The space they were at resembled a scenery seen only in film.
The wall, utilizing undressed concrete as a base, was lined with solid red bricks; the pillars of the building were dark steel beams that held the ceiling supporting the exposed metal tubes that formed the piping and air conditioning.
The items present in the venue, ranging from the clock on the wall and the lighting as well as the furniture that began with the table, were all antiques, such that their uniformity provided a homely warmth to the otherwise rustic space.
The place was once a club that specialized in jazz, which was popular among the folk living nearby at the time—it was now the prided hideout of the Hungry Wolf Brigade, a group who held the mantle of being among the strongest in Neo Kichijōji.
And a certain sisterly pair of vampires that the group was proud of were preparing dinner for the day in the kitchen—Inaba Mikoto and her younger twin, Inaba Rin.
“Mmm, mmm, uh, uh, uh~♪” “Ranratta, ratata~♪”
Their hands did not stop working as they busied themselves in the spacious kitchen; the individual melodies that the twins hummed intertwined in a rhythmic interlude that allowed their voices to play out in coordinated harmony. Their adorable singing could be heard by Takanashi Sirou, who was sitting on an L-shaped sofa on the mezzanine floor.
The entirety leisure space of the group that made the floor of the hideout could be seen through an overhead view; the wooden table was surrounded by leather-covered sofas, and the display of the extremely sleek monitor on the wall was showing the local evening news, reporting the scene the group was involved in earlier, where fragments of the crushed truck remained.
Apart from Sirou, Renya and Yui were also seated on the sofa.
It had all transpired thirty minutes ago; Sirou and Renya had met up with Yui at the hideout, the latter having been taken there by Rem beforehand under their instruction. Her introduction to Rin, whom she had yet to properly acquaint with by that time, had proceeded smoothly due to Mikoto’s presence; Rem, unconcerned with the particulars of the brigade’s affairs, instead focused on confirming the state of affairs concerning her return to her own duties.
Eventually, they finally went into their topic of interest—the circumstances surrounding Yui’s black-attired pursuers at the back alley, of which Yui first began elaborating on her birth and history.
“So this Kagurazaka Genshi person is your grandfather, Chairwoman…I see.”
The display of the monitor Sirou’s murmuring, minimizing the panel that displayed the news while magnifying the image of a particular man.
It was a picture of the president of one of Japan’s leading corporate giants.
“Even I know a thing or two about the Kagurazaka Group, but I imagine you’re more familiar than I am of what’s going on at the top,” Renya said.
“It’s a name that you see a lot in the news, business magazines and whatnot.”
“Humph…well, all that ain’t got anything to do with me,” Renya spat, crossing his hands behind his head.
“How much do the two of you know about the Kagurazaka Group…?” Yui asked, a small, wry smile on her face.
“The gist of it, I suppose. The group has a close relationship with a prestigious family with dominant political influence in America, and having survived the second World War, the financial conglomerate of Kagurazaka was founded. Having aggressively merged with and bought many companies in the industry, the group now possesses a substantial share of finance, insurance, real estate, and even in various other industries such as the pharmaceutical industry.”
And in addition—
“Above all, though, they’re famous for the KSS—the Kagurazaka Synthesized Security. They’ve gathered many mercenaries and foreign intelligence agencies, such that it’s become one of the world’s most prominent private military companies as well.”
“So those black-dressed thugs from earlier were part of the KSS, were they…that explains the scope of the weapons they have access to,” Renya said, and Yui nodded back in response.
“Mhm. The president of the KSS, Kagurazaka Akito-san…is my cousin. Still, he’s the one who ordered my capture given that I was running away.”
“Well…does any of this have to do with the fact that you’ve been absent from school since the final exams?”
Sirou’s eyes narrowed into slits as he asked that question; Yui’s gaze became downcast as she began to explain.
“…My surname, Kōsaki, is actually taken after my mother. The medical faction of the Kagurazaka Group was once founded by the Kōsaki family. Wanting agreement between the two respective families in terms of leadership, my mother was wed to my father, the second son of the Kagurazaka family, and as such the medical faction was since governed by a partnership between the two families.”
She was now talking about a relationship between two prominent companies—companies that were eventually bound together by the security of blood, having secured such a relationship via the marriage between the respective heirs of the two companies.
“Nevertheless…when the next generation of clinical trials arrived, key staff from the group were being drawn out by rival corporations, and the corporation was unable to sustain a majority of its important projects. Having deemed this failure to be a direct result of having lost the rights to succession to the projects to my uncle, my father cruelly condemned my mother and the rest of the Kōsaki family,” Yui said, her tone quiet and dull as she divulged her history further.
“In the end, the Kōsaki family was expelled from the Kagurazaka family…though that’s a story dating back ten years ago.”
“Being cut off by the Kagurazaka Group meant that the Kōsaki family was inevitably forced into bankruptcy, and so we were never allowed to return to the Kagurazaka group at all. That’s why I’ve only lived with my mother since then.”
Ten years ago…that meant that Yui was only five or six years of age when it had happened.
“Still, my mother died of illness two years ago…and while I managed to get by on my own, I was suddenly reinstated into the Kagurazaka family.”
“It seems as though you were forced back into their ranks. Had you been brought back on your father’s orders?”
“No, my father’s no longer with the Kagurazaka family. Following the succession crisis of the Kaguraka Group and the Kōsaki family’s ousting, my father’s disappeared since for quite a long time now, and is considered missing even to this day.”
But if he wasn’t the one who ordered her return, who was?
“The one who decided my return to the Kagurazaka household…was my grandfather,” Yui answered.
“But why now? Does he suddenly believe in your prospects and wishes to take you in as his heiress?”
“No…my grandfather isn’t interested in me. He’s interested in my supernatural ability.”
“You mean you have one, Chairwoman?” Sirou asked, and Yui nodded in response.
“Mhm. I think it’s easier for me to demonstrate rather than explain. Takanashi-kun, could you please roll up your sleeve? Up to your left elbow, in particular.”
“I don’t mind…so, like this?”
Sirou did as he was told, revealing a light, red scratch around his elbow—it was a wound he’d gained when he’d pinned Yui to the ground and tumbled on the back alley.
