Only an hour remained before Kouryuu would finally manifest fully and emerge in its completed form.
And at the summit of the Tokyo Tower was none other than Shiba Kyouichi, overseeing the process beside it.
It was then that a dazzling light pierced the sky within the enclosed space; it shone with the splendour akin to that of an enormous shooting star.
“So it’s finally arrived.” Shiba muttered, smiling as he gazed at the sky, understanding what the appearance of the light meant. And the moment the light rose above the Tokyo Tower, it split into five fragments.
Their trajectories divided the space of the barrier into five equal sections; following that, each of the divided fragments began to take on a different color of their own.
Red, white, blue, yellow and black—the colors of the Five Elements.
However, the trajectories of the lines that had split from the meteor and divided the space they now travelled in had formed a different shape over Shiba’s existing elemental space.
It did not appear to establish itself in the middle; instead, it equally divided itself into five with Tokyo Tower as its center.
And the moment the scattered fragments of the shooting star crashed into the ground, light of five individual colors and sped across the earth and sped toward their respective diagonal locations.
And the moment that Shiba—who now stood at the highest point of Tokyo Tower—caught sight of the massive pentagram,
“The Solomon’s seal, huh…as expected, that’s the game they’re playing.” Shiba uttered, deducing the purpose of the meteor that had approached them—it was the plan that Basara’s group had devised.
“Basara’s band of five girls will respectively assume each element—there’s Naruse Mio, her demon follower, Maria, her maid, Zest, in addition to the sisters from the Hero Clan, Yuki and Kurumi. I suppose that’s the gist of it?”
It was Balflear, floating next to Shiba, who spoke next.
It was something utilized by famous onmyoji* (exorcists) back in the Heian Era of Japan—Seimeikikyo, as they called it—and a different variation of the utilization of the five elements as a foundation that did not share the same emphasis on the bearing and direction like what Shiba had in his arsenal.
It was something that utilized the yin-yang philosophy of the five elements, emphasizing on their compatibility and incompatibility in order to maximize their power.
In contrast to Shiba’s repertoire of the Four Gods and Georgius, Basara’s group instead had Mio’s group of five girls, each representing one of the Five Elements, being Wood, Fire, Water, Metal and Earth.
“Their goal is to construct a new, enormous space made from Solomon’s Seal, I see…Afureia’s space is meant to hide them from us, whereas this new barrier intends to alleviate the risk to the normal space outside when we release our own barrier and possibly let the Four Gods run out of control, is it?”
It wasn’t a bad plan; it was perhaps better to say that it was their only plan.
Such was why the plan Basara and the others had decided to take was one that Shiba had already accounted for.
It was to be expected; Basara and the others had no mere intention of simply stopping Shiba’s goals.
They needed to protect the world from Shiba, who intended to bring the Hero Clan to ruin.
Failure to protect Tokyo and its vicinity would be no different from them being utterly defeated.
….Basara had yet to reveal any sign of his presence for that very reason.
Being unable to guarantee the safety of the exterior vicinity, Basara had surely deduced that facing Shiba head on would be too grave of a risk; there was no doubt that Basara himself had stayed behind in the special space Afureia had made.
It was likely that Basara would only reveal himself again after Mio and the others would complete the construction of Solomon’s Seal; nevertheless, there was a flaw in the strategy Basara’s group had devised.
“Intending to overlap an existing and established iteration of the Five Elements with another…such a reckless act of imitation without a considerable amount of strength would be impossible.”
As Balflear pointed that out, Shiba replied:
“Well, it’s not like the circumstances at hand would allow the convenience of Basara and the others to devise a more effective solution…considering the scope of our power and the five-elemental barrier we have, anyway.”
And knowing that—
“I can see him at this very moment, still in Afureia’s imaginary dimensional space making preparations to increase their chances of victory, however little, even now…”
Shiba could feel everything, even from the range of his isolated vicinity.
The aura released by Mio and the others, now scattered across the land, had elevated by leaps and bounds since their battle against the Four Gods.
Surely the scale of their development could not be described as them simply being changed people; no, it was growth on a completely different level.
He could only imagine what Basara’s group of girls had done to obtain such newfound power.
—As well as what Basara had been willing to give up on, how far he was willing to sacrifice for them.
And while he did find the efforts of Basara and his group to be commendable—
“However…I, too, have risen to a new level of power.” Shiba smiled as he gazed at Kouryuu above him, nearly completing its manifestation; it was then that Kouryuu would transform and assume its second and final form as the divine dragon.
Moreover, Kouryuu was not the only thing that had grown stronger.
Shiba, now synchronized with Kouryuu, had now accumulated almost an infinite amount of Ki by virtue of the compatibility five elements within him; his increase in power far exceeded that of Mio’s group even if the latter had successfully defeated the Four Gods, that now manifested themselves in their sacred treasure forms.
“You’re not the only ones who’ve managed to buy their own time and get some newfound strength for yourselves.” Shiba muttered, as he oversaw the ground beneath him.His mind wandered to the thought of the Holy King of the Vatican, who had foolishly thought that he had Shiba in his control.
“If you can’t keep that in mind…pray you don’t walk down the same path that old fool Albareos did.”
Basara and the others had planned to construct their magical barrier from Solomon’s Seal by instilling their respective elements into the earth and letting them take root.
Amidst such an occurrence, a certain young woman, now representative of the Metal element, descended upon the Edo River in the East.
It was none other than Nonaka Yuki, the spirit sword Sakuya in her hand.
Yuki’s first course of action was to scan the surrounding area for any adversaries.
Much like the instance where she had defeated the manifested Seiryuu, there seemed to be no sign of any enemy by the riverbank.
Yuki could not propel the magical power of the Wood Element immediately, however; it was necessary for her to do something else beforehand.
In order to dispel Shiba’s five-elemental barrier, they needed to suppress the Sacred treasures that were the source of the power that maintained it; Yuki, assuming the Metal Element, had thus arrived to suppress the spirit sword Seiryuu, possessing the Wood element, situated in the east.
It wouldn’t be enough for them to simply overlap their barrier with the one Shiba had constructed.
By virtue of the Master-Servant Vow, the group had increased their power in such an incomparable way that they never thought possible; although Yuki had only narrowly defeated Seiryuu in its manifested state in their previous skirmish, it was now possible for Yuki to be able to overwhelm it in her current state.
However, even with the newfound power Yuki and the others had attained, there was no denying that Shiba’s continuous possession of the five-elemental compatibility only meant that his power would continue to grow; if they did not suppress it, the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal would collapse should Shiba allow the Four Gods to run wild.
Yuki had immediately discovered Seiryuu in its sacred beast form the first time she had arrived here in this eastern district and subsequently battled against it.
As such, Yuki now moved toward the west, currently in search of the member of the Four Gods she was to defeat—Seiryuu—away from the Edo River that gave the weapon a positional advantage.
During the strategy meeting that took place before the group had left Hasegawa’s enclosed space, they learned that Kurumi and Zest had come face to face with two sacred treasures—the sacred sword, Suzaku and the sacred baton, Genbu respectively—and had fought the manifested sacred beasts before they could pinpoint the weapons’ actual location. Only the location of Byakko, which Basara had been forced to surrender to Balflear, was known; it was situated in one of the baseball fields of Kinuta Park, replacing the copy of Byakko that Shiba and Balflear had initially used, Georgius.
And according to Basara….
The exit leading to the western district was connected to Kinuta park where the copy of Byakko once stood.
Considering the necessity of the balance between the five elements, the other members of the Four Gods scattered across their respective districts should be situated nearby the space of that exit.
Seiryuu was nearby Yuki herself.
The eastern district, however, was giving off the signs of energy stemming from the Wood Element of Seiryuu; moreover, it appeared as if Shiba and his group had tinkered with things somewhat…or perhaps it wasn’t just the five-elemental barrier that he’d constructed that was feeding the power for Kouryuu to manifest, but the Four Gods and Shiba himself, as well that resulted in Yuki being unable to pinpoint the actual location of Seiryuu.
She wasn’t helpless in this case, though.
“Sakuya..guide me.” Calling her spirit sword, she implored it to find the location of Seiryuu; Sakuya should be capable of detecting the waves of Seiryuu, both weapons being of the Wood element.
A moment passed before Sakuya directed Yuki to the southwest—a patch of greenland at the junction between the Edo River and the old Edo River.
The place was known as Shinozaki Town, situated near the Shinozaki flood gate.
As Yuki turned toward the direction Sakuya had given her, she could see something familiar atop one of the trunks of the many trees that made the forest situated at the cusp of the triangular scope of greenland; it was the blue spirit sword, as she narrowed her eyes upon catching sight of it.
From the angle where Yuki was at, it was located at the opposite bank of the Old Edo River; a river that had a minimum of a hundred-meter long width even at its narrowest portions.
One would usually need to take a western detour towards the flood gate, whereas the brave could best the river by swimming across it.
Yuki could now run along the water’s surface in her current state, though.
Yuki slashed Sakuya vertically downward, toward the river’s surface.
As the blade glinted at the motion, it only cut through thin air; however, with the slashing motion came a stream with sakura petals that formed a path along the surface of the Old Edo River.
Yuki could now tread along the path of sakura petals across the Old Edo River.
And at that moment—
There was a shrill neighing, before a sudden tornado that whipped up a storm of leaves horizontally lashed at her.
Yuki quickly leapt backwards to dodge the assault, thereupon which the blizzard of leaves continued on toward where Yuki once stood, blowing away the path of sakura petals that would lead her to Seiryuu.
Landing upon the riverbank, she quickly turned to the direction of which the swirling storm of leaves had come from.
To which she could see a silent, blue-colored beast now stood in her way upstream, floating upon the water.
It was far smaller than the manifested Seiryuu in size, only comparable to that of a well-bred horse.
The aura it released wasn’t quite as comparable as Seiryuu’s, however; the force it released could be said to be even higher than that of Kouryuu’s when it had fired its elemental attack at them when Yuki had come to the central district to aid Basara in his battle against Shiba.
Nonaka Yuki deepened her expression, knowing what exactly that creature before her was.
“A blue Qilin…if I remember correctly, that’s—”
It was called Shoko.
Apart from Kouryuu, there was another divine beast that governed the central district of the Five Elements—the leader of the Four Gods, Qilin.
Much like Kouryuu that represented the Earth Element and was assigned to protect the central vicinity, Qilin possessed four other individual existences representing the four other elements apart from Earth; Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood.
Of the Fire Element, the crimson being Enku.
Of the Water Element, the black being Kakutan.
Of the Metal Element, the white being Sakumei.
And last but not least—
The blue being, representing Wood, and the first that caught Yuki’s gaze—Shoko.
Kouryuu and Qilin were supposed to be one being, leading the Four Gods.
It was unnatural for even Qilin to surface even whilst the manifestation of the Kouryuu continued to progress.
