Prologue: The start of a long night

Part 1

 

It was a late night, where the sky had been dyed a deep black.

 

And the chill of the surrounding wind, cold as the freezing temperatures of the winter highlands, blew across such a place.

 

It was the Heroes’ Village—specifically, an area where the elders had constructed themselves a ceremonial hall.

 

The ceremonial hall was one of the rarest constructs set up from the villages across the world, and while it was usually under the protection of sturdy barriers, it had completely lost its strength and sophistication as of today.

 

It was because the sacred treasures that had designated the venue as a sanctuary—the Four Gods—had been stolen by Shiba Kyouichi.

 

Basara and his group had attempted to stop Shiba’s violent actions, and as a result, the walls and the ceiling of the ceremonial hall had been heavily damaged amidst the battle. And opposite the direction of the clear, sharp evening air, a sky of deep black filled with countless stars stretched across the horizon.

 

Those who visited such a place for the first time would surely be taken away by such a stunning spectacle.

 

At that moment, however, not a single person who was gazing up at the night sky amidst the destroyed ceremonial hall was in the mood to enjoy such a picturesque scenery.

 

Shiba Kyouichi had escaped his prison set up in the deepest part of the village, and, with the exception of the Byakko, had stolen the other three treasures known as the Four Gods—the Seiryo, the Genbu, and the Suzaku—along with the Georgius, the holy sword that belonged to Celis Reinhardt, one of the holy knights and inquisitors of the Vatican, before disappearing following his getaway.

 

For such an occurrence to have unfolded in the middle of a political ordeal between the Vatican and Japan’s Hero Clan faction, the Village, was a worst-case scenario that no one could have ever possible have accounted for—no, no one could have even imagined a situation such as this.

 

At present, only Basara Toujou and Takigawa Yahiro had been directly involved in the skirmish against Shiba in the ceremonial hall; Naruse Mio, Nonaka Yuki, and Nonaka Kurumi, on the other, had rushed toward the scene of the battle having caught on to the thunderous sounds of the battle; whereas the three elders of the Village, Fuji, Atsuta, and Kumano, along with Shuuya, Kurumi and Yuki’s father, as well as the rest of the high-ranking leaders had gathered together, for all the members of Japan’s Village were to hold a conference on how to handle the current situation.

 

And in addition—Takashi and Celis, having sustained heavy injuries after clashing with Shiba, had been delivered to the medics for emergency care. And amidst all of that-

 

“—At any rate, our current situation is as I’ve just described.”
Toujou Basara, who stood slightly farther away from the ceremonial hall, was explaining the present state of affairs to Mio and the others as they caught up to him.

 

At the same time, Maria and Zest, who were now away from the Village unlike the rest of the group, were also listening into the conversation through Basara’s cell phone, which he held in his right hand as he elucidated the matter to them.

 

“I understand what’s going on as of now, but…what are we going to do about it, Basara?”

 

Mio was the first to speak after Basara had finished explaining, as she asked of what they were to do from here on out. It wasn’t that she had immediately asked for Basara’s judgment without giving suggestions of her own stemmed out of her dependence on him or the fact that she gave up on thinking; rather, she was completely aware of the fact that the present situation, much like conference the Village had with Celis, the inquisitor of the Vatican, in the ceremonial hall, was a highly sensitive, political matter.

 

“…….” “……”

 

Yuki and Kurumi now shared the same look as Mio as they stared at Basara.

 

It was likely that Maria and Zest, the both of whom were waiting for Basara’s answer from the other end of the call, possessed the same expression as well.

 

They were both well aware of the severity of the situation.

 

And they also knew that heading into the fray recklessly would only worsen things, as well.

 

Fervent emotions, were, above all things, a convenient tool to use in politics; it was essential that they stayed calm no matter what to avoid their feelings being used against them. No matter how zealous the fires of the heart burned, it was crucial that the mind should be composed at all costs; no one among Basara’s group was unfamiliar with such a concept.

 

Their visit to the Village this time around was for a political reason, after all.

 

And in response to her question, Basara quietly, yet clearly, spoke of his view on the situation.

 

“I have no idea what Shiba’s intentions are, nor of his current whereabouts…though from the way he sounded before he left, I’m confident it’s not going to be a matter we can overlook.”

 

And if one were to ask why—

 

“The decision to seal him away by the elders was out of the fear that he was thought to be an existence more powerful than the human race, aside from being someone whose mind itself is dangerous to them. And as it stands now, he’s also stolen a power on par with my Banishing Shift and disappeared.”

 

Basara had already made his decision.

 

“—We absolutely can’t sit by and do nothing.”

 

This was the answer he had got for himself after carefully contemplating on all factors involved; himself, the current circumstances, as well as the situation between the Village and the Vatican, and he’d even considered what implications his choice would have on the Demon Realm.

 

“Of course, there’s also the possibility that I’m overthinking things, and perhaps Shiba-san’s satisfied after obtaining his freedom and he’ll just go into hiding without a trace. It’s not an entirely dismissible possibility, but if he truly has something in mind…there’s no telling how worse things will get if we turn a blind eye on him.”

 

Basara emphasized the extremity of the situation yet again.

 

“He’s stolen the Four Gods as well as Celis’ Georgius. The worst we can expect is that he intends to put us in a helpless situation where he’s harnessed a power so powerful that we won’t be able to stand a chance even if we joined forces.”

 

It would be far too late for everyone if that were to happen.

 

“That’s why we have to stop Shiba right now, no matter what…and through our own efforts.”

 

Basara’s voice was the epitome of determination as he said those words.

 

“But that means…” “We first have to figure out where Shiba is, right?”

 

Upon hearing Yuki and Kurumi’s suggestions, Mio, along with Maria and Zest on the other end of the phone, stayed silent in response.

 

How were they to look for Shiba when he might as well vanished as good as if he were thin air? However,

 

“I have an idea.”

 

Basara muttered, as all eyes were now all him.

 

“It’s simply that I require—”

 

And as Basara was about to continue explaining,

 

“—Basara-kun.”

 

Someone suddenly called him from behind. It was Yuki and Kurumi’s father, Nonaka Shuuya, who was supposed to discuss countermeasures after the attack from Shiba with the rest of the elders. As Basara turned and recognized him as the latter approached him, he waited for him to arrive in front of him before asking,

 

“Uncle, the elders…has the Village made a decision?”

 

Shuuya shook his head with a stern expression on his face.

 

“…Unfortunately, there has been no verdict as of yet. We cannot deny that we hold full responsibility for Kyouichi going out of control, but the one who had helped him escape and stole the Four Gods happened to be a Demon disguised as a Vatican assistant.”

 

And besides—

 

“And that’s not considering the fact that Celis’ Georgius has been stolen as well…although the Village and the Vatican are discussing plans to deal with all this through communication magic at the moment,

 

And as Shuuya gave his reply—

 

“—How long are those old men going to beat around the bush?”

 

Takigawa, who had been leaning against a wall of the broken ceremonial hall and had silently overheard the conversation from the sidelines, snorted in response as he revealed himself.

