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Chapter 5 – Midday
After Claudia warded off the dagger of a Kinoe with her right hand’s blade, she slashed horizontally with the blade in her left hand.
The Kinoe silently fell on the ground in a pool of quickly spreading blood.
Though the wound was not severe enough to claim his life, it was still enough so that he could not immediately continue chasing after her.
Claudia immediately turned on her heels and started running to the inner part of the warehouse town. The uniform she wore was torn here and there and was stained with blood; but fortunately all caused by minor injuries.
It had started raining from the overcast sky a while ago, and in the weather forecast, it was predicted that this rain would not let up at all.
While avoiding cameras located at regular intervals, she hid herself for the time being in a dome-like large warehouse, where huge containers were orderly stacked. As a figure like unmanned transportation was just carrying containers right now, it was fortunate that the entrance was opened ── of course, Claudia knew of that timing though.
In the harbor area of the urban area, due the employment adjustment of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, there were in fact many workers; but as for the academy’s harbor block, full automation was thoroughly enforced.
“Phew…… It’s quite tough as expected.”
As Claudia spoke to herself, she leaned her back on a container and took a deep and long breath.
After all, she had been running for nearly half a day since the attack at dawn. Although she had been expecting it, the fatigue had started to catch up to her.
The Yabuki Clan ── as expected of a Combat Corps under Galaxy’s direct control. The fact that Claudia had been able to escape to a safe place like this now was solely thanks to her previous preparations and ’s future foresight.
But at this rate, she did not know how long she would hold.
“The communication is…… as expected not usable, huh.”
Claudia took out her portable terminal and, after operating it several times, returned it to her breast pocket.
The Yabuki Clan had special skills which only those of their lineage could use.
Moreover, they (skills) were only troublesome ones like putting up a barrier to ward off people or intercepting sounds and electromagnetic waves. The most terrifying thing above all was the point that their techniques consumed nearly no mana and prana. And given this, unlike the abilities of and , it was extremely difficult to sense them.
“However, the situation itself is generally as I expected……”
As she tightly gripped the twin swords in her hands, Claudia smiled wryly.
A little more.
Just a little more and Claudia’s wish would come true.
The only dream that Claudia Enfield held.
The selfish wish of a person that probably no one would understand.
Her hands were about to reach there.
“……For that reason, I can’t afford to die in such a place.”
Assuming that it was natural for Claudia herself to give her all, what was left was to what extent the plans which overlapped even over and over again would bear fruit.
After all, that Yabuki Clan and its present Head Yabuki Bujinsai that had history of several hundred years.
It might be said that there was no higher predicament than this in Claudia’s life.
And yet, Claudia could not stop twisting her lips naturally.
It was not her usual perfect smile, but a more pure one──
The next moment, Claudia jumped onto a container.
Shurikens stuck into the container consecutively as to chase her, but Claudia’s movement was one step ahead.
While running over the container with all her strength, Claudia sounded out the number of her pursuers moving soundlessly like shadows.
Judging from the Kinoes’ ability, she would not suffer a defeat if it was a one-on-one; but a two-on-one was slightly dangerous and in the case of a three-on-one, an escape was recommended.
“One, two, three…… and four people, huh…… This is what is called “The Thirty-Six Stratagems”, I guess.”
As Claudia muttered so, she jumped out of the warehouse and ran at full speed within the rain.
Though she could somehow manage if she used ’s future foresight, she wanted to save that ability not to attack, but to survive to the best of her ability.
In that case, she could only keep running away for now.
“Hmm, it’s much more troublesome than I expected.”
When Bujinsai received report from one of the Kinoes in a low voice which could not be heard, he looked down at the harbor block, which spread from over a huge crane, below.
The gray scenery which was hazy in the rain looked as gloomy as a graveyard.
“As expected, having failed with the first move came biting back at us, huh…… even though I warned him so much to stay out of it; that stupid son of mine.”
While stroking his chin, Bujinsai grumbled so with a sigh. There was no mistaking that information leaked from Eishiro to the target.
