Every light casts a shadow, and even the most developed districts in the city had an ugly side veiled opposite its otherwise prospering exterior.
A part that contribute to said ugly side was the prospering sex service industry, which began to develop with the amount of love hotels mushrooming about Neo Kichijōji, the vicinity surrounding Kichijōji Station, for the past few years. These were places within the supernatural ability zone used not only by tourists, couples and lovers alike during their visits to the area, but they were also commonly used by sex workers offering male customers with their services.
And it was on a particular Saturday night in Neo Kichijōji when such a hidden side of the city was coming to life.
A certain woman was using the luxury room of one of the top five love hotels in the city—it was Kisaragi Miyako, the woman who acted hostile toward Yui during their encounter in the women’s changing room in the Heaven’s Ocean Club.
She once thrived as the number one hostess in her old hostess bar known as Elysium up until last year; however, following the collapse of her bar due to the intervention of the Hungry Wolf Brigade, she since sold her body to men for a living. She had resistance at first, but she gradually became used to and did not find the idea of frolicking with her clients revolting or discomforting.
And she was going to be spending the night with another man that particular evening.
Her clients were usually regulars or big spenders from her old Elysium bar; she was usually paid 300,000 per night without factoring in the accommodation for the hotel itself. Despite the confidence that her clients were capable of offering her such money, the fact that Miyako needed to arrange a night where she could be completely free meant that reservations were usually made months before the actual date of their meeting.
Things were different that night, however—she was going to be servicing a man she would be seeing for the very first time.
The man introduced himself as someone one of her regulars was familiar with, and professed that he could only arrange himself to be available for her services on that day in particular; that said, he had also mentioned that he would pay any price—be it a million or two million—if such a deal could be arranged.
Although there were risks in dealing with aggressive or pushy clients, there was also the merit in taking such a good opportunity for her to establish a relationship with such a generous client.
The man had formally introduced himself as a regular who was an extremely large spender at the bar; he thus expected a particularly special treatment from her, and yet—
“Still, I must say I’m quite surprised…”
Miyako had engaged in an enjoyable intercourse with the man after welcoming him to the room; she was washing herself off in the shower of the luxurious bathroom that was integrated into the bedroom, turning toward the man who was soaking himself in the large hot tub behind her.
“When I heard about the sum I was getting, I was expecting some ugly old man to come around, but I didn’t think I’d be getting someone as fine as you are…”
“I’m honored by your compliment. Nevertheless, it’s sad to say that I’m older than you think I am, you see.” The man in the bathtub laughed as he answered her.
“Still, if you have the money to splurge on things like this, wouldn’t you rather than a wider selection of women accompanying you?”
“But of course. Still, there’s a particular merit in spending the money the way I am on you now.”
“This is the first time I’m here in Neo Kichijōji you see. It’s only natural that I’d want to talk to you and learn more from someone as well-informed as yourself,” The man whispered, embracing her from behind to grope her breasts.
Despite her attempt to chide him, Miyako did not resist the man’s lips as they locked onto hers as she turned over her shoulder.
Now wet in the shower together and with their tongues intertwined together, there was no need to resist the excitement that was welling up within the both of them. Miyako reached for the man’s crotch to find that a certain part of him was already erect, large and hard, stroking it in her amazement.
“Wow…and even after we’ve already done it so many times on the bed…” Miyako’s voice became excited and surprised as the man continued to grope her breasts with his left hand.
“I’m confident that mine doesn’t lose to anyone else when it comes to endurance,” The man’s right hand instead reached for Miyako’s crotch, gently caressing it.
The man’s grasp caused arousal to well up within her as she writhed with pleasure; the man was placing her in so much heat that she was now wet from the warmth that surpassed that of the hot water in the shower, and she pressed her arms toward the wall, shamelessly spreading her legs and lifting her butt up.
The man pressed his member onto Miyako’s entrance, making a watery noise with the action; however, he attempted to tease her by denying her any further sensation beyond that.
“Nnn! I imagine you’ve made many women your own playthings like this…what a cruel man you are,” Miyako turned over her shoulder, her eyes wet with pleasure.
“Well, then, I wonder just how much you know about the particular subject I’m about to ask of you.”
The man’s member grew larger and harder as it trembled, and a sadistic smile surfaced on his face as he loomed over Miyako.
“Tell me about the group they say is the strongest supernatural ability group within Neo Kichijōji—the Hungry Wolf Brigade.”
Following the end of the incident at the Heaven’s Ocean Club, Antonio Fabbroni had been defeated, and the Pinky Promise Case came to a conclusion following said defeat.
The affair was not completely settled, however—many victims had been involved with the case, and not unscathed as well. That said, the incident could not be declared over until this issue was addressed, which entailed a political discussion as per the rules of the underworld society to settle the matter following Antonio’s capture.
The main topic of discussion was, of course, how Antonio would be dealt with—in response, Mika, the leader of the Hungry Wolf Brigade, had already made contact with the Fabbroni Union in Europe, and at present, she was personally making sure things would be settled within the Sunday.
In the meanwhile, the other members of the brigade were standing by; even Yui had been brought along despite only being their guest, and she had no objections toward such an arrangement. Nevertheless—
“…How did this happen?” Yui muttered.
She was currently in Sirou’s apartment; Sirou himself was standing by along with Renya at their hideout. As she sat on the sofa in the living room, her gaze was fixated on the display of the massive TV in front of her; she was apprehensive as she watched the image of an unknown, naked couple frolicking with one another on the screen, one that was seemingly commonly known as AV, and she had done so for almost 5 hours. Her gaze was warm as she watched the image, all while wearing nothing but her underwear.
And there was only one person who would arrange such a scenario.
“Now that won’t do, Yui-san. You really must pay attention to this more seriously, or we’ll be in for a lot of trouble,” Inaba Mikoto, a certain young maid, was watching Yui attentively beside her. “You must realize that this is the most important thing you need to do right now.”
“I know that we’re doing this to increase my resistance against the effects of the mark of Lust, but…” Yui said with her sigh, administering her current situation once again.
If she were to officially join the Hungry Wolf Brigade, it was essential that she learned to control the mark of Lust and eventually gain access to its supernatural abilities; even then, if she were to decide to opt for a path outside of involving herself with the brigade, it was still important for her to build up a certain level of resistance toward her lust.
The biggest problem she had at present was the fact that the activation of the Mark of Lust would send her into episodes of intoxicated trances that would elevate her lust and make her feel aroused.
Fortunately for her, the level of stimulation she would feel from the mark seemed to be proportionate to the amount of sexual arousal she felt; for instance, if she were to only feel mildly stimulated, a deep breath to calm herself down would suffice in appeasing the mark of Lust.
That being said, increasing her resistance to sexual arousal would solve such an issue.
Nevertheless, while Sirou might have been her best option to help her build said resistance, his moniker of “The Walking Dick of Neo Kichijōji” meant that it would be dangerous to ask him of such a favor, never mind the fact that Yui would likely be unable to handle the embarrassment of him doing so.
All the same, Yui wanted to prove herself useful if she was to continue living with Sirou, and she wanted advice on the matter. Not knowing if it would be for the better or for worse, she consulted Mikoto on the matter, and the latter subsequently arrived at Sirou’s place before she stripped her of her clothing and suggested that the two could appreciate watching AVs together…which led to the current scenario.
“Who spends a weekday endlessly watching such an obscene video in broad daylight? I’d really rather get back to doing some chores such as washing the dishes or laundry now…”
That was how she could actually be helpful to Sirou after all.
“What are you saying? Besides the fact that Sirou’s a neat person to begin with, haven’t you already cleaned this place so much that it’s sparkling all over yesterday?” Mikoto said, looking dumbfounded as she stood from the sofa.
“Like, have a look at the wooden floor—it’s so clean you can look into it like a mirror! It can even reflect the panties under my skirt at this point! How much further can you even clean the place up, huh?”
As if to prove her point, the reflection of Mikoto’s underwear could truly be seen from the reflection on the floor. Yui usually tried to distract herself from the memories of her episodes of trying to appease the mark of Lust while alone with Sirou in his room by cleaning up, but perhaps she might have done too much in that regard.
“It’s not a school day today, so the once-in-a-millennium chairwoman needs to appreciate her day off. And I’d ask that she make good use of said day off by concentrating on handling her own sexual urges.”
“I know that, but…what do I even do…?”
“You can’t be thinking profoundly about all this, Yui-san. You have to feel it.”
“Um…I asked for your help precisely because I’m feeling it too much, so…”
“Gosh…don’t you feel that you’ve calmed yourself down quite a bit after all that? Even though it’s supposed to be easy for you to feel aroused in this case? And even though you’ve been doing this without your clothes on?” Mikoto said, making an adorable spectacle as her cheeks puffed up in dissatisfaction. “Are you telling me that you’re used to seeing erotic videos like these?”
“That’s really not the case whatsoever. It’s more so the fact that I feel it’s hard for someone who’s not a man to feel excited about seeing other people get excited like that.”
