The following Saturday, on which Tobio and others also had a holiday from ‘Nephilim’, they had hurried from the apartment building and wandered into town. It was a trip taken by the whole crew together, consisting of Tobio, Sae, Natsume, Samejima, Lavinia, and Vali.
Samejima and Vali did not seem the types to be interested going on outings together like this, and even Tobio had been feeling surprised.
While walking to the shopping district, Natsume was stretching as she complained of muscle pain.
“Owowowow, it had been my intention to put in some good exercise……however, as expected it does take its toll. That unsociable……Barakiel-sensei is planning to beyond Spartan.”
Sae gave her a small smile.
“Just so. Although, I think he does properly care. There’s breaks after completing the regimen, and he always tells us to stay hydrated.”
As Sae had said, that hard-faced lecturer, while as strict on the surface as his appearance would suggest, he was also methodical and was never the kind of person you couldn’t converse with. He was as much a Spartan as Natsume had said but…….
Samejima also sharply cracked his neck.
“Well, it builds stamina that’s for sure. I even shocked myself when I realized I had the stamina to run ten kilometers.”
It was just as Samejima had said, but for he himself who had originally had athletic ability, in his case the stamina building regimen had born fruit. Compared with before he’d gone to Nephilim it was clear that the circumference of his arms had increased, and even from above his clothes his pectoral and abdominal muscles stood out.
Tobio had also put on muscle but……. It couldn’t be said to be to the same degree as Samejima.
“What is it that we are doing today?”
Lavinia who had come along with them……was wearing her usual magical girl hat and robe despite being on a private outing. As they were walking together, the people coming and going on the street were giving them strange looks.
Natsume thrust her finger at Lavinia as she spoke.
“We’re starting with you, Lavinia! Clothes! For a young girl, that sort of appearance is beyond bad! Since the subject matter is of the highest grade, not being fashionable is entirely unacceptable! Toujou-san is helping as well! Together we will coordinate for this girl!”
Being overpowered by Natsume’s vigor, Sae consented.
As for Lavinia herself…….
“This is fine since I am a witch. This appearance is the best for boosting magical power, so when the time comes——“
“Ahh, geez! We’re going shopping you hear, shopping!”
Dismissing Lavinia’s objection, Natsume pointed towards the shopping district.
Vali let out a sigh as he spoke.
“Anything is fine, but what’s been on my mind since before is that I want to have lunch at a ramen shop. I think I’d like one with a hearty seafood soup.”
After Natsume gave a half-hearted “Yes yes,” to the silver-haired youth, she suddenly whispered in Tobio’s ear.
(Ikuse-kun, shouldn’t you make up with Toujou-san?)
Tobio was surprised at the unexpected topic.
As Natsume said, while it may have appeared that there wasn’t anything unusual between Tobio and Sae[?] in their normal day to day lives……and although for the sake of getting along with their fellow comrades in the long term they acted as though things were normal, it had become clear that they had found themselves feeling complex emotions towards one another.
Indeed, they were complex emotions brought forth from the locker room incident. Due to Tobio explaining things at the residence afterwards, the misunderstanding had been cleared up. Everyone was aware of Lavinia’s status as a natural airhead after all.
That being said, there was still a slight awkwardness between the two, or to put it better, it was hovering in the background. Natsume appeared to have sensed that.
Natsume was still whispering.
(Say, when those sorts of things happen, the best thing to do is to talk with the girl while accompanying her shopping. While I accompany Lavinia, you take to her while accompanying her with her shopping.)
(That’s all. Rather than the delinquent or the ramen brat, Toujou-san is that priority.)
For Natsume this outing was a chance to reduce his awkwardness with Sae. ……For someone who would tease them it seemed quite unexpected, and Tobio who was seeing it was quite surprised at Natsume. Could this be what they call a maiden’s intuition?
Tobio immediately nodded once. Natsume also grinned broadly.
“Oi, Ramen Dragon. Don’t you also eat ramen at home?”
“Hmph, this is why you are beyond helping, Samejima Kouki. ——It’s a mistake to equate home-ramen with shop-ramen. For house-ramen there’s the sense of security in that it’s ready to eat, while for shop-ramen the quality because it’s eaten at a shop——“
“Isn’t just that you like eating children’s lunches, Radra-sensei?[?]“
While children’s lunches are also good for children’s lunches, as expected, the ramen from a shop……wait, don’t call me Radra.”
Sure sure, Lucidra Lucidra.”
Samejima and Vali could be heard going back and forth behind them……but at any rate, while he would be paying attention to Sae today, Tobio wanted to enjoy this outing.
As they went around the shops, the three girls (primarily Sae and Natsume) were happily squealing as they looked over the clothes as much as they liked. Since having entered a certain shop, it had become shopping time.
Now that he thought thought about it, this was Tobio’s first time accompanying Sae while clothes shopping. When he had been living an ordinary life, they’d only gone to purchase food ingredients from the supermarket.
To be buying clothes, that was something for which, unless you were lovers——.
“Alright then, clothes for Vaa-kun as well!”