 

“It’s typical of those higher-ups involved in politics to like to talk about self-protection and rights. And to avoid other factions of the Hero Clan scattered across the world from criticising the Village and the Vatican, they’ll just pretend to have calmed down after temporarily join forces after dragging and blaming each other into this mess.”

 

However, said Takigawa,

 

“Come to think of it, these Vatican folks have always been so harsh, haven’t they? They went as far as to send that blondie—Celis was her name, I take it? —to act as an inquisitor for the political discussion so that things would favor their side and tell her to unsheathe the sacred sword given to her for battle if things don’t go their way.”

 

On the other hand—
“The Village also wanted to use that lunatic Shiba as a trump card against the Vatican…I don’t think either side’s going to give in that easily.”

 

“But…from how Basara-sama put it earlier, it seems that the Vatican no longer wants to discuss the Village’s custody of Basara-sama and all of us.”

 

It was Zest who abruptly spoke up from the other end of the phone.

 

“Ignoring the whole battle between Basara-sama and Celis earlier, shouldn’t there be no real issues for both sides to cooperate at this point of time?”

 

“Unfortunately, it’s not all that simple, I’m afraid.”

 

A wry expression appeared on Shuuya’s face as he explained why,

 

“Maybe this is merely my personal opinion…but I think the Vatican hasn’t stood down simply because it has finally approved of either your group or the Village. They have yet to think other than the original conclusion they had come to, and remain under the impression that our custody of your group remains inappropriate and lacking. But since Celis-kun had lost to Basara-kun, they’re no longer taking extreme measures in defending their stand all the while adamantly persisting on the notion they had arrived here with.”

 

As such—

 

“They may approve of what the Village currently has to say on the surface, and pretend that our custody of you is not lacking in any of the sort…but the moment your group causes any issues concerning any innocent parties, they’ll immediately seize the opportunity and deny the Village’s ability to control you guys and label your group as a dangerous threat. It’s not a stretch to assume that they might able facilitate that very opportunity themselves.”

 

“But that’s…then what about…”

 

The words come out from an astonished Mio as if she were groaning about the situation. Even after all the political discussion in the ceremonial hall and the fight to the death between Basara and Celis, things have still not taken a turn for the better? And noticing the visibly troubled Mio,

 

“Don’t worry…no matter what they have on their sleeve, we’ll be ready.”

 

Basara now possessed the divine blessings of Hasegawa Chisato—otherwise known as Afureia, as well as one of his mothers, Raphealine, two members of the powerful Ten Gods. Any underhanded tactics in any attempt to harm or degrade Basara would result in the production of Kegare. Even if the higher-ups of the Vatican were to cut off any loose ends to avoid responsibility from falling to them, the production of the Kegare as a result of the giving the order of assassination would likely still befall under the real perpetrators who ordered it.

 

Basara would likely be able to expose the true mastermind behind the strings the way he was now. If the Vatican were to deny involvement of the higher-ups when questioned about it, the resulting, newly produced Kegare would be the truth that would triumph over any wordplay they might use to retort their claims.

 

“But heading back to our topic, our original plan was to prevent the Village and the Vatican from seeing us as a threat and eliminate all foreign relations and restrictions. On one hand, we need to stop Shiba before he gets what he wants, and on the other we can’t afford to let them see us as more dangerous than we already are to them.”
“So are we going to demand guaranteed freedom and protection from the Village and the Vatican with the condition that we’re going to stop Shiba?”

 

Kurumi asked, creasing her brows.

 

“No, that might only just backfire on us…even if we do get our protection and freedom, we might just end up escalating their fear of us.”

 

Basara continued on,

 

“The Village and the Vatican probably don’t want to make any more judgement and consideration from here on. If they were to approve of us acting on our own and if the situation were to worsen…all being said, it would be them that would need to take responsibility. If our request were to bring that sort of risk to them, we don’t know how long it’ll take before they’ll officially permit us to do this.”

 

And because of that—

 

“If we were to beat around the bush over such stupidity, we would be giving more time for Shiba, who now wants to refine the Four Gods at present, to achieve what he wants. Wait any longer and he’ll have done that sooner or later—and we’d be throwing any chances of victory out of the window.”

 

Thus—

 

“We won’t wait for the Village and the Vatican to make a decision. We’ll act right now with what we have. The sooner we move, the greater the chance we have of defeating Shiba.”

 

“And with this being the case, if anything were to happen in the meanwhile, we would need to take full responsibility. It would be convenient for the Village and the Vatican, but we’d be inevitably carrying the risk with us.”

 

“…If we were to successfully defeat Shiba, we would be able to win the favor of both the Village and the Vatican.”

 

Yuki deduced Basara’s intent correctly, as if she heard the very exact words from his previous sentence.

 

“That’s right. We’ve already given our requests during our conference in the ceremonial hall, and this might just be the quickest way to earn their approval. Rather or give off the impression that we’re a threat or want to negotiate terms, maybe it’s better for us to settle their problem behind the scenes to win them over.”

 

“Sigh…seriously, we’re just so unlucky, aren’t we?”

 

Imagining the resigned expression from Maria on the other side of the phone call elicited a wry laugh from Basara.

 

“Yeah…tell me about it. But we’ll all be in trouble either way if we don’t do something about Shiba regardless. If we can’t avoid fighting him, we have to see to future preparations, don’t we?”

 

Mio and the others smiled in approval to Basara’s suggestion.

 

“Basara-kun, do you really want to do this?”

 

Shuuya asked, appearing hesitant about their discussion.
“Yeah…I think that this is perhaps the best course of action for us now.”

 

Basara nodded confidently as he addressed Shuuya’s concern.

 

“It’s just that I have two favors to ask of you, Uncle.”

 

“What is it you need? I’ll do my best so long as it’s well within my capabilities…”

 

“For one, so that it’ll be easier for Yuki and Kurumi to fight with me…I need the Sakuya and the Spirit Gauntlet. Preparing any other weapons would waste a lot more time, and the fact that they might not be used to any other weapon, I’m afraid, would put us at a disadvantage in defeating Shiba-san.”

 

“I understand…I’ll think of something to get those weapons for them.”

 

And after he had agreed to the first request,

 

“And the other favor?”

 

“It’s the Byakko. Shiba-san stole three out of four treasures of the Four Gods as well as Celis’ Georgius, and the Byakko, being one of the four sacred treasures, should be able to detect the waves of the other three weapons…in other words, it’s necessary that we should have the Byakko with us if we are to ever locate Shiba-san. That’s why I need the elders’ permission for us to use the Byakko—outside of the Village.”

 

That was the method of which Basara had devised to locate Shiba’s whereabouts.

 

“True, that might be the best course of action as of yet…but will the elders and the other members of the Village willingly grant it to us?”

 

Zest asked from the other side of the phone upon realizing Basara’s suggestion.

 

“Will the elders really agree to all this?”

 

Kurumi was visibly worried about the slim chances they possessed.

 

“It’s a role that only you can play for us now, Uncle. I’m sorry to cause you so much trouble once again.”
“Oh, no, please, don’t worry about it…I did say I’d do my best for you, right? And both of your requests are well within my capabilities; you can count on me.”

