It was a common symptom for one’s mind to be befuddled after regaining one’s consciousness.
More so if they were to awaken somewhere unknown—such was why Naruse Mio could not make out her current situation the moment her eyelids rose as if they were stage curtains.
She could make of her current surroundings, though.
For instance, the fact that she was laying on the spacious bed of a foreign room.
A king-sized bed…no, the mattress and the frame were far too large for a bed expected of that size. It was likely a special, tailor-made product or some such. The bed felt like that of the one in the basement that Zest had made with magic in the Toujou residence, the bed that could accommodate everyone in the household to sleep on.
Mio suddenly realized that the bed she was on wasn’t simply uncanny resemblance; she literally was on the exact bed situated in the basement of the Toujou residence.
There was no mistaking it; even from the distorted angle that came from Mio’s sleeping position as she lay on her back, she could recognize that the features on the headboard on the bed, made from a whole, sizable piece of wood, were exactly the same. This was the bed of the Toujou household—and for some unknown reason, Mio was laying upon it in an unfamiliar room.
“…What’s going on?”
As Mio sat up while enduring the unfamiliarity within her head, she realized she was not alone on the bed and the other girls that lived in the Toujou household, much like herself, were also present. Kurumi and Zest in particular sandwiched her in between the two as they lay beside her, left and right respectively.
The two had their eyes shut, their breathing steady—they were asleep, likely, much like she was just a few moments ago. And the moment such a thought crossed her mind—
“Thank goodness…you’re awake as well.”
The two who spoke were at the edge of the bed.
Dumbfounded, and as she called out their names—
Mio remembered the situation from before they all had passed out.
“That’s right, we were-”
Attempting to enter the center of the battle between Basara and Shiba, the group had made their way toward the east, attempting to infiltrate the space through the flow of the Five Elements. However, a sudden surge of blinding light had swallowed them in the middle of it all, dying their vision and consciousness into nothing but whiteness.
“What in the world was that light…”
“—It’s probably the attack of the Kouryuu that suddenly appeared in the center.”
Immediately and without delay, it was Yuki that responded to Mio’s murmur of a question. It was likely that she and Maria were the first to have regained consciousness and subsequently evaluate and settle on their current situation.
However—if it was an adversarial attack earlier, how in the world could they have been rescued, then?
“Have we been captured?” Mio asked, suspicious of such a possibility.
“Yeah…I guess so. Yuki-san and I have attempted to leave the room to no avail, but…” said Maria.
“The doors and windows are like decorations. You can touch them, but you can’t open them. We’ve already tried to break past the walls, the floor and the ceiling, but our attacks don’t leave as much as a scratch on them.”
“My Sakuya can’t cut through any of it, nor can Maria’s fists suffice as well…”
As Mio listened to Yuki lamenting regrettably over the situation, she thought of the fact that attempting to use her own magic would probably fail to destroy the room as well, given that the full efforts of the two yielded no results.
…But if it were possible to escape, given one way or another…
True enough, Mio knew the means to escape their current predicament. Thereupon which she asked,
“Basara…right, where’s Basara?”
“…I don’t know. We’re the only ones here.”
“I can’t find him through our Master-Servant contract, either.”
“But that’s…” Mio exclaimed softly in response to their chagrined expressions. To which Yuki then firmly said,
“But our Master-Servant contracts are still intact. That’s why I’m sure Basara’s still alive.”
And the moment she finished, the door, completely shut just a few moments ago, suddenly opened.
In response to the unexpected occurrence, the three inhaled deeply and prepared themselves for battle. Yuki and Maria readied themselves at the front whereas Mio stood at the rear end, protecting Zest and Kurumi, who had yet to regain consciousness.
“I see your reactions are swift. I take you’re all alright now, then?”
The voice came from a figure who smiled as she entered the room—someone who Mio and the others were all too familiar with.
“Though perhaps that’s to be expected…I can understand why you’re all so nervous at the moment.”
“Come to think of it, though, I suppose I would’ve been more perplexed if you didn’t react like that…
“What do you mean?”
“I mean this,” With those words, Hasegawa snapped her fingers. The wall that held the door suddenly became semi-transparent, allowing one to see what appeared on the other side.
There was a bed in the neighboring room, and upon it was—
Upon realizing that it was Basara that lay on the bed, Mio abruptly raised her voice in surprise.
His eyes were closed, and he appeared sound asleep. Thereupon Hasegawa continued to explain,
“The moment I made it to the scene—Basara was about to killed by that man called Shiba. Although I managed to save him in time….he was fatally wounded. That was why I was trying to treat him all this time, and his condition is stable as of now.”
“…Were you the one who saved Basara, sensei?” Mio asked after hearing her words. Before Hasegawa could give her answer, however, someone else spoke first.
“Hold on a second. How do we know you’re telling the truth?”
It was Maria who spoke. She held a sceptical, glaring look at Hasegawa, saying:
“It’s possible that you might be one of Shiba’s associates and in truth captured Basara-san and the rest of us here.”
And that wasn’t all—
“Yuki-san couldn’t deduce Basara’s real location while she was surveying the area some time ago. That said, whether or not that’s the real Basara-san can also be put into question.”
“I see your point in that…in that case, you’re free to try and ascertain his presence once more.”
At Hasegawa’s suggestion, Mio and Yuki, the two who were bound by the Master-Servant contract, exchanged looks with each other.
And following Maria’s exclamation, the two closed shut their eyes simultaneously for a moment, and then in the next—
Mio and Yuki opened their eyes in shock, as they immediately turned to the translucent wall that hid Basara behind it.
“I can feel it…there’s no questioning it. That’s the real Basara.”
As Mio confirmed Maria’s doubts, it was Hasegawa who then spoke.
“I didn’t want to be interrupted until I’d settled Basara’s treatment, so I cast a special seal on the room…knowing that you all would likely suspect me.”
However, Hasegawa’s words had yet to put Maria at ease. Even if Basara was real, the fact of whether Hasegawa herself was real was still questionable.
And even then…
Even if it was truly Hasegawa that stood before them now, did she show herself before them as a friend or foe?
“Perhaps it’s a good thing that you’re so profoundly suspicious…it means you’re well aware of the various possibilities surrounding your current situation. However, before you come to question as to whether or not I’m real or fake, I ask this of you: how are you all so sure that you’re all real as well?”
“There’s a Demon who specializes in disguise in your enemy’s ranks…and following the attack by Kouryuu, you all lost consciousness…and yet you all suspect nothing of each other after waking up off the sole fact you’re all together. How can you be so sure as to the fact that the enemy isn’t masquerading as one of your group right now?”
In response to having her questioning turned onto her, Maria nodded in understanding and calmed herself.
Hasegawa Chisato looked at the young succubus before her as the latter relaxed herself.
A sign of trust, perhaps.
“Good grief…it seems that I’m rather poor at acting.”