“I don’t really——“
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Aren’t you rather suited to girl’s clothes?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine, just leave it to Onee-san.”
Not just Lavinia, Natsume was even dragging Vali along. Although he was a boy, she was picking out girl’s clothes.
The boys——Tobio and Samjima, were inside the store watching the girl’s shopping from a distance. Samejima, who had quickly finished his shopping——having bought mainy weight training equipment, was currently waiting for the girls to finish shopping.
Unexpectedly, Tobio felt that, for a delinquent, he was good at socializing. He’d thought that he’d head back immediately once he finished his shopping.
Incidentally, Jin, Griffon, and Byakusa were on standby just outside the store. Since with that alone people passing by would become anxious (the combination of a large black dog and falcon was an atrocious one), so as to conceal their presence, they’d diluted their existence. Since they weren’t people who excelled at supernatural powers, it seemed they couldn’t perceive Jin and the others.
Samejima suddenly made an inquiry.
“What a thing you’ve been doing with Toujou this week, huh?”
“What a thing?”
To Tobio’s inquiry, Samejima made an obscene sign with his hand.
“It’s gotta be this right? That sort of relationship, right? Would it be unreasonable to say you’ve been living that sort of lifestyle every day?”
As soon as he understood his meaning, Tobio’s face became red. Tobio spoke in a fluster.
“N-No! Sae and I don’t have that kind of relationship! W-We’re not doing it!”
Indeed. It wasn’t the case that he was going steady with Sae. Even so, that sort of thing, it wasn’t unthinkable either.
Seeing Tobio’s reaction, Samejima smiled wryly as he inclined his head.
“Seriously? Although, since it’s that sort of relationship, I had actually been wondering whether you’d extricate yourself as frantically as that. Ah, I see. Well, since I’ve always been with you guys, it had been bothering me all the while ‘When are they doing those kind of things?’……but if it’s not that kind of relationship, it’s safe to it’s improbable that’s you’d both agree to do it.”
Samejima was nodding his head in agreement with himself.
……Somehow, Samejima had been concerned about whether he and Sae were going out, as well as when they were having male-female relations.
……However, both Natsume and Samejima had been concerned about him and Sae, and both were getting in contact over that……. Even Tobio could do nothing but blush when faced with such a difficult question.
Samejima spoke while directing his gaze at the girls.
“You think Toujou’s cute, don’t you? I do not recall noticing her when we were attending Ryoukou, but with us living together, I get the feeling that she’s a good girl.”
Samejima had said it.
It had seemed that way to Tobio who saw her in a favorable light, but nevertheless, Sae was cute to the point that Samejima said so. Or rather, she’d normally be classified as a beautiful girl.
However, rather than being gaudy, due to her light, refined atmosphere, she hadn’t stood out at Ryoukou. She also had a simple personality, and in fact he had heard that she was popular for a time among some of the boys, but he had never heard her being confessed to by anyone.
Wrongly guessing that Tobio, who was
remembering his life at Ryoukou, was concerned about his words and actions, Samejima gave an explanation.
“Ah, I’m not aiming for her or anything, so don’t worry. I was simply voicing thoughts from my own perspective. For me……right now, girls are kind of……”
Samejima was speaking indistinctly. He was making a bitter face. Could it be that he’d had bad experiences with female relationships in the past……?
As Tobio was thinking that, Samejima changed the topic.
“By the way Ikuse. After each of the training periods and rounds with Vali, is there something you’ve been thinking about? Many times, even if I call out to you, you’re completely inattentive.”
“Ah……I suppose that’s right. I guess I have been.”
After the mock battles with Vali, he would always think back over the fight in his head, but…….
“The kind of guy who reflects after taking damage then? By some means, are you seeking a way to surpass Vali?”
“Sort of. Although there’s a difference in ability, it’s vexing that it’s an honestly impossible fight.”
With Tobio having said as much, Samejima let out a sigh.
“……Ah, were you serious about that?”
“Eh? S-Serious about that?”
They ought had been seriously training, so by no means was Samejima doubting that. At that point, he suddenly informed Tobio.
“Tell me honestly. Outside of when you went up against the Utsusemi Agency, are you ever, how should I put this, ambitious? To put it in simpler terms, perhaps it would be feeling animosity, or maybe murderous intent, or something, but except for when you faced off against those guys, you haven’t shown anything along those lines. It feels like, compared to right now, the you from when you were going up against those bastards was unthinkably more dazzling. I’ve thought thought that, ever since I saw you in that department store when we first met.”
Faced with those brief comments from Samejima, even Tobio was at a loss for words. Samejima continued paying him no mind.
“The you from that time, without mercy towards your opponent, would be like ‘I’m going to massacre you! I’m going to bury you!’ How should I put it, it’s that right? That feeling of wanting to save Toujou, it made you become that. However, can the same be said of the present you? We’ve leapt into the world of monsters, however the current you has Toujou close by. She’s the one you frantically saved. Therefore it seems that, at present, your sole pretext for having been so frantic is lacking. Even if you’ve become strong, it’s fine if you can spend time with her from now on, right. Ikuse, during the mock battles with Vali, aren’t you carrying a half-baked version of the franticness you displayed at that time?”