“I guess that’s true. Products like these cater more toward the male audience, after all, so I guess they’re lacking in plot which the girls prefer. That was exactly why I picked a video like this for you though—it’s better to build up your endurance without getting too emotionally invested by it.”
“There only seems to be faint responses so far after we’ve done all that…still, the mark triggered itself when you saw all those unknown couples back at the underground floor of the Heaven’s Ocean Club, right?”
“…Takanashi-kun was with me back then, after all.” Yui answered Mikoto’s question, her cheeks taking on a hint of red.
If Yui had walked into the underground floor alone back then, she likely would have received the bizarre spectacle before her with fear and disgust. However, Sirou had been beside her back then, and his presence along with the suggestibility of the couples making love surrounding her ended up leading to the impulses of the mark going out of control before she could even realize it.
A pleasurable sensation suddenly welled from within her as she recalled that scene, causing her body to shake; as she remembered the deeds she did with Sirou in the couple’s pool, the mark of Lust began to activate.
Not good! Yui hastily pushed the memories of what happened back then out of her mind.
“Ah, I see how it is,” Mikoto grinned, a strange glint gleaming in her eyes. “I see it’s the thought of Sirou-san that makes your cute little heart skip a beat.”
Oh no… Yui didn’t dare to think what Mikoto would plan to do now that she had grasped her weakness so easily.
“Mikoto-chan, that’s not…um…”
“Well, then, Yui-san, what do you say to this?”
Mikoto’s smile widened with a giggle as she interjected Yui before she could speak any further, and transformed into Sirou in an instant. Yui’s heart began to thump faster even though she knew well that it was merely an illusion.
“H-Hang on, Mikoto-chan! Changing into Takanashi-kun like that is just not fair…”
“Still, you’d be willing to provide me with such shameless services, now, wouldn’t you, Chairwoman?”
Yui’s face was now bright red, unable to muster any words.
Mikoto’s impersonation of Sirou was essentially precise down to the voice and the tone he usually spoke with, and she was technically speaking the truth.
Yui had noticed that Sirou had gotten aroused from her back when he was appeasing the effects of the mark of Lust back at the couples’ pool in the underground floor of the Heaven’s Ocean Club—and it was likely that Yui would need to rely on Sirou to appease the effects of the mark of Lust for her again in the future.
That being said, she couldn’t simply be receiving his aid so one-sidedly; if Sirou was going to feel aroused from helping her, she felt as though she needed to take responsibility to appease that arousal. She now wanted to soothe Sirou of the arousal he would feel whenever he was helping her.
And it would entail performing the various acts of sexual service depicted in the AVs she was provided with after seeking Mikoto’s counsel to increase her resistance to her lust.
“If you can’t really get in the mood off the video, I guess it’ll be more effective for you to practice with the real deal!”
As Mikoto suggested that in her presently imitated form, she quickly took off the shirt she was wearing, and flaunting the fact that she was slowly unfastening the zip of his trousers right in front of her.
“W-Wait, Mikoto-chan, hold on…” Yui tried to stop Mikoto from approaching her as she took on Sirou’s form—she didn’t know what she’d do if the mark of Lust were to end up activating while Sirou wasn’t around.
She was then rescued, however—by the ringtone of her cell phone that she had left in the living room.
“S-Sorry…it seems my phone’s ringing…”
Yui stood up and hastily ran off to pick up her ringing cell phone; Mikoto could only lament the situation as she returned to her original appearance as she was left behind.
T-That was close…
Mikoto’s transformation into Sirou ended up having an almost immediate effect on her—it only took the sight of Sirou slowly approaching her to make her heart run wild.
What do I do…?
Yui crossed her arms and hugged her body, unable to believe just how conscious she had become toward Sirou.
And she wondered if anything would happen that night when the time came for the both of them to be alone in Sirou’s apartment yet again.
Two men were treading upon a wasteland of a street that was now the haven of a particular gang—it was a duo of a mayor who was in fact a burly pro wrestler, as well as a young man trained in military hand-to-hand combat. The two had come to take out the gang who had abducted the mayor’s daughter.
All this was depicted in images displayed on the massive TV installed in the living space of the Hungry Wolf Brigade’s hideout; a black quadrilateral structure that seemed to be a TV game console was placed on the side of the table in front of it.
“I enjoy games like these too, but…why did you decide on this particular game when we personally already wiped the floor with an actual mafia group the day before yesterday?”
“I’m not like you. You think I actually felt satisfied with all the small fry I had to deal with that day? It’s times like these where I actually get the refreshing source of action I want.”
Renya then shot a glance at the clock on the wall.
“Our brigade leader should be finished with negotiations with Italy right about now. Still, to think that even Sanda-kun was caught up in all this…”
“It’s all because of the ambassador who gave Antonio Fabbroni diplomatic immunity. I imagine he won’t be importing any more live European idiots anymore.”
“Enough about the mafia, though. What about the Atsuta Group who orchestrated that idiot son to be involved in all this?”
“Kyousuke said he’d notify us after they settled things.”
Sirou’s mobile device suddenly rang as if right on cue; seeing the name of the yakuza whom he had sworn brotherhood to in the supernatural ability zone on the display, he accepted the call and activated his phone’s speaker mode.
“Hey, Kyousuke. I was just having a chat with Renya about you.”
“I see. We’re currently bringing those old men at Atsuta down to size.”
Renya was surprised by what he heard from the other end of the call. “Now that was quick. Don’t the individual factions of the Rokugami Group have obligatory ties or something with one another, though?”
“They decided to act within Neo Kichijōji on their own accord. There’s no need for such reservations when dealing with a lot like that.”
“We’ve interrogated the members of the Atsuta Group…and we happened to come across some important news. The body of a woman who was seemingly involved with the sex service industry network around Neo Kichijōji was found in a love hotel nearby Kichijōji Station. She appears to have been frozen to death, and she was estimated to have died last night before morning arrived. Did you guys know about this?”
“No, this is the first time we’ve heard of that news. Odd—we should’ve received intel about such a case if so.”
“This intel was acquired from the Atsuta Group by one of the victim’s patrons who consulted the police for questioning. I’d note that the police are still quite apprehensive about leaking this information.”
“What’s the meaning of this?” Renya asked, his brows furrowed.
And his reply came with a silent voice.
“…The body of the victim was missing its left pinky.”
“…So that’s how it is,” Sirou muttered in a low voice, understanding the intel he was just given. “We have Antonio Fabbroni. I have no doubt that this is an imposter criminal.”
“Be that as it may, the timing’s quite convenient for us, in a way. I imagine it’s a crime that’s been committed after immediate notification that our brigade has captured the culprit of the Pinky Promise Case.”
Sirou and the Hungry Wolf Brigade had already settled their case with their own hands, and their capture of Antonio Fabbroni had been successful and done without excessive measures; this new murder was perhaps a mockery or provocation of them.
“How have our investigatory telepaths assessed the case?”
“As far as we’re aware, the love hotels in the city operate under a system that prevents peeping out of consideration of both supernatural ability users and non-users alike. One of the leads we’ve acquired decribes that the last person to come into contact with the victim was a guest or client, who said that they were looking for their daughter along with seeking information on the Hungry Wolf Brigade.”
“Huh…very tempting information,” Sirou said, his gaze narrowing ever so slightly.
“Yes. That’s why I decided to contact you.”
Intel about the victim had been retrieved by the Atsuta Group, who was supporting Antonio Fabbroni while he remained in the supernatural ability zone; they could not slack over such a coincidental finding.
Someone had done this in an attempt to challenge or ridicule the Hungry Wolf Brigade.
“By the way, Kyousuke, I wanted to ask about the identity of the victim.”
“…I imagine this will become intel eventually anyway,” Kyousuke said, “But the girl was Kisaragi Miyako.”
Sirou shut his eyes at the name.
“…I see. …Yes, I understand. Thank you, Kyousuke,” Accepting the news, he opened his eyes again and thanked Kyousuke for the information he provided. “We’ll take over from here. Give our regards to the folks over at Atsuta.”
He turned off his device, heavily implying that Kyousuke and his group should not interfere with that final remark.
“Kagurazaka’s doing, is it…it seems they’ve decided to make their move,” Renya spat, tossing his game controller. “But how did they manage to grasp intel about us and our situation so easily?”
“It’s probably because the Atsuta Group leaked it…they did join forces with Fabbroni because they wanted to expand into Neo Kichijōji, after all. It’s not surprising that they’d try to pass it off as a business alliance of sorts on the surface.”
“We could even say that it was Kagurazaka who orchestrated the get-together arrangement between Fabbroni and the Atsuta Group…anything’s possible at this point.”
Shrugging, Sirou withdrew his mobile device again and called a number that he had registered on his device just a few days ago—it was Yui’s number, but rather than the standard tone that indicated that the call was connecting, it only led him to a message saying to leave her voicemail.