Hasegawa neither hated nor saw enemies in Mio and the others; she loves Basara more than anyone ever could, and thus would never do harm to anything or anyone that Basara valued and treasured.
However—the fact remained that Hasegawa had not managed to truly save Basara in the nick of time, for the process of having to rescue this group of girls who had been under attack from Kouryuu before subsequently hiding them in a space where neither Shiba nor Barflear could find them had taken quite a lot of time. And while it was true that Hasegawa had saved Basara from danger without the both of them being further harmed, she wondered if Mio and the others would have the wariness she expected of them when she had revealed herself. On the contrary, if they were to immediately believe in someone for the mere fact that they appeared to be someone familiar to them, Hasegawa would have truly thought lesser of the group.
If they were to have stooped so low, she wouldn’t have allowed them to fight by Basara’s side—even if Hasegawa understood how much Basara loved them, and even if she wouldn’t stop them from living together.
Hasegawa had saved Mio and the others, and had managed to maintain the slither of Basara’s life that hung on a thread during his battle with Shiba.
Moreover, she adjusted the ill, imbalanced airs within Basara, and rescued him from certain death.
Rescuing Basara was an infallible task to Hasegawa that laid at her top priority—she had never intended to use such a deed against Mio and the others as a quid pro quo. Nonetheless, the group having acted more warily and hostilely than expected toward Hasegawa had inevitably left an acerbic taste in her mouth.
It was thus that she’d said some rather uncomfortable things to them.
Perhaps she’d only found herself saying such things because she had more than enough energy to spare after she’d stabilized Basara’s condition.
“—How exactly did you deduce that I was on your side from our earlier exchange?”
Hearing Hasegawa’s question, Maria shrugged and answered: “I was the first to wake up…I had already checked the identities of Mio-sama and the others before you needed to ask. As a succubus, I can peek into their dreams to identity them.” Her line of sight that turned horizontally to a certain someone beside her—
“The one who was the second to awaken was me…and for our safety, I asked the Sakuya to confirm whether or not all of us in the room were the real thing,” It was then after Maria finished that Yuki spoke, “And so, in the end, we concluded the enemy didn’t blend into us. At the very least, we’re certain he’s not among the five of us.”
“Is that so…”
“Correct,” Maria nodded to Mio, who seemed to have finished taking in the information that they had conveyed. “The one named Balflear—his abilities of disguise are really powerful. …We need to be careful.”
Appearing as if she had understood the situation, Mio then turned to face Hasegawa.
“Hasegawa-sensei…if you were truly an enemy, you would have kept a close eye on our actions, and yet you didn’t know what Maria had done. So you really were focused on healing Basara, and yet we…”
Before Mio could finish, she lowered her head, bowing before Hasegawa.
“And yet we suspected you…We’re really sorry about that…and we’re also grateful. The fact that we’re here means you’ve not only saved Basara, but all of us, as well—am I wrong?”
Hasegawa gave off a wry smile—wry, but gentle, a smile that signified that she approved of their abilities.
“Don’t think anything of it…I’ve said some rather uncouth things myself, after all, and I’m sorry for that.”
She had no intention of condemning them the whole time. At the very least, the group had successfully carried out their post duties, having toppled the Four Gods and forcing Barflear to retreat.
And as much as Shiba had played the better hand this time round—
It was all inevitable, in the end. They could not have possibly managed to fend off the enemy—not while they had Kouryuu, manifested from the Four Gods, along with Reginleif, a member of the Ten Gods—as their trump cards. Thereupon which Yuki asked,
“Sensei…can you tell us why you’ve decided to help us?”
“Well….” Hasegawa nodded, as if in thought, before replying:
“As much as I too wish to explain everything…but I’ve already made a promise with Basara about it all. Perhaps it’s best for Basara himself to explain it to you once he wakes up.”
“In exchange, I’ll tell you all that I know of your current situation, then.”
Nonaka Yuki, Mio and Maria listened to Hasegawa’s explanation together.
They learned of how they were still within the barrier constructed by Shiba through the Five Elements, and how they were now within a special, double-thick barrier constructed by Hasegawa at the eastern vicinity.
They learned of how the wave of light that attacked them was indeed an attack from Kouryuu.
They learned of how Celis’ Georgius was the medium that Shiba had used to summon it.
And how even at the very moment they were speaking, the power of Kouryuu was only going to grow even stronger through the power of the Five Elements.
“Anything beyond that I can only speculate…that man named Shiba—it’s likely that he intends to allow Kouryuu to fully awaken, such that it would ascend to a state where it would be able to control the veins of the entire earth.”
“If that were to happen, Tokyo won’t be the only area under his grasp…but the entire world as well…however, I’m afraid he has another true motive, as well.”
“His true motive…?”
“Yes,” She replied upon hearing Yuki’s question, “I can’t be fully certain, but …it’s very possible that Shiba intends to absorb Kouryuu into himself at the end of it. It would mean he would no longer be dependent on an external power Kouryuu’s, and achieve an unparalleled state through his own abilities alone.”
“Before that happens, it’s likely that we have a period of time for a counterattack.”
“How can you deduce that?” Mio asked.
“The greater the power, the more difficult it is to control it. It’s a principle that applies to one’s innate power; attempting to control a foreign source of that size makes it all the more difficult. The drastic change in power can cause the body to lose its balance, such that it may even affect one’s own innate abilities.” Hasegawa said. Which was why—
“I imagine he intends to wait until there are no more obstacles in the barrier before absorbing Kouryuu. Which is to say he would do so after eliminating us beforehand, or after procure some such similar scenario himself.”
“That said, we can’t keep running away—it’s doing nothing to stop Shiba’s plan. See for yourself.”
A massive screen projected itself onto the ceiling to reveal Kouryuu twining around the Tokyo Tower.
“…It’s growing bigger?” Yuki’s brows knitted themselves together upon discovering Kouryuu’s altered form, different from how she had seen it during their clash in the northern and southern regions.
“Yes…when it attacked you with the power of the elements, I’d say it had already manifested around 10% of itself.”
“And it was only 10% back then…?” Mio could not believe Hasegawa’s words.
“How unfortunate…from the looks of it, it seems to be more than 50% complete. In the past, Kouryuu could only manifest itself up to no more than 50% when it was bestowed with the power of the kings…that alone should tell you how bad things are getting right now. If we let it manifest itself to 100%, I’m afraid we’ll run out of options to defeat it.”
“Then we have to think of a solution, and fast…”
“Calm down.” Hasegawa said to Maria, who looked evidently distressed. “As I’ve said earlier, the greater the power, the more difficult it is to control. There’s still a bit of time before Kouryuu develops into its complete form. However, immediately barging into the scene like that would be a suicidal move.”
“Kouryuu is a big problem, no doubt…the real issue here, though, is still that man, Shiba. His magic gauntlet isn’t something you want to take lightly.”