“To think that he would go against me to this extent…… Geez, it’s frustrating. If he wasn’t quick-witted, I’d have given up on him long ago.”
The Shadow Star including Eishiro was currently playing the role of backup to Bujinsai. But judging from these circumstances, it was doubtful to what extent Eishiro would follow his will.
In the first place, the Yabuki Clan’s specialty was information gathering and assassination, not military oppression. At the point when they failed the assassination in the room, it might be said to be an unbecoming failure.
However, even if the opponent was rank #2, she was just one student after all. Though they by no means took her lightly, he never thought that they would fail to catch until now.
Although it was all right until they cornered her in this harbor block, thinking about it now, it was somehow strange, too. The target was too well-informed about this area.
Though this harbor block was not originally a place where people could thoughtlessly enter, moreover a barrier to prevent people from entering was currently put up. The variously spread out surveillance cameras had been taken over as well. One might say that there was no field more suitable than this to hunt someone down.
Despite this, the target, as if she knew the placement of every single surveillance camera, had not been caught even once by the net.
There was no hesitation at all in choosing her escape route; it was as if it was the garden of her house.
No matter if she was the president, it might be said that it was originally impossible for a student to be so familiar with the harbor block that was unrelated to students.
(Could it be that we were the ones who were lured in here……?)
In addition, the target’s combat ability was more difficult than expected, too.
Even more than her basic specs, as she could use ’s future foresight so freely, it was certainly difficult to bring her down.
But even when taking all of these into consideration, according to Bujinsai’s reading, they should have been able to corner the target at an earlier stage. In other words, it was very likely that in the present condition, another factor was mixed in.
“What are those guys, who went around to the south, doing? Also, the ones I sent for scouting are slightly late in coming back.”
“We’ve lost contact with them since a little while now……”
At that moment, Bujinsai greatly leaped back. At the same time, the Kinoe who was beside him substituted so as to protect Bujinsai. That Kinoe received a kick of someone, who suddenly came jumping, and was knocked down from the crane without being able to use a technique.
The one who attacked violently without making a sound or revealing her presence was a woman wearing an eerie mask.
When the woman softly landed on the tip of the crane, she silently faced Bujinsai.
“Hmm, that mask…… you’re the brat of World Dragon, huh.”
While narrowing his eyes, Bujinsai slowly stroked his chin.
“Although it’s the harbor block, this place is Seidoukan’s site. To think that you’d creep in there, you’re quite daring, .”
『……What, I was easily found out after all, huh.』
Then instead of the voice, a space window opened and these lines were displayed there; that woman ──Arema Seiyaan removed her mask modeling on the design of wolf and revealed a complacent smile.
“To think a former rank #1 is now enthralled by such behind-the-scenes jobs…… how pitiable of you, ’s dog.”
『You’ve quite the wicked tongue, old man. Looks like the saying “a human will become mellow as he grows old” is a lie, huh.』
Not shaken by Bujinsai’s provocation, Arema laughed quite indifferently.
(……Hmph, she didn’t take the bait, huh.)
As expected of a person who had the seat of the strongest in World Dragon until the current appeared; she had quite the guts.
“But is it fine with you? Your action is clear violation of the Stella Carta. Should this be exposed, even World Dragon wouldn’t get out of it unscathed, you know?”
In the Stella Carta, students were strictly prohibited to enter the site of other academies without permission. Though judging from the security side, the intrusion itself was actually not difficult in any places other than the central part. All the more if it was an agent of The Espionage Organization that each academy had.
Even so, the reason why each academy faithfully abided by it was because information war heated up too much once at the Asterisk dawn period and confusion which affected the show of the occurred. From the reflection of these events, each academy generally abided to these rules even now and it became a convention to prepare a betrayer into other academies even when they wanted to start something.
Assuming an agent of another academy intruded within the site, he would not escape from being inflicted a heavy punishment with that alone.
“Moreover, there’s nothing that you guys of World Dragon would obtain no matter how you move.”
『Kakaka! What are you saying at this late hour?』
However, Arema laughed down such words of Bujinsai.
