Chapter 6 - Apocalypse Alice
Seven days later.
We reached the 25th floor below.
It is where Shiro and the rest are --- or rather, where Shiro and the rest are shown on the map a week ago. But they were already gone. Of course. It has been one week since then.
Once we pa.s.sed the 20th floor below, water and food supplies were no longer a problem.
Since the food and water supplies that the Kansai team dropped were left lying around.
There was probably a fierce fight. A number of dead bodies were lying around. We took some of the backpacks from the dead bodies. The backpacks contained clothing, toiletries, food, and stuff needed for staying in the labyrinth.
I whip out a chocolate bar from the backpack I am shouldering. 300 calories. With nuts. I take a bite. The crunchy feel of the nuts swirl around in my mouth deliciously.
Perhaps, as a result of eating only apples for five days, the artificial processed sugar stimulated my brain matter strongly. After finishing up the rest of the chocolate bar in one go, I take out a b.u.t.ter-and-jam bread roll next.
"...... haha, this is so good that I'm going to turn into a pig."
While saying that, I grin stupidly.
The bread roll is also crazily delicious. While munching on my bread, I look up at the sky.
On the 25th floor below, there are few trees.
It is made up of gra.s.s plains. On the endless gra.s.s plains, trees stand spa.r.s.ely.
Leaning against such a tree, I eat my bread roll.
"...... guh, muh."
As I was gobbling away too quickly, my food got stuck in my throat. It's agonizing. Even as I hammer on my chest, it doesn't go down. I frantically swallow some water,
"...... uuh-ah, that was dangerous...... I almost died, what a joke."
And I put the bread roll back into mouth again.
Behind me, I can hear the splashing sounds of water. Gunjou is soaking her towel with water, and wiping her body with it. Since there is spare clothing in the backpacks, she intends to get a change of clothing it seems. Well, it's understandable since it's been a week --- no, it has been 37 days since we entered the labyrinth. We hadn't bathed all this while. It's no wonder she would want to wash her body.
"Not done yet?"
Gunjou then replies.
"Hey, don't look here. I still haven't put on my clothes yet!"
"I'm not looking. Right now, I'm more keen in satisfying my stomach hunger rather than my s.e.xual hunger. There's not much to see anyway."
"What did you say!"
"I'm stating a fact."
"Wha, of course there would be things to see!"
"Then I'll look."
"I'll kill you if you do!"
"So which is it?"
I take another bite at my bread.
I then look up at the sky.
The sun rays are strong. At this rate, I feel like taking a nap. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep, I feel like just repeating this for half a year.
A yawn escapes my lips.
But I don't have the luxury of time. One week has already pa.s.sed. Even though Liezel has not contacted me, there is a chance that Kujaku has reached my little sister.
Or, there's a possibility that challengers from other corporations are already right behind us.
Thus, we have no time to tarry around.
"Gunjou, we should get moving."
"Wait, a sec, just a little more......"
Just as she says that, a voice rings out.
"Yaah yaah, yaah yaah."
The voice of a rabbit. The voice is the direction of where Gunjou is. An enemy. A battle. I snap my fingers, and activate my 《Headphone Fuzz》.
But Gunjou says.
"Hey hey hey, wait! Don't face here! I still haven't put on my...... hey, this rabbit, is strong!?"
While yelling, Gunjou falls back.
Gunjou has her blouse in her right hand and skirt in her left hand.
She is only in her underwear. Slender legs. Slender waist. Her chest is bigger than I thought. Her fair skin has a pale pink tinge.
I look at her with half-opened eyes.
Gunjou looks at me with a beet-red face.
"Hey, don't look here dummy!"
"You're the one showing me, you exhibitionist."
"I'm going to wear them! I'm going to wear them now so buy me some time! And it doesn't die even after destroying the pocket watch!"
I stand up and turn around.
The usual rabbit is there.
In its right paw is a broken pocket watch.
Its left paw has claws extended.
The left and right are swapped as compared the usual. The usual rabbit would have a pocket watch in its left paw. Maybe it's at a higher level. Once again, I use the a.s.sa.s.sination property.
Upon doing that, a red target appears not on the pocket watch, but on its ear.
"Just as thought, it's a different type."
But it's only one. Maybe another is hidden behind it.
"Gunjou, for now, the weak point is at its ear. Back me up once you get dressed."
"Sea Moon Wheel switch!"
While getting dressed, she activates her magic. I look at her, and she's not completely dressed yet. She is just about to put on her skirt, and her panties are completely visible. Her face turns red as she notices my gaze,
"Don't look here!"
"Did you p.o.o.p in your panties......"
I smile and start running.
The rabbit turns its attention to me. It ascertains my speed. Swings its paws. Its speed is overwhelmingly faster than mine but, it can't be helped with the current me.
She is just about to put on her skirt, and her panties are completely visible.
I say. My whole body accelerates. With that, I swing my Demon Sword. And that is the end. I slice off the rabbit's ear.
The rabbit is annihilated.
But behind it, as if in layers, the hidden rabbits appear.
7 of them.
My eyes widen. I swing my sword. Trying to land a blow to the ear. But, the rabbit turns its ear aside. My blade brushes against its head. These fellows are aware of their weakness. They are trying to deal with my attack appropriately.
Strong. If a large bunch of them are attacking us at this level, it might be a little bad, but,
"If it's just seven, I can do this."
I swing my sword trying to graze the pulled back ear.
One flash, two flashes. Three flashes.
With that, I dealt with five of them. Two of them are left. I turn around.
The two of them are heading towards Gunjou.
But I did not worry.
Since we know their weak points. Gunjou can deal with them. She is strong enough that I can leave my back to her without worrying --- that should be the case but,
"Wah wah wah wah wah, you're kidding me, wait a sec!?"
