Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi:Volume 3 Chapter 5
 Chapter 5 - Wish and Price
As he passed through the portal, the scenery of the place was even stranger than what he had seen from the student council room.
Where the sky was, there were squirming, shining waves of a prismatic spectrum resembling that of an aurora, which was lighting up this world, however, aside from that light, this world was dark.
That was the reason why, one could not say that the visibility here was extremely good.
He could only see up to ten meters ahead of him, and beyond that, everything was shrouded in darkness.
And the scenery that was visible to him was a strange one.
Before him, was a single paved path extending away from him, and to both the left and right side of the path, it ended in a cliff.
Taito took a peek down those cliffs, but there seemed to be no visible bottom at all, and in response,
"...... If I fall off here, I'd surely die."
No, he could not truly die unless he dies seven times within fifteen minutes --- as such a unique curse had been placed on him, he would not die even if he fell off only once, however, nevertheless, he had never thought of trying.
So he looked up again,
"...... Am I supposed to walk along this path?"
Even as he said that, as expected, no one answered him. Taito then let out a small sigh, and started walking.
Walking straight ahead, he proceeded along the path towards the darkness where the light could not reach.
As he did that, the scenery shifted. The squirming aurora in the dark sky started weaving. Like a bunch of wriggling earthworms, the prismatic spectrum aurora squirmed.
As he looked at that somehow it made him feel sick.
Clearly, this was a place not meant for humans to visit, and as he felt that, a sense of anxiety started welling up.
Abruptly, he looked over his shoulder to verify that the return way was still there. And as he did that, it appeared to him that he had walked some distance without realizing, and the << Way >> that was connecting the student council room to this world, was quite a distance away.
However, after seeing that << Way >>, he felt a little more assured. It'll be fine. I can still go back.
After ascertaining that, he faced forward again.
And then, at the instant he looked to the front again,
The path that was extending before him seemed to be narrower than before, he thought.
"Erm, what's this? Was it like that before?"
He murmured. And then, he thought of comparing the width of the path behind him, so once again, he turned his head around, and after ascertaining the width of the path behind him, he turned back to the front,
This time, it was quite clear to him that the path had become narrower.
At the beginning, when Taito first saw the path, with his arms outstretched, he could lie down horizontally across the breadth of the path, but now, the path had narrowed to the point where it would be impossible to have two people passing by each other on the path.
As he realized that,
"...... What's this?"
"Could it be that each time I look back, the path becomes narrower?"
Even as he asked that, as expected, no one replied.
However, he started becoming unsettled again, and said to himself.
"...... I didn't hear of that though? Or is it that the training had already started ~, but even if this is so, I'm not really prepared for it, you know?"
He said, and of course, there was no response to that.
However, there was no way he could turn around again. Even though he didn't know whether the path had really become narrower as a result of him looking over his shoulder, in the case that it was really so, there was no way he could turn around again.
The path had probably narrowed twice by now, though with the current rate of narrowing, it could narrow once more, and in that next time, it was probable that the width of the path would be so narrow that only the body of a child could fit on it.
And if that were to happen,
"...... I'll definitely fall off."
As he muttered that, Taito once again looked down the cliffs. He looked into the seemingly bottomless, deep chasm. And he gulped.
"Anyway, I'll just proceed on. It'll be fine as long as I don't look back."
He said to himself.
And he started walking again. Even though he was not sure where he was heading towards, in any case for now, he walked along the path, heading straight ahead.
And following that, after walking for about fifteen minutes in the seemingly void space, a black lump appeared in the middle of the path.
As expected, because of the limited light, he could not tell what it was, but he could tell its size.
It was probably about the size of the jungle gym in the park.
A black lump that was the size of the jungle gym was on the path before him.
"What's that, I wonder."
"Is that my destination?"
Even though he was unsure, he moved forward anyway. And as he got closer, he could make out the form of the black lump.
Initially, it looked like a mass of black charcoal. But, as he got closer, that black mass was more like the wings of a bat, and enclosed by those wings, was some unidentified thing that seemed to be curled up into a ball.
On seeing that, Uweh ~, is this some kind of monster? A monster here? Taito thought, unable to say anything.
If the thing before him was a hostile monster, he could not afford to make a sound and let his presence be noticed.
However, even so, it wouldn't do for him to escape,
Without saying anything, he moved forward.
He moved forward towards that bat-like creature.
And, in the midst of doing that,
[ --- A human --- ]
A voice resounded. While that voice came from the thing covered by the bat-like wings, it appeared to Taito as if the voice had sounded just in front of his ear, and it echoed in his head.
Taito then nodded,
"Erm...... sorry for intruding."
[ --- Yeah, you are intruding. To keep a door open to this world...... the light is dazzling. The sounds are noisy. However --- ]
The voice said.
[ --- However, if you are here to pay a sacrifice, you are a guest --- ]
And before Taito, the folded bat wings opened up a little. And from the little opening, something that resembled a face poked out.
Initially, Taito thought that it would be the face of a bat, but what came out was something different.
The face that poked out belonged to a human. No, it resembled the face of a human.
