to that…”
“It’s only natural that I know. I am the first Magitech Knight to exist in Ante Lande. Orion, the Destroyer of Armies, was created here. This site of ancient rituals was where Elliot… first discovered where the ‘magical energy’ possessed by people comes from. The beginning of life and the end of life… The place that exists between life and death. Yasu-kun, does this sound familiar? Haven’t you heard of ‘something’ like this before?”
“The boundary between life and death… Don’t tell me!?”
Yasuo inhaled sharply. He thought that his heart would stop beating.
And then, without intending to, he looked at Nodoka.
How did Nodoka, Ogawa, and the other people get here? What happened to bring them to this place? Along with the items that they had been carrying in Japan, no less.
“You… don’t tell me…”
“Ah, just so you’re aware. Since Shouko herself is the ‘Latch’, it’s not like anything will happen when she or I go there. But for the Hero Hideo, it was enough for something to happen to him…… Even I only realized it after going there. I realized just how the Hero Hideo first came to this world called ‘Ante Lande’!!”
At that instant, a mass of black flames appeared from the direction in which Raia had come running. It was a large number of Shii.
However, they were clearly different from the Shii that Yasuo and the others were familiar with. What those Shii carried in their arms were not Techo Weapons.
“Everyone, take cover!!” Yasuo shouted at the top of his lungs as he jumped behind the nearest stone pillar while dragging Nodoka along with him.
He hadn’t done that deliberately.
He had just wanted to put a sturdy barrier between himself and the Shii.
Luckily for Yasuo, that turned out to be the correct decision.
Along with a loud explosion, pieces of stone flaked off the pillar that Yasuo and Nodoka were hiding behind.
“……Eh, just now, was that—”
Nodoka’s voice trembled.
Yasuo knew about those. He had seen them several times in fiction. However, he had never seen them in real life or witnessed them being used.
Most importantly, it was supposed to be impossible for the Shii to be carrying those around.
“Diana! Ogawa-san! Take cover! Those things are using guns from Earth!”
The instant Yasuo shouted that, the ruins of Oodem were once again filled with the unbelievably loud sound of gunfire.
“Nodoka! Curl up as tightly as you can! Stay behind the pillar no matter what!”
Yasuo embraced Nodoka as if trying to cover her body with his own, and curled up as much as he could behind the pillar.
Since he still heard intermittent screams, it appeared that at least some people were still alive. However, the rain of bullets continued incessantly, making it impossible to stick his head out and confirm if the others were alright without getting his own head smashed to pieces.
“Wow, this is amazing! I did think that they were nothing special physically, but now it makes sense! They have such amazing weapons! If we had these, the fight against the Demon King army would have probably been a lot easier!! The sound is incredible!! My ears huuuurt!”
Yasuo was able to hear Raia’s voice intermittently in between the dreadful roar of gunfire. It was enough to make him seethe with rage.
She was using Shouko’s voice and Shouko’s body to do whatever the hell she wanted.
However, Yasuo did not have the ability to slip through this veritable rain of bullets. He could only sit here while trembling and hugging Nodoka, unable to even stick his head out from behind the pillar.
“Yasuo, Nodoka. Are the two of you okay? Look at me.”
Despite the situation, Yasuo suddenly heard Diana’s concerned voice. It sounded like she was right in front of him. He fearfully opened his eyes to see Diana, standing ready in a low stance.
Apparently, the stone pillar was still doing a fine job of protecting them from the bullets.
“I count ten Shii on the enemy’s side. They are all armed with guns, but it looks like only one of them is capable of firing continuously. The rest are all firing single bullets and it looks like they need to reload after every shot.”
“S-So what!? We’re still stuck here…!”
“I can stop them… I was surprised in the beginning, but it’s just like Raia said. Apart from their guns, their overall combat potential should be low.”
“But that doesn’t mean I can destroy all of them in the blink of an eye. Right now, Raia has a hostage to use against us.”
“You mean Tatewaki-san’s body…?”
“That is very plausible. We still don’t know what Raia is trying to achieve, but it’s doubtful that she will be careful with Shouko’s body. I’m also worried about Second Lieutenant Feigreid and Captain Gaius. Yasuo, listen to me.”
“W-What is it?”
“Can you think of a way to let Shouko’s consciousness regain control?”
“Raia is also a Shii. The power of your requiem should affect her as well. But more importantly, Shouko has feelings for you, Yasuo. That’s why she was able to push Raia away and return to herself last time. From here on out, can you stop thinking about Raia and think of a way to let your voice reach Shouko instead?”
