It was only fair to call that practice taboo. The Hero Clan exists to protect the world from Demons. And in its long history, nobody will deny that Jin Toujou was the strongest Hero ever. Even before the Great War, his reputation was already set in stone.
The Vatican had long set their eyes on Jin and his abilities. During Jin’s short tenure at the Vatican, without telling him, they had taken his DNA from his hair samples. And using forbidden magic, they cultivated his DNA to mass produce clones of Jin. The clones’ physical age was 14 years old, the age in which the Vatican got Jin’s DNA samples. A younger clone also made it a lot easier to produce with a lower rate of failure.
However, even with the use of forbidden magic, creating an perfect identical clone, and the first batch of ten clones were disposed of, their abilities far from anything resembling Jin’s. From the second batch onwards, the very nature of the cloning project changed. Instead of creating a clone of Jin Toujou, the Vatican decided to create a more powerful being by combining the cells of mythical beasts, spirits and Guardian Spirits.
Of course, getting involved with such taboo practices will lead to ‘corruption’: a corruption of such a scale that could bring the end of the Hero Clan. But the Vatican and its researchers were prepared to fight against the corruption.
They used the failed Jin Toujou clones as a container to seal all the corruption from the experiments. They made a systematic process out of creating corruption from making clones, and using said clones to seal away the corruption. The system was sin itself of the highest degree.
The research continued in order to protect the world from demons and to create warriors strong enough to fight against them, but such activities that created corruption will not bode well for the Hero Clan if the gods found out. After all, the Hero Clan answered to the gods themselves. Luckily for the Hero Clan, they had a strong ally in the form of a high ranking god, who supported their research from the shadows without letting the other gods know.
This god was as powerful as one of the Ten Gods, and he had lent his powers to the Hero Clan to ensure that they didn’t create too much corruption. Under his watchful gaze, the research was able to flourish. And it was in the 13th batch of countless clones, that Kyouichi Shiba was born.
Shiba was originally deemed a failure, just like all the other clones, but due to having the cells of a high ranking demon inside of him, his capacity to store corruption within his body knew no bounds. Further to that, Shiba had the unique ability to convert the corruption inside his body into power, giving him the potential to become as powerful as Jin Toujou.
Shiba was the ray of hope for the Vatican researchers. His success was the justification that the researchers needed to legitimize all the forbidden practices they have been doing thus far. And Shiba represented the dreams of the researchers who wanted to create the strongest ever warrior.
From there on, the project focused on making Shiba stronger and stronger. But that was the beginning of their path on creating Frankenstein.
One day, out of nowhere, Shiba’s powers amplified to the point that even the researchers who created him weren’t able to contain him. In their panic, they requested help from the high ranking god to do something about it, but perhaps fearing the repercussions if the other gods were to find out, the high ranking god did not offer his aid and simply disappeared.
They couldn’t just kill Shiba since the corruption within his body, once set free, would have swallowed up the entire Vatican. So there was only one route possible for the Vatican to take. That was to hide Shiba’s existence from the world. And it was there that the Vatican struck a deal with the Village in Japan.
There was a reason why the Village, knowing the risk of what Shiba carried, took him in. Although the Village was home to the Jin Toujou, its political clout was close to none, and the Village didn’t have any political influence against the Vatican or any of the other Hero Clans. Taking in Shiba was the Village’s way of doing the other communities a favour, and the Village demanded political backing from the Vatican.
The Vatican too, wanted to create an accomplice out of Japan. Even if Shiba’s existence was to one day come out to light, Japan, who had knowingly taken him in, would also go down with them. And so, an agreement between the Vatican and the Village was made. The Vatican was able to load off their bomb and the Village in return was able to climb up the political totem pole of the Hero Clans. Especially after the Great War and Jin Toujou’s accomplishments, the Village was second only to the Vatican in terms of political might.
While the Hero Clan exists to fight together against the Demons, the reality consists of a power struggle between the different communities. And this current tragic situation is just one of the outcomes of the power play.
“And that’s what Kaoru-san told me about Shiba-san’s past.”
Basara, having met up with Maria and Zest, explained to the others as they pursued Shiba. Their method of transport was in the form of a wind dragon summoned by Kurumi. While the dragon travelled at fast speeds above the winter sky, none of its passengers felt the cold. The spirits have summoned protective barriers to negate the effects of the cold winds, and have also provided a magical cover for the group as to not be seen by people below.
They were currently headed east, the location the spiritual spear of Byakko was pointing towards.
Looking at the grim and silent faces of the others, Basara wasn’t surprised that the others found Shiba’s story hard to believe. Even Basara himself wasn’t able to say much when Kaoru first told him the story.
But this was not the time to debate Shiba’s story. They had to catch him as soon as possible before he brought calamity to the world. Of course Basara could have simply not told the girls about Shiba. Knowing how kind they were, they would have probably been unable to fight him, knowing the suffering that he went through. That hesitation to fight him could cost them their lives on the battlefield.
But Basara determined that going in blind would be an even greater risk. If Shiba was to disclose his past in the midst of battle, the girls would not be able to move at all out of shock. And Shiba was precisely the kind of guy who would play mind games like that to get the upper hand. Preparing Basara against Shiba was one of the reasons why Kaoru decided to tell him the truth as well.
Mio, Yuki, Kurumi and Zest all had frowns on their faces. They knew how much Basara idolized his father. And to learn that Shiba was the clone of Jin just made it all the more harder to fight, and potentially deliver the killing blow to the man.
“Huh… To think that man was a clone of Jin-san. The Vatican sure screwed up this time.”
And just like that, Maria broke the awkwards silence in the group. Basara could only chuckle in the brash way she decided to cheer up the others.
“You’re right. We’ll have to give the Vatican a talking to once all of this is over.”
“But for now, let’s think about what we’ll do with Shiba-san.”
The girls all nodded in understanding and any doubt in their eyes were gone.
Kurumi decided to get the ball rolling in their meeting.
“Why do you think Shiba-san is heading East?”
“If he wants to steal the “Four Gods” shouldn’t he be heading West instead?”
“Is there something in the West?”
Basara looked at Zest to answer her question.
“Oh right… We haven’t really told you about the origins of the Four Gods have we?”
“No, it is my fault for not knowing. I do understand that they are supposed to be vessels of some sorts.”
“The Four Gods were originally spirits that appeared in Chinese mythology…”
Yuki took it upon herself to explain the Four Gods to Zest.
“Suzaku, Genbu, Seiryuu and Byakko were protectors of the four corners of heaven.”
“While it was a Chinese thing, it eventually made its way to Japan and was implemented into Japan as well.”
Mio added. Basara told her the basics of the Four Gods that one time they had to face Takashi , wielding his Byakko spear. Zest hadn’t been a part of the family then. And even if she was observing Mio and Basara with Takigawa, she was more focused on Mio and probably didn’t pay too much attention on Takashi’s abilities. But Zest was a smart cookie. From the small amount of information given to her, she was able to analyze the situation right away.
“I see… So for Shiba to fully utilize the powers of the Four Gods he took, he must head westword to either Kyoto or Nara in Japan, or to China itself.”
“Exactly… but instead, he’s heading East.”
