When Kouryuu’s massive body and the Earth elemental energy from the five-elemental compatibility clashed, the resulting shockwave thundered as it destroyed the Tokyo Tower. The main observation deck took the full brunt of the attack—no trace of it remained, as if it had been razed by a flameless explosion.
But from the dust clouds of the debris jumped out a young man wrapped in a blinding silver light: Toujou Basara. Even after taking such an attack head on, there wasn’t a single scratch on him. This wasn’t due to just his own abilities, however. Basara, once again, felt grateful to everyone who lent him their strength.
Basara was now clad in a full-body armor that shared the color of his sword, Brynhildr—he looked somewhat similar to Shiba, who had absorbed Reginleif. Basara was now the strongest and most complete he had ever been at present. Back in the Demon Realm, the appearance he had when he fought Leohart was that of himself utilizing his demonic powers. When he fought Celis at the Village, the power he wielded was that of Belphegor’s that lay dormant within Brynhildr, but was unlocked thanks to the contract with Hasegawa; a combination between the powers of demons and gods that both run through his veins.
In the first fight with Shiba, Basara controlled his demonic and divine powers through the use of Banishing Shift, but even then, he didn’t stand a chance against Shiba. His current form was the result of pushing the Master-Servant contract he has with Mio and the others, to its very limits.
However, there was a clear difference that separated Basara from Shiba; while Shiba had completely transformed his appearance, Basara was still Basara with just the armor on. That difference was the very representation of their different beliefs; while Shiba disposed of his identity as a “human” and chose to become something powerful enough to overthrow demons and gods alike, Basara chose to face this battle as who he was.
As the user of Banishing Shift, Basara knew that he could not afford to lose control of his powers. He made a promise to never hurt his loved ones. And so that’s why he used the bloodlines of the four races, the power of the Five Elements and the five contracts, to gain full control of his own powers. In his current state, Basara was powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with Shiba.
Basara willed himself to stop mid-air. With the power of the dragon, he was able to move freely in the air. Looking down from above, he assessed his current situation. His eyes darted towards the direction of Tokyo Tower, searching for his trusted ally, Takigawa.
When Kouryuu charged towards Takiagwa before, who was in his demon form, he raised his right arm to create a protective sphere around him. If this was any other enemy, his protective shield would have held against any oncoming attack, but this was Kouryuu, the dragon with the combined powers of the Four Gods. Kouryuu shattered the demonic sphere and collided into the ground. However, the ground remained undamaged even while a humongous mushroom cloud-like dust cloud rose to the heights of what used to be the Tokyo Tower. But underneath that dust cloud, there was no body to be found.
“You don’t have to act so surprised.”
Basara slowly turned towards the voice behind him to see Shiba floating casually, without a worry on his face.
“Kouryuu is in the center, wielding the power of the Earth. He’s not as stupid as to destroy the very power source that grants him strength.”
A cold grin replaced his aloof expression once he saw Basara’s new attire.
“Oh? Is that the power you gained while you ran from me with your tail between your legs? Do you think it will be enough to beat me? Hmm…”
“Let’s see if it will work out for you this time.”
And with that, Shiba disappeared from his sight, and the next moment, Basara felt a crunching blow to his left rib cage.
A cloud of dust enveloped the entire area. Kouryuu felt its body crush the young man it was targeting. The Demonic Sphere he unleashed was not of the Five Elements that it was used to, so the dragon did take some damage to penetrate the barrier, but nothing serious. With its affinity for Earth, its health was slowly regenerating because of its surroundings.
But there were some concerning things that itched at its mind. First, the amount of energy being sent from the Four Gods have trickled down to miniscule levels. Perhaps the enemies were restraining the Four Gods. Synchronizing with Shiba has also stunted the speed at which Kouryuu could materialize all its power.
However, it was still a matter of time before Kouryuu could materialize its power. And it had also just defeated one of the enemies. With its job complete, Kouryuu prepared to fly towards Shiba to lend a hand against his fight, but was hit by a crushing blow from in front.
Stifling its surprise, Kouryuu realized that the attack just now was of the same element that the young man used before for his barrier. Glancing up towards the inn built in the park southwest of Tokyo Tower, Kouryuu was greeted with the sight of the enemy it was sure it just defeated. Looking down, Kouryuu realized that the “body” it had crushed from his attack before was a “doll”. With realization that it had been had, Kouryuu looked back up to the young man, only to find itself surrounded by hundreds of clones of the man.
However, even when surrounded, Kouryuu was not fazed at all. Abilities related to clones and subtituitions usually created weaker versions of the spellcaster. That is, they stood no chance against the mighty dragon. Further to that, all the clones were standing on the ground, which was the dragon’s element. They were asking for a mass-execution.
Summoning its power, Kouryuu willed the ground to swallow up the clones.
But it didn’t.
Instead, it was Kouryuu that was being swallowed up by the ground.
Looking below, Kouryuu saw that the ground at its feet was not of its usual brown hue, but pitch black.
“You know, you must have been distracted by Solomon’s Barrier, but other affinities are also able to manipulate the sky and earth, you know?”
The young man continued.
“My shadow clones are made from concentrated demonic energy. If I wanted to, I can make them act as “triggers” to some large-scale magic attacks. And my Darkness Element isn’t your standard element. So a being of Earth Element like yourself won’t be able to handle the darkness.
“I’m sure you can just swallow up this central area if you want to, and even my magic won’t be able to counter that. But you don’t. And that’s because you’re prioritising in getting your full strength back.”
“If you were to launch an area-wide attack, you’d deplete your current Earth Element energy and the rate of materialization for your power will decrease. And that’s why you’ve been preserving your power by just launching direct attacks by charging into us.”
Kouryuu suddenly became more wary of the young man that was opposing it; though it did not think that he would be powerful enough to fell it, it had underestimated how much of a threat he was.
The dragon unleashed its Earth Element energy all at once, the golden shockwave destroying the hundreds of darkness clones that surrounded it. But just as his clones were being destroyed, Kouryuu saw the young man extend his arm toward it, beckoned it with his finger.
Come and get me.
And Kouryuu responded in kind—not caring that it would be compromising the manifestation process, it lunged toward the young man that was its enemy, its large body surging with the power of the Earth element.
Having closed the distance between himself and Basara in an instant, Shiba had successfully attacked his adversary—with a punch from his right arm radiating a massive amount of Ki.
It was an attack similar to the one that Shiba had dealt to Basara, an attack that prevented the latter from fighting any further during the first time they fought each other.
The destructive power of his previous attack was a far cry from what was being unleashed from his current attack; his power had grown to an entirely different level, with the combination of Reginlief’s corruption being unleashed, the compatibility acquired from the Four Gods, and Kouryuu manifesting simultaneously in addition to that.
That said, Basara would not have been able to escape certain death if he were in the same state as he was when they first sparred.
However, Shiba was suddenly forced to move after testing his capabilities—and he didn’t stop there.
Using the Ki surrounding him, he thrusted the surrounding space with his palms and feet, the resulting reaction enabling him to move and dodge in three-dimensions and without limit.
Shiba was spinning his body hectically to avoid an array of slashes that came at him faster than even his own eyes could follow.
Nevertheless, Shiba did not feel alarmed.
One’s presence can always be detected in the wake of any conscious attack, and this extended to other signs such as vigor or bloodlust when hostile intent is also present, and even feints come with some form of consciousness. That said, Shiba’s ability to both manipulate Ki and detect surrounding Ki meant that he could dodge his opponent’s attacks without difficulty.
And he could do more than just dodge his opponent’s attacks if he had a grasp of their consciousness.
“—There you are.”
Swivelling around, Shiba unleashed a backhand chop with his right hand, the resulting attack making a massive, shrill sound.
His punch had been blocked.
But how? There was no defensive utility that should work against Shiba’s attacks, now enhanced with massive amounts of Ki. Such Ki would seep through any weapon it came into contact with and its wielder, and his Ki was even able to penetrate through Basara’s Universal Rejection.
“…Heh.” Shiba smiled profoundly at the unexpected, foreign occurrence.
It was a first for him—to have the Ki from his punches being unable to run through an opponent. His only consolation was the fact that he managed to fly backwards the moment the space was attacked.
“I see…so you’re capable of defending against my Ki now,” Shiba said, composing himself as he settled down after making distance from his opponent. He was then met with a resolute declaration by Basara, wielding Brynhildr as he stood right in front of him.
“I’ve already told you this. I’ve resolved myself to beat you, and I’ve prepared myself for it.”
Shiba stared at Basara fixatedly. “It seems you’re finally able to put the abstract concept nature of that Universal Rejection of yours to use against me.”
Basara’s Universal Rejection was an ability that enabled Basara to deflect any attack regardless of its nature, but it was of no threat to Shiba; Shiba’s ability to manipulate Ki was not only a physical manifestation, but it possessed another side to it—a conceptual activation that applied on abstracts.
What had decided the outcome of their first battle was the clash between the physicality of something that repelled everything and the abstract concept of something that could go through anything—but Basara had actually managed to defend against Shiba’s Ki this time.
It meant that Basara’s Universal Rejection had activated its conceptual mechanic of being able to repel all things—and Shiba deduced the reason why it had occurred from the complex aura of Ki Basara was now releasing.
“Humph. The blood of a Demon and a God—of your two mothers—as well as the blood of Jin-san, a member of the Hero Clan who drank deep the blood of the evil dragon Fafnir and gained its powers…it seems the powers of your inheritance of four different bloodlines are coming to life. And the individual balance between each bloodline is impressively even.”
“There’s also the Solomon’s Seal made by Mio-chan and the others and the resultant compatibility from them. …Even so, all that alone shouldn’t be enough for you to be able to defend against my Ki.”
Shiba’s proficiency in wielding Ki had drastically escalated ever since their first battle; the fact that Basara was able to defend against Shiba’s attacks meant that Basara had managed to attain a power that was even stronger than Shiba’s during his disappearance.
And there was only one possible explanation for that.
“But of course, Basara, so you’ve…”
A cold smile surfaced on his face once more as he made the realization.
“You’ve finally crossed the line and made the Master-Servant Vow with Mio-chan and the others in order to defeat me. That’s what it is, isn’t it?”
Basara remained silent as Shiba deduced what he’d done accurately—Shiba’s ability to detect and analyse Ki meant that there was no hiding it.
…It’s only natural that you’d know.
Basara’s current power stemmed from the activation of the high balanced composition of his four bloodlines, as well as the five-elemental compatibility that came from the Master-Servant Vows he’d made with Mio and the others.
Being able to control the full extent of his newly acquired power was an extremely difficult task, especially if said power came from an external source rather than from an internal change.
An additive power boost alone might have been inadequate to attain a power that was enough to defeat Shiba, however, so Basara had elected to combine all of his powers multiplicatively. This caused his power to increase so drastically that it became a futile effort to attempt to control it; and so he could only ask Mio and the others to erect a barrier from the Solomon’s Seal beforehand.
Despite all that…Basara knew that taking such a turn was no mistake.
And although he could trace Shiba’s current power level to the five-elemental compatibility of the Four Gods as well as the simultaneous manifestation of the Kouryuu in addition to several other unknown factors…he never would have thought that Shiba would be capable of releasing Reginlief’s corrosion.
Had Basara not elevated his Universal Rejection to attain its conceptual application in preparation for Shiba’s gradually increasing strength, that attack would have decided the battle there and then.
However, it also meant that the conceptual activation of his Universal Rejection only applied against Shiba’s Ki; if the conceptual activation applied toward all things, Basara would reject the very air he needed to breathe as well as repel even the very space surrounding him, leaving him with nothing around him.
Basara had intentionally limited the conceptual application of his Universal Rejection to only work against Shiba’s Ki to avoid that from happening.
Of course, he could also control it in a way that it could also repel attacks of a normal nature—but it was best not to do so.
The correct conceptual adjustments meant that Basara would be able to withstand Shiba’s attacks; at the same time, a mistake in conceptual deduction of the particular abstract matter would be fatal.
There was also the fact that Shiba had likely not unleashed his full power when Basara had blocked his initial attack.
Shiba hid his true intentions to the very end during their first battle—surely he would have a trump card up his sleeve this time.
“…Still, I must admit that I’m really surprised that you’ve come this far.” Shiba said, his anomalous self laughing lightly. “While I’ve made a barrier with the Four Gods and gained power via their five-elemental compatibility, you decided to use your girls who love you so much to achieve your own five-elemental compatibility and asked them to make a barrier from the Solomon’ Seal. What you’re doing is quite similar to what I’ve done, no doubt, but the fundamentals behind our actions are night and day.”
“I’m using the Four Gods—the sacred treasures—but Mio-chan and the others are living beings. Come on, I don’t think you need me to tell you how cruel that is. It’s hypocritical too, you yapping all the time about fighting to protect those you can’t give up on, yet going as far as using your precious girls as tools to boost yourself in order to beat me.”
Shiba’s words were met with another silence from Basara, and Shiba laughed again.
“Oh, and that’s not all, right? You’ve advanced your Master-Servant Contracts into Master-Servant Vows—meaning you can’t ever undo them once you’ve made them. You’re now binding those whom you love to you for eternity—and I do recall that you’ve also vaporized the corpses of your own kin of the Village into nothingness when your Banishing Shift went out of control. Though I suppose the fact that you want to defeat me and protect what you love makes it a just cause.”
Of course, that was not the case.
“You really are too far gone if you’ve decided on something that’ll only bring you irreversible tragedy after all those years and after all those dreadful battles you’ve struggled against.”
He was criticising them for crossing the line.
After spending a long time in silence listening to what Shiba had said… Toujou Basara then finally opened his mouth to speak.
“I won’t deny everything I’ve done—the fact that I was responsible for a horrible tragedy when my power went out of control and when I condemned the corpses of my companions to nothingness.”
“I’ve never seen the girls as tools—not in the past, not now, and not ever. Even now, they’re extremely important to me, and they’ll only continue to become even more irreplaceable in the future…and I’m sure they feel the same way too. All we’ve done was to make an eternal vow to ensure that no one can take away any of us from one another.”
“You think that I see Mio and the others as tools, that’s just because you yourself consider the Four Gods as nothing as tools to you, isn’t it?”
It was Shiba’s turn to be silent, his eyes narrowing as Basara continued speaking.
“But much like how Byakko recognizes Takashi, the Four Gods aren’t nothing more than tools—they’re entities that fight alongside their wielders.”
And much like how Sakuya approved of Yuki—and how Brynhildr approved of Basara.
“You only treat Reginleif and Kouryuu as tools to realize your own ambitions. Someone like you has no right to say anything about the relationship—the bonds—that we share among us.”
You will listen to me, and you will listen well.
“We alone will decide whether our bonds will end up in tragedy. At the very least, I don’t approve of what you’re doing and how you’re threatening to take their smiles and lives away—and that’s one thing I won’t allow to happen either.”
“I can imagine you won’t…so what are you going to do about it?” He said mockingly, and two colon-shaped dark substances the size of his fists melded together behind him to form a sphere, which then split into a total of nine others.
Shiba’s aura was also growing stronger by the minute—he was about to show him his true strength.
That’s right, Basara’s thoughts changed again. We’re not the only ones who are fighting with everything on the line.
Shiba, too, had a past that cannot be erased—he had his burdens.
But Basara had things he could not afford to lose too.
Such thoughts pounded at his chest as he held Brynhildr at the ready.
“Shiba Kyouichi, I will defeat you—and with everything on the line!” And Toujou Basara moved to make do on his word.
A massive magic circle was cast in the outdoor stage of the Shakujii Park in the northwest; swarms of the Legion, a countless horde of evil spirits, were being constantly summoned from it, yet also being cut down from a series of sword strikes that were as strong as they were keen.
The battle had since gone on for thirty minutes; the number of Legion that Leohart had brought down with his magic sword, Loki, was now in the thousands, but the horde remained unceasing as they kept appearing in hordes regardless of how many he cut down.
Leohart had two objectives in this battle—the first was to subdue Balflear and arrest him, while the second was to protect Maria, who was forming the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal.
And an important factor of said battle was distance; Leohart had maintained a constant, appropriate distance from Maria as he battled on, knowing that he would drag her into the battle if he were too close, but caring to also not stray too far to avoid the event of being unable to defend her in time.
An overwhelming blade of air sliced through the surrounding Legion, and Leohart ran the edge of his magic sword across the ground, raising his sword upward in a sweeping motion that threatened to shake the earth beneath him. The resulting shockwave riled up sand and debris as it blew away the hordes of Legion that had just emerged from the massive magic circle.
“…Cut down as many as you want. It’s useless.”