“His magic gauntlet?”
“Yes. Much like Basara’s magic sword, Brynhildr, Shiba’s gauntlet utilizes a special soul as its core.” Hasegawa nodded to Yuki, “In terms of raw strength alone, Basara’s Brynhildr would be no match…as is the case with your spirit blade Sakuya, Yuki. That’s also why Basara had been badly beaten by that man.”
“The Four Gods have recovered all the power of the Five Elements that they’d lost when your group had managed to subdue them when they were manifested and have become stronger since. It’s thus likely that Shiba won’t rely on the Four Gods in order to fully develop Kouryuu’s final form. However, even if we all attack him together, and even if we’re lucky enough to force him into a corner…he’d just release the barrier when that happens.
“We can’t do that. If that were to happen, we would no longer be able to chase down Shiba.”
If Tokyo were to be destroyed, the Village would force responsibility upon Basara’s group.
The Vatican would support the Village’s actions as well—much like the Village had used Shiba’s danger as an anomaly to earn their place amongst humankind.
And in addition—
There was the concern of Byakko, that the group had forcefully brought along with them; it was likely that the lance saw Yuki, Kurumi and Basara as enemies to purge, whereas Mio, Maria and Zests were targets it needed to annihilate.
“In other words…if we are ever to manage to defeat that man, we have to do it through the arrangement of the Four Gods, one way or another.” Maria’s tone was heavy as she said so.
It was to be expected: Shiba was now in a position where he could release the energy of the Five Elements into the surrounding districts with Kouryuu as its center. And given that Shiba’s ultimate goal was to absorb Kouryuu as soon as possible, any move Yuki and the others would make on the Four Gods would thus be met with immediate resistance—it wouldn’t be a significant delay if he were to eliminate any obstacles before Kouryuu would reach its final form.
“Um…” As the group dwelled on the direness of the situation, the natural silence that swept across the room was broken by a noncommittal murmur.
It was Mio.
“Um, sensei…can you hear me out for a bit?”
Mio peered into Hasegawa’s eyes for a moment, before letting out what she wanted to say.
“This probably isn’t…the first time you’ve helped Basara and us, isn’t it?”
Mio could notice the change in Hasegawa’s expression after she had asked her that question.
The latter’s eyes had reduced themselves to thin slits.
“…Why would you think so?”
Having had her question returned with another question from Hasegawa, Mio explained her guesses.
“You’ve saved us when we failed to resist Kouryuu’s attack, and you’ve also saved Basara, who couldn’t defeat Shiba back there…and now you’ve made a space that Shiba himself can’t even touch or detect in the very space he himself created. Given all of this there’s no doubt that your abilities are far beyond ours, sensei.”
“This also isn’t the first time that we’ve…no, this isn’t the first time that Basara has been involved in a life-threatening battle.”
Takigawa was the first of such instances; there was also Takashi, who had wielded Byakko during their battle; and then there was Zolgear.
Even if he’d grown far stronger at his current state, the aforementioned battles were all fights to the death with Basara having the lower hand, such that it wouldn’t be surprising if Basara would have perished in any of those fights back then.
“That said, it’s odd to think that you’ve always been watching on the sidelines and have only opted to to help us directly for this instance alone…it’s more natural to assume that you’ve always managed to help us in some way, however subtly.”
In response to Mio’s conjecture, Hasegawa said nothing, a mere composed smile alight on her face.
“If I am to be particular—during the school sports festival.” Discerning that Hasegawa’s smile meant that she was confirming her suspicions, she gave such an example.
Basara had been attacked by an unknown assailant during the preparation period of the festival; the perpetrator was eventually revealed to be none other than their homeroom teacher, Sakasaki Mamoru. He’d manipulated Onizaki into using his tornado magic to devastate the festival, knocking out Mio and Yuki in a surprise attack, and had held Kurumi hostage against Basara. And Basara had somehow managed to defeat Sakasaki despite the aforementioned dilemma…at least, that was what Mio and the others knew in terms of the details of the incident. That said, the elephant in the room was the fact that the stage of that previous battle had been set at Higirigasaka Academy—the very place where Hasegawa herself had obviously been present back then.
And in addition…
Mio and the others had awoken in the infirmary after being knocked unconscious by Sakasaki.
According to Hasegawa, she had found them unconscious at the rear of the school compound and had sent them to the infirmary as a result back then; given that Hasegawa was the school nurse and would have brought any other unconscious student to the infirmary as she had done to the both of them, there was nothing particularly off about such an explanation.
Assuming that Hasegawa was truly just a normal human being, that is.
Hasegawa was more powerful than Mio and the others and had acted as a protective existence to them without their knowing; Hasegawa had brought Mio and Yuki to the infirmary back then with the intention of protecting them much as she had done for the group this time round.
It was even possible that…
Hasegawa herself was the one that had caused them to faint back then, rather than Sakasaki.
Moreover, Kurumi had also fainted during that incident—it was unnatural that she had been the only who had been taken hostage while Mio and Yuki had been left aside. Of course, there was no denying that the search for too many hostages would prove to be a distraction, but a greater number of hostages would have made it easier to force Basara to surrender to Sakasaki rather than posing a mere threat.
“Well…I suppose it’s fine if I explained this bit to you.” She chuckled lightly, knowing that it couldn’t be helped anymore. “It’s true that I’ve given him some advice and have also given him some of my power that would protect him…however, it’s through your own efforts and resolve to persevere to the bitter end that’s gotten you all through all those crises back then… There’s no need to question that. I was also involved in the incident with Sakasaki, for it involved a special issue that I had to take into my hands personally.”
Mio then questioned Hasegawa, who had confirmed that she had indeed aided Basara in the past, once more, the former’s eyes gazing into that of the “all too beautiful” school nurse’s.
“Then…did you make the Master-Servant contract with Basara during the sports festival as well?”
The question that Mio had proposed before her very eyes had shocked Hasegawa.
Mio had actually asked Hasegawa of the timing of which the latter had made her Master-Servant contract with Basara.
It was a question that was completely unrelated to the previous query of whether or not Hasegawa had helped them in the past beyond this instance—a question that came about only after Mio had learned and confirmed that Hasegawa had indeed initiated a Master-Servant contract with Basara.
It wasn’t impossible that Mio had put two and two together and had associated this instance of Hasegawa’s intervention with how befuddled she was after recalling the events that occurred during the school sports festival; Hasegawa and Basara had both kept their relationship secret all this time, however, of which included two instances of making contracts with one another. That was why Hasegawa was the unseen ace up Basara’s sleeve.
But not even a single Hasegawa word had said until now had hinted toward that secret, nor did the gaze in Mio’s eyes show any semblance of deception.
Which only meant that…
After Hasegawa had ascertained the truth, she spoke as she returned Mio’s gaze:
“I see…you’ve already gone that far in your contract with Basara, Naruse.”
