Volume 1, Chapter 6

1: Unforeseen Yet Inevitable

The battle was over.

Sugiyado Souha sighed while viewing the girls lying unconscious within the B3 plaza. He had been protecting them. This had been the only available method. He had achieved everything he set out to achieve. And yet it took all his might to avoid punching himself in the face.

He made a conscious effort to shift his focus.

He picked up his scattered Fierce Fang air-pressure kunais, swapped out the instant nitrogen foam cartridges, and stored them within the back of his short-sleeved dress shirt. He would have to locate all the blood, sweat, hairs, and signs of destruction as well. He could not call himself a ninja if he did not at least eliminate any evidence that could be used to identify him.

(They were taught by me, so I should be able to borrow their tools.)

He scratched the scar on his nose, reached into collapsed Ouka’s pocket, and used the special sprayer he found there to clean up while focusing on his earphone.

“John, I’m done here. As promised, I will hand over the empty poison gas canister and the criminal. Tell me where to meet you.”

“Geez, you actually took them all out with your handicap? Now I feel dumb worrying about you, teach. I just sent some Tuxedos your way. You can’t carry someone thanks to your spine, right? Let my men take care of the girls.”


“Don’t mention it! The Kingdom’s gentlemen love this sort of job most of all. Anyway, we went ahead and threatened our Shogunate contact, but things aren’t looking good. You should probably be on your guard.”

“Could you be more specific?”

“We’re still negotiating with the isolationist government’s contact, but we can’t get anything solid out of them. I thought they were just panicking at first, but it doesn’t seem that way anymore. It’s like they can’t seem to contact their higher ups.”

“You mean those higher ups made a run for it while we still hold their Achilles’ heel? Not a chance.”

“Yeah. It’s possible they’re taking us for a ride here.”


Someone was taking advantage of this chaos.

They had predicted that things would be shaken up to an abnormal degree and they had used the confusion to accomplish something.

Sugiyado Souha himself had thought pressure from the Kingdom would make it too difficult for the Shogunate to continue covering for the bureaucratic advisor behind all this, so the villain would be cast out of the system and brought to a position where an individual could reach them.

But had someone else set things up so they could cause even greater damage?

“I should probably ask Ouka’s group why they decided to look into my past in the first place.”

“Yeah. Same with those Shogunate spy twins. I would recommend looking into what information they received that led them to ask you for help. The same person may have been behind both decisions.”

“You mean it was all to pit Ouka’s group and the twins against each other as two of the Shogunate’s most powerful ninja groups?”


For the first time, their opinions diverged.

John had something else to say.

“They wanted to pit the old against the new – a Hidden One against Elite Ninjas. I don’t know who it was, but I bet you fighting your students was a part of their plan. The twins were only the detonator.”


“Since they tried to make it an even fight instead of a one-sided slaughter, they must have wanted to prolong the chaos as much as possible. But what did they hope to accomplish using that cover?”

And who was this person?

Not only had they planned something so ambitious, but they must have known about Sugiyado Souha’s final mission that the Shogunate had kept hidden. They also must have had no qualms about putting 200,000 innocent people in harm’s way to cover it all up. Even though they should have been assured a comfortable life by secretly threatening the Shogunate officials, so that ambition plan should have been unnecessary.

They had rejected that idea.

Even though they could have been given a secret position of absolute privilege where the government protected them so much they could kill someone in broad daylight and see no repercussions. So why? The Shogunate officials were nigh untouchable, but why discard that easy route in order to “eliminate” them?

While thinking through this issue, something crawled up in the back of Sugiyado Souha’s mind.

“It can’t be.”


“No, it can’t be. It just can’t. She can’t possibly make an appearance now.”

He sounded like he was trapped in a nightmare.

But the questions from John had stopped. Ironically, it was the knight waiting up in the night sky who encountered the truth first.


Physically encountered it.

“What the hell is that? …Wait. This atmosphere, this scent.”


“Dammit. I get it now. Unless my sensors are broken, it’s that ghost!! This is indeed beyond your abilities. Engage!! I’ll start a defensive battle here and call in support from the aerial aircraft carrier even though this is nowhere near my jurisdiction! This warrants it!!”

“No, John!! If this is what I think it is, then not even a Kingdom armored knight can handle it!!”

The conversation ended there because the connection was severed.


He could not control his heartrate. The bad feeling inside him only continued to grow. Waking up the others and taking them with him would only put them in more danger. He decided to do this alone. He hurried up the stairs to reach the closest exit from the underground mall. On the way, he passed by several people in the supposedly deserted place. Unlike him or Ouka, they were nondescript and inhumanly cold, so they had to be the Kingdom’s Tuxedos. They would look after Ouka and the others even though that would put them at greater risk. He gave them a bow out of obligation and not just appreciation.

He caught glimpses that something was amiss even before leaving the underground mall.

It was hot, but not due to the weather. It was like being thrown inside a stone oven. If the heat was this scorching from a distance, just how abnormal a situation would he find outside?

(Yes, it’s the same.)

As he ran, he was reminded of his past. He remembered when death had been a constant companion, when he had failed to predict anything at all, and when he had needed to constantly adlib ways to slip from the grim reaper’s grasp to survive. He had felt like he was crawling through an ocean of blood and mud. This had the same scent and atmosphere, but now was not the time to rejoice at the reunion.

(Come to think of it, I caught glimpses of this the entire time I pursued Ouka’s group with Guren and Suiren. This scent was in my nose the entire time. Yes, none of it ever actually ended. This is all a continuation of that final mission!!)

He finally reached the exit to the surface.

A scorching wind hit him like a solid wall as he set foot in the city night.

Everything was colored by a golden-burning hell.

The usual neon signs and car headlights were nowhere to be seen. Not even the ordinary darkness of the night was allowed to exist.

Molten rock covered everything.

A boiling sea of magma bubbled up like the fountain of youth, gas erupted out, and all forms of life were robbed of a livable environment.

There was no sign of John Kniferidge in his silver Claiomh Solais knight armor. However, some arms and legs from the unmanned musketeers who served the knights could be seen floating here and there in the bubbling lava.

He had almost certainly been shot down and the pilot’s survival was unknown.

It took dozens of this country’s armored samurai to just barely be powerful enough to defeat one of those armored knights, and victory was even more difficult when that knight was accompanied by a full unit of unmanned musketeers.

Yet one of those knights had been so easily defeated here.

That nightmare was back.

According to John, Kingdom agents who had infiltrated this country had come up with an excuse to evacuate the civilians from this area to protect them from the possible poison gas leak. Ouka’s group and the blonde twins would have been collected by the Tuxedos. But those were the only two pieces of good news.