With purple skin, and a pair of eyes that seemed to be closed off by cross shapes carved out by a knife. However, those blocked eyes followed after Taito. And subsequently, with its mouth, as if it was a beast which had found its prey, it started laughing wildly. And in that mouth were sharp blades resembling that of shark-like teeth that definitely could not be clamped together.
Then that face said.
[ --- Say your wish. This is Edelka. Let's have your dream manifest in accordance of the price you'll be paying. --- ]
As it spoke, its teeth moved busily. In the space between those teeth, endless saliva flowed unceasingly. On seeing that, Taito spoke fearfully,
"...... I heard about this place from Gekkou."
[ --- I'm not interested in others. I'm asking you for your desire, your despair. Now, speak. Speak and dive into the ring of the realm of the dead --- ]
Its voice reverberated.
It reverberated loudly in his head.
In response to that,
Isn't this really bad? Taito started thinking. Of course, this was after all the one who had weakened Himea. He was of course fully aware that the creature here was a dangerous one but.
This was the one --- this was the monster who had taken away Himea's powers.
"...... To save someone like me."
As he thought about that, he started getting angry at himself, for getting scared silly just from seeing the monster before him.
He then took in a breath softly and looked intently at the monster.
"I've come to obtain power."
[ --- Everyone says that --- ]
"Eh? Is that so?"
[ --- Yeah. And what is the power you desire --- ]
On hearing that question, he started to answer.
The power he desired.
A power that can allow him to protect Himea from any attacking monster. Knowledge that can allow him to protect Himea from any kind of situation without losing his presence of mind.
I want to acquire the power that can allow me to protect her from even that thing called the Tenma, he wanted to say.
However, before he could say that, the monster before him spoke.
[ --- The price is your life. The price encompasses everything you hold dear --- ]
On hearing those words,
"Eh, wait a minute, My life? If I receive anything from you, I'll die?"
[ --- That's right. Everyone who had come here died --- ]
"Don't kid with me. Isn't that kind of terrible? If I die, I won't be able to protect......"
But, before he could finish, the bat wings started spreading open. And, there was nothing inside. Inside, with the same squirming prismatic spectrum of lines as the sky, the purple human-like face was floating. The face then said,
[ --- No, you've already lost your life the moment you stepped into this place. You are fodder. Fodder fodder --- ]
Its teeth rattled. Gasha, gasha, they rattled.
In response to that,
"...... Hey, hey hey hey, this is really bad......"
And at that moment, the face of the monster came attacking. Creating a series of iridescent afterimages like that of an aurora, it came flying into the center of his chest,
"...... gah, hah."
It passed through him.
Taito looked at his own chest. He looked at his chest that had a large gaping hole. His lungs, heart, and innards were probably devoured in their entirety.
Of course, since he was immortal, the hole in his chest started filling up gradually, but,
"...... cr... this isn't the time to be saying crapppppppp!?"
He turned around. He turned around to look for the monster face that had passed through his chest.
As he did that, the face was already right before him. It opened its mouth. It opened its mouth that was lined with shark-like teeth wide. On seeing that,
He bent down promptly and dodged it. And with that, he started running. He started making his way back along the path where he came from.
As he was running, he remembered the words of Gekkou just before he came here. He remembered the words of that idiot.
If he remembered correctly, this was what he said.
"As much as possible, don't die."
"Jeez, I'm going to die from this right!?"
Taito shrieked as he recalled the words of Gekkou.
"No, what's this? What the hell's this? This isn't about paying a price and receiving a power anymore right? That fella won't even listen to me right?"
As he said all that to himself in a moronic manner, he continued running desperately, exerting all his strength. As the path was narrow, if he were only to miss a step, he would tumble off into the bottom of the deep darkness, but, he couldn't afford to be concerned with that.
After all, the sound of the monster's teeth behind him was pressing closer. Gasha, Gasha, the sounds of the teeth were getting closer, closer ---
"...... There's really no end to this running......"
Taito muttered in a groaning tone.
He was already running at a speed that was impossible for a normal human being. Freely making use of the power conferred to him by Himea, his tendons were torn, repaired, torn, repaired for countless times, allowing him to run at a speed that was beyond the limits of a human.
However, he felt that there was no end to this.
"...... The exit is gone?"
As he was running with all his might, he looked ahead of him. But, he could not see the exit. Well, as he had walked quite a ways from the student council room, there might still be some distance from it, but in any case,
"...... There's no end to this."
Then, what should I do?
How should I act?
There wasn't much time for him to think. There was a limit to the number of times he can die. He can only return back to life six times from dying within a span of fifteen minutes. So, since he died once just now, the remaining number of times he could die was five.
To make this clear, if he were to face an overwhelmingly powerful monster in battle, he could afford to die five, or six times, a factor which couldn't give him any assurance at all.
If he were to just let his guard down a little, or make a wrong choice, it could cause him to be killed tens of times within an instant.
"...... Make a choice."
At this rate, would he be able to make it back to the student council room without getting killed for a total of seven times?
Or should he fight?
Thinking about that, he said.
"Of course the latter, What the hell did I come here for; To get stronger right? How can I get stronger if I keep on running? I can do it. I definitely can do it. Rather, it'll be terrible if I can't. In that case ---"
At that moment, he stopped, and turned around. And then,
"Let me kick your ass, bastard!!"