“I-I can’t just come up with something like that all of a sudden…”
“Even if you sing the requiem, I doubt it would reach them properly through all this noise. Besides, if your requiem ends up returning Shouko’s consciousness, there is a chance she might get attacked by those other Shii instead…!”
At that moment, a small piece of rock grazed Diana’s forehead and left behind a thin line of blood.
“Diana-san! There’s blood! You’re bleeding!”
Nodoka let out a scream, and Diana gently stroked her hair as if trying to reassure her.
“I’m okay. It’s just a scratch. I’ll get Yasuo to heal it up later… But it looks like we don’t have much time. Yasuo.”
“Shouko cares about you more than anyone else. But the person who believes in you the most… is me.”
“Yasuo, I’m sure you can do it.”
Diana just said that and smiled.
Leaving the voices of the siblings behind her, Diana suddenly jumped into the hailstorm of bullets.
Yasuo forced himself away from the brink of panic and desperately thought about what Diana had said to him, but he couldn’t think of any words that would reach Shouko instead of Raia. In the first place, he had no idea what had caused Shouko and Raia to switch places.
Also, Yasuo and Shouko had very few memories or experiences in common. He had only gotten to know her well very recently, which was after he realized that they went to the same prep school.
At the time of their reunion, the most important things on Yasuo’s mind had been his family’s secret, as well as Diana, whom he had seen as an intruder.
It had been only a few weeks since Shouko found out about Ante Lande. Yasuo couldn’t think of anything he could say based on this timeframe that would allow Shouko to suppress Raia’s consciousness.
“Whew, way to go Diana-san! You’re practically inhuman~ Dodging bullets like that isn’t something regular people can do!”
“Thanks… the compliment!”
Yasuo couldn’t hear Diana’s voice clearly, maybe because she was moving at a high speed.
However, the next second, Yasuo heard the sound of Diana vigorously bringing down the twin blades of Castor and Pollux, followed by the sound of a magical bullet fired off as a finisher.
At the very least, she had incapacitated one of them. Or at least that’s what Yasuo thought, but…
Diana’s surprised shout betrayed his expectations.
“Okaaay! Cease fire! What do you think, Diana-san…? Packs a punch, doesn’t it?”
“W-What was that, just now…”
“You weren’t able to cut them, were you? Castor’s blade just went through the Shii like they weren’t even there, right!?”
“Onii-chan, that’s dangerous!!”
Yasuo tried to peek out from behind the pillar despite himself, and Nodoka desperately stopped him.
“Yasuo! My Techno Weapon doesn’t work against these Shii!”
In exchange, Diana shouted a concise and despair-inducing explanation.
Standing with her twin blades poised for battle in an area with no cover, Diana’s expression from the side showed that she was backed into a corner.
“It’s strange, riiiiight~!? Whatever could be the reaaaason~!? Why won’t your Techno Weapons work against the Shiiiiii~!? At this rate, who knows if even Yasu-kun’s requiem will work on them or noooot~!”
Yasuo gritted his teeth while listening to Raia talk like she had already won.
Just what the heck was going on here? If Diana’s Castor and Pollux didn’t work against them, then what had happened to Feigreid and Gaius who were not here?
“What do you think of that, Yasu-kun!? It looked like you were getting cocky after Diana-san called you a Saint, so why don’t you try and sing your requiem from over there!? That’s fine with me! Give it a shot!”
“…Like hell, I will. It probably won’t work anyway.”
“Hey, you might still have a chance! Yasu-kun, you are the Saint and the son of the Hero, aren’t you? Maybe you’ll have better luck than an ordinary Magitech Knight like Diana-san! Come on, if you manage to send off the Shii here, I’m sure Shouko will fall even deeper in love with you!”
“……If you weren’t dead already, I’d seriously try to kill you.”
“Yeaaah, that’s not happening. But if you’re not going to do anything, I’ve got other stuff to do. I can’t just sit around here and keep you company. I want to leave Oodem and take this bunch with me to Holstro. So… Haaaaah!”
A loud scream and the sound of a gunshot reached Yasuo’s ears, and out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Diana being slammed violently into a wall.
“Can you not get in my waaay~!?”
“Ugh… Shouko! You need to wake up!”
“Nope! She can hear you, but she can’t do anything about it! After all, Shouko herself helped me get adjusted to this body! She wanted to help Yasu-kun so badly, she wanted to save him so badly, that she called out to me again and again in Galedeite! Haaaah!”
“Ugh! Why you…!”
The black flames of Orion wrapped themselves around Shouko’s limbs and waist like poisonous snakes, and she mercilessly rained down a flurry of kicks and punches on Diana.