 

After he said those words, Shuuya turned away and left the area without delay.

 

Perhaps he had gone to immediately retrieve Yuki and Kurumi’s weapons.

 

And after he decided that Shuuya had went away for a suitable distance,

 

“Hey, Basachi..,remember that that sacred spear Byakko rejected that Shiba guy.  It’s probably because it’s already chosen that blonde guy with the dark eyes as its wielder…your childhood friend, correct?”

 

It was then that Takigawa began to speak.
“The way things are now, do you really think it’s going to sit by and willingly let you use it?”

 

“…I can’t say I’m very confident. This alone I have no guarantee.”

 

In response to Basara’s honesty, Takigawa’s eyebrows clenched together.

 

“Hey, hey, you’re being quite unreliable, aren’t you…”

 

“I’m just stating the facts. Can’t help it, can I?”

 

Basara shrugged and said,

 

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough task, isn’t it?

 

Toujou Basara contemplated on the possibility of being compatible with the Byakko.

 

—The Byakko had already selected Takashi as its wielder.

 

It might even be by Takashi’s side as he lay unconscious in the medical bay, even now.  And Takashi had used the Byakko against Basara in the past, and the Byakko had been shattered by Basara amidst the fighting.

 

It was rather likely that the Byakko would not recognize Basara as an ally—it might even see him as an enemy.

 

And yet—

 

“We don’t have any other options…in that case, we’ll just have to figure out a way to convince it to help us.”

 

Basara said, as if he were trying to convince himself that things would go smoothly, one way or the other.

 

“Basara-san, what about Zest-san and I? Do we head over and meet up with you for now?”
“No. The both of you are demons, and arriving at the village might just attract unwanted attention and complicate things more than necessary. Especially given the highly sensitive state of the elders right now —we’d do well to not bother them any further.”

 

As such—

 

“I’ll contact you again when Yuki and the others’ weapons as well as the Byakko are in our hands. After we find a lead on Shiba-san’s whereabouts, we’ll meet up while we’re on the road.”

 

“Understood. We’ll make preparations so as to be ready to move any time.”

 

After Basara ended the call after Zest and Maria had received their orders, he turned to Mio and the others.

 

“Takashi and Celis’ medical procedures should be complete by now, so I’m going to pay them a visit for now, and afterwords…I’ll try and have a word with the Byakko.”

 

He needed to ask it to provide him with the power of the Four Gods so he could locate Shiba.

 

“Yuki and Kurumi, after your father gets your weapons back for you, make preparations to head out like the rest of them.”
“Mmm.” “Got it.”

 

And after Basara nodded to them in response, he returned to Mio.

 

“Mio…go with them.”

 

“Mmm…don’t worry, I won’t wander off anywhere.”

 

Although the Village now declared itself in a state of emergency following Shiba’s escape, and most of their attention was now primarily place on him, this place was still the headquarters of the Japan faction of the Hero Clan, and the fact remained that Mio was the daughter of the previous Demon King.

 

It’s true that Takigawa had brought a personally written letter from the Demon King requesting the sanctuary of Basara’s group, and while that had caused the Hero Clan to avoid laying a finger on Basara’s group to avoid a full-scale conflict…

 

On the contrary…

 

To use Mio as a hostage would be to hold the ultimate secret weapon in one’s hand.

 

She would be as effective a hostage against Basara’s group as with the Demon Clan.

 

And Mio, too, understood the gravity of the risk involving her. And knowing that, she understood the intent behind Basara’s words and steeled herself so as to not end up being alone.

 

…And with this all that’s left is—

 

As he thought of that, he turned toward a certain someone who remained.

 

“Takigawa…what are your plans from here on out?”

 

Takigawa responded to Basara’s question with a wordless silence.

 

That’s why all eyes were suddenly laid upon him.

 

As a Demon, surely Takigawa too understood the gravity of their current situation.

 

Thereupon he shrugged and explained himself under the gaze of all the members of Basara’s group:

 

“Yeah, about that…I personally don’t know either. I only came around this time as a messenger to the Hero Clan. I know you guys are in an urgency right now, but the way things are now, it’s no longer up to me alone to decide what I’d do next.”

 

After all—

 

“I’m really annoyed and hate the position I’m in now, though. Much like their Excellencies Leonhart and Ramusas-dono, I’m now something of a middle-man representing both the currently reigning Demon lord as well as the moderate faction. If we were to move carelessly, there’s no telling if that Shiba guy would take advantage of it.”

 

And thus—

 

“I should be saying bye-bye to you all right now and report things back in the Demon Realm…I guess it’s better to say that I’m in for a real pickle if I don’t get back and give my findings soon.”

 

“Because of Leonhart’s older sister?”

 

“Yeah. If I mess things up, I can’t say I’ll enjoy my head thoughtlessly dancing in mid-air.”

 

And besides—

 

“Don’t forget. Even though the Cardinal Sins are no more, it does not mean that the Demon Realm…the Demon Clan will be fully united. And one way or the other, somehow, even if they were to treat you guys as you desire, there’s a plentiful chance that everything would just turn inside out in the blink of an eye.”

 

“…You’re right. I understand.”

 

Basara didn’t have any leeway to attend to matters concerning the Demon Realm at present. Though there was no doubt that the notion of having Takigawa…or maybe even Ramusas or Leonhart as allies for their battle was very reassuring.

 

And it was only because influential members of the Demon Clan existed amongst their ranks that were supportive of the protection of Mio—Ramusas in particular—that the secret letter they had sent to the Hero Clan included the discussion of the sanctuary meant for Basara’s group. It was probably that they were provide their aid should Mio be in grave danger at any time.

 

But if that were to be the case…

 

Basara and the others would appear to side with the Demon Realm in the eyes of the Hero Clan. Even if they were to resolve the problem of Shiba getting out of hand, the Hero Clan would only continue to potentially exercise more caution and vigilance towards Basara’s group in the future.

 

And if either Leonhart or Ramusas were to provide Basara’s group with their help, it would be a perfect opportunity for factions that were not supportive of the currently reigning Demon lord to sever their existing alliance, wouldn’t it? If that were to happen, it wouldn’t be just the relations with the Hero Clan that would be compromised; even that of the Demon Clan would also suffer as well.

 

Under such a basis, Takigawa returning to the Demon Realm and working toward smoothening their alliance would be more appropriate and helpful than asking the Demon Clan for aid.

 

—The most important thing for Basara’s group right now was to maintain the balance and sense of distance between all sides.

 

Between the Hero Clan and the Demon Clan, the group would not cut all contact or treat both conflicting sides equally; the best course of action was to maintain their respective and appropriate relations and distance between the two.

 

Evaluating the situation on a personal and familial level, one would think that the remaining members of the Demon Clan surrounding Mio and the disorder in the Demon Realm were a thing of the past following their battle against the Demon King’s faction as well as the destruction of the Cardinal Sins; however, from the political standpoint concerning Basara’s group and the conflict Hero and Demon Clans, things had only made a turn for the worse, and things would only get more complicated and difficult from here on out.