Could it be that Kouryuu, now strengthening itself to its limit in the central district, currently also possessed the secondary ability to summon Qilin and its four other elemental counterparts?
…It was the best and worst explanation she could think of.
Shiba had chosen the central district to materialize Kouryuu because Qilin were naturally docile and disliked fighting; that said, however, it would be wrong to assume that the Qilin were weak.
It was quite the opposite, actually; it wouldn’t share the same role of being the leader of the Four Gods with Kouryuu otherwise.
It was a sacred beast that had been assigned to protect Shiba and Kouryuu—and now Seiryuu.
And if Shoko had come here…
Yuki was sure that the other forms of Qilin had also appeared were the others were at, as well; in addition, their already formidable power would only increase given that their elements were similar to that of the Four Gods, also members of the Five Elements, as they scattered across each individual district.
Now Qilin were to face off against the group of girls, who had performed the Master-Servant vow with Basara and possessed the advantage of the incompatibility between their elements.
Yuki silently compared her own strength with that of Shoko.
Their strength seemed to be even—if slightly disadvantaged on Yuki’s end. Even then—
“Not that I mind. It’s not like I expected this whole process to run smoothly from the start, anyway.”
With Yuki’s dauntless declaration, she wielded her spirit sword Sakuya firmly in hand, stepping forward.
The Qilin were tranquil beasts that did not enjoy conflict.
It was likely that she would not be attacked so long as she kept her distance.
On the other hand, however, Qilin would not move as well.
It would not move as she moved like Seiryuu did in her previous battle, deterring her from changing their battleground.
That said, Shoko would only continue to increase the power of its Wood Element through the synergy of using the water from the Edo River.
There was no time to hesitate.
There was not a moment’s time to waste before Kouryuu would fully develop into its true form.
“Don’t stand in the way. Neither ours, nor Basara’s!”
With a scream, Nonaka Yuki strode forward as she unsheathed Sakuya, approaching the enemy that stood in her way—Shoko.
As Yuki had presumed, the other Qilin had appeared before the other girls.
Mio was pit against the white being Sakumei in the west; Kurumi against the red being Enku in the south; and then there was the black being Kakutan, pit against Zest in the north.
The Qilin had arrived to disrupt their attempt in constructing Solomon’s Seal.
However, one of the girls had been spared from the sudden appearance of the Qilin.
It was Maria, representative of the Wood element, who had gone to the northeast, between the north representing Water and the east representing Metal, to play her part in constructing Solomon’s Seal.
Shiba’s five-fold barrier utilized bearings as a foundation for its construction.
As such, Shiba could not summon Qilin representing the Earth element to attack them, as it was bound to the central district.
As such, this area was different from the others in that there was no member of the Four Gods they needed to incapacitate before constructing their barrier— it was supposed to be the less burdensome district to take over.
Naruse Maria was pit against a situation as bad if not worse than that of the other girls in their respective districts.
The spot where she descended upon with intent to pour her magical power into its surface was situated northwest of Tokyo, where a generous patch of green and blue spread across its vicinity—the metropolitan Shakujii park.
The space Maria was now in, empty of traces of either the Qilin or the Four Gods, was about to become a vicious battlefield; if one were to wonder why, it was because the high-ranking Demon that Maria had already fought in the same park once in the past had appeared again.
“The five-elemental compatibility of Solomon’s Seal is achieved with the Wood Element as its center, eh?”
Balflear’s voice came from all directions—it was hard for her to pinpoint his exact location, and even then, it wasn’t simply because he’d used his invisibility magic.
She was now surrounded by an innumerable amount of enemies—the Demonic Legion, high-ranking Demons that were contracted to Balflear, and of which Balflear had summoned during their previous battle in Shakujii park. The individual strength of each Legion wasn’t particularly threatening during their first skirmish, and Maria had been capable of handling them as a result. However, the Legion before her now possessed significantly enhanced speed, strength and other basic combat abilities, and were even capable of working together if need be.
This excluded the fact that Balflear had assumed the important of role of sending Georgius—then the copy of Byakko—to Shiba back then.
Could it be that he had been holding back during their first battle? Maria thought.
“As long as I get rid of you, your plan is ruined!” Balflear let out a derisive laugh, and then—
“—————” “—————” “—————” “—————” “—————”
The Legion charged at her in numbers.
“Sure, you may be right—say that only after you’ve bested me, though!” Maria repeated the same maneuver she used before to blast away the numerous Legion channeling magic power in her fists, she punched the ground, producing radial shock waves to knock them aside.
Solomon’s Seal could only be constructed after all five elements had been instilled into the earth; Maria simultaneously prepared for that process as she attacked the swarm of Legion.
If she were to continue to attack in such a manner though, it would be problematic in that the Legion would simply attack from above if Maria were to sink the ground beneath her with her repetitive attacks. The park’s ground had fewer and fewer space through the littered holes she had made both above and below, and it would be difficult for her to dodge them.
As such, Maria never stood in one spot, continuously moving as she continued to smash the earth; such consecutive crushing force left the park’s ground filled with massive craters, as if its surface was decimated by a meteor shower.
Maria bore no grudge against Shakujii Park; she didn’t exactly enjoy her act of destroying the recreational location, but the entirety of Tokyo was under grave danger at present. The park would return to its previous undamaged state after the barrier would be dispelled, after all.
And so Maria continued her onslaught of attacks against the Legion, all the while driving the magical energy needed for the construction of Solomon’s Seal into the ground; she appeared to be successful thus far.
…However, she could not show even the slightest opening.
There was still so much that was unknown about the demonic Legion; there was also the fact defeating the Legion alone would not allow her to set the Wood Element in this northwestern district freely—she needed to defeat Balflear, who was in control of the Legion himself.
And so in Kinuta Park, Maria remained preoccupied with the unrelenting and unceasing horde of the Legion, being unable to fight against Balflear directly.
Her opponent was a high-ranking Demon with the power to make contracts with other demonic beings on his own; he was undoubtedly her most difficult opponent yet. That said, more than her simultaneous tasks of instilling her elemental power and fending off the Legion, her attention was instead focused on detecting any sign of Balflear, undoubtedly waiting in the wings for a moment to strike Maria.
The Legion was a double-edged sword, however; as much as it provided cover for Balflear by covering the surrounding view and making it difficult for Maria to detect him, Balflear also knew that the massive size of the Legion also meant that they were walls surrounding Maria herself, making it difficult for him to go on the offensive as well.
Additionally, the shock waves that Maria repetitively sent out toward her surroundings meant that it would be even more difficult for Balflear to get close.
And although her shock waves, powerful enough to fend off the Legion, meant that the amount of energy she instilled into the earth was lesser than usual due to how the process were more distributed—
Maria had already used her fists to drive the power of the Earth Element into the ground almost hundredfold; quantity could compensate for quality, and if she kept this up, it would only take a few minutes to instill the elemental energy needed on her end to construct Solomon’s Seal.
Balflear would definitely act before that would happen. And should it happen…
She would unlock the seal on her powers with the Magic Key if the circumstances deemed it necessary.
And at that point, a single punch was all that was necessary for her to supply the necessary energy needed for the Solomon’s Seal.
The key to this battle was opportunity.
It was at the most crucial point—and as Maria nervously continued to bring punch after punch toward the ground, the energy within it nearing its required capacity—
A sudden occurrence caused Maria to draw a breath; a magic circle had suddenly appeared in the ground before she could continue punching it.
It was likely that this was no ordinary magic circle; she wouldn’t take the bait by punching it.
But she couldn’t stop, either—the Legion wasn’t going to stop any time soon.
At the same time, Maria couldn’t stay in the air, as well; exposing herself without cover in the air against Balflear would likely result in her being dead meat given the latter’s access to invisibility.
She also didn’t have enough time to unleash her trump card—releasing the seal with the Magic Key.
If that’s the case…!
With a resolute shriek, Maria unleashed her fists, now imbued with the crimson mark of gravitational magic.
During her exchange of the Master-Servant Vow with Basara, she had come to the realization of the identity of her birth father.
The power she was releasing right now belonged to him—to Wilbert.
She restricted such unleashed power to only half of its full value, however; unleashing such power fully would result in faintness and dizziness, but 50% of that power was more than enough for the task at hand.
Even if the magic circle before her was a reactive trap, it was possible for her to suppress with a gravitational force of a perpendicular direction.
Maria swung her right fist, clad in the surge of crimson energy, toward the magic circle—and as the blast of the gravitational wave shattered the magic circle before her,
The next moment, however, Maria could hear Balflear’s voice call out close to her.
And he was in the air.
The crimson gravitational wave that Maria had cast had begun to spread across the earth at that moment.
“That magic circle I cast was made from Reis’ power—another member of the Legion I contracted with.” Balflear was now standing beside Maria, who was now shocked over the sudden occurrence, in mid-air. “And these two magic circles are connected to another dimension.”
Balflear had finished his preparations for his attack formation at that moment. He opened his right hand toward Maria as dark aura swirled around it; in his palm was massive, ten-layered magic circle.
“Good reflexes—not good enough, though.”
A massive fist lunged at her from the side, obscuring her view—Maria vigorously flapped her wings in an attempt to dodge the attack, but there was nowhere to run.
She could only take it head on—
Before the impact could occur, however, a black shock wave came from above following a familiar, composed murmur, devouring the gigantic horde of Legion that were approaching Maria in one strike; the intense force of the flow of magic from the attack spared no trace of the Legion that Balflear had summoned.
And as Maria turned to the direction where the shockwave had come from—
“…But why are you here?”
Her voice came out roughly the same time Balflear’s question did—and the two combatants gazed at the sky, where a lone young man stood.
It was the current young Demon Lord, wielding his dark magic sword in his hand—Leohart.
“What’s the matter…is it such a surprise that we would come to this place personally?” The current Demon Lord, Leohart, addressed Maria and Balflear, both of whom had yet to fully digest the situation.
He addressed himself with “we”; it meant that he was not the only one that had come here.
And as if to affirm his words, someone else showed himself, his entrance one that appeared as if he destroyed the empty space next to Leohart.
It was the current representative of both the current Demon Lord faction and the Moderate Faction, a certain young man who had been entrusted with monitoring the growth of Toujou Basara.
It was Lars—but he currently did not assume his demonic form, instead taking the form of a certain human being known as Takigawa Yahiro.
“Man, this space really is something else, isn’t it…and it’s in the human world too, so it wouldn’t have been exactly easy for even Demons like us to enter at will in the first place.”
“Nevertheless, we stand before you now. So take a guess why the impossible has become the possible, won’t you?” Lars said.
“I see…Sheila-dono, is it?” Balflear immediately came to the conclusion that it was the work of a certain person, mentioning her name.
“My mother did…?” Maria asked, still confused.