That said, he then decided to call Mikoto, who was supposed to be with her, and he was greeted by an almost immediate answer.
“Sirou-san? What’s up?”
“Yeah, there’s something up…Mikoto, is the Chairwoman still with you?”
“Huh? Isn’t she supposed to have met up with you guys by now? We were together up until she said she’d head over to the hideout, though…”
Sirou and Renya exchanged glances at Mikoto’s reply; she seemed genuinely puzzled at their question.
“…Are you at my place now, Mikoto?”
“Yeah. We were on our way to the hideout when Yui suddenly said she left her phone at your place. I insisted that I come with her to pick it up for her safety, but she said she wanted to go ahead to the hideout. That said, I came back to your room to pick it up in her stead, but…” There was a pause from Mikoto, “…From the looks of things, I think I’ve been fooled.”
“No. The fact that the Chairwoman would suddenly disappear because I wasn’t paying attention to her was an oversight on my part.”
“Still, we’ve told her to constantly update us on her whereabouts, haven’t we? Why did you guys end up acting on your own accord?” Renya asked.
“I’m sorry. Yui-san did get a call earlier and she just ended up saying ‘I got it, I’ll head over now”. When I asked her who called, she told me it was Sirou.”
Of course, Sirou had not given her such a call.
“Well, now she’s done it…”
“So it would seem. And as one would expect from someone who’s the top of our grade—she must’ve come up with such a plan on the fly.”
“But…why would Yui-san lie like that?”
“It probably has to do with the Kagurazaka matter…we’ll update you again once we figure out how to deal with this, so stand by for the time being,” Sirou then ended the call with Mikoto for the time being.
“Still, for her to end up disappearing without saying anything…whoever called her must’ve given her quite the dreadful threat.”
“Or perhaps the person who called her was someone she was familiar with,” Sirou said, pondering on what could have possibly managed to rouse her.
“We’ve recently collected some voice imprints from our investigatory telepaths, and we can assume that the man who murdered Kisaragi Miyako is the Chairwoman’s father. Of course, there’s also the possibility that someone’s merely fabricating that identity to attempt to kidnap her.”
And it was likely that—
“Perhaps the Chairwoman’s real father ended up contacting her. And he informed her about the fact that he killed Kisaragi Miyako during the call.”
“And he threatened her to come back to him unless she wanted more casualties. And I’m sure it’s Kagurazaka who’s pulling the strings and sent her father for this affair.”
“That’s about 90% probable, I suppose. It’s impossible for her father to suddenly come back at such a convenient timing after being missing for so long, after all.”
“And I suppose Kōsaki didn’t think things through and acted on her emotions.”
“I imagine she received images or even videos about the murder on her phone. The Chairwoman did happen to meet Kisaragi Miyako back at the Heaven’s Ocean Club and learn about her past from Asumi. Given the way she is, she probably found it hard to keep her composure when she was told that Miyako was murdered because she ran away from the Kagurazaka facility.”
As Sirou finished that statement, the door of the entrance to the hideout suddenly opened; it was Rin, who had just come back from shopping.
“I’m back~ Wait, what’s with the looks on your faces? Did something happen?” Rin deduced that something was wrong from the expressions Sirou and Renya were wearing; her brows knitted together at the thought, and she appeared to be holding something else apart from her shopping bags.
“Something did, actually. By the way, Rin, what’s with the envelope?”
“It was in the mailbox. Still, there’s no sender’s name on it, nor does it seem to be particularly addressed to anyone, and there’s no stamp or postmark on either, so it was probably directly thrown in by whoever wrote it. There doesn’t seem to be anything dangerous inside, though…”
“Ah, I can guess what that is…though may I have a look?”
Sirou then received the envelope from Rin, and the first thing he realized was that it was an envelope that was similar to what Sirou had back at his apartment. Within it was a hand-written letter, and Sirou took a quick glance at its contents.
“…Is it from Kōsaki?”
“Yeap. She must’ve written it before she left my apartment with Mikoto.”
“So it’s a farewell letter…wait, what!?”
“It’s just filled with common courtesy meant to try and put us at ease. Let’s see, there’s ‘I’ve been thinking about things a lot lately, and I’ve decided to go home’, ‘I’m sorry for bringing this up all of a sudden’, ‘I’m really grateful to all you protecting me for these past few days’, and ‘I wish you all the best’.”
“But why would Yui do something like this…? Don’t tell me she’s—”
“We have ourselves a bit of a worrying situation, yes. She’s gone missing,” Sirou explained to Rin. “The Chairwoman must’ve left this letter to suggest that she’s willingly returned to the Kagurazaka Group on her own accord. But in fact, she’s not doing so because she wants to—she’s doing so because she feels responsible for the oversight of the death of Kisaragi Miyako from the Hungry Wolf Brigade.”
She definitely felt that she had no choice but to put up such a front; Yui had left that letter believing that it would be her way of protecting Sirou and the others, not wanting the Hungry Wolf Brigade to possess any unwanted weaknesses due to her involvement with them.
There was also something on the curved crease at the corner of the letter—it was a wet stain, an otherwise trivial detail that would have gone unnoticed by anyone even if they concentrated hard on the letter.
However, the weather in Neo Kichijōji was clear that day—it was impossible for the letter to have been smeared by any rain.
Nevertheless, that didn’t change the fact that there was still a wet stain on the letter.
“For the Chairwoman to want to carry a burden like that all by herself…how foolish of her,” Sirou said quietly, a wry smile surfacing on his face.
Kōsaki Yui was a young woman who feared being a burden to others to an extent that Sirou would consider extreme—she had constantly felt reserved and concerned about being a bother or inconveniencing Sirou throughout her stay with him.
Perhaps it was due to the upbringing she had after she was exiled from the Kagurazaka household with her mother; she was her only family member, and she had been raised single-handedly by her. It was perhaps due to that fact that Yui did not want to be a burden to her mother and conducted herself as the excellent student, be it at home or at school—such that she was given the moniker of a once-in-a-millennium chairwoman.
However, her mother had passed away due to illness; and being the kind girl she was, surely Yui had various thoughts go through her mind at the time and ever since.
Surely she had thought of how her mother could have survived her illness had she not been a burden to her.
Surely her mind went blank when she learned from her father that he had murdered Kisaragi Miyako.
And surely she had the resolve to return to the Kaguarazaka family in the face of the threat that many other casualties were on the way if she did not comply.
Yui had laid her thoughts bare on that letter; he imagined how she had quietly written this letter all alone in the living room of his apartment, attempting to be unnoticed by Mikoto as she shed her tears.
The initially resigned feeling was quickly replaced by a boiling feeling festering with him, however—one that made him feel hot, if only slightly.
It was then that he received a notification on his mobile device—someone was giving him a call.
It wasn’t from Yui—but it was a call that he had been expecting nonetheless.
“Good work, ma’am. So how were things on your end?”
“Negotiations were successful. The Union openly admitted Antonio’s crimes and sincerely asked what they could do to settle the matter. They acquiesced to our demands without complaint.”
“A specific group from the European Union that’s close by has arrived here. They intend to fully compensate all the related members of the deceased…as well properly deal with Antonio Fabbroni. Of course, they’re going out of the way since they want us to bear witness.”
“I see…that means that the Pinky Promise Case is almost at an end, then.”
“Oh? …I’ve personally heard of another unresolved problem myself, but…did something happen here?”
“Nothing. It’s just that there’s been a disagreement between us. Be that as it may, though, brigade leader,” Sirou said to the opposite end of the call—and it was then a ferocious smile surfaced on his face.
“I’m going to be acting on my own terms this time. Do pardon me if I end up…overdoing it.”
The bustling life of the city was more dazzling than the moon that was shining in the night sky, illuminating the world brighter than the moon could with its light.
Before long, midnight had arrived—the moment the hour hand on the clock struck twelve, it heralded the more radiant hour in the city.
Under the shine of such brilliant lights was a certain young girl—it was Kōsaki Yui, who had arrived at the rooftop of the extremely tall station building.
The symbol of the supernatural ability zone—Kichijōji Eight—was erected atop it, and a large rooftop garden was open for visitors for their leisure.
At least, that was the case when the business floors were still operating—the rooftop garden was supposed to be forbidden at this hour, but Yui had arrived at such a place nonetheless. All security measures from the alarms to the surveillance cameras surrounding the building had been cut off, and all the important passages and entryways had also been unlocked.
Yui wordlessly advanced deeper into the rooftop garden—she eventually stumbled upon a man standing behind the massive fountain sculpture in the center of the garden.
It was the man who called her here—the man who had seized control of the system within the building. Yui stopped at about a 10-meter distance away from the man, eyeing him quietly.
“Why, Yui…look how much you’ve grown.”
Before her was the man Yui knew as her father—Kagurazaka Seiji, and he wore an affectionate smile on his face as he addressed her. The man who welcomed her with his arms spread slightly had been missing for almost ten years, but there seemed to be an almost uncanny lack of change in his appearance.