Sugiyado looked up toward the moon as if mimicking his past actions.


Sugiyado Souha had been badly injured during his final mission.

But who exactly had done it?

There was nothing to stand on for kilometers around. With a bit of bad luck, the tall reinforced concrete buildings might even tilt and sink into the lava.

Nevertheless, a beautiful girl in a ninja outfit was illuminated by both the lava erupting from the depths of the earth and the cold moonlight pouring down from the heavens. Her clothing was similar to Kuhou Ouka’s, but also different. It was still a bodysuit combined with a white sleeveless kimono top and a front and back skirt, but the sides of the top were left wide open and the back fell below her hips like a coat, making it look like a cross between an ancient queen’s dress and a surgical gown.

It would not have been originally designed to create such obvious sex appeal. It would have been designed to best draw out the special trait of a young girl – that is, a protective desire and a cute impression that would cause any attacking hands to hesitate. A split second could be the difference between life and death in the ninja world, so being adorable could be a deadly weapon there.

But the impression changed entirely when the person within it had changed.

You could say she had matured and then some as a girl, and you could even say she had begun to rot. That monster’s demeanor – no, her seduction – was reminiscent of a fruit with an intensely sweet smell. The fact that she was originally the cute type made this change seem all the more alluring, sweet, and (most of all) immoral.

Her madness drew people in to a gruesome extent.

She was like a Venus flytrap.

You could even say she embodied the seduction of death. The grim reaper’s scythe that gave people everlasting peace may have been coated with a poison this sweet. He knew the truth here, but if he did not focus his mind, his thoughts would have been stirred up from outside and his concentration would have been forcibly disturbed. Even though she was not trying to do anything of the sort.


To reiterate, there was nothing to stand on and she was not standing on the ground, yet there she was.

She was floating.

She hovered about 5m above the sea of lava.

What were ninja techniques?

The ones used in the current age were best described as an adaptation of stage magic. Special tools were set up in advance, wires were laid out in secret, and then you waited for your opponent to be fooled. Realists who claimed they only believed what their own eyes showed them would fall for the illusion and be left in the depths of confusion. It could all be explained using tricks, so it all came down to one’s breadth of knowledge. That was how it was supposed to work.

But this girl was the one exception.

This was something entirely different from the ninja techniques that used an extension of existing techniques to create new, modern equipment. This took things so far that even a front-line Hidden One found it grotesque.

This absolute absurdity was even more bizarre than the ninjas seen in old stories.

She had taken ninja techniques to a truly occult place.

She used the term “psychic” to realize the illusions behind ninja techniques. The inside of her skull was covered in a material that absorbed electromagnetic waves to remove all external EM interference and a pacemaker had been implanted in her healthy heart to let her consciously alter her heart rate like changing gears. Thanks to those changes, she could guide herself into an extreme trance whenever she liked.

The bolts in Sugiyado’s back ached ominously.

No, the ache came from the wound a certain girl had given him.

That sword strike had not just physically wounded him; it had left its scars on his psyche as well.

He knew her name.

The figure showing through her spider silk ninja outfit was awfully sensual. Long hair flowed down her back and two shorter bundles of hair fell to either side of her head. That glossy black hair contained a bewitching sheen. But he could never forget. He still vividly remembered the name of the one who had slashed his back.

They belonged to the same rank, the same system, and the same world.

She existed beyond even the Elite Ninjas who stood at the top of the existing High, Middle, and Low hierarchy. She was one of the Hidden Ones, whose total numbers not even he knew.

So he shouted her name, as if facing his past.


He heard a quiet voice.

It was a laugh.

Her head tilted at an angle, a stray strand of hair had found its way between her lips, and a sticky clear liquid dripped from the corner of her lips. The red of her cheeks had to be more than just reflected lava light. One look at her excessively damp eyes was enough to tell she was using Divine Decree. She had consciously turned an invisible dial to send herself on a “trip”.

With her melted gaze on him, that disaster in human form continued laughing.

She was undoubtedly one of the Hidden Ones.

She was one of the elites of the elite who had been there with Sugiyado Souha in an older era.

“So we meet again, instructor.”


“I can call you that now, can’t I? I have been dreaming of you this whole time. It is too late to try to save someone only after arriving on the battlefield, so you wanted to teach people everything they needed to survive before the fighting began. Wasn’t that your dream?”

This was an inner motivation that not even Ouka’s group or the twins knew about.

Oniyuri’s knowledge of that fact hinted that she had not simply been an enemy originally.

She had not been an ally by any means, but he had not wanted to call her an enemy.

Like a marriage scammer, she had a way of remaining in your heart even after you were deceived. Not even someone on Sugiyado Souha’s level could find quite the right word to describe her.

She truly embodied the feminine side of being a ninja.

She was the perfect kunoichi.

“What have you been doing all this time?”

“Nothing really. I lived through that past, I’m facing this present, and I need to decide what future to seek out. Although if I hadn’t done anything, I doubt anything would have changed.”

What did it feel like to mechanically alter your brain using an external device?

Whatever the case, Oniyuri could not stop smiling while drawing out psychic powers from her brain’s trance state.

She stuck out her unexpectedly long tongue and wet her lips.

“But that would have been boring, so I decided to break free of the Shogunate’s chains. The Tenshukaku at the top is protected by this country’s most powerful system, but that security will temporarily freeze during an incident so earthshattering that the entire Shogunate hierarchy is shaken. So I just had to make my move in that moment.”


“So don’t worry, instructor. All the sketchy people keeping watchful eyes on you have been returned to the earth. Oh, but I do apologize if you wanted to kill them yourself. I didn’t even leave any ashes behind.”

It finally started to sink in what Sugiyado had been a part of here.

It had all been so she could leave.

The series of shocking events beginning with the modular nuclear reactor had been too much for the top of the Shogunate to bear. They had wanted something to rely on to escape that pressure, so they had opened this Elite One’s cell so she could eliminate those four Elite Ninjas. They had chosen to release this calamitous beast if it would bring about a swift end to their problems.

Had they felt there was no point in holding back?

But surely they should have known who their assassin would devour first once that cell door had opened.

“How far did you take it?”

“Hee hee. You really have changed, instructor. You have found a path of comfortable change taking you in the direction you desired. I, on the other hand, have been stuck in a standstill this entire time.”

“How much damage did you do to the Tenshukaku and how many samurai heads did you take, Oniyuri!?”

He just about overlooked it, but it hit him a moment later.

Stuck in a standstill?

She had not changed – could not change.

“Wait, no, it can’t be.”