Basara looked at the Byakko spear he was holding in his hand. This spear has been pointing eastward the entire time since they have left the Village. If Shiba is heading East, there must be a reason why.
Just when Basara was thinking of the reason, the spear started to glow and pointed towards the top of Mount Fuji.
“Basara-san, look at that!”
Basara looked at what Maria was pointing towards and he found his ‘answer’. In the distance he saw a humongous barrier surrounding Tokyo.
The half-sphere barrier’s diameter must have been at least 40 kilometers long. Basara looked at the barrier and things finally clicked.
“I knew it…”
“What do you mean Basara?”
Mio asked, still confused at the sight before her.
“While it’s not as historical or holy as the Heiankyo or the Heijyokyo in Kyoto, the city of Tokyo, back in the days of the Edo Period, was built in consideration to Feng Shui.”
Ieyasu Tokugawa, the Shogun of the Edo Government, designed the city in a way that the Imperial Palace was in the center of the four corners facing the Four Gods.
“In order to appease the Four Gods, certain geographical conditions must be met for a place to house them. You need a mountain in the north, then a river in the east, roads in the west and a body of water in the south.”
“In the case of Kyoto, there is Mt. Funaoka in the north, Kamo River in the east, Sanin Path in the west and Lake Ogura in the south.”
“So you’re saying that Tokyo, I mean Edo, was built in the same way?”
Basara replied to Zest.
“Well it’s just a theory but, they do have Mt. Kanda in the north, Sumida River in the east, The Koushuu Pathway in the west and Tokyo Bay in the south, with Edo castle right in the middle of all of it.”
“I see… but if what you say is true, isn’t that barrier too big for just the locations you mentioned?”
Maria did indeed have a point. The barrier was reaching all the way to Chiba Prefecture’s Ichikawa in the east and down to Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture in the south. From the size of the barrier, it was definitely different to what Tokugawa had in mind when designing Edo Castle.
Whatever the case, it was clear that Shiba was inside that barrier.
“Basara-niichan, what should we do?”
It was a surprise to hear Kurumi call him that in front of the others, but it was the result of him deepening his bond with the Nonaka sisters.
“Drop us off on the west side of the barrier where you feel a strong spiritual presence. This barrier is definitely using the power of the Four Gods. If we are to try to break through the barrier, we’d have to use the power of the real Byakko while we are in the west.”
Kurumi ordered the dragon to descend and Basara and the others arrived at the Kinuta Park in Setagaya Ward. Basara stood in front of the massive barrier and poised to strike with Byakko when Maria cut in.
“Basara-san, Byakko is our trump card. In case we need it later on, why don’t we try other ways to break the barrier first?”
“We could use my fists or Mio-sama’s magic to find what this thing is made of.”
“Yea, it would be great to analyze and find weaknesses… but this is Shiba-san we are talking about. It’s not just the strength of the barrier itself. He’s bound to have put some traps on it. I’d like to avoid the risk of spending too much time on this thing and you never what kinda damage his traps can do.”
“All I know is that, whatever traps may be in place, it won’t be enough to destroy the real Byakko. The Byakko that Shiba-san has now is an imitation by Celis’ Georgius. If things go well, we might even be able to, we could get it to summon us from within the barrier.”
“Right now Georgius is only pretending to be Byakko to make up for the loss of the real Byakko and so, it probably hasn’t synchronized well with the other three Gods. If we can sync the real Byakko with Georgius, we could trick it to think that it’s the real thing and we could get it to revert to its original state.”
“And if Georgius returns to its original state, one corner of this barrier will be nullified and Shiba-san won’t be able to maintain this barrier.”
This surprise attack was going to dent whatever plans Shiba had. Basara gripped the spear tightly and whispered to it.
“Let’s go Byakko. Let’s get your friends back.”
Suddenly, Byakko began to glow and emit a white light which enveloped Basara and the others. When the spearhead touched the barrier, the surface of the barrier suddenly bloated in size and with a bright flash, swallowed Basara and the others.
The flash of bright light lasted only a few seconds, but Basara and the others felt something change during that time. It was the feeling of slipping through the barrier into another dimension. As the fog cleared, Basara was able to see his surroundings.
“This place is…”
It wasn’t that they were sent to some alternate dimension. The area looked pretty much like Japan and nothing seemed out of place.
“As expected of Shiba, this isn’t just a normal dimensional barrier.”
As Mio just said, it was true that something was amiss.
Usually when one passes through a dimensional barrier, the scenery inside the barrier is a continuation of what is outside. Because the barrier merely creates an identical copy of the world outside it. But Shiba’s barrier was different. Just before, outside the barrier, Basara and the others were standing in a small park. Now, they were at the foot of a river.
“Tch… it’s no use.”
Basara tried to find his location using the GPS on his phone to no avail. The dimension within the barrier was cut off from the outside world. So things that belong in the outside world, like GPS and internet, didn’t work inside.
“…I’ve seen this place before.”
Basara was surprised that Kurumi knew of this place.
“Yea… it’s in Tokyo. I recall…”
Everyone dodged the moment they heard Basara shout. Just as everyone jumped out of the way, a loud explosive sound was heard before a large shockwave blasted the ground they were all standing on just before.
“This wind type attack… Georgius’ Byakko Copy!”
Perhaps it was like the last time Takashi lost control of Byakko. The Byakko Copy was unstable and identified them as an enemy that must be removed.
Having analyzed the situation, Basara flipped back to the riverbed and looked up to face Byakko.
Except it wasn’t Byakko that he faced, but Seiryuu.
“Basara, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, what about you guys?”
The girls all nodded and looked towards Seiryuu’s direction.
The blue dragon, while floating in the air above them, made no move or indication to attack them. Maria furrowed her brows.
“It’s not attacking us.”
“The Four Gods are Guardian Spirits… just like with Takashi the last time, they won’t attack us unless we provoke or attack them.”
“Then what was that before?”
“Perhaps we encroached its territory or it’s because of this guy”
Basara pointed to the spear in his hands to answer Mio’s question.
“Byakko and Seiryuu are beings on opposite corners. But the Byakko in the barrier is a fake that Shiba-san created out of Georgius.”
Maybe Seiryuu didn’t acknowledge the fake Byakko because it wasn’t the real one. So the sudden appearance of a being with the opposite power in its own territory must have startled it.
“But that Seiryuu… It is far larger in size and powerful compared to Byakko when your friend lost control. Is there an order of strengths between the Four Gods?”
Basara replied to Zest’s observation.
“No… there might be a slight difference in power, but it’s minimal. The Four Gods each protect their own domain so their powers are balanced.”
“Then that Seiryuu’s strength…”
“Must be representative of the strength of the wielder.”
A weapon’s effectiveness is determined by the skill and power of the user. Godly vessels were no different. And the current wielder of the Four Gods were Shiba, not Takashi. The difference in power between the two were clearly on display by the majestic strength and size of Seiryuu.
“While that makes sense, we entered the barrier from the west. How is it that Seiryuu is here? And why did he even use a wind attack?”
Maria pressed further.
“I was under the impression that wind attacks were Byakko’s forte.”
Mio and Zest also shared a look of confusion. They clearly remembered the way Takashi fought using wind attacks when wielding Byakko.
“No… It’s actually not so far fetched for Seiryuu to use wind attacks.”