It was Balflear, who had disappeared the moment the battle had started. His voice could be heard everywhere, and the conjuring of another magic circle that summoned even more hordes of the Legion revealed his location.
Having attempted to destroy the magic circles summoning the Legion several times to verify the reality of the situation, Leohart could no longer deny that what Balflear said was true.
The Legion would not be stopped off his current methods.
“The Legion are an infinite horde of evil spirits…there’s no stopping them.” Balflear laughed even more coldly at their fruitless endeavour.
“…Is that really the case?” Leohart said, doubting Balflear’s words. Although the Legion seemed to spawn endlessly no matter how much he cut down, Leohart felt that there was some deception involved.
Having immediately inquired about Balflear and the Legion from Maria who had sparred against Balflear before his arrival, Leohart suspected that one of the two statements—the Legion being a god of infinite power, and the fact that Balflear had managed to form a perfect contract with said Legion—was false, or that they were both false.
It was impossible for both statements to be true—they were supposed to be mutually exclusive.
And then there was the fact that their demonic powers were restricted from their full potential within the five-elemental compatibility barrier made from the four sacred treasures—the Demon God Legion included. At the same time, Shiba could not have acquired such supreme power simply from being born of the Hero Clan, the power needed to wield the sacred treasures and erect the aforementioned barrier.
Leohart then spoke to the empty space before him, knowing that Balflear could still hear him somewhere.
“If what you say is true, rather than idling around and trying to fight off sheer numbers like what you’re doing now, you could simply decide the outcome of the battle by combining your seemingly infinite horde of Legion into a single, special entity.”
And that wasn’t all—
“I know everything. I’ve heard it all from Lars, knowing that he has more history with you than I do, and he’s told me of the real reason you’ve decided to help that Shiba person—as well as what you truly desire. Still, if the power of the Legion is as infinite as you say—you yourself should be unmatched by now, and you wouldn’t have proceeded with this plan to provide Shiba with the absolute power he needed. And yet you have, planning this operation with Shiba Kyouichi in the shadows, and now you’re just playing hide and seek while facing us through a war of attrition.”
But that was not the case, because—
“There has to be a limit—be it with the Legion or you yourself. And the infinite power of your Legion is no more under said limit. I would assume that there’s something of a core situated somewhere else—the very source that results in this horde that’s seemingly endless no matter how many beings are cut down, when in reality it’s simply reusing a finite source to produce new hordes of Legion as the previous hordes are destroyed. Am I wrong?”
Leohart was answered with a silence that was not still; the view before him was cleared; the magic circle dissipated, and the swarming hordes of Legion were also nowhere to be found.
“Has he…retreated?” Maria asked as she continued to supply her Wood element needed to sustain the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal.
“…No. I think he wants to settle this once and for all.”
It was a silence that suggested that Balflear was about to demonstrate Leohart’s assumption—a silence that heralded the forthcoming of a stronger Legion.
“…Let me ask you something, Maria.”
“What is it? I’ve told you everything I know about him and the Legion…”
“I’m not asking you about Balflear. I want to know about this Shiba person—his history, and the extent of his abilities,” Leohart said, “There’s a reason as to why Balflear’s decided to work together with that man, with said man seemingly treating Balflear as his only ally as well.”
There had to be some connection between the two.
“Make your explanation brief—and concise.”
“Shiba Kyouichi’s background and abilities? Let’s see…”
Maria then proceeded to explain to Leohart what she knew of their enemy: of how he was a forbidden existence made from the Vatican, a clone of the war god, Toujou Jin; and how he was extremely skilled at controlling Ki—perhaps enough to call him the very unmatched master of the art.
She spoke of how his body was full of Kegare that could swallow anything…he’s also absorbed Reginlief, a member of the Ten Gods, through another forbidden experiment.
The information Leohart received along with his existing knowledge of the Legion’s properties as well as the fact that Balflear revealing that he had spent a longer history with Shiba seemed to be the answers the Demon Lord needed to confirm his suspicions.
“So that’s how it is…” Leohart muttered.
“What exactly have you understood?” A soft voice suddenly said.
Leohart silently turned behind him to see Balflear, now around twenty metres away from him, with the Legion beside him—it now looked drastically different.
Its flesh was now hard and firm—its physique was now undeniably strong at first glance—instead of the slimy, unstable texture that it had previously assumed; the sheer pressure that came from its mere, hulking presence was reminiscent of the intimidating form of the Demon God Chaos that they had witnessed in the past.
This form of the Legion was undoubtedly Balflear’s trump card.
“I’m not interested in fighting a war of attrition at all. All the Kouryuu needs to manifest itself is to remain in this five-elemental compatibility barrier, with Kyouichi-dono’s power only continuing to grow all the while. I’m simply buying time. Well,” Balflear said. “I’d stop here and be silent now, but you are someone I used to serve. I would much rather have preferred it if you’d simply stayed in the Demon Realm happily living out the rest of your limited days with your precious older sister…it’d be a bit of a shame to come all the way here just to die without any good reason to.”
Balflear touched Legion in its ultimate form. “This is the true form of Legion…I’ll say this now—you have no chance of defeating it.”
“Is that so—I suppose we’ll see about that,” Leohart said, readying Loki at Balflear’s declaration.
“…Though is this truly alright?” He then tossed a question at him, “Is it truly alright for you to show yourself like this, Balflear?”
His question erased any trace of emotion Balflear had on his face.
“From what I know, your abilities come from a contract made with the high-ranking Demon Wraith—abilities that allow you to hide in gaps in between dimensions. Near the end of the last great war, you were assigned to my unit as my aid, and were responsible for many secret operations. But even so,” Leohart said, “I felt that something was off after discovering that you’ve made a contract with the Legion as well as your relationship with this man called Shiba. Shiba Kyouichi was not involved in the previous battle whatsoever, and he had not left the human world during that time as well; this means the two of you must have come into contact in the human world.”
“And while Shiba Kyouichi was being imprisoned for the past twenty years, why did you return to the Demon Realm to participate in the last great war…? I think I’ve found my answer after hearing Maria’s explanation of his history. And with it I’ve also found out why you’ve decided to lend your strength to him.”
He then sighed.
“Balflear…you were imprisoned in the Vatican for a time after that last great battle, weren’t you?”
What a troublesome fellow, Balflear thought. Leohart must now have at least some grasp of his history and his secrets.
Then again, Leohart was always someone who was extremely knowledgeable and intelligent—he never needed a subordinate like Balflear.
He was straightforward and did not particularly enjoy pulling the strings or working beyond the scenes like Balflear and Lars did, but he was no fool.
As Balflear pondered on the nuisance before him—
“Contracts that provide one with power carry a risk that’s directly proportionate to the power being supplied. Normally, it would be utterly impossible to accomplish what you’ve done and contract with the Legion as a single entity, no matter how many miracles one could think of. The way I see it, you’re an experimental product made from a test to see if one could contract with a Demon God after being abducted by the Vatican—much like the man you call Shiba being an experimental clone of Jin Toujou. And I doubt you’re the only one,” Leohart said. “Though the number of casualties during the last great war are unknown, I presume that half of those presumed dead were spared as not only prisoners, but also test subjects—all for the sake of producing ridiculous breakthroughs. And you, Balflear, are but the successful subject that had contracted with the Legion.”
“It was your Legion that was the final piece of the puzzle in making Shiba Kyouichi the vessel for the Kegare left over from the experiments that no one from the Hero Clan was capable of handling—and via containing the inexhaustible supply of Legion into his body, isn’t it? That’s why you’ve decided to work together with him—it’s because his desire for revenge against the Vatican aligns with that of your own.”
“That is correct…that’s the gist of it. You’re wrong about one detail, though.” Balflear said. He then unfastened the chest plate of his battle attire and undid the active, optic magic seal on it.
“The prisoners of the Vatican were not forced to make contracts with Legion. I—we—were simply forced to become its hosts.”
He exposed the center of his chest—the heart of the Demon God Legion.
“The worst part of all this is that the Vatican had discovered a way to eliminate their problem of having insufficient test subjects.”
Leohart’s eyes widened slightly at Balflear’s statement. “Could it be—”
“Yes—cloning. I am, like Kyouichi-dono, a living product of an experiment. More specifically, I am a chimeric experimental being made from cells with high compatibility rates extracted from the demons who were imprisoned there. I don’t remember the demon I was cloned from or what number I was when I was first produced—perhaps one of many million others like me. And it was through countless experiments that the impossible finally happened: a successful product born from the deepest depths of despair—I, 13th Edition BLFLA model: Soul Composition Batch, Experiment Number Ω○○○48!”
When the vessel housing an immeasurable amount of Kegare as a result of continuous absorption of Legion was first transported to the Village in Japan, he’d introduced himself as “Shiba”, derived from the remaining numbers from Balflear’s experimental code. (4= Shi, 8=Ba).
“I never would have thought…something like that happened…” Maria whispered, dumbfounded by Balflear’s explanation—and there was a barely detectable laugh from him.
“That only caused the time I’d spent with Kyouichi in the experimental facility to last even longer.”
“And that’s why the two of you decided to work together. To exact revenge against the Vatican—revenge against the Hero Clan, is it not?” Leohart asked.
“Of course…and back when Kyouichi-dono first absorbed Reginlief, I left the facility amidst the commotion while he intentionally stayed behind. We swore there and then—to reunite once more when the right time came for us to enact the glorious drama of destroying everything.”
You understand it now, don’t you?
“I sided with Kyouichi-dono not because I’ve spent more time with him—but we’ve suffered within an abyss, a hell with more madness and cruelty than any battlefield.”
Leohart was even more assured of the truth after listening to Balflear.
“…As I thought, then. You returned to the Demon Realm—”
“Exactly—to make a contract with Wraith.” Balflear replied immediately. “I refused to die until the time was right—I had to find a place where neither blade nor magic would be able to harm me.”
Wraith possessed the ability to traverse through the dimensions and remain in their space at will; he was a demon of an even higher echelon that even high-ranking members of the Demon Realm could not make contracts with.
However, Balflear had made the impossible possible given that he was a host of the Legion—and his preparations were complete the moment he had acquired Wraith’s powers.
“I’ve already tested the full extents of Wraith’s stealth abilities when I was operating in the last war; had others known that my abilities now surpassed that of my commander, I would have attracted a lot of unnecessary attention…and if I had disappeared out of the blue before Kyouichi-dono’s preparations were complete, I would have invited a lot of focus and investigation.”
“You gave me the solution I needed when you requested me as your adjutant. You put me into a position where I didn’t need to worry about anything—a safe haven, if you will—and most importantly, with it you provided me with power, rank, and freedom. I’ve aided you in achieving the dream you’ve been carrying for so long to return the favour.”
“I suppose we can agree on that—those old men are hardly any different from the Vatican, after all.”
“Yes. Even the Demon Realm is not spared from the hell that I’ve been through. Though perhaps such taboos and the despair that comes with them isn’t as rare as it seems to be.”
“Even so, I can’t let go of it all…not the sinners involved, nor the hate that corrodes my own dignity.” Balflear said, his voice growing heavier by the minute.
“I suppose I understand what you’ve been through and the emotions behind it now, but…” Leohart said, “Why didn’t you think of using me if you wanted to exact vengeance against the Hero Clan? It’s obvious that there would be many who would oppose the operation you’ve planned with Shiba, and given how I still needed the support of the Demon Realm even after succeeding Wilbert as the new Demon Lord, you could have easily coerced me into launching an attack on the Vatican, the headquarters of the Hero Clan.” Balflear said. “Well, I also agreed with your decision to dispose of the Cardinal Sins to a certain extent.”
“Don’t you know full well why I never considered that option?” Balflear asked, laughing callously.
“You fought against the Cardinal Sins not only out of justice. …The main reason why you did all that was simply to ensure your beloved older sister would be able to live her life in the Demon Realm without leash or worry. I know full well of that through how you’ve actively tried to avoid conflict with the Hero Clan, instead seeking to unify the Demon Realm into an era of peace, and even now you’re proceeding with an alliance negotiation with the Moderate Faction—even if you’ve allowed us to attack Naruse Mio, the daughter of Wilbert, the previous Demon Lord.”
But the truth is rarely so simple.
“Yet even with the recommendation of both the Warring Faction and the Conservative Faction, your ideals are, at the end of the day, are still much like Wilbert’s from when he used to reign from the Moderate Faction—to realize your own ambitions and to ensure the prosperity of those closest to you. That’s no different from what the Cardinal Sins have done. …No, that’s not the case, now, is it? For a king meant to serve and sacrifice for his people to instead sacrifice his own people for those personal to him—all while wielding the very fact that it’s all for those you love as a convenient excuse—you’re simply far worse.”
But such things could simply not be tolerated, Balflear said.
“An eye for an eye—pain must be repaid equally, and suffering must be shared with those who condemn others to it. The hate I hold is just and cannot be eliminated—how could it be, knowing that it would satisfy a mere insignificant minority if it were possible! Be it the entire Hero Clan or the Ten Gods who were responsible behind the scenes—they cannot be exempt from knowing the extent of how we’ve both suffered.”
Balflear’s words were the culmination of the long-held resentment that he’d carried with him for almost twenty years.
And Leohart’s was a simple reply.
“…I won’t let you do as you please.”
Despite finally understanding the strong, yearning feelings his former adjutant had carried with him for so long, Leohart firmly rejected them.
“I won’t fault you and your hatred of the Heroes and the Gods for your past experiences…and I can understand how your actions are all fuelled by a need for vengeance toward them. However,” Leohart said.
“There are many in the Demon Realm who live in the moment, hoping for tomorrow—I imagine the people in this world are like that too. And all you and Shiba Kyouichi will be doing is restarting the war that involved both the human world and the Demon Realm by breaking the ceasefire pact between the two worlds. A full-scale war between the human world and the Demon Realm—possibly involving even the Divine Realm—will only result in a terribly irrevocable calamity for all sides.”
“This battle will only bring about new pain and fan the flames to an unending cycle of hate. You two intend to unleash your hate on the world, not knowing that you’d be merely creating many others like yourselves. Now that the long, sorrowful period of strife in the Demon Realm is finally coming to an end, I will not allow yet another pit of suffering to befall my people as the Demon Lord!”
Balflear sent a sharp glare at Leohart at his proclamation—he said nothing in rebuttal, for he was fully aware of the coming consequences of his actions.
And Leohart continued speaking.
“A king’s duty is not only to reply to those who have made his subjects suffer in kind—a king must carry both the joy and sorrow of his people to lead them toward a brighter future. This is the sacred duty of a lord, and a mandatory responsibility that has nothing to do with one’s personal feelings. My older sister and I know this all too well.”
Make no mistake.
“My intentions for defeating the Cardinal Sins and supporting a relationship between the Current Demon Lord Faction and the Moderate Faction are not simply to provide a place where my older sister can belong—and that hasn’t changed even now. The resultant pact between the two factions will form an unopposable power in the Demon Realm…one that will adequately keep other forces in check and limit the amount of blood that needs to be spilled. I believe this would bring prosperity to all in the Demon Realm, present and future.”
There was no hesitation in Leohart’s words.
“The path I tread upon is lined by the smiles of my people and my comrades awaiting me. And my older sister and I will attain true happiness when I finish walking down this path. That is the future that I want—the future we want!”
“And what are you two doing! What lies ahead in your single-minded endeavour to fulfil your desire for vengeance and involving the innocent in it other than satisfying yourselves? You’re now preparing to sacrifice countless lives in order to realize your ambitions—what makes you any different from the Cardinal Sins and the Vatican now? …Tell me, Balflear!”
“…Don’t get full of yourself!” Balflear’s voice now completely frigid, having heard enough of Leohart’s earnest cries.
“Our pain, our suffering…our long-festered hatred…they belong to us and us alone! We alone can carry them and not anyone else…!”
With strong emphasis on the final words of his statement, the Legion, now in its final form beside Balflear, began to move—a catastrophic aura began surging from the entirety of its titanic body, maelstroms of a bluish purple rattling the surrounding air.
Leohart prepared himself, wielding Loki at the ready.
“If you needed the help of Toujou Basara and Mio Naruse to narrowly defeat Chaos, I don’t think you can do anything to beat an evil spirit like the Legion.” Balflear laughed.
“…I wonder about that.” Leohart said, a faint smile on his face.
“Why do you think you’re the only one who’s been concealing his true power?”
He then unleashed the power of his magic sword as his grip tightened on its hilt.
Leohart appeared before Balflear and the Legion in an instant, his blade drawn in a horizontal sweeping stance.
Loki was now freed from its usual restrained state, and Leohart’s current enemy was its prey—with it came the incredible speed of its slicing attack.