Gunjou yells. She waves the fingers of her right hand, unleashes her Sea Moon Wheel, and annihilated one.
However, the Sea Moon Wheel she launched missed the other one.
On top of that, because she is trying to wear her skirt with her left hand, she loses her balance. She falls in her underwear. Even though she went through the trouble of wiping herself clean, she got dirt onto her body again. The rabbit attacks the fallen Gunjou.
"Erhm, you idiot!?"
I kick the ground. The Acceleration switch has a short window of operation. My body's acceleration ends in the midst of it --- but, I manage to catch up to the rabbit.
"Wait up, you murderer rabbit!"
I swing my sword down at the rabbit's head from behind. Slicing off its ear.
With that, the rabbit is annihilated.
But at that moment, my feet lands and steps onto her unworn skirt. I slip against the clothing and lose my balance.
"Eh? Oh oh."
I fall over. To top it off, I am falling on top of Gunjou, who is in her underwear, with sword about to pierce into her,
Frantically, I pull my hands back and the Demon Sword disappears. Because of that, I am unable to support my own body.
I fall on top of her, covering her body with mine.
My body adheres to hers.
Our faces are just about to bang into each other, but I twist my body aside, and somehow manage to avoid it.
Gunjou stares at me with a surprised face. Following that, her face gradually flushes red.
Expecting her outburst screaming right into my ears, I feel exasperated but,
She did not scream.
With her face beet red......
"E-Erhm, sorry...... I was clumsy."
"...... t-thanks...... for saving me."
"Whatever, just hurry up and get dressed, would you?"
"Can you stand up without looking?"
"I already tired of looking."
"You've looked for so long that you are already tired of looking!? You, lecherous, pervert......"
"Ah ~ you're really annoying. The enemy's tough, so I really didn't have the leisure to keep up with your idiocy......"
"You big pervert droopy eyed man!"
"............" She is really annoying.
However, I feel a different presence at that moment. Footsteps that sound like someone is approaching. I tense my whole body, but,
"Hey, what the h.e.l.l are you guys doing?"
The voice comes from the direction of the footsteps.
Gunjou and I look up.
Before us, stands a man who is wearing the uniform of 『Metropolitan Kichijouji High』. He has sharp, strangely red eyes. And gray hair.
Hishiro Shiro stands there, looking at us with a disgusted face. Seems like he's alive.
Shiro looks down at me and the Gunjou who's in her underwear pressed beneath me.
"...... ah ~, are you guys in that kind of relationship?"
On hearing that, I reply.
"We are just into the physical aspect of the relationship."
"Why are you telling such a lie!?"
Gunjou, who's pressed by me, hits my side.
Shiro smiles wryly and says.
"Which is the joke? Are you actually going out?"
"NOo! It's because the enemy attacked while I was wiping my body."
"And after that, things just happened?"
Shiro smiles. And then says.
"Well, it's great to see you guys so energetic. You managed to save Gunjou huh. I've thought that you would be able to do it if it's you."
"What's with that faith? When did you start having that kind of faith in me?"
"When you were hollering to Kiri about us being comrades."
"As usual, you're one annoying fellow."
I sigh and tries to stand up. But Gunjou clings onto me,
"H-H-Hey, if you stand up now, Shiro is going to see me naked."
"No one is interested in your naked body."
"That's not the point right!"
She shouts angrily. At any rate, I can't stand up with her clinging onto me. Slowly, slowly, Gunjou retreats behind my body. She pulls up her skirt with her legs. Wears her skirt.
At that point, I ignore her and stand up.
While yelling, she turns her back to me and Shiro, and starts wearing her uniform.
Shiro says to that.
"Have you already done it?"
"Like I said, why are you making such a thing up!"
Shiro and I laugh.
Shiro then says in a small voice.
"This kind of teasing is fun."
I shrug my shoulders,
"By the way, where's Himi and Yousuke? Already dead?"
That possibility exists. Since the last time I could ascertain that they were still alive was a week ago.
Shiro then looks at me in delight and says.
"Oh, you are concerned about the well-being of your comrades?"
"Are you concerned about whether Himi and Yousuke are alive?"
"Aah whatever. Seems like they are still kicking from your manner of speaking."
But, Shiro's face becomes a little sad,
"...... they both died."
As my eyes widen, Shiro looks at me in great delight.
"You're pretty concerned about your comrades......"
I strike Shiro on the shoulder.
"So, what's the situation?"
I say in a tired voice and Shiro replies.
"They're alive. They are in the safe zone on this floor."
"Safe zone...... but this is the 25th floor below right?"
"That's right, and what about it?"
Shiro says, to which I ask.
"Due to certain circ.u.mstances, I have the map of Apocalypse Alice inside me. The positions of the people inside one week ago were indicated on the map. And, you guys......"
"Yeah ~. You want to ask why we have been holding out on the 25th floor for a whole week?"
"Yeah. Is it because you are useless?"
"Well, you can say that. Below this floor, the enemy suddenly becomes much stronger. Even though we can defeat them, with just the three of us, we can't advance much. Besides, we don't know the layout of the labyrinth."
"What about Himi's detection magic?"
"Like I mentioned, I got Himi to use her detection magic, we advanced forward, then Himi got lost, and we retreated back to the safe zone; rinse and repeat."
Well, that would probably happen if they didn't have the map.
"The Valor team was on the 33rd floor a week ago you know?"
Shiro then smiles and says.
"We caught up with them; up till the 26th floor, we were still following behind stealthily. But, on the 26th floor, we were attacked by strong enemies and we lost them."
Kujaku's team also has lost more than half of their comrades by the time they reached the 33rd floor.
Given the difficulty level that could suppress both Shiro and Mitsutomo's hundred-men group, the labyrinth couldn't be a rank 15 one.
In other words, the rank of the labyrinth from here onward is unknown.