Basara and the Nonaka sisters knew in fact that it was possible for Seiryuu to use wind based attacks.
“It is true that Byakko used wind based attacks back in the Village. But that was because the Village made it do so.”
“The Village made it…?”
Yuki replied to Mio’s question.
“Fire, Water, Earth and Wind make up the Four Elements. And in addition, the gods have granted us the use of the power of Light. These are the powers of the Hero Clan. The Demons are able to use the Four Elements along with their demonic Dark element.”
“The Village divided the Four Elements to each of the Four Gods. But the original Four Gods didn’t use these elements.”
“The Four Gods are also originally Guardian Spirits from China.”
“Over there, they believe in the Five Elements of Earth, Metal, Wood, Fire and Water. And the Four Gods over there were no exceptions to that belief.”
“In the idea of the Five Elements, the eastern domain that Seiryuu protects falls under Wood. And the Wind element is part of the element of Wood in the Chinese Five Elements. So it’s not surprising that Seiryuu can use Wind based attacks.”
“Since the Four Gods in the Village can only use the Four Elements to serve the purposes of the Hero Clan, they aren’t able to use their powers under the control of Shiba-san, who betrayed the Village. So he must have ‘reset’ their status somehow to the original state.”
Even while explaining it, Basara had to consider the frightening thing that Shiba had done. The Four Gods are not just weapons. They are Godly Vessels with their own thoughts. For someone to just change the elemental affinity of the Godly Vessels would mean that the Gods had accepted and recognized Shiba as its new master. It has only been a few hours since Shiba left the Village and he already has control over the Four Gods. There was no telling what he could do if he were to have more time.
Especially because the Five Elements had something the Four Elements did not have.
While Basara was thinking of all the potential chaos that Shiba could bring about, Zest and Maria were having thoughts of their own.
“The Five Elements… It is true that they are different from demonic energy in the way that they directly channel the energy of the earth. But if Seiryuu is still the Guardian Spirit of the east in China, was there perhaps a trap that sent us to the east when we entered the barrier?”
“That would make sense… If Shiba was trying to buy time, sending us to the east and as far away as possible from Georgius would be quite the plan.”
“Then that means … this is…”
Overhearing Maria and Zest’s conversation made Basara realise the critical error in his judgement.
“No way… Dammit, he got us!”
Basara spat out in anger.
“What happened Basara…?”
“This is… Edo River.”
“Edo River… doesn’t that mean that this is the east side?”
“This barrier has some sort of protective measure. Like a mirror. So when we enter from the west, we end up in the east. That’s why we ended up coming face to face with Seiryuu.”
“No wonder I vaguely recognized this place.”
Kurumi explained her recognition.
“I came here on my mission with Shiba-san and Takashi to scout out a location to fight Basara and the others. We passed by this river but I didn’t recognize it since the mirror image flipped the shape and direction of the river as well.”
“But Basara-san, is there a problem if the directions are flipped…?”
Basara answered Maria’s question with a bitter look on his face.
“There is. A catastrophic one.”
“The Four Gods are most likely set in their respective positions within this barrier. So right now, we’re in the east side of the barrier, but in the outside world, it’s the west.”
“If for some reason the barrier was to be dispelled, The Four Gods will end up in their opposite corners. They won’t be guarding their respective corners.”
Zest understood the situation and what Basara was trying to say.
“The Four Gods act as Guardians within the barrier… If the barrier was to break and we were to be returned to the real world, the Gods will be placed in their opposing corners, meaning that their very reason of existence will also flip.”
“In other words, they’ll go from ‘protecting’ to ‘destroying’.”
Mio could only express her shock. If what Zest was saying was true, the Four Gods will go berserk in the middle of Tokyo, and will most likely destroy the city. The casualties of such an outbreak will be immense.
Even Basara couldn’t hide the dread he was feeling. This revelation also meant that they couldn’t just destroy the barrier like they originally planned. And now that the entire city of Tokyo has been effectively taken hostage, even if they were to corner Shiba down, he could just threaten to dispel the barrier.
Basara knew that Shiba planned every step of this. Tokyo lay on the opposite of Japan from Kyoto, one of the holiest places in Japan. It was very fitting for him to flip the Four Gods in the city that stood across from Kyoto. Shiba made the first step and it was a move that made sure to keep the ball in his court.
Basara and the others were at an overwhelming disadvantage. That was a fact they couldn’t ignore. But that didn’t mean they could just give up. So Basara had to give an answer.
“If we’re going to find the four directions, we’ll have to find the center first… I got a feeling Shiba-san will be in the center of this barrier.”
“I’d like to head there right away but we’ll need to restrain the Four Gods first.”
Last time Basara fought against Takashi’s Byakko, when he cut through Byakko, he didn’t destroy him, but merely forced him back into the spear. If they could do something similar and restrain the other Gods, then even if the barrier is dispelled, they can avoid disaster.
“It’s actually the only thing we can do.”
“I had a spirit look inside the barrier, but it seems like this isn’t just about flipping over directions.”
“What do you mean?”
Kurumi answered Yuki’s question.
“This barrier isn’t made with the Five Element design. There seems to be “Earth” in the middle and north, east, south and west fanning around it. And since those directions are closed off, only the middle barrier is open. “
“Huh, but doesn’t that mean we can go right into the center without fighting the Four Gods?”
Kurumi butted into Maria’s question.
“As I said, it isn’t so simple.”
“According to the spirit, the space between the center and the barrier is disjointed… and is connected to the west side of the “Metal” element. After that is the Fire and Water element, and the center is right at the very end.”
Basara, having heard the layout of the room, quickly grasped Shiba’s plan. He realised the certain “flow” given out with all those elements laid down in that particular order.
“Did you notice something Basara-san?”
Just as Maria asked her question, Yuki stepped in front of Basara, Sakuya in hand, and looked up towards Seiryuu.
“I’ll take on Seiryuu. Basara, you take the others and go ahead.”
“Huh!? What are you saying? You can’t fight that monster on your own!”
Mio was shocked at Yuki’s sudden declaration.
It was no surprise that Mio was worried for her friend. The Byakko that they faced in the past when Takashi lost control, was nothing compared to the Seiryuu in front of them.
Still, Yuki shook her head.
“This is for the best… If we were all held back here, we will only play into Shiba-san’s plan.”
“Basara and Kurumi have already realized this but if the elements of the Four Gods were changed to the Five Elements, then their weaknesses and compatibility will also change.”
The Four Elements follow “Platon’s Ring of Conversion” where Fire turns to Wind through condensation, Wind liquifies into Water, Water hardens into Earth and Earth sublimates into Fire.
And similar to the Four Elements’ “Platon’s Ring of Conversion”, the Five Elements have their “Weakness” and “Compatibility”. Trees burn into Fire, the ashes from the Fire turns into Earth, and from the Earth comes Metals, and Water condenses on the Metals, which nurture Trees and the cycle continues.
In opposition, the Trees receive nutrients from the Earth and the Earth absorbs Water to stop the flow. Water extinguishes Fire, and Fire melts Metal. The melted and shaped Metal are used to cut down Trees, and thus continues the cycle of “Weakness”.
This “Compatibility” and “Weakness” in the Five Elements represents the “Yin” and “Yang” – The Light and Dark.