Loki was known by many names, each of which possessed their own individual abilities—and Leohart was now unleashing all of them to their fullest extent, granting him the power he needed to fell what stood in his path.
Having closed the distance between him and his enemy and disrupted their awareness with Master of Mischief, Loki augmented its attack with Finality, threatening to bring about an immediate demise.
Leohart aimed such an unavoidable, fatal attack at the large body of the Legion; and the next moment, the Legion’s titanic body seemed to explode and disperse—
Leohart was suddenly surprised; his sword didn’t seem to cut through anything, and he soon realized why.
The Legion had not been sliced open—it had split up on its own into fragments. These fragments recombined into six large eyeballs, the scattered objects circling a hemispherical circumference above Leohart and the space around him with their individual, nonuniform paces and with immense speed.
“What a shame.” Balflear said, having long since vanished.
The Legion’s eyes then simultaneously shot thread-thin, red-hot rays directly toward Leohart that burned the very space they passed through—it was an advanced phenomenon exclusive to one with calibre of a Demon God, something that was much more different from mere magic.
—It was an exchange between their two trump cards, a clash between offense and defense.
Having successfully avoided Leohart’s threatening attack by causing the final form of Legion to split up, Balflear knew that he was going to achieve a narrow victory as he concealed himself in a dimensional gap.
Leohart had been right when he had correctly deduced that there was a limit to the Legion; although the Legion’s properties were truly unlimited, the same could not be said for Balflear’s own powers as its host, and so he could neither increase the number of the Legion’s bodies ad infinitum nor increase its strength.
Even so, his current strength would still be more than enough to send Leohart to his grave, and Balflear had successfully outwitted his opponent in this exchange.
Leohart was to die here—the real battle was what would come after.
…A certain woman won’t let this slide without a fight.
Liala, the Massacre Demoness, would definitely come after the life of anyone responsible for the death of her beloved younger brother; even so, Shiba had already grown to a level of unmatched power, and Balflear could simply hide from her between dimensions.
And even then—
Balflear wouldn’t care whatsoever even if he were to die by Liala’s hand anyway, and it wasn’t because he would willingly die for atonement.
The death of Balflear—and even Shiba’s death—would not cease her hatred that came from the demise of Leohart, whom she loved above all else. She would continue hunting, eventually discovering the operation that had taken place twenty years ago, and eliminate anyone found to be involved. Her search would extend not only to the Hero Clan; even the Divine Realm would not be spared from her wrath if she were to find out that the cloning operation was secretly founded by the Ten Gods—down to the last living thing.
He thought of the irony of the situation—of how the death of Leohart, who swore to stop him from causing even more tragedy and hate, would only bring forth a trail of blood in the wake of his own older sister Liala.
“A pity,” As he bade his last goodbye to Leohart, the Legion’s six eyes continued firing their disintegration rays at the same time. The red lasers pierced through Leohart’s body and drove themselves deeper into the ground below, causing an overheating explosion as it reduced the Demon Lord to naught but cinders.
—Or so he thought.
It was surprise—not victory—that befell him next. The lasers aimed at Leohart were suddenly deflected to the ground, and Balflear could not see Leohart or discern why his attack had failed due to the resulting explosion and smoke from the scorching attack.
He couldn’t possibly have escaped such a heated explosion even if it had been redirected, but—
Balflear swallowed hard—he was feeling more and more nervous. If Leohart managed to somehow deflect such a powerful phenomenon from the Legion, it would also be easy for him to resist the explosion and come out unscathed.
“…There you are.”
Balflear flinched as he turned around at the sudden voice—Leohart had unknowingly entered the dimensional space exclusive to only Balflear through the powers he’d received from the contract with Wraith.
He was now wearing black armor; Loki remained in his right hand.
And there was a dimensional gap behind him.
No doubt the full extent of Loki’s powers had enabled him to cut through the dimensions and allow Leohart to enter Balflear’s personal realm. And it was likely that Loki’s power now surpassed Wraith’s in terms of manipulating dimensions that enabled Leohart to pinpoint Balflear’s exact location amidst a space with an almost infinite phase contrast.
Balflear immediately cast a magic circle in front of him; Legion followed by lunging toward Leohart, its six eyes recombining.
If splitting up into six entities would not work against him, surely Legion would be able to defeat him in its ultimate form. And he would not be directly attacking him—he would allow the Legion to explode, unleashing all the corrupting power within to destroy his enemy.
That should do it, he thought—but he was once again denied his moment of victory.
Leohart was wielding Loki at his waist; the blue-purple aura being absorbed by the blade of the sword.
The next moment, Leohart unleashed a shockwave in a slashing motion, slicing away Legion in one fell swoop; the resulting attack also clashed with the magic circle Balflear used to summon the Demon God, causing a massive explosion.
Balflear was directly struck with the attack at point-blank range, causing him to be knocked out of the dimensional space into the surrounding space; he collided with the earth of the Shakujii Park below him, grinding the surrounding surface as he fell into a rolling crash. He then fell into one of the western ponds of the park, the booming noise causing the pond water to erupt from its reservoir; however, the water also cushioned the resulting impact, and he was left on the shore of one of the floating islands surrounding the pond.
Balflear barely managed to stay conscious despite having taken tremendous damage.
Balflear had utilized a magic circle meant to summon Legon; although Balflear lacked the ability to fully utilize the Legion’s powers, the summoning circle required to bring forth the Demon God was nonetheless capable of withstanding its limitless power, and so he had repurposed the magic circle to protect himself from the full brunt of Loki’s attack.
Crawling out of the pond with the last of his strength, Balflear saw Leohart arriving before him as he raised himself onto the floating island, now soaking wet.
Balflear continued staring at Leohart, now fully clad in black armor that resembled his own sword, in disbelief.
Loki’s power was indeed a far cry from the power of Toujou Basara’s Brynhildr—but much like how Balflear was unable to fully make use of the Legion’s infinite powers, Leohart was also supposed to be incapable of unlocking the full extent of Loki’s power. A forcible attempt at doing so would overwhelm his body and his heart—that was why he had used Loki in a limited state when he fought against Toujou Basara and Chaos.
Even for someone like Leohart, it should have been impossible to make use of the full extent of Loki’s power—unless there was some blessing or contract involved…
“Are you telling me that…” Balflear muttered. An impossible answer suddenly became possible in his mind.
“You’ve made a Master-Servant Contract with Liala-dono?”
“…I don’t want to lose anymore.” Leohart said, affirming Balflear’s assumption as the latter remained in shock.
Leohart thought of the time where he had to fight against Toujou Basara during the conflict against the Moderate Faction; he had undeniably lost their battle to him, even if said battle had been interfered while it was still proceeding.
There was also the fact that Chaos could not have been defeated without the aid of Basara and the others—it had reminded him of the reality that he lacked the strength to go against the Moderate Faction and the Cardinal Sins—as well as the fact that Basara possessed the strength he did not.
The Cardinal Sins were now no more, and the proceedings of peace with the Moderate Faction were currently underway—with its success possibly bringing about a true, everlasting peace for the Demon Realm.
Even so, however, Leohart knew he lacked the strength to protect that peace—such was why he could only do what he could and perform a Master-Servant contract with Liala.
His contract was different from Basara’s contracts, though—he was the servant in the contract, whilst Liala was his master.
Liala had accepted the idea for the Master-Servant Contract positively, knowing that it was a means to deepen their already close bond and grow even more inseparable; however, she had initially disapproved of the suggestion that she was to be Leohart’s master in the contract.
It was the only request from Liala that Leohart had ever insisted against; he would satisfy any of Liala’s desires with the exception of this one. Regardless of the means they would use to form their contract, Leohart did not want any risk of Liala getting afflicted with the curse, and more importantly, he simply had a wish he couldn’t back down on.
It was his dream.
Leohart had never wanted to be the sovereign of his world—he had only assumed the throne as a means to gain power to obtain power to protect Liala, knowing full well that he only acquired the position on recommendation by the Sins as a puppet ruler.
All this time, he only ever wanted one thing—to become a knight meant to serve and protect his beloved older sister.
Liala had finally accepted his intentions after hearing of the dream he had—and it was only with that contract that Leohart managed to arrive here with a newly acquired power.
Looking below him as he wielded the power of Loki, his magic sword—his Demon God—he saw Balflear spread-eagled and unconscious on the ground, as if he had lost all of his will to resist after accepting that he had been completely defeated.
“Much like Toujou Basara, I, too, have things that I can’t give up on. I will spare none that will cross my lines, no matter who they may be,” Leohart said, and the Demon Lord then quietly announced his purpose for coming here.
“Balflear, I arrest you for the crime of the highest level of treason.”
Shiba and Basara continued sparring in mid-air of Tokyo, the atmospheric vibrations from their intense battle threatening to destroy the surrounding atmosphere itself as the two beings of ultimate power continued fighting.
Their skills were limited in some way for this battle; Basara had to limit the conceptual application of his Universal Rejection to only work against Shiba’s Ki, whereas Shiba was now incapable of penetrating through Basara with his primary ability. The sky became the stage for which the two sparred with their weapons; Basara with his sword, Byrnhildr, and Shiba with the corroding magic gauntlet Reginlief, now clad on his body as both armor and weapon.
With the dragon’s blood he’d inherited from Jin, he flew in between the gaps of the skyscrapers of the city at high speeds; encircling the white structures, he made a high-speed turn and lunged toward Shiba, who was also moving through the air by virtue of his Ki.
He unleashed Byrnhildr as the two clashed, his attack a curved slash that threatened to run through Shiba’s left shoulder and toward the right side of his torso; his combined speed, pushed it to its absolute limit, along with the strength he now possessed meant that he would be able to cut through anything.
“…Tsk, tsk, tsk. You never learn, do you?” Shiba smiled as he took the attack head on. His collar simply absorbed the full extent of the attack, causing only a loud, clanging sound of metal.
Basara’s blade did not cut through Shiba, let alone cause any damage.
While Shiba had primarily used his Ki for offense in their previous battles, Shiba was now using his Ki defensively now that Basara’s Universal Rejection was able to resist the penetration of his Ki. He was now utilizing an ultimate defense called the Ki Barrier, where his entire body was enveloped in a flow of Ki; it turned Basara’s slashing attack into a mere blow and completely nullified the force that came with it.
“I guess it’s my turn now.”
As Basara distanced himself from Shiba with the recoiling force from his attack and straightened his position in mid-air, Shiba launched a fist resembling a tiger’s claw upward.
Basara managed to avoid Shiba’s attack that was aiming for the left side of his—he fought against the recoil that had knocked Byrnhildr toward him through sheer strength, and he then used Shiba’s left shoulder as support to evade Shiba’s punch with a handstand.
He then prepared to swing Brynhildr down on Shiba as he turned around to get behind Shiba as he loomed over him. It was then that he saw Shiba’s attack causing a thunderous explosion in the building in front of him—about three or four buildings had completely disappeared as if the claw of a giant beast had run through them.
Basara gulped as he witnessed the extent of the attack’s destructive power. Although Shiba had reduced a building that Basara cut down to dust with his Ki, his Ki had now grown to be so powerful that it left no trace of anything it touched—enough to destroy or disintegrate anything completely. And although Basara was clad in Byrnhildr’s armor much like Shiba was now clad in his own, he doubted if he had the defenses to stomach an attack of that magnitude given that he was unable to use something like Shiba’s Ki Barrier.
—Having activated the conceptual activation of his Universal Rejection, he was currently only capable of resisting the penetration of Shiba’s Ki that was fatal to anything it made contact with.
And although Shiba utilized Ki in both his normal attacks and his penetration attacks, the properties between the two types of attacks varied greatly—though Shiba’s normal attacks were no less threatening in terms of their power.
Ki would be instilled into a target not only just from the point of impact, but it could be fired toward a target that was far away as well—with Shiba’s most recent attack being a dangerously apt demonstration. That said, Basara had to be careful to avoid almost every attack Shiba threw at him since the beginning of the battle.
Basara wasn’t worried despite all that, however.
If he could not avoid Shiba’s attacks, he would simply ensure Shiba would not be able to dodge his own attacks—he would do what needs to be done.
“Mmm…as I thought, your speed is actually a little problematic.”
When Shiba turned around next, Basara was no longer within sight—his speed had been increased twofold, far surpassing Shiba’s. He readied himself in a slanting position above Shiba’s blind spot—behind his right side—and launched an attack that could not be avoided or defended against—Extinction Sword.
Although the trajectory of destructive power of the attack when it was used in their previous battle had been redirected through a flow of Ki, the previous iteration of the attack was a normal manifestation of the move—it had been a physical activation.
This time, he would be utilizing the conceptual activation of the move, much like he had applied to his Universal Rejection.
With Shiba as the intended target, Shiba would not be able to defend against his attack with his Ki Barrier; attacking from his blind spot also meant that he would have no chance of dodging the attack as well.
This one hit would decide the battle there and then.
Basara hurriedly flew upward as if he were deflected in order to dodge something, even after unleashing such a powerful attack; his Extinction Sword was cut down by a vertical, curved slash that came from below, red-black blade marks cutting through the space below his feet and soundlessly slice through the three skyscrapers line behind him.
Basara could not catch his breath; the Extinction Sword split into two equal parts as if to evade Shiba as the fragments continued to travel further behind their intended target, causing destruction in Asakusa Town in their wake. The buildings behind him were also beginning to crumble.
“I don’t think I’ve properly explained this to you…but my battle style of manipulating Ki is based on a concept called Ars Deicidium—one that prepares me against even the highest-ranking gods and demons. And much like your Banishing Shift granting you a set of primordial abilities for your use, my concept also happens to come with some secret techniques of its own as well.” Shiba laughed as he eliminated the Annihilation Slash with a spinning kick towards the right behind him.
“Let’s start with one of the many abilities included…Fifth Rank—Nine-Headed Kusanagi!”
Basara was taken back as Shiba revealed his first technique; before Basara even realized it, he was already surrounded by nine black magatama (yin-yang beads) around him—dispersed from Shiba’s back.
Basara steeled himself to face the attack directly, a sight which caused Shiba’s smile to deepen.
The black magatama simultaneously suddenly shot out black and red electric streams as Shiba revealed his second technique, constricting Basara and preventing him from moving freely.
“I’m surprised you can still speak even after you’ve taken this attack…are you telling me you still have the strength to escape?” Shiba said, watching Basara’s frantic struggle against the electrifying chains with great interest. “Heads up, though—the real Tamemikazuchi starts now.” Shiba said, raising his right hand.
“Here, let me give you a taste…of what becoming lightning feels like.”
With a snap of his fingers, a dreadfully violent explosion preceded the lightning bolt that was Toujou Basara as it crashed onto the ground.
The earth beneath him was incapable of handling the shear strength of Tamemikazuchi, and the electric chains binding him meant that he could not even go against the forceful movement.
Having been driven through the asphalt and several underground floors, he ended up on a platform of an underground train station. And having taken several direct, consecutive blows to his back from the attack, the shock from the impacts caused oxygen to escape from Basara’s lungs and pour out of his mouth.
Although Brynhildr’s armor meant he sustained no serious injury to his internal organs, he remained shackled by the Tamemikazuchi’s electric chains.
Basara then willed Universal Rejection to apply to the Tamemikazuchi, knocking away the strong current of electricity binding him.
“…What is this place…?”
His gaze darted toward the signboard on the nearby wall—it was the Kamiyacho Station of the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. He then realized that he was now northwest of the city
“What’s this? …You’ve managed to escape Tamemikazuchi?” Shiba said, landing on the platform after following Basara down through the tunnel he’d inadvertently made from the severe, drilling impacts.
Basara frantically attempted to make distance.
“How about this, then?”
The nine magatama behind Shiba then dispersed into groups of three, sealing both ends of the platform as well as the massive hole that Basara had dropped out of, creating a massive, triangular prison of electricity.
“…!” Basara grunted at the predicament he was in.
Shiba then activated a stance that was different from the one he used to cast Tamemikazuchi, crossing his arms as he thrusted his palms toward Basara—
A red-black stream of Ki energy surged forth from Shiba’s palms—the massive amount of Ki took shape and assumed the form of a four-headed dragon.
Burning the half-sealed space of the platform, the dragon’s attention was now fully fixated on Basara.
Basara decided to run from the attack rather than face it head on this time—he wanted to avoid being shackled by the Tamemikazuchi again if he were to attempt to counter Kurikara with Banishing Shift. Moreover, the hellfire of the Kurikara would incinerate the surrounding oxygen in the are almost immediately, turning the underground station into a hellish oven—at the same time, however, changing the rejected target of his Universal Rejection to the Kurikara’s heat would leave him vulnerable to the Penetration property of Shiba’s Ki.