“Thank you,” Yui said, and then—
Wordlessly, Yui held Sirou’s left elbow with her right palm; a bright light then began to radiate from her right hand, its glittering particles fluttering about the air. At the same time, Sirou could feel a comfortable warmth surrounding his left elbow, and as he assessed such a sensation, the wound on his elbow had already disappeared, leaving his elbow fair and smooth.
“A healing ability…!” Renya exclaimed, inching himself forward to look at Sirou’s elbow closely. He was visibly surprised upon witnessing an ability that was considered rare in the supernatural ability zone, even in Neo Kichijōji, where many high-level supernatural ability users were said to gather.
“…No, that’s not it, Renya.”
Sirou, however, disputed his statement—having experienced Yui’s ability firsthand, he knew exactly what her ability actually was.
“The Chairwoman didn’t utilize a healing ability on me—she used restoration.”
“Restoration…they’re both the same, aren’t they?”
“There are a lot of intertwining uses between the terms, so I know it’s confusing…still, the actual phenomenon involved is different. The body is naturally equipped with the ability to heal itself, and healing abilities typically involve accelerating and stimulating this natural ability. For instance, you can feel the cellular regeneration of a wound speed up drastically when exposed to such an ability.”
The strongest back-alley doctor in the supernatural ability zone, known as the General, possessed a healing ability of a completely different level; his astonishing feats included being able to heal any person so long as they remained alive, or being able to revive any person within five minutes of their death.
…Well, that’s more or less an exception.
Even then, their abilities could only heal those suffering from critical wounds and were not effective toward those in actual critical conditions.
“On the other hand, restoration takes the opposite approach in comparison to healing, instead restoring the body’s condition to its original state. It’s like rewinding the ticks of a clock. And depending on the strength of the ability, it doesn’t just restore one from wounds or infections—it can even stop the body’s aging process, and maybe it’s even possible for one to become younger again,” Sirou explained the possibilities surrounding a restorative ability.
“You can’t compare the rarity of such an ability to even the healing users. Even we haven’t heard of any rumors surrounding some restoration ability—that’s just how rare this ability is, one that can be called miraculous, one only available once-in-a-millennium.”
“That’s true…well, now that you mention it, this is a power that’s definitely coveted by those with political authority. So I guess this Kagurazaka Genshi guy wanted you back so you can stop his aging process or return him to his youthful state, Kōsaki?” Renya asked.
A despondent expression surfaced on Yui’s face. “Yes…he desires that from me now.”
“The way you’re saying that implies that he didn’t always want that—were things different before?”
“That sounds likely. Well, if Kagurazaka Genshi happens to get an early hold of a restoration user that even we don’t have complete understanding about, I imagine the trouble we’d all be in for. Even then, he is related to the Chairwoman, after all, and the Kagurazaka Group has also expanded their corporation to conduct research and development on supernatural abilities in recent years.”
“Oh, come on…they want to lay their hands on our territory too? So that fire dragon user from earlier wasn’t acquired through connections with Neo Kichijōji, then?”
“It seems that the Kagurazaka Group’s got their hands on their own supernatural ability users now. Despite their late start to the party, I imagine they’re already ranking third around the world with their current repertoire, and you could even wonder if they’ll jump to second place next year,” Sirou said.
“You were always well aware that you had such an ability to begin with, weren’t you, Chairwoman?”
“Yes…I was asked to return to heal my grandfather from his illness,” Yui answered Sirou without hesitation.
Yui had awakened her supernatural ability around two years ago—the trigger for said awakening was the loss of her mother to illness, who had been her only family member.
It had been an entirely unexpected occurrence—the last and most capable user of such an ability had already passed away.
“…I don’t really use my supernatural ability often, so I initially wasn’t aware of how it actually worked. That said, my grandfather did end up recovering, though upon post-recovery inspection, it was discovered that the cells of the affected areas had miraculously reversed in age. That’s how they deduced that I possessed restorative abilities.”
“I see. So that’s why you haven’t been coming to school lately. And the way you’ve worded everything suggests that you haven’t exactly managed to fully rejuvenate your grandfather, though at the same time, I imagine that they also intend to use your ability on a variety of other things.”
“Should you manage to unlock your restorative abilities to their fullest extent, it’ll be something that’ll be coveted and appreciated by influential people all around the world. And while the effects may only last within the supernatural ability zone, I imagine most wouldn’t mind such a minor setback.”
“If you think about it, it actually wouldn’t even be a setback at all—it’ll allow the aforementioned influential people to gather in the supernatural ability zone in one place, and given the luxury they’d be granted, it’d be easy for them to be conquered as well.”
“You’re right…there is much benefit to be gained from such an arrangement…”
“And that’s not all. The synthesized educational institutes in the city would also make research on Awakened with the ability to use their powers outside the supernatural ability zone their utmost priority. And should such a concept be successfully established; it would have the power to change the world.”
“If the KSS manages to successfully decipher and utilize your abilities, Chairwoman, they’d be able to amass armies of that are imune to deathsoldiers immune that are immune to death regardless of the scope of their injury, and they’ll possibly even send said soldiers to war zones or conflict zones across the globe.”
Yui could only remain silent in the face of Sirou’s words—he’d hit the nail on the head with each word.
Both her grandfather Geshi as well as her cousin Akito possessed every intention of using her restoration abilities.
Yui was unable to forgive the Kagurazaka family for casting her and her mother aside with no chance of return, along with the rest of the Kōsaki family.
Nevertheless, Yui had cooperated with them for the sake of the development of the pharmaceutical industry, and she was unable to turn a blind eye to those afflicted with illness or suffered grave injuries—she alone had the ability to help them, regardless of the actual extents of her power.
She cared not for the global affairs of the Kagurazaka Group—she cared only about the fact that she would be able to save more people, that she would be able to spare others from a fate of being separated from their families and loved ones, just as she had.
She didn’t care that it was just wishful thinking. She would do what she could—or at least, that was what she initially thought.
However, the Kagurazaka Group only sought Yui for their own benefit—the times where Yui was made aware of the horrible schemes her grandfather and cousin had for the world only reminded her that she was nothing but a caged bird in the Kagurazaka family.