The Master-Servant contract offered its contractees the secondary ability of being able to track down the location of one another.
However, the master can choose to deny their servant the ability to track their location with a contract of an adequate level. Such an ability was derived from the elevated position of the master within the Master-Servant contract—a binding relationship between the master and the corresponding follower.
An enhancement of such a nature was exclusive to the master, however. And yet it wasn’t only the master that would benefit from a deepened contract—likewise, the servant would also develop their own set of enhanced tracking abilities, although such enhancements were dissimilar to that of their masters.
If the master were to ever be in danger, the servant would be able to sense it even if the master attempted to hide their location—a benefit that would allow the servant to make haste in rescuing their master.
Should the servant believe that their actions are truly in the best interest of their master, any disobedience that would come from the corresponding act would not trigger the curse of the Master-Servant contract—a privilege exclusive to those who swore absolute loyalty to their masters.
However, masters were usually far stronger than their servants by virtue of the nature of the Master-Servant contract.
The servant’s efforts to save their corresponding masters were thus likely to end in futility; as such, the development of the servant would provide them with another ability:
The ability for the wielder to determine the existence of another servant whom shared loyalty to the same master.
It was thus likely that Mio—perhaps even Yuki—had sensed that another of Basara’s servants was nearing them before the elemental of the attack of Kouryuu could devour them before their rescue.
It’s come to this, hasn’t it?
There was no hiding it any further now; as much as it would be best for Basara himself to reveal the truth of her relationship with him to Mio and the others, deceiving them any further would merely be running away and placing the cart over the horse, for the future now held obstacles that would arise from their ignorance of the truth. And knowing that—
I’m so sorry, Basara. She apologized in her heart to the young man still asleep in the neighboring room, and she finally divulged the truth.
“Basara and I had made our Master-Servant contract around two months ago…not long after your group had returned from the Demon Realm. I used to be one of the Ten Gods, much like Reginleif once was. That said, I’ve made such a contract with him to lend my power to Basara.”
“The Ten Gods… so you’re saying that you’re a god?” Maria asked, flabbergasted.
“I’ll explain that further after the other two have woken up…it’s a long story, and it’s important to them as well. Besides, given that the level of your Master-Servant contracts have already increased to such a degree, there are some things that I would like to…,no, there are some things I need to explain clearly to you all before Basara wakes up.”
“Things you need to explain clearly to us?” Yuki repeated Hasegawa’s question.
“Yes,” Hasegawa nodded, as her gaze swept across the five girls who were bound to Basara by their Master-Servant contracts, much like Hasegawa herself was. “You all need to prepare yourselves…only then will you manage to defeat that man called Shiba Kyouichi.”
Toujou Basara awakened through the pain and suffocation that emanated through his body.
His befuddled vision first revealed to him that a ceiling that he could remember he’d seen somewhere before, before realizing that he was looking upward due to his state of lying down.
And as he went through his library of memories, trying to remember why exactly he was in this current state—
He immediately remembered. He remembered how he impulsively charged toward Shiba, only for the attempt to backfire by a counterattack, and how he lost consciousness as a result.
And he also remembered something else, something that stole away any semblance of composure and caused him to overflow with violent emotions.
He lost everything he loved.
Basara slowly raised himself from his sleeping position—thereupon which he ascertained that he was indeed on a bed of a room that he’d seen somewhere, someplace before. But such knowledge was no longer relevant right now.
He could still move, even if just barely. Then there was only one thing to do…
A cold glint appearing in Basara’s eyes, he descended from the bed, determined to hunt down a certain someone he needed to take down…no, someone he needed to kill—and the door suddenly opened before he could reach it.
“Basara! …Thank goodness, you’re finally awake.”
A girl appeared from the door, and after noticing Basara beside the bed, she rushed toward him and embraced him. The girl was someone Basara thought he’d lost—a very important family member.
“Mio…weren’t you…but you were attacked by Kouryuu…” And as the dumbfounded Basara found himself asking the question reflexively,
“Yeah…it was a close call, but we were saved, luckily.” Mio replied, as she parted from Basara temporarily to lock her eyes with his.
“The others are also all unharmed…everything’s all right now. We’re safe here.”
Basara couldn’t resist the urge to embrace her once more after hearing Mio’s gentle words—nor could he resist the wave of emotions surging within him at that realization.
“!….Thank goodness…you’re all alright.”
As Basara let out his immense relief, Mio gently returned his embrace, settling into the warmth of his elbows wrapping around her for the moment. After he calmed down a bit, he asked:
“Where are the others?”
“Oh, wait just a moment…I’ll go bring them over.” Mio exited the room as she said so.
As Basara’s gaze fixated itself on his palm, the lingering warmth from Mio’s embrace causing him to stroke his chest in relief—
A loud noise resounded from behind the door Mio went through, shaking the room Basara himself was in.
That meant that there was an immense crash in the neighboring room—
Basara hurriedly leapt off the bed. Even if the pain was excruciating, Basara forced his weakened state forward, dragging his right leg toward the door.
Mio’s shrill screams resounded from the other room—to which Basara extended an arm in response, but given the poor condition of his body, he lost his balance and fell to the floor.
“Gah…are you okay, Mio!?”
“I’m all right.” She nodded as he raised his head asked about her condition, though her attention wasn’t toward Basara. Basara thus turned toward her line of sight, to reveal—
“Why, hello, Basara—so this is where you’ve been hiding.”
A young man, standing in the middle of the debris of the devastated room, turned toward him with a chuckle.
As Basara exclaimed his name and immediately urged himself to summon Brynhildr—he realized that there were four girls surrounding him, spread-eagled at his feet.
His voice quivered and stuttered as he attempted to muster out their names, the scene before him a pool of immeasurable blood drenching his group of four girls on the floor. Not a single one of them responded to him.
And Toujou Basara knew what such a scenario entailed.
The important existences to him that had been saved just a short moment ago—their lives had been stolen just as easily.
“How dare you…!”
Through clenched teeth and a kneeling position, Basara materialized Brynhildr.
“Mio…use what you used when we faced off against Chaos.”
He was referring to the means that she had used to defeat Chaos during their battle in the Demon Realm.
Mio had used her gravity magic to create a black hole, of which Basara would then follow up with a gravitational slash, thus trapping the victim between the resultant dimensional space. Although they had Leonhardt’s aid during the battle against Chaos—
We have no choice…!
They couldn’t think of any other way to defeat him—they could only combine their powers to facilitate an opportunity.
“I understand. Leave it to me.” Mio nodded in response as a crimson aura began to rise from her body.
Toujou Basara moved as if he were a flicker. Given that he needed to initiate for Mio to perform a follow-up attack, he had to move first for them to acquire a suitable timing.
That was why Basara took the first move—and as he shortened the divide between him and his foe in the room,
“My, my…for someone who was knocking on death’s door just a short moment ago, you’re still quite reckless.” With an acerbic smile, Shiba brandished his arm equipped with Reginlief—a backhand gauntlet that emanated an ominous aura.