At that moment, from behind me, Gunjou who has finished dressing walks up to us. Maybe it's because she has been seen naked, or maybe it's because she feels unsociable since it's been a while since she has met Shiro, she glares at us with a sharp look that seems to indicate she's in a foul mood, and says.
"...... where's Himi and Yousuke?"
I shift my eyes down and reply.
"I heard they died."
That kind of surprised reaction.
The Hero team has already become an annoyingly buddy-buddy group.
"Anyway, let's get to the safe zone. Both Himi and Yousuke will be pleased to know that both Shinnosuke and Gunjou are alive and well and have become lovers."
"Hey, so they are alive after all!?"
Gunjou hollers and glares at me.
"And we aren't lovers!"
She busily turns her glare back to Shiro.
Shiro and I ignore her and start walking.
"Hey, you guys are alive!?"
Upon seeing us, Yousuke and Himi yell and run up to us.
Shiro then nods happily and says.
"On top of that, while we weren't looking, these guys......"
Before he can finish, Gunjou cuts him off and kicks him in the back.
"Ooucch. What the h.e.l.l are you doing?"
"I already told you that you've misunderstood, didn't I?"
"But weren't you guys embracing each other while naked?"
Himi and Yousuke exclaim and look at us, but Gunjou's face turns beet red as she desperately refutes Shiro's claim.
"Like I told you, you misunderstood! Hey, Shinnosuke, you say something too."
"Ok. Like I said, our relationship is only physical......"
She tries to hit me with all her strength but I dodge it. Smirking. Shiro too smiles in delight. It's fun to tease Gunjou but,
"Now's not the time to engage in such meaningless talk right?"
I say, to which Gunjou pouts.
"No buts. This is the labyrinth you know? Stop messing around, would you?"
"The ones who are messing around are you guys!"
On hearing that, I look in the direction of Shiro.
"Were we messing around?"
"Y-You guys, I'll definitely kill you guys later, hear me!"
Himi looks troubled as she says.
"W-Well well, it's great news that everyone is well, we should get along......"
"I don't want to!"
Yousuke looks at her and smiles.
"Well, seems like you are back to the usual Gunjou. That's great."
He is referring to her returning back to normal from the labyrinth disease. Though a month has gone by, a month ago, the goal of the Hero team was to separate Gunjou from the labyrinth disease and turn her back to human.
But yet, how did things come to this? Right now, we are inside the world's most difficult labyrinth, Apocalypse Alice.
On hearing Yousuke's words, Gunjou trembles with a start.
She looks at Yousuke.
She looks at Himi.
She looks at Shiro.
She looks at me.
Of course, we know what she wants to say. The people here all came risking their lives to save Gunjou without any concern with personal gains.
Gunjou's face contorts in slight embarra.s.sment,
"...... e-erhm....... I mean......"
But, cutting her off, Shiro says.
"Saving comrades is a given in my world. There's no need for words of thanks."
I look up at Shiro with half-opened eyes.
"Isn't that too cool?"
"I have always been cool."
"Cos I'm too cool?"
Himi too laughs.
Yousuke also laughs.
Every one of them is kind like a fool. While I feel spooked and have no idea why they are so kind towards strangers, anyhow, they are kind. Thus, they will probably die. Since kind people die in this world.
But Gunjou still said it.
"...... t-thanks. For coming to save me. I'm grateful."
Unlike me, Shiro didn't poke fun at it. He only acknowledges with a 'Uhn' and accepts her thanks with a smiling face. These fellows are really adults at heart and are really cool people. And regarding that,
"I'm really fed up with it."
Once again, I voice out my thoughts.
On doing that, maybe it's because he feels the same depression as me from Shiro's dazzling form, Yousuke says to me from the side.
"But surprisingly, I'm the more popular one you know?"
"I didn't ask about that."
Ah-haha, Himi laughs.
As before, with her face red, Gunjou looks away in embarra.s.sment.
Surely, if anyone here dies, I'll feel hurt. I want to distance myself from them now, but it's already impossible. These fellows had shamelessly gotten close to me, and kept clamoring about how we were comrades.
And I too am the same.
I ended up saving Gunjou, when there was no need for me to. Hollering embarra.s.sing stuff about comrades, and saving her even without being asked to.
On top of that, the result of that, was that I ended up entering the labyrinth which should have been impossible to raid.
The instant I did something which I had been avoiding, the results showed up.
Even if that were purely a coincidence, I can no longer turn back from this path. I would still save Gunjou if there is a next time.
That is really an embarra.s.sing thing.
But, even if it's embarra.s.sing, I need comrades.
On hearing my sigh, Shiro asks.
"Nothing. I'm tired of this buddy-buddy stuff."
"Haha, but you were the lead in the pack causing this buddy-buddy stuff."
I can't deny it.
"But, even without Kiri, we have five people a.s.sembled. On top of that, Shinnosuke has the map of Apocalypse Alice inside his head, it seems."
Yousuke and Himi become surprised.
"For real! How did you get your hands on it?"
"It's a long story, but we can trust it. At the very least, we managed to find our way here without getting lost even once."
"We have the map. We can form a formation of five. In that case, we can proceed forward. So, let's decide what we should do from hereon."
Of course, my thought is to raid Apocalypse Alice.
But Shiro looks at me,
"We have worked hard till this very day with the hope of meeting Kiri and getting her to undo her restraining magic on you. But, you woke up on your own and saved Gunjou. Then, I can no longer see any reason to take further risk to proceed forward."
Indeed, as what Gunjou had said, Shiro and the rest infiltrated Apocalypse Alice with the purpose of saving me and Gunjou.
In other words, for the past month, these fellows had been trying desperately to save even my life. Why did they do such a thing? Right now, I understand. Since if I were in the same situation, I would surely do the same.
I look at Shiro, and say.
"I won't say any thanks. You did say there's no need for words of thanks right?"