She was unable to accept the fact that her powers were going to be abused for evil—above all, it would make her mother, the only family she’d ever had in the world, extremely sad.
“Still, I’m impressed you managed to escape. I imagine that you’re supposed to be constantly under surveillance.”
“I was always obedient, that’s all…I always followed whatever they asked me to.”
That was how she got her chance—an opportunity to escape brought about by negligence in their surveillance.
“And today, I finally escaped—and then I met you, Takanashi-kun, back at the alley.”
A silence lingered for a few moments after Yui had finished explaining. why she had been chased by a group of men in black.
“…Thanks. That explains a lot about the situation you were in, Chairwoman,” It was Sirou who broke the silence.
Before long, his voice came out silently as he asked another inevitable question.
“Where can you go where you can find someone you can rely on?”
“…” Yui couldn’t say anything in response.
“I see,” Sirou muttered, “Now that just makes things troublesome. Apart from the fact that you’re being targeted by the Kagurazaka group, you’ll only have more targets on your back from various other groups when word leaks out that you’re a restoration ability user, Chairwoman.”
“Perhaps I could ask for protection from the police or go around the synthesized supernatural ability schools for help…?”
“Both faculties work for the state. Which means you’re planning to rely on the state to save your skin. It won’t change the fact that you’re going to be used regardless, though if you want to be put at ease, Chairwoman, you do have another choice available.”
I guess it’s preferable over being caught by some shady group, though, Sirou said.
“—Well, in that case, wouldn’t it be best if she were under our direct protection?”
The voice of a cute young girl suddenly called from the side right after Sirou’s statement—the three turned to see a certain girl in a maid outfit who was supposed to be preparing dinner for the night standing beside the sofa they were sitting on.
It was Inaba Rin—Mikoto’s twin sister.
Though she shared Mikoto’s pigtails and maid outfit, the twins weren’t entirely identical; in contrast to her sister who exposed her forehead, Rin had bangs falling from her hair, and rather than wearing Mikoto’s maid outfit which was more reminiscent of an idol’s outfit which exposed a lot of her skin, she was wearing a gothic maid outfit unified by a cape made from white lace. However, her double-layered skirt was made with a see-through cloth, and the way it exposed her garter belt gave her a mix of an adorable, yet sexy look.
Mikoto had already introduced her to Yui when she’d arrived at the hideout ahead of Sirou and Renya. And while she had come to recognize the fact that they were twins—
Their preferences seem to be different.
Although their faces looked identical, it was not difficult to distinguish between the two—if Mikoto’s type took a cute look to the extreme, Rin gave more of an impression of being a dignified beauty.
Their similarities instead lay in their large, powerful eyes that reflected their unyielding character, as well as their charm befitting of their age.
“Oh, are you telling me our grub’s ready?” Renya asked as he noticed her presence, rising from his relaxed position on the sofa.
“Not yet. I’ll let you know when we’re finished preparing the meat. Besides, I imagine you’d want to cut your own portions, don’t you, Renya?” Rin said. Her hands, lined with silver bracelets that matched her goth loli look, locked themselves on her waist, making a rather adorable attempt at being daunting, and her comment demonstrated her understanding of Renya’s personality. She then continued speaking,
“Well, that aside, given that the two of you have now exchanged blows with this KSS group, don’t you think all this is actually really inconvenient for her? There’s also the fact that she’s afflicted with the mark of Lust, so I’d say we should take at least some form of responsibility.”
“Well, you got that right, I’ll tell you that…” Sirou smiled despite being visibly troubled.
“—What do you want to do, Chairwoman?”
“What do I want to do…?”
“Don’t worry about the mark. It’s not like there aren’t ways to get rid of it, though it’s not exactly possible right now,” Sirou said.
“The issue with your restoration ability isn’t something that will be solved with time. That said, if you don’t want to be forced to use your ability against your will, you’ll have to make a choice, Chairwoman. Whether it’s the choice to fight, to run away, to go on your own, or even to rely on the power of someone else.”
“If you deem everything we’ve told you up until now trustworthy, you have the option to join us, if you wish. If you decide to rely on us, we’ll do everything within our capabilities to help you.”
“Please, there’s no need for restraint. We’re all in this together, after all. Though I suppose you’d prefer it if we remained on the terms of you being saved by someone who happens to be someone you know from your class in school, who happened to rescue you at a back alley.”
His tone suddenly lowered ever so slightly as he finished his previous statement.
“The Hungry Wolf Brigade is a group of supernatural ability users whose members live as they see fit. I guess the better way to describe it is that we’re a rogue group. You never know if we may end up wanting to use you the same way your grandfather or your cousin intend to.”
“The heck are you doing, threatening her and all…?” Renya exclaimed, surprised at Sirou’s comment.
“I’m simply stating the facts. We don’t exactly have the intention of acting like scoundrels, but on the flip side, you can’t really say we’re playing the role of knights in shining armor, either.”
“I suppose. Then again, this city doesn’t really have any, does it? Knights in shining armor, I mean.”
Yui’s expression suddenly softened as she watched their exchange.
She really didn’t know what her best course of action was, truth be told—she wasn’t even sure if the Hungry Wolf Brigade wasn’t truly a bad organization as Sirou had described.
Nevertheless…she was sure about one thing. It was the fact that it was alright for her to trust the people before her for now.
“It seems that you’re feeling a bit better…good to know,” Sirou smiled as she noticed her expression, speaking amiably. “Well, there’s no need for an immediate decision. Besides, the mark of Lust will last at least a week before it disappears—more than enough for you to decide how you’re going to live your life from now on, I hope.”
There was a pause.
“Until that happens…we’ll make sure that you’re protected.”
Thirty minutes had passed since then.
Something was placed atop the wooden dining table of the brigade’s hideout—something stunning and full of presence.
It was a massive grill pot, easily exceeding over a meter in diameter; and a total of five surrounded the pot dining table—Sirou, Renya, Mikoto, Rin, and their guest, Yui.