He began to run behind him.
Unleashing Banishing Shift towards the magatama that was covering the direction of the Kita-Senju station, he deflected the electric current that was blasting a hole in the electric barrier, before he jumped onto the underground railway tracks and made a speedy sprint toward the north. The four-headed fire dragon filled the underground tunnel completely as it chased after him.
…If this is the Hibiya line, then—
As Basara formed a map of his surroundings in his mind as he passed by the Kasumigaseki station, the flames lined the space of the tunnel as they continued chasing after him in the subterranean space, spreading across the intersection that linked the Maruonouchi line and the Chiyoda line.
However, the wrath of the flaming dragon remained relentless as it continued chasing after Basara.
As he reached a point of the Hibiya line railway tracks that curved right—
Basara suddenly directed Extinction Sword in a curved slash upward as he ran, forming a pathway that would lead to the surface. He then leapt upwards in a slanting motion towards his right in a forward-bent posture through the tunnel he’d created. The flames of the Kurikara followed him in a grand eruption toward the tunnel they chased after him as it surged upward—Basara thus escaped the extremely thick flamethrower that would have resulted in a fiery fate.
Basara found himself arriving at a particular place.
Wary of the power of the Earth element that came with Shiba’s manifestation of Kouryuu, Basara had consistently avoided fighting Shiba on the earth’s surface. And although he wanted to continue using the power of the dragon’s flight that he had yet to be fully accustomed to, he reconsidered the risk of being trapped by the Tamemikazuchi again.
Nevertheless, in an area where there were many obstacles and hiding spots present, Shiba’s reliance on Ki to detect his enemies’ position and movements would put him at a significant disadvantage.
Basara had chosen a place where he would have the least risks continuing the battle—the public square in front of the Imperial Palace. He wanted to fight Shiba out in the open, where his line of sight was wide and left as little opening as possible.
“I don’t know what to say…why exactly did you come here of all places?” The voice came with a bitter laugh. Basara turned upward to see Shiba floating in air, situated approximately ten meters directly above the Sakuradamon.
“Well, I suppose in some ways, this is quite a suitable place for us to settle things, isn’t it?”
Shiba slowly descended to meet Basara’s level as the latter stood on the public square; maintaining a twenty-meter distance away from him, the aura of his Ki suddenly rose drastically.
“What’s wrong, Basara…are you implying that you don’t know what this place is?” Shiba smiled faintly at Basara’s disturbed expression as he continued to radiate a suffocating pressure.
“This palace was once the ancient Edo city…the central point of interaction of the Four Gods. This is where their combined compatibility is at its maximum, while it’s geographical location also happens to be helpful in strengthening the central area. Note how the metropolitan rapid loop line circles around the city itself—along with three other loop lines with it—a total of four rings matching the number of the Four Gods. And that’s not all—note the ring roads that all lead toward the center, too. It’s not just the Edo Period—even at this very moment, the circular geography of Tokyo itself is supplying the power of the five-elemental compatibility towards the central area.”
Basara only remained silent at Shiba’s elaboration—he knew full well what the geographical surroundings of the Imperial Palace were like.
Even so, Basara had chosen this location as the stage for their final battle—it was not a suicidal decision, but a decision that was made out of the pure desire of achieving victory.
And so he wordlessly readied himself to unleash Banishing Shift.
“Well, I suppose I can’t say I don’t understand the reason behind you wanting to risk everything on that technique of yours…you’ve relied on it so much to get out of so many dangerous situations, after all.” Shiba said.
“Do you think such a reactive and improbable technique is better than my Ars Deicidium given that you can only use it as a counterattack? Must I also remind you that said technique only applies to only a single form of matter, and even then it won’t necessarily guarantee its elimination?”
“…I don’t intend to prove that my abilities are better than yours,” Basara declared. “I simply have no need to!”
Basara roared as he fired Banishing Shift before Shiba unleashed an attack of his own—he had not done so because he had broken his limits, and he was utilizing the conceptual activation of the ability, much like he’d done with his Universal Rejection.
He had unleashed the attack towards the massive amounts of Ki that surrounded the Imperial Palace.
As Shiba had previously mentioned, Ki existed in all things, and the Imperial Palace was now the point of which all of the Ki in Tokyo would gather. Basara had used Banishing Shift against this abundant stream of Ki.
The surrounding Ki was almost unlimited—it would simply regroup from all directions even if the current surrounding Ki were to be eliminated for just a moment. But if Basara were to eliminate said surrounding Ki, he would be able to temporarily turn the Imperial Palace into an empty zone devoid of Ki.
It would eliminate the Ki that Shiba would use for both offense and defense in an instant—and Basara wasn’t about to waste such a fragile opportunity.
Using Universal Rejection behind him, he closed the distance between him and his opponent in an instant, unleashing Byrnhildr in the opposite direction.
Shiba raised his arms, assuming a stance that implied he wanted to catch the flying blade with his bare hands.
Basara paid him no mind; without the power of his Ki, he would be unable to block his attack—and surely it would be over then.
However, Shiba put his palms together in front of his chest as Basara stood his ground with his own conviction—there was a clapping noise, and as his hands parted, his chest and abdomen parted like a gaping mouth—revealing a space that was darker than any abyss within.
A black substance seeped out of what seemed to be a dimensional gap, absorbing Byrnhildr as it nullified its attacks; Basara was then promptly sucked into the void.
“How disappointing…come into my body, Basara, and much like Reginlief, you will become my newest source of power.” Shiba laughed.
“…And I’ve known that it’s exactly what you’ve wanted.” Basara replied with a smile of his own.
Basara was wary of the possibility that Shiba would attempt to absorb him the moment he’d heard that Shiba had absorbed Reginlief; he had remained vigilant against him ever since. That said, Basara shifted his normal attacks to Banishing Shift as he continued attacking—he was casting Banishing Shift; Geminus, a continuation of his first attack that was used to scatter away the surrounding Ki.
Having prepared this technique for this exact situation, Basara managed to repel the darkness—it didn’t matter that he didn’t manage to fully exterminate it yet.
Basara was already preparing another slashing attack before Shiba could make his next move—but things didn’t go as intended.
“…It’s no use, Basara.” Shiba smiled.
The darkness that should have been eliminated by Banishing Shift simply regrouped and devoured Basara before his attack could even reach Shiba.
There was no escape.
“You have Afureia with you…of course I’d considered the fact that you’d taken precautions against the risk of being absorbed into me.”
Shiba gave Basara an umpteenth, cold smile as the latter went still with shock.
“The Kegare within my body can swallow all forms of darkness—even Reginlief, hailed as one of the Ten Gods, was unable to escape from it. Perhaps one would have a chance if they were to completely eliminate my corruption, but simply dispersing it will do absolutely nothing.”
“Your Banishing Shift needs to discern the physical origins of its target and cut off said origin before it can eliminate anything, yes? I’m afraid trying to detect the origin of such an abstract matter is more or less impossible, however.”
“Stare into the blackest and deepest depths of the abyss all you want—all you can see remains nothing but darkness.”
Shiba Kyouichi had now swallowed everything of Toujou Basara— his body and his consciousness.
As Mio continued to sustain the Fire element of the Solomon’s Seal in the west, she suddenly called out to Basara as she was assailed by an inauspicious feeling, turning toward the north.
For a short moment, she could no longer sense Basara, who was supposed to be fighting Shiba in the middle vicinity. She couldn’t have mistaken it—their newly made Vows had only made their ability to sense the location and presence of one another much stronger.
Her mind suddenly thought for the worst.
…It couldn’t be.
The bond that kept them together—the Master-Servant Contract—would disappear if Basara were truly dead. But it still remained.
As she frantically tried to detect any traces of his presence, she finally found the faintest sign of his being.
Something had evidently happened to him—and it was undoubtedly Shiba’s doing.
Mio had previous received some information via Yuki’s mother, Kaoru, back when they were in the Village of the Hero Clan; Hasegawa had also told them of the fate of Reginlief, one of the Ten Gods, when they were in her imaginary dimensional space. Given those elaborations and the fact that they could not sense Basara’s presence, even for only a brief moment, it was very likely that he had been absorbed by Shiba.
They had taken any lengths they could for the sake of defeating Shiba—they even went as far to advance their Master-Servant Contracts to Master-Servant Vows.
Yet Shiba Kyouichi was an unpredictable enemy, one who had mercilessly shattered the bonds Mio and the others shared with Basara, bonds that bet their body and soul to the same man they all loved.
Basara had always been the one to rescue them from danger up until now—but Shiba had placed him into another dangerous situation again.
Mio couldn’t resist the welling urge in her heart to rush toward her beloved older brother.
But she couldn’t go—Mio and the others had to sustain the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal, and they were thus unable to leave the locations that they were responsible for. Mio’s face twisted in dissatisfaction as her sense of responsibility got the better of her.
…If this keeps up, then…!
It was very possible that Basara would lose to Shiba again, much like he had during the first battle.
Basara had only escaped death due to Hasegawa’s intervention, and she would undoubtedly come for him again if he were to be put in a dire situation again. However, her precious success was largely due to her appearance being largely unexpected by Shiba, and so it was now uncertain that she could rescue Basara again now that Shiba was wary of her presence. Moreover, Hasegawa’s powers were limited despite the fact that she could activate them for Basara’s sake—and their opponent was wielding the soul of Reginlief, a member of the Ten Gods much like she was.
And even then—
Even if they were to rescue Basara, the simultaneous manifestation of the Kouryuu meant that Shiba’s power would only continue to increase, whereas they had already exhausted their final option in their Master-Servant Vows.
If they were to fail even now, they would truly have no chance of victory.
What was she supposed to do? As she single-mindedly ruminated on her ever-growing doubt and unease—
“…Naruse Mio, go.” A curt voice gave Mio a push on her back.
It was Takashi—having forcibly regained the Byakko from Shiba’s control during his scuffle with the sacred weapon, Takashi’s injuries were substantial, but he was already beginning to recover gradually.
“But…if I were to leave here…and head toward Basara…”
“The barrier of the Solomon’s Seal has already been activated. If all it requires now is for it to be maintained, I can take over from here.” Seeing Mio’s hesitation, Takashi quickly replied to put her at ease.
“I am recognized by the Byakko—a being of the Wind Element among the four Classical Elements. Wind has the power to rile up and strengthen Fire. And wind is of the Wood Element among the Five Elements, which has a high compatibility with Fire.”
“…Do you remember the time when we first battled?”
“Huh?” Mio could not understand why Takashi was bringing up that past event.
“In the end, the Byakko ended up losing control because I acted immaturely…and it was Basara who drove me to that point. But it was you, that succubus servant of yours and Yuki that gave him the time he needed to do so,” Takashi said, staring at Mio. “You were supposed to be no match for me back then. But do you think the efforts you took during your struggle against us was nothing but a waste?”
Mio widened her eyes at his statement—it was what she needed to finally make up her mind.
“…Are you sure this will be okay?”
“I’ve already told you this—don’t underestimate the Hero Clan.”
As Takashi gave his answer, Mio immediately activated her flight magic and hurried toward the central area, where Basara and Shiba were supposed to be battling, her speed leaving even the wind in a cloud of dust.
Mio wasn’t going to the Imperial Palace, however—there was something she had to make sure of first. She had rushed toward the south of the Imperial Palace instead, where Takigawa was battling Kouryuu.
Takashi had mentioned his arrival previously, and Mio had also kept an eye on the situation there when she was maintaining her side of the barrier of the Solomon’s Seal in the south, given that the ensuing battle had raged on quite viciously.
Mio had not arrived here first because she was more worried about Takigawa, though—she had come here purely out of a need to help Basara.
Confirming Mio’s arrival, Takigawa temporarily distanced himself from Kouryuu and landed on the top of a skyscraper. Understanding the circumstances, Mio followed him onto the same building and immediately cut to the chase.
“I have an unreasonable request, but…is it impossible for you to defeat Kouryuu right now?”
“And just when I was wondering what exactly you had arrived here for, you spout this nonsense out of your mouth…I’m kinda having a hard time here, so can you not make it sound like it’s supposed to be easy?” Takigawa said, looking completely disgusted. “That dragon manifested because of that Shiba guy, and I assume that this massive beast will disappear once Basachi finally settles things with him. I’m supposed to be simply buying time until that happens, but…” He paused, sighing for a moment.
“Well, look at you—are you saying that something horrible’s happened to Basachi?” He continued in a low voice, knowing full well that Mio had the ability to sense if anything had happened to Basara.
“…I don’t know. I just really hope you’ll be able to hurry with it.”
Mio knew that she was making a very unreasonable request; Shiba’s immense power now stemmed from the simultaneous manifestation of the Kouryuu.
At the same time, however, it also meant that Shiba’s strength would be reduced drastically if the Kouryuu were to be defeated.
If they were to rescue Basara and defeat Shiba, this was a crucial task to perform; and although Mio seemed to be entrusting Takigawa to do this all by himself, she had done so for two main reasons.
Firstly, Mio had to hurry and rush toward where Basara was; given the danger he was now in at Shiba’s hands, Mio had to stop him at any cost, even if her own powers were no match for his.
And there was the second reason—Mio was responsible for the Fire Element.
Fire had compatibility with Earth; The Kouryuu could simply absorb Mio’s attacks and grow stronger through them, and strengthen Shiba along with it—they had to prevent that from happening.
And even if Mio could use her gravity magic, it was possible that she may unconsciously augment her attacks with the Fire Element. And even then, her gravity magic wouldn’t be particularly effective against Kouryuu, and carelessly driving their opponent of the Earth Element toward the ground would only induce the risk of a far stronger counterattack.
…But this is just so frustrating!
The truth was that it was best for Mio not to get involved if they wanted a chance at defeating Kouryuu—and Takigawa knew it full well, too.
“Ugh, what a drag…well, it’s not like I can’t do it, but it will take some time.” He said, gazing at Kouryuu from afar.
It was the sacred beast’s innate instinct to primarily guard the central area.
“It’s only observing things right now because I’m not showing it any hostility. The moment I decide to lay a finger on it, I imagine it’ll come flying straight at me.”
“I suppose it really is a difficult task…”
It was likely that Takigawa was planning to accumulate his magic in order to launch an attack that would be powerful enough to defeat Kouryuu—it was understandable that he needed the time to prepare for it.
And if time was what Takigawa needed, Mio could get it for him.
Even if it meant it would strengthen the Kouryuu in the process—
If I don’t hurry, Basara will…!
So long as their Master-Servant Vows were still intact, Basara remained alive and he could be saved—but they didn’t have much time. The possibility of Basara being fully absorbed by Shiba was the throbbing fear that completely filled her heart.
She couldn’t waste any more time here—she couldn’t lower her chances of saving Basara even further, or she would have to witness Basara’s demise with her own eyes.
“I understand…make preparations, then, Takigawa. I’ll buy you the time you need.”
Mio activated her flight magic and went forth—toward Kouryuu. As she closed in on her target, Kouryuu also prepared itself to react to her.
Using the immense energy of the Earth Element, its ascension from the ground caused the earth beneath it to rumble and quake; the dragon then opened its gaping mouth as light began to charge within it as it pooled from all directions.
Mio could not attack it, however—she could only show it her hostility and occupy its attention, fully adopting an avoidant or defensive stance whenever necessary.
It was alright with her; for so long as she could help Basara—
“I’ll do what I need to do to get its attention…come at me!”
As Mio braced herself for the Kouryuu’s breath attack, something unexpected occurred; there was a thunderous noise as the side of the dragon’s head took a heavy blow. The impact caused Kouryuu’s head to shake to the side, the golden time charging its breath in its mouth vanishing in the process.
Mio then saw the arriving assailant—a familiar face, someone who was smaller than everyone else in her household, but also someone who had physical strength that far surpassed theirs.
“Mio-sama! Are you alright?”
As Mio called out Maria’s name in surprise, the succubus kicked off using Kouryuu’s massive head and spread her wings to fly toward her.
“I knew you’d come here, Mio-sama! I felt Basara-san’s presence disappear for a moment too…oh, and Leohart-san actually came by to help us out, so he’s now taking my place with his magic sword to sustain the barrier.”
“I see…I’ve also left my role to Hayase, and I’m trying to buy time for Takigawa to defeat Kouryuu now.”
Kouryuu suddenly roared as the buildings nearby Mio and Maria were influenced by the power of its Earth Element, disintegrating into sand as they surged upward to reach them.
Before they could decide whether they would block or dodge, however, the pillars of sand suddenly halted their assault.
Someone was standing on top of a nearby building, her hands on the surface as she disrupted Kouryuu’s Earth element attacks with her own earth magic.