“Are we done talking now? Hee hee. My blood hasn’t been pumping like this in a long time. Yes, I thought I might not know what to do with myself after finding freedom for the first time in forever, but I didn’t. Yes, this is what I really wanted to do.”

The floating girl glowed bewitchingly in the lava light within her ninja outfit that resembled an ancient queen’s dress or a surgical gown, and she pointed her skinny index finger toward the heavens.

Immediately, the world converged.

All the scorching lava covering kilometers of the ground began to move like a living creature as she controlled it with her psychic Divine Decree power. The hellish deluge that had swallowed up everything here began to swirl, break free of the planet’s gravity, and gather on a single point. Yes, directly above Oniyuri’s raised finger.

In the end, the blazing hot mass was smaller than a basketball.

That flood of lava could have swallowed up an entire small village, so this extreme pressure caused it to glow all the more sinisterly. Sugiyado Souha gulped as he looked up at it.

His hand trembled while holding a Fierce Fang.

It’s all happening again, he thought.

He had once fought behind the scenes to save a foreign queen caught between the Kingdom and the Shogunate. It had ended in a draw and his body had been left scarred. This was the secret technique he had seen back then.

With her tongue hanging limply from her lips with a thin strand of saliva dripping from it, the horrifyingly beautiful girl spoke with a crazed smile on her lips.

“Hee hee. How about this as an opening move? I am a bit tired right now, so we can finish this later, okay?”

This was not the Strategic Martial Arts approved by this country and its Shogunate. Modern ninja techniques took the arresting techniques and military martial arts based on old-fashioned karate, judo, and kendo and updated them in order to save as many people as possible during times of turmoil. They were powerful techniques, but that was all they were. So this was different. What could you hope to protect using a power as sinister as this?

This was an uncontrollable power that would simply destroy everything in its path.

“An annihilating sun,” muttered Sugiyado Souha in a daze.

A moment later, the girl snapped her fingers with a meaningful smile and the raised sphere burst. A scorching hell erupted in all directions with more than twice the intensity with which it had been gathered.

A paper tiger like his air-pressure kunai was entirely useless in the face of the truly supernatural.

2: The Final Heroine

There once was an unfortunate girl.

That was the only way to describe that small girl who crawled through a living hell thoroughly calculated out and managed by the state.

But the one thing she hated more than anything was for people to feel sorry for her.

Anyone could tell she carried a misguided sort of pride.

The purpose she saw in her life had likely been implanted within her by someone else. People could survive in the worst of conditions if they had a goal to work toward. They could bear with it if they had hope. If they thought of themselves as a special chosen one who could do what no else could, then they would not question the special role given to them and they would in fact find pride in it. All because the adults around her – the Shogunate officials who were supposed to be the guardians of law and order – had taught her to believe those things.

There had never been any need for her to go along with it.

She had Divine Decree. Her skull had been sliced up like tofu, a material to absorb electromagnetic waves had been pasted to the inside, and a pacemaker had been implanted in her healthy heart to externally control her heartrate. Perhaps it was true that she had been chosen. But was that really an honor? Hadn’t they only been looking for a convenient person who would not complain as they did all of that to her?

The ugly duckling was really a swan.

But was it really all that great to find out you were a swan who no one wanted to be around?

Long ago, Sugiyado Souha had met her.

The Shogunate and the Kingdom had been fighting over the young queen in an extreme game of beach flags where they wanted to be the first to the queen for their own selfish purposes, even if they crushed her in their grasp or only managed to take a piece of her corpse.

That had been his final mission.

She had been one of the pursuers and he was assisting the pursued queen, so they had been enemies. But after attempting to understand her thoughts so he could predict her actions, he may have developed a deeper connection to her than anyone else.

He had learned about her and she had come to understand him.

Which was why he had failed.

He could have stopped. He would have been perfectly justified in focusing on the Kingdom’s small queen and cutting down that formidable foe.

But it was one more person.

Just one more.

That was how he had seen it.

And then he could not escape another thought: I want to save this girl.

Even if no one else wanted it, he had wanted to bring Sagami Oniyuri out into the light.

That was all he had wanted.

3: Rebooting in the Apartment


Even the stirring of his body felt weird. Sugiyado Souha gave a scratchy groan that did not sound like his own voice and opened his eyes to find himself lying down somewhere. He also saw four girls looking down at him.

They were Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, Nantou Hoozuki, and Shizukuma Asagao.

“Are you okay? Honestly though, what even happened!?”

Twintail Ouka was wearing a knit sweater and a miniskirt as she moved her face in close as if leaning over him, but he did not respond as he slowly sat up. He wanted to know the current situation. What had happened since Sagami Oniyuri’s Divine Decree had covered a quarter of New Yokohama with lava?

“The ordinary people are safe,” said slender Ouka. “The entire city was on edge after the central heating explosion in the underground mall, so they had mostly evacuated indoors. They fled to the upper floors once the lava showed up, so apparently no one was caught in it. I’ve heard everyone is terrified because they think those were linked terrorist attacks.”

“We can only be grateful that social media can get word around quickly and that this country is so good at disaster relief despite being horribly unprepared for war,” said Bara who was wearing a cardigan over an otherwise light outfit.

“I see,” sighed Sugiyado.

He knew he was being na?ve, but he could not deny how relieved he was to learn so little damage had been done. Even though Oniyuri must have already left the Tenshukaku soaked with blood.

This had revealed the handiwork of a ninja to the public on an unprecedented scale, but that very scale left the ordinary people unsure what had happened. Social media could not track down the truth on this one. No one thought a single individual could have caused that.

“Then where are we?”

His torn and bloody clothes had been replaced with new ones. A new short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants, to be exact. So who exactly had known his taste in clothing and actually changed the clothes for him? When he looked at the girls, they all avoided looking him in the eye for some reason. Why were all their faces red? Especially Ouka. The way she held a hand over her nose made it look like she had a nosebleed or something.

Also, he had not been taken to a hospital room. This was a small rundown room with a tatami mat floor. It was a super-cheap apartment. The lack of light coming through the window and the clock on the wall told him it was night had already fallen. He looked around and finally remembered where this was.

“Hello, honored guest. Neither of us fared well out there, did we? But it was a slap from a beauty, so I’m willing to forgive her.”

John Kniferidge was wrapped in bandages, had one arm in a cast, and wore a leather jacket over a flight suit.

“From the look of you, I take it your knight armor is in the lava.”

“I’m actually glad it was melted so nicely. I don’t want the Shogunate retrieving some half-destroyed scraps.” John sighed. “I’m also glad there was a room we could use. I’m not a spy or a Tuxedo, so I’d be in trouble if I tried to wander around in enemy territory like this.”