Poured within the pot was a specially made sukiyaki sauce prepared especially for that day by gathering the best ingredients; it consisted of a golden ratio of konbu dashi (Japanese seafood stock), sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. All ingredients were of top quality, and the sugar used was a mix of refined Japanese sugar and brown sugar, which would provide a mix of both mellow and richness to the sauce.
The vividly green spring onions as well as the shungiku (edible chrysanthemums) were both products of the most advanced organic agriculture in the supernatural ability zone; the firm tofu served was handmade by the most experienced of craftsmen: apart from the fact that it was lightly kept in cold storage to enhance its flavor, it was easy for grills to char marks on the tofu even on frying pans, and it paired well with enoki mushrooms.
Beef, was, of course, the star of the cuisine—due to the supernatural ability zone expanding and improving the application of supernatural abilities to the livestock industry, the beef quality offered in the area had expanded to an S6 grade, surpassing the rich flavor that came with the widely acclaimed A5 wagyu beef grade.
However, the Hungry Wolf Brigade had gone the extra mile that night; through their connections, they had procured an SS3 grade of beef, an extremely rare cultivated beef that was not publicly recognized, specifically tailored in private for their enjoyment. The beef combined the perfect ratio of high-quality lean meat rich in umami and equally high-grade fat marbling, achieving a standard that the brigade sought—one previously unheard of in the world.
Having acquired a massive block of beef with meat especially tempered to produce a meat of the ultimate quality, the meat possessed a rosy, glossy sheen and the marbling was white and as exquisite as the snow; a slicer was prepared for the five present there to slice the meat into their desired portions.
The key was to be cautious of the fire underneath the pot—a high heat would affect the quality of the sukiyaki sauce, though cooking for a prolonged period of time on a low heat would also damage the flavor and texture of the beef. Given that they were allowed to adjust their beef portion, a gradual simmer off a medium heat was the best course of action, and in time, the sukiyaki radiated an aura of unthinkable impressiveness upon its completion.
“T-This is really amazing, isn’t it…?”
“W-What are you saying, you idiot…we decided that we were gonna eat good today, didn’t we?”
“Come on, what are you two doing? You don’t want the meat to firm up, now, do you… there we go.” Sirou found their reactions toward situations like this quite adorable, and let out a bemused smile as he took the slice he’d prepared ahead of them, retrieving it from the pot with a pair of chopsticks.
“That’s another really large portion you’re getting for yourself there, Renya…”
Sirou had yet to direct the finished portion of meat into his mouth. Instead, he placed it into the porcelain bowl in his left hand that was filled to the brim with a yellow-orange sauce of sorts dousing the meat in it—said sauce was made out of the cracked hen eggs that had been ordered for as long as three years that Mikoto had purchased again, and the eggs coated the roast beef in a shiny, golden sheen.
The four others present watched on as Sirou folded the beef and directed it into his mouth, taking a bite.
The first astonishing sensation was how soft the texture of the beef was. He didn’t even need to use his teeth; his tongue was enough to break it up, such that it almost melted in his mouth off the warmth alone afterward. Then he felt the taste of the perfect umami flavor that came from the combination of the best red meat and fat marbling—complemented by a sukiyaki sauce of the finest grade—seep across his taste buds.
Sirou was now tasting the flavor of beef at its best, a taste like no other—the overflowing umami flavor was especially befitting of the SS3 grade that it was labelled with, wrapping his mouth in a rich, heavenly sensation. He then swallowed as if to down even the meaty juices down his throat to share such a euphoric sensation with it.
The rich aroma of the marinated beef still lingered in Sirou’s mouth and spread up to his noise, enticing his tongue; releasing a sigh, he reflexively and slowly opened his eyes that had shut themselves while assessing the taste of the beef.
He then noticed that the other four were still watching him even as he began to take a mouthful of the white rice served on his bowl.
“…Huh? Aren’t you guys going to dig in? It’s really good, you know?” He asked, extending his chopsticks toward the pot again.
Renya and Mikoto were the first to eat at the same moment, and the dining table began to grow lively.
In a flash, a first large round of meat and vegetables were finished amidst a cacophony of moved voices due to the immensely delicious taste—a second round of food was then placed into the bot, to which the five finished equally quickly.
“It needs to simmer for a while…I guess we’ll have to wait,” Before they could begin their third round, Rin poured some more sukiyaki stock into the pot and waited for its flavor to develop. There was thus a short break in between.
“Renya, Rin, if you both still want seconds for meat, cut only your own shares, would you?”
“Oh, gotcha.” “Alright!” Delighted, Renya and Mikoto then headed toward the kitchen.
Those two still haven’t had their fill yet, have they? Sirou thought as he watched them off, before he then turned toward Yui, who was sitting right next to him.
“Are you enjoying the food, Chairwoman?”
“Oh, of course, I’m much obliged. I’ve never really had sukiyaki this amazing before, so I was really surprised…are all of your meals this grand?”
“It’s actually special today if you’re talking about the occasion. As for the atmosphere, well, yes, it’s usually quite like this,” Sirou smiled wryly, “They’re a noisy bunch, aren’t they?”
“Oh no, I find the bustling atmosphere quite enviable, actually. I usually eat alone at home, so…”
It had been a very long time since Yui was able to have meals with her family—her mother died two years ago, and returning to the Kagurazaka family didn’t do her much favors, either.
“Still, Takanashi-kun, if this is a special occasion as you say, is it alright for us to dig in before your brigade leader arrives?”
“Mhm. We were told to help ourselves since we weren’t given a sure answer as to when our brigade leader would be back after we gave our briefing on your situation, Chairwoman.”
“I see…and so everyone here is part of the senior leadership of the brigade, yes? What about the rest of the members?”
“You’re looking at all of them—a total of five, including our brigade leader,” Sirou replied without hesitation. “At least, that’s how it looks like on the outside. Though our organization only comprises a select few, we do have gatherings within Neo Ichijoji itself with other top organizations, sharing an equal relationship with any organization associated with each member.”
“It wouldn’t be very convenient for our associates if we were to assume no titles. That’s why our brigade leader allocated all of us to be part of the senior leadership.”
“I see…” Yui murmured, understanding the situation. Then, she prefaced another question with “By the way” as she remembered something.