“That’s right.” Lars nodded. “There are other ways to travel between the Demon Realm and the human world apart from the dimensional boundaries. Your mother had secretly put an insurance on you.”
Leohart then explained what said insurance was.
“Sheila-dono, once esteemed as the most powerful succubus in the Demon Realm, used her power to construct a dimensional tunnel. For the sake of the inevitable, Sheila-dono had created a link that was directly connected to her upon you—her daughter.”
“Because of the higher dimensional isolation of this space compared to the human world and the Demon Realm, though, the link connected to you severed and the coordinates of our exit ended up being slightly off.” Lars said, “In the end, though, we’ve managed to get in and in the nick of time, too, so all’s well that ends well, I guess.”
“Could it be that…my mom anticipated this would happen after the final battle between the current Demon Lord faction and the Moderate Faction?”
“No. Your mother had placed the insurance on you before you had come over to Rendval Castle to battle the current Demon Lord Faction, so that she could head to you at any time.” Leohart explained to Maria, who remained in disbelief, “However… your mother had many opportunities to eliminate the link. And with the Cardinal Sins no more, few if not no one in the Demon Realm have the capability to match Toujou Basara and his group who had bested us, much less go against them.”
“On the contrary, if your group were to be in danger once again, your enemies which threatened such danger would be those of which we need to prepare for with all that we have, as well. Sheila-dono had preserved the link in preparation for that. It was a wise decision. They don’t compare her with Wilbert, famed as the strongest of the Demon Lords, without reason.”
“And yet you’ve interfered with our affairs despite asking the Hero Clan to deem Basara and his group sanctuary…you’ve made quite the thoughtless choice in that regard, haven’t you?” Balflear, who had remained silent throughout their explanation, suddenly spoke up. “Don’t you think that making such a rash decision during such a crucial period where the two factions just started working together would risk the future you and Liala-sama fought so much for?”
“Tell me about it. You’d think he’d actually listen to me for once in this case.” Lars’ gaze turned to Leohart, a wry smile on his face as he said so.
“It’s true that there’s a risk like that, yes,” Leohart did not deny the possibility than Balflear had suggested. “However, Balflear…no matter how you look at it, you’re still my subordinate—someone supposed to be under my command. If I were to turn a blind eye as master to your involvement as my subordinate in all this, it’d become a good excuse for the rebel forces to attack us nonetheless. I decided to settle this discreetly before the news would spread.”
“So you’ve come to settle the matter yourself?”
“A master is responsible for the failures of his subordinates. I’ve left the Demon Realm in the care of the Eight Generals.” And even then—
“My sister, too, wishes for me to work together with Ramusas-dono to maintain the alliance between the two factions.”
“Liala-sama did…?” Balflear raised a brow.
“And you’d think he’d actually listen to me for once in this case.” His tone riddled with resignation, Lars repeated his former statement down to each exact word. He then turned to Maria and prompted her: “That said, Leohart’s going to keep that guy busy. Rather than dumbfoundedly standing around here, you might as well hurry up and do something about that barrier.”
“…I understand. I’ll leave him to the both of you, then.” Deciding that she would trust them, she descended to the earth’s surface and began to channel the power of the Earth element necessary to construct Solomon’s Seal.
“Let’s see…I guess I’ll just sit back and watch, then.” Lars crossed his arms behind his head, satisfied that he had finished his work.
“Lars. Do something about that.” Leohart pointed at the scene he was looking at.
It was the sight of the golden dragon coiled around the scarlet Tokyo Tower.
“Hey, hey, don’t take your jokes too far. I’m not about to go and bite off more than I can chew.” Lars said.
“—Remember: your report spoke of another worrisome enemy.”
Leohart was aware of the existence of the man they called Shiba Kyouichi.
However, Basara’s chances of victory against him up until now were rather slim according to Lars’ report.
Of course, it was not a fact that was exclusively decided by their combat strength; Basara had always managed to pull through many deadly battles against many foes far stronger than him, Leohart himself included. However, even if Basara had bested many others in battle, the fact remained that Lars himself had estimated that Basara’s chances against this particular opponent were quite low—and Leohart never once doubted Lars’ judgement, knowing that he was second to none in determining the gravity of a given situation, and thus could not be mistaken in what he had proposed in his report.
“It would be too difficult for Toujou Basara to fight against someone like that while having to keep that thing busy. Go and give him a hand.”
“Easier said than done. I am not going to entertain that deca-sized dragon all on my own. Where’s your concern about my issues, huh?”
“…I ask this important favor of you. You should know that my older sister’s busy with continuing negotiations with the Moderate Faction right about now.”
Leohart told him of a single truth. And then—
“Hmm? Ahh, yeah, that’s actually a pain in the ass, no doubt about that…” Lars understood what Leohart was getting at, “But if both Toujou Basara and Naruse Mio become goners for whatever reason, our alliance with the Moderate Faction is toast, isn’t it? All your sister’s hard work is going to go to waste there.”
“And if my sister were to discover that such a scenario had occurred as a result of your negligence…” There was a pause, before Leohart spoke again. “I wonder what she would think.”
‘Wha..!…Damn it, no fair. What kind of threat is that?”
Understanding what Leohart’s words entailed, Lars spewed out some derogatory language at him before disappearing. He wasn’t running away—he had simply gone to carry out what he was supposed to do.
And now it was Leohart’s turn to carry out his duties.
“I don’t intend to waste too much time. Let’s settle this.” Leohart said, brandishing Loki.
“Do you think you can turn the tables simply by adding two more people into this fight?” Balflear laughed scornfully.
“Think before you speak. Didn’t you hear me earlier?” A smile appeared on Leohart’s face as he addressed his former subordinate.
“I’ve already explained myself—I can entrust my absence in the Demon Realm to the Eight Generals.”
Lars wasn’t the only one that the current Demon Lord Leohart that brought along with him—he’d also invited his eight trusted Demon Generals to join him.
They had all arrived from the Demon Realm fight alongside Toujou Basara and his group as allies.
Leohart and Balflear were now face-to-face with each other.
One of the aforementioned allies had now appeared in the south, where Nonaka Kurumi was now caught in an aerial battle.
The blade of the spirit sword Suzaku had driven itself through the Kawasaki thermal power station.
Tokyo bay within the space of the barrier had been washed up dry due to the power of Suzaku and Enku.
And despite knowing that, Kurumi had nevertheless endured despite her disadvantage against the super-heated crimson Qilin that stood above Suzaku—Enku—with the open sky of Tokyo bay as their battlefield.
“…! But why are you…!?” Kurumi exclaimed in surprise, presently caught in a grave battle where she lacked the ability to attack due to her inability to utilize her water-controlling abilities. Someone had suddenly forced their way into the battle—a demon that appeared as imposing as a rock.
It was one of the high-ranking Demons Basara had sparred against in the Demon Realm—the colossal Demon that had appeared during the siege of the Moderate Faction headquarters, Wildart Castle, alongside the Heroic Spirits.
“You misunderstand, young maiden of the Hero Clan—I come here not as your enemy.” The gigantic high-ranking Demon—Gald—muttered in a low voice, his gaze fixated on Enku.
The crimson Qilin immediately deduced Gald as an enemy—and reflexively unleashed a massive, flaming sphere at him. The spherical clump of flames, akin to that of a small sun, then took the form of a phoenix before lunging at Gald, burning the surrounding air in its wake.
“Impressive…even without proper summoning, it is still capable of forming such powerful beasts out of the flames.”
“Wait, what are you—…!”
She wanted to prompt the Demon to run when he merely stood there appraising the enemy even as the flaming avian was inches away from crashing into them—but then she remembered something.
She remembered the power that Gald had utilised while attacking Wildart Castle.
And she witnessed it before her very eyes once again; Gald calmly raised his right hand as the flaming phoenix crashed into his palm—and the ensuing impact did not cause an explosion, but an absorption.
The phoenix that Enku had spewed out had been absorbed into Gald’s body.
The sudden situation appeared to have troubled Enku.
Gald’s body suddenly doubled in size at that moment—and with it a pair of massive wings and a tail sprouted from his body, his strong arms pulsating as if magma ran through their veins.
“A pity…you may fashion yourself a sacred beast, and yet as powerful as you are…” Gald’s body roared with devilish flames as he said so, “Attacks of the Fire element will not scathe me.”
“Hear me, young maiden of the Hero Clan…I am briefly informed of the circumstances as per Lars’ report.”
“…How can I trust you?”
“So long as the pact between the Demon Lord Faction and the Moderate Faction holds, we have no reason to be your adversaries.” Gald replied to Kurumi, who now stood behind him as he temporarily relieved himself from squaring off against Enku.
“However, my sister and I are…”
Takigawa’s secret letter had not included the terms of the Demon Realm aiding members who had been deemed sanctuary; moreover, their act of aiding them now would be unfavourable for Gald and the current Demon Lord Faction.
“No matter. I am aware of how you and your sister have since left the Hero Clan through Lars’ report as well. That is why Leohart and Ramusas-dono have decided to deem you and the others sanctuary just as they have done Toujou Basara and Naruse Mio. The Village and the Vatican of your home clan have already been notified the moment you entered this space.”
“But how…and so swiftly too…” Kurumi raised her voice in surprise, evidently taken aback. “Don’t tell me they’ve already prepared for this from the very beginning…?”
When exactly had everything been arranged for Kurumi and Yuki to be placed under sanctuary and for them to be aided?
“My apologies, but that it something that does not concern me…we have simply arrived to provide our support against the man called Shiba and to stop Balflear, who once served in our military.”
“ ‘We’?” And the moment Kurumi asked out of the suspicion of how Gald had always implied that he had not come alone, a conspicuous, massive roaring sound resounded from afar.
Knowing that the sounds of battle across the other regions could be heard since a moment ago, Kurumi, kept aloft in the sky of Tokyo bay through flying magic, turned toward and surveyed Tokyo Tower that was situated in the center.
That was when she could see it—before they’d even realized it, giants of a height comparable to the height of towering skyscrapers had appeared in the northern area.
What Kurumi saw next wasn’t the massive Legion that Balflear had summoned.
Elsewhere, Zest, responsible for the Earth Element, was now fighting against the black Qilin, Kakutan, in the northern district; however, she was not fighting with the golems she would summon from her magic.
Although her golems were no slouch themselves in terms of speed, Kakutan was far faster than Genbu, and so her golems would not be able to land a solid hit.
As such, Zest could only manage to attack with her Earth magic, and Kakutan, perhaps realizing her intentions, manipulated the flow of water from the Shakujii water that flowed into the southern region of the JGSDF Camp Jyujou grounds, the moisture in the air, and the water from the water pipes underground.
It surrounded itself with powerful walls of water, protecting itself from Zest’s attacks of the Earth element while attempting to slowly whittle her down with its own.