 

But such a thing was inevitable—with an increasing amount of things one treasured or wanted to protect, it was certain that such a complication would follow. And if he really didn’t want to lose any of it, he had no choice to be carry out what needed to be done to the letter.

 

Even if he couldn’t do it elaborately or perfectly, he had to at least defend the minimum line for himself.

 

I’m doing this to protect what I can’t let go of. As Basara reminded himself of that—

 

“…Well, it’s about time I got going.”

 

As Takigawa was about to turn and leave,

 

“Thanks, Takigawa. We owe it to you for the fact that we managed to interact with Celis and the elders. Once all this is over, let me treat you to lunch again, like the last time.”

 

“Haha, is it going to be roast pork again?”

 

“Yeah—I’ll add some shabu-shabu and some sukiyaki on top of that.”

 

Takigawa and Basara exchanged light chuckles as they finished their banter.

 

“See ya.”

 

Takigawa turned away, raising a hand to say farewell before disappearing into the darkness.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Basara, too, nodded in response before turning to leave Takigawa.

 

Takigawa had his own business to attend to; Basara was simply doing the same, nothing more than that.

 

 

Part 2

 

After Basara temporarily parted with Mio and the others, he went to the medical department of the Village.

 

He’d gone there to visit the room where the wounded had been tended to just a short moment ago.

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Takashi and Celis, the both of whom had been heavily injured amidst the fight against Shiba and Balflear, were now resting within.

 

And the person who was treating them was Yuki and Kurumi’s mother—Nonaka Kaoru.

 

And when Basara asked her on the condition of the two patients,

 

“Celis-chan has been treated successfully….so while she’ll be asleep for a while, she’ll automatically wake up eventually when there’s no longer any serious danger to her body.

 

“Is that so…”

 

Part of Basara felt relieved, but it was too early to think for the best. It wasn’t because Shiba was on the loose and his whereabouts were unknown, but the fact that Kaoru had made the individual statement that “Celis-chan has been treated successfully” meant that there was a contrast.

 

“Kaoru-san…then what about Takashi?”

 

At Basara’s question, Kaoru went silent for a few moments, her expression rigid. And then,

 

“I’ve tried what I could…but to little avail.”

 

“Has he been poisoned or cursed of some sort?”

 

“No, I didn’t manage to find any external cause. That’s why I must ask you, Basara-kun, if you in particular can feel as though if you can notice something within Takashi-kun?”

 

“Are you talking about…me?”

 

“Yes. The complete elimination caused from the Banishing Shift is a result of the invocation severing its particular core, and your ability to use this technique is due to the fact that you were born with different eyes. You’ve since honed this power of yours through the many battles you’ve fought alongside Naruse Mio and the others, haven’t you? Am I wrong?’

 

Upon hearing her conjecture, Basara found himself astounded at the wise gaze of the mother of his childhood friends.

 

True enough, possessing the power of Master-Servant contracts made with Mio and the others, as well as the fact that he was Byrnhildr’s host up until now…in addition to his contract with Hasegawa, a member of the Ten Gods, Basara, the way he was now, possessed a power that made him indistinguishable from his previous self when he lived in the Village—no, perhaps even a power that was on a completely different level now. It was likely that Kaoru did not know the whole truth of the situation, and she had likely just guessed that Basara’s current state was different than it was before. However,

 

“………”

 

Basara said nothing, instead reaffirming her assumption in silence.

 

If he were to directly affirm what she’d said, Kaoru would be aware of the truth in its fullest.

 

And knowing of a particular truth or reality would, at times, shackle one with the burden of the responsibilities that came with the news.

 

No matter how obvious the truth of the matter was, confirming her suspicions directly would inconvenience her given her particular standing on the matter.

 

“————”

 

Basara remained silent, his eyes fixated on Takashi’s enfeebled form as he lay on the bed.

 

And as he noticed the flickering of his body’s composite center—that which was the core that maintained Takashi’s existence, Basara surmised on Takashi’s unusual state.

 

“This is…”

 

“As I thought…your eyes, too, can see that something’s horribly wrong with Takashi-kun the way he is now.”

 

Kaoru’s tone was grave as he imparted the reality of the situation to Basara, who has his eyebrows knitted in a perplexed look.

 

—Basara and Kaoru likely had a different perspective view of what lay within Takashi.

 

It was because the two had observed him with their different, respective abilities.

 

But the two detected the same disorder within him despite that difference—that was the extent of Takashi’s current situation.

 

The issue was the terrible stagnation that pooled within Takashi’s body; it was a very unnatural occurrence.

 

Kaoru-san was right; this was neither poisoning nor a curse.

 

If something wrong with Takashi were to occur as a result of a foreign cause, Basara’s eyes would be able to detect it, one way or the other.

 

But Takashi’s body had no traces of abnormalities caused by an external source.

 

…That’s right.

 

Basara thought back to the short exchange he’d had with Takashi in the aftermath of being crippled by Shiba.

 

Takashi had said so himselfalthough he was supposed to have defended himself from Shiba’s attack, he instead sustained grave damage in the process.

 

That was why Basara had initially suspected that Takashi had either been poisoned or cursed.

 

…Could it be that the problem was actually…Takashi’s body itself?

 

How could this be? It was obvious in Basara’s eyes that the interior of Takashi’s body had become terribly unstable.

 

It was as if Takashi’s body itself had been been driven out of whack, such that his recuperative or self-recovery mechanisms were failing him. And although he couldn’t deduce precisely what it was that brought about Takashi’s current state, it was likely thatno, that was, without a doubt, the actual cause of Takashi’s condition, wasn’t it?

 

The problem lay within the peculiar secret of the unidentifiable power Shiba possessed. And as Basara thought of that,

 

…Wait. What if

 

As Basara continued to think deeply, a possibility crossed his mind.

 

“…Excuse me, Kaoru-san. But could you please leave us alone for just a moment?”

 

“I don’t mind that, but…”

 

Kaoru appeared hesitant as she said those words. Under normal circumstances, for Kaoru, who was responsible for the medical attention of Takashi’s still unstable condition, to leave Takashi would only bring about a great risk. However,

 

“Please…I won’t take too long.”

 

Basara insisted on his request regardless. He didn’t let her in on the details, and simply with his gaze alone gave her his intent—that he wanted to try something. Thereupon Kaoru gave her reply, as if understanding what Basara meant,

 

“I see…I’ll be in the next room if you need me, so call me if you need anything.”

 

Kaoru left behind that sentence and left the room.

 

Basara turned to face the bedridden Takashi once again.

 

And as the sight of the stagnating sediment in Takashi’s body glistened in his eye,

 

Attempting to eliminate that sediment, he raised his right hand.

 

And manifested the Byrnhildr in it.

 

It would be similar to back then, when he had eliminated Wilbert’s power within Mio when it had gone out of control.

 

He wouldn’t be harming Takashi at all; he would simply use the Banishing Shift to eliminate the stagnation that lay within him.

 

The change didn’t occur from Takashi—but something suddenly appeared beside him out of thin air.

 

“…Byakko.”

 

The white spirit spear materialized itself in front of Basara, floating in his way as if to protect Takashi from him.