Wielding Brynhildr in both arms, Basara forcefully brandished his blade—performing Banishing Shift.
He wasn’t able to detect the corruption, and while he wasn’t capable of completely removing it, his slash managed to parry Shiba’s aura.
And the fact that Shiba had raised his right hand meant that the lower half of his body was open—such that Mio could aim her gravity magic there and then—at least, that was how he expected things to go.
“Dangerous, aren’t you? You can’t even hold your sword tightly enough and you’re still swinging it with such reckless abandon.”
Amidst the dancing aura, Shiba’s right backhand blow still proved to be too powerful…and Basara’s hands could not withstand the force of his strikes. It was such that the next moment, Brynhildr broke free from his grasp—flying past Basara’s ear and continuing to lunge behind him.
Toujou Basara knew who was situated near the reach of his blade that had been disarmed from him.
And so he turned around with disbelief to see—
His magic sword—Brynhildr—stabbing through Mio’s chest.
Alarmed, Basara quickly dematerialized Brynhildr as Mio collapsed before him like a puppet cut of its strings, as Basara immediately rushed toward her to collect her in his arms.
But he didn’t call out her name—it wasn’t like Mio was in a state where she could respond even if he did. The broad blade of Brynhildr had pierced straight through her chest, carving a gaping hole in it—the exact location where her heart lay, the heart that controlled the flow of life within her.
It was an instant death—the very words made Basara’s mind utterly still.
“I told you so—dangerous, no?” A voice tinged with mocking laughter resounded behind him, “Brynhildr absorbs the soul of the victims it cuts through, though…which, in some ways, I guess you can call it a blessing in disguise? You’ve just got yourself a little upgrade to your magic sword, which I suppose adds some semblance of chance for you to defeat me, however small. She’d be delighted to have proven useful to you, wouldn’t you say?”
Basara did not want to listen to those words.
They resounded in his ears, but they refused to reach his head.
Instead, laying Mio’s perished corpse to rest, he subsequently stood up and turned behind him.
And when his eyes caught sight of and locked onto Shiba’s figure, Brynhildr had already materialized once more in his hand.
He didn’t know when the little voice he had in his throat had since erupted into a scream.
Unleashing the greatest extent of his power and his hatred, Toujou Basara released Banishing Shift.
However, he was now in a state where he would be doing so without a composed and normal rationale as a limiter.
Such a reckless move would only result in the overwhelming energy from the casting of Banishing Shift to run out of control.
He would be re-enacting the very tragedy that had occurred that day many years ago yet again.
But before the amplifying amount of calamitous energy would erupt and spread out from within, with Basara as its center—
Before the wave of destructive energy could be released, however, Shiba had vanished from the scene without a trace.
And it was too late to stop the fury of the unleashed power that had completely run wild.
By his hand, the destructive energy was going to eradicate everything that he loved, exactly as the tragedy in the village had done many years ago.
And as the fury of the devastation began to envelop Mio and the others—
There was a sudden scream—and Basara reflexively trembled and his eyes opened wide in response.
Mio forcefully shook Basara, who lay on the bed, awake from his nightmare.
After listening to what Hasegawa knew of their current situation, Mio and the other two girls that were awake had waited for Zest and Kurumi to regain their consciousness before the five of them proceeded to discuss what they were to do from there on out.
After getting everyone on the same page, all that was left for them was to silently and patiently wait for Basara himself to regain consciousness.
Hasegawa had told them that she had finished treating Basara’s injuries, and all that was left was to wait for Basara’s strength to recuperate before he would wake up.
The five of them had thus pleaded with Hasegawa to let them stay by Basara’s side—beside the bed he was sleeping on.
Mio and the others had not been able to help Basara during his battle or when he needed treatment…as such, they wanted to at least be there for him in moments such as this. They didn’t want Basara to worry about them unnecessarily when he woke up, much like they had worried over his safety after waking up and failing to find him.
However, as Mio and the group continued to watch over him, a drastic change occurred within Basara before their very eyes.
Basara was having a terrible nightmare—and Mio and the others were no stranger to seeing Basara suffer over his nightmares.
During a time where Basara and Jin were still members of the Hero Clan, a horrible tragedy had ensued in the village, one that left terrible scars to everyone involved.
Basara, knowing that he was chiefly involved in that incident as the inadvertent perpetrator of that tragedy, had been scarred with regret and guilt all the more, and the very scene of that tragedy had since inevitably become one that had haunted his every nightmare.
Nevertheless, Mio and the others, who lived with him and loved him dearly, all wanted to ease him of the demons of his past that would manifest in this dreams. Maria in particular was particularly capable in that regard, for she had the ability to tinker with one’s dreams by virtue of her abilities as a succubus.
Maria had attempted to administer medicine that would eliminate Basara’s nightmares, and had proposed the remedy to him for far too many times to count; Mio and the others had prompted Basara to accept Maria’s cure as well, not wanting to see Basara suffer any longer.
Basara would only reject such a suggestion and thank them for being considerate every time, however. And while he never explained why he would reject such a solution, Mio and the others didn’t persist against it, either—they could only assume that Basara wanted to get over that tragedy through the pain of his nightmares.
As such, Mio and the others had naturally consented when Basara had requested them to do nothing when Basara would be stirred in his sleep.
When it came to someone that was so important to them, however, to watch him sleep in tranquillity was bliss; to watch him sleep in torment was misery. By virtue of their deepened submission to him through the Master-Servant contract, Mio and the others would silently embrace him in the instances where Basara would have nightmares as they slept on the same bed. They could do nothing more than that because of their promise to him, however; they could only continue to watch over Basara as he continued to suffer in his sleep.
Mio and the others had always been by Basara, facing the reality of Basara’s resolve just as Basara went on day by day attempting to confront the tragedy that had continued to plague him.
However, they could not sit by and do nothing this time.
The pain in Basara’s expression was of a degree that they could not bear to look any longer…and Maria promptly touched Basara in her hand, wanting to see for herself what it was in Basara’s nightmare that had caused him to elicit such an extreme response.
After they’d realized that Basara was dreaming of losing them due to his own helplessness, Mio had immediately attempted to rouse Basara from his nightmarish slumber through shaking and screaming. Although doing so would have otherwise been an act of breaking a promise made with Basara, Mio was unaffected by the the Master-Servant contract’s curse having genuinely taken a course of action that she believed would be for the the best for Basara. Nor did anyone else among the group blame her for her actions, for all of them shared the same sentiment that it was for the best that she did so.
“……Mio….?” And as Basara slowly sat up on the bed,
“…Basara, are you feeling better?”
“Can you hear us, Basara-san?”
