A little bit before Emily and others witnessed Kousuke’s disappearance and went to the security bureau.
Kousuke who arrived at Roma late at night was staying in a cheap hotel like before when he was at Britain.
Although, it wasn’t like before where it was really a worn out hotel, while this hotel was cheap, its quality was fine and it seemed able to cure the body that was a bit tired from the long flight by sleeping throughout the night.
Especially when there was no gun fight that was started upstair or any intruder breaking the window and entering like in Hollywood movie. Kousuke welcomed the morning safely, finished his preparation quickly and left the hotel.
And then, he was enjoying the pleasant morning sunlight and air of foreign country while for the time being he entered into a café to have breakfast because one couldn’t fight with empty stomach.
「Well, it’s not like I’m going to war, it’s still the first day, so I’ll look around the location while sightseeing at the same time.」
Kousuke talked to himself like that while deciding the menu.
The waiter wouldn’t notice even if he called out, so he went by himself to order.
The café’s auntie who only noticed that there was a Japanese customer after her shoulder got tapped showed a shocked expression, but Kousuke didn’t pay it any mind. Because he was a man of experience. In stealth.
He ordered a set of croissant, salad, and several kinds of ham sliced thinly. And then a cup of cappuccino.
It wasn’t salmon sandwich. It wasn’t, salmon sandwich. It wasn’t-!
「Oh? This cappuccino……it’s delicious.」
The cappuccino was exquisite. Inside the relieving gentle sweetness, a subtle bitterness could be felt, making him felt like he could keep drinking many cups of it. The croissant too wasn’t bad. It was crispy and fluffy, with aromatic fragrance that delighted him.
「Yup, I only entered randomly but I hit the jackpot. Though they don’t have salmon sandwich here.」
His seat was beside the window, so he brought his breakfast into his mouth while gazing at the townscape of Roma.
The beautiful street of stone paving, the buildings that were overflowing with atmosphere. There was no high rise building to protect the scenery, which made him felt like he was slipping into a fantasy world. The atmosphere somehow reminded him of Tortus.
Naturally, what crossed at the back of his mind was his lover, the rabbit eared Onee-san. At the next “gate opening”, she would stay fully in Endo family house.
Her staying here would also be a type of test case in preparation when the “this and that” related to Hauria in Tortus had also calmed down to a certain degree and they built their base at this side, so she would come here together with several other Hauria.
Although his family would also be there, he would be living together with Rana……
His wild delusion swelled out.
And then, Emily-chan who flew into his delusion as though in interception.
He had finished introducing Emily to his family too, and his family had already accepted her. The Grant family too had accepted Kousuke as their family.
He had no intention of washing it away.
He had no such intention but……actually, until now Kousuke still hadn’t conveyed his feeling toward Emily clearly with words.
Even though his surrounding was approving, but his Japanese sensitivity that had been cultivated within himself since he was born was smoldering, and he was unable to express well the feeling inside himself using words. It would also be fine if there was some kind of impetus that broke through him cleanly but……
「No, that’s just my excuse. It’s only me being simply good-for-nothing……」
He mocked himself while bringing the cappuccino into his mouth and looking at Emily using the information sharing ability of his clone body. But, the cup was already empty.
Wondering just what he was doing indulging in reverie even though he was coming for a mission, the self-depreciating smile on Kousuke’s lips became even deeper. He then decided for the time being to order another cup of this delicious cappuccino that he encountered in this trip.
「Excuse me~. Another cup please.」
Naturally, no one noticed him.
He walked briskly and tapped the auntie’s shoulder once more.
「……It’s the Japanese customer who ordered just now. Can I ask for another portion of cappuccino and croissant?」
After a moment, the auntie smiled while saying 「Oh my, geez, I’m so forgetful!」 to cover up her mistake before she hurriedly began to prepare Kousuke’s order. She was an auntie with plump body and good-natured face, so he couldn’t hate her no matter what. Although, in the first place he was used to this treatment so he wasn’t angry.
Kousuke returned to his seat in looking a bit dejected like usual. He stared at the townscape with a feeling that was different from before. The face of Kousuke who was getting a faraway look seen from the side was giving off sorrow that was unexpected to be coming from a teenage.
「Here, enjoy. Cappuccino and croissant……」
「Ah, two of them.」
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Surely the auntie understood that Kousuke liked the croissant. She took out two croissants from her basket that looked somewhat bigger and placed it on his plate in a pleasant mood.
And then, perhaps to cover up how she forgot Kousuke’s existence just now, or perhaps she was merely curious, the auntie didn’t leave right away and talked with Kousuke who was biting into the croissant in delight.
「You look really young. Are you with your family?」
「Aa~, no, I’m alone.」
「My! You are still in your first year at middle school right? Could it be you are an oversea student?」
「No no, I’m sightseeing here. I’m planning to go to Vatican after this. Also, I’m 18.」
「Oh my, forgive me! It’s hard to understand the age of Japanese people……」
The auntie flapped her hand looking like 「Good grief me」, then she began to talk about various things. Perhaps it was a universal truth that all auntie liked to talk, or perhaps it was just that this auntie liked to talk.
Kousuke got the feeling that it was the latter case while politely listening.