……Tobio had no words to respond to what Samejima had said. This was because he’d ended up feeling from the bottom of his heart that he’d been spot on. Certainly, for himself from that time, in order to retake Sae from them, he’d fought to the bitter end using his just awakened power to the maximum. He certainly had, in his franticness, been risking his life——.
At present……as Samejima had said, as result of result of Sae being at his side, as result of them spending time together, he had been facing training while having gained a sense of security. No, the sense of security was essential. Since if he remained in a state of nervousness indefinitely his nerves wouldn’t hold up.
However, supposing he were to face training with the franticness from back then——.
Seeing that Tobio had fallen deep into thought again, Samejima smiled bitterly. He slapped him on the back with an audible *bam*.
“Your tendency to ponder things is at the root of what I take issue with. Well, that’s all it is. Wouldn’t it be fine to fight your opponent with the feeling of protecting Toujou? Might you be the type who is amenable to fighting for the sake of protecting someone?”
With his feelings of wanting to protect Sae, he’d face the training with that desperation. For Tobio personally, it had be his intention to preapre himself by becoming stronger in order to protect himself, his comrades, and Sae from future threats, but in a way he was lacking the franticness he’d displayed during the battle with the Utsusemi Agency…….
……Tobio appeared to have newly discovered this as he thought back upon hs conversation with Samejima.
——Then, as Tobio and Samejima were having their talk between young men, they turned around having sensed a presence from behind. As for what was there when they did——.
“……Toby, Shark, these are the clothes that Natsume and Shaae picked out.”
A blonde haired girl wearing a light blue one-piece dress——Lavinia was standing there.
Long straight blonde hair that seemed to gleam like silk, blue eyes that seemed transparent, long white arm and legs that were well-proportioned, and though the light blue one piece was simple, it had drawn out the distinctive characteristics of a young lady to the maximum.
Since she was wearing clothes that were so far apart from her usual pointed hat and robe that made up her magical girl cosplay, Tobio and Samejima were both captivated, their mouths hanging open vacantly.
Lavinia’s face was unusually red, and her arms and legs were fidgeting. Somehow, her appearance was a state of embarrassment.
“……This appearance, from a short while ago, has felt somewhat embarrassing.”
At this behavior and appearance that differed from the usual, even Tobio was reflexively touched emotionally.
Next to him, Samejima had been cheerfully touching his hand to his chin.
“Isn’t it fine? If you were to go out right now there’d be guys calling out to you.”
Certainly with to the magical girl look from shortly before, it did seem that there’d be many who’d call out to her due to her being a beautiful blonde haired girl. However, if it was this one piece dress appearance, that was another story altogether. It was reasonable that there’d likely be many who tried to seduce her if she walked around town looking like that.
Lavinia questioned Tobio.
“What about you, Toby? Does this appearance become me?”
“Yeah, I think it’s exceedingly cute.”
Hearing Tobio’s impression, Lavinia smiled even as she blushed.
To ask a man for that sort of impression……. Even Lavinia who was thought of as a strange child was a girl of that age it seemed.
As Lavinia was inquiring after the thoughts of the male group, Natsume and Sae made an appearance. Natsume spoke full of self-confidence.
“Well? Is it not the advent of the blonde-haired ultra-beautiful girl? Look look, revere her all of you guys. Offer her tribute. And then, pay your thanks to me.”
Faced with Natsume who had said this after puffing out her chest with an ‘ahem’, Samejima spoke with a half-opened eye.
“The magical girl was high quality material to start with. Didn’t you just strip those clothes off her and dress her in a one piece?”
“You don’t understand! This is why yankees are no good! After all, this one piece, the supreme article for illuminating Lavinia——“
As Natsume and Samejima slipped into their usual quarreling, Tobio and Sae could only sigh in exacerbation.
Next to them, Vali, who had put on a black leather jacket that did not fit his size, said, “If I could get just a bit taller already, I could dress myself in something like this,” as he seemed to made a decision about something.
Having finished Lavinia’s coordinated outfit, for lunch everyone proceeded to a ramen shop that Vali wanted to eat at. The silver haired youth began lecturing about ramen, but as it was something everyone was familiar with, things flowed along smoothly……but the ramen itself tasted considerably good.
After lunch, socializing as they went to each shop, they each bought what they wanted. As for what Tobio purchased, it was primarily rare cooking utensils and food ingredients.
Along the way, the gazes of the men who came and went were directed at Lavinia who ad changed into the one piece. However, it seemed that they couldn’t call out to her even though they wanted to. At any rate, there was a scary-faced onii-chan with dyed brown hair accompanying her after all.
At such times, Samejima’s presence was useful. In a case where the other party was a group yankee style young men, even Tobio likely wouldn’t be merciful towards those trying to hit on the girls.
……Be that as it may, since for Tobio and the others the independent avatar type were worthy of being extraordinary bodyguards, if the big black dog was visible then even the yankee boys wouldn’t come out when faced with such readily available decisive measures.