At the same time, Zest’s Earth magic possessed incompatibility against Kakutan’s Water Element, allowing her to block Kakutan’s attacks. Even if water could weaken the earth, it could not completely destroy it; as such, Zest utilized every single ounce of soil she could use from the ground and the surrounding buildings that made up the JGSDF Camp Jyujou.
Both sides possessed equally formidable defenses, but Zest herself lacked an effective means of attack, leaving the battle in a stalemate.
—However, the longer the battle progressed, the closer Kouryuu would reach its full manifestation; something that would increase Shiba’s power significantly and reduce their chances of victory along with it.
The sacred baton, Genbu, the source of the Water Element that flowed in the vicinity, was now stuck atop the highest point of the metal communications tower; Zest needed to suppress Genbu’s power and subsequently cast magic of the Earth Magic onto the earth’s surface.
And as Zest prepared herself to attack Kakutan with such conviction—
A massive magic circle suddenly expanded in the heliport testing grounds of the JGSDF Camp Jyujou.
Following that, a hulking giant towering far above the communications tower appeared in the middle of the magic circle.
“That’s…” Zest muttered as she descended atop the roof of the auditorium, gazing toward the giant that she had seen somewhere before. She had directly faced such a giant herself during the battle of Wildart Castle—it was Mio’s opponent during the battle between Rendval and the Current Demon Lord Faction.
It was a Heroic Spirit—however, the one that now appeared in the JGSDF Camp Jyujou looked different from the one she had seen before.
Runes of an ancient language surrounded its massive body, letting off a magical shine.
“It’s chanting magic? No, wait, that’s…”
“Ah, thank goodness…it seems you’re alright.”
As Zest tried to guess what the Heroic Spirit was activating, a certain young man who stood on the Heroic Spirit’s shoulder let out a relieved sigh and addressed Zest as he noticed her.
She was familiar with this rather adorable-looking young man; he was one of the few people who had fought alongside Leohart with Heroic Spirits during the battle between the two factions in the Demon Realm—Luka.
After the battle that had taken place in Rendval, rumor had it that he did not opt to join Leohart’s newly established demon council, instead choosing to take the path of a researcher in the academy.
“What brings you here?”
“An order made from the decision between the alliance between the Current Demon Lord Faction and the Moderate Faction.” Lars replied to Zest, looking somewhat bitter. “Our aim is to capture Balflear, who’s gotten himself involved in all this. The alliance has deemed you sanctuary, and we were ordered to intervene to protect you from harm.”
“If anything were to happen to the sanctuary of the two main powers of the Demon Realm, I’m afraid the conflict that would ensue would not concern the Hero Clan alone…it would also destroy the peace between the Current Demon Lord Faction and the Moderate Faction that cost so much to establish. None of us want that to happen.”
“….So that’s how it is.” Zest muttered in agreement.
—It was likely that Luka had only told her of the official statement.
Balflear, now a traitor of the Demon Realm for treason due to his affiliation with Shiba, was now a target that the Current Demon Lord Faction needed to cut all ties with by all means; however, the faction seemed to have intentionally maintained his affiliation with them as a reason to come here and provide Basara and the others their aid.
Even so, she’d probably misunderstand it even more if she asked any further details; besides, there another important question she needed to ask.
“How did you enter this space?”
“Through the dimensional tunnel Sheila-dono made. I think the tunnel was supposed to connect her to her daughter, Maria-chan, but due to hindrances between this space and the space outside, their connection was severed soon after we entered this space…so we didn’t exactly end up landing at the right spot.”
She presumed that the direct connection between Maria and Sheila had been broken when they were hiding in Hasegawa’s imaginary dimensional space; it was such an elaborate construct that even Shiba, who easily detect the ki of others, could not manage to find them. It was thus no surprise that the the barrier she made had severed their connection, no matter how perfect the dimensional tunnel Shera constructed could be. And as Zest continued to ponder on the situation,
“At any rate, leave that sacred beast to me and this little baby here. Do what you must!”
“No…I couldn’t possibly leave something like that to the both of you…”
Although she was grateful for their assistance, it was still too dangerous for Luka and a Heroic Spirit to face Kakutan by themselves; it would be for the best if they took down Kakutan first before beginning to erect their barrier.
Even if it would take a considerable amount of time, it was a far better scenario than Zest attempting to best Kakutan alone.
The high-ranking Heroic Spirit that Luka used during his battle against Mio was far more agile than the golems Zest used to summon back then. Of course, there was also the fact that Zest’s golems right now were possibly stronger than the Heroic Spirit Luka had used back then, having made her Master-Servant with Basara.
However, she also did not know how far Luka himself had come since he’d returned to the academy and continued his research on Heroic Spirits.
It was very likely that this particular Heroic Spirit could keep up with the speed of Kakutan; and as such a thought crossed Zest’s mind,
…Wait a minute.
Zest suddenly realized that Kakutan had stopped attacking.
It hadn’t disappeared—the black Qilin was still floating directly above the spacious recreational vicinity.
It appeared to have deemed the Heroic Spirit its main enemy now. But it was no longer moving, and due to—
“It seems that that sacred beast has noticed it as well.” Luka explained, his gaze fixated on Kakutan. “After being defeated by Naruse Mio….I dedicated myself to researching and upgrading Heroic Spirits in the hopes of one day being able to serve Leohart-sama once more on the front lines. It was then that I found information about something relating to an ancient barrier once used by Chaos with the capability to nullify all forms of magic, recorded in ancient language in the academy archives.”
“Only Chaos was capable of using such a powerful barrier, a barrier that’s impossible for us to replicate in its exact form. But if we were to understand the concept of it and apply it, it’s not impossible to produce something with similar results. It’s our job as researchers to recreate ancient relics like this into more modern versions, after all.” Luka said, a confident smile on his face. “This Heroic Spirit is using an anti-magic nullifying barrier. Given that that sacred beast had manifested from the Water Element, it’ll be immediately destroyed if it so much as makes contact with the barrier.”
Such was why Kakutan had not moved despite recognizing Luka’s Heroic Spirit as an enemy; it knew that it would be destroyed if it were to approach the Heroic Spirit recklessly.
Meanwhile, Kakutan could only utilize the Water Element of the Five Elements as ranged attacks; against such a barrier that blocked all attacks of a magical nature, none of Kakutan’s attacks would prove to be a threat.
But such a powerful barrier definitely possessed its limits.
“This anti-magic nullifying barrier of yours…how long can it last?”
“…Good question. If I am to be honest, I’d say around thirty minutes.”
And having heard Luka’s answer—
So it’s capable of holding off a sacred beast of that level at best, huh…
If it could maintain such a barrier for a longer duration, it wouldn’t need to come to this northern district, and it was an option to ask it to aid Basara against Kouryuu in the central district instead.
If Luka’s Heroic Spirit were to get close, Shiba would immediately react and attempt to destroy it, deeming it the primary threat to Kouryuu’s manifestation.
And there was the fact that Luka’s Heroic Spirit was only capable of nullifying magical attacks; it would not be able to withstand Shiba’s attacks made of pure Ki, unrestricted by the attributes of the Five Elements.
And having said that…
It would be best for them to hurry and complete the Solomon’s Seal while Shiba was occupied in the central district; but if Kakutan had decided to appear here, that would mean that the other Qilin had appeared in the other regions as well.
“You mentioned ‘we’ earlier…who else from the Demon Realm decided to get involved in this?”
“There’s Leohart-sama, Gald, and Lars.”
“So there’s four of you…”
Even if the three others had reached the other districts the same time Luka had, one girl among the five would still be short of assistance.
“Then go somewhere else. Find the others who might need more help—”
“Don’t worry about that.” Luka held a confident smile and said so before Zest could finish. “We only used Sheila-dono’s dimensional tunnel after leaving the Demon Realm.”
Amidst the fighting between Basara’s group of girls and the Qilin of the Five Elements across their individual cardinal directions, one particular girl was having a more challenging time than the others.
It was Naruse Mio, representative of the Fire Element, and responsible for the Western section.
The greater difficulty of her battle didn’t come from the fact that the white Qilin representing the Metal Element before her—Sakumei—was particularly stronger than the other Qilin.
Mio, who had performed the Master-Servant Vow with Basara much like the other girls had after surrendering everything to Basara, now felt incredible magical power growing within her to such an extent that even she couldn’t believe it herself.
Moreover, Mio’s Fire Element was advantageous against Sakumei’s Metal Element.
Even if Mio couldn’t let her guard down for a second against Sakumei—a separate body of Qilin, equal to Kouryuu in rank—she could at least maintain equal footing in a one-versus-one scenario.
And yet Mio found herself troubled amidst her battle; it turned out that Sakumei wasn’t the only one in her way as she battled amidst the lush green surroundings of one of the baseball fields of Kinuta Park.
“…Such a stubborn tiger.” Mio muttered, annoyed, as she floated into the air with flying magic. Beneath her was another white sacred beast apart from Sakumei, a beast that the group should have already subdued during their first battle—Byakko.
The sacred spear, now situated upon one of the baseball fields of Kinuta Park, was the real Byakko that Basara had brought into the barrier after their first battle. Shiba had utilized the holy sword Georgius as a substitute for Byakko, having stolen it from Celis as he left the Village during their skirmish. Balflear had subsequently removed Georgius from its location by force, and Basara had no choice by to stabilize the space by stabbing Byakko into the baseball field back then; Shiba’s five-elemental barrier, constructed in a reversed order of the cardinal directions was about to be dispelled, but it couldn’t be returned to its normal space with the risk of the Four Gods, arranged in an inverted order, running wild.
Byakko had manifested into its sacred beast form as a result of this, and it took Mio great effort for her to subdue it during their first battle.
But even that had been part of Shiba’s plans…with Mio and the others defeating the manifested forms of the Four Gods, the central district could be put into a critical state that would allow Kouryuu to manifest.
And even at this very moment, Kouryuu was growing ever closer to its full manifestation.
As such, Byakko’s appearance was supposed to be impossible, as it would otherwise hinder the manifestation period of Kouryuu.
And yet…it had manifested once more despite that.
Mio pondered upon another possibility.
The manifestation of Byakko that Mio had defeated back then had appeared when Basara pierced the sacred spear into the ground of the pitcher’s mound.
The sacred spear had been bestowed the power of the Wind element from the Four Classical Elements by the Hero Clan; however, the manifestation of Byakko before her now was utilizing the Metal Element of the Five Elements.
Even if the alignment of the Four Gods could have possibly affected this, Byakko being capable of fighting at full power after an immediate systematic change from the Classical Elements to the Five Elements, such that its own element itself had changed, no less, was rather unusual.
In other words—
Byakko had manifested itself from the energy of Metal Element driven into the ground when the holy sword Georgius was used as a fake copy for Byakko; the Byakko before her now, on the other hand, was manifested from the real sacred spear, having changed its inherent element from one from the Four Classical Elements to the one of the Five Elements—from the Wind element to the Metal Element.
Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be difficult for Mio to take it down in her current state—provided that it was her only opponent.
True enough, Mio was now to battle against both Byakko and Sakumei.
This five-elemental space is more troublesome than I’d expected, Mio thought, her attention on the Sakumei as the white Qilin was in battle against her in the sky, while Byakko stood below.
The enemy’s power would increase additively or multiplicatively in a more straightforward manner if this were a normal space; however, this was the special space Shiba had made using the Five Elements as a base.
—The elemental relationships between the Five Elements were not exclusive to compatibility and incompatibility; the Five Elements, classified into five as per their namesake, also possessed five individual relationships: compatibility, incompatibility, uniformity, synergy, and balance.
The simultaneous manifestation of Byakko and Sakumei was a compound between both beasts that possessed the same Metal element, increasing the area’s power to achieve a state of uniformity.
And quite a potent state, at that.
The sacred beast and the divine beast—Byakko and Sakumei— began to attack Mio simultaneously.
On the ground, Byakko transformed magnetite sand from the earth’s surface into countless spears and shot them at her at high speed; Sakumei, on the other, expelled an unending flurry of crescent blades from its body that threatened to cut through everything in their path.
The resultant combination between the linear and curved bladed attacks was a devastation that took on a complex pattern as it approached Mio.
Mio immediately used her fire magic to form a spherical wall that surrounded her entire body.
After exchanging her vows with Basara, her fire magic had developed as such that she could elevate it to such burning temperatures that they were incomparable to the magic she used to destroy Byakko in their first battle.
No—she had no other choice. It had to be done, as the enemy’s attacking power wasn’t exactly the same as when she faced Byakko the first time either, and she had to put in all of her strength to repel the two beasts’ attacks.
If she were to slack even in the slightest to save her magical power, her barrier might be unable to fully resist Byakko and Sakumei’s attacks, that would eventually pierce through and shred her to ribbons.
She had to give it her all.
Byakko and Sakumei’s attacks continuously lunged at Mio’s flaming barrier, disappearing into ashes without a trace. And yet—
The sacred beast and the divine beast, both of the Metal element, showed no signs of letting up any time soon.
The battle now stood at a stalemate where Mio could only focus on defending herself from their attacks, without being capable of doing anything else.
—Kinuta Park was the center of the area housing the Metal Element; as such, Byakko and Sakumei of the same element possessed inexhaustible power against Mio, who instead had to use her full power and was vulnerable to resource loss.
…They wanted to drag the battle with a war of attrition to cut more time.
The longer the battle lasted, it would be disadvantageous not for Mio alone, but for Basara as well.
Mio needed to find an opening to drive them back; however, she had yet to see one thus far. She could inflict reasonable damage if she to strike the beasts with the full power of her fire magic. Expanding her flaming barrier, she attempted to attack the two beasts with a wide-area attack with her fire magic after gauging their reaction velocity; however, her attacks could not catch Byakko and Sakumei, their powers strengthened from the uniformity of their relationship of the Five Elements.
“If that’s the case——….Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”
Mio then utilized wind magic to form a tornado that surrounded them; she was opting for the strategy she had used when she had first battled and subsequently eradicated Byakko.
Using a tornado to stir up magnetite sand and electricizing it would form a powerful electromagnet that would pull Byakko and Sakumei of the Metal element to the burning temperatures of her flaming barrier and evaporate them.
But the moment Mio was about to cast her lightning magic, Sakumei let out a shrill neighing, letting out a bright flash of white light from its body.
The next moment, her lightning magic struck with a thunderous roar, but its trajectory steered away from the storm of magnetite sand that surrounded Mio, instead directly falling upon Sakumei.
“!….It can’t be…it used itself as a lightning rod?!”
As Mio stood dumbfounded that Shoko had saw through her plan, the magnetite sandstorm surrounding her was also quickly sucked in by Sakumei.
Sakumei of the Metal element had formed coils in its body that allowed it control metal; after taking the full brunt of Mio’s lightning attack and electrified itself, it transformed its flesh into a powerful electromagnet.
And the moment Sakumei had gathered a large amount of magnetite sand—
It began to glow brightly once more as it released large waves of plasma this time shining with greater brightness than before, blinding all that was exposed to the flash of light around it.
Simultaneously, Mio quickly dispelled her fire barrier and cast her gravitational magic.
Sakumei absorbed a large amount of magnetite sand into its body, transforming the lightning magic that had brought about its conductive state into electric particles and dispersing them; Mio’s barrier made from fire magic wouldn’t withstand such an electrical attack.
As a defensive measure, Mio used her gravitational magic to create a dimensional gap that formed a barrier; she subsequently dispelled her fire barrier in order to avoid the violent explosion and conflagration that would ensue from the clash between the fire barrier and Sakumei’s electric attacks from shaking the space and break the existing gravitational barrier.
The next moment—countless clumps of plasma burst amidst the white flash of fight.
The charged particles from Sakumei struck the space of Mio’s gravitational barrier and exploded.
“…That was close.”
She had to sustain the surrounding magnetic storm until the flash of light would disappear; if she hadn’t made the Master-Servant Vow with Basara, she wouldn’t have been able to sustain her gravitational magic for that long.
Mio’s thoughts fell on the one she loved more than anything else, her beloved Basara, her one and absolute master.
Basara absolutely had to take down Shiba after all this.
In order to facilitate an advantageous environment for him as best they could, Mio and the others need to hurry in making a new five-elemental barrier with Solomon’s Seal.
…And her responsibility at present was to first restrict Byakko—the white-colored sacred spear, the source of the power of the Metal Element brimming in the west.
Sakumei was merely a product that manifested from said power; her priority thus lied in defeating Byakko.
That said, it was still necessary for her to restrict their movement one way or another before she could land any effective attacks on them.
In that case, then…
The moment Sakumei withdrew the electric current of its attack, Mio unleashed an attack before her with gravitational magic.
She prepared to pin Byakko onto the ground with her gravitational magic while unleashing her fire magic at her surroundings, destroying Byakko in one go; and as she would do so with her barrier made from her fire magic intact, she could nullify Sakumei’s Metal element attacks.
In other words, she intended to attack Byakko, subdue Sakumei, and drive the power of the Fire Element into the earth’s surface—to perform all three tasks in one fell swoop.
To put it in another way, that was the only thing she could do—she had no other option.
The moment the flash of light would weaken and visibility of her surroundings would turn to normal, Mio would be prepared to put her plan into action.
And the moment the flash of light dissipated as if it were mist—
Taking an offensive stance from her initial defensive stance with her gravitational magic, Mio sent crimson waves across the earth’s surface below her; and as she prepared to unleash her fire magic at the next moment—
She prepared to unleash her fire magic, she suddenly lost sight of her target beneath her—something that left Mio’s mind blank for a moment.
Byakko was gone.
Had it been subdued by her gravitational magic? It couldn’t have.
Had it been destroyed amidst Sakumei’s storm of charged particles? Neither was that the case.
Where did it go, then? It was then Mio found a clue from a flattened, silver metal object from the corner of her eye.
It was a metal clump crushed by Mio’s gravitational magic; and the size of the crushed form of the metal anomaly before her appeared to be quite massive.
Immediately, Mio reflexively looked upwards behind her—toward her blind spot.
And she could see that the massive Byakko was drawing closer to her before her very eyes.
It turned out that Byakko had leapt into the air to a higher position behind Mio through a metal scaffolding higher than Mio’s position in mid-air when her sight had been obscured by the flash of Sakumei’s charged particles.
The moment she realized this, Byakko’s talons were already at such a close range that it would be improbable for her to dodge them in time.
Mio had no choice but the release her fire magic on the spot, as Byakko aimed to tear her apart before she could do so.
And then came the next moment.
A loud noise resounded—but it was neither the roar of a violent explosion nor a sharp slashing sound.
It was instead a shrill clashing of steel—and it came from someone who now stood before Mio’s eyes.
Mio dumbfoundedly stared at the figure who had suddenly got between her and Byakko.
The golden-haired young man who had entered the battle in the nick of time before Mio’s magic and the Byakko’s talons could clash wielded a weapon that was different from Byakko…the Reienkyo.
Hayase Takashi of the Hero Clan now stood before her.
A battle was ensuing in the Eastern district—in an area nearby the Shinozaki flood gate close to the Edo River.
Nonaka Yuki was now sparring against Shoko, the blue Qilin.
During her previous battle with Seiryuu, she managed to defeat it by changing the venue of their battleground from the Edo River, first to Kinshicho, and then Monzenkancho; however, she could not utilize the same tactic this time round.
…She had to suppress Seiryuu instead.
The sacred sword Seiryuu, now continuously amplifying the Wood element in this eastern district, was currently stabbed onto a tree’s trunk in the nearby greenlands.
She could not leave this place.
Above all, Shoko still possessed its typical tranquil demeanor and disliked fighting despite it being another variant of Qilin—it would not come toward her so long as she kept her distance. Nevertheless, Yuki was forced to fight Shoko in such a location where the latter possessed a locational advantage, as the Water Element of the Edo River possessed compatibility with Shoko’s Wood Element that would strengthen it in battle.
Having made her Master-Servant Vow with Basara, Yuki could initially match Shoko toe-to-toe; inevitably, however, she slowly began to become disadvantaged.
The space they were in was one made with the Five Elements as a base; as Kouryuu’s manifestation rate continued to progress, one would assume that the Five Elements within the space—with the exception of the Earth Element in the central district—would amplify under their cycle of compatibility, subsequently resulting in the power of the Four Gods and the Qilin in their respective regions to grow over time.
Amidst this, Yuki, who was now fighting against Shoko, found herself in the same dire situation Mio was in she sparred against Sakumei in the west.
Yuki’s Metal Element possessed incompatibility with Seiryuu and Shoko’s Wood Element.
Yuki may have possessed the elemental advantage on paper; the issue lied in the Edo River, which represented the Water element as one would expect.
Yuki represented the Metal Element, which possessed compatibility with the Water Element of the Edo River; in other words, the presence of the Water Element meant that Yuki was indirectly strengthening Seiryuu and Shoko; moreover, such a relationship was somewhat parasitic in nature in that it strengthened the beneficiary while it weakened the provider.
Of course, there was also the abundance of the Earth element around her to consider that strengthened Yuki’s Metal element; between the riverbank and the asphalt, a large portion of the vicinity was synthetically inlaid land.
It was no match for the amplification of the Wood Element from the five-elemental relationships that this area provided for the enemy.
She was thus incapable of defeating Shoko alone.
…If only Zest were here.
She could aid her by strengthening the Earth Element around her, thereby increasing its compatibility with the Metal Element and increase her chances of taking down Shoko…but there was no use lamenting over that now.
They had to assume the responsibility of each individual element on their own if they were to construct Solomon’s Seal.
