This exchange was watched by Frey, who was peeking from the rooftop.
The figure of her stepfather almost caused her to cry out loud, but she hurriedly covered her mouth with her hands.
This was one of the promises she had made to Kimberly. The only thing she was allowed to do was to watch. In any case, since Rabi wasn’t around, it wasn’t like she could have helped them at all.
Boiling with anger, Loki glared at his stepfather Bronson with malice.
In contrast, Bronson was calm and composed. His gaze at Loki was as sharp as steel.
“Are you out of your mind, my son?”
“… I have been, until now. Always suppressing my doubts, and wagging my tail obediently in front of you.”
In response to Loki’s fury, the twin blades on Cherubim’s left and right arms engaged.
“But now, my vision is clouded no more. Fall into hell!”
Releasing magic energy into Cherubim, the automata charged forward.
Based on appearance alone, Cherubim’s one defining trait was heaviness. It generated the image of a car which weighed in the region of a hundred kilograms or more. Something whose rampage would be impossible to control.
However, Loki’s movements were as though that handicap weren’t there at all. The steel blade roared as it sliced through the air, precisely aimed at Bronson’s neck. However-
Frey knew the extent of her stepfather’s strength, but she still couldn’t suppress her shock.
The thing that blocked Cherubim’s strike was a small short sword, floating in mid-air.
Such amazing control! That attack didn’t even faze him in the slightest!
Loki commanded Cherubim to fall back. However, that was what his opponent had been aiming for.
Blocking its path of retreat was the giant sword, Lucifer, which was still stuck into the ground.
The giant sword transformed in an instant, taking the form of a human.
The golden angel, Lucifer.
Just like Cherubim, both its hands had large blades on them.
Right now the blades were aimed for Cherubim’s defenceless back. The sound of Cherubim’s back being crushed—
No, things were fine. Yaya had caught the blade, blocking the surely fatal strike.
Beside Loki, Raishin laughed sarcastically.
“What’s wrong, finding it tough?”
“… Silence, fool. I made it such that it would be easy for you to enter the fray. Be grateful for my consideration.”
They exchanged looks of complicity. The next moment, they both focused their magic energy.
The first to attack was Yaya. Kicking Lucifer’s blades up, she leapt into the air.
This was a technique Raishin had mastered. Moving like a practitioner of martial arts, she somersaulted once in mid-air. Completing the flip, she bore down with her full weight
The bottom of her boots struck Lucifer square on the head… Or it should have.
Smoothly and unnaturally, Yaya’s kick slipped off its surface.
Lucifer’s counterattack was blazingly fast. Its blades caught Yaya in mid-air, blowing her back about ten metres.
Frey was dumbfounded. How did Yaya, whose kicks could break rocks, miss with her attack?
(A magic art…?)
Just like Cherubim, the magic circuit installed inside Lucifer was the Jet circuit. Thinking of what the circuit was capable of, the moment when it should have eaten the kick—
(Was it deflected… with a blast of highly dense hot air?)
Unbelievable. It was a feat of careful calculation of speed and trajectory, akin to shooting a bullet with another bullet.
At Loki’s command, Cherubim changed into its sword form.
In that instant, Frey’s sixth sense perceived the invisible Nozzle. Gathering air heated up to scorching levels, then spitting it out, she could recognise the effects like it was visible.
Blasting air, it moved with the force of the kickback. With a large amount of thrust, the giant sword flew.
There wasn’t just one Nozzle. Using the thrust generated by several of them in conjunction with each other, it was possible to perform complicated manoeuvres. Drawing a large arc in the air, the giant sword slashed at Lucifer.
Instead of blocking, Lucifer retreated. As it did so, four short swords shot out.
Bypassing Cherubim, they headed straight for Loki.
Frey covered her mouth. She had narrowly avoided screaming out loud.
Slashing his shoulder and gouging his abdomen, the four short swords pierced Loki. The force of the swords knocked Loki down onto the ground, leaving him motionless.
Looking at Loki, who was gasping in anguish, Bronson spoke with a disappointed tone in his voice.
“How foolish. In a real battle, going after the controller is standard practice.”
“That sounds pretty good to me.”