Since coming home to earth, Kousuke’s footwork was light and his travelling abroad was increasing in frequency. He was enjoying the encounter in the middle of his travel――whether it was with people, thing, or anything. And so, Kousuke also liked people who liked to talk.
Such auntie was teaching Kousuke about the sightseeing spot in Vatican, the efficient route, the delicious restaurant and little-known good sightseeing spot with a practiced way.
「Anyway, that place is completely crowded, so I recommend you to go in early morning if you want to go up to the dome. In general, the place is already packed full slightly before eleven o’clock.」
「I see. I’ll keep that in mind.」
By the way, what the dome here referred to――was about the dome of Cathedral San Pierro. It was a lovely place where people could take unobstructed view of Rome and Vatican, but it was a cramped place, so often people would have to wait when it became crowded.
Kousuke who had finished his breakfast and drank the cappuccino stood up thinking that he should depart soon.
「Also you see――」
The auntie who loved to talk seemed to continue talking. Was Kousuke a really good listener?
He was unable to say clearly that it was enough already. Kousuke whose act was typical for a Japanese in a sense sat back down.
「Recently, it looks like there are a lot of tourists here.」
「? Will there be something soon in the future?」
「No. There isn’t any plan like that, that’s why it’s strange. From what I heard, it seems that in these few months the average number of the tourists is increasing by 1.5 times.」
This auntie incredibly loved to talk. He wondered just where did she get that data.
There was no immigration and emigration process to enter Vatican, there were also Vatican personnel that were coming back and forth to there from Roma, so perhaps it was because of that.
Then the auntie lowered her voice slightly 「Also」 while bringing her face closer to Kousuke and said.
「The people who were coming here for sightseeing a few months ago, it looks like they are visiting here repeatedly with amazing frequency.」
「They are visiting the same place?」
The auntie nodded. It seemed that it was information that was obtained from the network of the local citizen who put their root in Rome. When he asked, it seemed there were a great number of such tourists among the customers who were visiting this café and the restaurants of the auntie’s acquaintances.
There was also a possibility that those people were staying here for long because of work, but their appearance seemed to be normal couple, family, or a group of friends who came for sightseeing.
Certainly, it was a strange story.
Although, there was also the possibility of celebrity posting things about Rome or Vatican in their SNS account, causing the topic to become popular temporarily.
In fact, it seemed the auntie was also thinking that was the cause.
「I thought that you came here also because of that……」
「Aa~, no, I’m not. Or rather, I have never heard anything like that in internet though.」
「Isn’t that right? I also tried investigating what kind of celebrity is popularizing this area, but I didn’t find anything like that at all. I was thinking of having you telling me if you know about it but……it’s unfortunate.」
This auntie didn’t just like to talk, it appeared she was also a rumor lover & gossip lover & investigation lover.
Kousuke smiled wryly while saying 「I’m sorry of not meeting your expectation」, then there the auntie finally noticed that Kousuke had finished his breakfast since a long time ago and 「My, good grief me, I got too absorbed in talking!」 . She flapped her hand while showing an embarrassed smile.
Kousuke paid the bill and headed to Vatican while thinking that he had just heard a strange story since the morning.
It was a rare chance, so he tried slowly experiencing walking through the “Via della Conciliazione” where the cathedral was visible ahead. His smartphone’s camera kept making clicking sound.
He would show it to his family when he returned home. He also took selfie. Currently, a supernatural phenomenon like the camera failing to capture Kousuke’s image had never happened.
Before long the plaza and obelisk of San Pietro came to view. There he could see the Switzerland guard standing gallantly with colorful outfit and stiff posture, and the tourists who were visiting early.
「Oo……as expected, it’s a great view.」
The cathedral in front of him went without saying, the line of pillared corridor with several hundred trees surrounding the plaza, and then more than a hundred saint statues lining up above it were also stunning.
「It can’t be helped that I have to hurry because of the mission but……as I thought, it’s better to come to this kind of place in group rather than alone.」
He didn’t hate travelling alone, but as expected it was better if there was friend, family, or lover to speak their impression to each other and shared the feeling. Kousuke looked around at the tourists around him while speaking to himself feeling a bit lonely.
Putting that aside, he changed his feeling while subtly tensing his expression.
「……The auntie said that it will be crowded around 11 o’clock but……there is already quite a lot of people here.」
It appeared that the story about the number of tourists increasing suddenly was a fact. Even though the time was still around nine o’clock, a quite large crowd had formed.
Kousuke pulled himself back together and thought a bit 「Now then, what to do from here」.
Actually some time ago he tried to contact Hajime to ask him to confirm the location of the person who stole the information from the aforementioned company, but the signal didn’t connect.
In the first place, they didn’t know if the thief was really from Vatican, so this was to confirm it for sure. If it was true then it would be easy to investigate.
Although, it was pointless to plead for something that didn’t exist. In his first plan, he was thinking to climb to the dome and took a bird-eye view of the whole place but……
When he looked, there was already a line formed in front of the entrance to the dome.
「It’s not like I can just climb physically but……」
There were two ways to get up to the dome. First was to climb using elevator until midway and the continuing to climb using stair, or climbing the stair right from the beginning, but there would be more than 500 steps if people used the stair right from the start, so most people used the elevator.
Although, even after using elevator, people would still need to climb more than 300 steps, in addition the stair was getting narrower the more one climbed higher.