Unlike “Platon’s Ring of Conversion”, which equally converts the elements, “Compatibility” and “Weakness” in the Five Elements strengthens and weakens the elements.
“Shiba-san is aiming for either “Compatibility” or “Weakness” or both.”
Zest creased her brow to Yuki’s statement.
“Wouldn’t he be aiming for “Weakness”? From what Kurumi-san said, the order of the rooms are Earth then Tree in the flow of “Weakness”. Perhaps he will use that to attack us.
“That’s true if you just look at the space.” Basara cut in.
“But Shiba-san went out of his way to take the Four Gods. If he wants to maximize and keep that power to himself, he will make sure to increase the power through “Compatibility”. As proof of that, Seiryuu here in Edo River. He’s considering the effects of Water and how it is compatible with Trees.”
“Even if the distortions affect the walls in each room, they are all connected. “Weakness” will be used to fight intruders like us while the “compatibility” strengthens Shiba-san. And he is most likely planning to use his new power against the Vatican or the Village… or against the whole Hero Clan.”
“Compatibility” strengthens over time, so the longer they took, Shiba gets stronger. He was ridiculously strong as it was. If he was to become stronger, there would be no stopping him.
“So we have to get to Shiba-san as quickly as possible… Seiryuu’s affinity is Tree, so the opposing element would be Metal, and thus, my Sakuya should do the job.”
Sakuya clutched in hand, Yuki’s voice was calm and composed. And that was all Basara had to see to make his decision.
“Okay…we’ll leave it to you Yuki.”
They will trust Nonaka Yuki and leave this place to her.
Yuki smiled at Kurumi’s concerned look.
“It’s okay… I’ll be right with you once I finish up over here.”
Gripping Sakuya, Yuki charged at Seiryuu. Kicking up from the ground, she reached top speed and was moving as fast as the wind for half crescent swing…
But just as her attack came close to landing, a barrier of wind blew her attack away. The wind blades deflected from the barrier landed into the Edo River , causing an explosion of sounds and water vapours.
Basara and the others took Yuki’s cue and sprinted ahead. They didn’t use Kurumi or Mio’s magic to grant them flight, in order to avoid detection from Seiryuu. If Seiryuu was to find them, it would waste Yuki’s efforts to distract it to let Basara and the others go ahead.
“Kurumi, the barrier is organized in the way of the Five Elements and some areas are closed off right?”
“Yea. The only one open is the one in the center where Shiba-san is. But as I said, the space is distorted, so we won’t be able to make it to the center so easily.”
“Right… The next room is connected on the west side right?”
Maria and Zest chimed in.
“Then the next one waiting for us would be Byakko.”
“What is Byakko’s element under the Five Elements?”
“It’s Metal. So its weakness will be Fire.”
“Then it seems like it’s going to be my turn next.”
Mio looked ahead with determination in her eyes.
As the group ran through the abandoned Route 14 in the dark, a memory from the past suddenly resurfaced in Mio’s mind. Back when they first fought Byakko and Takashi, all she could do was buy some time.
And while Maria and her did go through with their task, it was Basara who eventually cornered Takashi and defeated Byakko. And it was also Yuki who created the opportunity for Basara to defeat Byakko.
All Mio could do was watch.
But Mio knew that she was a different person now. With the city of Tokyo held hostage and Shiba using “compatibility” to abuse the power of the Four Gods, Mio was now determined to fight with Basara against Shiba.
She knew that Yuki felt the same. So when she saw Yuki offer herself to fight Seiryuu all alone in order to help Basara defeat Shiba, Mio knew that she had to do the same when the time came.
When they head west, Byakko, with its “metal” affinity will be waiting for them, and that will be Mio’s turn to fight against it with her “fire” affinity.
“Kurumi, how long until we reach the barrier that leads to the western side?”
“We’re nearly there. It’s just after we cross the Sumida River.”
Just as Kurumi replied, the group saw the outline of the Sumida River and the bridge.
“While it’s good to know that the barrier is distorted, where exactly in the western side does it lead to?”
Basara answered Maria’s question.
“Most likely back to the park we were at…”
“Basara-san how do you know?”
“You need “earth” to create “metal”. The park is full of it and also has an entire baseball field as well. It’ll be the perfect place for Byakko to reside in. But if it’s just “earth” then there are other potential places too though.”
“For the Five Elements, their powers are dependent on how much they are exposed to their affinity. But the power of the Four Gods are based on the direction that they are facing. So to maximize their strengths, it’s paramount that you place them in the right order.”
“If Shiba-san is looking to obtain the power of the Four Gods, he’ll have to place them in the proper order. In Tokyo, Edo Castle is considered to be the center of Tokyo. With the Four Gods, Seiryuu should have placed been placed near the Sumida River but this time it’s set in Edo River. This is probably to increase its power based on the Five Elements. The Edo River is connected to Tone River, which has the biggest basin area in Japan, so the amount of water that flows through it is a lot more powerful than the Sumida River.”
“It’s the same with having ‘metal’ in the west with the high quantities of ‘Earth’ and the large roads that lead to the west…”
“Goes right to the park?”
“Exactly. South of the park lies the Tomei Highway and the 3rd Capital Highway is to the north and still connects to the center.”
Mio showed her understanding and Basara went on to explain more.
“But this is just a possibility. Nothing’s set in stone so if we do get to the other side and find out that we’re somewhere different, we’ll have to deal with it then.”
“Alright, let’s do this!”
As they approached the bridge, once again, they were surrounded by a flashing white light.
The moment the light left and they landed on the western side, they saw the park.
Basara knew his prediction was correct when they found themselves on the baseball field of the park. And they were able to find the Georgius “Byakko Copy” right away.
Right at the pitcher’s mound, a similar looking spear to the one Basara was carrying, was stabbed into the ground.
“… Something’s not right.”
The Byakko Copy was right in front of them with its own barrier. There was no way that it hadn’t felt Basara and the others’ presence. But unlike Seiryuu from before, this Byakko made no attempt whatsoever to attack them.
“Basara, what should we do?”
Mio asked in a cautious whisper. She hadn’t let her guard down just in case Byakko made a sudden move.
Basara didn’t have an answer right away and kept his silence. Originally, he was planning to use the real Byakko against the copy to dispel the barrier, but they can’t do that anymore as the Four Gods will go berserk into the middle of Tokyo. If they were to reverse the Byakko Copy to its Georgius form, things will be fine, but the other 3 areas with the other gods will still face catastrophic damage.
And with Yuki still in the east fighting Seiryuu, it will probably be for the best to have Georgius maintain its Byakko form. In its copy form, it won’t be able to go berserk. Further to that, by bringing the real Byakko to the center, it will potentially screw up the balance that Shiba is trying to create to increase his power.
“Let’s leave things as is and get going.”
Having said that, they kept their distance from the Byakko Copy and started to move.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”
The voice cut through the silence like a knife. Basara and the others instantly turned around to face the voice coming from the pitcher’s mound. Right there, stood the once second-in-command of Leohart’s army. The man who cooperated with Shiba to steal the Four Gods: Balflear.
Basara and the others took their positions in a heartbeat: the close range fighters Maria and Basara at the front, and Mio, Kurumi and Zest, with their magic, fanning out behind them.