“…—Tell me.” Yui said, firmly.
Why did he come back? Why did he call her here? There was no urge in her to ask those things, for she had a good guess of the answers to those questions, and even if she ended up grasping his intentions incorrectly, that fact on its own would be a trivial matter.
Yui only wanted to know about one thing, and one thing only.
“Why…why did you kill Kisaragi Miyako?”
“Oh, that girl…truth be told, I initially had no intention of murdering her at all,” Seiji said without a hint of hesitation. “The intel I acquired from her was very valuable, you see. However, she had the gall to attempt to harm you. She planned on luring you into a trap after I told her about your whereabouts. Now I can’t forgive that, now, can I?”
“So you decided to kill her for that…is that it?”
“Why do you ask—is that not reason enough? It’s one thing that she attempted to harm you, but she had the audacity to attempt to take the opportunity to capture you when I told her about my plans to see you again. And if that’s not enough for you…is it not natural for a father to love his own daughter?
Despite the sincerity in his gaze, there was no hiding the shade of insanity that marred it.
“…Come, now, Yui. It’s time to go home with daddy now,” He said, slightly walking toward her.
“Your father’s telling you that he wants to go home with you. I’ve waited so long for this moment…but we can finally be happy together at last.”
Her father, her grandfather, her cousin—they were all much like that Antonio Fabbroni.
It was a fact that reaffirmed her all the more that it had not been a mistake for her to have come alone, as she did not move a muscle even as her father approached her.
“Good girl…” With a smile, he extended his right arm toward her. But before his fingers could reach her shoulders—
Seiji’s arm recoiled backward, startled by what had happened; his left hand had rushed to attend to his right arm, which was now frozen over up until the sleeve of his shirt.
“…Take that back,” Yui muttered, her voice barely detectable.
Something was radiating and spreading out from her feet; a massive crystal of ice brought about a shower of absolute zero snow, coating the floor of the rooftop in a vast white.
She was demonstrating the ability to rapidly freeze, and she stood at the centre of such an incredible energy.
“My home is the apartment I’ve lived in with mom. It always was, and it still is, even now,” Her emotions within her spilled out with every word.
She spoke of the home where she had spent her days with her beloved, kind mother.
Many smiles they shared, at times tears, but all those had only piled within her to become precious memories—happy memories.
She would not allow anyone to sully those memories—and so she screamed.
“You’ve returned after so long to take me back—using and killing innocent people just for that purpose! You’re taking me back somewhere where you can’t return without me, and without doing those things, now, aren’t you!? I am not going to have a place like that as my home!”
Her overwhelming emotions culminated into a wave of absolute-zero cold that spread across everything around her; she now froze over not only the floor of the room, but even the very atmosphere surrounding them.
She possessed another ability separate from the one she acquired within the supernatural ability zone—an ability that Yui had been destined to possess ever since she was born.
It was a frost ability, one that she inherited from the bloodline of the Kagurazaka family, which was an inheritance of the Pure-Bloods.
It was the main and only reason why the Kagurazaka Conglomerate was able to overcome the clutches of the law for so long—they had used this ability to bury whatever that stood in their way in cold, unfeeling darkness.
Yui had confessed about her restoration ability back when she first visited the hideout of the Hungry Wolf Brigade and explained her involvement with the Kagurazaka family; however, she did not reveal that she had the ability to manipulate frost.
She made a promise, after all—she would not live by her father’s name, Kagurazaka, but as Kōsaki Yui, from her mother’s side, back when she ended up being ousted from the household with her mother.
And with her new name, she had decided to never used this ability she inherited from paternal family, and she planned to never use it ever since—it was her way of wanting to truly separate herself from any ties with the Kagurazaka family, whose members from her grandfather, her uncle and now her father who was now standing before her—had used their supernatural abilities to fulfil their dark desires.
However, it was now impossible for her to follow through with that decision.
Perhaps Yui would have consulted Sirou and the others and faltered in her conviction if Miyako had not been murdered and was instead being held as a hostage; she would have sought their help rather than decide to come alone to such a place.
However, Miyako was already dead by Seiji’s hands—the situation had already gone to the point of no return.
Even so, she was sure that Sirou and the others would have still lent her their aid if she had asked for it, much like how they had rescued her back at the back alley and protected her ever since. They would do their best to provide the best solution they could offer for her.
Nevertheless, such a solution would not solve anything; it would not change the fact that Miyako was dead and could no longer be brought back, and all because of the Kagurazaka family—because of her. There was no clear and whole solution to this affair.
The only viable solution she had in that regard would be a gruesome one.
…I’m sorry, mom.
Her father, who was smiling before her even after he had murdered an innocent young girl.
Her grandfather and cousin, who had ordered her father to do the very despicable deeds that led to this situation.
And there was herself, who had been driven mad by all of their actions.
She would put an end to everything and everyone—that was her role, and her only role.
“Goodness me…I see ten years has been quite unkind to your loyalty.”
As Yui resolved to use the power she once tried to seal away, Seiji smiled as he addressed her—his frozen right arm recovered almost instantaneously.
Possessing the same bloodline of the Kagurazaka family that provided him with his own icy abilities, he melted the ice enveloping his hand—however, despite having his arm completely frozen over, there seemed to be almost no traces of frostbite, not even so much as a red mark on his skin.
“Behold, Yui…this is the restoration ability I’ve acquired through Akito-kun’s extensive research,” Seiji said, sneering.
“Deciphering and analyzing your supernatural ability has become the Kagurazaka Supernatural Research Institute’s foremost priority…I’m sure you don’t know about this, but the experiments on this research began long ago in secret using a single hair from you.”
But what did that entail?
“It was impossible to produce a copy of a deteriorated sample. It was also impossible to miraculously reproduce your power by making a clone out of your cultivated cells. The institute thus proceeded to a new phase with this knowledge.”
That being said—
“They managed to produce specific nuclei that contained the genetic information of your restoration ability. These nuclei were then transplanted into the select few individuals within the supernatural ability zone that did not reject your cells…thus creating new individuals who possess the ability. Well, unlike you, however, we’re only limited to using such an ability on ourselves.”
Yui stood wordless in the face of the truth her father had divulged to her. So he had a restoration ability of his own? And what of it?
Regardless of the abilities her father had in his arsenal, what she needed to do had not changed.
“Now, stop being unreasonable…come with your father.”
As Seiji extended his hand toward her, however, Yui’s body, which was already radiating with the full force of her frost ability, suddenly released something else before she even realized it.
Waves of four colors—red, green, blue and yellow—were overflowing from her as their center.
And as she unleashed a power that she did not know she possessed, the world around her felt like it had been reversed by a mirror.
At the same time, the commotion surrounding the city immediately disappeared. Any sign of presence in the scenery of Neo Kichijōji surrounding her had disappeared.
There was a sudden, drastic change in the space around them; it took Yui’s attention away from a moment as she processed the occurrence with reflexive shock and astonishment, before her gaze returned to Seiji, staying alert. Perhaps what had just transpired was his doing.
“What is this…?”
Seiji appeared to be confused as well, unable to comprehend what had just happened.
Who did this, then?
The moment Yui asked that question internally, there was a low crashing noise, and Seiji was suddenly knocked away from her.
Shrieking, Seiji crashed into the water fountain that had been frozen by Yui’s frost ability; the impact caused the ice to shatter into countless pieces with a shrill crashing sound, the icy fragments glistening as they added a whiteness to Neo Kichijōji’s night sky.
Yui was shocked by the occurrence, unable to catch up on what had transpired.
“Now, this is a sight for sore eyes. Diamond dust on a short spring night.”
A composed voice suddenly came from behind her, and Yui turned to see a certain young man standing there, wielding his favorite blade in hand.
“Takanashi-kun…but how…?” Yui gasped, flabbergasted by his sudden appearance.
“I have a lead on you. The brigade and I were worried about any further kidnapping attempts, so we’ve made various insurances in preparation for that. We wanted to be able to know your location when the situation demanded it.”
“So you used the battery you told me to change back at the safehouse? But I…”
“You were going to say that you left your phone back at my apartment, right? Still, we already addressed the possibility that there would be attempts to kidnap you via tracking you by telecommunication device back then. And we weren’t satisfied with keeping track of only that possibility,” Sirou said, approaching her.
“Well, there are things that we really need to talk about…that said, given that we’ve both already gone so far and there’s no real issue in acting violent due to the special barrier we’ve set up, let’s settle the other problem at hand first, shall we?”
Sirou walked past Yui, moving toward the fountain. In response, Yui hastily clutched Sirou’s arm.
“Wait, Takanashi-kun! This is…this is something that I have to do with my own hands!”
Sirou then stopped in his tracks, turning to face her.
And the next words that came out from him were spoken in a convinced tone.
“You say that, Chairwoman…but you intend to die after all of this is over as well, now, don’t you?”
Takanashi Sirou eyed Yui with a stiff expression as she swallowed a breath—her reaction suggested that Sirou had guessed correctly.