And before him.
The face that was full of teeth came closing in.
However, it was not like it was so fast that he could not react to it. Well of course. Even if it was fast to the point that it seemed like it was going to catch up to him despite the fact that he was running with all his might --- it didn't mean that it was going to catch up to him instantly.
With regards to the matter about dodging, if he thought about it, it was far easier than if it would be if this were a battle with an opponent who was armed with a pistol.
That's why the problem didn't lie there.
Right now, the problem that had appeared before him was not related to the matter of dodging.
More serious than that,
"...... what the hell is this!?"
Taito hollered as he looked at this newly appeared problem before him.
Right now, a really unthinkable thing had taken place before him. Probably as a result of him turning to face behind him and then turning back to face the front, the path, the width of the path, had become as narrow as that of a balancing beam.
"Don't shit around with me, how do you expect me to fight under such......"
Of course, the enemy wouldn't care about that and came devouring him. On seeing that,
He groaned, and dodged. Just as one would think, he missed his footing. As the important place between his legs was in danger of getting struck by the path that was as narrow as a balancing beam, he frantically used his hands to break his fall.
And then, in a voice that was shaking in fear,
"...... t-that was dangerous...... if I had hit my nether region with that kind of force just now, I'd definitely die once......"
He rambled something foolish.
He then immediately stood up. Following that, he looked up at the face of the monster that was swirling in the sky.
"Do I have to defeat that, or......"
He then lowered his gaze, and looked intently at the aurora like spectrum of seven colors that was inside those black wings on the other side of the path,
"Or do I have to defeat the thing there......"
Whichever it was, there was only one weapon that was available to him. And it was also given to him by Himea.
He clenched his right fist. He could then feel his fist getting hot.
This was the only weapon he possessed.
At that moment, he remembered the words of Himea when he first got this power. If he remembered correctly, it was when he was yelling from the heat which was given off by the white flames that had suddenly engulfed his right arm, when Himea had said.
"It's hot of course. They are flames from the TenkaiMartes Plane. If anything other than the TenmaMartes Devil touches this Gouka, it will vaporize in an instant."
But, that was a different Tenma from the one that had attacked Himea, it seems. It was somewhat confusing, but, at any rate, this should be a tremendously powerful weapon.
That's why he should be able to do something about that monster with this power.
He looked up at the sky again. The monster face looked down at him --- rather, at his right arm where the white flames had been ignited; acting cautiously against the flames, it did not attack.
On seeing that,
"Seems like this will be effective?"
A small smile surfaced on Taito's face.
And he raised his arm. At that point in time, the entire length of his arm from his elbow to his fist was already burning with the white flames. Of course, his right arm hurt from the burning flames, an intense amount of pain. As a result, he wanted to release the flames and end everything; however, things weren't as simple as that for him.
The reason was because, the instant he uses the magical flames of the TenmaMartes Devil, there will be a backlash that will burn half of his body into nothingness.
For a human, this means death. For him, this means the number of times he can die gets reduced by one.
In exchange for this tremendously powerful attack, a price of getting his lives reduced by one came along with it.
"Well, since I can die five more times, there's plenty left......"
But still, even if that's the case, he couldn't afford to attack carelessly.
That's why he was unsure of which to attack first.
Face or body?
Of course, since the face was flying in circles in the sky, he didn't think he would be able to hit it until he strikes it when it comes attacking.
"Then, shall I just blast the body?"
Upon saying that, he looked in front, and as if reacting to what he had said, the bat wings of the body spread.
Looking at that,
"...... Shit. If it flies, I won't be able to hit......"
He frantically drew his right arm back, and prepared to launch the flames of the TenmaMartes Devil.
"I won't let you escape."
Upon saying that, as he was about to fling his fist forward,
"Seems like I can't."
He gave up. The body of the enemy took off to the sky faster than he had expected, and he no longer had the confidence that he could hit it.
Taito looked up at the dark sky,
"It's not fair that you can fly!"
He yelled, but of course, the monster didn't descend down to answer him.
"Now, this becomes training for me to hit it right?"
While saying that, he looked at the narrow path, which was lacking in footing area that he was standing on.
"Somehow, it looks like a Shaolin training ground I saw on TV a long time ago......"
Then, once again, he looked up at the sky where his enemies were. Just like before, the face and body were flying around in the sky and made no attempt to attack him.
If he has to do something about them, he can really only aim to throw his flames of the TenmaMartes Devil at them, it seems.
"If you have no intention to fight, I'm also fine with that though?"
He tried saying, but as expected, the monster did not reply. Seems like it was terribly afraid of the flames that were residing in his hand ---
He thought, however, it didn't seem to be the case as well.
He tried to follow the line of sight of the face that was hovering in the sky. Initially, he thought that the face was looking at his right arm.
However, it seems like that was not the case, and the monster's line of sight was ---
"...... Hey, that fella isn't looking at me?"
"Then, what is it looking at?"
He followed the line of sight of the monster.
Upon doing that, he realized that the gaze of the monster was a place that was further right of his right arm.
Taito wanted to turn around, however.
"Crap. If I turn around, the path is going to get narrower."