If it was Kousuke then he could climb without feeling bothered by that, even so this situation wasn’t suited to look around the surrounding without rushing.
「H~m. Well, I’m here already, let’s wait while also sightseeing a bit.」
He would try waiting for one or two hours. If it looked like the queue wasn’t smooth at all, he would use the outer wall and climbed physically. He was thinking of such absurd thought while changing his smartphone into selfie mode and walked.
About two hours from then.
Kousuke whose heart was completely stolen by the solemn and wonderful works of arts and structures returned to his senses suddenly due to the hunger that he slightly felt.
「Crap. I was completely absorbed. Even though I’m in the middle of mission, I was normally sightseeing instead. ……How terrifying, Vatican. It’s too beautiful.」
Kousuke pretended to wipe the sweat that didn’t even come out.
It wasn’t like he would get scolded by doing this, but somehow it felt like he would get rebuked 「What are you doing slacking off like that」 by Hajime, so he tried to cover it up acting like a completely timid person.
It wasn’t like he was going around looking at everything, but he had went around quite much at the places that were open to public, so he thought that he should soon start infiltrating for real under the pretense of “I’m just normally intruding here, any problem?” and acted to realize that.
But, at that time,
Kousuke stopped moving from the strange presence that he suddenly felt. He closed his eyes to concentrate a bit, and then, his gaze turned under his feet――more accurately toward the ground as though he was seeing through to the underground.
「There is underground passage? Well, it seems underneath the cathedral is a tomb, and it’s not strange even if there is a underground passage that isn’t open for public but……」
The problem was, the current location of Kousuke and the direction the person walking underground was heading to.
「……An underground passage that is connected to outside, huh.」
Yes, Kousuke right now was at the edge of the northwest side of Vatican’s art museum. And then, the person walking underground was heading to the north without stopping. It was obvious that there was an underground passage that was connecting outside and inside.
Kousuke who got interested got outside from the door of the Vatican’s art museum, then he followed the direction where the person underground was heading to.
Not much time had passed before he arrived at a slightly old four storey building standing inconspicuously between buildings. The first floor seemed to be a general store, where it looked like the item selection and the shopkeeper got no motivation.
Perhaps the upper floor was for living place. Even though it was afternoon, the curtain was closed and the situation inside couldn’t be observed.
Because it was close to tourist attraction spot, quite a lot of people were passing by, but no one even turned their gaze toward the general store.
That was how inconspicuous and quiet the atmosphere of the building was.
「……The person went up huh. Directly to the fourth floor without even showing their appearance.」
Kousuke was observing the general store from the other side of the street without particularly hiding it. He sensed the presence of the person underground going up the aforementioned building.
When he tried detecting the presence inside, it seemed there was no one at the second and third floor, but there was just one person at the fourth floor.
For now, he would try searching inside. Deciding that, Kousuke was going to move, but before he could a person appeared a few meter beside him crossing the street.
He casually turned his gaze toward that person. It was a young man with hair of ash brown color and a face that looked really sullen. Although, his height was around 170 cm. He was wearing a really normal looking trouser and hoodie while carrying a large leather rucksack on his back.
Looking in a glance, he looked like a local without anything particularly standing out, he could also be thought as a tourist.
But, Kousuke understood. At the very least, this young man wasn’t someone with respectable occupation.
The way he moved and the motion of his gaze showed it. But it was the atmosphere enveloping him that especially gave the feel of “someone familiar with fighting”. It wasn’t a sense that was grounded from definite basis, but Kousuke who had survived through the carnage in Tortus somehow understood it.
As expected, the young man watched his surrounding slightly before entering into the aforementioned general store with a nonchalant face.
He then chatted for a bit with the shop owner who looked unmotivated.
「Nice timing there.」
Kousuke started walking toward the general store with a faint smile.
He entered the store casually.
Normally, Kousuke would be able to enter inside without anyone paying attention even without him doing anything. In fact, even though Kousuke felt a bit down of that fact, he still entered the store without doubting that fact, but……
The young man saw Kousuke.
It wasn’t that his gaze was accidentally directed at Kousuke. He detected someone entering the store and his gaze moved toward Kousuke accurately.
Kousuke praised himself how he was able to stop the bewilderment inside his heart to show out.
He headed toward the spot where drink was sold inside the store without missing a beat.
(He noticed me? Certainly I didn’t even use any invisibility but……seriously?)
Inside his heart, 「This isn’t the time to feel happy isn’t it, me!」 he calmed his heart like that while thinning his presence bit by bit by reinforcing his invisibility.
The gaze that was fixed on him slowly moved away.
「? What’s the matter, Aziz?」
「……Nothing. I’m going.」
「Yeah, good work.」
Their conversation continued with a naturalness as though no one else was there. The young man called Aziz then went up the stair inside the store.
Kousuke normally followed behind him.
The store owner looked as though he didn’t even notice him when he passed through him. Kousuke’s invisibility was in different dimension from Presence Isolation. It was something that truly should be called as “Presence Thinning”, in situation where he was seriously turning invisible, it would become something dreadful where a normal person wouldn’t notice even when he waved his hand in front of their eyes.
(Seriously!? He isn’t noticing me, but this guy, he is at least feeling something out of place!)