 

And in response to the Byakko,

 

“There’s no need to worry…I have no intention of hurting Takashi. I’m sure you can feel that, right?”

 

As he said so, he did something to evidence that he really meant what he’d said.

 

He dematerialized the Byrnhildr that he had just manifested in his right hand.

 

And after he had done so, he extended an empty hand toward it and said:

 

“I want to help Takashi—so please, even if just a little. Lend me your power, Byakko.”

 

Basara had been the wielder of Byrnhildr only after that tragedy had happened many years ago.

 

However, the Banishing Shift was a technique that he had learned before it had occurred.

 

Of course, the Byrnhildr had since become Basara’s favourite weapon to this day.

 

There was no doubt that the Byrnhildr was the easiest weapon Basara could use; the thought of using any weapon other than it never crossed his mind. Even during that time concerning Mio and from the times there on out, Basara had always cut his way out of all of them with the Byrnhildr. As such, if he were to simply cast Banishing Shift, utilizing the Byrnhildr for it would, in normal cases, be the desired option.

 

However…

 

Basara was convinced that there was no other way than to use the Byakko if he wanted to save Takashi.

 

The Banishing Shift was a technique that required absolute concentration to perform. And the target of said technique, in this case, was within that of a living body—in a scenario with such specificity, all the more it would require the most extreme caution and a high resistance to nervousness or tension. As such, compared to the Brynhildr giving Basara the ability to cast Banishing Shift in response to Basara’s plea to save Takashi, casting it with the Byakko, that already possessed the intent to save its wielder to being with, with likely yield a higher chance of success.

 

The sacred spear, the Byakko, wasn’t simply a mere tool—much like the Brynhildr, the magic sword, it was a weapon that fought alongside the person of whom it recognized as its rightful wielder.

 

Perhaps doing it this way and using the Brynhildr for such a matter would only make the tiniest of differences.

 

And yet the success of some things, however, depended on said tiniest of differences to decide if it were to succeed or fail. And the outcome of success or failure meant everything at this very moment.

 

“Byakko…”

 

Basara called out the spear’s name once more, as the Byakko remained floating between Basara and the unconscious Takashi.

 

Its body, however, that was initially glowing with a light of a darker sheen, calmed slightly, as if to acquiesce to his request.

 

As such, Basara slowly extended his hands, before tightly receiving the shaft.

 

Tightly gripping the spear that was to protect the West—the Byakko—he found that there was no resistance from the white spear in his grasp.

 

“Thank you…”

 

Basara thanked the sacred spear he now held in his hands, before he made a decision.

 

With the way things were now…

 

He decided it was best to simply drown out the stagnation within Takashi’s body rather than eliminate it entirely.

 

The stagnating sediment within Takashi’s body did not come from an outer source.

 

A stubborn portion within Takashi’s body had developed into a state that would produce negative reactions, and if he were to solve it by process of elimination, he would end up banishing the flesh surrounding the infection as well. Minimizing the damage to Takashi’s body would mean that simply removing the sediment was the only option, and it was a process that would be comparatively less difficult.

 

And yet…

 

While it might be easier than the instance with Mio on paper, the difficulty lied in the difference in the procedure.

 

—Basara had eliminated Wilbert’s power the very moment it burst from Mio’s body back then.

 

He absolutely couldn’t have destroyed Mio back then, but he managed to completely get rid of the overflowing power within her.

 

The difference here was that he was to remove the part of Takashi’s body that was infected with the stagnating sediment to return it its original state.

 

And he was not to eliminate anything in doing so, as well.

 

That’s right—he was not to eliminate what was within him, but to remove it in order to restore it to its original state. And he had to accomplish this with the Banishing Shift.

 

—Was it really possible for him to do this?

 

Basara neither had the guarantee or the confidence to do so.

 

However…

 

Since there was no other option, Basara decided that he would only move forward.

 

“—————”

 

Toujou Basara sharpened his spirit as he readied the Byakko in hand.

 

…Takashi.

 

Basara thought of the fact that he and Takashi could no longer regain the relationship they shared in the past.

 

However—it was possible for them to build a new relationship in the future.

 

And no matter what would happen, it wouldn’t change the fact the two of them were once childhood friends.

 

…He had to succeed.

 

I don’t want to lose a childhood friend…I absolutely don’t want to lose anyone important to me anymore. That was why…
“Just hold on, Takashi…I’ll put you at ease now.”

 

And with that murmur, Toujou Basara unleashed the Banishing Shift,

 

Basara had aimed toward the left side of Takashi’s chest.

 

—What he’d intended to use was not the edge of the spear’s tip, but the end of the handle.

 

It was thus more apt to say that he had intended to strike him rather than stab him.

 

It was all for the sake of minimizing as much damage to Takashi’s body as possible—and simply deliver a shock to him that would drown out the stagnation within him.

 

The technique was on the same level of martial arts of the highest caliber, such as karate or Chinese martial arts, in terms of inflicting a direct strike.

 

Basara’s plan was to cast Banishing Shift utilizing a spear he was not familiar with.

 

Nevertheless—it would still be an unequivocal cast of the Banishing Shift.

 

Even the slightest mistake would mean that the point of the cast would vanish entirely. It was necessary that he reached the absolute limit of his concentration and meticulously concentrated on factors such as the position, strength and timing.

 

And even then—

 

The Byakko would likely cover for any insufficiency present during the procedure.

 

The guardian deity of a beast within the Byakko, a member of the sacred treasures known as the Four Gods serves to protect any existence that it has recognized as its wielder.

 

Not out of repose or dependence—but out of trust. And thus,

 

“——————”

 

Basara, who had cast a different variation of Banishing Shift, slowly withdrew his hand that was wielding the Byakko.

 

Although Takashi’s body remained unchanged at a glance, there still were noticeable differences.

 

Such as his expression—and his breathing.

 

“….”

 

Takashi’s pained look and breathing gradually calmed down into a more comfortable state.

 

In addition, Basara could no longer detect the stagnation within his body that was visible just a short moment ago.

 

It was too early to assume that everything had went along smoothly, however; subsequently, Basara went to the other room and called upon Kaoru, who had been on standby in the other room, to reaffirm Takashi’s condition.

 

And after examining Takashi again, Kaoru let out a sigh and relaxed her shoulders.

 

“Everything’s alright now…the medication and the magic should have effect now.”

 

“Is that so…thank goodness…”

 

After hearing those words, Basara’s chest finally lightened itself.

 

He had managed to save Takashi—having been made aware of such a conclusion, the first thing that came to him was relief.

 

“Takashi…”

 

He called out the name of his childhood friend, attentively gazing at his sleeping state.

 

He had no desire to wake him up—he understood that he needed rest more than anything at that very moment.

 

There were many things he wanted to tell him—but for the time being, placing his feelings in the simple mention of his name would suffice. He would simply convey them in detail later on when he would return; there was a place where he and the others couldn’t afford to not go at present. It was then that Basara’s gaze fell on his right hand.

 

“Byakko…please, lend me just a little more of your power.”

 

As if to respond to Basara’s plea, the handle of the Byakko—the sacred spear, who had helped him rescue Takashi, pulsated it laid in Basara’s grasp.