He recalled just as he was on the verge of turning around. If the path narrowed even further, there would probably be nowhere left to stand. That would be terrible.
That's why he did not turn around.
He could feel the presence of something.
It was something with an overwhelming presence.
Even for a normal person who has done karate but never received any special training, for a mere human like Taito, he could feel an unpleasant atmosphere.
Something was behind his right side.
No, he could feel something climbing up below his right side.
He could feel something climbing up from the bottom of the bottomless darkness.
On realizing that,
"...... uweh uweh, this is a joke right? The one above is not the last boss?"
He said. If this were a game, and the player gets assaulted by a series of bosses right at the start, it would have been classified as a crappy game and gotten sold to a second hand shop, but,
"...... This most terrible thing that is happening is reality though......"
Even as he groaned, he was once again pressed to make a choice.
Should he braced himself for the narrowing of the path and turned around, or should he first deal with the monster that had retreated to the sky without looking back ---
But, at that moment, something touched him from behind.
"Hey, isn't it already behind me!?"
And then, he decided to turn around. Even if the path was going to become narrower, he couldn't afford not to turn back and get killed as a result.
That's why he turned around.
And then, right before him,
There was nothing right before him.
Instead, that something that was at the center of his back climbed up to the back of his neck.
"Whoa, it was attached to my back!?"
Feeling as if a gigantic leech was slithering on him, Taito felt like crying. He was fed up with himself for not being able to do anything as he was getting toyed with.
However, the situation in which that something was attached to his back was not a bad one.
The reason was because, the instant he uses the flames of the TenmaMartes Devil, his body will be blown off. In other words, if the enemy is attached to him, then he can't miss. He can just blast it away together with his own body.
That's why, as he was feeling disgusted with the creeping feeling on his back, a smile floated on his face.
He started flinging his right arm backwards, to fire off the flames of the TenmaMartes Devil.
"You can't do that, Kurogane-kun. Right here, in this world of mine. You can't wield that dangerous thing."
A woman's voice resounded in his ear. With that, the leech like creeping feeling extended from his neck to his shoulder, from his shoulder to his right arm, and revealed itself.
However, that wasn't a leech, but the wet hand of a woman. Extremely white fingers on that white hand.
The fingers, in a stroking motion, moved across Taito's arm, and then it caught hold of him. Upon doing that, from the white skin of that hand, a transparent wet liquid was secreted and it extinguished the flames of the TenmaMartes Devil.
Rather, it seemed like his power was sealed.
On seeing that,
Taito was at a loss for words. His only trump card, the flames of the TenmaMartes Devil, was readily extinguished, and as a result, he no longer had any other means of attack.
On top of that, the voice of the woman behind him had said that this world belonged to her.
In other words, the thing that was flying in the sky was not the master of this world.
And as the true master had appeared, it stopped its attacks.
As the monster with the real power had appeared, it stopped its attacks.
Taito then said,
"...... Is it my loss?"
The woman's voice then replied,
"That's right. But I have no intention of fighting you though......"
It was a really gentle, beautiful voice, a voice that didn't seem to belong to a monster. The voice of a woman, that made him want to turn around to ascertain it.
But Taito could not turn around.
No, he already knew it.
The thing behind him was truly the master of this world, the one who ruled over everything in this world.
Perhaps, she's a god or something, he thought.
She possessed an amount of power that was so great that Taito could feel a sense of fear and awe from her.
Taito said something.
With a trembling voice,
"...... A-are you going to kill me?"
The woman smiled.
"No. You're after all a guest, I won't kill you."
"B-but, the ones above attacked me, you know?"
As Taito said that, the finger which had extinguished the flames on his arm pointed to the sky.
"It's alright. That thing there can't do anything. He wanted to become a god like me, so I gave him the power, but as a result of being unable to withstand the might of the power, he became broken. And everyday, he tries to mimic me in conversing with the visitors. What a bother."
Taito then looked up at the sky. He looked at the figure of the monster face that had stopped moving and was looking down at them in fear.
And then the woman's voice said,
"He offered the lives of his entire kingdom, but in the end, he could not withstand the might of the power given to him, a truly bothersome story, the lives of millions of innocent people disappeared just like that, ah-hahahahahahahahahahahahaha."
She laughed out.
A beautiful, cheerful, and delighted laugh.
"Now, Kurogane-kun, what will you offer, I wonder? Tell me what you want. And I'll choose and take away an equivalent compensation from you."
Upon saying that, the finger that was pointing to the sky turned towards him. It then touched his chest. Following that, the finger entered his chest,
"Now, speak up. I'll grant you your wish. Now, speak up. I'll grant you your wish. I'll grant you your filthy desire. Now, now ---"
The voice of the woman said.
In a stirring motion, the hand invaded Taito's chest.
"Now, let's go through the realm of the dead together ---"
Taito could not answer.
No, there was no way he could answer.
After seeing that ugly monster that was flying in the sky, there was no way he could answer that easily.
And once again, he looked up at the monster in the sky.
Like Taito, he was formerly a visitor here. And he had asked for power, a great amount of power.
And the result was,
No, maybe that fella was satisfied with becoming that thing perhaps; however, no matter how he looked at it, Taito could not see that he was satisfied with acquiring the power he had desired.