“If I remember correctly, Mikoto-chan is the bearer of the mark of Gluttony, right? …Do Rin-chan and Midou-kun bear the same mark?”
Rin was the one who answered Yui’s question as she placed another helping of vegetables inside the pot.
“No. I bear the mark of Envy, while Renya bears the mark of Wrath—we’re granted with our own supernatural abilities of Sin. Though despite sharing the same supernatural ability in name, our practical abilities differ from Sirou’s.”
“Well, supernatural ability users have their own abilities, after all. Our brigade leader’s also a bearer of a supernatural ability of Sin, too.”
As Sirou divulged that fact, he suddenly noticed that Yui had gone quiet—she looked as if she was pondering about something.
“Hmm? What’s wrong?”
“Oh…it’s nothing important, really,” Yui replied, meeting his gaze. “It’s just that…if you put it that way, it seems like you’re more of the center that recruited the members of the Hungry Wolf Brigade than the brigade leader given that you own the Seven Deadly Sins as supernatural abilities.”
“Ahh…it’s only natural for you to think that way,” Sirou smiled at Yui’s question, “Though as to why that’s not the case, you’ll understand once you meet the brigade leader. I’m sure of it.”
“What is the meaning of this, Sirou?”
The voice came out suddenly after he finished that sentence—it was the voice of a woman, smiling as she made banter with Sirou as she stood near the entrance.
The woman who entered was extremely attractive, giving off a striking aura about her.
Her alluring eyes, glistening with a watery sheen, appeared as if they could see through anything in the world; one could detect a smooth lustre coming from her long hair that easily flowed down to her waist.
“Stunning” was the only apt word one could use to describe her.
Kōsaki Yui swallowed hard, more surprised at her beauty than the suddenness of her entrance.
…Wow…she’s so beautiful…
A product of the gods ruling over beauty itself, a work of art harnessed over long months, even years, of skill and soul—few if no one would doubt such a statement when referring to her.
This was also notwithstanding her incredible proportions—starting with her impressive bust, which was first to catch the eye.
Although Yui’s bust was quite large herself, the woman’s bust was almost double—no, triple—that of her own size.
Her buttocks were much like those of the photogravure models overseas—coquettishly curved.
It was likely very hard for her to fit in average clothing given her terrific limbs—her undergarment of choice attached to her waist seemed to resemble the shape of a leotard, but the fastener was left in a state where she couldn’t fasten it beyond where her chest lay, exposing the contours below her cleavage.
Additionally, she wore a short red jacket and a skirt of the same color that appeared to be quite tight and short. Her voluptuous legs were clad in black lace stockings of a sensational design, and her vividly crimson high feels clattered as she stepped onto the floor with them.
A woman of such captivating allure that it would cause one to swallow hard now stood in front of them—so captivating that even Yui was no match for her.
Yui could not take her eyes off her in her surprise as the woman approached her as she sat with the others on the dining table.
“So this is the girl…the girl you’ve claimed to have been compatible with the mark of Lust while rescuing her on the streets.”
“Correct. The girl who goes to the same school and class I do, and she also happens to be our Chairwoman.”
“U-Um…I’m Kōsaki Yui. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Flustered, Yui immediately stood up and bowed lightly.
“I’m Ogami Mika. I’m the leader of the Hungry Wolf Brigade.”
She smiled—an extremely beautiful smile.
Yui had been surprised many times that day—there was the time when she’d swallowed hard upon witnessing Sirou’s expression, atmosphere and his abilities back at the back alley, and she’d elicited similar surprised reactions when meeting Renya, Mikoto and Rin, as well.
But this woman—Ogami Mika—had a presence that was overwhelmingly stronger than even Sirou and the others as she stood before her. And yet despite her absolute presentation, she still came across as soft and unintimidating.
There was no room for even an atom of doubt that this woman’s presence was simply something else—far too different. This Mika person was the actual leader of the Hungry Wolf Brigade, rather than Sirou.
“I suppose I owe you an apology,” Mika then said, addressing Yui. “Sirou’s supernatural ability of the Seven Deadly Sins can be shared with others via mark bearing due to my magic factorizing his abilities. Shouldering all seven abilities would be too tall a task for Sirou, after all, and having to shoulder all of it by himself would bring about a lot of complications.”
“Magic…you say?” Yui reiterated. Magic was a term that wasn’t very closely related to the supernatural ability zone.
“Yes,” Sirou, who was still next to Yui, smiled as he realized her confusion. “Our brigade leader happens to be a Pure-Blood sorceress. One of the fundamentals for when an Awakened first realizes their abilities is the ability to diversify the scope of their abilities and elevate them. Renya’s a similar type, as well.”
“Yeah. Well, although I’m the bearer of the mark of Wrath, I’m not exactly your run-off-the-mill Awakened. I’m more similar to a Pure-Blood, and I’m able to use the power of any corresponding characteristic. The big difference between me and most Awakened is that I’m not necessarily bound by a single ability or system.”
With an inclination of Mikoto and Rin’s chins, they signalled Renya to continue elaborating as he began to dig in again as a new round of meat was put into the pot.
“And these two aren’t just bloodsuckers. They have magic gazes that allow them to control the minds of people and they also have control of their own blood, and…hey, hang on! I planned to eat that piece of meat and brought it over to my side!”
“Hee-hee-hee-hee. If you want to claim ownership of that piece of meat, I’d ask that you empty what’s inside your own bowl first,” Mikoto said nonchalantly, taking the extra-large portion of meat for herself.
“But the brigade leader’s a Pure-Blood too, isn’t she? She didn’t awaken her power within the supernatural ability zone, right?”
“Still…she’s different from Mikoto and I in that she’s actually omnipotent, you know.” Rin said, preparing a bowl and a cup for Mika. “You see, most magic users are like scholars in that they’re bound by a specific system of magic, of which includes various kinds. The traits between the users vary, which determines their capability for a particular system based on their ability and disposition.”
“Our brigade leader isn’t limited by only specific systems of magic, and she’s taken the mastery of her sorcery to the extreme. You can even say she’s capable of doing just about anything.”