"For you, say it."
"I don't want to."
I am indeed a brat. But,
"I live with the principle of not saying thanks here."
"But you do feel like saying thanks?"
"You really are cute huh."
Shiro hits my back and laughs. With a look saying 'what do you think of this fellow's annoying personality?', I look to Gunjou seeking her empathy.
But for some reason, Gunjou has a smug look on her face and puffs her chest out,
"It should downright clear now that, since I said my thanks, I am more of an adult than you."
"Can someone with the height of an elementary school student just shut up?"
"What did you say!?"
"Thus we have two choices. Let's decide this together. Do we go after Kiri and ask her about her circ.u.mstance...... or do we all Escape?"
However, I can't Escape. I have to save my little sister.
"Say, since you are not planning to advance forward, why haven't you Escaped before?"
Shiro then answers.
"Hn? About that, it's to save you......"
"But you have other choices right? You belong to some organization. Then, you could have gotten out, made preparations, then re-enter ---"
But, Shiro cuts me off and says.
"I probably can't re-enter. Otherwise, the Valor team wouldn't have brought in large amounts of supplies right?"
"Aah, so that's your conclusion huh. That's why you didn't Escape?"
"For the sake of saving me?"
Shiro acknowledges straightly and all too readily.
"What's your purpose?"
"You'd also do the same right?"
"Don't lie. We objected to saving Gunjou. But yet, you were the one who wanted to save Gunjou more than anyone else."
On hearing those words,
But I don't want to continue the conversation down that path, so I say.
"But even so, there's no benefit to you right?"
"There is. I can save you. And when that happens, you will save me the next time."
"You want me to repay this debt?"
But Shiro smiles and says.
"You will return it on your own. That's the kind of guy you are."
"Don't make a.s.sumptions."
I say and look at Shiro. Following that, I recall the words Shiro said before entering this labyrinth.
"You can enter it alone and die by yourself. Or, maybe, it'd be fine for you to put up your solitary airs and achieve your grand ambition. At any rate, it's probably an ambition you can achieve by yourself, right?"
But those words couldn't possibly come out of someone without a great ambition. In other words, Shiro has a great ambition and needs strong comrades to accomplish that.
However, why did he need to go to the extent of risking his life to a.s.semble comrades that he can trust?
What is he planning to do?
"Which organization do you belong to?"
On saying that, I can feel Himi and Yousuke behind tense up. Those two should be from the same organization.
"What happens if you know?"
"I can judge whether I can trust you or not."
"That sounds pretty high and mighty. But, to what end? What we've gone through together is what matters right? We are comrades."
But I did not listen to him, and look hard at Shiro.
Shiro glares at me.
"...... ha, I don't really want our friendship to be weighed using that."
Then, his fingers move into a shape, poised to employ magic. His thumb touches the pad of his middle finger. Once he snaps them, his 《Headphone Fuzz》 will activate.
I look at that. But, my fingers were done preparing.
Both our murderous intent fill our surroundings.
From the side, Gunjou says.
"Shiro, wait a minute. About Shinnosuke......"
But, I cut her off and say.
"Shut up Gunjou. I'll decide whether to say it or not."
Shiro looks at both me and Gunjou, then says.
"What's this? You told Gunjou your secret, but yet can't tell it to us?"
"I already know her whole profile. Since it was given to us during our cla.s.s."
"And, you knew that she wouldn't become your enemy so you told her?"
"Then, if after I tell you and it turns out that we are enemies, you will stop being our comrade?"
On hearing that, I ask.
"That's what I want to ask you. You have a great ambition which you have to risk your life for right? Then, if your interest is not aligned with mine, what would you do? Or, are you going to tell me that you would give up on your ambition and remain buddy-buddy with me?"
Shiro nods readily.
I laugh derisively through my nose.
"I can't believe that."
He doesn't seem like someone who would act on an ambition of such level.
But Shiro says.
"Since you were the one who suddenly started this, you actually want to believe it right? Since you don't have enough power by yourself, you want us to become your comrades. In that case, speak. For what purpose did you come here for?"
I look hard at Shiro and reply.
"...... if I say it, and find out that you are my enemy, I will kill you."
"But I don't want to kill you."
"So...... you say it first."
"If so, please. Tell me your true ident.i.ty."
I glare at Shiro. But, if he can know my ident.i.ty if he gave his, he should say it.
So I say,
"............ I beg you, Shiro."
But Shiro stares at me,
"It's time for you to show that you trust us. Being able to get something through just begging alone only happens while you are still a kid. If you want comrades, be a comrade first. If you don't take a risk and leave a backdoor for yourself, don't think that you can obtain anything."
But even so, I still shouldn't say it. My objective is to turn my little sister --- Apocalypse Alice back to human, which is an action that goes against the benefits of every single human being.
By now, the world organizations are already fearful of Apocalypse Alice. They all want to get their hands on Apocalypse Alice.
If they make use of Apocalypse Alice, they might even be able to conquer the world.
The organization that Shiro belongs to probably also wants to get hold of Apocalypse Alice.
Then, he's an enemy.
If I say it, then to Shiro, I will become a p.a.w.n that he can make use of. This will happen anyway. It'll definitely happen. Since only such a thing exists in the world.
But yet, even so, I want Shiro. I want him as a friend. I wonder when did I become so weak? Never had such a thing happened before. If I let others know my weakness, I won't be able to grow strong --- that should be what I had decided but yet, I,
"...... it's my little sister."
I may no longer be able to advance forward by myself.
"...... I want to save my little sister Arisu Saki."
Shiro answers without even appearing surprised.
"...... I see. I got it. I'll help you. Let's forget about Escaping."
Even though it's something that goes against the line of human benefit, but yet, he said that so readily.