『We the “Glaring Eye”, unlike the cowards of elsewhere, have nothing to with either the Integrated Enterprise Foundation’s profit or the loss and gain of the academy. If decided so, we’re only her hands and feet that merely executed her orders. Isn’t it the same for you guys, huh? We’re what are called Pros, right?』
“……Hmm, a brat like you dares to boast, huh.”
Bujinsai revealed a complacent smile while saying so.
“Still, you’re more promising than my son, I guess.”
『Honestly, I’m disappointed in you guys. It’s like you are lacking in consistency; or should I say, a disappointment is fine as well, I guess.』
“I see, so it was you who went around crushing my subordinates, huh.”
Speaking of Arema Seiyaan, she was World Dragon Seventh Institute’s former rank #1.
Unlike the major company PMC and the Integrated Enterprise Foundation military authorities’ elite forces that gathered only graduates of superior ranks, the Yabuki Clan was a group that radicalized special techniques by lineage, and looking only at the individual fighting strength, it was not strange for Arema to surpass them.
But even if one said so, they should not have been weak enough as to have been so easily defeated by one person.
“……Well whatever. At any rate, I no longer have any time to spare against you alone, you see?”
At the same time as Bujinsai said so, multiple shadows standing in a row on the crane appeared.
Many-on-one in this place with bad footing. It was an overwhelming advantageous situation.
『What, I’ve heard that the Yabuki Clan gathering a small number of elites, and yet there’s so many people remaining…… huh~?』
Arema, who was amazed, suddenly tilted her head to the side.
『It’s really strange. You over there, you of the other side…… also you of this side as well; a moment ago, I’m sure I should have strangled you to death though.』
There were four Kinoes surrounding Arema. All of them had the same attire and one could not distinguish their faces. Of course, although there was a difference in stature, her insight to see through them as such at a glance was as expected quite something.
“Our people are all sturdy, you see?”
Whether it was when Bujinsai finished or did not finish saying so, the four Kinoes moved simultaneously. A simultaneous attack from all directions without concern of their bodies ── it was the same pattern as when they caught Eishiro yesterday.
Arema dealt with these simultaneous attacks with divine feat-like movements.
She jumped from the right crane and warded off the black blade that slashed towards her with her right hand, while simultaneously twisting her body and catching the bo shuriken thrown from the left crane with the fingers of her left hand. Then, she tripped up the Kinoe who charged at her from the front with a raised fist before repelling a kick from behind with the elbow of her left arm.
The actions that would not have worked had the timing been just a little bit off, Arema pulled them off while revealing a smile filled with joy.
And when she pulled through the first blow, the Kinoes were no longer opponents for Arema.
The Kinoe, who attacked from the front, danced in the air as he received a palm stroke which raised his chin, the Kinoe who attacked from the right was kicked flying as his body became stiff after receiving a finger tip on his neck’s pressure point and flung against the next crane.
Furthermore, Arema, who greatly leapt by the recoil of the kick threw back the bo shuriken in the air without even turning her gaze there, thus defeating the Kinoe on the left crane. When she landed behind the remaining Kinoe, she easily dodged his attack which met with her backhand chop and struck his abdomen with both her hands. Immediately after, an intense shock ran throughout his body and the Kinoe fell over from the crane.
“Hmm, not bad.”
Bujinsai was honestly impressed after seeing that series of offenses and defenses.
Arema’s martial arts which was polished up to a frightening degree deserved pure praise.
『Compared to XingLu-chan, you guys’ movements might as well be considered motionless.』
The breathing Arema, who stated as such, was disturbed even a little.
『Now then, I’m tired of all these appetizers. I guess I should now move on to the main dish.』
Arema’s eyes were turned to Bujinsai as they glittered ferociously.
Bujinsai scratched his head while received it with a bored look.
“……You’re certainly strong. There’s no doubt about it. But, don’t look down on adults too much, brat.”
『Heeh, then what will you do?』
Arema smirked and slowly took a stance.
“──I shall slightly educate you. You should be thankful.”
