Jun 26, 2016

Volume 11 Chapter 2

Part 1

--- Airborne Castle. The kitchen.
Having tended to her own wounds, Kuro Usagi left the castle tower that she was warded in and started helping out in the kitchen which was located at another tower.
Even in times of war, tummies would go hungry. The hunger that returned from the relief of reuniting with her comrades motivated Kuro Usagi to whip up some dishes for sustenance.
(Aiyaya. Everyone here is busying themselves with the food preparations for both the injured and the refugees.)
Kuro Usagi moved in small hops around the kitchen as her usagimimi waved in the air.
Borrowing a corner of the kitchen that no one else was using, Kuro Usagi placed some ingredients she found around the place together to boil up a simple soup of egg and vegetables. Fortunately, there was a storage of large quantities of spices so spicing things up for the taste amounted to no problem at all.
Following that, Kuro Usagi stir-fried another dish of lamb jerkies and egg.
These dishes were a simple fare, but now being a critical time for them all, one would be grateful for such a luxury.
(Although they have managed to buy some time with the authorities of 「Host Master」, it is  unknown as to how long that peace would last before the start of the next battle. Kuro Usagi must prepare herself in the meantime as well.)
Currently, the assembly for the battle strategizing was being held with the others and the next call for them would surely be the deployment of all able-bodied personnel. If that were to be the case, the likelihood for Kuro Usagi to be assigned as one of the strengths of the main force would be very high indeed.

Thus, for the sake of carrying out her duties later, now was the time for her to replenish her strength as much as possible.
(Since these usagimimi have returned, Kuro Usagi’s not a burden anymore. Kuro Usagi will work hard to not hold back Izayoi-san, Asuka-san and Yō-san.)
Clenching her fists, Kuro Usagi silently firmed her resolve. And just when Kuro Usagi was about to carry away her completed dishes, a familiar voice came from behind.
“Ooh, that looks tasty. Kuro Usagi-dono, may I have a taste too?”
Kuro Usagi shook her usagimimi as she turned her head back.
As it was a voice that she recalled having heard before, Kuro Usagi turned her back with her guard down, only to widen her eyes after seeing the owner of the voice.
(Woah Woah…..! Where, where did this beauty come from…?!)
Kuro Usagi frantically took a step back as she took in the sight of the female whom she had not met before. She had seen quite a few beauties in her life. However, this person was on a complete league of her own
In contrast to that set of strong and determined eyes that contained the sense of demureness and great intellect, her breasts which were bigger than average being matched with a vertical striped sweater with a low neckline only served to give off an enticing feeling.
Her slightly long flaxen hair were plaited wonderfully and it reached from her shoulders to lie between her breasts. And naturally, that would have attracted the line of sight of any onlookers.
Different from the vibe that Leticia exudes, this woman gave off the appeal of a mature woman.
(Shirayuki-sama and Willa-san possess sizable breasts, but these are also……!)
“Kuro Usagi-dono, It’s okay to look, but shouldn’t you show some restrain?”
The mystery beauty chided with a wry smile. It was only then that Kuro Usagi who was peeping into the other person’s cleavage was brought back to reality. Indeed, that was a truly unrestrained gaze. It is only because Kuro Usagi’s a female that it could be laughed aside. However, a slap would have been reasonable if it were to be a guy doing that very same act of staring.
---But, who in the world is this person?
There was no way for anyone to forget such a beauty even if they only had just a single glance.
Moreover, this person seemed to know Kuro Usagi.
Ignoring Kuro Usagi’s bewilderment, the mysterious beauty combed back her hair to peer at the dish.
“Oops. Is that mutton jerky…..? And I just wanted to have a bite together, but now this is a little troubling. Cannibalising would be bad.”
“The same race as the mountain goats? Eh, could you be,”
“Mhm. This is my first time taking on the form of a human. So allow me to introduce myself once more--- I’m the mountain goat celestial beast, Amalthea. As a comrade of the same community, I will be in your care.”
Being greeted with a friendly smile in a polite fashion, Kuro Usagi quickly responded in kind. And thinking about it carefully, it would not be strange that she was able to perform an anthropomorphization. After all, Amalthea is a celestial beast as well as a divine being.
Kuro Usagi lifted her head as she recalled the legends of the female who stood before herself.
(This person is the elder of the Greek god faction. The nurse-mother of Zeus, the sky god. As well as a harvest goddess and the strongest shield.)
……even though it was a summarised description, it was already quite amazing.
Before a rare type celestial beast such as Amalthea, the 「Moon Rabbit」s and the pure blooded vampires paled in comparison.
Even though her spiritual level would have fallen somewhat, it was still unbelievable that someone as important as her would join 「No Name」. Then, just what kind of contract could Asuka have made with her?
Sensing the intent behind Kuro Usagi’s gaze, Amalthea then smiled as she pointed towards the canteen.
“Since it’s not often that we meet like this, let’s just go to the canteen to have a chat. I’ve always wanted to have a chat with our Community’s strategist, Kuro Usagi-dono. Would that be fine with you?”
“YES! Let’s do that, of course!”
Kuro Usagi’s usagimimi perked up as she replied. Seeing that the strategic meetings will be taking a little while longer, Kuro Usagi took the chance to have a chat with Amalthea.
The duo then prepared some tea and snacks before setting off in search for a space to have their meal.

Part 2

Having borrowed the use of a VIP room, Kuro Usagi and Amalthea, who had finished their meal quickly, were seemingly out of breath as they downed their teas to continue their chat.
“But Kuro Usagi-dono and master were actually able to pull through that sort of dangerous situation. When the two of you were teleported by Maxwell, even I had my hopes crushed then. Or should I say that this was to be expected of the 「Aristocrat of Little Garden」.”
Amalthea was smiling as she offered her praises. However, Kuro Usagi was quick to shake her head.
“No, that’s not it. The fact that we were able to escape that sort of dangerous situation was really due to the endowment of protection from my patron god as well as the gamble that Asuka had taken to make that wish. This life was supposed to have been burnt away as according to the legends of the 「Moon Rabbit」.”
When bestowed with the Divinity of the War God*Indra, the body of the 「Moon Rabbit」, which had already been endowed with a strong body and strength, would then surely receive a power that could surpass any ordinary divine entities in strength.