 

And with it, Basara’s grip on the handle tightened. And as he raised his head, he saw a young man whom he knew as one who wanted to fulfil his bottomless desires, someone who even at this moment of time, somewhere unknown, would wear the same smile he always wore on his face.

 

It was Shiba Kyouichi. And at that moment—

 

“I’ve heard my husband speak of this—you’re going to seek him out, aren’t you, Basara?”

 

In response to Kaoru’s desire to affirm his decision, Basara nodded and answered:

 

“That’s right. While I still don’t know what in the world Shiba-san’s up to, but I’m sure it’s going to be a terrible risk to all of us, and I’m not going to sit by while he’s on the loose.”

 

“…Mmm…I see.”

 

“I’m going to need Yuki and Kurumi to fight alongside me this time round as well…I’m really sorry for the trouble I’ve caused and how I’ve made the two of you worry, though, Kaoru-san.”

 

“There’s no need to apologize. This is the road of which they have chosen, and we are fully supportive of it.”

 

However—

 

“We agree to this, however, knowing that it is what they want, knowing it is what would make the two of them happy, and not because we think nothing of the possible dangers that might happen to all of you, or approve of you behaving recklessly…please remember that.”

 

“…I will.”

 

Basara definitely understood what expectations a pair of parents would have for their own beloved children.

 

They all shared the same vision—the same direction for the future, despite their differences.

 

Why else would Wilbert have erased his existence for Mio’s sake?

 

Why else would Shera would have hidden the truth of Maria’s parents as well as her bodily transformation from her?

 

And why else would Shuuya and Kaoru permit Yuki and Kurumi to go forth with their choices?

 

They all held the same answer, the same reason—as such, Toujou Basara did not want to disappoint their good intentions.

 

It’s for that reason alone, isn’t it?

 

Basara had decided that he would be willing to do anything well within his capabilities, no matter what it may be.

 

The very feelings Jin and his two wives, Sapphire and Raphealine, had shown Basara as well.

 

It was through Hasegawa’s explanation that Basara had learn of what the three had done for him and the hopes they had.

 

And perhaps the three of them wouldn’t approve of Basara’s intentions at present, as well as what he wanted to do.

 

But it didn’t mean that Basara didn’t think much or looked down on the goodwill of all the parents involved.

 

—It was all for that which he could not give up on.

 

That was why he had to stop Shiba no matter what. Thereupon Kaori continued,

 

“I understand that you want to leave as soon as possible, but I’m afraid that my husband will need more time before he can successfully persuade the elders.”

 

“I suppose so.”

 

Basara’s group had yet to receive proper permission from the Hero Clan to act.

 

Even if they were to approve of it without a word, it wouldn’t be right for them to not gain at least the most basic form of permission.

 

However, this was a matter that not only concerned the Village, but also the Vatican, as well as the Demon Realm—no matter how well-versed Shuuya was at persuading, it wouldn’t be an easy task regardless.

 

As Basara nodded in understanding, Kaoru began her next sentence with a “That’s why”.

 

“For the time being, I think I really need to tell you about something.”

 

She stopped talking momentarily—

 

“Before you head off to battle—you first need to understand Kyouichi’s secret. Something no one from your generation knows about.”

Part 3

At the same time Basara had finally managed to rescue Takashi, Shiba Kyouichi, who had since fled from the Village, was already beginning to work towards his goal at a faraway place.

 

“Now, let us begin…”

 

Standing a communications tower known for its unparalleled height such that it allowed one to be at one’s closest to the sky, he snapped the fingers of his right hand as he enjoyed the view of the mesmerizing night scenery on the edge of the broadcasting antenna.

 

And following his gesture, the Four Gods, the most powerful treasures of the Village of which Shiba had stolen, soared overhead him as if they were meteors, their phosphorescent tails glistening behind them as they each dispersed to individual points in each of the cardinal directions. The Seiryu in the north; the Genbu in the south; the Suzaku in the East; and in the West, the Byakko, an apparent form made from the holy sword Georgius.

 

It was then that all four of the sacred treasures, unseeable to the naked eye, pierced the ground simultaneously; thereupon a special space formed along the vertex of which the four weapons had been placed.

 

The elders had utilized the four treasures to create their sanctuary; on the other hand, Shiba had made duplicates of normal space before elevating the dimensions to create a domain with a high phase contrast.

 

Such a superior three-dimensional space would not be affected by any outside intervention, but would allow one to decide whether or not the space could be influenced from the inside or outside.

 

At a glance, the establishment seemed to have been perfect; however, Shiba seemed unsatisfied with the outcome, muttering:

 

“Hmm…as I thought, a forcibly procured Byakko lacks as much balance; it’s slightly deformed.”

 

Using the Georgius as a substitute for the Byakko, in the end, had caused some undesired effects after all. The force of the space from the west was comparatively weak, and it caused to the space to be rather unstable. As a result, if he were to simply let a bit of time pass; the three other sides would simply adapt to the west wise and rectify the distortion. However,

 

“Basara…he would make it here before that happens. ”

 

The true Byakko was in the hands of the enemy; what Shiba possessed was a mere replica of the Byakko using the Georgius as a base. If the real Byakko were to be destroyed, there was no guarantee that the three other sacred treasures would not be affected. Although Basara having arrived earlier than expected was a major contributing factor to the issue at hand, the real problem lied in the reason why the Byakko had rejected Shiba.

 

“Damn it…who would’ve thought that Takashi would’ve managed to put us in such a bind.”

 

“—Allow me.”

 

As Shiba sighed with a wry smile on this face, a voice, coming from a fellow young Demon who was floating in the air called him from behind.

 

It was one of the younger members of the high-ranking Demon Realm—Balflear.

 

“The curvature is due to the holy Sword Georgius being of a sacred element, yes…as a Demon, perhaps allowing me to refine it would save much more time than waiting for it to adjust itself.”

 

“Mhm…sorry for bothering you, I guess.”

 

“No worries. After all, after this road is paved clear for us, we will finally be able to realize our dearest wish.”

 

In response to Balflear saying such words with a light chuckle, Shiba simply muttered “Yes” to affirm his statement.

 

“There’s no need to be so fastidious with the matter, though; its stability will no longer be a concern once it has advanced to the second stage.”

 

“Kyouichi-dono, I take it you find it necessary to forcibly progress things to the next stage given our current situation?” To which Shiba then replied beginning with “Yes”,

 

“Our enemy is Basara, after all.”

 

“It’s true that his Banishing Shift might have the capability to eradicate this established space…”

 

Balflear scrunched his eyebrows in thought.
“Although it’s slightly unstable, this is, nonetheless, a near-perfect, high-level dimensional space. Even if the Byakko copy were to cause any further instability, as long as his technique cannot reach the center from the outside, I’m sure he’d still be unable to completely destroy it.

p043

But come to think of it—

 

“If they attempt to forcibly destroy or damage any of the corners, the power within the space would leak out immediately in one go. It would swallow all of them and the space will return to being a flat piece of land. Though I don’t think they’d be so reckless as to attempt something like that.”