The young man suddenly turned around inside the cramped stair and tilted his head. Kousuke immediately leaped up to the ceiling and stuck there, so the young man’s gaze didn’t find him.
「Is it……just my imagination?」
The young man muttered that and shook his head, then his sullen face became even more sullen in discontent while he rushed until the fourth floor as though to pull himself together.
(From Nagumo’s story, the guy who stole the information about us from Reletense Company wore tight coat and mask, and also using primitive weapon. Well, there is no way he can keep walking dressing like that though……)
If that person immediately returned by riding airplane after attacking the company, then the timing would match with now. Kousuke raised his vigilance while muttering inside his heart.
There was only one door at the fourth floor. The young man called out 「……It’s Aziz」 in front of the door.
「Aziz. Welcome back, I thought you will come soon.」
The one who opened the door was a woman with the atmosphere of a refined lady, looking like she was around sixty years old. With her gentle look, it felt like she would be called “mother” by those who was close to her even if they were unrelated.
The door was opened largely and the woman moved aside to welcome in the young man.
Kousuke also slipped in following Aziz’s timing.
「Welcome back, Aziz. ……? What’s the matter?」
Inside the room there was one more person, a man with masculine look around the middle of his thirty. Seeing Aziz looking around restlessly with a suspicious look the moment he entered the room, his expression turned doubtful and he asked the young man.
「No. It feels like someone is watching me since some time ago.」
「……Because it’s you who possess outstandingly sharp senses is the one who said that, I cannot just deny that out of hand but……no matter how you look, there is only us here you know?」
No, there was another at the ceiling, clinging there.
Though, of course that person didn’t say that. Although, the senses of the young man below were really worthy of praise.
(This guy is seriously not normal. To be able to notice something is out of place even when I turn invisible.)
Kousuke was feeling more nervous than usual. Below, the man stroked his chin while opening his mouth.
「Could it be there is spy camera here?」
「My. Leda-kun. If it’s about that, the regular inspection had just been done the yesterday you know?」
「If Madam Maya had checked then surely there is no doubt about it……」
Kousuke thought. ‘Doing regular check for hidden camera normally, these guys aren’t normal as expected’.
This building that was connected to Vatican through underground passage…… Just who in the world these people were he wondered.
He didn’t know if these people were related with what he should investigate, but at the very least they would make a nice starting point. It could be said that he hit the jackpot.
Kousuke used all his effort to turn invisible and held his breath. Ahead of his gaze, the conversation of this unknown and not normal people was continuing.
「Well, we will be careful just in case. Even so, I will leave after this for work though.」
「……Recently, there is a lot of work isn’t it?」
「Yeah. I’m sick of it, really. What about you Aziz? If I remember right, you were investigating about the danger level of that ancient ruin right?」
「Yes. That was the work of the management department.」
「I see. Recently it’s not just worshipper, even corporations are also getting active……it will be great if it’s just normal relic.」
「The possibility that there are worshippers in that company is by no mean small.」
「……It’s only bad news that are coming from all over the world. These people who are searching for salvation even though they understand that it’s a temptation that goes against god, they will be inevitably increasing in number.」
The man named Leda shook his head with a dark gaze.
「……I think it can’t be helped to think that the cause is the returnees.」
Kousuke was startled by Aziz’s words. It was a grand jackpot. It seemed that this was a bingo.
Maya who was listening to the conversation of the two silently spoke with a slightly rebuking tone.
「Aziz. Jumping at shadows can become our greatest pitfall. We shouldn’t speak uncertain words.」
「But……what those guys did to our comrade」
「Certainly that’s true but, in the end there is no one dead. Isn’t that also a proof that they have conscience?」
Young man Aziz sullenly fell silent looking like he wasn’t convinced at all. It seemed that looking expressionlessly sullen was his default look, but right now he was definitely in a bad mood――or rather, he seemed to be sulking.
Seeing the opinions of Maya and Aziz about themselves the returnees were in opposition of each other, Kousuke was at a loss of how to judge their position.
Perhaps, Vatican and the people affiliated with it were gathering their information to try to meddle with them. Such suspicion was somewhat mollified by the peaceful and rational words of the woman called Maya.
Aziz who was childishly unable to hide his displeasure and Maya who looked troubled.
Leda was making a wry smile toward those two. In order to slightly back up Aziz who was in disadvantage, he spoke while shouldering the baggage.
「Well, there is no doubt that disquieting matter was increasing around the time of these returnees’ return. Their mysteriousness and their strength that even us cannot approach……it’s not unreasonable for Aziz to be alert against them when he is thinking about his family.」
「Certainly that is true.」
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Maya’s expression was looking even more troubled. Leda opened the door with a teasing expression and spoke when he passed Aziz by.
「Besides, Aziz doesn’t want his beloved “big sis” to come near such fellows, right?」
Young man Aziz’s voice clearly contained anger. Leda said 「Oo, scary! Scary!」 and dramatically averted his face to hide his expression, then he said 「See you」 and got out.
「I hate how that person like to make fun of other.」
「H~m, Leda too was a stiff and serious child too in the past though.」
The sensitive atmosphere from before changed completely into a calm one.
Aziz turned on his heel and signaled Maya with his gaze. Maya nodded and circled to behind the desk inside the room and pulled out halfway several drawers of the desk.