They were interrupted by an exaggerated sigh.

It came from someone with a white dress and beautiful blonde hair shining in the room’s light, but who was on the opposite side of the conflict from John. It was one of the Shogunate spy twins.

Shirazaya Guren’s slender throat trembled as she spoke up.

“I never imagined we would be using a Kingdom spy hideout.”

“If it is true this man has been assisting you, then this is a very alarming development, Sugiyado-san.”

Both twins were icily glaring at him.

Yet they were somehow hesitant to say too much, so they may have had a hunch that it was the Kingdom’s Tuxedos who rescued them from that lava hell while they were unconscious.

Before he could say anything in his defense, Hanasawa Bara crossed her arms in her cardigan and tight skirt, lifting up her large breasts, and opened her mouth.

“That is not true. In fact, it is quite the opposite. This is a room Sensei prepared for himself and they copied his key and started using it without his permission. The room belongs to Sensei.”

“That doesn’t really matter.” The young bob cut girl in a knit dress passed him a cup of water with the hands sticking out of her baggy sleeves, so he rubbed Shizukuma Asagao’s small head while finally opening his mouth. “Guren and Suiren? Ninjas like us are not an official army like the samurai or knights. We are nameless spies gathered to achieve the results that are needed but cannot be written in any official paperwork. So don’t get caught up in the official lines between enemy and ally. The world is overrun with problems that can’t be solved from just one direction.”

One blonde kunoichi held out her arm to show him the tracking bracelet she wore.

“The Shogunate will not defend you in this.”

“Of course they won’t. The day they start officially defending stuff like this is the day they’re finally overthrown. Although I’ll be curious to see how they plan to get back on their feet now that the Tenshukaku at the top have been slain.”

He said it so matter-of-factly, so the twins had to sigh again. Were they impressed by how he lived his life, or had they decided nothing could ever fix his stupidity?

The girls gathered around the uncomfortable bedding began speaking once more.

First up was silver ponytail Nantou Hoozuki who stretched her back inside a loose sweat hoodie.

“Sensei, it’s about time you told us just what we were made a part of.”

“I suppose so,” said Sugiyado.

He chose to speak it all aloud here to help him organize his own confused thoughts.

“There was a kunoichi named Sagami Oniyuri.”

John stiffened at that name since he had been directly involved in the final mission.

The girls had arrived later than that, so it did not mean much of anything to them.

“The general public thinks of ninjas as people who can clasp their hands together and hold a scroll in their mouth to create an explosion of smoke and solve everything, but that kind of ninja does not really exist. Oniyuri, however, is an exception. Her body has been modified in 88 places – primarily in the brain and heart – to give her the psychic powers needed to take a step into the mystical realm with her ninja techniques.”

That was what had created that lava sea.

Sugiyado held his head in a hand.

“Oniyuri has made those psychic powers her own and I doubt anyone but her knows what exactly Divine Decree is. I have tried to explain it rationally, like that she uses telekinesis to float and that she rapidly vibrates molecules to create heat, but all I have is speculation.”

“But why do this now, Sensei?”

Black bob cut Shizukuma Asagao tilted her extremely small head.

“You’re looking at this wrong.” The boy’s answer was obvious. “Oniyuri has been crawling through that same hell ever since what happened back then. Because I failed to grab her hand, she has continued to sink into the darkest parts of the Shogunate.”


“So she plotted a way to escape on her own. I can’t even imagine how many layers of security are generally applied to a kunoichi who can use that psychic Divine Decree as a weapon, but she was waiting all this time for that perfect hierarchy to be shaken. All while she occasionally leaked some information to you four or to Guren and Suiren as they pursued you.”

It was now the white dress twins’ turn to bring a hand to their foreheads where they stood over by the wall.

“You mean we were being manipulated too?”

“We are Shogunate spies, but we have never even heard the name Oniyuri.”

Sugiyado shook his head.

“In a way, she is a more perfect ninja than I am. If me having connections to both the Shogunate and the Kingdom was enough to surprise you, then you can’t even imagine how deep the rabbit hole goes with Oniyuri.”


“Ouka, Bara, Hoozuki, Asagao. I know you were angry that I was being treated unfairly, but where did those feelings begin?”

“What? But…but we don’t need a reason to want-!”

“The Shogunate is thoroughly covering up everything about what happened to me back then, so you would never start to question my past for no reason. That alone is proof that their media manipulation defenses were falling apart.”


“Someone must have been giving you glimpses of that information out in the open and in secret. For example, hearing ‘multiple sources’ insulting me behind my back but where you could hear them. But those people who thought themselves so knowledgeable while they whispered questionable secrets to each other were only being manipulated by a game of telephone that began with Oniyuri back in her cell. They played right into her hand without noticing any of it. Then you picked up on that and began developing exactly the emotions she was hoping for.”

That technique was more like the Machiavellianism of a harem than a ninja technique, but that too was part of a kunoichi’s repertoire. This was not a sport with separate weight classes where arm strength and lung capacity did all the talking. For better or for worse, they brought those “feminine” aspects to the battlefield.

She had slipped malicious information to the people who visited her cell and used their mouths to spread rumors like a game of telephone to ultimately have Ouka’s group cause trouble. She had never expected Guren and Suiren to be able to stop them. In fact, the trick had been to delay the conclusion until the Shogunate leaders panicked and decided to release her from her cell to resolve it as soon as possible. And once she was out, she immediately bit the hand that fed her and assaulted the Tenshukaku. Everything that had happened was connected.

She had soaked the Tenshukaku in blood.

That was simple enough to say, but Sugiyado guessed that she had made it look like an indiscriminate slaughter when she actually intentionally left a certain number of survivors behind. But not out of the goodness of her heart. Then the Council of Elders would see it as a chance to take power for themselves or to assist the Shogunate’s recovery as a favor they could cash in on later. The many conflicting plots that would spring up would end up binding them. The fact that news of the attack on the Tenshukaku was still being thoroughly suppressed made it clear that something was up.

Ninjas did more than make use of preexisting cracks. At Oniyuri’s level, they could smash a solid monolith to pieces.

“And with Guren and Suiren, it was a little too convenient that they managed to reach me so soon after Ouka’s group got into trouble. While they’re irreplaceable students for me, they were already Elite Ninjas working for the center of the state, so they must have connections to tens of thousands of people, including the invisible ones of profit even they aren’t aware of. I doubt you could have pinpointed me as a relevant party so quickly without assistance. I imagine someone casually dropped you a hint or went around eliminating all your other theories. All while they had no idea they were relaying a message for Oniyuri. There would have been no material evidence there. John or Violia could probably have smelled it, but that only works for someone who was in a direct confrontation with her.”