Diana parried, blocked, and sidestepped every one of her blows, but since she was fighting against Shouko’s body, she wasn’t able to counterattack. Moreover, the other Shii’s supply of ammunition seemed inexhaustible as they continued to fire their guns.
“Nodoka! Can you do something about them!? If you can at least stall the Shii for a little bit…!”
“No way! If I can’t see my target, there’s no telling where the Wheel of Flame will go! Onii-chan you idiot, you should do something about them with your requiem instead!”
“It’s useless! I’ve been singing it for a while now, but it won’t work at all!”
“Eeh!? Maybe you’re just not singing it loudly enough! The gunshots must be overwhelming the sound of your voice! You need to sing loud—Kyaa!!”
It looked like Nodoka’s yelling caught the attention of the Shii, as they switched targets from Diana and instead resumed shooting at the pillar behind which Yasuo and Nodoka were hiding.
“What’s wrong, Yasu-kun!? At this rate, I’ll eventually defeat Diana-san and then turn Hosltro into a sea of blood! I wonder how long Diana-san’s stamina will last! I just hope Shouko’s body doesn’t break down before that!”
“Stop messing around! Weren’t you guys planning to use Tatewaki-san as a ‘Latch’!?”
“Yep. But it’s all good as long as Shouko is still alive. So it doesn’t matter if she gets hurt a little, you see? That’s why… Haaah!”
Nodoka’s scream rang out once again. Raia’s fist had sunk itself into Diana’s right flank, slamming her into the ground.
“Hahaha! Diana-san, you could have avoided that hit just now, right!? If you had used the Pollux in your left hand to attack my wrist, you wouldn’t have taken so much damage, right!? Why? Why didn’t you do that!?”
“Ugh! Onii-chan, what’s up with her!?”
“I wish I knew! Oi, Raia! We already passed through Holstro last night! I’m not letting you go there, no matter what!”
Standing beside Diana who was still collapsed on the ground, Raia made a sound that indicated that she was not amused.
“That’s true. That idiot Shouko, she got so excited just because you hugged her and closed up the Latch so tightly that I wasn’t able to do anything. But Shouko and I are one. I knew her Latch would loosen up soon enough because of anxiety and jealousy. I mean…”
Raia moved Shouko’s eyes to look at Yasuo. He felt a chill run down his spine.
“Yasu-kun, you just want to travel all over this world with Diana-san without caring about my feelings at all!”
“…What… are you…”
“Raia… Be quiet… Don’t say anything more…”
“These are Shouko’s true feelings. Shouko feels jealous of Diana-san. She’s strong, cute, and you depend on her all the time, Yasuo. Shouko has been jealous of Diana all this time for being able to stay beside you.”
“Raia!! Stop!! Don’t reveal any more of Shouko’s feelings…!”
“Why? Didn’t you try to steal a march on her last night?”
“Shouko was watching you. She saw you take Yasuo out of the room. She saw you hugging him and smiling happily.”’
“Onii-chan? What the heck were you doing!?”
Diana and Yasuo were obviously shocked, but it looked to him like even Nodoka felt the same.
“You know, ever since ‘I’ first met her, I knew that ‘Diana-san’ was important to ‘Yasu-kun’. I mean, you’re completely different around her.”
“Shouko… It’s not what you think, that was just…”
“From back when we met at the Ozone shopping center on Prope Street. It wasn’t any one thing in particular. It was just a simple matter of ‘me’ and ‘Diana-san’ occupying different places inside Yasu-kun’s heart. That was inevitable, right? I mean, until we met again, ‘I’ was just someone from ‘Yasu-kun’s’ past, a long-forgotten memory.”
Diana groaned in pain, and Yasuo inhaled sharply as if he had just remembered something.
“Forgotten past… Forgotten…”
“Say it, ‘Diana-san’. Be honest. How do you feel about ‘Yasu-kun’?”
Raia smiled sadistically and grabbed Diana by her hair, forcing her to look up.
“You knew it, didn’t you? You knew that even when I come out to the surface, Shouko will still be aware of everything that is going on.”
“……You… You are……”
“Oh, this is so thrilling. I bet I had the same expression on my face before I died… But don’t hold a grudge against me, okay? I just don’t want the young kids to have any regrets, you know? If you don’t express your feelings while you still can, or you might never get the chance.”
The gunfire from the Shii had stopped at some point.
However, that didn’t mean that the Shii had disappeared. They were just standing around and flickering eerily while pointing what looked like the muzzles of their guns at the surroundings in a threatening manner.
However, the Shii had suddenly stopped moving ever since Raia—who was supposedly controlling them—had started glaring and spouting her complaints to Diana.