 

“That’s about right. But before that is complete, we’d best think of any worst-case scenarios just in case.”

 

Isn’t that right?

 

“It’s true that Basara and the others are a nuisance—but they are not our only enemy.”

 

“True. Since our current position is merely the start of everything, as it were, it’s true that we need to take measures to avoid being set back by our enemies. I’ll get to work right away.”

 

The instant he had finished saying those words, Balflear vanished without a trace, as if he had dissolved into the air.

 

He had gone to refine the Byakko copy.

 

“And next-”

 

The very moment Shiba opened his mouth, a bird danced before descending before the man a fair distance away from the section of the antenna where Shiba was standing on. It was a very rare bird—a white crow.

 

Crows were commonly black as a breed—to give birth to an albino was an incidence most rare.

 

And yet its white bodice, that would stick out among its flock of black brethren like a sore thumb, also meant that it had a very rare chance of survival in the natural world. As such, the chances a being of such rarity merely dropping by, and even being able to exist within the superior dimensional space, no less, were essentially zero. And the crow raised its head, gazing at Shiba to talk to him—

 

“I didn’t think you’d go so far as to do something this foolish.”

 

To reveal words spoken by a cold man with a hoarse voice.

 

“To think you’re actually thinking of defying us…It appears all the time you spent being locked up has twisted your mind…would you care to explain yourself?”

 

And in response to the white crow,

 

“Hey, Albareos—how many years it’s been since I last heard your voice?”

 

A thin, light smile appeared on Shiba’s lips, before he continued:

 

“You were the one who created us, and yet you orchestrated the complicity of forcing the Japan Village to be in custody of us, and cover up all that would otherwise sully your reputation…and it’s been what, twenty years since then?”

 

“Oh? It appears your sense of time is still normal for a lunatic.”

 

The masculine voice that came from the host of the white crow hid his subtle mirth.

 

“My, my. Such lack of manners. I thought you were already brazen before, but I didn’t think twenty years of training would make one this arrogant.”

 

“I suggest you watch your words…I’m sure even you have heard what has become of me during your imprisonment?”

 

“But of course. For someone like you, once merely a member of the church to rise to the role of the almighty holy king…strange, isn’t it?”

 

Among the Vatican, the holy king was the officiated top of the clan, holding an authority that surpassed even that of the Pope.

 

He was deemed to be a superpower, a saint capable of miracles and wonders above the average human, the apex of the pyramid that governed the Hero Clan. And the title wasn’t just for show; it signified that whomever who held it possessed the power befitting of reigning over the entire Hero Clan.

 

It was likely that the white crow had been made from Albareos’ power. And while it had likely also infiltrated the space through the unstable west side, this was still a fully isolated, superior dimensional space—there was no questioning that the quality of the space was of an exceptionally high level. At the same time, it was also no coincidence that the crow had arrived immediately as Balflear had left, and the crow had managed to arrive here because its controller already had full control of the situation. It was then that Shiba asked the speaker of his intentions.

 

“So what business does the esteemed leader of the Vatican have with me? Although I suppose I could take an accurate guess.”

 

“I’m here to warn you—for the first and last time.”

 

Albareos’ voice, transmitted from the crow, lowered even more as he said those words.

 

“I don’t think you’ve forgotten…even if I am handing you over to the supervision of the Village in Japan, your thread of life still remains in my hands. So if you still insist on trying anything funny-”

 

“—You’re going to kill me, are you?”

 

Shiba’s words come out as a murmur, but the smile that gleamed on his face was deeper, more profound.

 

“Do you really have the guts for that, Albareos? You of all people, who created me…you know more than anyone else what killing me would entail, right?”

 

“……..”

 

In response to Albareos from the other end of white crow that was now still and silent, Shiba continued,

 

“I am that which is the inconvenient, smothering truth your self-indulgence has caused you to suppress, that which has been sealed only when it has proven too much for you to handle…there’s no doubt where the contents within this vessel would go should it be destroyed, yes?”

 

Am I wrong?

 

“If you kill me, you’ll die with me as well. And not you alone, the entire Vatican will be swallowed in the abyss of negative energy…I’m really not convinced you’d willingly throw away the very post you’d worked so hard to build and schemed so elaborately to maintain, as well as your own life.”

 

He was right—Shiba, despite being a massive risk to the Hero Clan, had been spared from execution out of the fear of the thing that was sealed within him.

 

“Although perhaps it’s because of your all high and mighty post that prompts you to say all this to me? Though to think you would use something that means absolutely nothing to me as a threat before me…you’re making a fool out of yourself. I’d ask you quit your charade of being almighty and all and just spill out your real intentions.”

 

And as the voice replied to the maniacally laughing Shiba,

 

“…I’ve already told you my goal—I’m here to warn you.”

 

Something suddenly appeared on Shiba’s neck.

 

It was a mark—one that, much like the Master-Servant contract, seemed to contain some form of demonic energy.

 

“And I think I’ve already said it just a short moment ago…this will be your first and last time.”

 

At the same time, a blinding, white light burst from the seal, enveloping and swallowing his entire body.

 

And following it came the explosion of a thunderous roar that shook the atmosphere.

 

Part 4

 

The capital of the Hero clan exists in Europe, located a considerable distance away from Japan.

 

It was the Vatican—a place where history and tradition had since intertwined and developed into a capital where its people were reliant on it until it grew into a symbol of worship. And within the Vatican, there was a sacred existence reigning over the Hero Clan with an authority that meant even the Pope would have to bend their knee before him.

 

It was the holy king, Albareos.

 

Amidst the secret underground cathedral known to none but the Hero Clan, a high seat was established in the middle of the hall, such that it enabled the sitter to oversee the entire vicinity; it was the throne exclusive to the holy king himself, as Albareos remained seated upon the peak of which evinced his title and privilege.

 

“How idiotic…”

 

A faint voice resounded across the room, its tone cold, yet tranquil. The large jewel embedded on the ring on his right index finger had let out a moderate, faint viridian glow a few moments earlier.

 

The glow signified that the magic of the curse engraved onto Shiba had been activated.

 

—Everything that Shiba Kyouichi said then had been the truth.

 

He was the Achilles Heel of the Hero Clan—to the Vatican, specifically, among all others, that was the very center of the Hero Clan itself.

 

To light a candle was to cast a shadow, as they say, and it was an inevitable, inescapable fact in this case.

 

—It was all for the sake of protecting the world from the evil clutches of the Demon Realm.

 

Simply wielding a symbol of regality and justice would not have brought their ambitions to fruition; those who spoke of justice really had the effort of realizing their ideals to back it up.

 

As a result, the Hero Clan needed a means to exercise that justice, to bring it to fruition; they required a way for the clan to live on and extend for generations. A system that would justify all of the Hero Clan’s actions.

 

There was no room for the perfect dream of being able to realize that without compromising one’s values; there was only the option forcing themselves to believe that their actions were in the name of justice. To describe it as merely filthy or dirty would be utterly tepid; it was a bottomless abyss of darkness in every sense of the world.

 

One could even compare it to the historical massacre of Witchhunt that occurred in the Middle Ages in terms of how gruesome it was.