With a flash of her blade, she sent out energy blades that attempt to slice through all in their wake.
Mere slashes, however, were useless against Shoko at its current state; thus, Yuki added the Earth Element to her energy blades as a compatibility reaction by running the tip of her sword across the earth’s surface.
Her attacks of the Metal Element after running her sword across the ground’s surface had sharpened as a result of the compatibility with the Earth Element, such that they would be enough to defeat Shoko in one strike.
Such was what she expected to happen. However—
The next moment, Yuki was shocked by the sudden occurrence.
Her most powerful attacks had been knocked aside— and not from Shoko itself.
Instead, it was a massive shield made from massive trees that emerged from the surface of the Kyu Edo River.
“But how…” Yuki was dumbfounded.
The best explanation would be that Shoko used the Water element of the river sprout countless trees from the water’s surface; the expenditure of such an amount elemental power dried up the Kyu Edo River for a moment, but the riverbed was quickly refilled from the water supply upstream.
Seeing this, Yuki moved as if she were an arrow.
There was no time to hesitate; she had to make the most of the lack of water in the Kyu Edo River if she wanted to take down Shoko. Running with all the speed she could muster, she leapt from the riverbank and lunged toward her enemy.
In response, Shoko let out a shrill cry as a maelstrom began to form, encircling their surroundings; the surrounding leaves and branches that made the greenland of the Kyu Edo Driver lunged at Yuki as if they possessed a mind of their own.
Realizing the sharpness of the leaves that were coming at her, Yuki immediately conjured a magic pentagram with the tip of her blade and formed a barrier of the Metal Element; she knocked Shoko’s storm of leaves aside and forced herself forward. And the moment she escaped the storm of sharp leaves, she swung her sword inversely in a slanting, upward direction.
The sakura petals that were formed from the gesture formed an arch-shaped bridge above the massive trees that emerged from below the Kyu Edo River; and as Yuki gave it her all and advanced forward, reached the highest point of the bridge—
Shoko cried again, and the trees of the Kyu Edo River grew even more explosively.
As Yuki swallowed a breath, trees with sharp blades as their tips sprouted from beneath the bridge made of sakura petals made from Sakuya, lunging themselves at her.
—Yuki could take the attack by calling out Sakuya; however, she would not be able to dodge the trees that would emerge at her impact zone.
Rather than attempt to evade the attack, the only other option she had was the jump.
Even then, she could wouldn’t be able to dodge the wooden protrusions in the air where she could not keep any footing.
There was nowhere to run.
….If that’s the case…!
If there was no avoiding the attack, she might as well face it head on; she immediately decided her next move—to jump.
She wasn’t attempting to dodge, however.
Yuki intended to accelerate her speed and lunge forward in a slanting motion; and while she was still in mid-air, she wanted to strike before Shoko could make its next attack and take it down with a single slash once and for all.
Of course, Shoko could still sprout massive trees to block Yuki’s attacks just as it did before.
That was why—
…I must press on!
She had to succeed—she would cut and hack with all her might, cleave through the wooden bulwark and defeat Shoko.
And as she wagered herself to do or die, a sudden gust of wind caused Yuki to rapidly ascend from her location.
As she opened her eyes in surprise, she found herself high above in the sky, Shoko within her sight now as small as a grain of rice.
No matter how far Shoko’s trees could extend, they couldn’t possibly reach the altitude she was now at immediately; Shoko itself could not reach her that quickly either.
She had been saved—and as she settled into the reality of the situation,
“Don’t you think it’s a little too early for you to gamble on such a reckless suicide attack?”
A familiar, laughing voice came out behind her; and as Yuki turned around, she recognized a familiar face who now stood at her level of direct sight—a certain childhood friend.
“Celis…” Yuki muttered, surprised by her appearance.
“Yes, it’s me…sorry to keep you waiting.” The Holy Knight of the Vatican, Celis Reinhardt, smiled as she said so before snapping the fingers of her right hand.
“Yes. As the wielder of Georgius, I am capable of utilizing all four Classical Elements….and much like St. George was a holy man of agriculture, my best element happens to be the Earth Element.”
“Although I’m not really suited to against that sacred beast of the Wood Element and there’s the fact that I only have a substitute sacred sword since Georgius was stolen by Shiba…I’m nevertheless still capable of using my power to increase your Metal element with compatibility.”
It was exactly what Yuki desperately needed in this situation—the elemental amplification that would give her the power to defeat Shoko.
“But how did you get in here?”
“Shiba’s actions are the responsibility of both the Village and the Vatican. In order to prevent this from spreading out to other regions, our operation here needs to be kept secret and resolved quickly—that’s what I’ve told headquarters, at least.” Celis said, “And while I’m not convinced they’ll just take it as it is just like that…they didn’t say anything in regards to my decision to help you guys out, so I’m guessing they want to assess the situation first.”
And while she was at it—
“Takashi’s also come here on his own accord without consent from the Elders…I imagine Shuuya-san and Kaoru-san are covering for him right now.”
“Takashi’s here as well?”
“Yes…he’s gone to suppress Byakko.” She continued. “And as for how we’ve managed to enter this space, it’s because of the dimensional tunnel made by that young succubus girl you’re familiar with.”
“A succubus capable of making a dimensional tunnel…are your referring to Sheila-san?”
“I believe that was her name, yes…she’s waiting for you all outside this space.” Being unfamiliar with Sheila, Celis appeared puzzled with the way that Yuki addressed her, but continued on, nonetheless. “Takashi and I immediately set out for Tokyo after leaving the Village, but then we met up with that young special corps officer from the Demon Realm and some other Demons that appeared to be his higher-ups, and then that girl told us—”
She took a deep breath.
“She told us that you and Kurumi have been deemed sanctuary like Basara and the others, and such an order cannot be violated. And given that they too wanted to help out with the situation…they asked us if we wanted to join them.”
“But that means…” Yuki’s eyes widened at Celis’ words.
She wasn’t surprised that Sheila had come to the human world; it wasn’t difficult to understand the reasons for her intervention, for she was mother to Maria, who was also involved in this difficult situation.
But if Takigawa’s comrades were truly high-ranking Demons as Celis had described, Leohart had to be among them.
She never would’ve thought that the current Demon Lord would have come to involve himself in the matter personally; even more so, she could not fully sink in the fact that she and her younger sister Kurumi had been deemed sanctuary during such a time.
But above all, one fact stood out as the most surprising truth of them all:
Celis and Takashi had willingly agreed to Sheila’s suggestion.
…But the two of them are…
Celis and Takashi held great pride in their status as members of the Hero Clan; they were unlikely to willingly utilize the power of Sheila, a member of the Demon Realm.
They knew that such an act would be considered a betrayal of the Hero Clan.
And yet Celis and Leohart had appeared in their battleground—even Takashi had joined the fray.
“But why did you…?” Yuki remained astonished at the actions of her childhood friend, and asked her why she did so.
“It’s not like we’re actually cooperating with those Demons, you know?” Celis suddenly smiled lightly as she said this, “It’s just that, Yuki…I believe in you and Kurumi, just as I believe in Basara. I have no doubt in any one of you having established historical peace by facilitating an alliance between the Current Demon Lord Faction and the Moderate Faction. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with their desire to protect all of you.”
“That’s how both Takashi and I think of all this right now.”
“Celis…” Yuki was speechless at Celis, who smiled as if all of this meant nothing to her at all.
—The current Demon Lord Leohart had brought an army of high-ranking Demons before them; as members of the Hero Clan, they were their enemies of the absolute highest priority that they needed to address immediately.
But neither Celis and Takashi had acted as such.
They had willingly and temporarily put down their pride—their duty as members of the Hero Clan—for the sake of coming here.
Not because they were ordered by the Village—not because they held the pride of being a Holy Knight of the Vatican.
They simply came for the sake of their friends, and that alone.
“There’s something I really needed to say but never had the chance,” Celis said, “And it’s that everything’s alright now. Six years ago, I was helpless, and I wasn’t there for you guys when you were going through the toughest times…I wasn’t capable of heading to the scene of the tragedy and give my aid. But now—”
A resolute glint appeared in Celis’ eyes.
“Things are different this time….I can hold my head high and proudly claim that I can become your power—to fight alongside you.” Her voiced then trailed with a hint of apologeticness as she made her next statement. “Although…truth be told, I do want to defeat that sacred beast one-on-one with my own strength.”
“No…you’ve done enough.”
Yuki nodded at her childhood friend and brought her into a tight embrace, to which Celis returned with a light smile.
“Six years, huh…I’ve made you wait so long, haven’t I?”
Yuki did not so much as say the simple sentence of “That’s not true” to deny it; much like Yuki’s own regrets when Basara was cast out of the Village back then as she could only see him off, no one but Celis herself should be allowed to deny her own thoughts and regrets.
Yuki would not apologize for involving Celis into all this, however; she would never say such a thing, for she would then be trampling over the resolve and goodwill of the person before her that she treasured so much.
There was only one appropriate answer that Yuki could give to Celis.
“Celis…thanks for coming over to help me.”
The next moment, Nonaka Yuki and Celis Reinhardt gazed at the scene below them—at the sacred beast they were to defeat, one that represented the Wood Element.
The blue Qilin quietly assessed its current situation.
The girl wielding the spirit sword that had battled it earlier was of the Metal Element, an element that triumphed over its Wood Element; the golden-haired girl who had arrived as reinforcements was of the Earth Element, an element that had compatibility with the other’s Metal element.
And then there were the tall surrounding earth walls that the golden-haired girl had erected around it.
The walls that were built from the bottom of the river were made to cut the water supply of the Edo River and isolate their location; as Enku had already evaporated the Tokyo Bay, if the Edo River’s water supply was cut short even further, the supplementary power of the Water element for it would decrease.
It meant that the battleground—the circumstances—would be unfavorable for Shoko.
Shoko, however, deduced that it wouldn’t be a significant hindrance.
The golden-haired girl was evidently weaker than the girl with the spirit sword and itself; the fact that she could provide compatibility via the Earth element posed no threat to it.
So long as its opponents kept their distance, Shoko did not need to act proactively; it was best for it to converse as much power of the Wood Element as possible to supply Kouryuu’s manifestation in the central district.
Nevertheless, Shoko could also not sit by and watch; the power of the girl with the sacred sword before her was increasing rapidly. With the water supply of the Edo River cut, Shoko’s current strength couldn’t go against Metal element attacks of such a powerful magnitude.
What is the meaning of this? The circumstances before it puzzled Shoko.
The massive increase in power of the girl wielding the spirit sword by virtue of the compatibility with the golden-haired girl alone was unexplainable; however, dwelling over how the girl with the spirit sword’s power had increased with the arrival of the golden-haired girl would not solve anything.