“Understood. We can reach a conclusion about that later, so let’s learn about our enemy now.”

“I find this hard to believe, but those doubts will only delay us right now. Please go ahead.”

“Sure.” Sugiyado Souha nodded. “You really could call it a grand plan. I can’t even imagine how many people now lie dead in the bloody Tenshukaku. But her actual objective must be incredibly simple.”


Kuhou Ouka tilted her head with her growing figure contained in a knit sweater and miniskirt.

“She wants freedom. She wants to travel the world as she likes without anyone restricting her. That is all she wants. It is all she has ever wanted since I first met her.”

In other words, in the years since he had let go of that freedom-seeking girl’s hand, she had been meaninglessly imprisoned, subjected to insane human experiments at the hands of the Shogunate which claimed to advocate justice, and only been allowed outside when it was time to defeat and kill someone. That feeling of being trapped and hopeless was something that Sugiyado could never even imagine after living his life as an instructor and supported by so many people.

“Who’s supporting her?” John sounded exasperated with his arm in a sling. “Biting the hand that feeds you and devouring the rest of them to escape your cage will only get you so far. I doubt any individual who attacks an entire nation will last long. We won’t touch this one, but what about Asia or the New World? Does she have some hidden thread connecting back to a force powerful enough to rival the Shogunate?”

“No, I doubt she has something like that. She simply wants to rejoice in her freedom. It might only last a minute or a second, but she loves true freedom. The protection of some other organization would only sully it. Those bonds would only get in her way.” Sugiyado slowly exhaled. “Why did she use her psychic Divine Decree to fly to New Yokohama Domain immediately after slaughtering the Tenshukaku in Tokyo? Why did she burn down a quarter of the city upon seeing me? Why was she waiting there to speak with me? The answer is obvious: she’s going down the list of things she wanted to do once she was free. This isn’t about some larger group and its interests. This is all there is to her.”

Someone audibly gulped.

This insanity was enough to fill the room with silence.

“B-but doing that is suicide.”

“John. She has not changed at all since we last saw her.”

John initially frowned, unsure what the boy meant, so Sugiyado broke it down for the man and restated it.

“I’m saying she still has those body modification implants in 88 parts of her body. The simple act of walking creates enough force to lift up her internal organs. Plus, she has her psychic flight. It might look like she does not feel any weight, but when she ends the flight and lands, the burden is even greater than what we feel. Yet she is still the same as she was on the inside. Do you get what that means?”

“That would make a complete mess of her insides!”

“It’s honestly a miracle she’s lived this long. She has nearly 90 implants in her body and just one of them catching on a blood vessel or organ can kill her.”

“But…but why, Sensei?”

Kuhou Ouka looked pale and Sugiyado shook his head.

“I’ve never heard of Divine Decree ninjas being mass produced. That means they never could make another one of her, so I imagine the Shoguante wasn’t willing to let go of such a valuable specimen. I mean, no one can explain how she works, so swapping out any of the parts could ruin the perfect balance and make her lose the psychic powers.”

The Shogunate had intended to force her to live that life for years or even decades until they finally cracked it. They knew deep down that analyzing it was not possible, but the prospect was too attractive to let her go.

That was why Sagami Oniyuri had quickly given up on obeying the Shogunate.

She would not last long either way. The Shogunate had no intention of swapping out her parts and she could not acquire the parts or update them on her own. And of course, simply pulling the implants out of her body would not save her either. She was blocked at every turn. So even if it was only for a moment, she wanted to experience true freedom. That may have been how she broke.

“So is that psychic stuff the secret of your final mission that the Shogunate was so desperate to hide? Not that it matters now that Oniyuri defeated the villains in the Tenshukaku.”

Twintail Ouka pouted her lips a little bit in her miniskirt and sweater. That girl with an undeveloped figure must have wanted to bring the villains to court to recover Sugiyado Souha’s honor, no matter what the secret turned out to be.

“Most likely. But come to think of it,” said Sugiyado. “Yes, I think Oniyuri’s presence may have settled all of that.”

“Hm? What do you mean?”

John looked puzzled and Sugiyado shrugged.

“Back then, I wasn’t aware that her psychic powers had been created under the name of Divine Decree. John, you didn’t either, did you? That means she wasn’t being used in actual combat yet back then. They were only sending her in for a trial run to gather test data.”

“You mean they sent such an unstable form of firepower to that battle over our queen? To be clear, our Kingdom saw that entire event as one step away from doomsday.”

“I imagine the Shogunate had not planned for what happened there either. In their original scenario, they only wanted to test her against you knights who were fighting for the honor of rescuing that little thing – or as they saw it, using that as an excuse to test our strength and steal our tech. She was unstable and difficult to control at the time, but her initial objective was to pursue you and that led to attacking the queen. The chain of command meant to bind her then must have collapsed.”

“Yeah, if it got out they chose another country’s head of state to test their new experimental weapon on, it could only lead to all-out war. We would have to respond to such arrogant provocation.”

“Although I bet the Shogunate officials were more aghast than anyone since they had only wanted experimental data on the psychic powers. They completely lost control. Oniyuri was wandering around without anyone capable of accurately aiming her, so she could have killed your queen at any time. If that huge a mistake ever got out, they were done for. It didn’t matter what they had intended to do. Sending in such a risky weapon at all would be enough for a major international incident. And explaining themselves would have required revealing their top secret Divine Decree research. They would have to tell everyone about the tech they thought they had entirely to themselves, so they were all forced to pretend they knew nothing at all about what was happening.”

“Um.” Twintail Kuhou Ouka raised her hand. “But, Sensei, wasn’t staying quiet the more dangerous option?”

“Which is why the interest was piling up all the while. Right up until Oniyuri used the recent chaos to take off the officials’ heads.”

They finally had a picture of the entire incident, but it was too late. Everything had changed from the moment Sagami Oniyuri appeared out in the open.

The red hair extension girl, Shirazaya Guren, spoke while crossing her arms by the wall.

“Do you have any idea what she will do next?”

“She must have a long list of things she wants to do. But while she wants to enjoy her freedom to its fullest, she doesn’t have much time. She won’t be able to create any new friends or lovers, so she should try to use her old acquaintances to act out her desires.”

“Hold on…are you saying what I think you’re saying!?”

“Me, John, and the queen. We are the only ones who reached an understanding with her during that final mission. We’re the only ones she has to rely on. There are billions of people out there and she can manipulate them with her Machiavellian trickery, but we are the only ones she has established a real connection with.”

Also, given what she had been through, it was unclear if she had ever learned how to hold ordinary relationships or how to judge her distance with someone.