“You intend to make up for what happened to Miyako, and you intend to destroy the Kagurazaka family and their selfish desires…of which also includes yourself. You don’t want another to share the same tragic fate as having a restoration ability.”
Yui could only stay silent in the face of Sirou’s words—a silence that all but affirmed his assumption, and Sirou sighed in response.
“It’s true that it’s a conclusion one could come up with, yes. Though I’m sorry to say that I won’t accept that conclusion from you. I’ve told you, haven’t I—I promised to protect you. I won’t forgive any person that dares to try and harm you.”
There was a pause.
“Even if said person happens to be yourself.”
Yui averted her gaze from Sirou, wanting to run away after hearing Sirou’s harsh words.
“…But they killed Kisaragi-san. It’s because of me that my father…that the Kagurazaka family murdered her.” Yui said, “ I…we have to take responsibility for that.”
Sirou narrowed his gaze ever so slightly at Yui’s brooding expression. Yui was not directly responsible for Miyako’s death; she was something a party that happened to be inadvertently involved. However, to try to make Yui understand that would still be cruel to her—to a girl who seemed to be boundlessly kind and was now unable to forgive herself.
“Miyako’s death isn’t something that you need to pay for with your own life, Chairwoman,” Sirou said, approaching the grim conversation from an angle that was different from Yui’s perception. “No matter what you do, nothing will bring her back. Anything without a complete replica cannot be returned once it’s lost. Though I suppose it’s simply sad to say.”
“One cannot take responsibility for another’s life with their own—no one can, especially not after it’s lost. If you feel that you need to take responsibility despite all that, however…the only thing you can do is to carry on.”
“Correct,” Sirou nodded, “It’s true that your ability has a large risk to both sides. And there may come a time where you’ll have to get your hands dirty yourself. Nevertheless, this isn’t the time. There’s also no real line between being clean or dirty when it comes to killing—it’s just a construct people decide for you.”
“And obviously, you really shouldn’t be dirtying yourself for the sake of Kagurazaka. There are many other things that you can do—things that I can teach you and show you. The only question is whether or not you’ll trust me.”
“Now that’s just rude. I can still feel pain despite having a restoration ability, you know.”
“A surprise attack from you…a despicable attempt. And here I was, merely wanting to have a family discussion with Yui.”
Sirou laughed at Seiji’s words. “A family discussion, you say? All I could see was a dangerous degenerate monologuing nonsense while trying to approach the Chairwoman.”
“Besides, you’re picking a fight with the Hungry Wolf Brigade, now, aren’t you? And you also happened to cut Kisaragi Miyako’s finger off and carry it along with you after you killed her. You could’ve just told me that and I would’ve smashed you on the spot.”
“We rip our enemies to shreds. That is the way of the Hungry Wolf Brigade.”
“Humph. So that’s the pride you filthy pack of wolves have, eh?” Seiji laughed. “Well, I suppose I must demonstrate how I do things as well, then.”
The moment he said so, Sirou took a strike directly beside his torso that blew him off the area.
The attack struck him with the force of a truck speeding right at him.
“I’ll have you know…I don’t forgive anyone who mocks me.”
He smiled, and at the next moment, something mercilessly slammed into Sirou with a glint of white light.
Kōsaki Yui then heard a thundering noise—Seiji’s follow-up attack had swallowed Sirou, smashing him onto a building that sandwiched the street beneath them along with the one they were initially on.
“—Takanashi-kun!” As Sirou took that strike, Yui cried out to Sirou as she rushed toward him out onto the edge of the rooftop.
“You’ve been a bad girl, Yui. I see you’ve been mixing with the wrong crowd. I wouldn’t want your friends to be bad influences to you, now, would I?” Seiji smiled, freezing the vapour in the atmosphere to allow himself to move freely in the air. “Please don’t worry. Your father’s going to protect you from that boy—everything’s going to be alright. After all, there’s no need for restraint so long as we remain in this special space, yes?”
Saying that, Seiji then went after Sirou.
She couldn’t allow him to do that—she attempted an attack on her father with her frost abilities, though Seiji easily blocked the attack in response.
“—Look behind you, Yui.”
Yui turned around at her father’s warning—two silhouettes could be seen near the entrance of the rooftop garden.
It was a black-suited aide of the Kagurazaka Group, holding a knife in his hand…and beside him was a young woman he was holding hostage.
What next came to her mind that some special explosive of sorts had been coiled around the body of his captive.
“Ah…at last you call me your father. You came all the way here simply because I’ve murdered a prostitute. And from what you’ve said earlier, it would seem that this is what seems to matter most to you,” Seiji said, delighted at her response. “The explosives on that girl are specially armed. When you used your frost ability earlier, the explosive detonation mechanism scanned the waves of the energy you released and inputted an ignition code that triggers the next time you use it again. If you don’t want any more innocent people dying because of you, be a good girl and come home quietly with me.”
Turning his back away from her, Seiji continued to walk in mid-air, massive crystals of ice forming underneath his feet with each step he took. As Yui watched her father disappear into the building that he’d smashed Sirou into, she suddenly heard a dry, metallic noise of something landing onto her feet. She looked below to discover that a pair of handcuffs had been tossed toward her.
“Put those on—make any sudden moves and I’ll kill this woman,” The man in black threatened Yui, thrusting his knife less than an inch away from the hostage’s neck.
“Mmph…ah…!” The hostage quivered as her expression went stiff with fear.
Wordlessly, she retrieved the handcuffs she was provided with, doing as she was told; locking her arms within the handcuffs, she willingly stripped herself from the ability to freely use her own arms.
…I have to do something!
Quietly, she knew that she had to act, and she could not give in to her father’s cowardly scheme; even after she had freed the hostage, she could easily be used as a new captive against Sirou.
“…—Alright. Now get over here.”
Yui then obediently approached the man—though not in acquiescence to his threat.
The very moment the man’s hand distanced itself from the hostage to collect his target—
Yui grabbed him by the collar with her wrists still handcuffed; she then strangled the man with her wrists crossed around the man’s neck, spinning her hands as if she were turning a steering wheel.
Grasping the man’s center as she threw his posture off balance, she then swept him off his feet and released her grip on him.
All of that happened in only an instant as the man’s head ended up slamming the floor beneath him—such an unexpected, high-speed hurl without room to defend oneself would leave any ordinary human with a concussion.
Having been trained under the Kagurazaka Group as one of their operatives, however, the man only roared as he attempted to grab Yui’s hands—though Yui was again a step ahead of him.
Yui spun her body to the left…in a horizontal direction as she leapt into the air off the ground of the rooftop; her skirt fluttered as she flipped directly over and above the man in black, knocking him squarely in the forehead as she swung her left elbow down toward him. Having risen from the previous attack as the man raised his head, the back of his head only ended up slamming into the ground yet again, and this time, he finally lost consciousness, unable to move a muscle after a final twitch.
“…Haah,” Yui finally let out a sigh of relief.
She had learned such a technique from an aiki dojo that her mother had recommended her after she and her mother had separated from the Kagurazaka family.
She had been suggested to do so given that their separation from their family did not change the fact that Yui still had the Kagurazaka blood in her veins; she and her mother did not want them to be used as hostages against the Kagurazaka Group, but given that she was unwilling to use her frost ability, it had been necessary for her to learn some form of self-defense.
All this was, of course, completely unknown to the Kagurazaka Group, who had no interest in Yui whatsoever apart from her restoration ability and who had concealed Seiji and his whereabouts for almost ten years.
“Um…are you alright? I’ll be letting you go now,” Noticing the surprise of the hostage at what had suddenly happened, she quickly attended to her, removing the gag forced into her mouth.
“T-Thank you so very much!” Almost on the brink of tears, the captured young woman bowed gratefully and extended her hands—they were holding an electromagnetic baton, sparks flying in an electric, explosive fashion across the metallic surface.
The woman was holding the same type of electric baton that the men in black had used against Sirou during their first encounter at that back alley; it was particularly small and lightweight, and it seemed specialized to reliably prevent one’s body from moving as they wished.
It was the same kind of modern electromagnetic baton that armed forces in the west officially used to suppress riots and insurrections.
Much like the fallen man in black, the hostage woman was actually a member of the Kagurazaka Synthesized Security organization—the KSS. Having been ordered to masquerade as the hostage and do what needed to be done when the situation demanded it, she was confident that she was about to succeed in fulfilling her mission and apprehend the girl that was their group’s crucial target.
The woman could only widen her eyes in surprise, however. She had failed to strike Yui with the tip of her baton, as a transparent wall had separated Yui from her—a barrier created by virtue of her frost ability.
The moment she realized her failure, her electric baton had already been completely encased in ice from the wall that had blocked it, and the extreme cold from the frost eventually spread up to the woman’s neck, rendering her unable to move.
And in the opposite ice of the wall of ice, the masquerading woman could only see the expression of the young woman she was ordered to capture—Kōsaki Yui’s expression—as her target stared back at her as icily as the frost that was now trapping her.