On top of that, his face said that he knew. Well, that's obvious I guess. I didn't even change my family name. Even if I had changed it, an organization with someone as strong as Shiro would have been able to investigate me, so I didn't bother changing it. No, even without investigations, Shiro could have already guessed from my family name.
Thus, maybe I didn't really need to act like an a.s.s. Since I already revealed to Shiro and the rest something which must not be revealed, that is, I possess the magic, Holy Swordswitch, that can allow me to save labyrinth diseased girls.
"With this, we are real comrades."
But I say.
"Not yet. I don't know your real ident.i.ties yet."
Shiro then grins and says,
"Taikou Pharmaceuticals. We are here to keep an eye on you in order to get our hands on Apocalypse Alice."
"You are a fool. You let your mouth run loose and babble out what you shouldn't say. That's why you can't get your hands on anything."
On hearing that, I snap my fingers.
He's an enemy.
He's the worst enemy that I should not even allow close by in the first place.
Taikou Pharmaceuticals is a corporation which had conducted human experimentation on the labyrinth diseased Asahi Momoka, and forcibly made her into a labyrinth.
"Demon Sword switch."
I activate my magic. Swing my sword. The sword touches Shiro's neck, and I say.
"Why are you not dodging?"
"I should ask you too, why didn't you kill me?"
"See, even when our interests are not aligned, you couldn't kill me right? By the way, the thing about me being from Taikou Pharmaceuticals is a lie."
"But you didn't kill me. In other words, it doesn't matter to you where I belong to. You can't kill the comrades with whom you have risked your life together in the labyrinth."
"What the h.e.l.l are you?"
I push my hand against Shiro's chest.
"What if I really cut you?"
"Well, I'll just die I suppose."
"Besides, you didn't cut me. If you had intended to, you would have abandoned me to my death way before. I made a mistake in Asahi Momoka's labyrinth, and if you hadn't saved me, I would have died. We were strangers then. But yet, you saved me."
"A nice guy who saves a stranger, tries to act cool and wants to kill his comrades? Haha, don't make me laugh."
On hearing his words, I say tiredly.
"Well fine. Just as you said, I'm soft."
Shiro then says.
"Then we'll nickname you Softie."
Yousuke then quips in as well.
Himi too says.
"Ah, ah, erhm, I think I'd find the soft Shinnosuke-san way cooler, you know?"
Finding that cool = it's not embarra.s.sing at all you know? = It's embarra.s.sing but the mood is good and I'll console you telling you it's not embarra.s.sing --- that's what it means.
Gunjou then laughs out behind me.
Anyhow, this is p.i.s.sing me. I can't stop feeling p.i.s.sed. It's the same when we were at the karaoke. These fellows did whatever they wanted with me, and even made me sing an enka in the end.
But, since there's no helping it whatever I say, I continue.
"I got it. It's fine then. It's fine so let's move on. So, who are you guys really?"
On hearing that, contrary to his previous defiant att.i.tude, Shiro answers simply.
"I'm with America's Rorand Inc. It's a corporation connected to the military. My rank is Magician Third Major."
"Hm. So, why did you come to j.a.pan?"
"It's because of a strange mission. It's a mission to pursue a mad scientist whose ident.i.ty is unknown and who is maneuvering the world in the shadows."
But that's probably just a mission. There's no reason to risk his life and increase his comrades for the purpose of fulfilling that mission. Therefore, Shiro probably has another objective.
"So, aside from your mission, what's your objective?"
"Hn? Ah, I'm here to completely take over a certain corporation......"
But, before he can finish, Shiro's words got cut off.
Because there is the sound of an explosion.
Followed by screams.
"I, I don't want to die!?"
"Wait, wait, please, Kujaku-sama, please save me!?"
We turn around in the direction of the voice.
Right now, we are inside the safe zone behind a hidden door that forms part of a gigantic tree, but we can hear the screams of agony from outside.
Bang bang bang, our room shakes from the explosive sounds.
"The Valor team is outside."
"What sound is that? Is the Valor team under attack from the enemy? Or, is it that Mitsutomo Group already has gotten their hands on the magic of Apocalypse Alice and the girl called Kujaku is killing off eye-witnesses?"
From the voices heard, that is a possibility too. It sounds like the voices are begging Kujaku for their lives.
In order to bring magic back from an eternal labyrinth, firstly, the labyrinth diseased girl needs to be restrained. Following that, the magic has to be sucked out of her body. The ingredients that would be turned into 'Magic Converted from Labyrinth Spoils' would be extracted from the girl.
She will definitely not be killed.
Since if she is killed, then the magic can't be extracted.
Thus, once she's restrained, she will be bounded for life inside the machine for sucking out magic. She will be used like a lab rat.
And, there is a possibility that Kujaku has restrained my little sister. She has plenty of time to do that.
Reason being, since the time I was knocked out, till the time I reached here, it has already 1 month and 1 week.
And, she has started killing the eye-witnesses.
She has started killing eye-witnesses in order to hog the power for herself.
In other words.
My little sister.
Has already been captured by Mitsutomo Group.
I am about to dash out of the safe zone. Shiro and Gunjou grab my shoulder and arm.
"Please stop Shinnosuke!"
"Let me go!"
I cry out.
Himi jumps out in front of me, and snaps her fingers,
"I'll start activating my detection magic to check......"
But, an explosion reverberated again right before us. The room shakes. The safe zone wall that's in front of us is blown apart.
The wall flies towards me and Himi,
"Spider Legs switch!"
He spreads his hands apart, and deploys his protection magic.
Something resembling the eight legs of a spider appears, and threads start dancing out, creating a barrier of threads to protect us from the explosion.
If not that, we might have been thrown out and receive the full blast of explosion which would probably kill us.
Shiro says to me.
"Idiot! Teamwork first! Remember why we work so hard to act buddy-buddy and become comrades!"