Shoko let out all of the power of the Wood Element it had in its body in one go; following that, countless, massive trees emerged from the surrounding earth, their sturdy trunks twisting and extending horizontally, reducing the earth walls in their path to dust as the resultant impact shook the earth with a deafening echo, whipping out clouds of dust as earth and sand scattered in their wake.
Shoko had concocted a plan; it would make Edo River flow into the greenlands, providing it with the compatibility needed to match the attacks of the girl’s spirit sword.
The next moment, Shoko appeared to be confused.
The water of the Edo River did not flow into the vicinity.
Shoko immediately flew above the clouded view to survey the earth beneath it to discover what was going on; it discovered that most of the water of the Edo River had disappeared, exposing massive, barren portions of the riverbed.
Was it due to what Enku did in the north? No, it couldn’t be.
It was one thing to have evaporated the Tokyo Bay, but if the Edo River were to be dried up as well, the eastern district would lose its elemental power and cause the five-elemental barrier to be unbalanced; and the power of the Wood element in the entire eastern district had yet to decrease thus far.
Yet there appeared to be no water in the Edo River.
Eventually, Shoko finally found the answer upstream.
A new river that connected the Edo River to the Naka River had appeared near the Shibamata Park.
It was likely that the golden-haired girl had changed the landscape with Earth magic after using the earth walls to hide the surrounding view; this new river, wider than the Edo River, had been made into the primary current that caused the water of the Edo River to flow into the Naka River.
And the conflux of the river was slightly upstream of the divergence point between the Naka River and the New Naka River; as such, the course of the water of the Edo River was changed to flow into the conflux between the Naka River and the Arakawa River.
Her elaborate plan of flood control had successfully redirected the river water.
Did the golden-haired girl of the Earth element secretly implement this plan knowing she had little to offer in terms of raw power? The riverbed, having lost its Water Element, was now solid ground—a substance of the Earth Element.
And the resultant Five-elemental relationship provided compatibility to the Metal Element.
The moment Shoko understood the situation, the power of the girl of the spirit sword had accelerated to a level where even the compatibility brought about by the remaining water beneath it would be no match for her.
Immediately, Shoko instilled its elemental power into the surrounding trees.
If there was no water nearby, it could only find a source on its own; it would extend the roots of the surrounding trees toward the west, toward the Naka River and the New Naka River, and absorb the water from those rivers with them.
However, the two girls had taken action far faster than Shoko could extend the ground’s roots toward the neighbouring river; the golden-haired girl had already drawn her holy sword before it realized it.
The two girls, each wielding the spirit sword and the holy sword respectively, let out a resolute cry in unison as they unleashed their power before Shoko.
The girl with the spirit sword let out consecutive slashing attacks, whipping out countless energy blades of the the Metal Element; at the same time, the golden-haired girl brought her holy sword down and let out Earth energy from it, immediately escalating the elemental power of the energy blades.
It was reaction that came from the resultant compatibility—and the next moment, an unstoppable barrage of seventy-two consecutive slashes came lunging forth, swallowing Shoko’s line of sight.
There was no escape.
In such a moment of direness, Shoko called upon a massive wooden bulwark to protect itself.
It managed to shield itself in time—but even that attempt ended in vain.
A slash of the Metal Element cleanly cleaved the wooden bulwark in two—and the next moment, the Shoko’s body was cut to piece by an unending flurry of elemental slashes.
Hayase Takashi had suddenly entered amidst the ensuing battle.
His appearance alone was a scenario that did more than enough to elicit a surprised reaction from Mio Takashi, however, paid her no mind, defending himself against the gaping fangs of Byakko.
With a resolute cry, he swung his arms as their muscles fleshed themselves out, swinging Reienkyo in a horizontal motion; Byakko’s massive face was forced to dodge the brunt of the attack, its maw releasing Reienkyo as it leapt backwards and landed at a spot a considerable distance away from Takashi. Mio took the opportunity she had to descend upon the ground Takashi was before asking him again,
“How in the world are you here?”
Although she could see that he was moving right now, Takashi had been struck with Shiba’s attack—he was supposed to have been knocked unconscious and left in critical condition earlier on. And although Basara had managed to stabilize his condition, he shouldn’t be able to move about freely for a while, at least without having some period of rest.
Such was why Mio asked him that in the disbelief of his presence here; and yet Takashi didn’t so much as even turn toward her to respond, his gaze instead fixated on the pitcher’s mound before him—the spot where the sacred spear stood, Byakko warily keeping watch beside it.
“Stay back. This isn’t exactly the best time to explain.” He gave no explanation on his arrival here, and instead simply declared his role as well as Mio’s. “I’ll do something about Byakko. For now, just defeat Sakumei!”
Between Mio and Takashi, the two lacked sufficient tacit understanding of one another to be capable of working together cooperatively; as such their chances of victory would be better if they were to fight their enemies individually rather than cooperate for a two-on-two—the best course of action the two could take.
“…I understand.” Mio nodded, gathering her magical power as she turned her attention to Sakumei— and Takashi then made his next move.
Wordlessly, he stabbed Reienkyo into the ground—before walking toward Byakko empty-handed.
“Wait, what the heck do you think you’re doing!?”
His sudden appearance was questionable enough; what else was he planning to do now, attack with his unarmed fists? Takashi’s reckless actions elicited pleas from Mio to stop.
“Reienkyo, otherwise known as the Seiryo Scimitar…perhaps it’s not a weapon that’s suited to fight against my current enemy on paper.”
“But doing this isn’t…!”
This wasn’t the best way to go out even if he really wanted to kill himself.
And yet Mio could not leave the battlefield she could only restrict Sakumei while her fire magic was active.
…If she were to make any sudden moves…
Sakumei would strike at any sign of faltering. And yet—
“Hayase!” Mio warned him again, and she received another composed reply as a response.
“I’m not here to take it down—I’m here to take it back.” As he said so, Takashi had already put himself within Byakko’s attack range.
And what came next was to be expected.
Byakko bared its teeth and lunged at Takashi as it detected his presence nearby, countless steel blades sprouting from his body as it inched closer toward him. Between its massive build and mass, predatory speed to catch prey, and the high level of Metal element contained in the blades covering it, it possessed an extremely potent cutting force, capable of running through anything in its path like a hot knife through butter.
Committing to a suicidal clash against the giant sickle that was Byakko would only result in Takashi being shredded to countless pieces.
Such was what was supposed to happen—but at the next moment,
Byakko suddenly appeared puzzled.
Its prey—Takashi—had suddenly disappeared before its very eyes; Mio herself could not comprehend as to how Takashi had dodged the attack.
She could only see Takashi now situated behind Byakko, as if he had simply brushed past it unharmed.
“Have you forgotten who I am? I suppose I’ll make you remember, then.” Takashi said, as he extended his hand towards the true form of Byakko—the white spear impaled atop the pitcher’s mound.
Byakko, who had once recognized Takashi as its master, was now under the control of Shiba and his five-elemental barrier.
What would happen if Takashi were to simply touch Byakko in its current state?
Mio had experienced the answer first-hand with her very eyes—and her very ears.
The moment Takashi laid his hands on the shaft of Byakko, a backlash of Metal energy sprang forth and attacked him as if it rejected him.
Takashi’s native battle armor was shredded from the impact, sprays of his blood fluttering in the air.
Takashi intended to free Byakko from Shiba’s control and reclaim its recognition and the right to wield it.
Mio understood his thought process—but she and the girls would’ve done so earlier if it were a valid option long ago. They’d decided to suppress the Four Gods through the establishment of another barrier over it simply because Shiba’s hold on the sacred weapons was too powerful and not easily shaken.
“That’s reckless, Hayase! Get out of there!” Mio’s screams were tinged with grief. And yet—
“Naruse Mio. I believe I’ve already told you this, just as I’ve told Shiba as well—”
And with an unwavering tone—
“Don’t underestimate the Hero Clan.”
Such was the extent of Takashi’s unfaltering pride—it was why he only held his grip tighter on Byakko, unwilling to release it.
In response, Byakko released a vortex of white electricity that swallowed Takashi, emerging in a violent explosion that devastated the surrounding atmosphere.
In spite of all that, Takashi held his grip steady on Byakko—trying to get some sense into it, as if to try and deliver the fact that Takashi was its true wielder, to try and make it remember….
Eventually, the electric surge finally ceased after a long period of enduring—and the materialized form of Byakko had vanished.
Stripped of energy, Takashi fell to one knee on the ground as if he were a puppet cut of its strings—and yet even at such a dire moment, Takashi refused to let go of the shaft of Byakko.
“Hayase…!” Mio cried. And at that moment, there were signs of movement near her.
It was Sakumei.
A hail of crescent steel fell from the sky—aiming not at Mio, but at Takashi.
“I won’t let you…!”
Something had already protected Takashi before she could.
It was none other the sacred beast of the west, materializing once more to protect its wielder— Byakko.
Byakko countered Sakumei’s hail of steel blades with its own bladed attacks, protecting its master from harm; it took a moment’s passing of an unending flurry of clashing steel before Byakko finally struck down Sakumei’s blades. And then—
Sakumei’s movements faltered somewhat—appearing as if it were disorientated over witnessing the sudden betrayal of Byakko.
And before them was an opportunity Hayase Takashi had risked his life to facilitate—one that Naruse Mio had no intention of letting slip away from her fingers.
Releasing the energy she’d stored up until this point, she cast her magic a new magic, one that was only possible after she’d made her vow with Basara, a combination of both gravitational magic and fire magic.
It was too late for Sakumei to dodge—Mio’s fierce hellfire abruptly consumed the white Qilin and destroyed it. And with her attack she poured the power of the Fire element into the ground—thereupon which a crimson glow ran across the it as if the element were stretched across its surface.
The next moment, the elements of five colors combined their power together to form a single crest.
The five girls of whom had exchanged their vows with Toujou Basara had successfully completed Solomon’s Seal.
Something had sensed the full manifestation of Solomon’s Seal.
It stood directly below Kouryuu, the latter’s ever-manifesting body remained twining around the Tokyo Tower.
It was the yellow divine beast that was protecting the capital—the Qilin.
Moreover, it could sense the destruction of four other beings apart from itself.
There was Enku in the south, its roaring flames absorbed by virtue of a Demon.
Kakutan in the north, felled and destroyed in a skirmish against a seemingly massive enemy.
Shoko in the east, cut down by an elemental attack.
And Sakumei in the west, reduced to nothingness by an offensive magic.
The Qilin, however, was incapable of any sorrowful emotions in response.
The five were existences manifested from an enclosed space brimming with the energy of the Five Elements. The five were thus assigned to each guard their respective elemental bearings—such was the reason why the five chimeric creatures existed.
As such, the moment Qilin sensed the shadow of a single person approaching toward the west—
Qilin immediately became alert.
It was certain of its existence; slowly, but surely, it was approaching this place.