On top of that, according to the woman's words, she granted him the power he desired, and in exchange, she took the compensation she wanted.
Without knowing what the price he needed to pay was, she just took it from him.
And because of that, millions of people had died.
No, since Taito didn't know whether the fella above was formerly a human or not, he wouldn't know whether those who had died were humans or not, but in any case, the price he had paid was a terribly huge one.
On realizing that, Taito could no longer speak.
If he carelessly speaks a wish, some terribly thing might happen, he thought.
She might just take away an important thing from him on her own, he thought.
Taito then pondered.
He started pondering on the words she said again.
"Now, Kurogane-kun, what will you offer, I wonder? Tell me what you want. And I'll choose and take away an equivalent compensation from you."
An equivalent compensation --- she had said.
An equivalent compensation in exchange for what Taito desired, what would that be? That was the question.
He came here to seek power.
A power that can protect Himea.
A power that can protect Himea from any kind of enemy.
He was seeking to acquire power and knowledge that can protect Himea from a monster like the Tenma.
He came here with that kind of thought.
However, if he were to say that, what in the world would she take away?
Besides, do I have the capacity to withstand that kind of power?
That monster flying in the sky was broken as a result of acquiring too much power. But yet, the price was paid. What it meant was that he had gotten the worst possible result.
But, is my wish also......
Was his wish also one that would bring him the same kind of results? He thought.
Himea said this.
"The power that can exorcise the Tenma should not exist in this world......"
She said something like that.
In other words, the power that could deal with the Tenma would be some incredibly tremendous power.
On top of that, what Taito had felt from the Tenma at the school was at the same intimidating level of power as the woman who was laughing delightedly behind him.
An immense amount of power which he had never even felt from the << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >> Himea, nor from the Hinata who had come attacking them with his demons.
If he were to just ask for the power that will enable him to drive away an incredibly mighty monster like the Tenma, what kind of compensation will this woman take away from him?
Taito was unable to imagine it.
No, he didn't possess something of value enough to match that kind of power.
As he opened his mouth,
"Are you so scared that you want to run away?"
The woman spoke, as if she had seen through his thoughts.
"Ah-hahaha, for a human, you are pretty wise. That's the right choice. This is a place that should be out of bounds to humans. This is the netherworld that living beings should not attempt to go through. But you are wise enough to have avoided it. But, I'll tell you something good."
Her finger left his chest, and this time round came towards his face. Moving upwards, the human index finger stretched out, and touched Taito's head.
In that instant, for some reason, his vision was covered in darkness. Then, in that darkness, another image surfaced.
As Taito muttered, the image started moving by itself. Like playing back an old video tape, the image that was hazy, and filled with noise, moved in the darkness.
In that image, was the same strange place as the one Taito was in right now.
A dark sky filled with a swirling aurora of prismatic colors.
A single path that extended out.
Three people were walking on that path. In that group of people, was a pair of man and woman wearing Miyasaka High uniforms, and also,
But the image moved on its own. Unmindful of Taito's voice, the image moved.
Himea was carrying Taito's head. Carefully, affectionately, she was carrying Taito's head.
And she was looking up at him. With a face that was on the verge of tears, she was looking up towards here.
Following that, something that seemed to be looking down at Himea said.
"Hey hey, you're a << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >>? What a surprisingly big shot that has come. Since today's sky is beautiful, I thought I'm going to have a treat, and so this is it."
The voice of the same woman behind Taito now spoke. And then, in Taito's field of vision, a forked tongue appeared. A slurping sound subsequently followed.
Himea looked up towards here and asked.
"...... Are you the mistress of this place?"
"That's right, << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >>. I'm the Mistress of this place called Edelka."
"I've heard that you can grant wishes."
"That's right. I can grant it to you, only once though."
"Yes, any wish as long as you can pay an equivalent price. But, what is the thing that a << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >> cannot achieve by herself, I wonder. I can't imagine what that will be. A wish desired by a << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >> who can use all magic. Ah, ah, today will be certainly become an important day."
Then, in the image, a white hand appeared, an eerie white hand. That hand pierced through Himea's chest.
But she didn't resist.
"What's your wish?"
Himea looked straight ahead, up at her,
"I want you to return him...... return Taito back to life."
The line of vision shifted. The image was focused on the head of Taito that Himea was carrying.
"...... Resurrection is not cheap."
"Even for the resurrection of a human you know? To call the life of a mere human back will require a huge price as well."
"Ah-haha, you didn't hesitate. Perhaps, that life is a very important one?"
As she asked, the image shifted back to Himea. The image of Himea's beautiful face. Long lavender colored hair, and a pair of strong-willed, mischievous, deep crimson eyes. Those eyes were filled with happiness. With a joyful face, she smiled.
And she said.
She answered the question asked by the Mistress of Edelka.
"Yeah. He's important to me."
She said readily.
"I see, then, alright. Normally, I won't do this kind of verification, but to think that a << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >> wants to revive a human, could this be a trap? I wondered and asked without thinking. Well then, let's call him back, the soul of that human --- and in exchange."
At that point, the image shifted a little. The Mistress of Edelka half-shut her eyes and because of that, the image's size decreased by half.
