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Twirling and swirling, a petite frame whirled into the air with a feeble shriek.
The young girl slowly sprung from the ground, her momentum refusing to diminish, as she bounded a number of times towards the street’s edge. Colliding with the frame of the tent whose fabric had come undone, the lurched material crushed the young girl’s body beneath itself with a shrill note.
Subaru witnessed this spectacle, voicelessly.
He could not make excuses such as not being able to comprehend what had occurred in a matter of moments.
Even if it was true that he had not had the time to even stretch his hand out, all of what had transpired in a matter of moments had been definitely captured by these black pupils of his.
His mind utterly boggled, he sprinted towards the hazardous street devoid of thought.
As per usual, he was spotted by the enemy and posed with danger, when Al and Medium sustained wounds in order to save Subaru, and at the same pace――,
Louis, who had stood before Subaru and shielded him with both her arms spread open, had been strummed like a gum ball.
The one responsible was the young sheepman, horns growing amidst his white hair. His arms were slender, not too different from Subaru’s, but had thrown Subaru up to nearly ten meters in the air.
Louis had directly intercepted a single swing of the young boy’s arm, subsequently getting blown away. He had noticed her blood scattering, so he could not possibly reckon she was unharmed.
Subaru’s eyes shadowed Louis who was buried beneath the tent’s wreckage. His eardrums quivered due to the enfeebled apology, and reflected in Subaru’s wavering field of vision was the figure of the young boy, arms upraised once again.
He couldn’t do anything so adroit as to dodge.
To begin with, Subaru’s own limbs had been mangled due to falling from a tall height, so he wasn’t even able to move his body properly.
Therefore, despite Louis defending him and everything, he rendered it futile as well――,
A shadow leapt towards him with astonishing momentum and hammered her fair legs into the young boy’s shoulders.
As the young boy stepped back, his expression one of surprise, the one to have cut into that locus was Medium, her long golden hair fluttering. Her face tinged with a shade of red, she accosted Subaru to stand up.
To Subaru, who had tumbled to the ground, rattling and trembling.
Medium: [Take care of Louis-chan!]
Yet, with no encouragement or consolation, Medium spoke to Subaru, and broke into a sprint.
Wielding the sole sword she had with both of her arms, with movements utterly separate from cool ones that appeared to be a dance, yet with all of her life, she attempted to pursue the young boy.
The young boy too put on a strong expression, seemingly surprised by her spirit rather than her strength.
Subaru: [Ghu, uuu……!]
Whilst Medium persevered, Subaru used his now trembling limbs and did his best to stand up. Afterwards, he dashed towards the tent beneath which Louis was crushed.
Removing the parts of the collapsed structure one by one, he attempted to recover Louis who was trapped beneath the wreckage.
Subaru: [Louis, Louis! A-Are you alive! Hey, Louis!]
Desperately calling, Subaru once again felt warmth well up within his eyes.
That bothersome warmth seemed to have been eagerly awaiting its time to come forth from the interior of Subaru’s countenance since earlier. Ignoring it, hurrying and hastening, he cleared away the scraps.
A frail groan resounded, and Subaru discovered Louis’s form, sullied by dust and debris.
Having gotten buried beneath the broken tent, Louis rolled up within the space created by the fallen brace, and barely managed to not get pulverized underneath.
That was relieving. But immense anxiety instantly followed his relief.
Subaru: [I can’t, move this……]
The fallen brace was about as thick as Subaru’s torso, refusing to move whether pushed or pulled. Even via the use of the『Principle of Leverage』, he couldn’t find a befitting weight as balance.
And whilst searching for a way to haul Louis out, he came upon something else.
――What was oozily sullying Louis’s white robes was not dust, but blots of red.
Struck with terror, his limbs turned cold and thoughts froze.
This was what it meant to be deadened. It wasn’t as though he had shed any blood, but he had no clue where the blood flowing within him had gone. Shouldn’t a different spot be warmed by flowing blood.
However, solely his heartbeats, were loud enough to seem as though his heart would detonate.
Still leaking frail groans, the red blots on Louis’s robes spread.
His cold limbs unmoving, rather than assuming effort to remove the debris, he could not even comfort her by doing his best to remove it.
Subaru: [Louis, Louis……]
He continued to call Louis’s name, using his quivering voice.