And then, at the end she tapped the corner of the desk lightly.
Right after that, *gakon* there was a sound of something coming off. Aziz pushed the wall inside the room and the wall sunk inside. It seemed that it became a sliding door. After the wall was shifted to the side, there was a cramped stair going down that could be passed by one person there.
Aziz quickly slipped into that cramped stair that was located between walls. He only nodded with a gaze at Maya who was waving her hand to him smilingly and quickly closed the door.
(As expected, it’s too cramped that it’s impossible to slip inside together.)
Kousuke who was still clinging on the ceiling turned his gaze toward the desk. He had at least confirmed the procedure clearly, but he wasn’t clear with the extent of how much the drawers had to be pulled. In the case that it was measured in millimeter, it would be quite troublesome to try it himself.
(It will be great if that Maya person will also get out though……)
Most likely that would be asking too much. This place was most likely the outside house and also the base of these people who were affiliated with Vatican, and this Madam Maya seemed to be the manager here. It was hard to imagine that she would easily leave this place.
(Let’s hope she isn’t as sharp as Aziz-kun.)
Kousuke prayed so inside his heart while using the opening when Maya took her gaze off from the wall of the hidden passage to land down in front of it.
And then, he quickly summoned a clone at the other side of the wall. Furthermore, using Hajime’s specially made artifact, he switched position along with the space with his clone before erasing the clone that appeared inside the room.
In exchange, a black stone with small glint fell on the floor with a plop.
――Abyss-style Air Ninja Art Banei no Kagerouthe abyss is always unevenly distributed (Note: Banei no Kagerou = Heat haze of myriad shadows)
By the way, this substitute technique that was making use of one time use artifact, it was previously named “Banchi ZaikuuI exist in the place that I seek”. The lord’s skill name would change depending on his mood at the time! (Note: Banchi Zaikuu = Myriad earth empty existence)
Kousuke who entered inside the hidden passage was following behind Aziz while keeping distance from him.
(Even so it’s deep huh……)
From his instinct, it felt like the stair descended until two floors below underground level.
When he investigated using compass while advancing, as expected this underground passage was heading toward inside the Vatican. After advancing for around 200 meters, there was a corner that was heading to the west. If the measurement he caluclated inside his brain was correct, it directly passed through below Vatican’s art museum in a straight line from outside, and midway the passage stretched toward the direction of Vatican’s garden.
Before long, Aziz who advanced until the end of the underground passage faced the wall there and put his palm on it.
A mechanical light scanned his palm. *Kashun* a numeric keypac appeared. He typed in the password. *Vin* it made such sound and the floor slid, and a stair that headed further underground appeared.
(Why is only that place is modern huh!)
Kousuke made a tsukkomi in his heart.
After Aziz passed through, Kousuke also slipped through the floor using the same pseudo substitute technique like before toward the stair.
After going down the stair that felt like one floor below, a thick metal door appeared. It was a double leaf door that could slide to left and right, a large cross was carved at the middle.
(Finally, I arrived at the headquarters of the mysterious group.)
Following after Aziz inside the opened door, Kousuke also slipped in.
The space inside was surprisingly wide. First, the ceiling was stupidly high. He guessed that it reached 15 meter. Thick pillars were lining up in systematic order, the width and length of the space was also very spacious. The place was basically made from stone with the vital spots reinforced by metal.
A lot of people wearing habit were moving around busily, looking carefully there were passages at the sides of this space’s wall.
It was an underground space that was like the smaller version of Tokyo’s outer floodway that was remade into middle age style.
(Seriously……the position, it’s right under the forest in the middle of the art museum and the monastery. To think there is this kind of huge space here)
Kousuke who was overwhelmed for a while went ‘hah’ and returned to his senses seeing people passing him by nearby.
(If it’s this scale, the possibility that someone who doesn’t belong to Vatican made this underground passage secretly and planning something not good……isn’t likely huh. There is no way the Vatican side won’t notice this.)
In other words, this must be a facility of something for an organization within Vatican that wasn’t made public.
Kousuke weaved through the people and carefully advanced forward.
Everything that his sight caught was interesting.
The people wearing habit while doing something like crafting work on several large stands.
What their hands were holding was,
(Baton? Also……isn’t that assassin blade thing? I saw it before in movie! That’s, chain? Uwaa, are they engraving cross seal on every single ring of the chain? That one……bow gun huh? Oi oi, they are coating the arrow with strange liquid though!? These guys are clergyman aren’t they!? They are clearly making dangerous weapon though!?)
Inside Kousuke was making a storm of tsukkomi with the dangerous looking middle age weapon on parade.
Other than that, there were people intently making a written copy of a large and old book that looked like it would crumble anytime, and then even though it was underground, there was furnace and a person who was blacksmithing, people who was meeting or perhaps doing lecture while writing something on thing that was like a blackboard, people who were holding the weapons created by the previous people while doing mock battle, “scenes that weren’t normal” was pressing on Kousuke like surging waves.
It was though he was taking a trip in another world, or getting into a time slip to the middle age period.
(Dear sir, Nagumo-sama. This is really bad. Vatican is really bad news, seriously. An outrageous secret is hiding underground here.)
Inside his heart, Kousuke was weeping 「I wanna go home already. I wanna eat Emily’s apple pie……」.