From behind Bronson, Raishin’s voice could be heard.
Bronson’s back was at his mercy! If Bronson moved, he would attack him accordingly. He was at the perfect distance for close combat. Lucifer was being occupied by Yaya. Perhaps, this was it…?
—No, that wasn’t it! It was a trap!
There were eight short swords in total. Four had pierced Loki. So then, where were the remaining four?
Yaya wanted to scream he was in danger, but the warning died in her throat.
She wouldn’t have made it anyway. The short swords emerged from the ground, slicing Raishin.
Raishin clumsily tumbled about. The attack sliced open his wounds, and cut across his chest.
His bleeding was severe. Looking at him, one wouldn’t think he’d be able to stand up again anymore.
“Raishin! Are you ok? Raishin!”
Yaya was all flustered. Instead of using this opening to retreat, Lucifer charged towards Yaya instead.
It looked like it was going to continue the attack on Raishin. Preventing it from doing so, Loki issued a command to Cherubim to intercept. And then, he himself moved to attack Bronson.
However, all his efforts were in vain.
Lucifer easily sidestepped Cherubim, sending it flying with a blow.
Bronson brushed off Loki’s fist, then thrust his palm upwards against Loki’s jaw.
“I have a right to be angry. The dog that I raised is biting the hand that fed it.”
Gripping Loki, he pulled him to his feet, and threw him against the wall.
The back of Loki’s head crashed directly into the bricks. Frey unconsciously closed her eyes, tears leaking from the sound of the moment of impact.
All she could do was pray for their safety. She was truly pathetic. If only she had strength… if only she had ability like Loki’s.
Ah, even though I’m Loki’s older sister. Even though we’re siblings bound by blood. Why is it that I’m always so useless?
Bronson stared at Loki with a mixture of contempt and unwillingness to give up on him.
“I don’t understand. Why would you turn against me? Haven’t I rewarded you well all this while?”
“… I… We… used to just say yes to you.”
His limbs dangling languidly, Loki spoke in a voice that sounded more like he was groaning.
“Even though one day, all our friends vanished… even though you made us go through those experiments that felt like death itself…”
“You’re making less and less sense. Why then, would you betray me now?”
“… If I may… say so myself… I am a tolerant person. However, there are three things in this world I cannot forgive. People who give me orders. People who defy me. And finally,”
His lips trembling, he smiled slightly.
“Scum who betray their elder sister.”
In that instant, something struck Frey like a bolt of lightning.
The words Charl had spoken to her finally made sense.
Her forehead was hot, to the point it felt like it was burning up. Her tears flowed on endlessly.
She always thought he had hated her. For so long, she had thought he shunned her.
Looked down on her since she was a useless sister. A weak, pathetic elder sibling.
Held a grudge for causing their parents’ death.
However, the truth about Loki was vastly different.
Far from hating her—
“… Such a pity. You were the most successful individual.”
Bronson sighed, shaking his head.
“A lot of time was invested into raising the both of you siblings to become prime fields. We even specifically brought you all the way out to the new continent, just to perform those trifling modifications, all to ensure success. “
Huh, thought Frey.
Forgetting to blink away her tears, she stared down at her stepfather, who was directly below her.
Modification. That word stuck in her head. Modification. Modification. No way. It couldn’t be-
They couldn’t have.
Loki roared. Cherubim jumped to life, heading straight at Bronson.
However, the end result was the same as previously. Cherubim was brushed aside by Lucifer.
Bronson grabbed Loki and casually threw him across the room, just like he was throwing away a piece of garbage.
“Settle down. Don’t worry, I won’t kill you here. The ‘parts’ you possess are extremely valuable. It would be such a waste if I don’t dismantle you while you’re still alive.”
Frey crouched where she was, cowering. She cursed herself. Why is this body so weak!? My brother is in pain, and all I can do is watch him suffer!
Ah, someone… anyone… please, God!
Save Loki. Please, somehow, just save—
Her prayer may or may not have reached, but something happened then.
Unexpectedly, Bronson let out a voice full of interest.
“… You can still move? Such a surprising Oriental… Perhaps you are a unique individual?”
In front of him, unsteadily rising to his feet was a bloody Raishin.