His voice cracked, and he failed to do even this decently. His tongue went numb―― no, Subaru’s heart, was callously rejecting calling her name.
Come to think of it, Subaru had kept even calling Louis’s name to a minimum.
Ever since he had been hurled from the colossal Tower along with Rem, he had always placed Louis beside him. Subaru had always been vigilant towards her, shunned her, maltreated her.
Yet, never even once had Louis done anything harmful or oppressive towards Subaru.
He did not wish for Rem to despise him. He did not wish for his surroundings to dread him.
Fearing these things, Subaru had always refused to come in contact with Louis, and always ultimately deferred deciding what to do with Louis.
Why did he fear Louis so much.
His benumbed brain, his chilly limbs, his parched tongue, his heart verging onto erupting, did not let him understand.
He couldn’t remember very well, what Louis had done to him.
It seemed his memories had been befogged, in these moments, he was unable to open the drawer of reminiscences.
However, there was one thing clear to him, without needing to open that drawer.
That Louis had shed blood attempting to shield Subaru.
――That alone was a truth he could not forget, could not avert his eyes from.
Subaru: [Don’t, die……]
Subaru: [Don’t die, Louis! You can’t, you can’t die……! You can’t……!]
Pushing his now small body into the brace’s gaps, Subaru knelt beside Louis.
Instead of then hauling Louis out, he simply and unavailingly vocalised. Taking Louis’s hand, gripping it tight with both of his palms, he desperately articulated whilst imbuing it with a prayer.
Subaru: [Please don’t die……!]
Forgetting to even search for something he could do to prevent her from dying, he voiced an absurd wish.
To this trembling voice of Subaru’s, Louis’s eyelids faintly opened, and――,
Louis: [――Ua, uu.]
A weak voice escaped her, as the young girl’s pupils regained faint strength.
Medium: [Hiya~a~a~a ~hk!]
Waving a single one of her dual swords she had gripped both of her hands, Medium opposed the young boy before her.
Whilst putting up a strong act, the young sheepman, however, easily blocked Medium’s strike with his hoisted arm. ――Verbatim, intercepted the blade with his arm, and repelled it.
Medium: [A~rgh, so solid! I can’t cut through at all! So unfair!]
Since earlier, Medium had been slashing with her sword with the entirety of her might, only to be thwarted by the young boy’s burly body on each instance.
His skin, his hair, his fingers, his head, all parts of him were so solid that she had been completely brought to her knees.
Him not sustaining any attacks was also a problem, but aside from that――,
The young boy’s violently swung arm grazed past Medium and crashed into the ground, feeling tremors coming from the ground, a hole larger than the hammered arm was opened in the ground.
The stupendousness of the young boy’s attack power also made her dizzy. The reason why Medium managed to avoid getting wholly smote by the attack was thanks to the interlude in the young boy’s movements.
Medium: [Extremely sturdy, seems very powerful too, but his techniques are poor!]
It was as though he was a newborn who had taken birth into a large body, Medium pondered.
She had never seen a newborn who had taken birth into a large body, so she only contemplated what she sensed yet felt that annotation to be perfectly suited.
For now, all she had to do was to spar with that newborn, but――,
Medium: [I need to hurry up, or others will gather here too……]
Attaining a flavor of mud upon licking her lips, Medium was scorched with the impatience to not overstay.
They had coincidentally dashed to a street with not many pursuers, but if they continued to be uproarious they would get immediately noticed and the young boy’s allies would assuredly all gather at this place.
If people bigger than the young boy or people with a good grasp on techniques were to arrive, then she may not be capable of crossing swords anymore.
Had she not been alone, then she could’ve at least had a plan of action, and yet.
Medium: [Al-chin! Are you listening, Al-chin!]
Medium raised her voice, whilst leaping and bouncing to the young boy’s large swings.
Medium was desperately calling for the veiled young boy crouched at the edge of her sight―― no, for Al. On one hand, he was a child, in a condition that handling weapons was far worse for him than Medium, but she wished to rely on the possibility that the ways to counter dangerous situations were more than just herself.
However, he did not respond to Medium’s implores.
It wasn’t as though he had hit his head and fainted when he got blown off, either. Al was conscious, and once had attempted to sincerely assist in combat.