Having finished both lunch and their shopping, Tobio and the others went to a park that was downtown, and at the plaza there they ended up playing with Jin and Griffon, which also served as an after-meal workout.
Sae threw a frisbee she had just purchased when they were shopping, and Jin chased after it, catching the frisbee with a high jump.
“Yeah, you too Griffon!”
This time Natsume tossed a number of balls into the air. Griffon caught these with his talons.
Playing with Sae, Jin was exceedingly at ease. Rather than Tobio who was his master, Jin would lower his guard around Sae when compared to normal to the point that it gave the impression that he might be emotionally attached to Sae. This side of Jin could perhaps be due to him being an offshoot of Tobio himself. No, it seems to be a result of Sae originally possessing a personality that was good with animals.
At any rate, the white cat that was Samejima’s other self——Byakusa, was also brushing up against Sae’s feet. As for his master Samejima himself, he was lying down on one of the park benches taking a nap. It seemed that he was worn out from shopping.
Tobio was sitting on a bench next to the one Samejima was sleeping on, from which he was attentively watching Sae and the others.
Tobio’s gaze was directed at Sae. ……Tentatively, he had accompanied her while shopping, and they had talked almost the entire time……but was that sufficient? Had he accurately accomplished what Natsume had spoken of? Regarding the awkwardness that was born from their misunderstanding, it seemed to him that it had cleared up considerably as they were shopping. ……In the end it was just a feeling from Tobio’s perspective, but…….
Where a young man of his age was concerned, the true feelings of a girl of the same age was an unknown territory. From Tobio’s perspective, even if it was Sae who was his childhood friend, it was something he didn’t understand.
……While considering how things will be from now on for the both of them, would it be better for us to have conversed more?
……No, just what does ‘how things will be from now on’ mean? Sae and I from now on……. No no, don’t take it in a strange direction. After all, after all! This is about Sae and myself who have found ourselves thrown into a unique situation. By no means is there anything to be ashamed of——.
Having racked his brains to that extent, Tobio let out a deep breath and then decided on just one thing.
——After this, I should make time to find an opportunity to be with Sae, just the two us.
By declining to be accompanied by Minagawa Natsume, Samejim, and the others, that sort of thing could be thought of as a……date.
They themselves had been thrown into a livelihood that differed from ordinary people, however, for two people to spend time together——such a luxury should still be fine.
Tobio had decided as much in his head but——.
“Is it alright if I sit next to you?”
The one who had suddenly inquired in that manner was Lavinia. In her hand was a single small package.
His face was turning bright red since, having been thinking over various things, Tobio completely hadn’t Lavinia approaching.
Having pulled himself together, Tobio slid slightly from the center of the bench, at which point Lavinia sat next to him.
She opened the small package. From it, she handed over a cup of ice cream. She apparently had purchased it from a shop operating in the park. From the box’s size, it seemed she had bought some for everyone.
“Since I didn’t know what flavor Toby likes, I got vanilla.”
In truth his favorite flavor of ice cream was chocolate, however he like vanilla just fine.
The cup of vanilla ice cream……tasted like strawberry. Lavinia spoke after he’d eaten a mouthful.
“Vaa-kun is having trouble at the ice cream store. He couldn’t make up his mind about which one was good.”
It was easy to guess what was going through the mind of the silver haired youth as he was puzzling over the flavors of ice cream while cocking his head at the storefront. For that youth who was indifferent towards the things he eats, he was unexpectedly finicky about it.
Perhaps due to having the figure of Lavinia, which was more dazzlingly brilliant even compared to normal, beside him, Tobio’s heart was beating furiously.
Somehow, he found it difficult to converse with her, and since the present atmosphere was troubling, he began speaking to Lavinia about before.
“In that locker room——“
But, having started talking about it, he immediately ended up thinking about that scene. As the image of her figure in state that she’d been born from that day, which had been seared into the back of his eyelids, floated through his thoughts, Tobio just became embarrassed, though Lavinia continued while paying him no mind.
“Toby, you wanted to know how I am related to that witch we met at the Utsusemi Agency’s hideout.”
Indeed, at that time, he had asked her about that. Given the situation, the strange intensity of Lavinia at the time, and Sae’s circumstances, the conversation had been interrupted…….
To start with I will once again tell you the story of the people I am pursuing. ……Between the human world and the world of fantasies there exists the Dimensional Gap, and in that there is a country called Oz. This country of magicians, compared to the magicians like myself who live in this world, utilizes distinct ideals and theories. And that is——“
“……The Wizards of Oz.”
Lavinia nodded at Tobio’s words. She continued to explain further.
“In this Oz, there are castles to the north, south, east, and west, all centered around the Emerald City where the magicians’ boss resides, and in those castles is where powerful witches are residing.”
“It was the same in the children’s story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The Witch of the East, the Witch of the North, and so on.”
Indeed, when he had been a child, Tobio had seen the same thing in TV puppet shows and picture books.
Lavinia spoke with a frightening expression.
“The witch we encountered at the Utsusemi Agency’s hideout, she was Oz’s Witch of the East.”