When he was fighting the security bureau, inside his heart he was also feeling really fed up inside his heart, but even so he got some composure in his heart. Their organization, action, and equipment were extremely within reality and common sense after all.
To think that right after he infiltrated here, that common sense would receive a beating like this. He had never even imagined it.
What’s more. Since some time ago his senses felt helplessly itchy. He was thinking that it was this unrealistic space that was making him to feel that, but the people coming and going――especially the people who seemed to be training, when he looked at them, he felt a strange déjà vu.
It felt indescribably strange, like he knew them really well, but he didn’t.
Like that, he was advancing deeper inside while being somewhat escaping from reality. Then he came to see an atrium that had second and third floor. The deepest wall was shaved and made into cloister while rooms were made inside the stone wall.
At both sides, there were spiral staircase made along the pillars, furthermore there was an elevator right at the front. It was an old type with iron bars fence and steel cage that was pulled by wire.
Both the stair and elevator went through the ceiling and stretched until above. Most likely it was going until the surface.
When he noticed, the presence of the young man Aziz was inside the front room at the third floor.
It seemed that his attention was diverted from Aziz while he was getting bewildered by this space’s absurdity.
He blundered. Kousuke hurriedly went to the third floor to gather information.
But, before that, he caught sight of a strange person and his legs stopped.
(……? What is he doing?)
That person was a youth at the latter half of his teenage. He was looking up fixedly at the room that Aziz entered. What caught Kousuke’s attention was his expression rather than his action.
He was terrifyingly expressionless, but it felt like there was disquieting shadow that was like malice or hostility that flickered inside his eyes.
The youth suddenly looked at his wristwatch. And then, he made a terrifying faint smile, then entered one of the side passages for some reason and lowered his body low on the ground near the wall.
It was as though, yes, as though,
「……Anti shock posture?」
Kousuke murmured that. He got goosebumps.
Instantly, there was a terrible explosive sound. And then a raging shockwave.
It was unclear who screamed. Was it Kousuke or other people?
His senses were agitated, for an instant, he fell into unconsciousness. He didn’t even have time to feel aware of his own body getting blown away. His body was struck several times, and at the end, his back collided with the wall and Kousuke finally stopped.
「Kahah!? Tsu, what-, happened!?」
The air in his lung was forcefully ejected due to the impact and his breathing was thrown out of order, but he scolded his numb body and immediately switched into battle readiness. He stood on his knee in low position while observing the situation around.
「-, explosive? It’s not……an incident.」
The secret space underground now was completely different from a moment before. Pillars were crumbling here and there, the rubbles of ceiling and wall were scattered everywhere, and “things that were human” were similarly scattered.
The atrium that reached until the third floor was also mostly destroyed, one of the stairs was collapsing. The elevator’s wire was also severed. From right above that elevator, the ceiling fell and a hole until the surface ground was opened. A faint light was shining in.
It was too terrible to be an accidental explosion. Above all else, the pillars that were supporting the underground space were mostly undamaged. Seeing how the destruction was focused on the surrounding of the place where people were working, this explosion was obviously the work of someone.
Kousuke himself, if he didn’t have his trained tough body and the combat outfit he was wearing on his casual wear――the clothes artifact that was weaved with metallic fiber that was provided with various defensive ability like stab-proof, bulletproof, cold resistance, heat resistance, impact resistance, and so on――he might be seriously wounded.
In fact, the impact went through that defensive ability and damaged his internal organ somewhat seriously.
Inside his heart, Kousuke cursed himself 「Idiot me, I’m too careless」 while taking out a small container shaped like a test tube and drank in the recovery medicine inside.
At the same time, a voice of a female resounded. Although that voice was agitated, but there was dignity in it.
「Kuh, situation-, situation report! Everyone! Are you safe!?」
Looking there, a woman came out from the room where Aziz should have entered just now. She leaned her body forward from the railing of the cloister and raised her voice.
From a glance, she was a beautiful woman. Her age seemed to be around twenty. Her soft and wavy long blonde hair, her gentle looking drooping eyes, the twin hills and tight waist that were clear to see even from above the loose habit, and then her long legs.
It appeared there was also an explosion inside the room, her clothes and hair were messed, and although there was blood trickling from her head, she had brilliance in her that couldn’t harm her charm with just that much.
Surely she was giving an impression of a gentle big sister usually, but right now in this chaotic situation, her expression was becoming grave and stern seeing the dead entering her sight.
「Guh, kafuh――it’s, dangerous-. Claudia-sama-」
「Aziz! Also Wynn and Anna too! You shouldn’t move! You all are seriously wounded!」
From behind the female――Claudia, the young man Aziz showed up with staggering steps. His state was literally wounded all over his body. At both his sides, a blond haired youth and a girl at around the middle of her teen were standing with similar expression that was covered in blood and distorted in pain.
How were their damages different from each other even though they were in the same room? From how the woman was called using “-sama”, perhaps Aziz covered for the woman.
Claudia reached out her hand toward Aziz. At that timing, a voice was raised from the side passage.
「Claudia-sama! There’s a problem! The seal-, the seal of “mirror gate” is unraveling-」
「!? Aumale, what do you mean――」
Claudia’s expression was clearly paling even from afar. It seemed that a situation that was worse than this disastrous explosion was occurring.