At present, he had abruptly halted his feet and had knelt down, crestfallen.
Remaining crouched, Al was obstinately staring down upon his right hand through his veil――,
Medium: [……Wh, y?]
She whispered with a shudder.
As though he had let go of, or had lost what he was supposed to have kept within his hand’s grasp.
Gazing sidelong at Al who forbore to stand, diffidence was inserted within Medium’s innermost mind.
Those very moments, strength waned from her hands wielding a weapon, and Medium powerfully gritted her teeth.
――This is how it’s always been.
Once Medium’s own feelings withered, so did the strength in her body companionably. Therefore, Medium always conducted herself as positive, loud, upright.
If her feelings were bright and lively, then Medium could work to her best efforts. The reason why her older brother Flop was always cheering her on with a “Do your best!” was to push her on and support her as well.
However, Flop was not here. Nor anyone who would tell her to do her best.
Everyone had their hands full with their own problems, and Medium had also become small, hence she was unable to wield anything more than one sword, and was on the verge of losing to a tiny boy.
???: [――There they are!!]
A voice echoed, further augmenting Medium’s diffidence.
As she dodged the young boy’s waved arm and shifted her positions, Medium widened her eyes. What was reflected within her vision, from the opposite side of the street, appeared enemy reinforcements with flames harboured in one eye.
The ferociously rushing men drew near Al’s rear, who was knelt down. Even if she were to instantaneously rush towards that direction, she must evade the young boy in-between.
――I won’t make it. They’ll die. Al-chin, Subaru-chin, Louis-chan, they all will.
Everyone will die.
Verging on dropping the sword she grasped, Medium desperately called for her older brother within her mind.
If only she once more had her older brother’s voice, cheers, support.
However, the new troops approaching Al were far swifter than the reach of illusionary encouragement.
Al’s small body, was mutilated by the hand stretching from behind――,
???: [――Will you yet not move, fool.]
Before those sharp claws could reach Al, a leg stretching from the side kicked his shoulder away. Al’s body toppled sideways, narrowly eluding the attack seeking to gouge his spine out.
And, the one to have undertaken this violent counteraction was a man with his face concealed by an oni mask.
His name spilled from her mouth, gaping wide in wonder, and Abel’s senses turned towards her for a brief moment.
Feeling the heat of exchanging a glance in spite of the mask, Medium’s shoulders slightly slumped. Abel, who had left it to Medium and the others to confront the young boy, now stepped forth into the battlefield himself.
He couldn’t stand onlooking anymore, she might get scolded with these words.
She disliked being scolded.
On copious instances in the past she had been scolded and hit. All the more when despite her small stature, Medium used to eat a lot. Getting hit, getting scolded, repeat.
Hence, upon gauging she would get scolded, her body curled up――,
Her name called, Medium slumped, dreading the reprimand that followed.
However, Abel ignored her fright, and resumed.
Abel: [――Brace yourself.]
A brusque tone, dilating her eyes to the voice that quaked her eardrums, Medium powerfully grit her now-small teeth. Gritting, distorting her cheeks, making her gold hair flit.
Medium: [Mhm! I’ll do my best――!!]
Her back pushed by force surging to a nearly fictitious extent, Medium smote the young boy before her.
The young boy stepped back, startled by that attack, and she chased him, striking his chin up with her sword’s ridge bounding from below and kicked his defenseless build, trampling his stretched knees, and struck an identical kick to his head.
With Medium suddenly turning the tide, the young boy became one-sidedly defensive.
Whilst judging this to be akin to bullying, Medium brandished her fist and pounded again and again. In the midst of her punches, a voice was resurrected within her mind.
――That’s right. Paying ‘em back twice the fold of what they gave you feels pretty great, right!
Those were the words of the benefactor who had rescued Medium and Flop out of harrowing circumstances.
The benefactor who taught her how to fight, how to live; recalling those words, Medium smiled.
Smiling, she thought “It doesn’t feel good to hit someone much either~!”.
Thinking so, she thwacked a sweep of all her strength into the young boy’s head, and his small body was blown off.
An attack that normally beheaded from the side, was nothing more than a strike for the sturdy young boy. Even so, somehow finishing him off alone, she must head to assist Al and Abel――,
???: [You spunky little……!]