——!! ……That elderly woman, she was the Witch of the East from right out of the children’s novel……. From the conversation, the Witch of the East was certainly……should have been considered a wicked witch.
Lavinia smiled bitterly.
“To be precise, she is the ‘second generation’ Witch of the East. The Witch of the East——Augusta of the Purple Flame. That is the true identity of that elderly woman.”
The second generation……. In the children’s novel ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Witch of the East should have been crushed to death as a result of Dorothy being transferred to the Land of Oz along with her house……. Given that, would that mean that the first generation was the one that was crushed to death?
Tobio had nothing but questions, but then Lavinia said this.
“In truth I am also connected to Oz.”
She spoke while staring at the sky.
“……The teacher who taught me magic, she was a witch dwelling in Oz——Glinda, the Witch of the South.”
……Completely surprised, Tobio was at a loss for words.
Under normal circumstances, conversing about the events of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as though they were true was unbelievable, and yet she, Lavinia, said she was the disciple of the Witch of the South who was a character in that story.
However, starting with the supernatural power dwelling with Tobio and the others, after seeing things like demons and fallen angels with their own eyes, perhaps this wasn’t such a strange thing. Still, nevertheless, since every time something happens they’d learn something new from fantasy, for Tobio who had been an ordinary high schooler until recently, each and every one of them was something he found bewildering.
——But, even Tobio had come to understand slightly.
Just why was she pursuing the witch from the world of Oz?
Lavinia hadn’t spoken all that deeply yet, but regarding her pursuit of the witches who collaborated with the Utsusemi Agency, it seemed that it was because she herself also had something to do with Oz.
Lavinia, opening her mouth, had been about to start weaving her next words——and that’s when it happened.
A strange figure showed up in Tobio’s field of vision. Directing his gaze towards where Sae and the others were playing, there was a strange looking boy there. He was a graceful faced boy of about the same age who was wearing glasses. He was wearing a blazer that was primarily blue in color.
The youth was gazing at Jin and Byakusa with apparent great interest.
With what could be described as a suddenness which didn’t give off a detectable presence, the youth had appeared near Sae and the others. Sae and Natsume themselves were being vigilant, having put some distance between themselves and him.
……He isn’t some kind of seducer. If he was a seducer, he would be gazing at Sae and Natsume. However, that boy has been focusing his eyes upon a black dog and a white cat. His attitude is certainly that of one who understands that those aren’t an ordinary dog and cat pair…….
Beside him, Lavinia also had a stiff expression on her face. Tobio also stood up and moved to protect Sae and the others.
The boy addressed them.
“Heh, that’s quite a cute cat. Is this your cat?”
——The boy had questioned Sae. Since Byakusa had pressed up against Sae’s legs, it seemed he thought she was his owner.
“The hell are you? Tch, you’re no normal guy are you?”
The one who replied to the boy——was Samejima. Perhaps having sensed the atmosphere of suspicion, at some point, Samejima had woken up, and while shaking his head vigorously, was now walking towards them. There was a sharp look in his eyes.
The boy, paid no heed to the look the yankee was wearing, and on the contrary merely smiled.
“Oh, you were able to guess that much huh.”
After the youth had verified that Tobio and the others (with the exception of Vali) had gathered in the plaza, he started with his self-introduction.
“Nice to meet you, Four Fiends and Inugami-kun. I am Kushihashi, Kushihashi Seiryuu.”
At the boy’s self-introduction, Tobio, Natsume, and Samejima were astonished.
Kushihashi……if I recall correctly, they should have been one of the Five Principal Clans.
On her guard, Natsume asked for confirmation.
“……Kushihashi? You’re part of the Five Principal Clans right?”
In response to Natsume’s inquiry, the boy——Kushihashi Seiryuu nodded.
“Yeah, I’m pretty much the next head of the Kushihashi clan. Well, even if I say that it might not feel real to you guys.”
Suddenly, they’d met a boy who was amember of the Five Principal Clans, and moreover he called himself the ‘next head of the clan’. For it to be those same Five Principal Clans that had exiled the Utsusemi Agency organization that Tobio and the others had just fought against a short while earlier, coming into contact with one from of clans that was their foundation was an unusual situation.
The first thing they had to confirm was——had he come to this place with hostile intentions or not.
As Natsume inquired after the opponent’s intentions, she also shot a glance at Griffon who was flying in the air.
“……You’re not really a friend are you? Well then, an enemy is it?”
Faced with Natsume’s interrogation, Kushihashi Seiryuu spoke as though ridiculing her.
“An enemy——I could be one.”
Kushihasi Seiryuu was putting on an attitude that bordered on being lighthearted. Beside him, Samejima was becoming irritated. Given his personality, it’s possible that he was prejudiced towards someone of this type.
Samejima whistled, and in response Byakusa, who had been at Sae’s feet, instantly vanished on the spot. He had instantly leapt onto the shoulder of his master, Samejima.
Byakusa’s tail wound around his right arm, forming a lance. While imbuing it with electricity, pointed it towards Kushihashi Seiryuu.
Samejima spoke in simple terms.