Yuki and Maria were the next to worriedly ask Basara of his condition, of which his current state, having yet to be able to distinguish between what was a dream and what was reality, simply responded by turning to them. And upon seeing Basara’s awakened state—
Zest and Kurumi also looked relieved.
“Everything’s alright now, Basara. It was a close call, but all of us have been rescued now.”
Naruse Mio was unmistakably telling him that what he was seeing and hearing was reality.
“What’s more, that Shiba person can’t come into this space, so he can’t get rid of us now…so—”
You don’t have to worry anymore—Mio didn’t manage to finish those words.
A pool of tears brimmed at the edge Basara’s left eye before trickling down his left cheek.
Toujou Basara had finally realized that he had truly regained consciousness.
It was none other than the positioning sensor of the Master-Servant contract that ascertained him of such a reality.
And he was thus assured that it was really Mio and the others were standing before him right now; he could assume the same for Maria and Kurumi as well, even if they didn’t possess a Master-Servant contract with him as the other three did.
His nightmare had been of the stuff of what Basara feared most. And as he settled into the relief that it had only been a dream—
He suddenly became aware that Mio and the others were all looking at him with dumbfounded looks, before realizing the situation he was in.
“…Oh, I’m sorry.”
Wiping away the last of his tears, Basara let out a sigh to ease his wild heartbeat. That was when—
“Finally awake, I see.”
The door of the room that Basara and the others were in suddenly opened to reveal Hasegawa entering and walking toward them.
“Sensei…why are you here?”
“It was Hasegawa-sensei that saved all of us, Basara.”
Immediately, Basara could roughly assume what had transpired after hearing what Mio had said. “I see…thank you, sensei.”
“There’s no need to thank me…I just did what I had to do.” A smile lit on Hasegawa’s face as she replied so—and Mio and the others seemed to accept Hasegawa had rescued them as if it were natural.
“…You all already know everything about Hasegawa-sensei?”
The five girls nodded simultaneously, and explained that they know of how Hasegawa was a God of the Divine Realm that had descended upon the human world to protect Basara, and how she’d made her Master-Servant contract with him. Hasegawa had revealed such information to them before Basara had woken up because she deduced it would be hard for them to trust her if she didn’t come clean with who she really was.
However, it appeared that she had yet to reveal the secret of his birth history to them.
Basara’s birth was not merely a privacy for Jin and the others—it was a delicate problem that spanned across the three races of humankind, demonkind, and the divine beings. Basara’s birth was an anomaly, for he was the child born from the union between the strongest warrior of the Hero Clan, the sister of Wilbert, the latter of which who had been the strongest Demon Lord in the race’s history, and a member of the Ten Gods, a group of beings who stood at the pinnacle of the Divine Realm.
If such a truth were to be revealed, Mio and the others would be dragged into the risk that came with Basara’s very existence; as such, Hasegawa had simply revealed her own origins, and had found it best that it would be Basara’s decision as to whether or not he would reveal his own history to them, rather than hers.
Hasegawa had not only saved them—she’d also thought for the best of the girls all this time.
“I’m sorry…for hiding this from all of you all this time.” Basara apologized to Mio and the others.
“…No need to apologize,” Yuki shook her head. “You hid the fact that you’ve made a Master-Servant contract with Hasegawa-sensei because you believe it was for the best…and it’s proven to have been the right decision.”
“That’s right. It’s all thanks to her that we were all able to escape with our lives.”
“Well, I’d be lying if I’d said if I didn’t wish in the slightest that you would have told us all this beforehand, though.” Kurumi, who stood next to Maria as she nodded in agreement what Yuki had said, let out a wry smile as she expressed that.
Though at the end of the day—
“It’s exactly because Basara nii-chan didn’t tell us that she became our trump card and successfully saved us, so I can’t say I can really complain.” Kurumi said, glancing at Hasegawa—and then it was Zest’s turn to speak, beginning with “That’s right,” as she nodded in agreement:
“If Basara-sama had told us of the relationship and contract he’d shared with Hasegawa-sensei…perhaps we would’ve felt a lot better about it. However, if she had been involved in our initial plan to engage Shiba, however, perhaps we wouldn’t have been saved right now…it’s because she hadn’t been an ace up our sleeve that we were aware of and had acted on her own during our time of crisis that we’re able to stand here and talk right now.”
“That’s why you really don’t need to mind it, Basara. There’s nothing wrong with keeping secrets from us. Our relationship isn’t something that will be affected over something like that. Besides, if we were only capable of trusting each other on the condition that we wouldn’t keep secrets from one another, we would have been dead a long time ago.” Mio said, “However, now that that Shiba guy is aware of the fact that Hasegawa-sensei’s on our side…we need to keep this in mind the next time we do battle. We won’t be able to defeat him otherwise.”
“…Quite right.” Basara nodded, knowing that her words held true.
—Their battle had yet to come to an end.
They needed to stop Shiba no matter what—that’s why they were all here.
And so Basara, with the newfound aid of Hasegawa, continued to discuss with Mio and the others on how to deal with Shiba.
They were now within a special space constructed by Hasegawa. And so—
“How fast is the flow of time here?”
“It’s as fast as the space he’s set outside. He possesses the power of Reginlief as well as the ability to manipulate Ki, so avoiding detection would require us to blend into the surrounding space. Maintaining such a state where we can remain undetected by him has cost me no small amount of my power,” She answered. “Also, I need to say that I’m sorry…there’s nothing else that I can do to help you all directly from here on out. As I’ve mentioned earlier, after I had relinquished my position as one of the ten gods, a large amount of my power had been sealed away. And while it’s true that I can still use my power for your sake…it’s not as strong as what Shiba’s done, absorbing Reginlief and having power on par with that of a god.”
“It’s alright…you’ve done more than enough for us. That said, we can still use it to our advantage.”
“What do you mean, Basara-san?”
“Not only has sensei escaped with us, she’s also set up this space where we’re completely hidden…It’s likely that Shiba’s going to have his guard up against Hasegawa-sensei, but he’s probably not aware of her restricted powers as of yet.” Basara explained. “After all, Shiba had absorbed Reginlief before I was born…which would mean that it happened before Hasegawa-sensei had given up her title as one of the Ten Gods.”
“Didn’t Shiba immediately realize who Hasegawa-sensei was, though?”
“It’s likely that Shiba had also gained Reginlief’s knowledge, memories or some such after absorbing him. What’s more, Shiba now has the ability to control the Ki of anything around him, and while it’s not surprising that he’d learn of Hasegawa’s identity through her Ki, I doubt he can gauge any more about her beyond that.” Basara said to Kurumi, “That’s why it’s in our best interest for Shiba to be under the impression that Haesgawa-sensei is our trump card. So long as there’s a chance that he lets his guard down on us…we take it as a moment of opportunity to win.”
“Then…it’s better for you to remain here in this space then, sensei.” Yuki said, “That way, Shiba can’t properly deduce your whereabouts…and will become more cautious because of that.”