 

But all that couldn’t be helped; the Demon Realm would have stopped at nothing to get rid of the Hero Clan.

 

Moreover, the Demons were once of the Gods as well; the Hero Clan itself only possessed part of the divine blessings from the gods as part of their strength, and as such, to be able to match the power of the Demon Realm, they had to opt for some extreme measures.

 

The verdict was that no matter how great the corruption they would produce, problems that came from said corruption would no longer be an issue should said corruption be eliminated, and better yet, they could be seen as a new source of power.

 

 

At present, Celis Reinhardt and her department of holy knights and inquisitors were the predecessors of the special forces department that held the darkness of the Vatican on their backs.

 

However, no one in Celis’ department was aware of the other side of their special forces department. They all believed that their own actions were done out of justice and willingly fulfilled their duty with their life; there was no need to shake their resolve by spilling out any unnecessary truths.

 

However, it was difficult to pass off someone that existed as something that did not, in addition to needing to cover it up…that was why the special forces of the Vatican worked directly under the bureau of the holy king.

 

“Twenty years it’s been, hasn’t it…”

 

He muttered under his breath, letting memories of the past flood his mind.

 

—It was almost twenty years ago.

 

Under the name of a section better known as the dark side of the Hero Clan, Albareos had been the person in charge of commanding the front lines.

 

It was a profession that demanded one throw away all semblance of reason and logic from one’s mind to participate in. Common sense would retain the normality of the human heart but would also restrict the heart and restrict one’s ability to think or act on their own, and the dark side of said profession was a realm that only those who would willingly relinquish their sanity could step in—there was simply no way for one to be able to retain their heart while doing such a job.

 

And having been shielded under the justification of him having been in a state of insanity, he had committed many crimes and taboos in the name of the Hero Clan.

 

And the one surviving plan of Albareos’ who had lost his sanity back then…happened to be Shiba Kyouichi.

 

The dark history of the Hero Clan was tucked within Shiba’s body as if it were a curse.

 

And because of that, they could not make a move on him even while being all too aware of the dangers of his existence. And that was why—

 

“Did you think I would have possibly kept a blind eye toward your threats forever…?”

 

The flow of time would wait for no one—at the same time, given enough dedication to research and study, what once could not be tampered or meddled with would come to have a solution; and to Shiba, who knew that he could never possibly been sentenced to execution, his imprisonment had been as if he were a bird in its safe cage—no, perhaps as safe as a baby in its cradle.

 

Unlike Shiba, however, who had been trapped in that small, secluded world all by himself for all that time, Albareos had been spending the last twenty years protecting the world from the Demons, all the while carefully planning and considering the best course of action to eliminate the threat that was Shiba Kyouichi. And thus—

 

“With this-”

 

As Albareos allowed a light smile to surface, mixed feelings washing over him—

 

“—‘There’s no longer anything capable of binding me anymore’, is it?”

 

The voice of Shiba Kyouichi abruptly rang across the room, taking away the smile Albareos had on his face.

 

“Impossible…”

 

Unable to believe his eyes, his gaze darted to the jewel inlaid upon his ring-

 

To discover it shattering with a sharp cracking sound before his very eyes.

 

Albareos’ widened his eyes at such a sight, yet again refusing to acknowledge its occurrence.

 

“…The flow of time is unkind to everyone, Albareos.”

 

Shiba’s voice resounded across the cathedral.

 

“I have no intention of denying that you’ve done your share of hard labor all these twenty years, carrying the lives and deaths of the Hero Clan on your back, and living and dying with the world as if it were your own very life…but I haven’t been lazing about for the past twenty years either. After all, I’d know better than not to be aware that you want nothing to do with me. The world I live in is nowhere near as broad as yours, and the skills and knowledge available to me are also quite limited as a result.”

 

However, Shiba continued,

 

“In exchange, I’d spent every moment of the past twenty years dealing with myself…amidst the depths, the deepest depths where you lot who live with an unrestricted view of the world cannot reach. When you handed me over to the Village in Japan, you cast a lethal binding upon me for insurance. You did that, thinking you could either limit or restrict me.”

 

A pity, isn’t it?

 

“However, I’d already figured out how to dispel that lethal form of magic a long time ago, somehow. To take a page from your own book, it’s true that there’s no longer anything capable of binding me anymore. I guess I have you to thank for that, don’t I, Albareos?”

 

“!…You darned-”

 

Shiba’s words came out with a mocking laugh, as Albareos, driven by fury, uttered through gritted teeth,

 

“I won’t deny that you’ve become so immensely powerful…but do you seriously believe that you’re capable of taking on the entire Hero Clan on your own?”

 

As if to mock him with ‘you’re still capable of hiding behind the power of your clan despite all that?’ , Shiba’s voice came out as a light, faint titter,

 

“Hard to say. You’re not the only ones with an ace up their sleeve, after all.”

 

“You’re talking about the Four Gods, aren’t you…do you think you can turn the tables with the four treasures alone?”

 

“Who knows? But it’s not like I need tell you what that would entail…the answer will be revealed very soon, after all.”

 

And as he spoke up to that point, his tone turned cold.

 

“There was a time where mankind had been chased out of the paradise that was the heavens—out of committing taboo and incurring the gods’ wrath. And now it’s your turn; it’s time for the Hero clan to understand just how far gone they are, Albareos. The day of judgment is nigh.”

 

Look forward to it. And in response to the ominousness of Shiba’s words,

 

“What…What in the world are you planning?!”

 

There were no words in response from Shiba to Albaeros’ question.

 

The link between them had been completely severed—as Albareos did not know whether the white crow that he had conjured with magic had been destroyed, or if the refinement of the Byakko copy that was causing unstable space in the south had just been completed.

 

Albareos, the holy king, had just lost all means capable of stopping Shiba just a short moment ago.

 

—It only meant one thing.

 

The Hero Clan had always managed to repel the Demons and protect the world.

 

But they were no longer capable of stopping one thing—the abomination of an existence they themselves had created.

 

Shiba Kyouichi himself.

 

 

 

A young man wanted to protect that which the Hero Clan had been incapable of protecting.

 

And then there was the group of girls who admired him.

 

And after he’d had an understanding of his childhood friend’s current situation and learnt of Shiba Kyouichi’s past, he went out of the hospital and toward the ceremonial hall destroyed by Shiba with the sacred treasure Byakko in hand, discovering that the trio of Mio, Yuki and Kurumi was already there waiting for him.

 

“Sorry about that—I ended up being late.”

 

As he said that, the young man—Toujou Basara—noticed Yuki wielding her spirit blade, Sakuya, and Kurumi with her spirit gauntlet in hand, and felt rather relieved.

 

“Thank goodness…it seems that he managed to successfully convince the elders.”

 

“Mhm. Things seems to be have transpired smoothly on your end, too.”

 

With a nod and a noncommittal reply in response to Kurumi, he lightly brandished the white spear Byakko in hand, inspecting the weapon’s edge with a serious expression.

 

“It seems we’re all set and done, then. Let’s get going.”

 

Toujou Basara made a silent declaration:

 

“We have to stop him—we have to stop Shiba-san.”