However that would also be the enactment of the 「Moon Rabbit」’s accomplishment where one would exchange one’s life for a miraculous forbidden power.
Originally as the price for the miracle, Kuro Usagi should have paid her life.
“What had been bestowed wasn’t only the Gift. It was also my patron god’s past that was passed down to me in the form of a revelation. --- “Herald of the War God, please stand for your comrades”. To Kuro Usagi, that revelation is the true Gift.”
Placing both her hands before her chest with pride as the patron god of her race had displayed an act that was only to be expected from a resident of Little Garden, there was nothing that she could be more proud of.
Although recently she had been called 「Aristocrat of Little Garden(lol)」 and was taken to be a fool, the symbolic characteristic of self-sacrifice was the true face of the 「Moon Rabbit」s.
“…… is that so? I actually thought that Indra wouldn’t have much positive points besides that which was said in the legends. I guess I should re-evaluate my opinion of him.”
“Mh Hm? I won’t be letting that comment slide like that. Kuro Usagi heard that the elder god of the Greek faction is also quite playful, right? Especially with regards to his female relationships.”
“Aiya, wouldn’t that count as me slapping my own mouth? But the brave adventures of Indra is just as comparable to Zeus (that kiddo). Amongst them would be the story of being cursed after laying his hands on another’s wife. And I heard that the curse in revenge caused Indra to sprout many female parts all over his body,”
“Waaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I don’t know, I don’t know, Kuro Usagi doesn’t know! Talking about that stuff is a big taboo for a herald!!!”[1]
Her usagimimi had completely reddened as she covered Amalthea’s mouth. Since it’s made a taboo, there should be some sort of punishment for it. Amalthea wished to continue the topic that sparked much happiness within her, but decided to stop on the account of seeing the frantic efforts on Kuro Usagi’s end.
--- Just conveniently mentioning on the side, that curse caused Indra to reach a whole new realm, but that is another thing altogether.
Revealing an elegant smile, Amalthea then sipped at her cup of tea before continuing to the main topic.
“Although it is rejected by many people, the system (origin) of the gods and human history is closely related. Because we are mutual observers who reside in separate universes, those who belong to the “gods most similar to humans” such as Indra and Zeus would then be easily affected by their human sides. Mah, among them are---- those who are born human but are supposed to have been born among the gods to rise as the leader of the gods.”
Hearing such words that had a meaning behind it, Kuro Usagi straightened her back and usagimimi.
Born human but becoming a leader of the gods. There could only be one person whom Amalthea referred to with that line.
“Could it be that, you are referring to …… Asuka-san?
“Mhm. Her talent far exceeds that of a human vessel. However, the existence of master is, how should I put it…… strange. Not balanced. Hard to believe. Religious factions for the gods that have a human as its core do exist such as the Japanese mythologies and the bible, but in her case, it can be said to be the real meaning of 「Unknown」.”
“……Indeed. But even though we are still unable to clearly see the origin of Asuka-san, the clues are still more than the other two.”
Sakamaki Izayoi and Kasukabe Yō were the exceptions outside the frame. Whereas, Asuka’s power was the exception within the frame. It was for certain that it would be counted as an unusual power, but it was still a power that was classified in a different direction from the other two.
“Moreover, we had heard from Garol-san of 「Six Scars」 that Asuka-san might be an 「Atavism」[2]. A phenomenon whereby a divine spirit has manifest its 「atavism」. A financial conglomerate that is in the top five tier of Japan…… Asuka-san’s bloodline, would be expected to have some sort of relationship to the Japanese royalty who bore a god in the form of a human,”
“No, that’s not possible.”
Amalthea’s reply was immediate and Kuro Usagi quickly shut her mouth after being met with a reply in such a self-assured tone.
Amalthea placed aside her tea cup before continuing.
“I understand where Kuro Usagi-dono’s coming from. But the Japanese mythologies that have their origins tied to royal families have undergone the ritual that led them to forsaking their Divinity after the end of the second world war…… 「Universal Declaration of Human Rights」.”
“YES. Kuro Usagi’s usagimimi also heard that it is after that war that they undertook the ritual to descend their divine statuses and became ordinary humans. And Kuro Usagi thinks that it is those displaced Divinities which are now without a vessel are the ones to have chosen Asuka-san who may have some kind of bloodline relation…..?”
“Mah, ordinarily speaking, that thought would have sounded plausible, I guess. The Divinity that she possess is similar as well as it’s the closest to the cosmology of the Japanese religion. The strength of master would be the real manifestation of the Yōyorozu no kamigami 「Eight hundred thousand gods」. On that point, it’s not wrong at all.”
“But, if that were the case, it would cause 「Kudou Asuka」 to become an existence quintessential for the country of Japan. However, according to the history of humankind when I last checked, that sort of turning point and scenario--- the 「Paradigm Shift」 did not exist.”
It was stated as simply as that. However, it was indeed the case.
If Kudou Asuka were to be an existence born to replace the core of the Japanese mythological god faction, it would then lead to the creation of a turning point, 「Paradigm Shift」, and cause a huge impact on the timeline of history.
However, that did not happen.
Besides, in Izayoi’s flow of time, the financial conglomerate of the Kudou family did not exist.
Amalthea propped her chin on one hand as she started to outline her conjectures.
“The 「Kudou Financial Conglomerate」 that should not exist. This organisation was erased from history when it was dissolved by the departure of Master. We can then assume that the changing of the twisted history would be the command of master. But even if that were to be case, the powers obtained from the stars would be far too immense.”
“Mhm, indeed. If this is the case, Asuka-san’s power would just be as we initially mistook it to be. It would only be at the level of controlling the hearts of people.”
It is true that Kudou Asuka possessed an immense power, but its existence in her body was completely disproportionate. Perhaps given some time, Kuro Usagi might be able to think up of a reason for the obtaining of such power, but even so, none of the proposed ideas would give the feeling of having hit the bull’s eye.
Kuro Usagi’s usagimimi were bent downwards as she racked her brains over the problem. However, the answer would not come to her that easily.
Amalthea watched Kuro Usagi with a quiet gaze before she spoke hesitantly.
“Kuro Usagi-dono. I have arrived at an answer that I feel is the closest in possibility regarding the spiritual attainment of master. However…… that answer, might cause you to feel pained in your heart.”
Kuro Usagi straightened her back upon hearing such a warning.