“….That’s right. Are you willing to stay here for us, sensei?”
“Very well…if it means being able to help all of you.” Hasegawa answered Basara. “Unfortunately, that alone won’t mean we’ll manage to defeat him…he’s continuing to fuel Kouryuu with the power of the Five Elements as we speak.”
“How much has Kouryuu materialized since?”
“It’s nearly 70%…as I’ve said earlier, again, the ability to control one’s power errs with the strength of said power. As such, Kouryuu will materialize more slowly as it gets closer to its final form, but that doesn’t mean we have a lot of time on our hours.”
And for better or worse—
“We only have about five hours before Kouryuu becomes fully materialized…the more time we waste, the closer it’ll get to its final form, and the harder it will be for us to defeat it. That said—”
“It was only 10% materialized when it attacked us with the elemental powers…rushing to face it at its current state would mean that we have no chance of victory.”
Basara couldn’t utter a word against Mio’s words; thereupon which a still silence swept across the room.
A silence that meant that no one could think of an effective counterattack for the current situation.
Basara knew that his powers were a far cry from Shiba’s during their battle.
And it’s likely that he has yet to fully play the cards left in his hand—nor did they know what said cards would entail to them.
…What should we do?
There was no way that it would be impossible to defeat Shiba.
Both Kouryuu and Shiba would vanish to dust so long as his wave of destruction hit either of them; thinking of such a method on paper, his attack could be complemented with the gravitational magic that Mio had used against Chaos in the past.
However, Shiba’s abilities were now far too powerful, and he also possessed Kouryuu at his command.
It was unlikely that they could manage such a high-level coordinated attack given the current circumstances; it wasn’t even a stretch to say that they would not even be able to facilitate an opportunity to do so. Forcing themselves over such a reckless plan might just turn Basara’s previous nightmare into a reality.
How they were to handle the reversibly arranged Four Gods was also a grave issue; doing battle with Shiba without devising a proper plan would mean that the entire city of Tokyo, currently held hostage by Shiba, would likely perish with them.
At this stage where Kouryuu was nearing the final moments of its full manifestation, it was possible that the Four Gods would not assume their sacred beast forms. And yet they thought back to how the synergistic process between the Four Gods was still ensuing, and how they were more powerful than their previous battle even if it would halt the manifestation of Kouryuu. The damage that would come from such a worst-case scenario would be greater than they’d expected.
And that aside…
The high-ranking Demon, Balflear, was still out and amok.
Much like the previous attempt, Mio’s group of five girls were to attend to the Four Gods as well as Balflear.
It would mean that Basara would have to face both Shiba and Kouryuu all by himself.
But how could Basara possibly face the Kouryuu and Shiba alone, the latter of which had already proven to be his better in their previous skirmish?
The dire situation caused Basara to clench his teeth.
—They couldn’t just give up no matter what.
And yet the situation was far too difficult no matter how they looked at it—they were against an enemy whose powers were far greater than theirs.
And even then—
Shiba was also the one with the sharper mind; surely he’d anticipated and prepared for any possible movements they would take against him.
He wouldn’t sit by and wait until Kouryuu reached its final form; there was no doubt that he’d prepared some protective measures against any possibility of a counterattack. If they were to defeat Shiba in his current state, they would need to catch him off guard; they needed a plan that Shiba would not have possibly expected or an indestructible plan, one so perfect that Shiba could not attempt to stop even if he tried.
But such a means would not suddenly appear before them out of thin air.
…What the hell are we supposed to do…!
The more Basara tried to think, the more he thought that the situation was helpless. That was when—
“There is a way.”
It was Hasegawa who’d said such hopeful words.
“Shiba’s using the circulation of the Five Elements to achieve affinity between them…the only way we’re going to match him is by using the same method he’s using.”
“The same method?”
“Yes,” Hasegawa nodded. “Naruse and the others make exactly five people—among which four have elemental capabilities that rival that of the Four Gods.”
And so they must—
“The girls must transfer their power to you, each representing one of the five elements…and perform a five-elemental link within you that would enable them to achieve affinity with you.”
Hasegawa told Basara and the others of the remaining possibility they had left for themselves.
“! …Is it really possible for us to do such a thing?” Despite the conviction in Hasegawa’s words, Basara still found it hard to believe for a moment.
“It should work in theory, anyway…however, it’s because of that that it’s important for you and Mio and the others to build a flowing cycle of power between one another. Fortunately, you all already possess the basic foundations to do so.”
“Yes,” Hasegawa reaffirmed the dumbfounded Basara. Said foundations being—
“Your Master-Servant contracts.”
She was right—such a contract was one that bound the souls of its master and servant together, an invisible link binding the two as such that their strength would increase through the deepening of their bonds. The contract would also allow the contractees to mutually determine the position of the other. And yet—
“It’s a shame that it’s still not enough at its current state, though…your contracts are all so deeply connected that they’re nearing their limit, which leaves little room for growth. I’m afraid attempting to synergize the connections you all possess at their current state wouldn’t amount to a significant power-up.”
“Then…what are we supposed to do?”
“You need to vow your Master-Servant contracts—do you remember hearing of something like that?”
“We need to vow them? You mean the process Takigawa had mentioned earlier?”Basara exclaimed, the very idea going through his mind.
“That’s right…when the loyalty of a servant towards their bonded master transcends its limit, it deepens the contract into a vow, which is the final stage of the Master-Servant contract. This was something I’d learned of when you were discussing it with Takigawa while eating at the Yakiniku restaurant as well…and after doing a bit of investigation, I’d discovered that there are three conditions to achieve the vowing status.”
Hasegawa began to count on her fingers as she explained what they were.
“The first is for the servant’s loyalty to already be at its absolute limit, the second being the master requesting the servant for their absolute and eternal loyalty, while the servant must willingly surrender their entire body and soul to their master. With all those criteria fulfilled, the contract would deepen into a vow…it would no longer be severable like that of a normal contract, and bind the contractees eternally and absolutely as master and servant.”
This act of relinquishing everything to their master excluded their life—death would mean that they would no longer possess the servant’s power, leaving them with nothing.
On the other hand, however, it meant that the servant would need to surrender everything else that they had other than their life.
“Their entire body and soul…are you saying…”
“Correct.” Hasegawa answered Basara, who stood in disbelief at the revelation. “You are to take away the purity of Mio and the others amidst the fervent desire of having them all to yourself…that is the requirement of developing your contracts into a vow.”
“But that’s—” Basara refuted, “There’s no way something so absurd would work, would it? If such a means to acquiring the final stage of power really did exist, there would be at least be some other successful precedents before in the past.”
“You can count said successful precedents with one hand, and even then those instances are on the level of legends, at best. And this is where the third criteria comes in—timing.”