“If you take any action I’ll act. Linking up after a meal feels just right.”
“Heh, that’s interesting.”
An indescribable pressure was released from Kushihashi Seiryuu’s entire body.
It was looking like an explosive situation, but Natsume got between the two of them and urged restraint.
“W-Wait! Are you……targeting us? For what reason?”
Kushihashi Seiryuu shrugged his shoulders as he spoke.
“——The Utsusemi Agency, you all were involved with them. Or rather, it’s unfortunate that you ended getting involved with them. Then, the end result was the collapse of that organization. Given that that is the case, it’s impossible for even the Five Principal Clans from whom they spawned to ignore it. That’s to say nothing of your cooperation with the Grigori. ……This is a serious crime for us. We are antagonistic towards them after all.
……As expected, they’d made contact due to their involvement with the Ustusemi Agency. Since he’d heard that they were a group that purges incompetents (like those they’d been involved with) from the household, his explanation was very easy to understand. Furthermore, it appeared that they were not at all pleased by Tobio and the others associating with the Grigori.
However, even though he hadn’t said a single word yet, Tobio spoke.
“If it’s about those people who were exiled……I’ve heard all about it. Moreover, after the incident, you’ve taken action to purge those involved in the recent events.”
From the Grigori’s explanation, the remnants of the Utsusemi Agency were considered elimination targets by the Five Clans, and to that end agents had been dispatched to hunt down the survivors. The agents of the Five Clans were now continuing to pursue the escaped members of the Utsusemi Agency’s organization along with the agents of the witches.
And now, even Tobio and the others who had become involved involuntarily were being targeted——.
That was what was Tobio’s inquiry was alluding to.
Kushihashi Seiryuu replied while surmising the true meaning of Tobio’s inquiry.
“Unreasonable——isn’t it? Even I understand that it’s only to be expected. ——But, for turbulent elements, the truth is that it is precisely because they are plucked ahead of time that this country is here right now. ……Well, I also think it’s overbearing though.”
Kushihashi Seiryuu gave a cynical laugh.
And then, an unnaturally strong wind began to blow throughout the entire surrounding area. The source of this wind——was the boy, Kushihashi Seiryuu. With him at the center, wind was welling up.
Natsume spoke while holding down her hair and skirt in the wind.
Lavinia replied while paying no mind to her skirt fluttering in the wind.
“Be advised. Kushihashi is the family governing the Phase of ‘Wood’ from the Five Phases[?], and ‘Wood’ can manipulate ‘Wind’ and ‘Lightning’.”
The body of Kushihashi Seiryuu had become enveloped in in something like a blue ‘essence’. This ‘essence’, oozing from his body, took form behind him as——a monster with a long and thin body like that of a snake, giving the impression of an oriental dragon.
“Since we’re also following orders, I’d like you not to curse me when you die. Aah, please be rest assured. This entire area has been covered by a barrier. The clearing of bystanders has been completed. Therefore, it’s fine to rampage. Let me also use this for just a bit.”
Responding to this statement, Samejima prepared to fight.
“Heh, well said. Ain’t you cheerful, saying those kind of words.”
Kushihashi Seiryuu cheerfully looked at the large black dog——Jin, who was positioned in front of Tobio, and at Lavinia, who was beside him.
“Well then. ——So it’s come to fighting a Longinus, and furthermore two types, has it then?”
Tobio also sensed his fighting spirit with his own skin, and took on a fighting stance. That sense was also transmitted to Jin, and the black dog had produced a blade from his own shadow, which he held horizontally in his mouth.
Tobio also prepared by producing a scythe from the shadow at his feet. Sae was behind him. Tobio had assumed a posture for shielding her.
……I will protect Sae! I will absolutely keep her safe!
With this strong determination, he resolved himself to take on Kushihashi Seiryuu. Natsume, Samejima, and Lavinia were also prepared. Only Vali wasn’t here……but it seemed the opponent wasn’t going to wait for him to make an appearance.
“……Light of protection.”
Unnoticed, Lavinia cast a spell by waving the wand that she held in her hand. The entirety of Tobio and the other’s bodies was covered in a pale green light. It seemed to be magic that raised defensive power.
The one who made the first move——was Samejima! As expected, the one for cutting through the vanguard was him. His lance overflowing with electrical sparks, he performed a full speed dash straight ahead. As he had during the Grigori’s training, contrary to when they’d fought against the Utsusemi Agency, he unhesitatingly moved quickly towards the distant opponent.
Kushihashi Seiryuu showed no indication of evading. Samejima’s thrust was thrown sharply towards him. Kushihashi Seiryuu, a smile touching the corners of his mouth, merely evaded Samejima’s sharp thrust with using evasive action that used the least amount of movement.
Without even hesitating, Samejima closed the distance as he struck with the lance. Byakusa, who was hanging onto his shoulder, was also sure to fire another long tail at Kushihashi Seiryuu like a whip.
However, those showed absolutely no sign of hitting the glasses boy. The evasive movements, which could only be described as superb, gave a similar impression to those of Vali. It would seem the opponent had considerable knowledge of classical martial arts.