Medium: [Auh! Oh no!]
Excessively concentrating on her battle against the young boy, she neglected having caution towards the opponent who drew from behind.
Her hair violently grabbed, Medium’s body was swiftly lifted. Feet suspended in the air, she failed to counterattack at once.
Medium: [Ugh~! A~h, enough!]
Lurching her legs, tearing up from the pain of her hair being pulled, Medium looked back to see the one carrying her was a rhinoman giant larger than Medium’s unshrunk body.
Skin and flesh thicker than that of the young boy, Medium’s kicks amounted to nothing for him.
Medium: [Sorry! I can’t escape!]
Writhing and struggling, Medium inclined her head and earnestly hollered.
Upon looking, the kicked Al remained collapsed on the street’s ground and the one responsible, Abel, had been surrounded by the arrived reinforcements and cornered to a wall.
Medium too was aware it would be impossible for the delicate Abel to finish them all off.
Medium: [Abel-chin! Take Al-chin and run away!]
She wished for them to somehow aptly create a window and escape.
Upon Medium’s desperate voice, the men surrounding Abel clogged the escape route as to block his line of sight. With that, one of the men―― a middle aged oxman, approached Abel.
Oxman: [I’m sorry but we can’t let you escape. Right here, you all will……]
Abel: [――You are an oxman, the one earlier was a sheepman.]
Abel: [The ones surrounding the inn were all horned as well…… anyone can comprehend upon grasping the conditions until now. It is the horned races that are aiming for us.]
No fright saturated Abel’s voice, who was surrounded and supposedly posed with a predicament. Rather, words transmitted from his overbearing conduct despite being surrounded perturbed the men.
――No, what was perturbing for them was not Abel’s brazen attitude alone, but his remark itself as well.
Medium: [Ho, rned……]
Articulating so, Medium shifted her eyes and gazed at the rhinoman who clutched her hair.
The gigantic rhinoman’s focus too was concentrated on Abel’s comment just now. She discerned the presence of a single, stocky horn above the rhinoman’s large nose.
Now that it was pointed out, she recalled the young sheepman from earlier as well as the multitude of people Taritta had lured back at the inn, all had horns as well.
Medium: [But, what about it!]
Abel: [Fool. ――Is that not the principal root of this situation.]
Abel replied, as though having heard Medium’s outcry.
However, Medium could not see him from her side, and despite being told that was the reason, she failed to comprehend any of its significance. Rather than properly explaining such that she could understand, she wished for him to resume without her grasp on the matter. If not, at this rate――,
Abel: [――You can try.]
That was not a response to the outcry of Medium’s heart.
For certain, those words, enounced with such solemnity, had been asserted whilst he glared at the oxman standing at the vanguard of the men surrounding him.
The oxman widened his eyes and fixedly glared back at Abel. To the oxman’s reaction, Abel once again resumed.
Abel: [You can try, whether you can kill me.]
Oxman: [……Will there be anything difficult about chopping your slender neck?]
The man’s left eye flared scarlet as he stomped on the ground.
Even without the effects of Yorna’s Soul Marriage Technique, it would be a simple matter for the man’s bulky arm to shatter Abel’s neck.
And, the resolve to kill necessary for fracturing his neck, had already been attained by the men.
Heedless, Abel intrepidly crossed his arms, and pierced the opponent through the black pupils of his oni mask――,
Abel: [The answer to whether it is easy or not, lies ahead of action. Thus, you can try. If you have that caliber, flames shall extol you. However――]
Abel: [If you lack that caliber, flames shall scorch even your soul. ――Now, what will you act upon.]
So asserted Abel, hands crossed, whilst the oxman drowned in silence.
He was losing the psychological battle against the insouciantly standing slender man before his eyes. Of course, it would be the man’s victory beyond a smidgen of doubt when it came down to brute force. Yet, what was the deal with his composed attitude.
Was the answer to that not conceived within the seemingly deceptive words avowed just now.
Abel: [You can try. ――Whether you can surpass the flames named judgement.]
Oxman: [Gh, ugh, u~u~gh……!]
The pressed man quivered his bulky throat and groaned. The man was covered in copious sweat, tension straining his entire body, and not even his comrades reached out to him.
From the point of having seen Abel’s eyes, they had been taken off the stage.