“I’ve explained earlier, didn’t I? The servant’s loyalty must be at its absolute limit. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to assure that the servant’s purity would not have been taken before that limit is achieved, with the exception of platonic Master-Servant relationships. That said, such a relationship would also mean that the virginity of the servant would no longer be involved. Generally, masters would take their servants’ purity before the time is right, during the earlier stages; and even if the feeling is seemingly authentic and reciprocal, the servant would not have absolute recognition of their full loyalty to their master before the threshold is reached, such that there would also be one side of the contract that would be inadequate.”
If one were to explain why—
“Many Master-Servant contracts out there are made through the master’s special abilities as such that their victims are usually cursed, and the forced nature of the contract prevents the servant from giving complete loyalty to their master. If said abilities happen to involve mind control, the servant would possibly believe that their loyalty is due to their master’s control of them, and thus cannot place complete trust in their master.”
“A master in possession of the hypnotic abilities of a succubus or incubus would be able to take one’s chastity as easily as if it were child’s play. The fact of the matter is that such difficulties in achieving so are what make vows so rare…the contract you share amongst the many out there can be considered a miracle. And there’s no better time to use that miracle than right now.”
Basara, still hesitant, looked toward Mio and the others, still unsure of what Hasegawa had just described. They had yet to say a single word since Hasegawa began explaining.
It’d be difficult for them to decide over something so sudden. And as Basara attempted to evaluate the expressions of Mio and the others with such a thought in his mind—
His mind froze for a moment. The girls’ expressions were all composed, as if they had fully accepted the acts that they would need to do to develop their vow as Hasegawa had explained.
It wasn’t supposed to be an expected occurrence. And thus—
“You mean to tell me you’ve—”
“Yes,” She nodded to Basara, who had been taken aback by the sudden realization. “I’d already discussed this with the girls before you’ve woken up…and have told them to prepare themselves for this.”
Hearing this, anger toward Hasegawa immediately rose in Basara’s chest—and so did the urge to yell at her and condemn her over how she’d decided to do this on her own accord.
—But nothing came out from his mouth. He knew all too well that he was in no position to protest against her.
Basara had failed to defeat Shiba and had his life saved by Hasegawa—Mio and the others had also only been saved because of her efforts.
And now, Hasegawa had provided them with a winning moment of opportunity when they had yet to think of a way to defeat Shiba.
All they had to do was to resolve themselves to cross the line and take it for themselves.
The way things were now, Basara had no intention of deluding himself that his relationship with Mio and the others was nothing less than what it really was—nor did he want to turn a blind eye to their feelings for him. They would not reject him should Basara ever truly request for it—Basara could not be more sure of that. They’d already fostered a relationship of such an extent, after all.
It was likely that Hasegawa felt the same as well, and he had no doubt that she too would gladly welcome Basara’s embrace should he ever want her.
Nevertheless, they were as much a reason as they were a deterrent, for it was because of they were who they were that Basara had suppressed his desire toward them as man down to the thinnest thread. If the only choice before them was a road of no return, he wanted to be only one who needed to cross it—he would not see to the girls committing to such an irreversible decision or anything likewise.
Basara was also well aware that the fact that taking responsibility for it was easier said than done; deludedly thinking he was in a position where he could decide whether or not he had the capabilities to assume that burden would be mere self-appeasement.
The Master-Servant contract was truly a shackle to them, as if it were a curse.
And despite their act of deepening their bonds between one another a matter of mutually increasing their strength—for his sake as much as their own—there was no denying the inevitable loss of sanity that came with it on the other end. Basara’s relationship with the girls had already progressed far beyond what one would consider normal, as did the nature and values that came with their relationship. It wasn’t far-fetched to say that there would be no one that would genuinely give their blessings toward their relationship—and there would be no escaping the criticism of anyone who knew, as they would be laid bare to the numerous views of discrimination, prejudice and consternation.
If they were to deepen their contract into a vow, there would be no turning back—ever.
The rigid truth caused Basara tightly clutch the bedsheets, unable to decide for a moment— before a hand piled upon his own.
It was Mio’s hand. Raising his head, Basara found himself facing an expression that was tranquil in every sense of the word.
“…We all know why…we know why you’ve never been willing to cross that line with us up until now. It’s simply because…you value us all that much.”
Mio’s voice was gentle as she spoke.
“We know you’re really worried about us…we’re also worried that we can’t be ourselves again. But more than that we’re worried about something more.”
“We’re worried that we can’t be with you anymore, Basara.”
“Mio…” Basara reflexively addressed her.
There were tears in her eyes. And yet she did not wipe them off, continuing to speak through the light shivering of voice and her shoulders.
“Whenever I think about that, I become really scared, so scared that I don’t know what I’d do…there are things that we’re not willing to give up on, just as you do, Basara. That’s why I don’t intend to lose to that man who intends to get rid of all of us…we can’t possibly let that man take our future away from us. That’s why—”
Mio had yet to stop speaking.
“Maybe we’ll no longer be able to walk the path everyone else can…and even though it’s perhaps just a little bit possible that we can go back to how everything used to be, we’ve decided that rather than die for such hope, it’s better that we see through it to the end, and we believe that it won’t be the wrong decision.”
“We’ll think carefully about what comes next after we defeat him…don’t worry about it now. As long we’re all together, we can overcome any obstacle, however big or frequent. We’ve already managed to save the world from danger, after all…there’s nothing for us to be afraid of.”
“I know that you care for us more than anyone else, and you’re worried about us not being able to turn back…but at the same time, you don’t want us to belong to someone else either, right?”
Mio’s words rendered Basara speechless.
—Everything she’d said had been exactly right.
If they were to cross the final line, Basara would no longer be capable of giving Mio and the others normal happiness…and yet he would hesitate, knowing that he would much rather have them for himself over surrendering them to someone else—even if anyone else could give them the happiness that he himself could not.
“We feel the same as well.”
In response to Mio’s words, Maria, Yuki, Kurumi and Zest all smiled in approval.
They knew that there was no replacing Basara anymore.
And the next words that came out of Mio’s mouth emerged decisively—and yet they were delivered to him as if they were a wish.
“Please, onii-chan…take me—take us.”
Toujou Basara possessed things that were more important to them than anything else.
People he would protect even if it would cost him his own life.
And all the more, he wanted them to be happy.
And yet he knew—he knew that they would be walking down a perilous path devoid of the blessings, understanding and acceptance of normal society if they were to continue on like this.
It made him fearful.
The girls—Mio and the others—now willingly stood at the edge of the point of no return, beckoning their hands toward him.
Hands that held their hopes of Basara taking them in his…and to continue walking alongside them on the path they themselves had chosen.
And upon witnessing the gazes of Mio and the others, their intensity signifying that they’d decided on how they’d like their lives from here on out—
Basara shut his eyes slowly. And the next moment he opened his eyes—
And Toujou Basara wavered no more.
He would see it through to the end—he’d progress to the next stage of the Master-Servant contract with Mio and the others.