“Zest!” Mio cried.
“Sorry I’m late…Luka and my magic golems are substituting me in maintaining the barrier.” Zest said as she reported her circumstances.
Her arrival was followed by another familiar girl who had arrived here by riding the winds—Kurumi had also arrived.
“You guys got really lucky…the guy that came by to help me out just said ‘Sorry, I can’t maintain the barrier because I’m of the Fire Element’, so I had to bury the elemental orb of Water there to replace me.” Kurumi said, smiling fearlessly despite a moment of resignation. “But since Water isn’t that effective against Earth in the Five Elements, so it should be fine…right?”
As she finished, Kurumi riled up the winds with her magic, and Kouryuu was suddenly assaulted by a series of unseeable attacks—they were bullets made of compressed air. Unlike Mio who used her own magic to fight, Mio instead lent the power of her spirits to do battle, and so she wouldn’t be applying her Water element when she was utilizing her Wind Magic.
Maria’s Wood Element was strong against Kouryuu’s Earth Element.
Zest’s Earth Element was equal against the same element.
And Kurumi’s own magic, which was of the Wood Element, was strong against Kouryuu’s Earth element as well.
The three were far more suited than Mio to fight against Kouryuu.
“Leave the Kouryuu to us. Hurry up and go save Basara-san!” Maria said, preparing for battle.
“But…Maria…!” Mio exclaimed.
“I’m sorry to say this, but your abilities won’t be effective against this particular enemy of ours right now…but if Basara-san has really been absorbed into that Shiba person’s body…” Maria said, turning around. “I think you already know this, but…you might be the only one capable of rescuing Basara-san now.”
Mio understood what Maria was trying to imply. Only Mio could do what the others could not now—she alone among them could rescue Basara.
“…I understand. I’ll leave things here to you.”
Nodding in approval, she then made haste to go where she needed to be and to carry out what she alone could do and needed to do.
She had to save Basara.
Mio gasped at the scene below her as she flew toward the Imperial Palace.
Tokyo—the central capital of Japan—was being razed in hellfire.
The southern end of the Chiyoda district had been engulfed in a sea of flames; various important areas of the capital, ranging from various governmental offices, the National Public Safety Commission and the symbol of power separation encompassing the Cabinet Office, the National Diet and the Judicial Office, were also not spared from the reddish traces of fire.
The only respite was that such destruction was unfolding in the illusory barrier that Shiba had constructed from the Four Gods.
Even so, if Shiba were to dispel this space without the barrier of the Solomon’s Seal that Mio and the others had created, the reversed arrangement of the Four Gods would cause them to go out of control and turn the scene Mio was witnessing into a reality—if not a scene that extended to nearly the entirety of Tokyo and of a far more drastic scale.
As Mio pondered on the dangerous possibility as she flew over Hibiya Park, her cautiousness suddenly began to skyrocket.
She had met the gaze of her enemy, who was now standing in front of the public square of the Imperial Palace. He was flashing an eerie smile at her, and his deformed body was radiating a dazzling glow of three colors, red, black and gold—perhaps the result of the mix between his absorption of Reginlief and the simultaneous manifestation of Kouryuu. The aura he was exuding was of an intensity that Mio had never felt before, sharing the golden, seemingly sacred quality of Kouryuu, yet also extremely dangerous, as if unbelievably dark was underneath him.
And as she had presumed, Basara—who was supposed to be fighting him—was not anywhere within sight.
Resolving herself, Mio landed on the public square right in front of Shiba.
“My, my—you’re late.” Shiba said, calmly welcoming her arrival. “It seems Balflear’s been captured, and although things seemed to be taking a turn for the worse for us…I think the victor is clear now.”
“Your beloved Basara has already been absorbed by the Kegare within me.”
“…That’s not true.” Mio said, steeling herself with a stern expression on her face. “If Basara had been truly absorbed by the Kegare in you and become what that god called Reginlief became—completely dissolving and melding with you—our Master-Servant Vows would be undone by now. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet proves that Basara is still alive.”
“Well, you know, I’ve never exactly said that I’ve killed him, after all—I’ve simply said that the victor is clear.”
“A single sentence from me and you suddenly lose all will to fight—’resist any longer and I’ll kill Basara,’, right?”
Shiba’s words were an undeniable truth—but Mio would not relent.
“…I don’t think so.”
She couldn’t surrender here—she couldn’t afford to lose.
All their hard work up until now would then be for nothing, and they would be losing their futures as well.
Mio wouldn’t allow that to happen.
“If Basara’s really with you right now, maybe we really do have our hands tied. And maybe we won’t be able to fight on even if Basara tells us to forget about him and press on,” Mio said, only partially admitting to what Shiba had said. “But that’s only if you’ve really absorbed Basara.”
She gave off a false, composed smile as she attempted to maintain her bold front toward the enemy in front of her.
“If you’ve really absorbed Basara, give me proof that you have!”
“Aha…so that’s the game you want to play.” Shiba said as he smiled, pleased by their exchange. “I think you can sense that he’s inside my body through your Master-Servant Vow…or am I mistaken?”
“I do sense Basara nearby, yes. Unfortunately, I can’t say I can tell if he’s truly inside your body or not.”
She was bluffing—she could indeed sense Basara’s presence inside Shiba’s body, but admitting it would mark the end of everything.
Mio could not say anything that suggested she believed that Shiba was now holding Basara hostage—especially when Shiba had no real evidence.
She held onto the fact that the maker of their Vow was still alive, knowing that their connection was still present even if he was really inside Shiba’s body right now, and knowing that Shiba also did not attempt to prove her wrong otherwise.
“Then why else would you have come here, Mio-chan? What other reason would warrant you coming here when you’re supposed to be maintaining the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal, knowing full well it’s Basara’s business to fight me here, and knowing full well that Basara had entrusted you with such an important duty?”
Shiba was closing in step by step.
“Shouldn’t it be obvious? Hayase happened to drop by to help us out, so he simply offered to take my place and allow me to come over,” Mio said, laughing fearlessly. “So now I’m here to smash those stupid ambitions of yours. Did you see me as an obedient little woman who just waits for Basara to come back while leaving him to do all the dirty work for us?”
“I see…so you really have thought this through. I give you my kudos.”
Shiba smiled as if he were impressed by Mio’s decision to arrive—before he suddenly disappeared in an instant.
Shiba was already right in front of her before Mio could prepare to defend herself.
“Let me take you to him then—and perhaps I’ll melt you down first before Basara’s turn comes.”
Bringing his palms together and separating them, Shiba’s chest split open to reveal the abyss underneath, the darkness springing forth to pull his target into him.
Mio immediately reacted by unleashing her gravity magic, having finished the incantation long before she’d arrived and was now free to use it at will.
There was an extremely loud noise that came from the red waves of gravity magic causing the dimensional attack to twist, halting the abyss’s assault on her. The impact gave Mio the opportunity to fly backwards, creating significant distance from Shiba.
“Huh…good reflexes. To think you could’ve escaped the absorption of the abyss within me…” Shiba said, smiling calmly.
“…Don’t look down on me. I didn’t come here without making sure I’d be prepared for you.”
But to think I’d already charged all this power for so long…Mio cursed herself inwardly.
She had spent the gravity magic she’d accumulated to defend herself—she would need quite a significant amount of time before she could unleash another attack of a similar magnitude, never mind the fact that Shiba’s powers were far stronger than she’d anticipated.
I shouldn’t have done that.
She wouldn’t be able to save Basara if she wouldn’t be able to conjure up an even stronger wave of magic—and Shiba wasn’t about to give her the opportunity to do so.
“Even if you have made the Vow with Basara, I don’t think you can take this attack one more time, now, can you?”
Shiba suddenly disappeared from sight again.
Mio immediately formed a spherical barrier around her—
But the barrier was reduced to dust the next moment—a single backhand blow from his left hand as Shiba lunged at her from the side was all it took to break it.
As Mio went still with shock knowing her currently endangered situation, Shiba’s right fist was already closing in on her—she could not avoid the incoming attack.
However, Mio next heard the sound of clashing, bladed steel instead of the sound of a dull blow—a certain someone had arrived to defend her, her back facing her before her very eyes.
The person who had defended Mio from Shiba’s attack was a familiar face—someone who had come here just as she had out of worry for Basara.
It was none other than Nonaka Yuki.
Yuki could see it—her blade had successfully blocked Shiba’s punch.
“Yuki…” Mio called out her name from behind.
Mio wasn’t surprised at Yuki’s appearance—she had come here for the same reason Mio did.
And Yuki knew full well why Mio had reacted that way.
“Don’t worry…leave this to me.” She turned around and nodded slightly before she turned toward Shiba once again.
It was probably foolish of her to test an ability like this against Shiba the way he was now—but it seems she was rewarded for her gamble.
“Hmm…I see you’ve left the Sakuya behind to maintain the Metal element of the barrier, and I assume you’ve asked Celis to keep an eye on it, too…though I must admit, the way you’ve used your magic power to make a blade like that is quite impressive.”
“Forming a blade akin to a spirit blade with your magic power and maintaining its shape is essentially asking to run your tap of magic power dry. How long will you be able to keep that up, I wonder?”
She did not reply, a wordless affirmation of Shiba’s statement.
“…” Mio held her breath in worry of the aforementioned limitation.
“Don’t worry—I’ll hang in there. Mio, I’ll be leaving Basara to you now.” Yuki said, her gaze fixated on Shiba.
Although the difference in their power was heaven and earth, Yuki did not fear the opponent before her—she thought of nothing other than saving Basara and defeating Shiba.
“Now, that won’t do…you’re not just limited by your magic reserves, you see.” Shiba said in a mocking tone. “You’re only going to make the same mistake Basara made if you’re going to fight me at close range.”
“…Basara took the risks and did what he thought was best even knowing the difference between your power and his own,” Yuki said.
Basara did not come here to lose—he came here fully intent on defeating Shiba.
“And I will do the same. I know I can’t do much to stop you for long—but I’ll go through with it nonetheless!”
Yuki unleashed a consecutive series of slashes with her magic blade at the opponent in front of her, but she only managed to cut through nothing but thin air.
Shiba had immediately backed off a notably long distance away from her blade’s reach.
“Such earnest bravado, Yuki…and such earnest stupidity.”
Ignoring Shiba’s taunt, Nonaka Yuki sprung forward toward her enemy.
And as Yuki rushed toward Shiba, a red, glowing aura began to rise from Mio’s entire body.
It was the glow of her gravity magic—the glow of the magic would rescue Basara.
At the same time, while Mio began to concentrate, a flurry of thunderous explosions burst in the air of the southern corner.
The battle against Kouryuu was still raging on.
Maria, Kurumi, and Zest were continuing their battle against Kouryuu, who was now guarding the central area; the three took their assault to the air, knowing that fighting the dragon on the ground given that it was a being of Earth Element was a suicidal decision.
The three continued soaring through the air at high speeds; Zest and Maria had reverted to their original forms and were flying with their demonic wings while Kurumi, the elemental mistress, was flying with her wind magic, and she was performing exceptionally with her spirit magic. As the demons’ wings were not fast enough for this particular battle, she was using her wind magic to support their flight when necessary, allowing Maria and Zest to manoeuvre through the air freely.
Having offered everything they could to Basara, the three girls were now cooperating perfectly—their ability to read one another and function amidst this dire situation was a product of the time they’d spend together as a family, sharing the same home, the same desires, and the same, strong feelings and bonds with one another, and this extended to their battles as much as they applied in their daily lives.
They were currently being chased—not only by Kouryuu, but also by the massive tsunamis of a height of almost 100 meters it was summoning from Shibaura-Futo that threatened to sink the Tamachi region, tsunamis that threatened to crush them under their wrath if they were not carefully.
And the waves were not made out of water—Kouryuu was forming them with streams of earth and sand.
Nevertheless, it would be easy for the girls to avoid the tsunamis just by flying higher; the girls did not do so, however, knowing full well that Kouryuu would simply increase the size of the tsunamis it was summoning if they increased their flying altitude. The increased area of the Kouryuu’s attacks meant that Takigawa might risk getting dragged into their battle, and they had to buy time for him and keep Kouryuu’s attention fully fixated on them, as he was busy accumulating his power in order to defeat Kouryuu once and for all.
They had to minimize the impact of the tsunamis by directing them toward them.
“Alright!” “Ready when you are!”
Zest and Maria responded to Kurumi’s call as the three rushed higher into the sky simultaneously, avoiding another tsunami that the Kouryuu summoned and turning it against the dragon. As Kouryuu prepared to respond, the girls suddenly dispersed, and it was Kurumi who struck first at the short moment of Kouryuu being disorientated.
Circling toward the right of the massive dragon, she extended her left hand toward it as she cast her spirit magic, forming a large magic circle in front of her.
From the circle sprung forth bullets of air shot at Kouryuu’s entire body with the speed of a machinegun. However, Kouryuu formed a cocoon of soil that surrounded it, defending any of her bullets from inflicting any farm.
“…Blast it!” Seeing the ineffectiveness of her current attack, she charged her wind magic to farm a giant mass of air before preparing to fire it at Kouryuu.
“Kurumi!” Maria cried out, and understanding what she wanted, she instead fired her mass of air toward Maria as she rushed toward Kouryuu, accelerating her speed to surpass even the speed of sound with the combination of Kurumi’s wind magic and the speed of her own wings.
Kouryuu’s cocoon suddenly sprouted a massive claw that reached toward Maria, and their speed would mean a dreadful collision.
But before it could ensue—
It was Zest; using her earth magic, she created a slanting, spiralling slide that reduced drag and friction—as Maria slid upon it, she leapt as she narrowly avoided Kouryuu’s claw with a well-timed duck.
Using her speed, she then landed a powerful kick on the cocoon with her right leg, the hit rumbling the air as it pierced through Kouryuu’s ultimate defense and inflicted a heavy blow on Kouryuu.
Kouryuu bellowed as it attempted to repair the soil cocoon that protected it, attempting to bury Maria in a coffin of sand.
“We won’t—” “—Let you!”
Maria’s speedy kick caused her to burst out from a crack in the cocoon, allowing Zest to interfere with Kouryuu’s repairs. When the soil suddenly dissolved into sand, Kurumi used a hulking wave of wind to blow away Kouryuu’s shield.
Maria then launched multiple punches at the defenceless Kouryuu with both hands, using as much speed and power she could dish out.
Resisting her assault, Kouryuu began to shape the earth beneath it.
Noticing the golden glow from below, Maria quickly kicked herself away from Kouryuu and flew backward to where Kurumi and Zest were.
Walls with sharp edges emerged from the ground, piercing the space where Maria once flew on—Kouryuu then continued to modify the walls, as countless guns and cannons suddenly emerged from their hard surface.
Before they could finish expecting what was to come, a flurry of gunshots and cannon blasts made from compressed earth and sand with a wide combined attack range was already heading toward them.
As the gunshots arrived sooner due to their lighter weight, Maria thrusted her arms toward the space before her, creating ranged shock waves that intercepted the gunshots in mid-air.
The cannon blasts, however, had managed to pierce through Maria’s shock wave.
“Kurumi-san!” “Got it—cover me!”
Zest formed a barrier with her earth magic while Kurumi reinforced it with a cushion of air. The earthly cannon struck the barrier they made as it formed a fiery explosion, raising sand and smoke in its wake.
Even so, their combined efforts had successfully defended them against the attack.
Using the smoke and commotion as cover following the exchange, he trio then rested themselves on the top of the building of the restaunt that Takigawa was standing on.
…This is harder than we thought…Maria thought, not expecting the situation to take such a dire turn.
Although Maria had already spent a great deal of strength on her own, Kurumi and Zest had already spent even more strength than she had, largely because they were using their limited magic reserves unlike Maria, who relied on her raw physical strength to fight. Zest in particular was not capable of utilizing her powers to her fullest extent while the barrier of the Four Gods persisted, whereas Kurumi’s spirit magic would take a toll on her quicker than most other forms of magic.
This was true especially after supplying their magic to set up and subsequently maintain the barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal. Even with Leohart, Celis, Takashi, Gald and Celis substituting them for the barrier’s maintenance, the initial cast and the elements involved utilizing the girls’ own magic, and they also had to leave some of their own magic behind given how the barrier would weaken if the people responsible for maintaining said barrier were inconsistent.
…I have to reduce their burden!
Given that Maria was responsible for the Wood element for the Solomon’s Seal barrier they made, and with Wood being an effective element against Kouryuu’s Earth element, she was the one who could deal the most damage to Kouryuu—though that worked only in practice.