Yasuo hurriedly glanced around his surroundings. Ogawa was fairly close to him, with his back against a nearby pillar. As for the others, he saw people like Suzuki and Akaike who had failed to run away in time and were similarly hiding behind pillars or walls and trembling in fright. However, he did not see anyone bleeding or collapsed upon the ground with injuries.
However, it was only a matter of time before they would be massacred.
Raia had somehow gotten the drop on Feigreid and Gaius, and Diana was being driven into a corner right in front of him. If he allowed Raia to keep doing as she pleased, there wouldn’t be anyone left who could fight against her.
“This is a good chance, so let me tell you something. Elliot Higgins was killed by the current Holstro military faction of Baskelgarde, led by your ‘Uncle Leonid’. Just because he refused to submit the Orion for official testing.”
“He was… killed?”
“Elliot thought that Orion was still incomplete. Given its structure, it put too much of a burden on the Knights who wielded it. He kept insisting that it needed to be refined a lot more before it would be ready for practical use… It was around then that rumors started spreading about Resteria’s Castor being close to completion. You see, Baskelgarde really wanted the title of ‘First in the world to create the new generation of weapons’. They needed that title to seize the initiative in clearing out the remnants of the Demon King army after Hero Hideo left this world.”
“…Uncle Leonid did that…? That can’t be…”
“Elliot was stripped of his development environment. He was forcefully assigned to the mission to retake Torjesso along with me and several other members of the initial development team. That was one of the places where the remnants of the Demon King army were concentrated in large numbers. Elliot was a researcher, not a Knight like me. Even so, the two of us were placed at the forefront of the troops in order to show off the power of Orion to the world…. The two of us died right away, it was pretty anticlimactic. We had planned to get married once Orion was ready for practical use…… Hehe, if Shouko’s memories are correct, that sort of thing is called a ‘death flag’ in Japan, right?”
“……I sympathize with your circumstances. But that has nothing to do with Shouko!”
“Huh!? What are you saying? Of course it has nothing to do with her. But isn’t that just how fate works to link people together? Elliot and I just happened to meet by coincidence because of where we were posted. We weren’t childhood friends or old rivals who became close to each other or anything like that. It’s the same for me and Shouko. The two of us just happened to have feelings of love that would never be realized, and we just happened to cross paths.”
“Stop saying such nonsense! Shouko is a person from Japan! There was no way the two of you could have met unless someone was pulling the strings in the background…”
“Hey Diana-san, don’t you remember? That Techno Weapon of yours, there was someone else fairly recently who wasn’t affected by it, right? An enemy you couldn’t cut, no matter how much you tried.”
Diana, as well as Yasuo and Nodoka, remembered him.
An enemy against whom Diana’s full power was completely meaningless. No matter how much she hit him, she couldn’t put so much as a scratch on him.
“William Bareig… Don’t tell me, you were present during the battle in Tokorozawa…”
“I was actually watching that, you knooow~ Although I only realized what it meant after I possessed Shouko. And so, when I tried to copy him, I was able to do it because of Shouko’s ability to function as a Latch…… I was able to summon the ‘Shii from another world’. Well, I suppose it’s not really impressive enough to be called summoning. All I did was to grab some guys who were wandering around and forcefully kick them out through a gap in the Latch.”
Raia’s disdainful monologue continued.
“Diana-san, didn’t you ever stop to consider why your attacks never landed on him? Why did Hideo’s attacks work on him? What was the difference?”
Raia pointed at Yasuo, who was hiding behind the pillar.
“Why did Castor hit him when Yasu-kun just blindly threw it at him?”
That had certainly happened.
Diana’s sword had just passed through William like he was insubstantial, no matter how many times she had tried to hit him. However, the broken Castor that Yasuo desperately threw at William out of fear had made contact with his head.
“I realized something after seeing that. I could use this. If I could make use of that ability, I could travel through the Latch and take revenge against Baskelgarde. I realized that…”
At some point, five black rings had appeared around Shouko’s wrists, ankles, and her waist.
It was the Destroyer of Armies, Orion. The first Techno Weapon ever created, developed by the man named Elliot.
“I realized that I would be able to take revenge against Baskelgarde for robbing me of Elliot, Orion, and my future as a human being.”
“……Your desire for revenge… is your own business. But I won’t let you do as you please with Shouko’s body and mind just because of that!”
“I mean, it’s a little too late to say things like that. I don’t have the time to search for another Latch either, now that Beatrice and Jörg have put their plans into motion. The Shii are already on the brink of overflowing from the Country of the Dead. I also need to take this opportunity to help their plans succeed… by first drowning Baskelgarde in a sea of blood. Hmm.”