“Balflear was it? Did you come here to stop us?”
“I didn’t come here… It was you who appeared before me.”
“As you are aware, the Byakko over here is but a replica. Since it needs some adjustments, I was tasked to oversee the task. After all, we can’t have Kyouichi leave his current spot.”
“I see… Shiba-san’s aim is to trigger the Five Elements by using the Four Gods.”
“Oh, you were aware of our plans. In that case, please do the smart thing and leave behind the real Byakko here.”
“Seems like you’re quite full of yourself…”
Maria quipped in.
“You think you can just win on your own?”
It was no secret that Balflear was strong. But he was up against 5 people and while they may not have fought against each other, Takigawa had told them of Balflear’s powers before they left the village. Of course there was a chance that Balflear had other abilities up his sleeve, but they had the master-servant contract and they have become stronger since they last fought in the Demon World. They had the advantage of numbers so as long as they didn’t fight him alone, it shouldn’t have been a problem.
“Don’t get me wrong. I never said that I would face you all alone and win.”
“But I should be able to at least get that spear from you.”
And with that, Balflear pulled out the Byakko Copy from the mound.
The moment Balflear pulled out the spear, there was a distortion in the air and from behind them, Basara heard the sound of something being peeled off. It was the eastern barrier they just came from, and from within the western side, Basara saw the Edo River. So he was right in guessing that this barrier was made to mess with the directions. But more pressing was the fact that Balflear laid the first trap!
The Five Element Barriers that Shiba and Balflear created using the Four Gods was something like their lifeline. So there was a chance that they would dispel the barriers to cause the Four Gods to go berserk. But that was something Basara thought they would do after cornering Shiba: an ace up their sleeve. What they weren’t expecting was for them to dispel the barrier so quick, and Balflear of all people to do so.
“As you can see, I’ve dispelled the barrier. It’ll only be another 20 or 30 seconds until the entire barrier is gone.”
What he meant was that there was only 20 or 30 seconds left before the destruction of Tokyo began. Balflear snapped his fingers and the Byakko Copy disappeared.
“Now, there’s only one way for you to stop this.”
Basara heard Mio’s cry of desperation and could only shout in rage.
There was no time to waste. Basara, with a burst of speed, appeared right in front of Balflear, swinging the Byakko spear with all his might.
Only for Balflear to disappear and his swing just slicing through air.
But Basara had already read that, and made his way to the pitcher’s mound to stab his spear into the ground. That was the only way. The only way to prevent the destruction of Tokyo.
The moment he stabbed the spear into the ground, Basara leapt backwards. For Shiba, as powerful as he was, had forcefully converted the very being of Byakko from its “Wind” entity as a Four God, to the “Metal” entity of the Five Elements. And thus, Byakko was forcefully awakened to protect the Western barrier. Gone was the Byakko that aided them just moments before. This was the same Byakko that went berserk under Takashi’s watch. Only stronger, and completely under Shiba’s control.
Countless iron spears shot forth from Byakko. The only way to evade those spikes of certain death was for Basara to summon Brynhildr and unleash an incomplete Banishing Shift. But before he could use his signature move, there was something else that protected Basara from the spears. What protected Basara was the wall of fire that shot up from the ground. The heat from the wall was so immense that it instantly melted all the spears that Byakko shot out.
“Leave it to me Basara… real or not, I’ll be the one to take on this tiger.”
Mio stepped forward cooly. Indeed, Byakko’s affinity of Metal would make Mio the perfect one to fight against it with her fire.
“Alright… But you take care okay?”
And with that, Basara left Mio to take on Byakko and started to make his way forward until he heard a crackle in the wind.
“Oh? Did you think I’d just let you go?”
Balflear disappeared the moment Basara swung Byakko’s spear. But he didn’t do so to escape from the field of battle. He simply used his powers to remove his physical body. While he is a High Mage, he was different to High Wizards like Mio, who converted the magical power within their body to use elemental magic. Instead, Balflear practiced something similar to “contract magic” which, like Yuki’s Sakuya, allowed him to use the powers of those he had signed contracts with.
His ability to disappear came from the high class demon the “Wraith”. Using his abilities to erase his presence was useful for all the covert operations he did under Leohart, and for him to slink away in the midst of the fight between the Moderates faction and the Current Demon Lord faction. His ability to disappear was so polished, that even Chaos himself was unable to sense him.
But such a power did have its weakness. He wasn’t able to attack while he had his presence erased. So he remained in the air, looking down at Basara and the others, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, when he realised something.
Basara, Zest and Kurumi had left Mio behind and was making a beeline to the next area… There was one missing. At that moment, he felt a presence behind him.
“Your opponent will me be.”
Just as he heard that, he heard a powerful sound unleashed. It was a powerful roundhouse kick from the succubus, Maria.
“I had thought of as much.”
Maria’s kick never hit Balflear’s back as it collided with the defensive wall he erected. Maria gritted her teeth and landed back on to the ground.
“Oh? Don’t act so surprised. You can’t possibly think that we didn’t prepare for a situation where you launched your attack. We were aware that you were preparing against the Five Elements.”
Balflear himself predicted how Basara and the others would act. So he knew that if it came down to it, Maria would be the one who will fight him.
There are 6 members in Basara’s party and 6 “members” on their side if you included the Four Gods with Shiba and Balflear himself. Balflear knew that Basara will arrange the fighters in a way that their elemental affinities will best oppose the Four Gods, so the natural conclusion was for those who don’t have a specific elemental affinity to come after himself and Shiba.
“And so, with Shiba-dono’s destined opponent being Toujou Basara, I came to the conclusion that you will be my opponent.”
“I see… It seems like you had us read like an open book.”
But it wasn’t anger or caution that Balflear saw adorn Maria’s face. No… it was a smile.
Maria smiled. It was reassuring to know that Balflear knew what they were planning. Because this meant that they could successfully separate Balflear and Shiba. After all, splitting them up to avoid fighting them at the same time, was one of the most important things for them to do.
As Balflear said, if they removed the 4 who will fight the Four Gods, the only ones left over are Maria and Basara. Since the both of them were close range fighters, there was no problem with them working together. But it was a different story to fight against both Shiba and Balflear. If they were to consider the abilities of Balflear and Shiba, Maria and Basara would be at an absolute disadvantage.
And according to Takigawa, Balflear’s ability was to hide himself, not just for sneaking around in covert missions, but he can do so in the midst of battle as well. He’s shown these skills when he hid from the Heroes right in the heart of their village, and when he helped Shiba make his escape with the Four Gods.
It wasn’t just his ability to hide himself. After all, this was the man who took out Takashi in a single hit. If he were to use that power while he remained invisible, the amount of damage he can inflict while remaining unseen will be devastating. That’s why it was lucky for Basara and the others that Balflear was here to make adjustments on the Byakko Copy.
Balflear was most likely here, not just to oversee the adjustment of Byakko in the Five Elements, but to also balance its power with the other Four Gods. Byakko was currently fighting Mio on the other side, and judging by the sounds of the explosions, it was an intense battle. But there was another reason to keep Balflear away from Shiba. Shiba wasn’t the only one with a one-hit-kill move. Basara had his own move as well.