There was a tensed feeling in Amalthea’s gaze that wasn’t present in their conversation before and she leaned forward before speaking again to Kuro Usagi.
“I heard from master that Kuro Usagi-dono, about your sacrifices for the sake of the Community’s continuity. For the sake of saving the fallen organization, you must have worked to  your bones. And I could guess that the source of the strength in your heart is for the sake of reclaiming your lost Flag and Name …… and your previous comrades.”
“……Yes. I believe that together with Izayoi-san, Asuka-san, and Yō-san, we will surely get them back some day.
“Then what if the existence of Asuka were to become the one thing that shatters your dream?”
Caught by such a sudden question, Kuro Usagi widened her eyes.
The directness in her words were unthinkable to have come from the lips of Amalthea who continued to have that quiet gaze in her eyes. However, there was no animosity in the gaze and it was somewhat closer to testing and probing for something. Although the question was sudden and rude, Kuro Usagi remained calm as she digested those words.
Amalthea did not seem to have approached her to start a discussion on Asuka’s birth.
It was more likely that what she wanted to discuss with Kuro Usagi was a bigger and more foundational problem.
The space between them was filled with an atmosphere of silence. However, it was also apparent that the bustle within the castle had already subsided. That would mean the period of collecting and tending to the injured had come to a close.
If one would listen closely, one could hear the slight wind hitting the windows and doors in the castle and the unbearable silence that filled the entire room.
Their gazes had never left the other.
Even then, Kuro Usagi’s words that broke the silence, were beyond the expectations of Amalthea.
“……that matter, does it concern the case of our comrades being thrown into the Outer World’s time stream?”
“Croix-sama once mentioned that he returned from the Outer World’s time stream and thus  gives credence to the possibility of our other comrades being thrown in there as well. Moreover, the possibility of them returning alive to our Community is low. In a way, I’ve already prepared for the worst with regards to that matter.”
Kuro Usagi’s calm voice was completely unlike her past self. One could easily hear the determination in her voice and it wasn't the kind of a temporary determination that lasts for a day or two.
If the possibility wasn’t considered from the day when it all started…... three years ago and given a fair share of acceptance for being a viable possibility, one would unlikely remain this calm. Her miscalculation of Kuro Usagi’s determination caused Amalthea to turn her gaze downward in awkwardness and she apologized sheepishly.
“I said all that with a slight intention of testing your resolve and I’m truly sorry. I had been using the frail Kuro Usagi-dono as my model of expectations.”
“No, it’s fine. It is also surprising to Kuro Usagi that I’m able to take this thing all so calmly. If it were the Kuro Usagi of a slight while before, she might have made a huge ruckus about this conjecture. Perhaps, this is also a side effect of obtaining Indra’s gift.”
Kuro Usagi rubbed the back of her usagimimi while giving a feeble smile. It was impossible for one to be unshaken by such an impact, but the current Kuro Usagi was just strong enough to accept these stuff.
Amalthea closed her eyes as she continued.
“……is that so? As part of the endowment of Indra’s Divinity, the lotus of Buddhahood might have bloomed within your spirit and it is possible that you have gotten some revelation along the process as well. That might explain the quality of this calmness Kuro Usagi-dono’s exuding which feels as calm as a summer sea.”
“That, That’s exaggerating the praises for me. If I hadn’t heard of Croix-sama’s experience earlier, Kuro Usagi might have made a scene as per usual.”
“Hoho, I will just leave it as that then. ----Then, what do you think? If my conjecture were to be correct…… no, I would rate my confidence level in my hypothesis to be 80 to 90% accurate for it needs to be that high for me to actually broach this subject with you. Will you then be able to bear the uncertainties of the fate of your comrades who were thrown to the other world?”
The hesitant probing gaze was once more reflected in those eyes of Amalthea.
And Kuro Usagi returned a nod with a tranquil gaze of her own.

Part 3

On the other side at the same time.
Kudou Asuka, Leticia and Shirayuki-hime were huddled together while resting after hearing of the discussion on Azi Dahaka countermeasures.
Among the trio, Asuka was the palest in her complexion as the colour of blood seemed to have drained from her face. She was holding her hands tightly while having an expression of worry and a brooding silence. If it were the usual fiery Asuka, she would have voiced her dissatisfaction earlier.
Chewing her lip to keep calm, Asuka asked Leticia.
“……that’s unbelievable. Leticia, is she serious about that plan? That’s completely nuts. can we really trust it?”
“Aah. In terms of the calculations for success rates, Lappy’s the strongest brain for that.”
“Mhm. Since it is the strategy designed by the 「Laplace Demon」, I will believe in it then. Although that would place a huge mental strain on Asuka……”
Shirayuki-hime had a serious expression as she concurred with Leticia with regards to the trust in Laplace’s ability. However, the role that Asuka was about to play was much larger than what she had described it to be. Moreover, it wasn’t a humane plan to be carried out either.
“…… Bestowing mock divinity to the remaining strength count. The fire dragons and the ghost types should be able to withstand the process to some extent, but how many would actually be left standing to continue to battle,”
Hearing the chiding tone in Leticia’s voice, Shirayuki-hime covered her mouth quickly.
Asuka’s expression only became graver than before.
Mock Divinity was a double edged sword that granted an individual god level powers in exchange for the shaving off of one’s lifespan.
(In the past, Asuka was only using her power to twist the will of her opponents. Hence she was unable to effectively utilise the effect of mock Divinity enhancement. However, in the case when the target’s determination is aligned to the bestowed Divinity, the spiritual boost would be pretty significant.)
It might have been a necessary action to be undertaken for the operation.
However, Kudou Asuka who was to carry out that operation was only just a fifteen year old girl.
The thought of making others rush to their deaths and gamble their lives on something for the sake of being useful in battle is not a natural thought that commonly crosses her mind on any usual day. It was a responsibility that was too heavy for such a young person like her to bear.
“……Leticia. Is that plan absolutely necessary?”
“Aah. Be it a plan to defeat or to seal Azi Dahaka, there’s a definite need to get that guy’s huge spiritual power…… no, I should just describe it as quantity for an easier understanding. There is a need to make him spit out all of those portions.”
“Thus, there’s a need to have enough strength in numbers to deal with the large quantities of clones. For that end, Asuka’s endowment of mock Divinity to the masses is absolutely necessary. Although we might not feel that good about having to force a young one such as yourself to carry out this plan…… but there isn’t any other method that would be more constructive than that. Looking at another perspective, this would give a huge boost to the success rate of the operation---“
“No, that’s not enough.”