"That's right Shinnosuke. I understand how you feel, but please just come down!"
Gunjou says to me, and I brush both their hands aside.
"I get it!"
"You don't get it at all!"
Shiro pats my back and says,
"All right! If you get it, it's fine! The situation is chaotic, but we have five people with a balance in both offense and defense! If so, we'll be able to deal with it! Until we get a grasp of the situation, don't go out. Step back!"
Then, he yanks me from behind, and I fall back. Each and every one of us take our positions correctly.
The defensive magic specialist, Yousuke.
The melee offensive magic specialist, me.
The mid-to-long range offensive magic specialist, Gunjou.
Wide area destructive offensive magic specialist, Shiro.
Support magic specialist, Himi.
In this order, we take our positions.
Each and every one of us is too excellent, and despite such an abnormal situation, I can feel a sense of security that I have never felt before.
But yet, it is true that with such a group composition, we might be able to deal with almost any situation, I feel. Reason being, we have proven that none of us would stab another of us in the back.
And, if we add Kiri, who is balanced in both offense and defense, to Yousuke's side, our holes would even further decrease but ---
"...... I wonder whether Kiri has already been killed."
Shiro replies. I look at the star marks on my armband. There are still five star marks, but right now, we have no idea what kind of situation we are in. Despite the fact that the wall has been destroyed, we are unable to see what's outside due to the cloud of sand that formed from the explosion.
Outside, the explosions continue on unchecked.
Shrieks can be heard.
"I don't want to die!"
"Escape switch! Escape switch! Escape switch! Why! Why can't I activate my magic!?"
Voices like those.
Judging from that, the chance of the Mitsutomo Group getting ma.s.sacred is getting higher and higher.
The subordinates' 《Headphone Fuzz》 could have been modified such that the Escape switch can't be used.
But in that case,
"I wonder whether our enemy just comprises of those few Valor team members we fought the other time?"
In that case, we can take them on. At the very least, we won't lose. Even though Kiri is not with us, Gunjou is. Even in a head on clash, we won't get overwhelmed, I guess.
On top of that, we will launch a surprise attack on our opponents. The other side has yet to notice us.
"Isn't it better if we go out now? If they are ma.s.sacring their own comrades ---"
"If we save those subordinates who were deceived by Mitsutomo Group, then they might become our allies?"
"That's a good point. But, that's provided that the Mitsutomom Group is ma.s.sacring their comrades. If it's not......"
But, at that moment, Himi says.
"I have finished scanning the surrounding map! This is not a ma.s.sacre!"
"Then what is it?"
Kimi replies to my query.
"In front, the labyrinth guardians --- more than 200 monsters are closing in! Only 8 humans are left! They are running away towards here!"
I look at the faces of my comrades.
"If we go out, we'll be killed. Leave the Kansai team......"
But Shiro cuts him off.
"What if Kiri is among the 8 people?"
"Then should we all die together!? Our comrades' lives are at stake. Evaluate this calmly, Shiro."
Shiro looks at me and Gunjou.
It's a difficult call. Kiri might not be outside at all.
If we stay here, we might get through this alive.
But, the answer appears right away.
"The enemy has noticed us!"
Shiro extends his right hand backwards,
"Thousand Deities Flash Of Light switch!"
He throws his spear at the wall behind us, in the opposite direction from where the enemy is closing in. A hole opens.
I bellow at that.
"We're getting out! Those who are alive link up, and escape to the upper level!"
I dash out of the room that's inside the gigantic tree.
Once I get out, the scenery outside enters my vision.
The sky is blue and clear, like that of good weather.
The sun rays shine down on us.
The gra.s.s plains are so empty that it feels refreshing with only the horizon in sight.
Those gra.s.s plains are stained bright with red.
It is stained with bright red blood of people.
The enemies that are closing in are soldiers with torsos in the form of playing cards, as expected of what you would find in "Alice in Wonderland".
All of them have heart marks. There are none with spades, clubs, or diamonds. Since my little sister Saki loves heart marks.
And as expected, they swing their spears with heart-shaped tips, tearing apart people.
By the time I come out, there are only three people left.
And I know the faces of all of them.
The members of Valor team named Mitsutomo Kujaku, Makoto, and Zakki.
Kiri is not among them.
I look at my armband.
On doing that,
A star mark has disappeared without me being the wiser.
My little sister probably killed her.
"d.a.m.n, d.a.m.n, d.a.m.n, d.a.m.n!"
I groan. I glare at the labyrinths guards sent out by my little sister.
Several card soldiers raise their spears.
Kujaku stops in her tracks. Her uniform covered in blood. Navy blue long hair. Clear cold eyes.
Even in this situation, she remains calm and retains her beauty of high cla.s.s, n.o.ble birth.
She calmly turns around, and straightens her back,
"...... haah...... I'm tired of running away. Makoto, Yamazaki, I'll hold them off here. Please escape."
Makoto turns around with a surprised face,
"N-No way, don't push yourself Kujaku-sama!"
"Let's escape together! If we just get away a little further, we might be able to use our Escape switch......"
But Kujaku ignores them. She just extends her left hand out. She adopts a pose as if she's pulling the drawstring of a bow,
"Wailing Summer Rain switch."
Then, in the sky, several gigantic arrows of light appear. They number around thirty. The scale looks so grand that if all of them rain down, it looks like they can take down about a hundred of the card soldiers.
It's an amazing magic.
Just like Shiro's magic, it is specialized offensive magic that probably needs time to activate, and because of its give-and-take nature, it probably requires her to sacrifice something and fulfill some difficult conditions before she can activate it.
But the card soldiers look up. And they all raise their spears at once. And throws them up at the sky.
At the same time, Kujaku hollers.
Instantly, the gigantic arrows fall like rain.
However, the spears clash with the arrows.
The spears number two hundred.