“What a shame… I’m sure you wanted to keep Basara at bay here for as long as possible.”
“We knew that you would most likely read through our plans. But the moment you knew that it was me who would stay behind, all your attention was focused on me.”
“I see… that was your plan.”
“Exactly… it was my aim all along to keep you distracted.”
And while her surprise attack on him failed, Maria had succeeded in getting Basara and the others away while engaged with Balflear.
“That’s impressive… I thought you were just a mere simpleton but it seems like you do indeed have a head on your shoulders.”
The moment he made his little joke of a comment, Maria felt a chill up her spine and saw multiple grey-coloured magic circles on the ground. Not just magic circles…but summoning circles. And from those circles rose some strange magical creatures.
The creatures were nothing like what Maria has seen before. Their bodies were sludge-like with a single big eye on their heads. And compared to how frightening they looked, Maria couldn’t sense a strong power from their presence. But the problem wasn’t about their power but their sheer numbers. Balflear didn’t summon a handful of creatures. There were at least few hundred of them.
“To summon so many magical creatures within the barriers of the Five Elements…”
“Oh that’s simple really. They aren’t magical ‘creatures’. They are “Legion”, devils that have signed a contract with me.”
Maria knew about devils. It wasn’t so long ago that Chaos was summoned in the midst of the battle between the Moderate Faction and the Current Demon Lord Faction.
“As beings of a Higher World, Devils can be summoned here unconditionally. And while Chaos needed a lot of sacrifices to summon, as I have a perfect contract with Legion, I can summon as many of them as I want without any restrictions.”
“You were so confident before but… do you still believe that you can defeat me on your own?”
Maria had to bite her tongue. When Basara and Mio fought Chaos, they needed the help of Leohart and Ramusas as well, and even then, they weren’t able to defeat him fully but, simply banish him into another dimension.
That’s how powerful Devils are.
But Basara is heading towards Shiba now. To protect something he must protect at all costs. And Maria knew that she was a part of that something Basara wanted to protect. It has always been Basara protecting Maria and the others. So that is why this time, she will be the one to protect him. Yuki and Mio are already fighting the Four Gods and Kurumi and Zest will be fighting them soon as well. So she will have to fight as well.
“I’m not arrogant to say that I’ll definitely win…”
“But this is one fight I cannot lose.”
And Maria charged right into the army of Legion.
Basara and the others raced down the 3rd Capital Highway as fast as they could. This highway directly connected the Sansendo path to the city center and thus, was funneling power into Byakko. So this was most likely an area that Shiba wanted to protect at all costs.
Basara continued to run down the highway in silence. With a grim expression on his face, he could hear the sounds of combat from behind him slowly fade away.
“It’s okay Basara-niichan.”
“Mio, Maria and… my sister.”
Basara nodded in understanding as to what Kurumi was trying to say.
“Basara-sama, is it not possible for us to destroy this road on our own?”
“If this road is funneling power from the Sansendo pathway to Byakko, destroying this road would allow us to support Mio, who is fighting Byakko.”
“Yea that is a possibility.”
It wasn’t just Mio fighting back there. If they were to weaken Byakko, then Mio could provide backup to Maria after subduing Byakko.
“But I feel like we shouldn’t do so. A Guardian’s main mission is to protect its area. If we started destroying this bridge, Byakko might decide to race over and target us instead of continuing its fight against Mio. And that would waste Mio’s efforts in keeping Byakko away from us.”
“The Four Gods themselves are irreplaceable. But the city of Tokyo is replaceable for Shiba-san. Even if we were to destroy this bridge, he could always find another location to use the power of the Five Elements again. If we were to destroy this highway, Tokyo would lose its value for Shiba-san and nothing will stop him from just simply dispelling the barrier and destroying the entire city by letting the Four Gods go berserk.”
“That’s why we have to defeat Shiba-san while keeping the barrier up.”
Satisfied with Basara’s answer, Zest nodded in understanding.
“I see… In that case we must make haste.”
Just as Zest spoke, they started to see the connection between the 3rd Capitol Highway and the Kanjo Highway, and the barrier that separated the two as well.The southern area they were currently headed towards had the affinity of “Fire”, which meant that the Four God awaiting them was Suzaku.
“Basara-niichan, where do you think we will end up next?”
“Hmm, so far the geographical location have all aided in powering up the Four Gods. Seiryuu with its “Tree” affinity had a river nearby, and Byakko with its “Metal” affinity had a lot of earth nearby at the park.”
“But Suzaku needs swamplands, and based on the center of Shiba-san’s position, I’m guessing that “swamp” will be Tokyo Bay.”
“However, Suzaku’s affinity is “Fire”, so being placed near a body of water like Tokyo Bay should actually weaken it.”
“The same could be said for Genbu in the North. His affinity is “Water”… but the northern areas are full of mountains, which will hinder his powers.”
“Exactly. But that’s exactly why we can’t let our guard down. Shiba-san most definitely knew all of this, yet went ahead to position the Four Gods in their respective places.”
“You’re saying that there’s some sort of mechanism in place to help them?”
“Precisely… Kurumi, can you get us up?”
Nodding in understanding, Kurumi chanted her flight magic to get Basara, Zest and herself above ground. This was to prepare themselves in case the other side of the barrier was indeed above Tokyo Bay. But she didn’t get them to float too high in the sky, in order to avoid an aerial battle with Suzaku right off the bat.
“I’ll also cast a wind barrier around us just in case.”
Just as she did so, the flashing white light blinded their vision once again.
As the flash blinded him, Basara smelt seasalt in the air, and knew that they had transported from their position before. But when they opened their eyes, they were not above Tokyo Bay. They were on top of land. Worst of all, they saw many trees in the area, trees that were compatible to Suzaku’s fire affinity.
Kurumi dismissed her flight magic and the others landed onto the ground.
“Rinkai Park huh…”
While Rinkai Park had trees that were compatible with Suzaku, it did not change that fact that it was right by the coast, which meant that the water in the sea will be detrimental to Suzaku’s fire affinity.
“Yea, I see it…”
Basara looked towards the location Zest was facing and saw a source of bright light. A great bird surrounded in fire: Suzaku. Shiba had indeed overcome the affinity problem for Suzaku to summon it here, but how…
“I see… that’s how he did it.”
Kurumi sighed and nodded in realization.
“The spirits have told me that this place is called Chidori Park.”
That was the name of the man-made island towards the south of Tokyo Bay.
“I see… so “Chidori”, meaning thousand birds, can empower Suzaku with its name alone, regardless of the geographical affinity it presents?”
Basara answered to Zest’s observation.
“That’s not all. There is another thing here that will aid Suzaku.”
And he pointed to a large facility.
“That’s the Kawasaki Power Plant.”
Shiba was able to use the power plant, that sat on the coast of Tokyo Bay, to strengthen Suzaku with its properties of fire to the point that it could counter the detrimental effects of the water in Tokyo Bay.
Meanwhile, Suzaku flapped its wings and flew above them with no indication to attack. Perhaps it was just observing them for now. If they were to start a fight here right now, they might damage the power plant. Shiba most likely ordered Suzaku not to fight near the power plant, as it was responsible for Suzaku’s powers in the area.