Coming from the other side of the large VIP room doors was a voice of a male who interrupted Shirayuki-hime’s words--- Mandra’s voice.
The sudden interruption caused the female group some slight dissatisfaction for being bothered, but it was followed by an apology.
“I apologize for the interruption. I had thought of entering the final tying up of the strategy discussions, but it became an eavesdropping act instead.”
“……it’s alright. After all, it does concern everyone too.”
The voices of both parties were stiff. After all, the people who would be putting their lives on the line in the upcoming battle were none other than them.
And everyone would have their own thoughts on the matter.
Having gotten the permission to enter, Mandra did not sit himself with them and opted to stand while making his request.
“Regarding the subsequent combat operation, we of 「Salamandra」 would like to make a request to the 「No Names」.”
“That, is it for me?”
“No, we would like to make a request from Leticia-dono.”
Hearing these unexpected words, Asuka turned her surprised gaze towards Leticia.
But Leticia seemed to have anticipated this in advance and cold sweat were already beading on her forehead.
“Mandra-dono. Could it be that…… you are here to talk about the battle 200 years prior?”
“That’s right. As expected of one who had experienced the battle 200 years ago first hand. Then, this makes things simpler. We would like to borrow your power once more for this current battle. The power of Little Garden’s Knights--- the Vampires.”
Getting a hint of the meaning behind Mandra’s words, Asuka and Shirayuki-hime sucked in a breath of cold air.
--- wanting to borrow the power of the vampires.
These words could only mean one thing.
“Could, Could it be that …… you intend to cause your comrades of 「Salamandra」 to undergo vampirification?!”
“What stupidity!! Vampirification is only a nice sounding term but that doesn’t change the fact that it is only just a step away from being zombified into a cannibalistic creature, and is hence a banned technique! Needless to say, it is a restricted Gift of the dark side!  Are you planning to pollute the blood that holds the legacy of the strongest kind?!”
“I know that more clearly than anyone else!!!”
Mandra roared loudly in an intensity that rivalled Shirayuki-hime’s loud-voiced chiding.
“Being bestowed mock Divinity……. Is indeed a large power-up. However, without a strong and durable physical body or spiritual vessel, it is impossible to maintain that form for a sufficient duration. In the end, that would only force the main force to have a limited time to draw a clear distinction between victory and defeat and have their choices greatly restricted. In that case, we would be giving a huge burden of responsibility to the frontline fighters.
Shirayuki-hime could not find a come-back for that point.
Originally, the three headed dragon is already a foe that’s out of their league.  Thus, for the sake of gaining victory in this fight, there was a need to carry out the operation with precision similar to  threading a needle head.
“However, with us dragon types coupled with vampirification that strengthens our bodies, it would also serve to maintain our mock Divinity forms for a longer time in battle. As long as our spiritual capacities are boosted to that extent, even my useless self would be able to have a bout with that three headed dragon to sate my vengeance.”
If that power had been able to boost the Titan race from their previous encounter, one would definitely expect a similar result when giving that same power to the large sized Fire Dragons or to those with a less diluted bloodline.
However, it is just as Shirayuki-hime says, the act of doing so would defy moral grounds.
Allowing evil to consume them for the sake of victory would then invite an inevitable retribution.
And knowing the type of hazard that the curse would cause the receiver, Leticia gave a big sigh as she levelled her gaze on Mandra.
“…Mandra-dono. Are you planning to be vampirified as well?”
“Of course. With Sandora missing at the moment, it falls down to me to lead the charge. Therefore, how is it possible for me to be the only one who is spared from the curse?”
“I see that you have great determination, but I presume that you have said that while understanding the meaning of your words, do you not? This vampirification might actually cause 「Salamandra」 to be destroyed in the literal sense.”
Leticia’s question was laced with a deeper meaning as she asked to reconfirm his determination.
And that tone was not lost on Asuka as she cocked her head quizzically.
“Leticia. What…what do you mean? Could you be implying that it will be fatal?”
“Fatal isn’t quite the right term to use.. It will definitely give an effect like Mandra says it would. The spiritual power and the physical vessel, which is the body, would have a great boost in strength. However, it comes at a price and that would be…… the truth behind 「Salamandra」’s irrecoverable aging population.”
“Although Laplace tried to secretly change the battle proposal, we of 「Salamandra」 are facing a threat from a different direction altogether. The number of deaths is really astounding. But besides that problem…… would be direct threats from the short life spans of vampirified individuals and the decline in fire dragon birth rates to reducing it to 1 in a hundred.”
At this point, Asuka, who learnt the truth, had a look of surprise on her face.
When compared to the sacrifices in battle, this might just be a reality that could make it all the worse with its serious implications.
The cost from the vampirification ----and the loss of their fertility.
If it is only the shortening of one generation’s lifespan, it might still be salvageable for their clan. However, it would be a different story if they were to lose their fertility as well. The already small population of the fire dragons would then face a threat far worse than a plague.
“I heard that the current numbers of the fire dragon race is roughly five thousand strong. Whereas the numbers in the past, 200 years prior, was at thrice that amount. ……Although there were deaths in the great battle 200 years ago, the main reason for that decrease would still be the result of the curse of infertility and shortened lifespans of the vampirification process. Am I right?”
“……That’s right. If we wanted to be really precise about the matter, it would be that the vampirified individuals would need to take some blood from their own race if they wanted to have a longer lifespan. Whereas, even those who would reject the consumption of blood would be able to live for a dozen years or so…… However, using longevity to overcome the few numbers and low fertility rate is what makes the two curses fatal to our race.”
As a result, the strength of the 「Salamandra」 organization has been greatly decreased.
This is because the decrease in numbers for an army that comprises of a single race would be directly proportional to the decrease in its strength.
“Mandra-dono. I hope that you will reconsider the matter. Let’s back up a hundred steps to consider it in this perspective. Even if I were to help you with the vampirification process, Sandora-dono is still missing and if the only one left to carry the burden of responsibility for leading your people were to be vampirified, it would be a total end to the 「Salamandra」 leader’s bloodline. It is the equivalent of disbanding the Community…… Or are you implying that you are planning on begging Sala-dono, who ran away, to come back.”