Maria and the other girls had now assumed each individual element among the Five Elements, and their resultant compatibility would supply Basara with strength, especially in tandem with the Master-Servant Vow. It was also why they could erect the barrier made from Solomon’s Seal to prevent Shiba from causing the Four Gods to lose control and wreak destruction throughout Tokyo.
Even so, Kouryuu was a being that had manifested under the same five-elemental concept, which meant that their own elemental attacks were not particularly effective against Kouryuu, even if an element was particularly effective against the Earth element due to the steep difference in elemental power.
They had largely suppressed their desire to want to fell Kouryuu all by themselves—but at this rate, Kurumi and Zest were already nearing their limits, and given Kouryuu’s current strength, an unwanted mistake would prove fatal.
And Mio was also in danger in the meanwhile—though the fact that Yuki had also rushed to the scene according to Kurumi’s spirits was good news, Shiba’s current power level was so strong that the two would likely be unable to stand their ground even if they were to fight him two on one.
They had to hurry and defeat Kouryuu—this was the only thing they could do to help Basara at the moment.
“Are your preparations not done yet?” Maria asked, taking his attention away from Kurumi and Zest to focus on Takigawa for a moment.
“Sorry, but I’m almost done. …After all, this isn’t exactly our turf, and I would’ve been done long ago if I was doing this in the Demon Realm. Charging the power needed for me to do what I need to do will inevitably take time.”
“—How long do you think you’re going to take?” Maria asked, her eyebrows furrowed.
“No more than ten minutes…give me at least five.”
“If I use my form without fully activating it, all my preparations will be for nothing. I imagine Naruse and whoever else is going after Basachi won’t be able to last that long either, so I really don’t want to have to redo this again.”
He was right—although Basara, Mio and Yuki’s situation on the other side was concerning, the best way to help them would be to defeat Kouryuu for the time being.
And they might as well accomplish that in one go—even if they had to wait for Takigawa to do it.
“I understand…five minutes, right?” Maria said, slowly walking toward Kouryuu on the building she was on.
—It was time for her to use her ultimate ability.
Maria set out a complex, three-dimensional magic circle in front of her chest—her Magic Key then appeared amidst a pink, glittery light, its tip inserting itself into the keyhole on the collar of Maria’s battle attire.
Although she was familiar with these proceedings, she was about to do something she had never experienced before.
Maria would be activating her technique in the opposite direction—she would turn her key in the other direction.
Such a forced endeavour would definitely come with its ramifications, and Maria suddenly felt a pain that constricted her internal organs—nevertheless, she steeled herself against the pain that was running through her entire body.
Wanting to help her family in ways she couldn’t before, Maria had secretly attempted this technique after the war between the two factions of the Demon Realm had come to an end.
A failed activation would mean death—and she knew she could only use it when the chances of her winning such a dire battle were tied to her very life.
She had no choice—she had to do this, knowing that the lives of all she held dear were now at stake.
Gritting her teeth, her hands tightened on the Magic Key that was meant to turn itself, and yanked it into the direction that she wasn’t supposed to turn it to.
There was the sound of a key unlocking something—no, the sound of something shattering—and Kouryuu saw the coat of blinding light that’s shining in the space nearby it.
As the glittery, rose-colored light dissipated, Kouryuu saw the same succubus that had first appeared now flying right in front of it—if looking slightly smaller than before.
The sudden way she’d closed their distance caused the dragon to flinch, but more surprisingly, the presence she was letting out had suddenly escalated to an incomparable level, such that Kouryuu backed away slightly in the face of such an overwhelming presence.
The little succubus suddenly opened her eyes, but she remained silent.
Kouryuu opened its gaping mouth and let out its powerful breath with all its might.
It was a beastly instinct—it would exterminate anything it perceived as a threat immediately, and Kouryuu’s breath was more than capable of achieving that purpose.
The beam of the Earth Element surged forth, threatening to devour anything that stood in its line of fire—before the line of breath could strike down the succubus, however, the attack’s trajectory had been redirected.
The succubus only stood still—the immense magic aura she was releasing had turned into a shield, deflecting the dragon’s breath.
Seeing this, Kouryuu prepared another attack, this time condensing the strength of its next attempt at a single point—but its target had suddenly vanished.
But where did she go? As Kouryuu realized it had lost track of its enemy, a sharp blow lunged from under its chin, striking it in the head as its massive body was knocked toward the sky.
The girl had landed a severe, speedy uppercut with her right hand at it.
Having taken a massive blow to its chin, Kouryuu’s massive body staggered backward, but Maria continued to attack it before it could straighten itself—her series of kicks and punches were unrelenting, and she was forcing the strongest sacred beast on the defensive.
“Incredible…” Kurumi couldn’t believe the scene that was unfolding before her eyes.
“Is that…really Maria…?” Zest, too, was surprised at what she was seeing Maria’s drastic change.
They really wanted to help her—but Maria’s current strength was simply too powerful for them to be able to provide any assistance, and they would likely be hindering her instead if they were to intervene.
“Oh brother…does that idiot know exactly what she’s doing?” As Kurumi could only stare at Maria in bewilderment, she suddenly turned to Takigawa, who sounded displeased as he made that comment. His expression was uncharacteristically tense, given how she knew him as a person who was composed and liked to joke around even in the most serious situations.
“—Hey, what are you talking about?” Kurumi asked, worried over Takigawa’s unusual expression.
“Unlocking one’s own sealed powers usually carries some sort of risk one way or another…and in her case, she’s going to unleash so much power that her own body won’t be able to take it…unless she actually forces her body to grow to a point where she can actually withstand her increase in strength.”
“If that foolish girl’s going as far as to use the power meant for said forcible growth to increase her powers, it’s not even a matter of how big the burden would be on only her body anymore…I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s gonna explode anytime soon.”
“But she can’t—”
Kurumi stared at Maria again, this time in shock over a new, ominous premonition; was the aura Maria was releasing her life force—the very life force she was willingly burning away—for the sake of her current powers, rather than simply her own magic?
She knew that they had all chosen to risk their lives for this battle—they’d always done so even in their previous battles, where they were willing to put their lives on the line without a second thought, and they would continue to remain unwavering so long as their actions would bring about peace for the future.
But it wasn’t as simple as that for Maria right now—she was willing to burn away her very life in order to gain the strength she needed to fell Kouryuu alone.
But how long could she last? And surely Maria didn’t intend to die fighting her current opponent like this, even if she were to achieve victory?
Even then, even after Mio and Yuki had rushed to rescue Basara, there was still no sign of his presence returning to its usual state.
Shiba was an opponent that was now far too strong—a single mistake would cost them their very lives before they could even finish here.
Kurumi knew that Maria herself could not accurately estimate how much life she would have left if she were to press on fighting with her flesh and her spirit burning on in her mix of exhaustion and worry.
And even then—what would happen if they were to go through with this?
Even if they were to come out alive after defeating Shiba, how much time would Maria have left for her life?
She could regain her lost strength—but would she be capable of restoring the life force she would expend here?
Realizing the danger Maria was in, Zest cried out to her as Kurumi called upon the spirits to take them both into flight—they had to rush off toward Maria, who was now fighting the Kouryuu without realizing the consequences of her actions.
“…Hang on. I understand why you’re rushing off, but don’t think with your emotions.” Takigawa said before the two could take off.
“Don’t stop us. Maria’s going to—” As Kurumi turned around to argue against Takigawa, who seemingly nonchalantly stopped her from going off, she couldn’t finish her sentence.
Takigawa’s entire body was radiating a blue and black aura.
“But Lars…when did you…?” Zest exclaimed, and she gave off a surprised expression as she realized why Takigawa was saying that Maria had made a foolish decision.
He was also burning his own life force—he’d been hiding his aura all this time, and it was likely that he’d already begun doing so before Maria unlocked her seal.
He too, was willing to risk his very life to defeat the Kouryuu.
“Take it easy. I’m not trying to stop you—go ahead if you want. I’m just saying that much like how the five-elemental compatibility increases the effectiveness of a particular element, there’s also a way to increase a person’s life force. After everything’s over here, you can just go ask Basachi to help her with that afterwards.”
“You’re not supposed to freak out and hurry and go do something stupid in the end. Just help me…give me just a little more time, and I promise you I’ll bring that thing down. Do your best to push yourselves as much as you can for me. Still—” Takigawa suddenly said, “I take it you don’t have much strength yet either…don’t use it at the wrong place and at the wrong time. If you really want to strike down that massive hulk of a beast you’re going to have to be your best selves.”
“We don’t need you to remind us that…Zest!”
Takigawa’s advice calmed their fires of their minds down and ignited the flames of their hearts as they hurried toward Maria without further delay
And their own life force began to burn like hers as they made haste.
Having spun her Magic Key in the opposite direction, Maria’s soul was now overflowing with power, surpassing her previous limit.
Combined with her inheritance of the strongest and most noble bloodline of the Demon Realm as well as the effects of the Master-Servant Vow, she was now in a state where she could completely drive Kouryuu into a corner all by herself.
Kouryuu frantically tried to readjust itself, attempting to block Maria’s attacks while keeping distance away from her.
But Maria wasn’t about to give it that opportunity.
In an instant, Maria battered down Kouryuu with a series of attacks, all occurring in an instant; it kicked it away with her right leg and instantly followed up with her knee as she soared underneath the dragon. Possessing her moment of overwhelming, yet self-destructing power, she had to do what she could to strike it down, and even if to buy at least enough time for Takigawa to finish preparing, if not outright defeat the dragon right now.
Her eyes sprung open as she reached for higher ground as she smashed her feet into the dragon’s head.
She then sent a punch plunging down with all her strength—at the same time, she released a shock wave made augmented by her Wood element.
Her countering element constricted the dragon as it crushed its massive body in a booming crash onto the ground, causing a semi-circular crater with Kouryuu at the center.
Maria’s attacks did not stop there, however: she continued hammering out right punches to crush Kouryuu, though she was now feeling some resistance; the Kouryuu was now fighting against her shock waves, using all its might to raise its body under duress of Maria’s crushing force.
Maria clenched her teeth as she further increased the intensity of her shockwaves—she cared not if her blood would spurt forth from over-exerting herself if it meant that she could defeat Kouryuu once and for all.
Yelling at the top of her lungs, she forced another right punch toward Kouryuu, forcing a deafening shockwave directly toward it.
As Kouryuu roared in pain at the attack and writhed around, Maria suddenly witnessed something unexpected.
Its body was glowing with a golden light, light that blinded Maria and threatened to devour it.
Maria hurriedly crossed her arms in a defensive stance as Kouryuu finally freed itself from the gravity waves.
The next moment, the dragon’s powerful breath began to envelop her—it knocked her away from the central area toward the area of the Water Element, the northern-most corner of Shiba’s barrier; although Maria was now of the Wood Element that countered Kouryuu’s Earth Element, the fact that Kouryuu could augment its attacks with a countering element of its own meant that its attack was far more powerful this time.
Even after cornering Maria onto the corner of the barrier’s wall, Kouryuu’s breath remained unrelenting.
Maria struggled against the force of Kouryuu’s attack, feeling as though she would be ripped apart at any moment—her arms were nearly giving way, however, as Kouryuu’s breath was about to split her crossed arms apart.
Before the dragon’s breath could overwhelm her, though, a sudden explosion ensued upon the source of the breath, halting its oppressive assault on Maria. Nevertheless, the dragon’s breath was so strong that it caused Maria to lose her unsealed aura.
Panting as she opened her eyes, she saw smoke rising from Kouryuu’s head as it remained in the distance of the central area. Paying attention, she saw something clogging Kouryuu’s giant mouth, forcing it to close from above.
A massive chunk of obsidian crushed the bridge of Kouryuu’s nose, piercing through the dragon’s chin.
Maria understood why it had happened—their group was constantly thinking of ways to complement each other’s abilities, Basara included.
It was likely the product of wind magic compressing obsidian dust to form an extremely hard and extremely durable solid, before said solid was sharpened and launched toward Kouryuu from above, piercing through its mouth and causing its breath to implode within.
Maria was then affirmed of her assumption.
“…Really, you shouldn’t be going off by yourself like that.”
There was a familiar voice beside her, and a light strength that supported her body behind her—she turned around to see that Kurumi had arrived.
“…Seriously. What do you think Basara-sama—we—would do if anything were to happen to you? Zest had also caught up with Kurumi and Maria, flying ahead as if to cover them.
Maria’s eyes widened as she saw the forms of her two comrades—she was at a loss for words.
She suddenly realized that the obsidian crystals they’d created were strong enough to force Kouryuu’s mouth shut, and they were also sharp enough to pierce through Kouryuu’s body, which Maria had been unable to bruise with her own punches.
And it was because Kurumi and Zest were now releasing strong auras of their own, much like Maria.
As the smoke cleared following the explosion from its own breath trapped in its mouth, Kouryuu saw the two previous combatants standing in its way again.
It didn’t matter that two more enemies had entered the fray, however—it would make short work of them with its counter-synergetic breath.
Although its mouth had been pierced and it had been inevitably startled when they turned its own breath on itself, it discerned that the effectiveness of their attacks was a result of them burning their own life force.
They had temporarily retreated out of exhaustion; it was now certain that they were incapable of lasting against it much longer, with the succubus nearing its limit being all the evidence it needed.
Furthermore, its own imploding breath that had been trapped from the dark obsidian matter that had shut its mouth was of the Earth Element—meaning that it had not received any significant damage.
Altering the spike of obsidian that had cut through its jaw by converting it into energy of the Earth Element and absorbing it into its body, its wound that ran up its chin till the bridge of its nose healed in an instant.
They were now back to where they first started—except Kouryuu’s enemies were now situated north.
Kouryuu readied its breath to eliminate them again—
But its view was suddenly encased in darkness, causing it to panic—rather, Kouryuu’s entire body was being encased in a dark matter.
“You’re really troublesome, you know that? You took way too much of my time.”
As Kouryuu finally realized the predicament it was now in—a familiar voice addressed it—and Kouryuu knew who was speaking to it.
It was the first opponent it had fought, the young man who could control the dark magic spheres.
Takigawa’s giant, magic sphere suppressed the Kouryuu as the dragon struggled amidst its grasp, attempting to escape.
“Struggle as you may…it’ll do you no good,” Takigawa said with a smile, flying right outside his spheres’ field of influence.
Maria and the others were far away—they would not be able to hear him, and it was then that he divulged a secret that no one knew of.
“Actually, my spheres aren’t exactly of a dark element…they’re actually universal simulations compressed into spheres. It was really a pain having to adjust them to this particular size and strength, but…it appears that it’s working quite effectively on you.” Takigawa revealed the true nature of his abilities as it spoke to Kouryuu.
And after all—
“You’ve manifested as a result of the power supplied to this area by the Four Gods, which makes you a being of the Earth Element…in other words, you’re made out of the Ki that runs through the surface of the Earth.”
“My magic sphere is made out of the universal space of another dimension—completely different and having no connection to the universe of this planet. That said, you’re now isolated from the Earth despite being on that very Earth—you’re now stripped of the very element that makes you, as well as the power supplied by the Four Gods.”
If Kouryuu were to go on like this, it would be unable to continue sustaining itself and eventually die off. As if it realized such a reality as well, the Kouryuu struggled harder with its massive body.
“Good, do struggle on…though I should say I’m kind of in a hurry here.”
There was still Shiba to worry about—he would not waste time with the Kouryuu.
He would end it here and now.
“—Let us begin.” He said, distancing himself slightly further away from his spheres.
Takigawa usually fought by conjuring several magic spheres, made from fragments of a simulated universe that he created; creating an imaginary universe such as this one would take a toll on his magic reserves.
That said, once Takigawa had a grasp of the extent of his abilities, the first thing he did was to enhance the quality and volume of the sphere he’d made to its absolute limit—it was afterward that he learned how to split it into as many other, smaller fragments as possible.
Such modifications would directly affect the nature of his attack—nevertheless, Takigawa believed that he had made the right choice.
Facing the sphere that was swallowing Kouryuu, he extended the index finger and middle finger of his right hand, concentrating on his fingertips—he then swiped the two fingers at a high speed as if to disperse the spheres he was controlling, and the magic sphere split into two. Even with different parts of its body now trapped within two individual spheres, Kouryuu still struggled to escape.
“Come—the disassembly starts now.”
Takigawa then fiddled with his fingers as if he were a music conductor, enjoying himself as he orchestrated a composition of slicing sounds. Even more magic spheres were produced with each slice of his universal matter, shredding Kouryuu into more and more fragments.
“I hope that the next time you do happen to manifest again, it would be because a better person does so…”
And finally, when his magic spheres have finally surpassed a thousand in number, he smiled wryly at the fragmented Kouryuu as if it pitied the subjugated beast.