“So it was all an act after all…” Yui said, applying her frost ability to the handcuffs that were restraining her hands. The steel restraints fell off her wrists as they became brittle over the extreme cold, naturally falling to the floor in pieces.
And the explosives coiling around the girl had not exploded despite the fact that Yui had just used her frost ability—it had been a bluff.
“Are you saying that…you knew all along?” Still restrained, the hostage woman eyed Yui with an even more surprised look.
“Takanashi-kun mentioned that a barrier had been set up…and I would assume that it was set up to spare any surrounding people and buildings from damage in the event of a battle.”
“The two of you were present despite the fact that this barrier had been set up all along.”
It was odd for two others to suddenly enter a barrier that was meant to exclude other innocent people; and this barrier was set up by the Hungry Wolf Brigade, which was known to be the strongest organization in the supernatural ability zone.
“That means Takanashi-kun knew full well that the two of you were right here and intentionally let you in.”
“W-Wait…what are you talking about?” The woman asked, unable to understand. “Why would you think that way? Isn’t it more natural to assume that he overlooked our presence and set up the barrier while we were still in it? Why would he even attempt to put both you and himself in such a risky situation if you’re saying that he knew that the two of us were here all along? Isn’t that just strange?”
It was then Yui realized why the woman had such a line of thinking.
It was likely that the Kagurazaka Group did not have a clear understanding of Sirou and his abilities—he was considered one of the most notable figures of the Hungry Wolf Brigade, famed as the strongest organization in Neo Kichijōji, and they had only managed to get a glimpse of his extremely strong combat abilities back when he had rescued Yui from their dispatched group of men in black back at the back alley.
That said, Yui herself was very unsure about the actual details of his history and abilities despite having spent a fair amount of time with him.
Sirou possessed a quality that was about as equal as his combat abilities—perhaps even superior to them.
“It seems you don’t know anything about Takanashi-kun apart from what you can see on the surface.”
“It was the same when we were sent to capture Antonio Fabbroni; Takanashi-kun had calculated all possibilities regarding the issue of hostages. He’s done the same this time too. He made sure that he would always know about my whereabouts when the situation demanded it. There’s just no way he’d overlook the possibility of hostages this time—no way that he’d overlook the both of you.”
That being said, there had to be some special reason behind how the man in black and the hostage could have entered the barrier—and Yui immediately realized what Sirou’s true motives were.
“Takanashi-kun isn’t here to save me. He’s here to teach me something.”
Sirou had said it earlier, after all—she didn’t need to get her hands dirty, as there were other things she was capable of doing.
And he wanted her to believe in what he’d said, one way or another.
…I’m sure of it.
Of course, that didn’t mean that Sirou had willingly put Yui in danger; he simply believed that Yui was more than capable of handling the situation herself.
There was no doubt about it. It was all—
“He wanted to teach me that my powers aren’t just meant to harm others…I can use them to protect others as well.”
“Oh, what’s with that nonsense…are you actually saying that boy’s a nice guy?” The woman suddenly said in response to Yui explaining what it was that she had learnt, unable to resist a laugh. “Then why did he even orchestrate all this? You came here because you didn’t want any more people to die because of you, little miss. Are you saying that he entrusted you to save a hostage despite knowing that and realizing the possibility that you would be captured while doing so, thereby putting him and his group at risk as well?”
And that wasn’t all—
“And what if this all happened to be the real thing? If I happened to die right before your very eyes, I can only imagine the shock you’d get from that, so much that I doubt that you’ll be able to get up on your feet again. I don’t know how much exactly that boy trusts you, but to arrange for you to do something so cruel—”
Before the woman could finish, she swallowed a breath. She suddenly realized what the answer was—an answer that Yui proceeded to spell out to her.
“Yes…Takanashi-kun did swear to protect me, and yet he put me in such a risky situation. But that was only because he deduced that there was no problem and entrusted me to handle this situation.”
There was a pause.
“He knew all along—that you were not actually a hostage, and it was all just playing pretend.”
There was no guarantee that was the case, of course—however, there was definitely the possibility that Sirou had anticipated this and acted accordingly.
That was why he had immediately set up that barrier—Sirou had prepared everything for Yui’s sake.
It had not been handed to her on a silver platter, however—it was simply because the woman was not a real hostage all along, and Yui had realized that only after he had defeated the man in black.
If she had been a real hostage, Yui would have done all she could to rescue her.
She learned that it was alright for her to fight back the next time a similar situation would transpire again.
Sirou had taught her that she had the power to save others—that was the future she had, a future that meant that there was no need for her to give up on everything.
And that was why she had been able to see through her surprise attack and tell her the truth.
“The ice will melt after a while. When that’s done, take that man with you and just go home,” Leaving her that final remark, Yui rushed off to where she ought to be.
A massive hole had been created in the building that Seiji slammed Sirou into, and Seiji entered the structure through the destruction of his own design.
“…What is this?” He wondered, his gaze narrowing as he landed onto the dark, unmoving floor—it was completely unscathed.
Considering the speed that Sirou had crashed into the building as well as his overall physique and height, it was unsurprising if the impact ended up causing him to run through several floors; however, despite having crashed into the outer wall of the building, the ground seemed to have no traces of damage whatsoever.
Seiji then raised his gaze and turned toward the corridor to see Sirou smiling calmly as he stood before him.
“I see. You have remarkable reflexes. A pity, however, that you won’t be able to defeat me.”
With that remark, he prepared to unleash an attack that would kill his adversary.
Freezing the moisture in the air surrounding Sirou, he created a shock wave that manifested from the resulting explosion, aiming at his target’s face this time.
The resulting damage would not only amount to mere concussion; it would break his eardrums, smash his eyeballs and snap the bones of his neck under the weight of his vehemently shaking head.
The icy explosion then came with a deafening noise.
Seiji could only raise his eyebrows, however.
Sirou was still standing there—completely unharmed. Sirou now stood only a paper-thin distance away from the range of Seiji’s explosive attack, having done so with only the slightest movement given that he understood the strength and range of Seiji’s attacks.
Unable to believe that Sirou had managed to evade his attack, he then unleashed not one, but continuous bursts of ice at him, rattling the atmosphere with each strike. Even as his attacks shook the floor, however, Seiji’s attacks could not even graze past Sirou, who only took light steps to evade them. Sirou’s reaction time was simply overwhelming, far faster than the time Seiji needed to unleash every frost attack.
…How about this!
If his opponent was going to evade his attacks, he would have to follow up with a successive attack at where his opponent intended to dodge. It was a two-step attack that would require him to anticipate his target’s movements.
I’ll get him this time!
But as he released another wave of icy explosions—
“…——It’s useless. Your attacks have to freeze the surrounding air before they can make any explosions.”
The young man was still easily evading his attacks.
“I can simply anticipate your attacks through the surrounding air. It’s really simple to dodge them.”
There was merit to the theory Sirou had suggested—however, Seiji’s explosions were supposed to be instantaneous and undetectable by the naked eye, so one should not be able to anticipate them before the explosion. Apart from the possibility that Sirou was somehow moving and predicting accurately before Seiji could even decide where to aim his attacks, it was supposed to be impossible for Sirou to dodge his attacks as he performed them, even if Sirou possessed a supernatural ability that dramatically enhanced his reaction time.
But he was witnessing the impossible right before his very eyes right now.
“Impossible! How could you…!” Seiji cried, attempting another series of attacks—but again to no avail.
Sirou had closed the distance between them in an instant—it wasn’t just anticipation of Seiji’s explosions via the initial freezing of the atmosphere…his reaction speed was well and truly on a different level.
“If you were truly capable of that, why did you take my attack earlier…?”
“Well, even if you’ve fallen so far, you are still her father…I felt that I’d be a lot more restrained fighting you in full view of the Chairwoman,” Sirou said, and he suddenly disappeared.
Seiji was suddenly struck on the temporal region of his head as he was blown back almost 10 meters in mid-air; his back slammed against the concrete wall behind him in a thunderous noise, the impact causing a massive indent in the wall along with cracking noises of debris.
Seiji had not been knocked unconscious from the attack, perhaps due to his restoration ability.
Sirou’s attack had likely been from his blade; rather than using the back of the blade, the shock waves created from his sharp weapon were strong enough to strike their targets in a slamming motion rather than a slicing motion.
It was a technique of such skill that it could slice through speeding bullets—a masterful art that not even the most skilled artisans or masters could hope to achieve, one that Sirou alone had easily managed to attain.
It was then that Seiji noticed that Sirou had caught up to him as he walked along the gloomy corridor, wearing the same composed expression.
“!…Don’t underestimate me!”
Thrusting his arms forward, Seiji filled the space in front of him as best he could with arrows made of ice, before sending the entire barrage flying toward the corridor where Sirou stood.
If Sirou was evading his icy explosions by reading the timing of when he froze the atmosphere, surely he would be unable to dodge this attack.