Leticia watched Mandra closely as she implored his reconsideration with a weighty tone. In addition, within those words was a question that intended to remind him of his possible responsibility as a leader if he has yet to realise that. After all, the organization of 「Salamandra」 was just pushed into such a tight corner in the current situation.
If one were to consider the rebuilding after the battle, the minimum requirement would be for Mandra Doltrake to be living and unharmed.
(The understanding…. Of the continuity of one’s race or organization……)
Asuka watched their conversation intensely while gritting her teeth. No matter what the reason had been for Asuka, she had been one who ran away from a situation like that. Even though she had been seen as a terrifying witch for having the ability to hold sway over the hearts of people, it did not dismiss the fact that she was expected to be the next head to lead the financial conglomerate.
And she, who had thrown aside all that to escape into the other world, did not have the right to interrupt this conversation.
Leticia and Mandra stared at each other tensely.
But unexpectedly, it was Leticia who lowered her gaze first while giving a sigh.
“……I just don’t get you, Mandra-dono. You are the kind of person who would even make use of other Demon Lords to bring glory to your organization, aren’t you? It should be your wish to glorify 「Salamandra」, isn’t it?”
“That wish has not changed one bit.”
“Then, treasure yourself. The blood that flows within you represents the future of the current 「Salamandra」. Have you considered what would your comrades think if they were to learn that they had no future even if they scored a victory here?”
Compared to her chiding tone earlier, her words sounded closer to an advice this time. Having known each other for a long time, she would also be hoping for a solution that did not involve an entire reconstruction of the organisation from its very roots.
Precisely because Mandra understood Leticia’s well-meaning behind her words, he had controlled himself from a usual hot-headed loud retort. Moreover, if Leticia wasn’t a person who had contact with his Community even before his birth, she would not be wasting such lengths to give an advice as patiently as she did.
“……Actually, before coming here, I had gone to ask Laplace on the whereabouts of Sandora.”
“That’s…. Hm, and what did you find out?”
“ It was determined that the motive behind the Demon King of Confusion’s control over Sandora was…… to destabilize the situation in our organisation, 「Salamandra」.”
The Demon King of Confusion is an evil god that appears during the instability of a society. And judging by the situation 「Salamandra」 was in, it was only natural for the Demon King of Confusion to appear.
“There are two conditions for Sandora to be released. First would be the development of Sandora’s own mind and body to obtain the capability and capacity to rid herself of Demon King of Confusion’s possession. Secondly would be for the targeted organization to work as one to right the chaos and confront the Demon King of Confusion.”
“…… Just for that, you decided to defile the purity of your blood?”
“That’s correct. Although there are quite a number of respectable individuals in 「Salamandra」, there are quite a number of naïve people as well. It is those naïve people who would likely plan on using the opportunity to elevate me to the leadership position to maintain 「Salamandra」’s operations. However, if they were to find out that I’m infertile and unable to produce anymore heirs, they would definitely go and save Sandora.”
Saying up to there, Mandra suddenly broke into a bitter laugh.
Perhaps, that was a mirthless humour made at himself.
“We……. Have always been leaving bad impressions on her. An elder sister who left the organization and a useless elder brother who has a deformed Dragon Horn due to illness. Even though we are over a hundred years old, we as members of the family have only brought shame to our name. Those must be her honest thoughts. And the only thing that I can do now would be to protect the leadership position for Sandora.”
The deformed Dragon Horn--- rather than the result of an illness, it’s better described as a fault in the developmental years.
And for the dragon kind, the horn would be similar in significance to the lion’s teeth or the wings of a bird.
Although it would not cause death to the individual, it was definitely fatal if one were to look at the importance of the bloodline’s continuity. Therefore, it was in that instance that he had to give up on the rights to the inheritance.
“I agree with your sound advice, Leticia-dono. However, clinging onto such a small sliver of hope is only similar to building castles in the air. The only way to boost our ranks of 「Salamandra」 would be to require a dragon king’s bloodline. May the dark clouds that surround our people be dispersed by our roars--- Even if it is the last valiant roar before our demise, as long as our voices are able to reach Sandora, 「Salamandra」 will surely be awakened from the abyss of stars one day.”
「Salamandra」, the descendents of the Demon Lord TaiSui and the reincarnation of the Equator’s celestial dragon.
Although the path of the Sun, as it makes its way across the skies, would welcome a period of sunset, it would not bring about a total darkness for the night. And that was the belief that was reflected in the depths of his eyes.
Staring into Mandra’s eyes and having recognised the strong iron-clad will within them, Leticia gave a laugh of nostalgia.
“……Fufu. Mandra, you’ve become a fine warrior after that gap of a hundred years, huh. If Canaria were able to see the current you, she would also be glad about the changes.”
“Who knows? After all, it’s Canaria-sensei that we’re talking about. It’s possible that she would have a laughing fit before giving only a passing grade.”
“No, no, she won’t. Canaria said that you had the potential since the time that she saw you in your younger years. The exact words were {“Mán-chan is really capable and has the potential to be cultivated”}. It really is a waste that you were unable to develop into a full dragon.”
Leticia giggled as she mentioned Mandra’s nickname from his younger days.
Asuka and Shirayuki exchanged glances upon hearing the nickname that did not suit the current person in question.
Whereas the person himself, Mandra, had fallen silent. He then feinted a cough as he searched for a way to reply.
“Hmph……. That’s all for my request. So, allow me to make that request to 「No Name」 once more. May you endow us with the Gift of the Vampires?”
“I understand. But the vampirification process can only be conducted on those who have the human bloodlines .”
“Then, there’s no problem with that. Although it may be of a far relation, it is said that the wife of the progenitor was a human and thus there should be traces of the human bloodline in the fire dragon race.”
“Then, let’s get started with the preparations. It will take some time for the blood to intermingle and bind. So time is precious.”
Saying so, Leticia stood to leave.
And having heard their conversation, Asuka became painfully aware for the first time.
(It was the same for all of them. Everyone was placing a lot at stake just to enter the fray……)
Then what about herself, Kudou Asuka? Would she be able to obtain a similar determination if she exhausted all the reasons for her to participate in the battle?

Part 4

------ The airborne castle. Second VIP room.
“…………….. It’s~~~~~so slow.”
Kasukabe Yō was feeling lonely as she sat on her wheelchair with her face pouted in a little tantrum.