“…Here. You can have the finishing touch,” He said, turning toward the sky—where a certain girl was now above the magic spheres he conjured.
It was Maria, who had been risking her life to defeat Kouryuu more than anyone else—having been launched into the air through Kurumi’s wind magic, her right fist was already raised in preparation to attack.
Smashing her fist squarely on the pile of magic spheres, the impact of her punch crumbled all it struck in an explosive flurry of ashes and debris.
When all of the magic spheres finally dissipated, the Kouryuu—the sovereign of the Four Gods—was nothing but dust, leaving only a shower of glittering light in the wake of its demise.
“Huh…I never thought you would have been able to defeat Kouryuu,” He said, eyeing the golden, glittery rain that showered the Imperial Palace in the distance, looking quite impressed.
Having manifested Kouryuu alongside himself simultaneously, he was well aware as to how the dragon could be defeated; creating a fake universal space with magic did seem to be a probable method to defeat Kouryuu, but—
…It should be a negligible setback.
Shiba had no doubt that he would have no issues dealing with an ability like that. Knowing that Takigawa was of no threat to him, he then turned toward a certain person before him, smiling wryly.
“—Well, do you want to go on?”
Yuki was in front of him on bended knee, holding onto the spirit blade she had made with her own magic to replace Sakuya for support—and she refused to fall.
“Ha…ha…” She struggled to breathe as Shiba had beaten her black and blue at this point in time.
The blade she was wielding to replace her Sakuya with her magic was of a durability that surpasses any steel—it was a magic blade of its best and final form, such that it could be called one of the final forms of a generalist swordswoman like Yuki.
“I must say, you’re actually really good at this. I imagine there’s really nothing in this world that you can’t cut through the way you are now, Yuki-chan. And yet—” Shiba did not hold back on his praise as he commended Yuki’s newest ability that came with her Master-Servant Vow, but his sentence implied a caveat.
“It’s just sad. Your blades cannot harm me—and so you cannot defeat me.”
“…That remains to be seen.” Yuki said behind gritted teeth, forcing herself to stand up. “Now that Kouryuu is gone, the powers that it’s given you should be no more as well…and now that you no longer have the power of the Five Elements—”
“Hmm~ Well, that’s really not what I was getting at, though.” Shiba laughed sardonically.
“Think about it. If you were to kill me here, the barrier made from the Four Gods will be dispelled and destroy all of Tokyo—and you’ll also be releasing all the Kegare within my body. That’s not something your barrier made from the Solomon’s Seal can actually withstand. Forget about the Vatican—the Kegare will spread across the entire world and infect everything it touches with death and destruction. And I imagine you know full well the extent of what it can do after trying to even fight against me.”
And last but not least—
“If I were to die, Basara would die within me as well. The only reason you’re still capable of using the power of the Vow is that while I already have him locked up within me, I haven’t decided to absorb him…yet. Good for you, huh? Yes, Basara is still alive—but it’s exactly because the person who you care for more than anything is still alive that you can’t even think about getting rid of me.”
“You have to defeat me without killing me—but it’s a paradox you can’t really find a solution for now, can you?”
Ignoring Shiba’s words, Yuki persisted on raising her blade against him.
“Well, aren’t you just stubborn…you know I’ve been holding back from using my Ki abilities just so I can prepare for the moment where I begin to drain the life from your very bodies, right? I can’t have you get too roughed up now—the power of the five elements within you will become imbalanced. After all—”
Shiba turned toward Mio, who had been charging her power throughout his short scuffle against Yuki.
“I personally want to start with Mio—by the order of which you established the elements of your five-elemental computability when you’ve made your Vows with Basara. I’m only being fair to all of you—consider the fact that he’s already used so much of your power already, so if I’m going to take him in, I should absorb the compatibility that binds all of you as well.”
Mio paid no heed to Shiba as she continued concentrating on building her magic with her eyes shut, a crimson aura rising from her body.
…Impressive. Most impressive.
The pressure that Mio was releasing now rivalled Shiba’s, but her potential was only continuing to grow—something that Shiba allowed knowing that her power would soon become his own.
That was likely Mio’s ultimate move—much like Yuki’s was her magic blades.
That said, he would ideally absorb Mio first, followed by Maria, Kurumi, Yuki and finally Zest in that order.
Shiba and Balflear swore that they would proceed with the Divine Realm once they were done with the Hero Clan—and all the pieces had finally come together in the barrier that they had created, and more than what they had initially anticipated. There was Leohart and his forces, who had arrived out of whim or mere brazenness; then there were the two members of the hero clan, Takashi and Celis, whose courage had led them to aid their childhood friend; and then there was Afureia, whom could not act despite her presence.
If Shiba were to really absorb all of them into him, he would become truly unstoppable.
“And after I’m done with all of you, even the Ten Gods of the Divine Realm will be no match for me, let alone the Hero Clan itself…I will then stand at the pinnacle of everything, becoming a being higher than even the gods themselves…wouldn’t you say?”
If Shiba were to really absorb all of them into him, he would become truly unstoppable.
“I won’t let that happen—never!”
Shiba wasn’t wrong—apart from having Basara as a hostage, as well as the risk of the Kegare within, Yuki could not possibly kill Shiba.
Basara, however, could eliminate Shiba without the concern of the Kegare overflowing—and Mio was preparing to rescue him.
She could only do what she could—to support them however she could. And there was only one thing she could do now.
Much like how the others were battling Kouryuu to reduce Shiba’s powers, Yuki had to weaken Shiba with the best she could offer.
Yuki could not cut off both arms with a single attack—and she was getting no second chances.
Her way forward was clear.
“A worthless struggle,” Shiba said, lowering himself as he raised his right arm to prepare a punch, attempting to accelerate himself and slip under his approaching opponent.
Yuki replied with a vertical slash upward toward her right, her grip firm on her blade to the very end as she swung it with full focus toward her target—Shiba’s left arm.
She would send her ultimate attack at him.
The ensuing impact caused something to suddenly fly toward the sky—but it wasn’t Shiba’s arm.
The spirit blade that Yuki conjured with her own magic powers snapped before her eyes, sending her into a state of panic.
“Like I said…a worthless struggle.” Shiba said, knowing that it was meant to be.
Yuki was already on the ground the moment she heard those words—Shiba’s right palm landed an unrelenting hit on Yuki’s body.
Shiba did not inject his Ki into Yuki’s body through his Penetration, but instead attacked her externally with a shock wave from his Ki attacks.
The sheer power of the shock wave caused relentless damage to Yuki’s body as she was smashed into the ground; she coughed out blood from her mouth as her internal organs seemed to be heavily damaged, the immeasurable pain suffocating her. The massive blow deprived her of the oxygen she needed, and her consciousness was fading fast.
Even so, Yuki pushed herself to stand as she lay on the ground, mustering all her strength, telling herself she could still fight—that she should still go on.
She could not fall here—she could not fall to him.
“Such persistence…the last twitch of a squashed insect.” Shiba said, feeling resigned. “I suppose the only thing I need to absorb you is to keep you alive, so I suppose I’ll stop you from buzzing around any longer first…I suppose you have no use for your arms and legs anymore, do you, Yuki?”
Shiba extended his hand toward Yuki as he gave the bone-chilling suggestion, but then something changed—his body was letting out a phosphorescent red light, and Shiba tilted his head in wonder, knowing that it was not his own doing.
“You’ve gotten cocky for long enough…it’s about time I opened your eyes!”
It was Mio’s angry voice that came next, along with the red waves of her gravity magic surging toward Shiba.
Shiba’s smile remained in the face of the immense pressure of the gravity field that was threatening to cover him from above.
Although gravity magic was usually a magic that had a large area of effect, she was limiting its influence toward Shiba alone—Yuki would not be affected by her attack.
Mio had likely augmented her gravity magic to be able to only affect particular targets she desired—another new ability brought about by the Vow she made with Basara.
“You’re not going to be showing me anything if this is the amount of pressure you can muster…how very naïve.”
Shiba, now in the form of Reginlief’s corrosion, simply resisted her attack head on.
“If you’re already done playing, I think it’s about time I’ve taken you into me.” As Shiba walked toward Mio, he noticed the expression on her face.
She was replying to him with a smile, unafraid.
“You think I’m already through? It seems that you’re the naïve one here!”
She then unleashed a second wave of her gravity magic as the two attacks combined in a thundering roar to form a darker wave as they shot toward Shiba.
The synergistic attacks caused their intensity to skyrocket almost explosively—but Shiba remained unaffected.
“As I’ve told you, if this is as far as you can—”
Although an umpteenth, wry smile came first, he was suddenly taken aback as he swallowed hard.
He was feeling as though he was losing his power slightly—it was then that he noticed the red line that was going through his chest. The next moment, the red wave split open into two as it went deeper into Shiba.
Someone who was supposed to be trapped within the abyss inside him suddenly emerged with the pulling force of the bright red wave—Toujou Basara.
Stripped of Bynhildr’s armor and his school uniform in tatters, his body and his limbs were nonetheless still in shape and unscathed.
The unexpected occurrence caused Shiba’s mind to go blank.
Basara used this opportunity to pick up Yuki—now fallen at a side of the square—as he leapt to Mio’s side with her.
She tightly held him as he emerged, tears pooling in her eyes.
Amidst the warmth of Mio’s embrace after he emerged from the absorbing abyss, Basara first attended to the injuries Yuki had sustained while she was battling Shiba.
“…Yuki, are you okay?”
“…! Basara! Thank goodness…” Despite her current misery, she managed to muster a small smile after realizing that Basara was alright.
She appeared to be severely injured, but she was at no risk of losing her life; she was not going to be able to fight any longer, however.
“Mio…take care of Yuki.”
As Basara handed the injured Yuki to Mio, he then turned toward Shiba; the calm smile that his opponent had constantly wore on his face was no longer there.
“…What trickery is this?” He asked, his black eyes staring in disbelief at Basara.
“…The conceptual activation of Mio’s gravity magic.”
The pull of Mio’s gravity magic typically applied in a perpendicular direction; given that it was applying the laws of their current world, her gravity magic would usually cause a pull towards the Earth’s surface.
“Mio set herself as the point of reference when she used her gravity magic the second time.”
That was why the gravitational pull drew her waves’ targets toward Mio rather than the ground—but if that were so, she should have only been able to pull Shiba toward her and not pull Basara out from him.
This was where her second wave of magic came into play; much like Mio’s first attack was meant for only Shiba, Mio had set her second gravitational wave to apply only to Basara.
“Using the first attack to force you to face a perpendicular direction, she then used her second attack to forcibly pull me toward her, and thus successfully save me from being trapped in your body.”
Mio was incapable of seeing where Basara was inside Shiba’s body, of course—but by virtue of the Vow, she was able to sense where he was at an impeccable accuracy. However, they were only able to do so because Shiba did not decide to absorb Basara yet due to his plan to absorb the rest of the girls to obtain the power of their five-elemental compatibility.
In addition, while Basara was incapable of using gravity magic on his own, he inherited the ability to manipulate said magic from one of his two mothers, Sapphire; having waited for the moment Mio would use her gravity magic while being imprisoned inside Shiba, he immediately allowed the gravitational wave to envelop his entire body and launched himself toward the point of reference—Mio herself.
And while the two should not have been able to connect given their dimensional differences, the Master-Servant Vow allowed Basara and Mio to pinpoint each other’s exact location even through said difference, and allowed their powers to connect through the dimensions as well. The two had used their respective mastery of gravity magic to form an ultimate attraction to one another, allowing Basara to escape from Shiba’s body.
“Like I’ve told you, I’m well aware that you want to absorb me into your body, so I’ve been really careful about that. And just in case, I also prepared myself for the possibility that I would be absorbed into you.”
Shiba remained dissatisfied at Basara’s explanation. “Your precaution is a risky gamble nonetheless…if I happened to pull you in and decided to just absorb you immediately, you wouldn’t even be here right now.”
“It’s true that this was a risk…but we ended up making it so that you wouldn’t want to absorb me first,” Basara said. “By applying the Five Elements toward Mio and the others and asking them to make the Solomon’s Seal and the resulting barrier, you wouldn’t resist the urge to want to absorb all of them. And I knew that you’d want to absorb them in the correct order to maximize the effects of said absorption.”
And they were able to accomplish what they did because—
“You’re not like me—you’re greedy. I only want to defeat you, whereas you won’t be done here and want to exact revenge against the Hero Clan and the Divine Realm. I knew you’d spare no opportunity to grow stronger, and I used it against you.”
“So that’s how it is…yet again, you amaze me with how ridiculous your little plans are.” Having had his thoughts read like a book by his enemy, Shiba couldn’t help but smile another wry smile. “As if using them as tools for your own tools isn’t enough, you’re now even using them as bait as your personal life insurance when you need it the most.” Shiba said, unwilling to admit the extent of their bonds.
“Think of me what you will—I simply won’t lose them again.” Basara replied.
“You attempted to use Kouryuu’s power to kill Mio and the others during our first battle. We prepared this plan and intended to use it sooner or later if you were to use it against us again. I wasn’t about to let you kill Mio and the others—to that, it was important for us to make sure that they would at least pose some form of value to you.”
“To think that you would willingly do such a thing…what if I had decided to ignore you and target them first instead?” Shiba proposed yet another risk in their plan.
“That’s why they made their countering barrier using Solomon’s Seal instead of with the cardinal directions. Since the manifestation of Kouryuu meant that you’re restricted to the central area, setting the barrier in such a manner was to ensure that you would have your power affected if you ever decided to move away to meddle with things elsewhere.”
Every step that Basara and the others had enacted had a good reason behind it—they were not meaningless whatsoever.
“The vows we’ve exchanged have left a psychological break in you and stopped you in your tracks.” Basara’s words were a declaration of his unwavering conviction.
But before he could continue, he fell on bended knee, deprived of strength.
Mio’s voice was nearing a scream as she witnessed the sudden change in Basara—he was kneeling with a pained expression, and his complexion was pale—an almost earthly pale.
“What did you do to him!?”
Mio hurried over to support him, glaring at Shiba—he was most definitely responsible for this.
“—Nothing, really. I simply put him inside my body, and nothing more.” Shiba smiled again. “Though despite that…he was put into the abyss filled with the extremely viscous Kegare while inside me. And like a potent poison the corruption seeps and corrodes anything it touches, from one’s flesh to one’s mind, causing anything in its path to decay. I suppose you can tell me if he’s supposed to be fine after that.”
“You know, I did happen to make sure that the Kegare Basara was exposed to while inside me wasn’t too potent. I really didn’t want to kill him since it’d be useless to absorb all of you if he’s dead, but much like I’ve told Yuki, I really only need you to stay alive—temporarily—and I took the necessary precautions to ensure you would at least not lift a finger.”
It should be expected that he would have taken such a measure.
“Did you think that you were the only ones that have made preparations? Much like how you’ve prepared for the possibility that Basara would be sucked into me, I’ve also prepared myself for the possibility that he would actually escape after getting sucked in. Oh, and by the way—”
Shiba suddenly spread his arms, his body shining with a golden light—the same golden light that Kouryuu had released.
“The earth’s veins can’t be controlled unless Kouryuu is being manifested…and I admit it’s quite difficult for me to do so now. But of course, I couldn’t exactly just absorb Kouryuu within me either—the Four Gods wouldn’t really be happy with the fact that they’d serve someone who’d murdered their leader. So do you want to know what I did?” Shiba said.
“I’ve synchronized with Kouryuu and obtained its blessings—a sign that it’s recognized me and granted me its powers. That said, if Kouryuu happened to be destroyed before it could completely manifest itself, where do you think the power that the Four Gods was supplying Kouryuu with would go to?”
As he said so, the pressure that Shiba was exuding suddenly elevated into an entirely different level.
Mio could barely speak at the sight before her.
Could it be that Kouryuu had ordered the Four Gods to transfer all the accumulated power to Shiba if it were to be destroyed?
“What, you want to say that the Byakko’s under Takashi’s control now?” Shiba laughed, looking as if he’d seen right through her. “Now that Kouryuu is gone, I don’t need Georgius to maintain the Earth Element anymore. And since I can’t use the Byakko, I can simply use a copy as a substitute. It did happen to assume the role of the Byakko, after all, and it can easily just revert to this role with the will of Kouryuu transferred to it. And with the Four Gods losing their sovereign and realizing the dire situation, they really only did what they should do—transfer all their power to me.”
As if to prove his point, gusts of the five colors of the elements spun around with Shiba as their center—the winds combined to form a massive maelstrom above the Imperial Palace. The five-elemental compatibility of the Four Gods and the Earth Element from Kouryuu riled everything around him like a storm, causing the earth to rumble and even the very space around him to ring as if it were being crushed.