“You exaggerate. Then again, it’s true that I’m capable of doing more things than most,” Mika gave an embarrassed smile before she turned toward Yui again.
“You were discussing your status as a restoration user, yes? I happen to know a few recovery abilities myself, but restorative abilities, on the other hand, are quite difficult even for me, though I’m familiar with the concept on its own. Still, to not only possess such an ability but also be compatible with the mark of Lust…that’s quite impressive.”
“Oh no, I…”
As Yui reflexively shrunk in the face of the compliment, Sirou then further explained the circumstances.
“That said, I was thinking that she’d be under our protection for the time being. I suppose you’re fine with that, Captain?”
“Yeah, I don’t mind. Keeping her around as a guest means that the other organizations around Neo Kichijōji won’t think about meddling around.” Mika said.
“For the time being, it would be best that she stayed at your apartment, Sirou.”
“Um…hang on a second, Captain, why would you suggest such an arrangement?” Takanashi Sirou suddenly asked that question, his face blank with puzzlement.
He didn’t necessarily find issue with the idea of Yui staying with him—given his moniker of “The Walking Dick of Neo Kichijōji”, he more than welcomed it, in fact.
His concern instead was in consideration of Yui—the situation was inconvenient for her, no matter how one looked at it. Even so—
“Why are you so surprised? Do you intend to leave the girl vulnerable to danger by leaving her all alone by herself?”
“No, that wasn’t my intention at all…I was simply thinking that it would be more appropriate for her to stay in either Mikoto’s room or Rin’s room, given that she’s a girl and all.”
“Well, consider the fact that she won’t be able to react appropriately when the mark of Lust suddenly decides to trigger somehow if you do that. She’s yet to properly awaken her powers, after all. What do you think of being available by her side to appease her when needed?”
No, that’s exactly why it would be the best arrangement.
“But you were the one who turned it into a mark, Captain. Surely you have your own means of magic to suppress it?”
“Even supposing that I do, it’s best that we avoid doing so. Forcibly suppressing the mark would only elicit an even stronger reaction. Even then, the very idea of attempting to decentralize the sharing of your abilities with another person is just too risky an idea, even if it’s possible. The process might overwhelm her and gravely damage her body and mind.”
“U-Um…is that what’s going to happen…? As expected, Yui was quite surprised by her advice, and her question was riddled with her fear.
“I’m only supposing the situation that if you were to be suppressed forcibly and recklessly. There’s a desire mirroring every instinct, which is why it should be avoided and instead handled with care,” Mika said. ““In the end, it’s mostly a matter of if you’re awake. The effects of the mark won’t activate when you’re in deep sleep. To put it simply, your appetite is similar to your sexual desire.”
“Besides,” Rin added, “The effects of the mark of Lust are at their strongest only during the Retribution period on Thursdays. Even if the mark activates during the same period on another day, the effects won’t be anywhere as worse.”
“I see…” Yui mumbled, slightly relieved at Rin’s explanation.
“That’s right,” Mikoto nodded, “Besides, the activation of the mark of Lust isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To activate the supernatural ability of Sin you’re now compatible with, you’re first required to get used to the mark’s stimulation.”
“Though it also means that whenever you end up having any lewd thoughts and trigger the mark’s activation, you’re going to end up just like how you ended up in the safehouse.”
“…I see,” Yui’s shoulders slacked at the revelation, her tone low. Yui still possessed some unresolved questions relating to her current circumstances.
“I think I should say that I’m actually in the middle of settling that Pinky Promise Case, though…”
“Pinky Promise Case…are you taking about those consecutive death incidents?”
“Yeah,” Sirou nodded at Yui’s question. Sirou was indeed talking about the various murder cases that had been on the rise around Neo Kichijōji lately. Nevertheless—
“Still, isn’t that particular matter already looking as though a resolution will be available soon?”
“No—well, actually, I suppose that is the case, yes.”
“Then there’s no problem, is there? I suppose you don’t want to take responsibility for engraving the forbidden sin onto her?” Mika smiled composedly, before the brigade leader of the Hungry Wolf Brigade gave an official order.
“Although it’s still uncertain if she’ll be sworn in as a new member of ours, she remains a precious guest of ours all the same. Introduce yourselves given the opportunity and we’ll survey the streets together tomorrow.”
There was a pause.
“If you do decide to live in Neo Kichijōji from now on, please put your mind at ease.”
The Hungry Wolf Brigade had since finished their dinner at their hideout—it was decided that Yui would stay at Sirou’s apartment for the time being to Sirou’s acceptance, after Mika had explained to them the risks involved when the mark of Lust would activate.
Now at Sirou’s apartment, the first impression Yui had of it was that it was quite spacious with several rooms within it.
Having been given one of the guest rooms for her use, Yui was now taking a bath. Steam wafted in the spacious bathroom, and as Yui soaked her body within the large bathtub filled to the brim with warm water, she stretched her limbs and took a deep breath in relaxation.
“This is really bad…”
Murmuring that, she looked back on the events of that extremely chaotic day: having ran away from the Kagurazaka Research Institute, she had been rescued by Sirou and his companions while cornered by her pursuers. That didn’t end there, however, as it also led to an armed car chase around the supernatural ability zone.
…I did those things with Takanashi-kun…
Her cheeks reddened at the thought, her arms crossing in front of her as she lightly hugged herself.
She’d had her first kiss and her butt groped back at the back alley—and then she’d engaged what was more or less no different than sexual intercourse with him back at the safehouse.
Recalling the events of that period of time in her mind, a sweet sensation began to well up from her waist, causing her to tremble, splashing the bathwater.
She could feel the warm sensation even from the hot bathwater.
“…!…Ah, haah…no…this is…!” Realizing what Mikoto had told her was true, her body twisted as she suddenly remembered that there was a means to appease the mark.
“Yui-san…do you have any experience?”
She remembered what Mikoto had suggested to her back at the safehouse.
She had no experience whatsoever—that said, she had entirely no idea what to do.
The acts she had shared with Sirou back at the safehouse were still clearly imprinted in her mind—she could see her nipples growing erect as her breasts floated upon the bathwater.