The qualification to respond to Abel’s speech lay only with the man standing before him and nobody else.
A grating note of gnashed teeth echoed, echoed, echoed――,
Oxman: [Agh, A~a~a~argh!!]
With a note of cracking gritted teeth, the man raised both of his arms as though pressed by that ache.
An attack that, rather than breaking his neck, sought to crush Abel’s body and life altogether. With a blow from the man’s arms, thick like a log, Abel’s slender frame would get smashed to a pulp.
Medium floundered in an attempt to escape her constraints, but to absolutely no avail.
Al remained collapsed, paying no heed to Abel’s predicament either.
And Subaru and Louis as well were――,
Louis had been buried under the collapsed tent, and Subaru subsequently rushed to rescue her. She could see Subaru crawl into the wreckage, and clasp Louis’s hand.
Seeing, the buried Louis faintly move, and――,
――The next instant, the two’s form abruptly vanished from underneath the tent.
That juncture, the vanished Louis shot through from directly below the oxman’s chin, who had both his arms upraised.
Subaru seemed to be unknowing of what had occurred.
He had clung to Louis, who had gotten buried under the tent, slowly shedding blood. And struck her with arbitrary words, telling her to not die rather than comforting or rescuing her.
Subaru thought she had moved upon those words, and on the immediately subsequent instant.
Subaru’s field of vision altered, as he tasted a sensation of the world being overturned.
Subaru: [Uh, egh.]
Not anything like extreme speed or halting time.
Subaru had truly been moved to a separate location in the blink of an eye.
Abel uttered so, his breath halting ever-so-slightly upon Subaru’s arrival before his eyes.
Abel leisurely reclined his spine on the wall, arms crossed; by his being and the presence of the men surrounding their environs, Subaru verged on falling to his feet out of stupefaction.
His tears that had welled up out of disquietude for Louis now retracted, occluding his throat.
And when it came to Louis, who had eluded his mind due to this sudden phenomenon――,
Louis: [Aa, uu!]
Twirling her body, Louis pranced into the space between the men with the movement and agility of a pinball, striking the vitals of all, such as the head, torso and knees, compelling them to withdraw.
Distending their eyes to her ability and might, the men all simultaneously leaned backward and gaped.
And during the interval opened by the men’s astonishment and anguish, Louis mobilized herself onto the subsequent action.
Crossing the gap between the men, Louis escaped their encirclement. Her limbs on the ground like an animal, she pulled the ground from both of her hands as is and pared its surface.
An act like that of violently pulling a carpet spread on the floor―― of course, a carpet couldn’t possibly be spread atop a street in the middle of a town. However, it seemed like the ground shifted.
The men consequently all lost their balance, and tumbled on the spot.
???: [Wha!? What’s, this kid……!]
Louis: [Au! Auau!]
Amidst the disbalanced men, solely a young deerman narrowly managed to stand firm, smacked his lips and then broke into a sprint in an attempt to seize Louis. Louis threw the ground’s surface she had pared mere moments ago at the young man. The moment the young man immediately scythed it aside with his arm, the ground frictionlessly returned to its former state.
In other words, became a wall of earth accompanied by befitting mass and texture.
Colliding head-on with the wall of earth, the young man inclined backwards after getting a taste of the counterattack.
Subsequently tearing down the ruptured wall of earth, Louis flew outwards and her soles captured the young man’s visage, the young man this time for certain toppled over with a bleeding nose.
???: [You little!]
Uprighting themselves with a delay, the men went over the young man’s fallen body and drew closer to Louis. However, the moment their fingers reached her, Louis erased her form yet again like an illusion.
The following instant, the young girl appeared atop a wall about two meters above, and pulled the wall’s surface identical to what she had done with the ground earlier, and proceeded to return it back.
The wall’s surface came detached together with its mass and solidity, and rained upon the men.
Shrieks and bellows reverberated through the street, as the men endowed with immense strength were made sport of by Louis alone.
Subaru viewed this spectacle, slumped and stupefied.
Subaru: [L-Louis, that’s……]
Raising his arm with a trembling voice, Subaru cowered in terror towards the nightmarish spectacle transpiring before his eyes.
Nightmare, yes, a nightmare. This was, beyond a shadow of the doubt, the nightmare Subaru had feared.