But that actually did not help Basara’s situation. Just like with the highway from before, if they were to destroy the power plant and weaken Suzaku, Shiba could just dispel the barrier and wreck havoc in Tokyo. But they won’t be able to defeat Suzaku without doing so.
“Basara-niichan, Zest… please go ahead.”
Kurumi stepped forward to face Suzaku.
Kurumi turned around to face the concerned Zest and Basara and gave them a big smile.
“It’s true that Suzaku has manifested to quite the impressive thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re right by Tokyo Bay. So I have the geographical advantage. At least, my situation is a lot better than that of Mio and Big sis’.”
“So go ahead you two. If you’re here I can’t focus on my fight against it.”
Basara smiled and responded.
“Okay… Don’t go overboard though.”
“Yea… Leave it to me.”
And with that Basara and Zest raced off, their footsteps echoing further and further away. Kurumi chanted a magical spell. It was her flight magic. She floated up until she was at eye level to Suzaku.
“Since you’re a spiritual creature, you must understand what I’m saying right?”
“Let’s fight it out up here. I think it works against both of us if things below were to get destroyed.”
“We’ll go all out up here.”
Leaving Kurumi to fight Suzaku, Basara and Zest headed north, where they were teleported to the northern area where the water affinity Genbu awaited them.
What lay in front of them was a huge structure surrounded by big walls.
“This must be somewhere in the northern district.”
The Four Gods needed to be placed accurately in order to fully utilize their powers. They needed to meet the requirements of “Mountain”, “River”, “Road” and “Swamp” while at the same time meeting the elemental requirements of the Five Elements. But Shiba was able to solve all these by finding specific things to offset the negative and positive energy. With Suzaku, Shiba placed it near Tokyo Bay, which would have weakened Suzaku if it were not for the Kawasaki power plant that cancelled out the weakening effects of the water. Genbu had to be placed near the mountains, but its affinity of water is usually cancelled out by the “earth” affinity surrounding the mountains, unless there was some sort of mechanism here that would overcome that as well.
“I guess they were able to use the name of the location “North-ward” to manifest Genbu here by linking the name of the location to it.”
Basara replied to Zest’s observation.
“But that can’t be all. Even if that was the case, Shiba would still place Genbu in a place that will maximize its power.”
“If the goal is to maximize Genbu’s power, then would the furthermost north work?”
Just as he answered Zest’s question, Basara and Zest braced themselves and turned around. The reason for their sudden reaction suddenly started to waver and move. The structure that is.
In fact, it wasn’t a structure at all.
“Basara-sama, look at that.”
Basara looked towards where Zest was pointing. Right there on the fence that surrounded Genbu was a sign of the facility: JGSDF Camp Jyujyou.
The Japanese Ground Self Defense Force’s goal was to protect the country, an objective similar to the Four Gods. And because Camp Jyujyou was located on high ground, it also acted as a “mountain” to meet the requirements to summoning Genbu. Basara had to give Shiba credit. He was analyzing and reading into things a lot deeper than he would have ever done and at a level he still won’t be able to completely imitate.
And Shiba has succeeded in setting the Four Gods in the style of the Five Elements. Shiba had the upper-hand in placing all the Gods in their places and arranging the field the way he wanted to. That shouldn’t discourage them however. They each still had their respective jobs to do after all.
“Basara-sama, as planned, leave this place to me.”
But this time Basara didn’t reply and just maintained his silence.
“This is Genbu we are dealing with… perhaps it’s better for me to fight it with you.”
“Are you saying that unlike the others, I won’t be able to face a God on my own?”
“No, it’s not that I don’t believe in your strength Zest. It’s just that even within the Four Gods, Genbu is special.”
“Genbu is a mixed entity between a snake and a tortoise, so it’s the combination of two spiritual creatures, which makes it the strongest of the Four.”
“And since these barriers are made using the powers of the Four Gods, Demons like yourself will find it hard to unleash your full strength. If only we could defeat either the snake or the tortoise first.”
“I see… you were worried about me. But there is no need. A maid’s duty is to serve her master and fulfill his wishes.”
“Basara-sama, I am your maid. I will never fail you. As long as you trust in me, I will fulfill any order that you may have. If everything you have been saying is true so far, then that man Shiba is the most dangerous. If you were to help me here, everything we have all done so far will go to waste.”
Basara understood why Zest was so worried for him. The late Tokugawa Ieyasu incorporated the Four Gods when he created Edo. And that allowed him to create a dynasty which lasted over 250 years, and continues to live on today as the city of Tokyo.
But Shiba is doing far more than just having the Four Gods. He is also incorporating the Five Elements as well. Shiba was already ridiculously strong. For him to also be in full control of the Four Gods will simply be unimaginable. Perhaps he will be as strong as the gods themselves who reside in the heavens.
“Don’t worry Basara-sama. I believe in you, just like Mio-sama, Maria, Kurumi-san and Yuki-san does.”
“Only you can defeat that man, Shiba Kyouichi, and put an end to his plans.”
“So Basara-sama, please trust in me as well.”
“Alright then Zest… As your master, I order you to defeat Genbu. You must win!”
Zest gave a bright smile then crouched and placed her right hand onto the ground. The next moment, she summoned a gigantic Golem similar in size to Genbu.
If you were to count the snake and tortoise as two entities, then Zest and her Golem should even out the battlefield.
“Basara-sama, good luck to you too.”
Then facing Genbu, Zest declared
“I have received orders from my beloved master to defeat you. Prepare yourselves!”
And with that, her Golem charged into battle towards Genbu.
Basara continued on ahead without turning back. He had faith in Zest and the others. Now it was his turn to step up to the ring.
Basara sprinted down south like the wind until, once again, the blinding white lights surrounded his vision.
As the blinding lights faded away, Basara found himself facing a huge tower of light. The symbol of Tokyo: Tokyo Tower.
“So this is it…”
There were many buildings that could act as the ‘center of Tokyo’ for Shiba’s design like the Government Building and the Imperial Palace. But the Imperial Palace was something Tokugawa Ieyasu built as the center of Japan, and wasn’t necessarily the central structure of Tokyo. Tokyo station was another option, but the station was more a doorway of Tokyo than the center of it. Plus, the non-stop flow of people would have made it hard to concentrate the power of the Five Elements.
But the Tokyo Tower was different. It was right in the middle of the city and was a popular spot for a lot of people to visit. It being a communications tower also meant that it is able to attract waves in the same way the Five Elements works to draw in power. The Tokyo Skytree was also a communications tower, but it was too far out in the east and relatively new so the people of Tokyo still didn’t really think of it as representative of Tokyo.
“I see you’ve made it.”
Basara heard a soft chuckle. There stood a young man right under the middle of the tower.
“I heard about your past.”
Basara looked towards Shiba for a reaction. If he grew up and went through the same things Shiba did, maybe it would have been him standing where Shiba is standing now.
“But even then, I will do everything I can to stop you Shiba-san.”
Just like how Shiba was dead set on his mission, Basara was determined to protect his loved ones as well.
“Hmmm, from the way you talk, it seems like you heard quite a bit about me.”
“But I highly doubt those old geezers would tell you the truth. So I’m guessing either Shuuya-san or Kaoru-san?”
Shiba gave off a light chuckle.