She swallowed hard, making a gulping sound; her chest was thumping wildly, and her eyes were unable to part from the lewd sight of her breasts.
Before she’d realized it, her hands were already on top of them.
…If I do it the way Takanashi-kun did it…
Her mind was giving her the lustful suggestion to erotically caress her own breasts.
Yui shook her head frantically, driving out such thoughts from her mind—if she had to do such things, it was all only because of a series of happenings and accidents that would force her to.
If she were to manage to pleasure and comfort herself so easily right here and now, everything Sirou had done for her sake would then be nothing more than sexual acts without actual good intent behind them.
Having avoided the worst situation of pleasuring herself on the first day she was going to live with Sirou, Yui let out a sigh.
With this, it was now all clear to her—there was no mistaking it now.
The fact that she’d become the bearer of the mark of Lust was brought about by her kiss with Sirou—it had all been an accident. However, the fact that she had been compatible for being the bearer for the mark was no accident at all.
“…It seems that I have qualities of lust within me, huh…”
She already had her share of problems with her ability as a restoration user, but she never would have expected that she would have to deal with being the bearer of one of the supernatural abilities of Sin…with said Sin being Lust, of all things.
She hadn’t had much experience interacting with others, if at all—and she’d never even held a guy’s hand before, much less share a kiss with one.
She still couldn’t believe that she had such a lustful capability sleeping within her.
Though at any rate…
Her issue regarding her restorative abilities took precedent and would be first issue among many that she would need to address.
Yui had said that she would take charge
“I have to think this through…”
She had figured out what to do—of which including the choice of whether or not she would join the Hungry Wolf Brigade.
“And it’d be nice if I could do something for Takanashi-kun…” Her voice spilled out the thought that surfaced in her head.
Sirou had not simply saved Yui; he gave her the time to consider her situation carefully and promised her protection until she made a decision. He’d even allowed her to stay at his place for the night.
That said, she had to take the initiative—if only to return the favor she owed him, and even if only a little.
Yui nodded once—she then rose from the bathtub and seated herself on the bath chair.
Takanashi Sirou was seated on the sofa in the living room—he’d remained there having suggested Yui to take a bath ahead of him.
Presently, he was leisurely gazing at the 100-inch ultra-slim monitor that was installed onto the wall in front of him; the high-definition neo-quantum dot display was listing out the general data he’d collected surrounding the Pinky Promise Case that he’d transmitted from his mobile device.
Sirou continued to wordlessly stare at the screen, thinking back on all the information he’d acquired concerning the Pinky Promise Case.
The first victim of the case was found two weeks ago—the odd corpse of a naked young girl with the pinky of her left hand cut off was discovered one morning in Neo Kichijōji. The victim had a young lover whose whereabouts were also unknown, and the case was initially considered to be a simple case of mad love among the younger folk.
However, upon police investigation, the semen that remained on the victim did not belong to her boyfriend upon verification; eventually, the second and third victims were found having been murdered under the same modus operandi as the days passed—both new victims had their little fingers cut off prior to their murder. It meant that the criminal revelled in the fear and agony of their victims before he finished them off, which led one to assume that it was manslaughter with the intent for personal pleasure.
Several similarities were present among the victims; all of them were beautiful young girls in their teens, and each also had lovers, all of which have been reported missing.
The police have deduced that each case was wrought by the same serial killer, though said killer was still at large at present.
…Though I suppose that’s understandable.
Although the police force in the supernatural ability zone possessed a task force against supernatural ability users, the highest level of authority commanding said force was reluctant to put it to full use, reduced the force to only a shell of its intended mission; they feared performing false killings against those who were not supernatural ability users and gaining criticism from the public, while also fearing being killed themselves when showing restraint against actual supernatural ability users.
It was not worthwhile for the police, given the vast amount of supernatural ability users surrounding the city.
Moreover, the incident had brought about political ramifications as well—that only caused the police to hesitate further and sink deeper into a state of stagnation, causing the victims to gradually increase.
The seventh victim had appeared three days ago; Sirou and the Hungry Wolf Brigade had thus conducted an emergency meeting involving the various influential organizations within Neo Kichijōji, deciding to intervene in the situation.
All parties cooperated in finding as much information as possible surrounding the incident; the Hungry Wolf Brigade had proposed to take responsibility for handling the culprit should they finally find them, as well as the means they would apprehend their wanted person.
—All this had come to be as a result of Sirou spearheading the operation.
As Mika had previously mentioned, the prospects for the case being solved were only growing by the day; Sirou had initially planned to act alongside Renya the following day.
“…Why did another candidate for the mark of Lust appear during this time again?”
And why Yui of all people? As he lamented on his current situation and shut off the display showing the information he’d gathered, there was a sudden clicking sound, and the living room door suddenly opened.
“Takanashi-kun…thank you for letting me use the bath first.”
It was Yui, who called from the other side of the door and entered the hallway.
She was wearing Sirou’s dress shirt which he’d given her in place of pyjamas; the shirt she was wearing had the first three buttons unfastened, perhaps because she wanted to let out the remaining heat following her bath, though it revealed her large, sexy cleavage. The trousers he’d lent her were too big for her, and she wore only her panties underneath otherwise; this exposed her thighs underneath the hem of her shirt.
Looking quite stunning, she approached Sirou as she recognized him sitting on the sofa.
“…Are you looking at something?”
“Yeah, for a while. I’m just going through the information that I have about the Pinky Promise Case again.”
“I see…um, do you mind if I sit next to you?”
“Of course not,” Sirou nodded.
“Well, then…” Yui then sat down beside him—
But she didn’t do anything beyond that, at least not for a while, simply sitting there in silence. However, her hands were tightly clenched into fists, and a faint trembling could be seen from her delicate shoulders.
“What’s wrong…?” As Sirou reached out to touch her cheek, Yui suddenly sprang upon him and clung to his chest—feeling the softness and ample volume of her breasts even through her dress shirt, Sirou’s lips then pressed against Yui’s.
Sirou’s eyes widened at the gesture as Yui gently parted her lips from his.
“I-I’m sorry if this is so sudden, but…I really wanted to repay you for saving me today, Takanashi-kun. I wondered if I was up for the task at first, but when I heard your voice, my mind gradually went blank, so…um, Takanashi-kun?”