They had come to understand each other during their pursuit and fierce fighting. They had needed to understand each other to threaten them, persuade them, fight them, escape them, outdo them, and kill them. And beyond Oniyuri’s calculated Machiavellianism, if she had only ever learned one way to search out what someone thought, she might very well throw a flood of lava at someone like anyone else would ring their neighbor’s doorbell.

In a way, Sugiyado and John had been the ones to teach her to do that.

By engaging in such an extreme form of communication with her in the past.

“So if we use you as bait, we can draw out Oniyuri?”

“I couldn’t tell you which one of us she’ll go after first, though. John, you fought her when you lost your armor, right? How did she react?”

“She entirely ignored me. She didn’t seem happy to see me and she didn’t seem to see me as a threat either. She held out a hand without even looking in my direction and then…crash. Maybe she’s only interested in fellow ninjas.”

“If so, the little queen won’t work either. So she’s only interested in me, huh?”

Everyone’s eyes focused on Sugiyado sitting on the futon.

A stiff smile appeared on Kuhou Ouka’s face.

“Y-you’re kidding, right? You barely survived what happened earlier! You can’t do that!! A-and based on what I’ve heard, um!!”

“You can say it. I couldn’t beat her. And that’s why I lost my wings.”

Even in his prime, his entire body had been destroyed in multiple ways and he had just barely survived it. Now a 5kg weight made his back feel funny and a 10kg one caused it to explode with pain. If he tried that again with that extreme handicap, the odds of survival would be even lower. Victory was entirely out of the question.


“I have to stop Oniyuri. You see what her psychic powers can do, right? This is too much for even the Shogunate to cover up.”


A sea of lava had covered everything.

She had done enough damage to wipe a small village or town from the map. But instead of the result of thorough preparation, it had been done in lieu of a greeting. It was the result of overwhelming talent.

Sagami Oniyuri was neither good nor evil.

She simply wanted to rejoice in her true, unrestricted freedom for as long as possible. But if the needle of her interest turned even slightly toward destruction, tens of thousands would die. No, it was even possible that one girl’s power could bring down an entire country.

The pure destruction was not the only threat. If she continued causing mass destruction on a scale too large to cover up, the people’s fear and dissatisfaction would grow to the bursting point and mass hysteria on the level of the witch hunts could sweep across the country. If enough people began to think the Shogunate was not going to save them, the entire system would collapse in no time.

After all, there was no way of testing to see if someone had psychic powers.

That unrestricted freedom would swallow up all else.

It was her lack of good or evil that made Oniyuri’s catastrophe unavoidable. You could not behave yourself as a good boy or girl so she would spare you and you could not slip her a bribe under the table. So once the people’s fear and dissatisfaction passed a certain threshold, the dominos would already be falling.

“We have to do something.” Silver ponytail Nantou Hoozuki stretched her back in her sweat hoodie and kept a hand on her downturned forehead. “Sensei is right. We can’t just let her do this. If the Tenshukaku was wiped out and the Shogunate isn’t functioning, then we’ll have to do something ourselves.”

“Yes,” said Shirazaya Suiren over by the wall. “While I do find it hard to believe the Shogunate is no longer functioning, the spies like us can still act. If a monster is threatening the peace of our world, I can see no reason not to set out to slay it.”

“Don’t worry,” said bandaged John Kniferidge. “Like I said before, you aren’t alone. You have your connections with me and my queen. Besides, with her power, she could probably attack the Kingdom’s homeland by messing with the earth’s crust or something. This is already our problem.”

Sugiyado Souha thought for just a moment.

He realized just how blessed he was.

He bowed his head once before stating his conclusion.

“Then this will be the final battle. I’ll be placing everyone here on the board, so prepare yourselves.”

4: Briefing Before Facing the End

Listen up, everyone.

There is no need to review past combat data. I actually fought Oniyuri in that erased past, so I can explain her behavioral patterns to you.

She should make an appearance wherever I happen to be. Even if it is an obvious trap. For better or for worse, she is confident in her psychic Divine Decree power. She will assume she can break through whatever we have prepared for her.

Which means I want to avoid any kind of populated area.

We will use the container yard at New Yokohama Harbor’s #2 Wharf. That area has rapidly expanded thanks to the popularity of online shopping and flea market apps, but if we have the night guards leave, it will be almost entirely abandoned at night.

I want as much help as I can get, but I believe I taught you in that giant subway station that it’s hard for a makeshift team to immediately pull off professional level teamwork. So I would like to split you into your pre-existing teams and leave each team in charge of a specific section.

Ouka and Bara will act as our direct fighters.

Oniyuri has her psychic powers, but she is still human. She has vital points and she can bleed out. Do not feel more fear than necessary and do your job.

Hoozuki and Asagao will patrol the area and analyze the combat situation.

The earlier we locate Oniyuri’s presence, the better our odds. And after the initial clash, you need to constantly track the locations of enemy and ally alike while sharing that intel in real time. Intelligence is crucial in a ninja battle. If our soldiers lose their eyes and ears, they can’t win. We’re counting on you.

Guren and Suiren will be my bodyguards.

I hate to say it, but I can’t join the battle properly with these injuries, so I’m counting on you two. That might make you sound like passive defenders, but since Oniyuri’s top priority will be going after me, you will be on the front line.

John, you focus on providing logistical support since you lost your knight armor.

Arrange for a motorboat we can use to escape out to sea if my students screw this up. Our opponent can throw lava at us, but the vast ocean should rapidly cool the lava and make it a whole lot less deadly. You are our final safety net. Don’t let your guard down.

And one last thing.

Needless to say, Oniyuri can control a whole lot of lava using Divine Decree. Think of it less like fire and more like powerful acid being magnetically pulled around. That means moving around on the ground will be suicide – you’ll just be swallowed up by that scorching lava. Always take the high ground on piles of containers or a gantry crane or wherever. But height alone isn’t good enough. Don’t forget to choose a location that has at least two escape routes. Fail to do that and you will die.

The lava does not just form an ocean or a flood. It responds to Oniyuri’s will and moves around like it has a mind of its own. I said it’s seemingly being magnetically pulled around, right? That means keeping the high ground only gets you so far. Let your guard down and you’ll be taken out even there, so be careful.

Do you understand the situation now?

Oniyuri is not an easy opponent to beat, but there is no such thing as a truly unbeatable enemy. I want you to surpass me by doing what I once failed to do: defeat Oniyuri.

Good luck.

I will see you on the battlefield.

The promised time of 2 AM arrived.