Raia causally kicked Diana in her side, as if she was doing nothing more than flicking a piece of dirt off her clothes.
“……Raia… Give back Shouko’s body!”
“Give it a rest already. I get it, okay? I’ll give it back after everything is over. It’s not like I have anything against Shouko, if anything, I feel like I owe her. Which is why I explained everything properly before everything goes to hell. Is that okay with you, Yasu-kun?”
Raia turned her back to Diana and spoke to Yasuo who was hiding behind the pillar. Her voice was filled with malice.
Yasuo gritted his teeth.
“Stop messing around! What is wrong with you!? You call yourself one of the dead, act like none of this affects you while still miserably clinging to the world of the living, and don’t care about hurting people for the sake of your goal… How does that make you any different from Uncle Leonid or the people of Baskelgarde whom you cursed with your dying breath!?”
Diana’s shout didn’t seem to affect Raia one bit.
“……This is your last warning. Give Shouko back—”
“Let’s end the long conversation here. Get out of my way, Diana-san. If you don’t, I’ll have to kill the Japanese people around here for real—Wha…?”
At that moment.
The gunfire was supposed to have stopped, but the sound of a single shot echoed around the room.
Raia turned to look at Diana with her eyes widened in surprise.
“……Did you seriously just… shoot me?”
Diana’s index finger on her left hand was squeezed around the trigger of Pollux.
Raia’s, or rather, Shouko’s left sleeve had been ripped open, and blood began to stain the fabric around her upper arm where the skin had been cut.
“……It hurts… Who knew Shouko’s body was actually this weak…?”
Diana hadn’t inflicted any real damage. If anything, her attack only served to make Raia’s expression distort with anger as the black flames surrounding her increased in intensity.
“After all your pretty words, you would still shoot your rival in love for your own benefit!? You’ve got some serious guts!!”
After violently kicking Pollux out of Diana’s hand like she was kicking a soccer ball, Raia once again leaned over Diana and pulled her up by her hair.
“Did you think I wouldn’t kill you? I can squash Magitech Knights like you in less than a second. Don’t you care about what happens to Shouko?”
“……Don’t mistake me. I will properly apologize to Shouko later to the best of my ability.”
“I just needed you to look towards me for three seconds…… Don’t you hear it?”
The sound of a weak, yet overlapping melody echoed through the dust-filled room in the ruins of Oodem.
Upon hearing that, Raia—or rather, Shouko—immediately stiffened and threw her head back.
Only her eyes moved as she frantically searched for the source of that song.
Yasuo and Nodoka had come out from behind the pillar at some point. They were now standing directly in front of Raia, singing the same song together in one voice.
“Eeeh… Are you serious? You’re reacting to something like this? What the heck!?”
That song had a far too cheerful and inappropriate melody for their current situation.
Yasuo and Nodoka continued to sing that song, their voices overlapping with each other.
“……That’s so lame.”
At that instant, the last traces of Raia’s consciousness disappeared from Shouko’s visage. As her bloody and battered body started to fall, Yasuo immediately reached out and held her in his arms.
At the same moment,
“Wheel of flame that sleeps beneath the earth, open the door to wisdom with the furrows of your passing!!”
Nodoka slammed her right foot into the ground along with a fast-paced chant, causing the Shii in Shouko’s surroundings to burst into flame and burn intensely.
Inside the flames that Nodoka created, the Shii appeared to fall into a panic as they broke their stances with their guns.
In that instant, Yasuo immediately switched to a different song. That was more than enough.
All he did was to recite one line of the requiem while continuing to hold Shouko in his arms. However, that was enough to immediately cause all ten of the Shii to stop moving. Hearing the requiem sung by Yasuo while trapped inside the flames produced by Nodoka, the Shii followed the inevitable fate of the deceased as they turned into soot and vanished.
Yasuo laid Shouko down on the floor, placed a finger on the wound caused by Pollux’s magical bullet, and applied healing magic while continuing to sing the requiem.
“……I’m so sorry.”
Diana apologized to Yasuo.
“Don’t be. It was my fault for standing up suddenly without giving you any sort of signal. You did great, getting Raia’s attention like that. I don’t think it will leave a scar… but even if it does, I’ll make sure to take responsibility for it.”
“……No, you can’t. I was the one who shot her.”
However, Diana spoke as if she had shot Shouko out of her own free will. She held her injured side as she made her way over to Yasuo, leaned over, and gently stroked Shouko’s hair.
“Afterwards, I need to allow Shouko to vent all her frustration on me. This is just the starting point for that.”