He was standing right behind Loki.
Frey’s eyes started to water.
Why, she thought. Why was he doing this?
Was he doing all this just for our sake?
Even though I already wounded him before!
By the time she noticed it, Loki was also on his feet already. It was like he couldn’t bear to be the only one out cold. Cherubim too, in response to its master’s will, was moving once again.
While staring at Bronson, Raishin muttered to Loki.
“… Can you still fight?”
“Hmph… Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“Good. Then here’s the plan.”
And then, Raishin told him. Frey couldn’t hear it, but Loki nodded slightly.
“… Fine. I’ll bet on you this time.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t let you down. But if this bet pays off, you’re treating me to a meal.”
“I’ll pass. Eating with you would make the food unpleasant.”
Bronson shrugged his shoulders, looking like he was getting tired of them.
“This is rather troublesome. So, what clever scheme have you come up with?”
“This clever scheme will be the end of you. But first, I want you to answer me. Why did you trick Frey?”
Raishin asked in a sharp voice. Rather than asking, it would be more correct to say Raishin pressed him for an answer.
“You had no intention of ever keeping the Garm types alive, so why did you force Frey to fight? Why did you modify Frey’s heart? Why did you make her— cry?”
Bronson stared at Raishin, bored, then replied
“Because it’s irreversible.”
“… What’s irreversible?”
“Progress in science is little more than an accumulation of repeated advancements. It isn’t something that can be reversed. Both regression and stagnation are unforgivable as well. For humanity, stagnation would effectively mean we have come to a halt as a species; it would mean our destruction. Investigating mysteries, searching for the truth, making progress in science; these are the road which humanity must advance onward. Mages have to contribute to that progress. That is the reason why the academy exists. The Wiseman’s seat too, exists for that reason.”
A faint smile formed on his face as he paused.
“And for that reason, the end will always justify the means.”
The words hit Frey like a bullet to the heart.
Progress? Advancement? For such a reason— for this reason alone?
Father and mother.
Loki and myself both.
Just when Frey felt her heart was rend into two-
Raishin’s magic energy began to swell up with a thunderous roar.
An extraordinary power, which she had never felt before till now, flowed through and gush forth from Raishin.
“If humanity’s “progress” means stealing children away from their families—“
Raishin’s eyes glowed with a red light. It was the same as the Promised Children— no, it was much stronger!
“I will destroy humanity!”
Yaya kicked the ground.
Her speed was terrifying. In a single bound she had closed the distance between her and Lucifer, and was now next to it.
A quick kick. And another. And another. Lucifer dodged and blocked all. However, that was all according to the plan. Cherubim had already transformed, and now a large sword was flying in its direction.
It was very heated up in there, but Raishin didn’t commit Yaya too deeply into the fight; instead he focused on getting her to evade away. Having lost sight of its target, Lucifer was open to Cherubim, who slammed into the former.
Bronson seemed to have foresaw this combination. Lucifer had its blades crossed, blocking the strike of the large sword.
Without a moment’s delay he had Lucifer transform, and performed a counterattack.
Converting hot air into thrust, it floated about in mid-air. The two large swords began to attack each other.
The magic art was activated next. Each time the swords clashed, Lucifer would release a blast of extremely hot air, scorching the surface of Cherubim.
Each blast of hot air exceeded several thousand degrees, as well as exerted several thousand pounds of pressure. This was enough to cut cleanly through any sort of steel. Such was the true power of the Jet circuit.
However, Lucifer’s blade only glanced into the other blade. Cherubim wasn’t severed at all.
In fact the both of them would eat into each other by a few centimetres… and stop there.
On the spur of the moment, Frey racked her brains, trying to dig up information about the Jet circuit.
For it to cut through steel, the heat had to be focused onto one point. The hot air that Lucifer generated had been scattered by the hot air generated from Cherubim… and since the heat couldn’t be focused, the heat generated wasn’t enough to reach the melting point of steel.
Both swords having been heated up though, when they collided, they became welded together. At that precise moment, there was an opening.
Yaya appeared directly below Lucifer.
Caught in mid-air, Lucifer had no defence left. — was this it?