Bujinsai beckoned a palm towards such Arema.
“Haa…… I wonder if Arema is doing well……”
HuFeng said so while looking the pouring rain in a corridor of the Yellow Dragon Temple.
“Hou, so you’re worried about her; that’s rare.”
XingLu, who was walking in front, stopped and innocently laughed while turning only her face.
“It’s not her I’m worried about, but this academy! Do you really understand, Master? If Arema were to fail and leave some kind of evidence…… no, it’d be better in that case; but if things go wrong and she is captured by Seidoukan, it’ll become a great issue, you know?”
“Hohoho, you’re quite the worrywart, huh. They’re doing something underhanded over there, so even assuming that something happened, they won’t make it public so easily. Besides──”
As XingLu said up to there, she continued after moving her gaze towards the cloudy sky.
“Even I acknowledge that girl’s ability. Speaking only of Taijutsu, she doesn’t fall behind Xiao Fay.”
“That…… I am aware of it.”
HuFeng bit his lips while enduring his frustration.
This meant in other words that she was valued more highly than HuFeng.
Arema’s Taijutsu was a self-taught one that took in techniques of various schools and continued evolving even now. It was not the result of Arema’s hunger for strength, but the one of hunger for the fighting itself.
That anecdote that she once was a dojo challenger and challenged every faction in World Dragon and got victory every time was not just for show. Although she did not participate in , she still kept within the top 10 in the ranking of the『Hex Pantheon』. The ranking of the 『Hex Pantheon』 was popular along with ability ── in other words, because exposure greatly influenced it, it was simply astounding that Arema could maintain this ranking even now when she carried out her behind-the-scenes works.
“Then, are you saying that we may feel relieved regarding this matter?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I’m sad to say, since that girl is an idiot, so she’ll probably challenge the Head of Yabuki head on.”
XingLu said so and began to walk again.
HuFeng, who was about to left behind, hurriedly followed after her.
“P-Please, wait a minute, Master! Are you saying Arema has no chance of winning against that Head?”
“I don’t say that. There’s just a possibility.”
XingLu carefully talked while walking.
“Just that……the Yabuki Clan is, like Fuyuka’s clan, composed of people who inherit an unique lineage from generation to generation. The one, who draws out the most power from the blood among them, is chosen as the Head. Power of blood means close affinity with the techniques that those guys used. I don’t know how much strong the current Head is, but at least it’s a fact that Arema have a bad affinity with those guys’ techniques.”
“……Despite knowing it, you still sent Arema?”
Suddenly, an intense pressure that was released by XingLu pushed down on HuFeng.
HuFeng was swallowed by that pressure and he was even unable to breathe for a moment.
“……Of course. No matter what the results, that girl will become stronger again with this.”
And when XingLu turned to HuFeng, she glared at him with eyes looking like they would shoot a person to death.
“Listen HuFeng, don’t forget it. The reason why I, , am here is to train you students of World Dragon. That girl isn’t my disciple, but she’s promising. So, know that I don’t mind using any means.”
“……As you will. I am sorry.”
As HuFeng whispered an apology, the pressure immediately dispersed like mist.
“Well at any rate, if Arema and the Head were to fight, it wouldn’t drag on.”
XingLu muttered to herself while looking towards the rain cloud covering up the sky.
“Who knows, it might have already been settled about this time.”
The rain was gradually increasing in intensity.
“Good grief, I wonder if this old body will endure this autumn rain.”
While hearing the voice of Bujinsai, who wiped he dew as he said so, Arema frowned at the coldness of the raindrops hitting her face and the acute pain running throughout her body. Even so, she somehow tore off her body from the wall of the warehouse dented into the crater.
“Hou, you can still stand? It seems like you’re much sturdier than us.”
Bujinsai stroked his chin with a face as he was truly impressed.
A staff type lux was grasped in his right hand. It was a special lux in which only the circular-shaped part of the head was formed with a blade of light, and a metal-made flying ring was stuck through there. It was a lux that even Arema saw for the first time and it was hard to say that it was very practical.
But, Arema has been one-sided beaten without being able to do anything at all against it.