The countless icy arrows sliced through the air as they flew straight at Sirou, their frigid properties chilled the floor, the surrounding walls and even the ceiling—Seiji was unleashing an aura of extreme cold that was turning everything it touched into ice.
…This will end it!
If he were to take all the arrows head on, they would all impale him and leave him dead.
However, he could not cut his way through either—even if he could manage to block all the arrows, he would be unable to stop the rest of the icy energy surging toward him from freezing him solid.
Sirou readied himself as he assessed the scope of Seiji’s attack—he then drew his sword at an incredible speed, the blade glistening like a pulled thread in the dark corridor under the grace of his technique.
The next moment, there was a noise resembling the cracking of glass—a strike had repelled all of Seiji’s arrows.
Even the ice on the ceiling, floor and walls had been shattered to pieces.
“But how—” Witnessing the impossible yet again, Seiji could only go still with shock.
“If I may…did you actually believe that kind of attack was going to do something?” Sirou suddenly appeared right in front of Seiji once again, letting out a lamenting sigh.
“—I have every right to underestimate you, really.”
And with Sirou’s comment, Sirou suddenly took a blow onto his right shoulder from above—a blow that slammed him through the ground beneath him and onto the darkness of the floor below them with another booming sound.
“Good grief…” Sheathing his Seven-Keyed Heavenly Wolf Fang in a slanting motion, he sighed at the end of their battle.
He turned to see that Yui was rushing over to him from behind, wearing a worried expression on her face. It was likely that she had used her frost ability to travel through the air to reach him through the massive hole of the building, though Sirou was unsure if she had opted for the same method Seiji had used.
“Hey there, Chairwoman. I assume things have been settled on your end?”
She needed to overcome the two executives from the KSS to come to this place. That being said—
“Yeah. I managed to deal with those two somehow,” Yui nodded back in response. It appeared that Yui managed to handle that situation with her own abilities, and from her tone and expression, she appeared to have realized that Sirou had intentionally overlooked the two operatives as well the reason behind him doing so.
“Sorry. It must’ve been quite frightening for you.”
“Oh, no, I should be the one apologizing…after all, I acted on my own without even considering talking to you guys about this…” She replied, lowering her gaze for a moment. “Takanashi-kun, what about…”
Immediately after Yui asked her question, Sirou reacted—by quickly carrying her and leaping away.
The ground beneath them was suddenly blasted away with another deafening crash. The attack had come from beneath them, and Sirou gracefully glided back onto solid ground before putting Yui down again.
“…I’ve told you, you cannot defeat me!”
Emerging from the flying sand and dust from the impact was Seiji, who was smiling as he appeared once again—though this time, he seemed to look completely different from what he was before.
Parts of his clothing were torn here and there, though not because of the attack that had knocked him onto the second floor; his once modest body was now swelling with muscle, his skin taking on a dark red hue.
He was now a completely different person—no, he was no longer even human, but instead some distorted apparition.
“!….” The sight caused Yui to go still with fright.
“Ah, Yui, so you’ve come here too. I’m sorry to have startled you,” Seiji said, noticing her gaze. “My flesh has awakened its overcompensation abilities, and can rapidly heal off any damage it’s taken and only grow stronger. It’s all because I have the same ability you possess that I’m essentially immortal!”
That being said—
“I won’t take long. I’ll kill that boy, and the two of us can go home together.”
“I won’t let you do that!”
Yui stood protectively in front of Sirou—but she swallowed hard the next moment.
Seiji was gone—it was an instantaneous movement granted by the superhuman abilities he had now acquired from his highly accelerated muscles, and he appeared right in front of Yui yet again before she even realized it.
“What a disobedient daughter…it seems that some punishment is necessary.”
He swung the back of his right hand in a horizontal motion.
Kagurazaka Seiji lunged the back of his right hand toward Yui’s temporal region in what was known as a backhand blow, his amplified fist now larger than Yui’s own face as it sliced through the air in its wake, making a whirring sound.
Of course, it was not an attack meant to kill—nevertheless, it was necessary for Seiji to punish a daughter who wouldn’t understand the love of her own father.
He tilted his head as his fist did not feel the sensation of his daughter—it had only run through mid-air.
Yui and Sirou had disappeared from his sight, and as Seiji turned toward the corridor, he noticed two silhouettes that were standing about 10 meters away from him—the very targets he had intended to hit.
And he could see that Sirou had unsheathed his blade yet again and was wielding it in his hand even as he carried Yui by her waist; he understood what that entailed with his body as a thin line drew itself onto Seiji’s left pinky near the joint was, and he watched as his little finger fell to the floor.
“Impressive…even while carrying Yui while evading me, you were simultaneously able to perform an attack in an instant. I wasn’t even able to see the moment you cut me…no, I couldn’t even feel it.”
“I see you still don’t understand…wounds of these degree will only be instantly—”
Restored—and he expected his pinky to fully regenerate after he said so.
Before he could finish, however, his confidence was replaced by a bewildered expression.
His wound had indeed been healed, but only to the point where a new layer of skin replaced the segment that was cut. His finger had not been fully restored.
“Well, that’s only natural,” Sirou said as Seiji stood perplexed at what was happening, looking as if he was fed up with the man. “The Chairwoman’s restoration ability can almost be considered a miracle. It’s not something that folks can get their hands on that easily.”
Sirou continued explaining what he meant to Seiji as the deformed man stood before him.
“Restoration is completely different from overcompensation. Restoration can restore something such as a wound to its original state—in contrast, overcompensation is an ability based on growth, and yours functions in a way that dramatically enhances the strength of the overcompensating parts of your body. They’re two completely opposite things.”
In other words, Seiji did not possess a restoration ability at all.
“Takanashi-kun…then, what does he…”
“That’s not a restoration ability he has. His body just has amplified self-healing that goes beyond the original limit, that’s all.”
The Kagurazaka family had first begun development and research on their own inheritance of frost abilities upon beginning their expansion to the study of supernatural abilities.
Freezing was a phenomenon that operated under the deceleration of molecules, and the Kagurazaka bloodline allowed its wielders to forcibly alter their targets’ molecular structure and speed. Having understood that phenomena, it was unsurprising that the Kagurazaka Group would attempt to reverse this process and be successful in doing so.
That being said, the Kagurazaka Group had succeeded in creating an ability that instead sped up molecular movement—a heating ability.
This would explain the fire dragon user that had chased them down while the group had attempt escape in Rem’s vehicle after Sirou had saved Yui back at the back alley; on the other hand, this also explained Seiji’s current ability, which contrasted his freezing ability; he was accelerating the speed of his internal bodily functions.
He was stimulating his body’s ability to heal by accelerating the functions of his body cells.
“Such foolishness…this overcompensation ability can restore my body, but it will only take a little time.” Seiji shot back, unwilling to accept Sirou’s deduction.
“If you truly possessed a restoration ability, that would make you a successful experiment created by the Kagurazaka Group’s own design. That being said, they wouldn’t send such a precious sample out of their research institute. The fact that you’re here is proof enough that you don’t have a restoration ability at all.”
“…D-Don’t mock me! I’m the very epitome of a man with a restorative ability! Look closely!”
With a crazed bellow, Seiji concentrated on restoring his pinky to its original form.
“If you don’t want to die, I suggest you stop that,” Sirou said, quietly. “Your rapid healing abilities likely come from the fact that you’re overworking the division of your somatic cells. And I’d say there’s a grave price to pay if you’re going to cross your limits.”
His ability to pass his limits earlier was a moment of the extraordinary; one could even call it a miracle.
But if he were to insist on pushing his body any further, it would only lead him to ruin.
“Silence! I’m that girl’s…I’m Yui’s father!”
Unfortunately, Sirou’s advice went on deaf ears. Refusing to wane in his belief on his own healing abilities, what came next was only inevitable.
With a throbbing from within that shook his entire body, his flesh began to change almost immediately; wrinkles were already appearing all over his body at his quickly fading blood circulation, and his skin was turning a deep black.
Seiji had been struck by the rapid aging process that was the byproduct of overworking the limit of his regenerative cells.
There was no saving him anymore.
Even Yui’s miraculous restoration ability was only capable of restoring only wounds at its present stage—needless to say, she was unable to make someone young again or stop the aging process from eating away at one’s body.
“…You don’t need to force yourself to look, Chairwoman,” Sirou said.
Despite Sirou’s consideration, however, Yui shook her head as she remained in his embrace.
Wordlessly, she watched along with Sirou as Seiji was no longer able to even stand up on his feet.
Having gone over his limits, his aging flesh was no longer capable of even retaining its shape—it was being reduced to ash.
Everything of him withered and decayed to nothing but white dust—flesh, bones and organs.
Such was the end of Kagurazaka Seiji—a man who had perished by virtue of his own prized supernatural ability.
After the incident, Sirou brought Yui back to his room at his apartment.
There would be no one welcoming their return back at the hideout; each member was playing a part in settling the recent incident after Sirou had gone after Yui.