Furthermore, the situation was moving as though to keep worsening.
「What, you all!?」
Scream and angry roar echoed. When everyone was taken aback looked at the voice’s direction, countless people were coming down from the stair and elevator hole and started attacking the people who barely escaped from the explosion disaster.
Surprisingly, all of the intruders were dresses as though they had just sightseeing not long ago. Their appearance was like tourist, however, they were killing people without hesitation……
The situation was rapidly worsening. The chaos was deepening, and despair was running rampant at the same time.
Kousuke too was unable to decide his next move seeing the unexpected abnormal situation that was happening one after another.
There was possibility that Vatican was gathering information of the returnees, so he came to investigate their objective and how much information they had, and yet, that Vatican was being attacked.
The side that he should help, the reason why he should help, and in the first place even the reason why he should interfere didn’t come to mind.
(Should I take advantage of this chaos and search only for our information? But……)
Kousuke’s instinct was insisting to him to make sure of this situation. His danger sense was throbbing, telling him that the situation might be moving beyond salvation if he left it alone.
「Claudia-sama! Right now it’s the seal! If the “key of cross” is gone, at this rate-」
Claudia was holding a huge metallic cross of about two meter unnoticed. She was hesitating seeing her comrades getting attacked.
「Leave this place to us! Claudia-sama, please take care of the seal! It’s only the “mirror gate” that we cannot allow to be opened! Anna, go to the chief! Aziz, Aumale! I’ll leave Claudia-sama to you!」
Right after he said that, the man called Wynn leaped right away from the third floor with a demonic look. He splendidly performed ukemithe art of falling safely and went to rescue his comrades who were being attacked.
「Claudia-sama! I will bring the chief here without fail!」
The girl who was called Anna too, without showing any sign of minding her face and her side that were wet with blood, from her breast pocket she took out a circular rod――from its shape it was likely to be a tonfa, and she lengthened it fully. She drove in an anchor on the stair’s upper part and leaped until the stair right away like a pendulum.
And then, she descended and hit the attackers flying while rushing away with great speed.
「I’m fine. Let’s go, Claudia-sama.」
Claudia nodded in respond to the determined words and gaze of Aziz. Then she shouldered the huge cross while dashing away.
At the first floor, the man who raised his voice just now about the seal something――Aumale was waiting somewhat impatiently. He guided Claudia and Aziz in a hurry.
「Wait, oi oi, that guy…… Sheet-, I don’t get what’s going on at all. Well, at this kind of time the best thing to do is to trust the instinct.」
Even while cursing, Kousuke manifested his clones and assisted the people wearing habit that looked like they were going to get finished off by the attackers.
At the same time, the main body of Kousuke chased after Claudia and co who vanished inside the passage.
「Wait, this is labyrinth!」
The passage was dark and there was almost no lighting. In addition after advancing for a few meters, he suddenly encountered the path branching into five roads.
Without delay Kousuke used his skill “Tracking” to search the newest footprints. He could sense their presence, but just with that he wouldn’t understand the direction. If he entered the shortest route, when actually he had to take a detour through a different path, he would have to return here. Even though it was troublesome, it was necessary to track the footprints.
「The second from the right.」
Even if ordinary person wouldn’t be able to understand it, for Kousuke, the subtle way the dust was brushed, the way the dust floated in the air, the coloring of the floor, and so on told him where the footprints were. It was just like a police dog chasing after the target’s footprints.
But, even after that he kept encountering branch roads every time he advance for around ten meter, each time he had to differentiate the footprints before moving, so he was getting left behind by the three people ahead who were moving without hesitation.
「From their presence……this is the last branching paths?」
The presences felt really close. It seemed Kousuke’s prediction was right on the spot.
The echo of some kind of angry yells reached him. Right after that, a short scream of a woman could also be heard.
Kousuke understood which was the right path without even finding the footprints and he was going to go there.
At that moment,
There was “red mist” surging from deeper inside the passage. It was flowing with intense momentum like high pressure gas leaking out. The mist dyed the whole passage red in the blink of eye.
Kousuke immediately put up a barrier using his kunai.
「Red mist!? Is it poisonous gas! Sheet-, incomprehensible things keep happening one after another!」
Kousuke spat out curses that he couldn’t hold back while even so rushing through the last path in order to ascertain the situation. And then, ahead there was the remain of a tough metallic door. It seemed to have gotten blown away by explosion. Kousuke sent it a glance while leaping into the deepest room.
Like that, what Kousuke witnessed was,
It was a large mirror. The height was three meter, the width one meter. The mirror was enclosed with terrifying relief of countless people lying on top of one another in heaps.
But, Kousuke didn’t know if it should be really called a mirror.
The reason was, what was called a mirror was something that reflected the sight of its opposite side on its surface. What it reflected was the thing right in front of it. A mirror should be reflecting the stone wall, the red mist, and Kousuke on its surface.
And yet, what was reflected on that mirror――no, what could be seen at the other side of the mirror another world with rust colored cracked ground and blowing red wind that was like wind of blood. And then, the red mist that was intensely gushing out from there.
The worlds, were connected.
This was just like,
――Isn’t this like Nagumo’s “gate”?