Twintail Kuhou Ouka had arrived at New Yokohama Harbor’s #2 Wharf with her undeveloped figure dressed in her ninja outfit of a bodysuit, a sleeveless kimono top, and a front and back skirt. She looked around worriedly, causing the red rope hanging from the back of her hips to sway like a cat’s tail.

“He’s not here?” she muttered under her breath before speaking to the other ninjas hidden in the darkness. “Bara, Asagao! Have you seen Sensei!?”

“No,” said the bright red ringlet curls girl in an oiran-style outfit that left her elbows bare. She crossed her arms in a way that lifted up her chest and the sash that dangled down in place of a front skirt fluttered in the night breeze while she looked in a different direction.

She viewed the blonde twins who were leaning against a metal container with a combination of a sleeveless kimono top and a pleated miniskirt that gave them a cheerleader-like silhouette.

“We have not seen him either.”

“But that would mean…”

The injured knight in a flight suit and leather jacket had come all this way for his old friend, but now he breathed a heavy sigh while scratching at his head.

Then he threw his tablet full of mission information to the ground.

“That son of a bitch!! He intentionally gave us the wrong location! Is he trying to do it all himself, just like he did back then!?”

5: Once More

Why he could not bring the others with him could not have been more obvious.

First of all, Oniyuri was powerful. There was no guarantee they could win even if they worked together to fight her and, even if they managed to win, who could say how many of those beautiful girls would have bubbling lava dumped over their heads in the process. He could not force that choice onto them.

And second.

He knew it made him dumb as could be, but even after losing everything, Sugiyado Souha still could not imagine defeating Sagami Oniyuri while she continued to crawl through the darkness. He could not imagine killing her and just moving on.

He wanted to save her.

After all, what was different about her from other people? What made her different from Kuhou Ouka, Hanasawa Bara, Nantou Hoozuki, Shizukuma Asagao, Shirazaya Guren, Shirazaya Suiren, or even the ordinary girls who walked through the city eating ice cream?

After his final mission, he had hoped to become an instructor and that dream had come true.

It was too late to start working to protect people once the action had already begun, so he wanted to make sure they were prepared in advance. He wanted to give them the skill they needed to survive.



He had also wanted one more name on his list of students: Sagami Oniyuri. No, she was the reason for it all in the first place. He had met a fundamentally misguided girl on the battlefield and he had wished for a place that could teach her what was right. He had wished to give her a chance at a real life. That was what had motivated him in everything he had done since.

He felt like he had reduced the number of girls like Oniyuri since then. Now that Ouka’s group could laugh together as friends, they would not have to wander the world with such a dark look in their eyes.

But that did not mean he had saved Oniyuri herself.

He had long since given up on that.

He had bit his lip and hoped that carrying an impossible dream would at least give him the drive he needed to accomplish other important things.

But now she had reappeared before him.

She was once more within arm’s reach.

Now was the time to risk his life.

He would not have another shot at this.

So after sending his irreplaceable students and other acquaintances away, he had searched through his apartment.

He had needed to face his past.

He had needed to face what a foolish, inexperienced, and dazzlingly bright person he had been back then.

This battle was too much to get by using the Fierce Fang air-pressure kunais he had come up with to compensate for his scarred body. But another weapon slept in this room. He had never been able to actually throw it out and had even kept up with its maintenance.

He owned a ninja sword called Salvation & Punishment.

The blade was contained in a black scabbard wrapped over and over in a long, long decorative cloth. The sword was slightly longer than a normal katana and it had no curve.

Including the scabbard, it weighed 8.7kg.

Meanwhile, his upper limit was 10kg. His normal clothing weighed 1kg, so even if he left behind all his other ninja gear, this was cutting it close. In a risky battle when any kind of unexpected thing could happen at any time, a leeway of 300g was simply not enough.

That ninja weapon was only useful when he was planning to only fight a 1-on-1 battle with a specific opponent.

“I know it’s presumptuous of me to ask this of you after so much time.”

He had a self-deprecating smile on his lips.

His fingertips wandered as he nervously reached out.

He had completed the ritual he had tasked himself with.

And he opened his mouth.

“But just once more, will you help me save that girl?”

He grabbed it.

His trembling hand held the symbol of his former glory.

While feeling the weight of Salvation & Punishment like it was the weight of his own life, a single ninja finally set out for the final showdown.

He would reach out to a girl trapped at a dead end, offer her what he had, and give her a different path in life.

That was all he hoped for. As a teacher.

6: A Late Night Date with a Wanted Criminal

He had no scientific evidence.

But everything he needed to pursue Sagami Oniyuri was found hidden in the past.

Specifically, in the words they had exchanged during their truly deadly battle based on the odd and inexplicable connection they had developed as not quite enemies and not quite allies.

“I can’t help but be drawn to things that claim to be the ‘most’, the ‘biggest’, or whatever else, no matter how cheap it might sound,” she had once said. “Buildings are especially prone to that kind of language. Japan is crawling with buildings that claim to be the tallest, the biggest, or the most beautiful. Ah ha ha. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve actually snuck into a lot of those at night.”

That told him exactly where to go first. He only had 300g to spare. He had roughly wrapped Salvation & Punishment in a plain colored cloth to carry it around with him, he wore his usual short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants, and he covered his mouth with a large scarf while making his way there.

The New Yokohama Aeromonolith.

At 1000m tall, that wide-range broadcast tower covered not just this domain, but all of Kantou. Needless to say, it had recently broken the old record to become “the tallest building”. No matter how isolationist the country tried to be, this island was a fusion of countless cultures and that brought new cultural change.


Steel beams were complexly arranged to make the structure more solid, the hexagonal exterior was covered in reinforced glass, and the slight opacity of the windows were used to draw various kinds of laser art on the tower. But at 2 in the morning, the shopping mall at the bottom was closed, and the tower’s lights were off. It was wrapped in true darkness, but just as Sugiyado stepped over the thick chain hanging between the metal poles meant to keep cars out, a lovely voice shook his heart.

“Good evening.”


No one knew how many Hidden Ones the Shogunate had, but two of them were reunited here.

This was not some fancy location. A girl with long black hair stood with her arms behind her back in the center of the ordinary concrete square built in front of a mall. If not for the late hour and the cutting-edge ninja outfit she wore, it might have looked like they were meeting up for a date.

She wore a bodysuit, a white sleeveless kimono top, and a front skirt. That combat equipment used a spiderweb structure and its expansion and contraction was controlled by a processor. The white clothing looked like an ancient queen’s dress or like a surgical gown.

Sagami Oniyuri may not have held a distinction between combat and days off. This may have been the only way she had been taught to approach people.

Who was at fault there?

Was this really something that could be resolved with weapons and armor?