(Geez, what a terrifying old man……!)
She fixed her breathing and called forth her remaining prana. The pain faded and she felt power filling her power until every corner of her body.
It’s all right. I can still fight.
The moment when she confirmed it, delight welled up inside Arema.
That’s right. Just that alone was enough. Winning or losing was secondary. Fight, fight and fight. Because doing nothing but fighting on was what Arema lived for.
“To think that you’d laugh in this situation, do you have some screws loose, too? How troublesome.”
Without answering to it, Arema instantly shortened the distance to Bujinsai.
She launched finger thrust aiming for his throat ── but, it did not hit. Fist strike, palm stroke, elbow strike, axe blade kick (heartless reversal) and two rising kick (two times reversal); she continued her attacks without pause, but they did not give even a scratch to Bujinsai. Originally, the attacks with timing looking like they would surely catch him were all off the mark.
And on the contrary, for some reason she could not avoid attacks that she should have certainly dodged.
“Well, I guess I shall end it soon.”
This time again, a slash that Arema should have perfectly warded off cut at her neck.
Though she stopped it with her hand, it would have reached the artery if it was a little deeper.
However, at that opening Bujinsai’s kick gouged at Arema’s solar plexus and moreover Bujinsai’s tips of the toes mercilessly kicked up the chin of Arema, who could not help falling to her knees.
As expected this was severe, so Arema, who was sent flying, fell down on the floor face up.
“Even you, , will no longer be able to stand up with this.”
Bujinsai, who looked down at Arema with cold eyes, indifferently said so.
『……I want to ask one thing, but is this the so-called ninjutsu that you guys use?』
Still lying down as is, Arema asked Bujinsai.
Honestly speaking, Arema did not think that there was that much gap between her Taijutsu and Bujinsai’s.
At least, she did not feel a difference of strength to the point of despair just like when she fought XingLu. And yet, since she has been beat up so one-sidedly, there should be some different factor.
Naturally, Bujinsai did not answer; but he curled his lips as he suddenly remembered suddenly.
“Well, there’s no way a greenhorn like you, who is handled by the current Fan XingLu as opponent, will see through it.”
“My great-grandfather having fought that You Tian is a story of the old century, but they were originally existences that increased their power by longevity. The height of stupidity that is expressly changing their bodies only harms their strength under their own eyes.”
Bujinsai continued as he sneered.
“Compared to the time when she fought against my great-grandfather, she currently doesn’t possess even half of the power she had then”
These words were a shock for Arema.
At the same time, she could feel an indescribable exaltation overflowing from within her.
『Kuku…… Ahahaha! Ahahahaha!』
Still lying down face up as is, she suddenly burst into laughter ── although saying that, her voice did not come out though ──Bujinsai knitted his brows suspiciously at Arema.
“What’s wrong, brat? Have you finally broken completely?”
『No, well it’s just that I was once again made to realize how wide the world is. So, I can’t afford to die yet in such a place!』
Arema launched a sudden kick at Bujinsai while doing a kip-up, but it was easily dodged.
But, that was fine.
As Bujinsai stepped back as to take distance, Arema ran up until above the crane using the warehouse’s wall as foothold.
“……Hou, so you still have such remaining strength, huh.”
Bujinsai muttered as he was amazed from the bottom of his heart.
『My bad, but I more or less completed my task, so with this I’ll fall back for today.』
The task she was ordered by XingLu was to support so that the Seidoukan Academy student council president could escape. Although that in itself was hard to describe as an achievement, she drove away and immobilized the majority of the Yabuki Clan’s assassins. It might be said to be enough accomplishment.
Though the most troublesome opponent remained, it could not be helped.
“You completed your task, huh. As expected, you’re still quite inexperienced.”
However when Bujinsai said so, he softly lifted one hand.
Then behind Bujinsai, the figures of several people appearing to be from the Yabuki Clan appeared as if oozing from the shadow.
Furthermore, similar shadows appeared around above the crane so as to surround Arema.
(Are those reinforcements……? No, wrong……!)