Kousuke who was dumbfounded and was at a loss for words felt impact at his leg. Taken aback, he came back to his senses and looked down, over there was the young man Aziz collapsed on the ground.
「Aumale, he-, kafuh, a traito-――Claudia-sama, she-. That guy, to the world at the other side-」
「O, oi you, don’t talk! You’re dying!」
A large knife was stuck on his back. The position was a lethal one. And yet, the young man Aziz didn’t even seem care of his own condition, his hazy eyes that were almost losing light were earnestly looking at Kousuke.
「Please-, that person――Claudia-sama, please-」
Even though he was on the verge of death, Aziz grasped Kousuke’s leg with unshakeable strength. Kousuke unconsciously held his breath.
The young man Aziz acted as though “the last thing he could do was only to beg”, his face that looked expressionlessly sullen all that time crumbled down, and he was pleading with tears flowing out.
「Please, I beg you-. My, big sister-, my family――please-」
The face of Aziz was soggy with tears. Looking from nearby, he was shockingly young, no, childish. With his tall height and sullen face, he looked like he was only a bit younger from Kousuke, but perhaps he was still thirteen or fourteen. He was about the same age like Kousuke’s little sister Manami.
In the end, did this young boy understood, just who it was he was pleading at? Most likely, from his wording that seemed to be directed toward stranger, he must understood that the other party wasn’t a comrade that he recognized.
Kousuke looked at the mirror that they called “mirror gate”. Inside the spouting out red mist, far away, something bizarre with humanoid shape could be seen holding a human shape on its side.
Furthermore, he could see the ground undulating, and something unknown in innumerable number surging in.
Near the mirror, the thing that was carried by the “big sister” that Aziz mentioned――the woman called Claudia, the huge cross was carelessly left to lie there.
Honestly speaking, this was already beyond his capacity. At the very least, this wasn’t a matter that should be faced and dealt with alone.
The Nagumo family should come to deal with this, or at the very least he wanted them to cooperate with him. Based from what he saw at the abnormal phenomenon in front of his eyes, the case this time was undoubtedly in a dangerous level for Kousuke.
When he diagnosed himself, he was feeling strangely weary and his mind felt tired, and then he felt subtle pain around his lung. The cause was surely the red mist that he slightly came into contact with just now.
There was no guarantee that he would be able to come back if he went to the world at the other side of the mirror.
Thus, that option was the same as suicide.
This was an abnormal situation that should be dealt with, so the best thing to do was to erect a barrier that cover the whole mirror, devoted himself to defensive battle, then contact Hajime, or at the very least Yue and others and asked them for help right away.
If he had to say more, it was an impossible choice to rush into a place that was far from being unknown, it was even a place that was surely filled with extreme danger, and furthermore it was for the sake of saving a woman he didn’t know. He learned what reality was in the other world. He couldn’t respond to all the voices asking for help.
Such reasons why he “couldn’t answer” the young man’s wish were listed inside his heart, but,
「…………God……please, grant us salvation……please……」
「God dammit. Those words are what I hated the most.」
Kousuke muttered with a small voice where his words couldn’t even be heard. On his expression, a bitter smile surfaced, as though his answer had been decided right from the beginning.
Because this was an abnormal situation that couldn’t just be left alone.
That was one reason.
Because the wish of the little brother who wished for his big sister salvation caused his own big brother and little sister to cross his mind.
That was another reason.
‘But, well, the biggest reason is……
Cause, somehow, I’m like a hero.
I want to answer, the wholehearted trust that “those girls” directed at me……’
His thinking that had came to a clear conclusion of “I cannot save anyone at all” in front of the reality that he experienced in the other world was brushed aside. For just a little bit, inside Kousuke……yes, if it had to be said, a face of a “man” peeked out.
‘This ain’t a death flag right?‘, Kousuke’s bitter smile deepened. But in a complete change, a strong light dwelled within his eyes.
Inside his heart, “Sorry, for making a stupid choice” he apologized to his comrades and family, and then to Rana and Emily while kneeling on one knee beside the young man Aziz.
And then, he pulled out the knife stabbing on Aziz’s back, sprinkled the recovery medicine, and then he forcefully jammed in one more bottle into his mouth.
「Drink it all like your life is depending on it, Aziz-kun. It will be meaningless if you die.」
Young man Aziz drank it all while coughing *cough-cough-* and his cloudy consciousness was getting slightly clear. He looked at Kousuke in a daze.
His expression looked as though he wanted to say that god had answered his prayer that was asking for salvation and sent His messenger here for him.
Kousuke stood up and wore his sunglass. At the same time he threw several kunai around the glass and finished the preparation for a barrier to go up after he went in.
And then, taking position in front of the mirror, he looked back across his shoulder and spoke with a fearless smile.
「My bad, but no matter what I’m no good with god. Unfortunately I’m unable to play the part as His messenger but……young man. I’ll grant you your wish.」
He said such thing, Kousuke-san who was slightly entered by the lord.
Young man Aziz asked dumbfounded.
Kousuke unsheathed his short sword. He took battle stance against the squirming existence at the other side of the mirror while,
「Me? I am――」
Kousuke answered just like usual.
――Just the demon king’s right hand
Immediately after, Kousuke rushed into the mirror world.
In order to answer the wish of the young man who thought of his family, his big sister from his heart.
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