But there are only thirty arrows.
Then, the sky clears up, and sadly, it seems like nothing came down.
The card soldiers look at Kujaku again.
Kujaku stands rooted, tiredly.
She has given up.
"...... it, didn't work...... it's my loss huh. We shouldn't have laid our hands on Apocalypse Alice yet."
About ten of the card soldiers ready their spears.
Kujaku does not resist.
Spears are thrown.
"Wailing Summer Rainswitch."
"...... Acceleration switch."
Instantly, my body accelerates from the magic.
In an instant, for a second, my speed is faster than even that of G.o.d. And I was before Kujaku in an instant.
Kujaku exclaims in surprise.
I swing my Demon Sword switch. I have already seen the weak points of the spears. I brandish my sword at the points where I can ward off the spears.
I swing, swing, swing, swing my sword.
The spears got deflected before me, and explosions occur left and right. While the wind of the blasts reached me, the blast impact didn't.
On top of that, Shiro jumps out. He raises his right hand.
"Thousand Deities Flash Of Light switch!"
A gigantic rotating spear with a drill tip appears.
And he throws it.
The card soldiers react and throw their heart spears at it, but the drill spins the spear as it pierces forward.
Doh-doh-doh-doh-doh-dohn, one by one, the spears clash with Shiro's spear and explode, but Shiro's spear does not disappear.
Shiro's magic is a type that unleashes great power in one shot.
The card soldiers are unable to render it inoperative.
The soldiers get bored by the drill. The drill explodes. Several card soldiers got annihilated.
But, that's about all. They are two hundred strong.
I turn around and say.
"All right, let's get out of here!"
Kujaku looks at me with a surprised face, and then says,
"Why are you......"
"It's not like I'm saving you. Curse you for abandoning Kiri...... but, we were also discovered. So......"
At that moment, Gunjou grabs the hair of Kujaku and says.
"Leave that for later, let's get out of here now!"
Kujaku's face then turns into even greater surprise.
"Gunjou, why are you still......"
But, we can no afford the leisure to talk.
This Valor team with Kujaku, Makoto and Zakki should be pretty strong. Then, if we join hands, and properly work together in guarding one another, there is a high possibility that we can get out of here.
We are just about to dash off in a breath.
However, at that moment.
From behind me.
From among the card soldiers, the voice of a girl rings out suddenly.
"Ah, ah, you aren't allowed to escape."
On hearing that voice, I can no longer move. Because I know it. Because I know that voice. No, maybe the owner of that voice is using some kind of magic that is stopping my movements. To the extent that my body no longer listens to me.
My brain is br.i.m.m.i.n.g with adrenaline and my ears are ringing. My heart races madly. I can't remain calm.
I turn around.
The card soldiers make way as if someone's pushing her way through, and a girl appears from among them.
As if she came out from the ill.u.s.trations in 'Alice in Wonderland', it is a girl who's wearing a cute dress.
I call out the name of that girl.
She has grown up. Her appearance looks like that of a eleven, twelve year old now. However, there's no doubt about it. She is Saki. My little sister.
Dragged along in the tight grip of the right hand of that little sister of mine, is the neck of Kiri. The star mark has disappeared, but Kiri is alive. She looks at us. Her face becomes teary as she looks at me. Get out of here, her lips move.
That would probably be the better choice. In this situation, there's no way I can save my little sister. I can't save Kiri as well. The place is too bad. Furthermore, my little sister is protected by large numbers of card soldiers.
Despite all this, my Holy Sword switch that I can use for the purpose of saving my little sister, has hardly any range. On top of that, I can't activate my Acceleration switch along with it; in the capacity of a weapon, there's no magic worse than this.
However, even so, I cancel the cursed song of Acceleration switch that's playing in my head, and change to a different song slot.
The song of Holy Sword switch starts playing in my head.
【Deceiving the night ♪
Beguiling the world ♪
The darkness that saves the girl of the endless night ♪】
It's the magic to sever a labyrinth diseased girl from the labyrinth.
I will save my little sister here.
I will save my little sister here.
Dragged along in the tight grip of the right hand of that little sister of mine, is the neck of Kiri.
"...... sorry everyone. Please get out of here. I'll remain here."
Shiro then says behind me.
"What the heck are you talking......"
"My little sister's here! I...... I'll save, my little sister here......"
But, Gunjou comes standing beside me.
"Then, hurry up and do it!"
Shiro then goes on to say,
"For real? At this timing...... aah, but we might have a better chance at it than running away."
Yousuke too stands beside,
"c.r.a.p, d.a.m.n you, if we survive this, I'll make sure you treat me lunch a hundred times!"
Then, the card soldiers raise their spears all at once. Facing us.
"No! Get out of here! You can't win!"
We should really be fleeing.
There's absolutely no chance of winning. If the card soldiers' can be held with just these few people, Kujaku's team would have already done it I guess.
But, they were almost completely annihilated.
But they couldn't hold them off. In other words, our current action is the same as suicide.
But yet, my Hero team comrades surround me.
I say in exasperated voice.
"You guys are really morons."
Shiro then says.
"Not as moronic as you."
Yousuke then says,
"Let's save that for later, hurry up and get going. Go finish it off!"
I then nod,
"Holy Sword switch."
While murmuring that, I start running.
A silver sword appears in my right hand. A shining sword shrouded by light. A sword of hypocrisy that resembles a sword that a hero carries.
The card soldiers turn to me and throw their spears at me.
But I didn't look at them. Since I can't do anything with the Holy Sword activated.
I am useless. I am defenseless. I am powerless.
But my comrades are with me now.
Shiro, Yousuke, and Gunjou protect me from the spears.
My little sister did not move.
She merely grins with a gentle looking face, and did not move.
I start swinging my sword at my little sister.
However, the card soldier that's just beside my little sister starts throwing his spear at me.