Shiba couldn’t be happier as he stood in the middle of the swirl of energy surrounding him.
“With this, my long-awaited ambition has finally been realized—I really have all you to thank for this.”
“…But how could this be…?”
How could things have ended up with Shiba acquiring the ultimate form of power, whereas she, Basara and the others were now bruised all over and worn out?
All of them had thought all this through carefully.
All of them had made preparations as best they could for this battle.
All of them had exchanged the Master-Servant Vow with Basara—
But was all of that for nothing? Was all of that not enough to oppose him?
“—It’s not over yet.” A voice remained defiant against Shiba’s declaration of victory, just when Mio thought all was now lost.
Toujou Basara slowly stood up—and wielding Byrnhildr in his hand, he was going to see things to their very end.
Wielding Byrnhildr at the level of his waist, Basara assumed his most notable stance, preparing to unleash Banishing Shift.
“…You continue to be futile, Basara,” Shiba laughed at Basara’s attempt to show him that he still had some fight left in him, opening his arms. “I now have the power to control all five elements, the power of Ki with Kegare as its functional basis, and I also own the Ars Deicidium. Even if you can use Banishing Shift against one of my abilities, you can’t possibly defend yourself against all of them.”
“Even if you’ve already eliminated the surrounding Ki earlier, I’ve also resupplied myself by absorbing your Ki while you were trapped within me. I still have a reserve that’s more than enough to take you to your doom.”
“…Do you really think so?” Basara said, smiling as he refuted him. “Everything in this world possesses some form of Ki—in other words, all of your attacks are now comprised of that particular matter. It’s all part and parcel with you now.”
“And the way I am now…I can simply view the two separate entities as a singular target and eliminate them simultaneously,” Basara said. “And given the aforementioned fact, it means that
I’m already exposed to Ki—I don’t need to wait for you to attack in order to counterattack. The way you are now, I can simply unleash the Banishing Shift at will.”
Shiba had become the only target—the only person—that Basara can use Banishing Shift on without any limitation.
“…I see. That does make some sense, yes.” Shiba said, agreeing with a portion of what Shiba had said. “Nevertheless, the flow of Ki is various and can change almost invariably…would you be able to see through the particular origin of Ki required to counterattack it? And even then—” His gaze turned toward Mio and Yuki beside him. “The two girls beside you can’t intervene to ensure that no extraneous factors mess up your execution. I doubt someone who’s even struggling to stand right now can pull something like that off.”
“You couldn’t…possibly understand.” Basara said plainly, his smile unwavering.
“They don’t need to fight alongside me to support me. They can provide me with strength just by being there with me.”
That’s right, Basara thought. I’m not alone.
And many others were with him.
Basara could feel their presence—and their strength, things that were not products of the Master-Servant Contract or the Master-Servant Vow.
They were products of their thoughts and emotions piling on one another as the days passed by—they were products of the bonds they shared.
And Mio and Yuki did not deny what Basara had said; their tranquil eyes were brimming with strength, and an unshakeable faith that Basara would be able to defeat Shiba.
And Basara needed to reward them believing in him—he then heightened his senses to the maximum, concentrating as best as he could.
As Basara began to concentrate, Shiba also assumed an offensive stance, preparing to attack.
He then accelerated his mind, paving his next move that would finally put him on the path to victory.
As Basara began to concentrate, Shiba also assumed an offensive stance, preparing to attack.
He then accelerated his mind, paving his next move that would finally put him on the path to victory.
—Basara just said that he no longer needed to use Banishing Shift as a counterattack.
But if he did not cast it based on Shiba’s reactions, it was very unlikely that he would be able to eliminate his target. As Banishing Shift required the technique to eliminate the origin of its target, Shiba could simply alter the properties of his attacks as they were exposed to Banishing Shift, and thus the base of their origins.
An incomplete Banishing Shift would only be able to eliminate only one form of matter from the Five Elements or the Kegare; Shiba would be able to simply use another of the unrestricted matters against Basara and retake him into his body once again.
That said, Basara wasn’t going to wait for Shiba to attack before he would activate Banishing Shift.
…What is he planning to do, then…?
After making a guess about his opponent’s next move, Shiba then reconsidered his most appropriate option for their next clash.
Unlike Basara, Shiba had various options for his next move. He had the Ars Deicidium and the Ki that came with it; he could use Earth element attacks with the power he’d inherited from the Kouryuu; and he could simply feint with normal attacks.
In contrast, Basara had no room for bluffs or feints; the strain from any attack he would attempt to use against him would affect the specificity Basara required to cast Banishing Shift effectively.
Even then, Basara had no way of accurately guessing which attack Shiba was to use first, and the former’s normal attacks could not go against Shiba’s Ki attacks or utilize any of the Five Elements.
With the lives of Mio and his other girls, Tokyo, the Vatican, the Hero Clan, the whole world—everything and everyone at stake for this battle, Basara could not afford to lose, and he would definitely not rely on chance—the way he’d planned against the possibility of being absorbed into Shiba being a good indicator of his current stance on their battle.
In a way, it could be said that Basara worked best when he was reacting to a situation, not initiating it—Shiba’s best and easiest course of action would be to simply stay still and let Basara exhaust himself after he’s reached his limits, forcing him to pull the trigger when he could not hold on much longer.
That was the main, if not only, factor, that Shiba had to keep into account.
And if Basara were to make the first move in this situation…
He would not attempt any trickery and just close the distance immediately, unleashing Extinction Sword at point-blank range—something that even Shiba would not be able to withstand if it hit him directly, forcing him to either dodge or block the attack. And it was quite possible that he could simply change his stance in the middle of it and unleash Banishing Shift instead.
However, Shiba could simply avoid the attack and exhaust Basara in the aftermath of the exchange, so he didn’t find that situation problematic.
What was the worst-case scenario for Shiba if Basara were to make the first move, then?
It was if the Banishing Shift would be able to completely eliminate Shiba’s counterattack when it would make contact with it—as Basara had illustrated earlier, Ki was present in all things in an endless cycle, and he would be able to simply unleash Banishing Shift without moving from his position, ending their clash with a series of eliminating Shiba’s Ki and five-elemental attacks with Banishing Shift and following up with a second attack.
It was an improbable outcome—but Shiba wasn’t about to be neglectful of such a possibility.
And given this particular risk…
It was the best course of action to use the Ars Deicidium and the Five Elements to launch two consecutive attacks at him—this way, he would always have the insurance of power to eliminate Basara even if his Banishing Shift happened to successfully eliminate his Ars Decidium and his five-elemental powers simultaneously.
As Shiba finished his preparations, Basara started to make his move—he roared as he decided to commit to performing the first strike in order to defeat Shiba.
He was using Banishing Shift—just as Shiba expected him to.
“You really are quite honest, aren’t you…” Shiba laughed quietly, kicking himself off the ground—the immediate, extremely speedy movement eliminated any traces of distance between him and his opponent, before he raised his fists to attack him.
This move would finally decide things once and for all.
If the Banishing Shift was not fully cast, he would simply end him with this second hit.
If the Banishing would disintegrate his first attack, he would simply use a different source of power for his next hit—he would use the Kegare that festered in the abyss of his body, the corruption that had the power to disintegrate anything touched.
The moment he witnessed the outcome of their clash, however, Shiba went completely still.
As Basara unleashed Banishing Shift, the target that he had set for elimination was not the power in Shiba’s fists.
As Ki was tied into all things in creation, Basara had proposed that he would be able to eliminate any of Shiba’s Ki attacks provided that he targeted the right origin.
Shiba’s current reaction confirmed Basara’s theory—but the rate of success for such an assumption was supposed to be miniscule.
What could he have done, then, to ensure the success of the attempt and defeat Shiba in the process?
He had acquired something that met both requirements of the matter he needed to destroy with Banishing Shift—something that was hidden within the unending darkness of the abyss that laid within Shiba.
Upon release of the Kegare, the expanding curse would expand to specific targets, said targets being the Village, the Vatican, and beyond, and the corrupted matter was also corrosive to one’s life force, and could cause severe damage when used as an attack.
Apart from these qualities, however, there was also another crucial component. It was the lifeline of his Kegare—Reginlief’s soul.
Basara considered the fact that Shiba would have obviously kept into account of such a possibility—the fact that Basara would assume that Reginlief’s soul was the linchpin of Shiba’s power. That was why he’d hidden it in a place where no one would be able to acquire it—the bottomless pit of the abyss within him.
Basara had lost due to his inability to appropriately access the extents of Shiba’s darkness during their first battle, but such a fact would have convinced Shiba that Basara would be unable to destroy the Kegare within him, and had thus chosen to absorb him knowing that it was safe.
But it had also provided Basara with a golden opportunity to find and retrieve Reginlief’s soul while he was being trapped inside.
Basara did not get used to seeing through the darkness of the abyss while being trapped inside Shiba, however. While dark adaptation allowed one’s eyes to be more sensitive to a source of light after being in long periods of darkness, it wouldn’t work in a world of darkness without the slightest trace of light, where it mattered not how long one lay trapped in the dark.
There were other ways that Basara could use to see through the darkness of the abyss, however. So long as there was a source of light, any darkness, no matter how deep, could still be navigated through.
He considered the fact that Shiba would be wary of him if he were to attempt to steal Reginlief’s soul and make the proper adjustments, however, and so he had waited for his only opportunity.
“Don’t tell me that…you used the gravity wave you used to escape to…!”
Before Basara had arrived at the scene of the battle, Basara had utilized Banishing Shift to relieve Takashi of the Kegare that had corrupted him—and that was because Basara had the ability to use Penetration as well.
Having applied Penetration to that exact situation—which in contrast to the easy specificity of healing Takashi, was far more delicate due to the lack of precision due to his dark surroundings—Basara had managed to find and eliminate Reginlief’s soul without affecting Shiba’s body or mind.
Even if it could not have entirely eliminated Reginlief’s soul, it would now take a substantial amount of time for Shiba to regain what he’d lost: Shiba could no longer produce an infinite amount of Ki like he used to.
Basara owed his success to the long years of experience he had—as well as the Master-Servant Vows he’d made with Mio and the other girls.
—Basara knew that he’d once allowed his powers to run out of control and cause tragedy in the Village; the energy of Banishing Shift should have been released when he had at least some form of control, but having had his mind pushed to his limits back then, he’d released all the energy he had and caused what continued to haunt him to this day.
As of now, however, Basara could now do the opposite to Shiba—not only would he be limiting the energy of Banishing Shift, he could also limit the attack to only implode on the specific target it was designated for.
It was a level of power that Basara could not possibly have achieved by himself—a miracle born from his unwillingness to lose those he loved and the irreplaceable bonds he’d made with them.
And Basara was about to use this power to defeat Shiba Kyouichi at last.
Basara then forcibly unleashed Banishing Shift: Geminus—now being able to disintegrate any target regardless of its origin—as the bladed technique was sent flying straight toward his enemy; despite the recklessness of his current attack, said attack would be more than enough to defeat Shiba at this point.
“—I don’t think so.” Before the attack could touch Shiba, however, he suddenly disappeared from sight again.
Basara immediately turned above to see that his target was now in the sky—he was now combining the power of the Five Elements and the massive amounts of Ki he’d accumulated at a single point around his raised hands. The respective matters condensed to form a vermillion blade as he raised it high.
“A pity, isn’t it, Basara…” Shiba smiled, bringing down the divine blade he’d made by condensing his Ki.
It was the final form of the Ars Deicidium—the Totsuka Blade.
It operated on a concept that allowed it to cut through anything that stood in its path, and there was no defense apart from avoiding its area of effect.
But Shiba had deprived Basara of that option—one swing of his blade would cut through Yuki and Mio even if Basara would be able to avoid the attack, sparing neither their flesh nor their souls. And Basara did not have the strength to carry them both away in time.
He only had Banishing Shift as his counterattack—but he needed absolute concentration for it to work against his newest weapon. Perhaps his Vows with Mio and the others would enable him to utilize it consecutively or drastically increase its power to fell what stood in its path in a single strike—but even then, there had to be a limit to what he could do.
Contrarily, Shiba was free to use the Totsuka Blade to attack as much as he wanted without limit, with each swing and every draw of the blade releasing its all-severing concept.
Even though Banishing Shift was a technique that could allow its user to escape their particular predicament and turn the tide of battle, Shiba’s Totsuka Blade was the ultimate weapon that he would use to immediately decide the outcome of the battle.
In other words, Shiba had assured his victory the moment he had manifested the Totsuka Blade.
Releasing power of the concept which threatened to cut through anything, Shiba carefully and calmly considered the upcoming development of the battle.
He was no longer interested in absorbing Basara; Basara’s death would mark the end of the Master-Servant Vows, and the remaining girls—Maria, Kurumi and Zest—could be made short work of.
Takigawa’s magic spheres with the power to imitate universal space could still be cut down with the Totsuka Blade, and he would then proceed with cutting down the rest of the group that was now scattered to maintain the barrier of the Solomon’s Seal: he would start with Leohart and Loki, and his remaining troops, as well as Takashi and Celis, would be no match even if they were to attack him simultaneously.
Basara’s previous Banishing Shift had cost Shiba no small loss of his Kegare: his current reverse would be inadequate to destroy the Vatican after it was done with Japan.
Then again, the Kegare and a part of Reginlief’s Soul still remained in Shiba; after settling things with Basara and the others, he would have all the time he would need.
He would rebuild his barrier with the Four Gods and have Kouryuu manifest again: the way Shiba was now, he could simply rest the construction of the barrier by recalling the Four Gods and remake a new barrier, allowing him to manifest Kouryuu again without any difficulty. And although Mio had mentioned that Takashi was now in control of the Byakko, he could simply substitute it with Georgius.
Having decided that this was to be his future, he suddenly felt a massive wave of Ki coming from the space before him.
At the opposite spectrum of the Totsuka Blade he was wielding, where Shiba’s blade was releasing a flow of energy threatened to destroy any concept—one could sense an extremely disconcerting feeling of bone-chilling, callous intent.
The killing intent being released surprised even Shiba—and its source was right in front of him.
Basara’s eyes were shut as he silently assumed the stance needed to unleash Banishing Shift, ready to face the conceptual attack of Shiba’s Totsuka Blade.
The Banishing Shift: Geminus that he had forcibly unleashed yet seemingly avoided by Shiba had retained its immense power—Basara had saved the energy required for the attack.
Had Shiba relented after losing the power of Reginlief’s soul, the attack would have been enough to defeat him.
Shiba had not ceased his ambitions, however—not once. Not only had he attempted to kill Basara, he had also tried to kill Mio and Yuki as well.
He had not been satisfied with a single attempt—he had attempted to take away what Basara loved multiple times.
To that, Shiba was unforgivable.
Basara would allow no one to get away with trying to take away what was precious to him.
His eyes went wide open—
Roaring at the top of his lungs, Basara swung Byrnhildr toward his enemy.
Basara had unleashed Penetration as he caused the exterminating energy of Banishing Shift to implode upon cast during his previous attack.
His current attack was the exact opposite—he unleashed the fullest extent of the exterminating energy he’d accumulated in that single strike.
It was an attack that was of an entirely different level of power compared to Extinction Sword—it was Banishing Shift: Annihilation, the ultimate flow of exterminating energy unleashed on an opponent.
The two conceptual attacks collided at the next moment—it was a clash between a concept that could sever anything and a concept that could eliminate anything.
The clash did not end equally, however—the collision between the two attacks did not result in both powerful techniques exterminating the other.
That was because Shiba intended to attack consecutively—Basara, on the other hand, had bet all the strength—all the will—he had on that single strike.
The difference in their strength was obvious and the outcome was clear—Basara’s Banishing Shift: Annihilation swallowed the slashing attack of the Totsuka Blade.
The exterminating power returned everything it reached to nothingness, casting a blinding light as the power surged into the sky.
Basara then found himself in a world of nothing but pure whiteness.
Having used every last ounce of his strength, he had no further doubts, and was fully convinced at what he’d done. Dispelling Brynhildr, he slowly leaned forward—
And he was welcomed by a loving embrace from all sides.
He could feel five familiar responses surrounding him as he revelled in the pleasant sensation.
He then breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he had successfully protected those he cared so much about.
It had finally come to an end.
At that moment, his vision became blurry, and his body and consciousness felt as though they were at their limits.
Before he would pass out, though, he had one very important thing to say—not as the head of the household, but as a fellow member of the family sharing his feelings to those dear to him.
They were words that were meant for the girls who have swore to be by his side eternally and had offered everything they had to him.
“…Let’s go home.”