And the voice then said.
"...... I shall have you pay the price......"
Himea's face contorted in pain. The white hand that was inside her pulled something out. Something that was shining brightly; something very important to Himea.
But her gaze was soft with joy. Even as she was probably experiencing a great amount of pain, she was gazing gently at the head of Taito that she was holding in her arms.
"Now, let's put this through the wheel of the realm of the dead, on one side of the balance, as the equivalent price."
The woman's voice said.
And at that moment.
The image disappeared.
Taito's vision returned and he returned to the current world.
The place he was at was the wide path that Gekkou and Himea were at, but a path that was the width of a balancing beam.
In the sky, a monster with bat-like wings was hovering, and the woman called the Mistress of Edelka, with the forked tongue like that of a snake, as if to grab hold of him, came embracing him from behind.
However, nothing mattered to him.
He was in too much shock from what he had just seen from the image just now.
He had seen how Himea, without a single moment of hesitation, acted to bring him back to life.
There was no way that, as a highly intelligent << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >>, she would not know how great a sacrifice she had to make to bring him back to life.
No, the truth was, when she was asked about how great the sacrifice would be, she had said that she knew.
But yet, all this while, she merely continued smiling. She never once showed a moment of hesitation.
After having seen that,
"...... You showed me this...... to tell me, who has hesitated, that I'm a fool?"
He said to the Mistress of Edelka who was behind him.
And she replied,
"No. I was showing how foolish that << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >> was to revive you."
On hearing those words,
"You better watch your words. Who's the fool?"
"That foolish << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >>."
"...... don't shit with me, damn you. She...... Himea is no fool."
"Then, prove it to me."
Said the Mistress of Edelka.
"Tell me that you're willing to give up everything to protect her. If you do that, I shall take away an equivalent compensation from you."
Even though he had yet to say anything about his wish, she had completely seen through him.
As expected, Taito could not answer.
No, it would be easy for him to say that he wanted power to kick the Tenma's ass. After having seen what Himea had done, there was no way he could just run away to a safe haven all by himself.
However, is it right to seek power here? He could no longer tell.
If say, he was to seek power.
If he were to easily seek power here, he would have to pay an equivalent price. But what would that price be?
Something precious to me.
Something as huge as the power to defeat the Tenma.
Won't that be Himea?
Then, if he were to seek power here, there was a possibility that the price would extend to Himea. On top of that, there was also the possibility that, after going through the trouble of paying the price and causing trouble to Himea, with the power to kick the Tenma's ass, he might not be able to withstand it and end up like the broken monster flying in the sky at the end of the day.
That would be terrible.
If he were to move without thinking, and not get the result he wanted, it would be a terrible thing.
That's why he was considering. He was considering what kind of power he should ask for, what kind of deal he should make with this monster.
"...... I never thought about breezing through and getting strong all of a sudden."
"It was the same with karate, as I thought, it's better to struggle and train, and get stronger through my own effort; it will be more gratifying that way."
The Mistress of Edelka, in response to that,
"Are you going to go on? I have no intention of talking with you though."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Then, I'll speak my wish."
"Oh, you're going for a wish after all?"
"Ah-hahahaha, humans are foolish after all."
The woman's voice said.
"Alright. Then, speak."
On hearing those words,
Taito took a small breath. He had never thought that he would be this nervous in just saying out his wish.
But he had decided.
Like Himea. No, he might not be able to pay as great a price as what Himea had paid, but still, he had decided.
And he said.
"...... I'm not going to ask you for any power. I will do something about attaining the power I need, so tell me the places where I can get that power."
"Tell me the places where I can acquire power through hard work, and become stronger, allowing me to stand beside Saitohimea, the << VampireMost Ancient Sorcerer >>."
The voice of the woman, the Mistress of Edelka, replied.
"Is that your wish?"
"Alright. I shall grant you that."
"Yes. But, if you think that the price for that wish is cheap, then you're making a big mistake."
"Ah-hahaha. Even if you're regretting it, it's too late."
Upon saying that, the white hand squirmed before Taito's eyes. Her fingers pierced into Taito's chest. From his body, he could feel his heart getting gripped in a crushing manner.
He wanted to cry out involuntarily, but no voice sounded.
Only the woman's laughter reverberated. Only a joyous laughter reverberated.
"Now, I shall take away your precious thing. I shall take away a precious thing of yours that is equivalent to the value of your wish. Why did I do a thing like this? Why did I throw away something important to me that readily? Those screams, those cries of anguish shall become my food. Now, let's put your precious thing through the wheel of the realm of the dead, on one side of the balance, as the equivalent price."
And then, the woman's hand pulled out something from Taito's chest. He didn't know what that was. What was the thing that was important to him?
What was the most important thing to him? Even he himself did not know.
But, he lost something.
He lost something important.
And in exchange for that, words surfaced in his mind. Large number of words surfaced. Words he did not recognize.
Strange words that were neither alphabets, Hangul, and of course not Japanese as well.
However, for some reason, Taito understood them.
What was written was a number of location names.
A place where Taito could contract a magical being.
A place where Taito could learn a hidden magic.