Kiri says. A j.a.panese sword appears in her hands and blocks the spear of the card soldier. The spear explodes, but Kiri's sword absorbs all of the blast impact.
With that, I reach my little sister.
After spending ten years, I finally reach her.
"Please do it!"
"Just do it idiot!"
Kiri says with a completely limp, exhausted face.
In order to answer their calls, I swing my 'Holy Sword down at my little sister ---
In the next instant.
With the power of the Holy Sword, I enter the heart of Saki.
The inside of my little sister is pitch dark.
Deep inside the darkness, Saki sits alone.
She sits hugging her legs to her chest.
The same as Gunjou and Asahi Momoka.
I call out to Saki.
She then looks up.
"Ah ~, you finally came. Onii-chan. I've been waiting."
She says familiarly, as if she's waking me up from my morning snooze.
I shrug my shoulders.
"I've been waiting for ten years."
"Even though I can't sleep in a dark room by myself, this place never has any lights, and it's always dark you know!"
"Then you never even sleep a wink?"
"No. I do sleep when I get tired though."
"You do sleep huh."
"But because you weren't here Onii-chan, I got really sleep-deprived."
She says with an angry face.
Like before, she has a naive, innocent, cheery face. No but, she really has grown up a little. She's also taller.
"Sorry. I'm late."
I say again.
Saki then smiles and shakes her head.
"But since I'm kindhearted, I'll forgive you. Onii-chan, you really did come after all."
"...... well, even though I really gave it my all to reach here, you know?"
"I saw. Onii-chan, you've been shedding tears, hollering, and wanted to give up many times, but still, you work hard and made it here; I've been watching all this while."
I c.o.c.k my head on hearing that.
"Y-You can see all that?"
Saki then smiles.
"I can. After all, my disease infected you that time."
"And, didn't we make put together our plan time and time again in your dream?"
"Plan......? What, are you talking......"
"About how to turn the whole world into a labyrinth. About how to turn everything into Apocalypse Alice. About how we can encroach the whole world with the sickness of us Arisu siblings. We talked about those stuff."
My little sister stands up, and approaches me.
I take a step backward.
"And, with the blueprint I gave you, you managed to complete the Holy Sword switch right?"
"What on earth are you say......"
"Onii-chan, you don't need to worry about anything else, so just quickly cut me. Then, I'll be set free. Away from this labyrinth, to the outside world. A labyrinth diseased girl will be able to roam freely outside. The human world will then end. Since I will encroach the outside world and turn all of it into a labyrinth."
My little sister grabs my arm.
"Let me go."
But, my little sister didn't let go. She merely smiles innocently,
"I'm the stronger one here, so you can't go against me, Onii-chan."
My right hand that is holding the Holy Sword is grabbed. Slowly, Saki brings the sword closer and closer to her neck.
I say but she says in return.
"Don't you want to save me?"
"I want to save you."
"Then cut me."
"But, you aren't Saki."
"Fuh-fuh-fuh, I am Saki."
"Who are you?"
Then, my little sister replies.
"Alice. Apocalypse Alice --- isn't that the name you humans gave me? That's why I made the labyrinth that way. And the world will become like it too. So that everyone can stay in the world of the fairy tale country......"
"Release my little sister!"
But Saki just smiles. Smirkingly. That face may bear a little resemblance to mine.
Then she says,
"But with this, Onii-chan, your role has ended."
She then wrenches the Holy Sword switch towards her.
And cuts the skin of her neck.
My little sister then smiles sadly and following that ---
"See you, Onii-chan. I love you."
That was all she said and she disappeared.
With that, it ended.
I can only murmur,
"What in the world happened......"
But no answer came.
My little sister had told me that the Holy Sword switch is a magic made under the direction of the labyrinth disease that had infected me.
Then, I couldn't save Saki?
My little sister disappeared, and in concert with that, the darkness in my surroundings also starts to vanish.
But, right now, I did not know what I had done.
Did I save my little sister?
Or, did I end up doing something that cannot be undone?
With those questions still in my mind, I was driven out of Saki's heart ---
I return to consciousness.
As I open my eyes wide, the scenery before me is not that of the inside of the labyrinth.
I have returned to the real world.
It's noon on the outside world.
The blue sky can be seen.
The clamors of the streets.
Zoom of the cars.
Voices of people.
Saki's labyrinth --- Apocalypse Alice disappeared, and this place has turned back into the streets.
I can hear Gunjou's shout.
I turn around, and there stood the figures of my comrades.
Kiri lies tired on the ground looking up at me.
On top of that, Kujaku, Makoto, and Yamazaki are also there.
They are saved. All of them are saved.
"You did it. You finally saved your little sister."
But I can't answer him. I can't think of that as successfully saving her. Besides, if I did save her, where is my little sister?
I look around me, searching for my little sister. But what's around me is just the scenery of a normal reality.
Taxis and trucks driving along the roads.
Old lady walking her dog.
A female jogger.
However, behind that girl,
Is a strange lifeform.
In the real world, a rabbit stands in a suit with a finely woven heart. It takes out a pocket watch with its right paw, looks at it and says.
"Yaah yaah, yaah yaah."
All the members of the Hero team notice it.
They look at the rabbit.
Then, behind the rabbit, a large-sized bus explodes, and turns over. A single soldier with the body of a card stands beside it.
Further away, in the sky, some gigantic creature resembling the shape of a dragon is flying.
What a ridiculous sight. A dragon from fairy tales is flying above a building in the real world, invoking a strongly eerie, unpleasant feel.
On top of that, several missiles come flying from somewhere, striking down the dragon.
Shiro looks at that and says.
"What, is that?"
"What in the world has happened......?"
But I recall the words that my little sister just told me.
"Then, I'll be set free. Away from this labyrinth, to the outside world. A labyrinth diseased girl