Besides herself, there was no one else currently in the room so there was no one to talk to pass the time. if we were to list the things that she could do vent out her boredom, it would be the simple play of making “Clack Clack” noises with her wheelchair wheels. that was the only interesting thing that she could think off at the moment.
No, that’s not the real issue here. The problem wasn’t really about that boredom.
It has been over a few hours since she handed over her 「Genome Tree」 to Croix. She also intended to talk to Croix to find out about Izayoi, Asuka, and Kuro Usagi’s conditions. However, Croix had not returned since then. In the end, Yō could only play with her wheelchair making “clack clack” noises to pass the hours in boredom and ironically feeling frustrated with the fact that she was finding amusement in her little made-up game.
No, the problem did not lie there either.
(Thanks to not leaving the room, I was not informed as to when the strategy meeting starts.There's also no spare time for eating meals. Also no one is even coming over to visit..)
Clack. Clack. Clack. After many years, once again she found herself sitting on a wheelchair  while making it move back and forth for the sounds.
She was considering  the thought of simply going out with her wheelchair to wander around in search of Croix. However, the possibility of getting herself lost within the multitude of corridors made her drop this train of thought.
Just as she thought that there’s nothing else to do but to continue clacking around, Yō finally felt the presence of people on the other side of the room’s door.
“…… that’s all for the details. But don’t be too careless. We are basing the estimations from your current mobility so the possibility of a complete victory is not entirely lost.”
“Yeah, yeah Shinigami, I’ve gotten it the first time, so you needn’t repeat those lines like a broken record.”
An old man’s voice that had a suspicious quality to the tone and another voice that was starting to take on a familiar tone.
Yō immediately turned her wheelchair to charge out into the corridor.
“Izayoi!? Are you alright?”
Bang! Went the door as Yō let herself out of the room in a rush.
Izayoi had a look of slight surprise on his face but he soon recovered with a usual loud laugh while giving a nod of his head.
“Yo! You look fine as well….. or maybe not. You really can’t walk now?”
Izayoi’s smiling face turned serious as he expressed his concern. And it was evident that Izayoi had heard of Yō’s current condition from Croix.
On the other hand, Yō who was gazed  by Izayoi’s slightly worried eyes, mustered her voice to reply in a tone that was as energetic as her usual self.
“It’s fine. I just need my 「Genome Tree」 to return to normal. Then I will be able to stand in battle with everyone this time. …… Am I right, Croix-san?”
“Yes, of course. And as promised, I will return the 「Genome Tree」 to you. But, before that, I’ll have to ask you about some matters, is that alright?”
“Really? Then I will just be frank about this. I’m sure that you’ve heard of the 「Genome Tree」 and its connection to your parents…… then, regarding the type of Gift that it is crafted with, I’m sure that you would also have noticed something about it by now, am I right?”
Kasukabe gave a slight nod in response to Croix’s words.
It is said that the 「Genome Tree」 is a Gift created to defeat Demon Lords, and it simultaneously acted as the Gift that denies the existence of the theory championed by the creationists. And among the three problem children, Yō Kasukabe, who came from the furthest future, had some speculations of her own on the techniques that would be closest to this Gift.
“…… I get it somewhat because in my time period, the general idea is that the theory of creationism and evolution exists at the same time.”
“I see. So that’s the case…… Then, I have another question for you. In your world, ---- no , I mean in your time, were there any Gryphons?”
“Nn Mhm, but thinking about it logically, it might be possible for them to create man-made gryphons. Although international laws would have forbidden it, that sort of technique would be possible with the technology of our time.”
“…… I see. I get it now. All thanks to you, my years of pondering are finally quenched by your answers. The era that you come from is truly similar to the other time periods but yet different for it deviates largely from the end point of the time stream. Perhaps, it might even be considered as a world that works as an exception. Moreover, I believe that the series of events that I’ve experienced in the outside world might not even exist in the time stream that you belong to. And although it might be a coincidence, the philosophical perspective and techniques of your time is truly unique and apart from all the other observable time streams that I’ve seen. So, it’s truly a pity---“
Swish! Izayoi lifted his hand to take a swipe at Croix’s bowler hat.
Being unusually serious in his conversation then, Croix was surprised by the sudden attack and he blinked stupidly for a moment before staring accusingly at Izayoi.
“……is something the matter, Izayoi-chan.”
“Is something the matter my foot! Although I can deduce a little from that rant, but please bother enough to put it in a way that I can grasp, okay?”
Izayoi stood at with arms akimbo as he spoke in irritation.
However, Croix who adjusted his bowler hat, only looked away with a thoughtful expression before shaking his head.
“Well, it’s still not the time to tell you about this. But I did promise to have the talk you wanted after the fight with Azi Dahaka right?”
“Hmph. What’s up with this kind of person who brings the topic up but brushes it aside when asked to clarify his own words.”
“You are right about that. But please understand that this is a question that has bugged me for several hundreds of years too. So I do promise to spill all that I know to you people after you guys are successful in defeating Azi Dahaka.”
In the end, the conversation stopped there.
However, if the Demon Lord Azi Dahaka embodies the 「Eschatology of the world」, one would then be suspicious about the existence of Kasukabe Yō. This is because from the few points that she had mentioned about her background even if it lacked details, one would be able to deduce that she was summoned from the distant future.
And if she came from a distant future that has avoided the end of the world, that would give an inkling into the reason for the survival and a key to figuring out the truth behind the spiritual source of Azi Dahaka.
(But there isn’t time to spend on pondering over such details for now. Although the causation of Azi Dahaka might be closely related to what they just discussed, Azi Dahaka isn’t an opponent who can be defeated just by wits alone.)
Izayoi got hold of himself and focused on the priorities once more. Although he might have been heavily injured before the fight then, his opponent had still left him hapless in their one on one duel. Stray thoughts of these sort would only serve to hamper his movements and invite a counter from the enemy. Therefore, Izayoi chose to shut his mouth and lean on the wall for now.
Just as Croix took out the 「Genome Tree」, voices that were familiar were echoing down the corridors.
“You, You shouldn’t be up yet, Jack-san! Your wounds are too severe to rejoin the front lines!”
“……Oh, this? It’s no problem at all. Because my body is immortal after all. Lily-ojou-chan should hurry up and take care of the other wounded instead.”