At that the black dog, having heard Tobio’s order, began charging forward at high speed like a bullet, and drew close to Kushihashi Seiryuu. He unleashed with the blade he held in his mouth. ——But Kushihashi Seiryuu dodged even that. Paying it no mind, Jin made repeated sword attacks with the blade, and even generated numerous Night Hakens from the shadows at his opponent’s feet……but even for these Kushihashi Seiryuu merely jumped up high to avoid them.
In the midst of the evasive movements he was displaying, Kushihashi Seiryuu recited words of power as he made symbolic signs with his hands.
“‘By Four-Green Jupiter[?}, form wind’!”
In an instant, a sudden squall sprang forth with himself at the center, which blew Samejima away. The aftereffects even reached the others, and everyone was only barely able to brace themselves to avoid getting blown away right there. With Lavinia’s protective magic, they were somehow able to pull through this.
——Then, Sae let out a scream of “KYAH!” as the squall threw her off balance and she ended up hitting the ground hard. For Sae who was still in the middle of rehab, even being covered with defensive magic, if she was hit by a squall of such a degree, it appeared that, while it probably wouldn’t cause any direct damage, it could destroy her posture.
Tobio was now preoccupied with the collapsed Sae. Natsume stepped up to support Sae.
“Leave Toujou-san to me! In any case, with this wind, my Griffon……”
She looked up at the sky. Up there was the figure of Griffon, who was doing all he could just to fight against the squall called up by Kushihashi Seiryuu. For Griffon who flies in the air, an opponent who manipulates wind could be said to have poor affinity.
However, it wasn’t just the Natsume+Griffon combination.
Samjima was performing many sharp slashes with his lance that was infused with electricity, but even if he had finally gotten in front of him, Kushihashi Seiryuu made a new sign.
“‘By Three-Blue Jupiter[?], form lightning’!”
What manifested together with the spirit of his words——was lightning strikes. Blue lightning strikes were formed with Kushihashi Seiryuu in the center.
The lance wrapped in electricity was forcibly repelled by those blue lightning strikes. The force of it threw Samejima off balance. Without mercy, the opponent threw the lightning that had formed in his hand at Samejima.
It happened at that moment.
In Tobio’s mind, the words Samejima had just told him resurfaced——.
——Well, that’s all it is. Wouldn’t it be fine to fight your opponent with the feeling of protecting Toujou?
—— Might you be the type who is amenable to fighting for the sake of protecting someone?
The next scene that he flashbacked to was……the Ustusemi Agency’s hideout, the incident at the outlook room.
——I……was happy……to see you again…….
It was the figure of Sae who had died once by being pierced through the chest by Jin.
Is that going to be repeated……? Am I going to let Sae die AGAIN……?
……Don’t screw with me. DON’T SCREW WITH ME……! IN ORDER TO PROTECT SAE! IN ORDER TO FIGHT WITH EVERYONE!
——IN ORDER TO FIGHT AGAINST FATE, I DECIDED TO BECOME STRONG!
“……Like I’d let you. LIKE I’D EVER LET YOU!”
Tobio’s body——was being enveloped by a black haze. The black haze——the darkness that was being generated had completely encompassed his entire body. Throughout his surroundings, warped blades were created one after another.
Tobio, who had rushed forward at great speed at that very moment, by simply exceeding the speed that Kushihashi Seiryuu could perceive, seized the arm of Samejima who had been hit by the lightning strike and thrust him away to the side. By doing this, the opponent’s attack was evaded.
And then, Tobio who had become Samejima’s substitute for Kushihashi Seiryuu’s lightning——merely warded it off. The lightning from the opponent’s fist flew past the side of Tobio’s head, slicing through air.
Tobio, his whole body clad in a dark aura, slashed with the scythe in his hand. Kushihashi Seiryuu instantly avoided it, but Tobio’s attack hadn’t finished as he unleashed high speed strikes.
The sharp slashes, which couldn’t be followed with one’s eyes, were being launched over and over again, producing trails of pitch black darkness as they went, until at last, discovering an opening by Kushihashi Seiryuu, he sliced right into him!
Kushihashi Seiryuu was unable to avoid that blow and was diagonally from his shoulder, but……. The figure of the bisected Kushihashi Seiryuu collapsed, becoming large petals that scattered all over.
——Body substitution? Just before being hit, he made a shield of large petals and escaped?
Lavinia had said that Kushihashi was the clan governing ‘Wood’. ……It seemed that grass and flowers were the same thing.
When Tobio checked the area for indication, he found that Kushihashi Seiryuu had escaped to a spot a short distance away. It seemed he had not avoided Tobio’s slash perfectly, as the clothes he was wearing were split diagonally from his shoulder to his flank.
He was displaying a daring smile in his direction……but there was blood streaming from near his mouth.
“……Just from those dark waves my whole body has become numb. I see now, so this is the dog that manipulates darkness huh……”
He swept his gaze over the entire surrounding area. Tobio also emulated him by sending a glance at his surroundings.