“Such a pity. You were almost there.”
Unperturbed, Bronson had Lucifer change back.
Now in its humanoid form, only one blade was currently wielded. The other one was free!
The other blade which Lucifer was brandishing had an intense magic energy in it. He was planning to use the Jet circuit’s power to cut apart Yaya.
Yaya raised her left arm, covering her head. Like such an absurd gesture would help!
The blade ate into Yaya’s left arm, on the brink of severing it cleanly—
With a boom, Yaya’s left arm exploded.
The blade stopped at Yaya’s arm. The arm itself wasn’t severed.
(Did Raishin… notice it?)
Frey was right. Raishin had seen through the trick behind the Jet circuit, and had prepared for it meticulously.
The Jet circuit focused exceedingly high temperature to a point so that it could cut through all things like a hot knife through butter. To guard against such an attack, a blast from an equally hot source would cause the heat gathered to dissipate. Earlier on, Loki had done something like that.
Raishin had understood this, and thus had hidden explosives up Yaya’s sleeves.
And he had waited for this moment before unleashing his trump card.
Such nerve! Was this the strength of the puppeteer who defeated Cannibal Candy!?
Raishin’s right arm, which shouldn’t have been able to move, was now extended towards Yaya.
Receiving an absurdly large amount of magic energy, a terrifying amount of power began to build up in Yaya’s legs.
For a split second, Lucifer was at a loss for what to do.
It wanted to drop the blade and escape. Unfortunately for it however, the explosion had caused its finger joints to break down. But attributing it to just fortune would be a mistake. A combination of Raishin’s planning, and a certain someone’s thoughts had combined to curse Lucifer.
In Frey’s eyes, she could see the shadow of an old dog biting onto the neck of Lucifer.
Glowing, Yaya released the energy stored in her legs.
A torrent of light burst forth.
Yaya’s figure suddenly disappeared, her visage chipping away at Lucifer’s body.
Would seeing Yaya at her superhuman speed cause her stepfather to realise it?
The speed she was at operating at now demonstrated spatial perception power at a level which surpassed humans. The power which could stifle the Jet circuit was obviously in his hands, but it wasn’t something he himself could control.
And that was exactly why he had to create a situation in which he would never miss.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Yaya landed.
Like a shooting star, she landed with a loud impact. The resulting tremor seemed to have affected their wounds, for Loki and Raishin staggered, pitching forward then falling down.
Both of them had lost a lot of blood. Putting it bluntly, they were heavily injured. Even in that condition, the both of them were unwilling to show their weakness to each other. Like everything was fine, they started a conversation with each other in a normal voice.
“So, Second Last, you’re still alive. You’re about to faint, aren’t you?”
“That’s my line. Your exhausted figure is so unsightly. I bet you can’t even stand anymore, can you?”
“Idiot. I’m just taking a short break here. You on the other hand, look like you’re on the verge of death.”
“Idiot, I’m just looking at the stars. I bet you didn’t know I have an interest in astrology.”
“I didn’t know you can see stars lying face down. You must really be about to die, since you’re seeing stars in your delirium.”
“Who’s about to die? Like your condition is any better. Once we get back you need to get to the hospital pronto. You’ll have to stay in the ward for a long time. Maybe you can get an angel in white to pamper you while you’re there.”
“You need one. One that will feed you by hand, and gently wipe your body.”
“Moron, if a nurse did something like that… it wouldn’t end well. She’ll be murdered by Yaya, you moron.”
“Raishin! Please, stop talking already!”
Yaya was disturbed by their behaviour. Hugging onto Raishin, she cried out.
Loki and Raishin were both saying things that didn’t make sense at all. Their heads weren’t moving any longer. Unable to sit still any longer, Frey dashed off towards the stairs.
She could hear an agitated Yaya.
Loki’s consciousness appeared to be fading. Raishin’s abusive voice was no longer present. Probably, he had ended up like Loki. The only thing left ringing in the hallway was Yaya’s wailing-
(Both of you, please don’t die…!)
The smiling faces of her deceased parents flashed before her eyes, causing a deep, cutting pain in her chest.
Drops of tears scattering as she ran, Frey single-mindedly continued to sprint on.