After defeating Seiji within the barrier surrounding that large building, Sirou simultaneously sent messages to each member of the brigade explaining he had managed to protect Yui and the various circumstances surrounding the affair—eventually, each member eventually replied to him explaining that their own individual tasks had transpired smoothly and without issue.
All issues related to Kagurazaka would be settled soon—which left a single, albeit significant problem remaining.
“Please, come in. I’ll go make something hot for you to drink.”
Sirou immediately headed toward the kitchen as he entered, but he turned around as he noticed that Yui hadn’t given him a reply, merely standing still in front of the door.
…I guess it’s only natural. Sirou thought as he eyed Yui’s sullen expression, her gaze downcast.
It didn’t matter that she was fully prepared for it—it didn’t matter that they were estranged.
And it didn’t matter that he had received his just desserts—no daughter could feel at peace after witnessing the death of their own father.
Despite being in possession of the miraculous restoration ability, Yui was still but a sixteen-year-old girl.
There was another worry related to Yui that Sirou had in mind.
It happened a short moment before Sirou intervened during his confrontation against Seiji. Waves of four colors had sprouted from Yui’s body—a glimpse of Yui’s supernatural ability of Sin.
It seemed that Yui’s mark of Lust (色欲Shikiyoku) had the potential to sublimate to Tetrad. (四極)
If she were to fully awaken such an ability, Yui would possess not only the frost ability inherited from the Kagurazaka bloodline, but also the four Platonic elements—Earth, Air, Fire and Water—at her disposal. She could master these four main elements—perhaps even rule them, if she wished.
Much like her restoration ability, however, such an immense power was too great for Yui to cushion alone. That said, it was Sirou’s responsibility as the original owner of the supernatural abilities to guide her to the right path.
“Come on—do come in, Chairwoman,” Sirou returned to where she was and took her hand.
“As I thought, I can’t…after all, I…I brushed away your hand when you offered it to me, Takanashi-kun…” She said, her voice fading with every word. Perhaps she felt that she had no right to return to such a place, given that she’d deceived Mikoto and left in an attempt to settle things all by herself.
“You did what you did because you didn’t want to cause trouble for us. There’s really nothing to worry about. Besides, you have your own combat abilities, don’t you, Chairwoman? There’s nothing wrong with trying to fight your way out given that you have something like that at your disposal.”
Yui was suddenly shocked at Sirou’s words. “Takanashi-kun…are you saying you knew all along? But when did you—”
“Back when we first met at the back alley,” Sirou divulged. “Our brigade leader’s sublimated marks made from the supernatural abilities of Sin can’t be bestowed onto just about anyone—the marks have to deem their bearer worthy of being a member of the Hungry Wolf Brigade. Of course, there’s also the possibility that you received your mark due to your restoration ability.”
“You received the mark of Lust when I was saving you back then…specifically, the moment I pushed you on the ground and accidentally kissed you. That’s actually not supposed to happen normally.”
That being said—
“There was also the fact that the men in black who were chasing you were armed for some reason…I was also conscious about the fact that we met on a Thursday, and that I wasn’t really supposed to carelessly get into contact with the opposite sex.”
Despite that, however, Sirou had intervened to be safe back then…by collecting her in his embrace and pressing her onto the ground.
“I may have seemed as if I couldn’t help myself back then, but…what I did was not pure coincidence.”
And that unexpected incident ended up indicating just how high Yui’s level of combat skill was.
“You went to that back alley because you were prepared to subdue those men who were after you all by yourself without having to worry about your surroundings, didn’t you?”
“…But if you already knew so much, then why…?” Yui asked, her expression one of utter disbelief. “After all, I concealed my powers…didn’t you find it strange at all?”
“Not really. You’ve said it yourself, after all—everyone has things they can’t tell or don’t want to tell anyone about. It also doesn’t change the fact that you saved me from that attack earlier.”
“And even if you didn’t end up concealing your powers, that wouldn’t have been a lie either. It would simply be the truth of who you are.”
“To think that you knew all along but you never said anything…you’re so mean, Takanashi-kun.”
“…Was that why you decided to protect me?”
“I can’t exactly toss you aside after meddling into your life, now, can I? And after talking to you about your life, it’s not like I can actually see myself leaving you to handle all that alone, either. And I will say that I initially intended to fully respect your intentions and only do what I could or what was necessary,” His voice then suddenly took on a lower tone.
“That being said—I can’t say the same if you think that you have no value, Chairwoman.”
He then took Yui’s arm and drew her close to him.
Kōsaki Yui gasped in surprise—Sirou had suddenly forced her into his embrace, and as she remained in his arms, he spoke again.
“My respect towards your decisions extends up to your actions that are in your own best interests. It does not, however, apply to your decision of wanting to confront your father.”
Yui swallowed a breath, lost for words as she eyed an expression she had never seen on Sirou before up until now—there was a tranquil fury in his gaze.
“You undermined what I felt was precious to me—you tried to throw all of that away.”
And if that was the case—
“If you don’t want any of it, then leave them to me, Chairwoman. Be it your will, your life—everything.”
“Takanashi-kun, what are you sayi—”
Even though she previously had the intention to die, Sirou’s line of reason was far too arrogant, and Yui felt very perplexed about his intentions.
“And no one will manage to take something away from me once it belongs to me,” He said, peering into her eyes.
And Yui stared back at him, knowing what laid behind his forceful declaration.
She feared that others would suffer because of her, and it was for that reason that she desperately tried to flee from her grandfather and her cousin in an attempt to prevent her restoration ability from being abused—to avoid appeasing a selfish desire that would result in the suffering of many others.
Even so, her attempt at fleeing the Kagurazaka facility caused the death of an innocent—Miyako had been murdered by her father, Seiji.
That was why she willingly let go of the kind hand Sirou and his comrades offered her. She didn’t care that it was wrong—she decided to put an end to it.
She attempted to take responsibility and repent for her sin, all while she would take revenge on those who had wrought such pains for her and many others.
If she were to belong to Sirou, his will would take precedence over her own intention and resolve—such was what came with the idea of belonging to another.
It was an attempt to free her from everything that constrained her—from her Kagurazaka bloodline to her restoration ability. But it was not an attempt that would truly free her—it was simply one that would tie her to him.
Could Yui bring herself to accept such an arrogant, absurd and utterly forceful reasoning?
Despite knowing the ridiculousness of it all, however, Yui knew that Sirou’s intentions were out of kindness and nothing more, and she found herself unable to respond.
She recalled what Sirou had told her back at the rooftop garden—that the only thing she could do is to carry the burden of living on if she truly felt guilty about Miyako’s death.
Sirou had proposed that she belong to him suggesting that even her regrets and worries of living on would also belong to him—that he would carry them with her, regardless of what it was, regardless of the choices she would make, regardless of the means she would use to make those choices…and regardless of what taboos needed to be violated.
He would accept everything that had to do with her—and she could see that even back when he was fighting against Seiji.
He could’ve easily killed Seiji whenever he wanted to during that last battle—and he had good reason to do it too. After all, Seiji had murdered Miyako in an attempt to provoke the Hungry Wolf Brigade; Sirou himself had always been worried about Miyako despite the fact that the victim had been antagonistic against him and his group.
That being said, it was in his best interest to dispose of him appropriately, so as to demonstrate the power of the Hungry Wolf Brigade.
But Sirou had not done so. And the reason for that was—
…Takanashi-kun wanted it to be easier for me to stay with him.
Given that Yui could not bring herself to kill her own father, she would have felt irreparably indebted to Sirou if he were to kill him in her place, and she would also feel very guilty around him.
Sirou had opted for a course of action that would allow Yui to stay with the Hungry Wolf Brigade without reservation—he chose to value Yui and her feelings over sticking to his own as well as the interests of the Brigade.
And he would only continue to do so in the future.
“Why would you go so far…?” Yui exclaimed, still refusing to believe everything that was happening, and she then felt Sirou’s finger on the corner of her eye.
She then realized that he had extended his hand out to wipe away the tears that were drifting down her cheeks before she even realized it—and he then hugged her with another kind smile on his face.
“When you come to truly value yourself someday, I’ll give everything back to you. Until then, however, you’ll belong to me. You’ll stay by my side and do as I say. That’s a pretty good arrangement, right?”
He wanted her to stay with him—to live with him as members of the Hungry Wolf Brigade.
She could not answer him, however—his lips had piled upon hers.
She could say nothing, be it thanks or apology, or even her own feelings and her feelings toward Sirou—he had denied her that.
There was still a way for her to convey her overwhelming emotions, however.
She shut her eyes and let her tears pour out, entrusting herself to Sirou.
She did so to convey that she would accept Sirou’s words that asked her to belong to him; she wanted to convey that she was willing to accept what was a kind bond between them, where Yui would be cherished by someone who valued her more than even herself.
And above all, she wanted to reciprocate Takanashi Sirou’s feelings.