A place where Taito could find a hidden weapon.
Thousands of such locations were forced into Taito's head.
Of course, he did not know how those locations were pronounced, nor have he heard of those places, however, for some reason, he knew how to get to them. If he asked Gekkou, it would probably be easy for him to connect to those places by opening a << Way >> from the student council room.
However, upon realizing that, Taito became somewhat afraid.
The reason was because of the << Military >>.
The << Military >> that had created Miyasaka High and put up a barrier to prevent other organizations from discovering the << Holy Ground >>, has been all this while searching for the knowledge that Taito was holding now.
By using the << Holy Ground >>, won't they be able to get hold of some useful, powerful curses, magic, or weapons?
They have been searching for a long time.
For decades, they have used the lives of student council presidents, including Gekkou, to search for these things.
But yet, all these places were within the grasp of Taito.
For a price he had paid, he was given the locations of these places.
It was an incredibly huge wish.
It was a wish that was far larger than what he had imagined.
Shivering in fear.
At the humongous power that he had gotten hold of.
And, as to the price he had paid to attain this,
"...... what in the world did I lose?"
However, in response to that, ah-haha, the woman laughed again.
"Ascertain it with your own eyes. And then holler. Scream in despair, with a voice that can reach my ears."
"Now, go back. There's no longer any reason for you to be here."
"I told you to go back to your own world."
In the instant she said that.
Taito's body was flung off. The scenery changed, his body flew, high in the air, and at the same time he experienced that, before he knew it, he was back in the student council room, with his back slamming into a locker behind him.
He looked up. He looked intently across the rift on the wall of the student council room, at the place where an aurora-like thing was squirming.
His body could not move. Rather, a number of his bones were broken from the impact of hitting the locker.
His regeneration started.
He had probably died once from that.
That meant that he could only die four more times.
"...... well, since I've returned here, I probably won't die anymore."
Upon saying that, he looked around. The student council room was still in its former state of shambles, yet to be restored.
His bones regenerated, and he could move again. He forced his body that was sunken into the locker up and stood up.
He flexed his shoulders and arms.
"Hah, I'm so tired."
He sighed out.
He then faced the << Way >> before him,
He uttered. He closed the << Way >> to the world in which an incomprehensible monster resided.
While gazing at that,
"...... Gekkou that bastard, I didn't undergo any training at all."
He said in a tired voice.
However, he didn't come back empty-handed. What he had attained was really something incredible,
"It was not a worthless trip though."
While saying that, he looked out through the window. It was already dark outside. Well, when he came back to the student council room it was already evening, so it wasn't surprising that it was already dark outside.
"What's the time now?"
Taito looked at the clock hanging on the wall of the student council room.
The time now was ---
The time now was half past eleven in the night.
On seeing that,
"Huh, how come?"
Taito exclaimed without thinking.
"No no, isn't this strange? When I came here, it was around five right? But yet, why is it near midnight now?"
Even as he asked, no one replied, and so he thought. Probably,
"...... The time flow there is different from here? But in the first place, is today still today? Don't tell me like the story of Urashima Tarou, a hundred years has already gone by? Please, anything but that."
While saying that, it's possible, he thought. The Mistress of Edelka had taken away something from Taito. She took away something important to him. And it was not impossible that what she took away from him was time.
So as to speak, if this were really the case, like what happened to Urashima Tarou, he would really rave and scream in anguish, and without a doubt, that monster would gladly devour it.
That's why, with his heart racing, he took out his cellphone from his pocket. He flipped it open, and looked at the standby display. On the display was a picture of the guitar used by a rock musician he likes, and on that guitar, the date and time were shown.
Looking at that,
"...... Ah, it's alright."
He breathed a sigh of relief.
Even though his cellphone was with him in the place known as Edelka, the time on his cellphone was the same as that on the clock, running towards twelve o'clock, and consequently, he realized that only the time period his body had experienced was abnormal.
"...... Jeez, what in the world was that place?"
He pondered but no matter how he pondered, there was no way he would gain insight into it. He had spent time in a world that was beyond his knowledge and common sense, and further thinking would just be a waste of time.
That's why, right now, the thing he was most worried about was,
He looked at his own body.
He tried knocking a few times on his chest, at the place where the Mistress of Edelka had inserted her fingers.
"...... What the hell did I lose? That's the problem."
That was the real issue at hand. He did not have a grasp of what he had lost.
What in the world did the Mistress of Edelka take away from me?
"If I don't know that, I can't go hollering right...... don't tell me something happened to Himea gain?"
He then turned to face the school premises where the science room was. Right now, Himea was living in a forbidden space in the inner part of the science room.
"...... Well then, let me go take a look at her."
For a guy to visit a girl's room at this time of the night, he got the feeling that something really bad will happen, but well,
"I'm really worried though."
He started walking. And then, at the moment he was about to leave the student council room,
"Ah, crap, I didn't call back to let my folks know that I would be busy with student council work, jeez, they're going to get mad......"
And he once again took out his cellphone.
At that moment.
His cellphone started to vibrate.
"Crap, my folks?"
Taito became a little nervous.
Recently, thanks to Gekkou making full use of him, he had been getting home late. Because of that, his mother wasn't too happy, let's talk to your Dad about this --- it somehow came to that.