Having noted the familiarity of the voices, the trio exchanged glances before heading briskly towards the adjacent corridor.
And it was there that they saw Jack with his body swathed in bandages and leaning on the wall while facing the fox girl Lily who was coercing him to rest.
It was evident enough what the duo were arguing about along the corridors and no questions were needed to further clarify their speculations.
Interrupting their commotion, Izayoi scratched his head while walking towards Jack with his usual smile.
“Yo, Jack. Thanks for the help that was a little on the side of being late. It’s the first time that I’ve seen you in your human form, but it seems to be more troublesome than your pumpkin form huh? If you do plan to quietly return to the sick bay, I’m willing to lend you a shoulder, you know?”
“……Izayoi-dono. You are already up? And here I was thinking that your injuries looked worse than mine when I last saw you.”
“Ah, don’t worry about me. As you can see, I’m alive and well. It’s said that one’s daily actions are really important because this is all the work of the Unicorn Horn that was given to us during the course of our adventures. It turns out to be a really great Gift that is able to heal my injuries of even that extent. However, it’s a pity that it’s only usable for a person.”
And Izayoi completed his story before Jack could ask the questions.
So Jack, whose unasked questions had been answered, could only shake his head with a wry smile.
“Is that so?...... I would also like to rest in the sick bay for a while, but it really is despicable of me to face my back to the enemy when I’m one of the Hosts.”
“Your opponent would never care for those sort of naïve thoughts. …… Mah, if I were to speak my mind, I’m truly interested in your Game---- in fact, it’s to the point where my heart quivers with curiosity and I would salivate in anticipation. However, we can’t afford to lose you in this place now, so please leave it to us to handle the rest.”
Izayoi said flatly and he was unusually honest about his words.
After all, if we were to talk about the search for the truth behind the mysterious killer whose identity is unknown to all---Jack the Ripper]’s Game to search for his true identity, Izayoi would never say no to that challenge. In fact, he would be excited and perhaps even to the extent of trying to make an enemy out of Jack if it weren’t for the Alliance forged between their Communities.
But putting aside that curiosity, it would really be a waste to lose Jack.
And that was a high praise coming from a self-proclaimed hedonist.
Waiting at the side, Yō also wheeled herself over to coax Jack.
“Jack, it’s just as Izayoi says. If you die now, many children would be sad about your passing. The current you is Jack the clown and not Jack the mass murderer.”
「Jack o’ lantern」.
The most welcomed character in the Halloween festival and the most loved monster by the kids. His fans were not limited to his own Community and even Asuka was one of them.
If he were to die, many kids would cry for his loss.
Lily held Jack’s hand as she coaxed him to return to the room.
Getting coaxed in three different ways by three different individuals, Jack closed his eyes while hanging his head dejectedly.
Then, Jack broke out in a self-mocking laughter.
“…… Hoho. Jack the clown, is it? If that’s the real me, it would be all so good.”
“Izayoi-dono, Kasukabe-chan, and Lily-chan, I’ve killed before. Be it young boys, girls and kids, I’ve killed them all. Not for a greater goal but to sate my own desires for achieving art in murders.”
“The me of those days would take a young child who was screaming for his daddy and mummy and I would chop off his arm to form an arch while attaching it to a decapitated head with its expression frozen at its moment of death to form a lantern. The last agonizing screams before their deaths would be my lullaby before my sleep and that is the existence that is the source of the monster named “Jack” before his reincarnation…… Even after knowing all that, could you still call me a clown?”
The trio were stumped for words as the ghastly scene painted by his descriptions made it impossible to find praises or compliments to overshadow his deeds. However, the Jack that he described was entirely impossible to picture out from his recent actions in the battles that they had.
During the battle against Leticia whose form was demonised to attack 「Underwood」, Jack had been the first to protect the kids in the airborne castle.
When Sandora had fallen into the hands of Demon Lord of Confusion, Jack’s anger had also been roused in the battle that ensued.
The one who protected and loved the kids and the one who is loved and cared for by them in turn, this pumpkin monster had his spiritual source stemming from a mass murderer of children. And that was something even Izayoi did not expect.
Croix pressed his bowler hat as he spoke.
“…… I see. It has been passed down in folklores that the legend of 「Jack o’ lantern」 is a person who has been through many reincarnations. And among them all is a commonality of “Jack being a villain who is beyond salvation”. After all, it was the same for his second chance. The Jack who cried to plead for a second chance at turning a new leaf for his next life, continued to be tainted with his evil ways in his second life.”
“That’s right. My real identity is “Jack the Ripper” who plunged London into fear. I’m unable to wash off my bloodstained past.” Jack stared at his bandaged hands before covering his face in anguish.
He, who had experienced the warmth of humans’ innards, was now leaning on a wall for support as he trembled from his emotional breakdown.
“In his rage of having been lied to by a person like me, Saint Peter then sentenced me to be thrown into a void that left me in a state of neither life nor death. Without light or darkness and it was a void world that served as a prison for me.”
“And within that hell devoid of all things, I was not even allowed to take my own life. I was left there for such a long time that it felt as if I was melding and assimilating with the void zone. It was then that a young girl appeared to gift me a small flame. That was the young demon who happened to be……. My master. Willa The Ignis Fatuus, a semi-celestial spirit who fell from candidacy.”[3]
A young girl who manifested from the breath of the Earth to be the embodiment of the demon who holds sway over life and death.
Although her spiritual power may not be of the level similar to the Great Sage who Unifies Heaven who was born from the depths of the planet’s abyss, it was an undeniable fact that she was a child created by the planet.
“Begging the young demon who just happened to be without much understanding of her surroundings, I managed to leave the hell of emptiness to get back to the surface. By then, the layers of my soul had already been weathered away by my experience in the void zone. And it was then that watching the smile of that innocent baby, Willa…… that I finally understood the enormity of what I had done in the past!!!”
Having spent sufficient time in the void to lose the outer layers of his soul, Jack’s insanity had been stripped with time’s passing. And if we were to convert the time spent into the concept of time in human sense, it would be a period that is close to being an infinite amount of time. Therefore, this led Jack into developing a third person persona that allowed himself to introspect his deeds during and before his imprisonment.
To introspect on the ‘him’ who had the same face as a certain someone. He who was drenched in the showers of blood, taking delight in helping them draw their last breaths and from their looks of despair.