And the aura it exuded signified that it was someone of a level that could pose a threat to Shiba.
Qilin immediately deduced that it was an enemy.
Stomping its forelegs into the ground, Qilin unleashed a golden magic circle.
Following the incantation was the rumbling of the earth, and from the ground where the enemy was setting foot came the phenomenon of protrusions emerging from below.
Countless, colossal sharp spikes emerged from the asphalt ground to attack the enemy.
However, the sharp edges of the protruding spikes had not pierced their intended target, instead running through thin air.
And the very moment that fact was realized, someone was already right next to Qilin—a certain young man.
“Sorry—just passing through.”
And the moment that silent voice resounded, Qilin was horizontally cut in two.
A single stroke of a sword had cut down the manifested Qilin.
The act had been done by Toujou Basara, who had infiltrated the interior of the Tokyo Tower.
The moment his footsteps tread onto the entrance, he discovered the first floor was quietly still, as if it were a natural occurrence.
Wordlessly, Basara walked toward the elevator that would lead him to the spacious observation decks.
He went into the middle elevator from the three that were available to him—it was one that was usually under the supervision of a female elevator attendant who would monitor the floor buttons for the customers to choose between two different observation decks.
As the doors shut themselves, a light floating sensation accompanied him as the elevator began to rise.
And the higher the elevator ascended, one would notice that instead of the usual Tokyo scenery that could be seen through the glass on both sides of the elevator shaft, the visibility from such a height was now restricted due to the gigantic Kouryuu coiling around the tower.
And as the doors finally opened again, Basara saw a figure directly in front of the exit of the elevator—someone who had arrived here before he had.
It wasn’t Shiba.
Basara instead saw a familiar face dressed in the Hijirigasaka Academy uniform—the same school he attended—standing still before him.
It was someone he thought to be incapable of carelessness, and thus someone that he could rely on in times of need.
“Good grief. You’re late, Basachi.” Takigawa sighed lamentingly, and spoke in a manner that was similar to that of their usual meetings with each other. And with it followed a wry smile and a reply from Basara:
“Sorry. That said, though, what are you doing here of all places, Takigawa?”
“I know that.”
“In spite of the circumstances, you might as well come to the Tokyo Tower to enjoy sightseeing like anyone else would, huh? It’s not like I wanted to follow a certain asshole here to this place where you all are trying to fight to the death. Leohart threatened me earlier.”
You’d do well to remember what you did. Takigawa muttered under this breath, rather begrudgingly.
“Well, it doesn’t sound as good as it does given that Balflear’s on the other side, though.”
“As I thought, Leohart and the others have arrived as well, have they…”
It seemed that Basara did not mistake the magical energy he sensed during his journey to arriving at where they were right now.
“Did you bring them with you, Takigawa?”
“Who knows? I’m only here to explain my situation. The ones who decided to intervene in this situation are none other than the tippity tops of both the Moderate Faction and the current Demon Lord Faction, Ramsusas-dono and Leohart. Additionally, Sheila-dono was the one responsible for making a path for us to enter this space. And that’s not all. The more the merrier, as they say, right? Some others have decided to tag along, as well. For instance, I did pick up that frustrated childhood friend of yours, Basachi, and then there’s that female knight that came with the Vatican.”
He was grateful that so many others had come to provide their assistance. And seeing as things had transpired as he had hoped—
“I see…even Takashi and Celis have…”
He didn’t think it was possible for them to acquire official approval from the Village and the Vatican.
It was likelier that the two decided to go out on their own and work closely together, wasn’t it?
And Takashi and Celis chose to come and help nevertheless, even though the damage from their battle against Shiba still lingered within them…Basara wondered what significance the two genuine members of the Hero Clan held that prompted their intervention towards this incident.
“It must’ve been hard on them.” As he muttered such words under this breath, he swore in his heart that he would do everything in his power to bring this battle to an end. He would willingly assume any punishment in Takashi and Celis’ place for their part in this incident.
“Hey, hey Basachi…are you counting your chickens before they’ve even hatched?” Takigawa asked, surprised. “Sure, I imagine you’ve had your share of lovey-dovey moments with Naruse and the others already, but… don’t you think you’re surprisingly relaxed given the situation?”
“I’m not really relaxed. Shiba-san’s undeniably strong. And as much as I’ve been made aware of how Mio and the others feel and have confirmed it with them together.,,I honestly don’t think our victory is guaranteed yet.” Basara’s voice was composed as he expressed his opinion on the situation.
“If you’re going to tell me that, I might as well just head back then…” Takigawa scratched his head at Basara’s composed answer, before he narrowed his eyes. “Well, what are the chances we’ll win this?”
“Who knows…well, I guess we’ll have enough as long as we keep struggling, I suppose.”
“Man, I’m stuck having to walk over a tightrope with you again, huh?” Takigawa muttered between resigned sighs.
Basara could only give a wry smile and a “Sorry” in a response.
And with a mention of “Where do we go from here?”, the two set out side by side.
The two advanced onward on their current floor in a counter-clockwise direction from their surroundings, before continuing by ascending a nearby stairway.
Beyond that point was an elevator that would lead them to the next observation deck.
The elevator doors opened as if to beckon the duo, as the two entered the elevator and pressed the up button; the door then closed slowly before ascending.
They arrived at an observation deck 25 meters above the ground roughly after a minute or so, before moving toward the window before them after departing the elevator.
And they saw the scenery before them—the interior of the Tokyo Tower shrouded in a yellow sheen, whereas four colors—blue, white, red and black—were divided into their respective sectors of the four cardinal directions of the exterior.
The barrier that Shiba had constructed was shrouded in the colors of the Five Elements by virtue of their compatibility.
However—lines painted with deeper colors of the Five Elements now ran across the vicinity.
Each line moved diagonally from their vertex to form a pentagram—the two then realized that Solomon’s Seal had been completed.
“It seems Naruse and the others have been successful somehow.”
And as Basara nodded in response to Takigawa’s words—
“My, my…not only Takashi and Celis-chan, but even the Demon Realm has come to interfere, is it?”
A voice called out from behind Basara.
Simultaneously, the two sensed a presence—a dark, disgusting presence more evil that even the darkest depths of the underworld. And as Basara and Takigawa turned around slowly—
They were at a loss for words.
They could not recognize the figure’s outward appearance for a moment.
They couldn’t even describe him as simply turning into another person.
They now saw Shiba, now in the form of an utterly anomalous existence, before them.
Reginlief’s plated gauntlets, that had covered only his arms in their first battle, had already spread across his entire body in a single, unified piece of armor. Moreover, the armor utilized a different metal element from that of what was of the gauntlets’ origins, taking the form an organic suit of armor akin to that of a devilish exoskeleton.
“…Hey, hey…he’s becoming more and more of a monster.” Cold sweat ran down Takigawa’s cheek at the presence of Shiba’s terrifying aura.
“Yeah…it seems that Shiba-san’s fully absorbed Reginlief into him now.” Discomforting sweat perspired in Basara’s back as well. Basara, wielding the magic Sword Byrnhildr in hand, immediately understood what Shiba’s form—no, his condition—entailed. In order to completely draw out Reginlief’s power within him, he had willingly allowed the magic gauntlet he possessed to fully corrode his body; such an act would have supposedly swallowed his flesh and mind—utterly stripping him of his existence.
—And yet Shiba had managed to fully retain his form nonetheless.
If one were to ask why—the answer was hinted at from the organic armor that now covered his body.
One could observe it as being quadricolored; painted in red, white, black and blue.
The colors represented four out of the five main elements: Fire, Metal, Wood and Water.
“My guess is that Shiba-san wants to absorb the power of the five-element compatibility between the Four Gods for himself while synchronizing with Kouryuu. The fact that we can’t see the yellow of the Earth element on him means that he still can’t absorb Kouryuu’s power while it’s yet to fully manifest itself.”
“My kudos…you have a sharp eye. Well, you’ve got most of it right, anyway.” Shiba’s profound smile affirmed their words.
—Compatibility between the Five Elements was no apt explanation for the sight before them, however.
Colors of red and white painted Shiba’s armor more dominantly than that of black and blue.
One could thus assume that Fire and Metal were the dominant elements within him.
It didn’t mean that suzaku and Byakko were more powerful than the other two sacred treasures though…probably.
The prominent red was indicative of the special characteristic of the member of the Ten Gods that Shiba had absorbed into him—Reginlief.
—Reginlief was likely a divine being that had the ability to manipulate fire.
And the Fire and Earth elements shared a compatibility with one another—in other words, the relationship was that of the former element strengthening the latter.
So that’s how it is.
Basara was now clear of one thing.
It wasn’t just the critical stage of the Four Gods or the five-elemental barrier he’d set up; acquiring the power of the flames of a member of the Ten Gods was another important piece for Shiba to fully manifest Kouryuu that represented the Earth element.
The expansion of the Metal element from the resultant compatibility would explain the development of the corrosive armor that spread from the magic gauntlet to his body.
If Shiba and Kouryuu were to be synchronized, it wasn’t surprising that the compatibility born from the Earth element would strengthen the Metal element as well; the lack of balance between the Five Elements he possessed would no longer a problem for Shiba.
As of now, Shiba had perfected and completed everything.
He now possessed an absolute power that would enable him to overwhelm all of creation.
“…Well then, Basara, I don’t intend to pull any punches with you anymore. To be defeated is to lose everything. Are you prepared for that outcome?”
As Shiba smiled, an overwhelming pressure unleashed itself toward them.
“Yeah…bring it on.” There was no hesitation in Toujou Basara as he let out those words.
Shiba wasn’t the only one who had elevated their power to its absolute limit; Basara, too, had exchanged his absolute vows with Mio and the others.
“I know I need to defeat you…and I’ve prepared myself for that, as well.”
“Sounds like fun…what about you, then?” Shiba’s thin slits for eyes widened in delight at Basara’s declaration, before he then addressed Takigawa.
“You’re asking me if I’m ready for this? Please, I’d know better. I didn’t exactly volunteer to be here, y’know?”
Despite truly disliking the current circumstances and expressing said dislike thereof, Takigawa didn’t so much as flinch before Shiba’s current state.
“Nevertheless, it wouldn’t do for Basachi to face both you and that giant thing outside all by himself, eh? I guess it can’t be helped, then.”
“Huh…perhaps I should let Kouryuu have some fun with you, then, as so you desire?”
“Well then, it’s about time we’ve begun, shall we?”
And the moment Shiba uttered those words, a massive impact reduced the observation deck where the three once stood to naught but ashes.
It was Kouryuu, twined around the tower, its head suddenly lunging toward their vicinity.
And within the enclosed, pitch-black space of the Tokyo sky made of the Five Elements, an explosion set off as if it were a blooming flower.
With a dreadfully thunderous roar and a flash of light, the curtain now rose on the battle that held everything at stake.