The majority of them were people that Arema should certainly have defeated. Although she had no leisure to finish off either of them, on the other hand it was not a slight wound to the extent that they would immediately move, either.
In that case.
『……What a blunder, so there was a healing ability user, huh.』
Arema’s eyes caught a long-haired figure standing behind Bujinsai. Though her outfit from the neck to the bottom was certainly similar to the others’, the silhouette did not cover her head just like Bujinsai. Arema could immediately grasp that only she was clearly inferior in strength compared to the others.
The reason why such a person was taken along could be none other than for support personnel. When comparing with the present situation, it would be proper to regard her as having the recovery role.
However, there was not a healing ability user with power enough to allow this many severely wounded people to immediately return on the front even in a medical institution. There must be some kind of trick to this, too…… but, Arema did not have the leisure to find it out now.
『……No helping it, it’s my complete defeat this time. But old man, I would certainly like to fight you again one day!』
When Arema stated so, she kicked the crane and jumped to the warehouse’s roof.
“Hmph! I’m not free enough for that.”
The shadows who surrounded Arema pursued her without a moment’s delay, but as expected Arema’s stamina was exhausted to the point where she had trouble taking on this number of foes.
(Well, it isn’t like I don’t have a trump card, but…… I can’t use it without XingLu-chan’s permission after all.)
While muttering so in her mind, Arema put her hand on her throat.
Having said that, it was boring to just run away.
She would be too embarrassed to meet XingLu if she did not return at least with a minimum present.
When she was pondering whether there was not something that she could bring back as she ran on the warehouse’s roof, data from unknown sender were suddenly sent into Arema’s portable terminal. Arema’s portable terminal was a special-made one and people who could contact on this were quite limited, so there was no need for them to conceal their identity.
Though it was too suspicious, Arema opened the data without hesitation.
(Hey, hey, this is……!)
While running being struck by raindrops, Arema compared the harbor block’s map attached to the data with the present location.
If this were the real thing, it looked like she would be able to go back with a good present.
“……Father, shall I increase the number of pursuers? I feel a little uneasy with only four people chasing her.”
“No, ignore her.”
Bujinsai replied to his daughter Eika as he watched Arema’s figure disappear into the rain.
As Arema guessed, Eika was an extremely rare healing ability user. Her ability allowed the complete recovery of a serious wound in just a few minutes by simultaneously using special medicines, but it could only be manifested on blood relatives.
This time, Bujinsai took along two persons other than Eika with a similar healing ability. All of them were precious treasures.
“More importantly, we must first give top priority to the mission’s accomplishment. I took more time than expected facing her.”
It was almost evening already. There was also the option of waiting until ’s foresight stock was used up as is by the Kinoes’ attack in waves, but risks would increase if he took more time than this.
Even if it was a harbor block where mechanization advanced, it was not always completely unmanned and the barrier put up to ward off people was not absolute, either. There might be the intervention of a third party like a little while ago.
Just in case, he had asked support of blockading this whole area to the Shadow Star; but to begin with Bujinsai did not trust them that much.
There, one Kinoe appeared as if oozing from the warehouse’s shade and whispered into Bujinsai’s ear.
Should he say it was as expected; it was a report which gave him a headache.
“It seems that one mouse got in. Geez, so those guys of the Shadow Star can’t even handle this level of work satisfactorily, huh.”
After pondering for a while, Bujinsai greatly sighed.
“It can’t be helped. The minimum of Kinoes necessary to encircle the target will stay behind and the remaining will be assigned to the elimination of the mouse that got in, and the backing of the Shadow Star.”
“What do you by the backing of the Shadow Star?”
Bujinsai shrugged his shoulders at Eika’s question.
“It seems that the friends of the mouse are holding them back. It’ll be troublesome if by any chance even they were to get in. I leave the command to you. But don’t appear to the vanguard.”
“Yes…… And, what will you do, Father?”
“Hmm, isn’t it obvious?”
Then, Bujinsai’s figure disappeared as it melted into the rain, leaving only a short, uncanny voice.
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