“It’s really horrible isn’t it? That they would do that.”
“I know that what the Vatican did to you is unforgivable, but do you really need to go this far to…”
“Huh? What are you talking about Basara? When I said “horrible” I didn’t mean about the experiments they did to me.”
“I’m talking about Shuuya-san and Kaoru-san telling you about my secret.”
“They felt it was necessary for us to know to prepare ourselves in case you suddenly told us in the midst of battle…”
“Oh yea, I don’t deny that. But you see, they’ve been keeping mum about my secret all this time to the person they should have told first and foremost.”
“They haven’t told Jin-san.”
Basara had to bite back his retort. The truth about Shiba that Kaoru told them. That he was a clone of Jin’s, and that’s why they weren’t able to tell him.
If Jin was to find out that a clone of his was being experimented upon, and that same clone was being used as a political pawn then Jin really would have never forgiven the Vatican or the Village. Worse, Jin could have even fought against the Hero Clan as an enemy.
Only a handful of individuals knew about the relationship between Jin and Wilbert and about Basara’s birth. Even the truce between the Hero Clan and the Demons were based on Jin’s involvement. If Jin was to turn against the Hero Clan, there really would have been nothing holding back the Demons from attacking and wiping out the Hero Clan.
Considering the risk of Jin turning, the elders must have told Shuuya about Shiba’s secret. While torn as he was, Shuuya didn’t want the war to continue any longer, because if it did, it would be his children’s generation would have to continue the fight. While it was a bitter pill to swallow, Shuuya must have kept that secret with him in order to end the war.
While Basara understood the reasoning behind the Nonakas not telling Jin, there was one thing that felt a bit off.
Could that Jin really not have realised the truth just because Shuuya and Kaoru didn’t tell him?
“I think my father knows about you Shiba-san…”
“Oh yes. Jin-san does know. After all, it was I who told him all about it.”
“You did so yourself?”
Basara had to tread carefully right here. If Shiba-san was trying to play mind games with him, this would be an effective way.
“Did my father believe your story?”
“Of course he did. He’s not just strong. Brute strength alone won’t let you get to the top like that after all.”
“Even before I told him I guess he already knew. That’s why even after I told him, all he said was ‘I understand’. But guess what he said to me after that?”
“He said ‘So what do you intend to do?.’ I thought it was amazing. I mean, this man just found out that the Vatican was making clones of him in secret, but he was already thinking of his next steps based on my answer.”
“And I was delighted really. Of course I used to curse myself from being born out of an experiment, but if I was based off a powerful person as Jin-san then I was quite flattered really. I mean, this was a guy who was so powerful that the Vatican was willing to taint their hands with the most inhumane experiments just to recreate his power.”
While Basara was listening to what Shiba was saying, there were still some parts he didn’t understand.
Shiba’s hate towards the Vatican and the Village were justified and logical. And in extension, he should also feel anger towards all the experiments and cloning they were doing. Yet…
“Then why did my father…”
“Oh, you mean why didn’t your father do anything?”
“That’s simple. He was able to discern why his best pal Shuuya-san didn’t tell him the truth.”
“And that’s how much you, Basara, meant to him.”
“Hmmm… you know, you seem to really love and respect Jin-san but you sure don’t know how much he loves you huh…”
“Just think about it. If Jin-san was to have acted out of anger and decided to get revenge on the Vatican, the Vatican would have simply came after you. And since you were just an infant, it wasn’t like he could just take you with him. And even if he was to have left you behind at the Village, the elders would have just used you as a hostage. If he was to have fought against either the Village or the Vatican, they would have come after you and Jin-san with all their might.”
“And if he did successfully attack the Village or the Vatican, the warhawks of the Demon World would have taken the opportunity to attack the Human World. No matter how strong Jin-san was, he wouldn’t have been able to fight all of them.”
“When you hold something so dear… it’s really difficult to protect it.”
Basara realized just then about how exactly his father has always been watching over him.
“That’s why 5 years ago… oh it’s almost 6 years now…. Right after the horrible incident, Jin-san was able to leave the Village without any second thoughts or regrets. Because he had something he had to protect. Something that was far more valuable than the Village or the Hero Clan.”
“You must know that feeling now… That feeling of facing an entire clan to protect your loved ones…”
“For Jin-san and you, things like ‘family’ must be your most precious thing that you will protect at all cost. Then what do you think is the thing the Hero Clan wishes to protect?”
“That’s of course to protect this wor-”
“Protect this world from Demons? If that’s your answer I’m afraid you’re wrong.”
A ghost of a smile traced Shiba’s face.
“The thing that the Hero Clan must protect is not the world, but their reason for existence. They do things according to what they think is rightful. That’s why they’ll do anything and justify it if it means protecting this world from Demons. But if there is anything outside the scope of their mission, they don’t even lift a finger.”
“I mean, look at all the wars, famine, natural disasters and the diseases all over the world. If the Hero Clan actively engaged themselves, imagine all the lives that could be saved. If they wanted to, they could even stop things like global warming and desertification.”
“If our powers are to be used to protect this world, then they should have been used for far more. Instead it hasn’t been used and it won’t be used. Because this isn’t the ‘mission’ of the Hero Clan.”
“So I thought… we don’t need ‘Heroes’ like these who only think about their own wellbeing. Don’t you agree Basara?”
“I understand how you think Shiba-san. And I also understand what you’re trying to say.”
“But the world needs the Hero Clan.”
Basara let out a breath.
“Shiba-san, you’re wrong.”
“It’s impossible for the Hero Clan to fix all the problems in this world. It’s too much to ask for them to do so. We’re members of the Hero Clan but we’re also people as well. The things we can protect are limited so that’s why we protect what we can with all our might. That’s what it means to be human.”
“It’s not just the Hero Clan protecting this world. You have doctors, scientists, the police and soldiers. And not just those in positions to provide care and security. Even normal people who work in offices, will use their earnings to put food on the table for their family and keep the economy going by providing employment. Everyone who lives in this world contributes to the world in their own way.”
“The Hero Clan’s role is to protect this world from the attack of Demons. Sure they could perhaps do more… But they have been successfully doing their jobs. Even if they may have made questionable judgements and bad decisions, the members of the Hero Clan have always put their own lives on the line to protect this world. And that’s a truth that nobody can deny.”
“Even if that person is you, Shiba-san.”
There was no hesitation in Basara’s eyes and Shiba saw that clearly.
“Well aren’t you quite the romanticist.”
Shiba started to cackle with laughter.
“In my opinion, I don’t think anyone is saving this world. Everyone is playing their part in destroying it. So what I’m planning on doing will actually save the world… but I guess we’ll be talking in parallels.”
“Yes. From the way I see it, what Shiba-san is trying to do will destroy the world. I… no, we, can’t let that happen.”
With that Basara summoned Brynhildr and clutched it tightly.
Shiba gave a thin smile.
“I see… in that case.”
He raised his right hand and a loud metallic screech sounded. That was the sound of Brynhildr being stopped by Shiba’s right hand. The moment Shiba caught Basara’s blade, Basara slowed down his charge and the two had a moment to stare at each other.
“Let’s decide with a fight Basara. The winner should choose how they would save the world.”
And with those words, the fight to determine the fate of Tokyo began.