Wherever Tobio had gone, blades of distorted appearance had formed, and all of them were filled with a dark aura. Even the scythe clasped in his hand was carrying a dark aura, which was gradually but certainly getting darker.
Kushihashi Seiryuu, wiping the blood from his mouth with his hand, again made a symbol with his hands.
“Without such splendidness it wouldn’t be interesting! Well then, I guess I should also bring it out!”
The blue ‘essence’ covering him swelled further still! It could be clearly realized that he was doing something tremendous.
“‘In the name of Jupiter, the spirit of wood, carriest the sun on the winds, bringeth it to the east’! ‘By Three-Blue and Four-Green, at my cry——“
It was just as Kushihashi Seiryuu was about to recite the whole of this verse——. In the space between Tobio’s group and Kushihashi Seiryuu, a flash of lightning suddenly rained down like an enormous pillar. Even if it was a blue sky above, high output ‘lightning’ was falling.
At that, not just Tobio and company, but even the opponent Kushihashi Seiryuu stopped his hand signs and words of power.
“That’s far enough, next head of the Kushihashi.”
He heard a familiar voice from behind. When he directed his gaze in that direction——he found that it was Barakiel. Electricity was running along his hand with a crackling sound. ……That unbelievably large lightning strike just now, could that have been fired by Barakiel? He couldn’t help but to compare its output to that of the lightning strike fired by Kushihashi Seiryuu.
“So it was a battle with a next family head from the Five Principal Clans that you brought me to, huh.”
Vali was also standing next to Barakiel. With these members it had become a full lineup.
As soon as he noticed Barakiel and Veli, Kushihashi Seiryuu made a bitter smile.
“……The fallen angel, Barakiel-dono of ‘lightning’, and the rumored Vanishing Dragon huh. This is quite something.”
Kushihashi Seiryuu shrugged his shoulders, however his fighting spirit didn’t abate. Even Barakiel’s appearance didn’t disrupt his battle posture. ——But, then that voice called out from behind him. Simultaneously, sparks of fire danced around the entirety of the plaza.
“——Seiryuu, stop this.”
Hearing that voice, Kushihashi Seiryuu was astonished, and the fighting spirit——the blue ‘essence’ that was enveloping his body, was erased.
This time it was a voice Tobio wasn’t familiar with.
From behind Kushihashi Seiryuu, a single figure approached while clad in an aura of seething flame.
It was a girl wearing a blazer whose basic tone was red——no, vermillion. For her age, she seemed to about the same age as Tobio and the others.
She was a beautiful looking girl with glossy black hair worn in a ponytail.
……For Tobio, with just one glance at this girl, he had a mysterious feeling. Looking at the girl’s face, it was as though it was familiar from somewhere. It was strange. It was impossible. Even though the age difference between the person he was reminded of and the girl in front of his was was massive…….
Kushihashi Seiryuu spoke to the girl while exhaling.
“……I hadn’t heard that you would be coming. ——Suzaku.”
“It is something you weren’t informed about.”
The girl who had been referred to as Suzaku laughed slightly. And then, she turned her gaze it his direction——towards Tobio.
——Then, she bowed to Barakiel.
“It has been a long time has it not. ——Barakiel oji-sama.”
At the appearance of the girl——Suzaku, Barakiel’s expression became extremely complex.
“Yes, it has been a while since that occasion when we met.”
Suzaku replied in this manner while displaying a smile.
“……You’ve gotten so big.”
“For Oji-sama to have come together with Tobio and the Four Fiends……could this also be fate?”
“……I’m merely teaching them the art of fighting.”
The two of them appeared to be acquainted somehow……but from their reactions it could also be presumed that they had some complex circumstances.
Leaving that aside, Tobio, who ended up becoming even more uneasy, was unable to hide his confusion. It was as though the girl, Suzaku, knew him. Moreover, she had suddenly referred to him intimately as ‘Tobio’.
Tobio couldn’t help but feel doubtful, but the girl in question closed the distance and stood right in front of him.
She was entirely unafraid of the scythe he was holding, or of Tobio who was clad in darkness.
Above all, with a simple expression on her face, she took Tobio’s hand.
“Ikuse Tobio. I’m Suzaku. Himejima Suzaku. ——You’re ‘second cousin’. Nice to meet you, Tobio.”
……At that information, Tobio couldn’t help but to feel astonished. Faced with something so excessive, he couldn’t find any words.
……This girl is a Himejima. Moreover, my ‘second cousin’. ……She’s a blood relative.
The girl’s hand which was clasping his hand——was warm, and reminded him of his beloved grandmother.
Aah, I see. The reason why I thought of my grandmother the moment I laid eyes on this girl……this is the reason.
Suzaku, while showing a smile, looked over Tobio and the others.
“Just for a bit, there’s something I would speak with you about. With regard to the remaining Four Fiends, I would like to have a discussion. ——Would you be so kind as to accompany me?”
Tobio and company exchanged a look with Barakiel. Everyone awaited the decision of Barakiel who had been appointed to supervise them.
Barakiel replied, “……Understood,” and they journeyed to the location Suzaku had prepared.