Yui suddenly looked at Sirou, feeling rather surprised—his expression implied that he’d finally realized something.
“You’ve come to my place in the middle of the night, and you try to impersonate the chairwoman as you as you arrive?”
“…What exactly were you planning to do, Mikoto?”
“Eh, huh? Since when did you figure me out?”
As the one who assumed Yui’s appearance tilted her head to the side in her confusion, there was a shimmering light as she deactivated her vampiric transformation ability, revealing Mikoto under the disguise.
Her small body was a poor fit for Sirou’s dress shirt, and the way she was now, it was loose-fitting for her; nevertheless, the imbalanced look still held a certain charm to it, albeit in a different way.
“I’ve come to deliver Yui’s change of clothes and underwear for tomorrow. In any case, the convenience stores do happen to sell panties, but they don’t really sell any bras. It made me a little worried.”
“I appreciate the thought, but…they still sell those at this hour?”
“Plenty. You can’t find a lingerie store around Neo Kichijōji that I’m not affiliated with.”
“Well, I suppose that sounds helpful.”
“Still, how did you know that I’d transformed into Yui? I thought I didn’t make a single sound when I entered with the spare key I got.”
“No. Why would the chairwoman willingly kiss me when she’s afflicted with the mark of Lust?”
“I figured that Yui-san would prioritize returning the favor to you over her embarrassment, Sirou-san.”
“Listen, what did you plan to do if I happened to not realize it and really felt like making a move on you?”
“You’d be doing exactly what I wanted. I simply love it when I’m capable of pleasuring you, you see,” Mikoto said, smiling a coquettish smile that was unbefitting of her young appearance.
“Besides, I know you’re someone who pulls no punches when the situation demands it, but you seem quite half-hearted with trying to help Yui-san with the mark of Lust. What, is she not your type despite how cute she is?”
As Mikoto took on Yui’s appearance again, Sirou simply shrugged.
“It’s nothing like that. The chairwoman simply doesn’t like me doing stuff like that to her as you do. It wouldn’t be fair of me to take advantage of her while she’s under the duress of the mark of Lust, now, would it?”
“My, my…I see you’re being so considerate of Yui-san yet again. Though I should say your kindness isn’t going to do her any good, Sirou-san.”
“…What are you implying?”
“If Yui-san does decide to join the Hungry Wolf Brigade, there will come a time where she’s going to have to use the power of the mark of Lust. If you decide to do the opposite and dispel it instead, wouldn’t that mean it’d be necessary for her to gain some form of resistance to lustful sensations?”
“…I see. That might possibly be required, yes.”
“You get it now, right? Though I was also thinking that it’d be really awkward if you forcibly tried to do those things on the real Yui-san. Which is why I thought it’d be a good idea for you to use me transformed into Yui-san as practice!” There was an excited glint in Mikoto’s eyes as she transformed into Yui again. “I’ll just borrow her clothes from the dressing room, and she’ll call out when she finally gets out of the bath as a signal, right? That means you can do anything to me, no matter how erotic!”
“As expected of you, Mikoto. You never miss anything.”
“Just leave it all to me—I’m a capable girl, you know. In any case, let’s just get this started, shall we?” Frolicking with Sirou in Yui’s form, Mikoto began to unfasten the buttons on her shirt.
Having assumed her appearance due to every detail of her body, she exposed breasts that were as large as Yui’s, and her limbs were sensual and charming.
She then cleared her throat, and the next moment, her expression was one that was completely taken over by lust.
“Oh, Takanashi-kyun~…oh, please, come over here and screw your little Yui up~!♥” Shaking her hips and her butt, she sidled herself closer to Sirou.
At the same time—before Mikoto had even realized it, someone was already standing right behind her.
It was the real Yui, her eyes half-closed—having arrived in her bath towel, it was likely that she’d come out of the bath given that she’d heard their conversation.
Although Mikoto was completely unaware of Yui’s presence given that she was at her blind spot—Mikoto’s back was facing the living room door—Sirou was well aware of the fact that Yui had arrived, having exchanged a couple of looks with her.
Yui then tapped the shoulder of her lookalike.
Said high-spirited lookalike turned her head over her defenceless back to look at her, drool leaking from the corner of her mouth.
Having finally realized that the real deal was right there, Mikoto suddenly went completely still; cold sweat began to run across her face as she clumsily turned toward Sirou.
“No fair! Why didn’t you tell me that Yui-san was actually here, Sirou-san!”
Near the brink of tears, Mikoto reverted back to her original form as she clutched Sirou’s collar, trembling as she shook him.
“Oh? I thought you said you wanted me to screw you, though.”
“I didn’t mean it that way! I was asking you to screw me in the sexual sense of the word, not to put me in such an inconveniencing situation! You’ve just put me in a massive pickle now, haven’t you!?”
As Mikoto became flustered over the situation, Yui was smiling sweetly behind her—scarily sweet.
“…Oh, Mikoto-chan, it’s really sweet of you to be so worried about me,” As Yui said so, she locked her arm around Mikoto’s, giving her no chance to escape.
She was still smiling—but as her eyes bolted open, there was a light, yet notable chill within their gaze.
“Thank you. I really ought to pay you back for that, so could you come here for just a moment?”
Sirou had adjourned to the bathroom after sending off Yui, who had dragged Mikoto along with her away from the living room. He wanted to wash away the sweat he’d let out for the day, and though he planned on taking a bath rather carefreely—
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Yui-san, so please forgive me!”
He could still hear Mikoto crying from Yui’s room as he went out of the bath and through the hallway.
…Beware the rage of a gentle girl, as they say.
The sounds Mikoto was making implied that she was likely going to be forced to write a written apology or something of the sort.
That said, it was a good thing that Yui managed to open Mikoto up; there was no need for Sirou to intervene and it was alright for him to leave the both of them alone. Mikoto still had to return home despite only living nearby, after all.
That said, they wouldn’t need to spend the rest of the night worrying about Mikoto’s repentance.
The clock eventually struck midnight—and a seemingly never-ending Thursday had finally come to its conclusion.