However, what awaited the reformed him was a hell that was far worse than the void prison that he had escaped from.
It was the conscience that he had gained from the erasure of his insanity that was able to comprehend the enormity of his crimes. He understood that he would never be able to make up for his sins even if he forsook his life.
“When I took on my human form for the battle…… I was shown a dream. A dream of my past self, killing Willa, Aisha and Asuka and playing with their corpses to desecrate them further……!!!”
Perhaps, the dream is a punishment given to him by Saint Peter to bring the persona that revelled in its evil insanity to be judged before the kinder self that had awoken from its insanity.
And there couldn’t be anything else that would be able to top that sort of torture to the current Jack.
“My sins are so heavy that it would never be paid in full even if I were to offer my life as the price. So I swore to myself then to become a wandering spirit…… and offer my whole life span to pay for my sins. That is the vow I had with Willa when she handed me the pumpkin mask. Putting on the Pumpkin body and throwing away the worn tattered rag, I then gave a smile that would be seen and remembered by thousands as a way to atone for my sins of having caused thousands of regretful screams. And if there are people who would obstruct our way…… I swore to transform my entire existence into a weapon to take down enemy.”
Jack lifted his head to watch the others as a steely determination backed by an abundance of emotions was reflected in his eyes.
And thus no one coaxed him to rest any further. No, that’s not it. It was the situation that everyone understood that no words would be able to change his mind even if they wanted to get him to rest. For it would not be to no avail to try and change the mind of a man who swore to devote his all to protect the smiles of the children.
As a result, Kasukabe Yō had chosen to look down as she found herself at a loss for words to say; Baron Croix chose to press down his bowler hat; and Lily was wagging her two tails while having a pale look on her face.
Only one person…… Sakamaki Izayoi, continued to look at Jack straight in the eye without any expression on his face.
And having heard of Jack’s past, Izayoi moved over to place Jack’s arm over his shoulder while maintaining his straight look.
It wasn’t that Izayoi is not an expressive person. But it was impossible to guess his thoughts from his current expression. Perhaps it was rage? Contempt? Or even other types of emotions? Who knows? However, Izayoi who lent his shoulder to Jack, stood his ground for a moment……and suddenly, seeming to have remembered something, Izayoi spoke in a low voice.
“I, respect you.”
---Wha? Jack let out a small surprised gasp.
Jack widened his eyes as he started to doubt if Izayoi had heard his story correctly.
It was plain to see that Izayoi’s words were really unexpected.
“Don’t get me wrong. If it were the old you from before, I would immediately erase your existence, Jack. Regarding the crimes that you have committed and the punishment you received, I have not a shred of sympathy for that.”
In Izayoi’s eyes, young boys and girls were part of the vulnerable population in a society. They who had not stabilized their concepts of the world, did not deserve to carry the burden of choosing between the good and the bad. There is not a need to use words to chide such an individual who would mercilessly slaughter hapless children.
Such an individual would only deserve the punch that could shake the stars to rain down harshly upon their body.
Therefore, the respect that Izayoi referred to would be for his appearance while seeking to repent and pay for his sins.
“What we know of as the Human race is actually a breed of creatures that tend to favour themselves in the decision making process. To continue fighting to pay for your sins when it is evidently impossible to clear that debt, is something that isn’t possible for most people. In addition to that, your case would be a constant nightmare when you continue to stay in that battle state.”
A determination to continue the battle to protect children that would mean the same transformation into his murderous appearance for every battle that a strong foe appears. And that would be accompanied by his nightmares.
----For the same of giving the children a future and a blessed life.
It did not matter that he would have to face his past once more to experience the pains that would have buckled anyone’s knees. It was this sort of determination of facing one’s sins and working to pay the debt that Izayoi referred to as the radiance that caught his eye.
“Jack, I understand your determination. But no one will have an issue with this if you were to leave the rest to me from here on.”
“…… Is that okay?”
“Ahh, but if there’s an opening for you to target that lizard’s head, please do so. After all, the opponent is a godly being named “Absolute Evil” and hitting him might just reduce your  nightmarish punishment right?”
Izayoi laughed as he cracked the joke in a light-hearted tone.
It was then that Jack’s expression softened as he used the same light-hearted tone to reply.
“Yahoho…… Mhm, sounds good. I also do not want to be shackled down by that old pervert all the time. It would be for the best if I can serve my time completely and break away from any relations with him.”
“…… he’s an old pervert?”
“Mhm. After all, the body that was given to me during my reincarnation…… No, I guess I will just leave it at that.”
Jack’s eyes were distant and it seemed like he was remembering some really bad memories.
However, their situation was far from optimistic.
Kasukabe Yō called out to Croix and stretched her right hand out to him.
“Everyone’s joining the battle with their various convictions. It’s just not possible for me to be the only one who sits out on the battle.”
“…… you are right about that. We will be needing the the 「Genome Tree」’s power in the upcoming battle.”
And saying so, Croix took out the 「Genome Tree」 from his right breast pocket to hand it to Yō.
The feeling of the 「Genome Tree」 in her hands filled her up with the sensation of its spiritual power. Clutching the necklace tightly, Yō then directed the strength to her immobile legs.
Simultaneously as she felt the boost in strength across her entire body, Yō could also tell that there was a familiar warmth in her heart as she used the power.

“…..is that so. It was dad who repaired the 「Genome Tree」 right?”
“Eh, that’s……!”
“It’s alright. I understand. After all, it is this sort of situation and there should be things that Dad needs to do. So, I’ll just have to concentrate on my part of the fight.”
Yō rested the Genome Tree on her chest.
Knowing that her father was near and fighting for the same goal, just knowing that was able to give Yō such a happy smile.
And seeing that smile, Baron Croix quietly made a vow.
After the end of this battle…… even if I need to tie a rope around that neck of his, I will also drag that coward of a father to face his daughter.

1 [magrefnotes: Just noticed that 眷属 is not entirely a herald. It connotes a closer, more intimate bloodline /family relation similar to descendants. For simplicity sake, I will just continue using herald.]
2 [magrefnotes: atavism- the throwback of an organism to have a manifestation of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form usually due to genetic recombination (rephrased a little from Merriam Webster)]

3 [magrefnotes: As from translator HongLian: Due to the distinction mentioned in volume 3 on the difference between “born” and “happened”, we will retain the original word of happened to stick to the idea of the author]