Paring off the ground and wall per her will, teleporting short distances in the blink of an eye, demonstrating combat power on par with rare martial artists, Louis thrashed the men from next to next.
It was evident that was not transcendental might which the young girl possessed by birth―― no, Natsuki Subaru was au fait with all up to even that power’s origin.
That was, that was, that was the power that mustn’t be, the ■■ that must perish――.
Abel: [I had reckoned she was no mere girl, I understand now.]
Beside Subaru, who was yet cowering and capable of naught but watching the circumstance in a daze, so muttered Abel.
As he murmured whilst watching the same scene, Subaru’s eyes wavered, unknowing of his true intent. Keeping Subaru’s state by the edge of his sight, Abel pointed forward, towards Louis who was one-sidedly thrashing their pursuers,
Abel: [So this is the reason why you had that girl accompany you around.]
Subaru: [Y-you’re wro……]
He instantly sought to snarl at him in repudiation.
However, if he were to then be asked why he had Louis accompany him around, then he would fail to provide any answer. That was how it had been so far, and that was how it would be now as well.
Rhinoman: [Stop! You better listen or this girl will be―― gah!?]
Beholding this, the rhinoman raised his voice in an attempt to halt the collapse of his comrades.
He attempted to take Medium, who was clutched within his gigantic arm, as a hostage but Louis’s attack reached him before he could communicate his threat.
Louis warped for a few meters in distance, and knocked the man’s head from both sides using both her arms with all her strength. His ears pounded by her palms, his eyes whirled and went white as he crumbled.
Medium: [Wah kya~h…… L-Louis-chan?]
Suddenly released, Medium tumbled to the ground as Louis jumped before her. Patting Louis’s head, she surveyed the environs, staggered.
Within Medium’s vision, all those who had gathered on the street were lying on the ground, collapsed.
Louis, all by herself, had trounced greater than ten enemies.
Abel: [Yours and the clown’s true nature has been exposed. Well, it is no trouble.]
Subaru: [T-this makes no sense…… What the heck’s going on!]
Abel: [Do not create a racket. It shall lure the other men. You go and pick up the clown.]
Abel jerked his chin, devoid of emotion towards having escaped his predicament, and gave his command.
Ahead of where he denoted was an immobile Al crouched on the ground. Fearing if he had sustained a terrible injury whilst they were not looking, Subaru hurriedly rushed to him.
Subaru: [A-Al! Hey, are you alright! Are you wounded……]
Al: [……I’m not, alright.]
Subaru: [――! Are you wounded!? Where? We need to treat it immediately……]
Al: [That’s not what I’m saying!]
Having rushed to his side, Subaru jolted Al’s shoulders, at whom he yelled with a potent voice. His head hanging low, he elevated his shivering hand and tightly clenched his right palm.
Subaru: [……T-That’s not]
Al: [I’m useless. My present self’s, gonna die.]
Subaru: [――? What, does that]
Mean, Subaru attempted to ask Al, his voice quivering.
However, Subaru’s doubt was intercepted by a distressed voice reaching from behind.
Medium: [Abel-chin! You mustn’t do anything cruel!]
Abel: [Remain silent. There are things that must be enquired.]
Medium: [But still……]
Medium’s emotional voice, to whom answered Abel’s calm voice. Turning around, it was to the edge of the street that the two had headed, fallen there was a young sheepman―― the young boy who had thrown Subaru up in the air with all his might, when he had first arrived at this street.
The young boy awakened his body, a distinct terror on his countenance.
Understandable. He had not become smaller, but was a kid in accordance with his physicality. Having been utterly overwhelmed by adults, those adults surrounding him from all directions, and on top of that being looked down upon by a man masked with a devil’s visage, there was no way he would not feel terrified.
Abel would display no mercy to the horrified young boy.
Seizing Medium’s shoulder who attempted to stop him and compelling her to step back, Abel crouched before the young boy. The distance between their faces shortened, the flames ablaze in the fearful young boy’s eye clouded his vigour.
And, Abel ignored the fearful young boy’s attitude and hurled a question.
A question, concise and straightforward――,
Abel: [The mediator of horned races who devised this affair―― that girl who named herself Tanza, where is she hiding. Divulge it, swiftly.]
So he enquired.