"Please spare me. It's not my fault, so go complain to Gekkou ~"
He flipped open his cellphone as he said that.
However, what was displayed on the screen was not his home number.
What was currently displayed were the words,
"Huh? Haruka? At this hour?"
He then suddenly remembered that. Ah ~ shit, I have to tell Haruka about that, he thought.
He had to tell her about them, about him and Himea going out, as a couple.
"...... I-I guess not today. I'm also a little tired...... tomorrow, I'll probably call in sick tomorrow, so I'll go to Haruka's house and tell her about it."
While saying that, he looked intently at the vibrating phone in his hand.
For some reason, he felt like weeping at the thought of picking up the phone, but at the same time, he didn't like pretending that he wasn't around,
With that, he slowly put his thumb on the button to receive the call,
"Ah - hello, Haruka? What's up?"
The voice on the other side of the phone did not belong to Haruka. No, it was a voice that sounded a little like Haruka, but yet, it was a little different.
Stuttering, a voice that was on the verge of tears.
The voice said.
Taito then said,
"Ah, eh...... erm...... Aunt Shigure?"
The owner of that voice on the phone was the mother of Haruka.
"What's wrong, at this hour?"
Taito asked and Haruka's mother spoke, with a depressed voice for some reason. Haruka's mother, who was no less cheerful than Haruka, always showing her smiling side, was speaking in a strangely urgent voice,
"Erm Taito, is Haruka with you now?"
Taito then replied.
"Eh, no, she's not with me though."
"Please don't lie to me. I won't get angry even if you're together. If its Taito-kun, I won't get angry no matter what happens, so please don't lie to me."
She said something incomprehensible. Without asking him anything, she said in a reproachful voice.
"I haven't been able to contact you till now, you're together right? That's how it was right?"
She said in a desperate sounding voice.
"....... Wait, Auntie, what're you saying? I don't really quite comprehend the situation...... what in the world has happened?"
On hearing that, Haruka's mother replied.
With a tearful voice.
With a shaking voice,
"...... Haruka has not come home. It's already this late, but yet, I can't reach her on the phone."
Taito looked at the time. He looked at the time displayed on his cellphone.
The display showed that it was already nearing twelve midnight.
He knew full well that Haruka won't be loitering outside at this kind of time.
Her curfew starts at eight thirty, if her club activities go past that, she'll definitely call home to tell her folks.
And the only place where she would hang out after curfew hours would be Taito's house.
He had also never felt that she was unhappy about the need to keep to her curfew.
She would smile every day.
She loves her family and would always say, The snacks my Mom makes are really tasty; one day, I want to become a mother who can make such tasty snacks for my children.
But yet, that same Haruka had yet to reach home.
"...... Did... , did something happen to Haruka?"
"I don't know."
Haruka's mother said.
"Just now, the police came, and asked me to give a call to those who might have a clue, so that's why I'm calling you now......"
Police --- when Taito heard the word, he felt so shocked that his heart almost stopped.
There was a possibility that Haruka might have gotten embroiled in something serious.
An accident? Kidnapping? Whichever it might be, he did not know, but there was the possibility that Haruka got caught up in something serious.
On hearing that,
He remembered Haruka's smiling face today at school.
Taito could not move. His phone almost dropped from his hand.
His heart raced.
His heart raced so much that he felt nauseous.
His heart rate accelerated, as if it were desperately attempting to replace a lost fragment, an important lost fragment that must not be lost, from his heart.
Without his realization, he lost something important to him.
Then, Taito looked at the white concrete wall.
His eyes widened.
His eyes widened to the point that they could widen no more.
At that moment.
"Taito-kun, are you ok?"
"...... ah, no...... I'll be there right away."
"...... then, Haruka is really not with you?"
When Haruka's mother said that, her voice was almost inaudible, seemingly having lost her strength.
"I'm sorry for not staying together with her. But I'll ask around as well."
"I'll be right there."
After saying that, he hung up.
And once again, he looked at the white concrete wall.
He looked at the white concrete wall that was connected to a strange place called Edelka a while ago.
"Don't tell me...... don't tell me you took Haruka away?"
He muttered. With that, he broke into a run, and sent a kick flying into the concrete wall. Of course, even if he did that, the << Way >> wouldn't open again, but yet he kicked into the concrete wall, and hollered.
"Don't shit with me!! Don't shit with me!! Why......"
Why did such a thing happen, he wanted to say but he stopped.
Since there was no reason for him to holler, he stopped.
Once again, he flipped open his cellphone. In his contact book, he scrolled to the entry, 'Annoying Idiot Kurenai Gekkou', and pressed. However, without ringing,
"This is a mailbox service......"
"That bastard, he turned it off!"
He yelled, and ran. He flew out of the student council room, dashed down the stairs, and ran out of the school.
He was heading in the direction of Gekkou's house.
One more time.
"I'm going back to that place one more time......"
I will get Haruka back.
I will get Haruka back from that monster.
I will get her back from this foolish abnormal world which does not involve her.
For that reason.
In order to return her to this world again,
"This time round, I'm fine even if the price is my life. So......"
 Translator's Notes and References
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