“Um…are you okay now?”

“I am, now that you mention it. Sorry about earlier. When I use my psychic powers, my other senses fade away. It’s kind of like being in a dream.”

Based on that, you might think she was alternating between sane and insane states.

But she was not.

The depths of that girl were deeper than that.

The line she considered sane was already well within the stagnation of madness. There was no essential difference between the two worlds of which she spoke. She might seem calm now, but she was still floating in some psychedelic world only she understood.

He had misread that in the past.

He had assumed his words would reach her when she was relatively stable, so he had attempted to contact her…and it had backfired in the worst way.

Approaching her was not about waiting for the right timing. If you were not prepared to attempt it at her worst, you should never try it at all.

He had to face her madness.

He could not flee from her psychedelic side.

“It’s strange, isn’t it?” She looked up at the giant silhouette towering into the night sky. Her long glossy black hair blew in the night breeze. “I want to be free and not be tied down by anyone. That was the only thing on my mind, yet I was still following the usual path I had created for myself. I fit the pattern well enough for you to catch up with me. Almost like I was tying myself down to put my mind at ease.”

“Did you want someone to find you?”

Hearing that, she turned back toward him with the night breeze blowing into the open sides of her top and passing through below her chest.

She looked surprised at first, but then her eyes narrowed gently.

“That sure is a romantic interpretation.”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

He scratched the scar on his nose and she let out a soft sigh.

“I don’t think I have it in me to plan out anything like that. I don’t know how you view me, but I’m a lot more aggressive than that. I’m not going to sit around waiting to see what the other person does.”

He heard a sizzling sound like someone had pushed in a car’s cigarette lighter. He heard it from more than one direction. And the number of sounds continue to grow all around the two of them.

Was this a sign of danger?

No. She was her normal self. She was not in a bad mood.

She licked her lips and the wind blew a few strands of hair between her lips as she continued speaking.

The fruit of death began to give off a sweet aroma.



“I’m starting to get bored. Can you show me to somewhere more interesting?”

The darkness was swept away all at once. The concrete ground was now orange and bubbling.

She could control this liquid that was even more dangerous than fire.

It would quickly form a great sea that would sweep everything else away.

That poor girl only knew how to approach people like this, or by mechanically manipulating them through calculated Machiavellianism.

The adults had raised her this way, creating exactly the monster they had wanted. No, since the Tenshukaku had ended up splattered with blood, she may have been an even greater monster than they had wanted. They had created the strongest ninja like they wanted, but now no one could control her. Her designers had misread the situation.

But Sugiyado Souha slowly shook his head in the face of that overwhelming power.

He felt no fear. He only felt sad.

That was why he had chosen to once more face his past defeat.

“And if I refuse?”

“Didn’t I tell you? I don’t know how you view me, but I’m a lot more aggressive than that.”

The boiling lava covered the surface.

She touched her long tongue with her index finger.

A moment later, Sugiyado Souha jumped 10m straight up.

His spine ached.

He only had 300g to spare. Even if it was mostly psychological, he still felt like he was walking on thinner ice than with his usual air-pressure kunais.

(Ow. I really am going to have to use every trick in the book for this one!!)

He removed the thin cloth covering up his sheathed ninja sword, discarded the cloth into the lava, and landed on the railing of the mall’s second story passageway. Sagami Oniyuri laughed when she saw that.

Her switch had been thrown.

She was floating a meter above the lava sea with her legs positioned neatly side by side. She toyed with the stray hairs in her mouth.

“Oh, how lovely.”

She clasped her hands together in front of her face and shifted them to the side, almost like she was begging him for something. She continued smiling throughout.

“So you can do it when you try.”

The scorching lava roared below her as it took in oxygen. He did not hesitate. He immediately turned his back and fled from that girl whose ninja outfit looked like an ancient queen’s dress. The entrance to the mall at the bottom of the tower was of course locked, but he drew Salvation & Punishment, stuck it in the gap between the double doors, and swung it down to slice through the lock itself.

The lava defied gravity to form a rainbow-like arch. The glowing liquid weapon rushed in and filled the open-air passageway. More than that, it melted all the windows and an orange flash flood burst inside, but he had already run up a stopped escalator to escape to the next floor up.

It was not normal to seek out destructive power with a ninja tool.

He had not corrected Ouka with Midnight Tempest because she showed a lot of unique growth in that direction, but that was not how a ninja’s tools were meant to be used. Even the kunais Sugiyado usually used were meant to expand one’s options by digging holes that could not be dug barehanded.

So the same was true of the ninja sword.

His previous leap was something like a pole vault using the compressed air pile driver installed in the sword’s scabbard. It was the same basic idea as Fierce Fang, but the greater size of the scabbard allowed a lot more instant nitrogen foam to be contained within. He could use it multiple times without swapping out cartridges.

In fact, his Fierce Fang was really a downgraded product that borrowed that one portion of his ninja sword. While suffering from his old wounds, he had let go of the sword he had once relied on with his life and instead split its abilities up and carried them around separately.

The sword had a tungsten steel blade because he needed a sharp enough edge to slice through locks and thick chains. It had a few other gimmicks included as well, but they all had their origin in mobility rather than combat.

His immediate defeat against Sagami Oniyuri earlier had been because the air-pressure kunais alone left him with nowhere to stand while the lava sea pushed in, so he had been helpless when the raging sun had burst. But if he had been able to freely move around in that hell, he might have been able to continue fighting.

Showing off obvious firepower was a job for the samurai and knights. A ninja first had to secure their freedom of movement, whether it was on the wall, on the ceiling, on the water, or in the air. They would select the option everyone else had written off as impossible and surpass their opponent’s expectations. That confusion was a ninja’s greatest weapon.



The bolts in his spine ached. The springs replacing the ligaments in his legs screamed. The external support surpassed what a normal body could do, so the nonhuman parts within him caused a rejection reaction. He was made all too aware of how little 300g was and he could feel death approaching. This was why he had stopped using this ninja sword specialized for mobility.

That nameless armored samurai had been shocked to find Sugiyado did not use a cutting-edge ninja outfit made with a spiderweb structure, a high-polymer water-absorbing gel, and electric potential elastic belt cylinders, but it was quite the opposite. That high-quality equipment had a different weight and output, so he could not use them properly with his injured body. It was about compatibility, not a conviction or stubborn pride.

He had nothing to boast about.

He knew all too well that he was washed up.

He knew he was nothing but baggage who should stick to the logistical support of being an instructor.

(But I will have my way here. Just this once! Just for tonight!!)

“Yes, yes. You really are entertaining.”

After covering the lower floor with boiling lava, Oniyuri floated up along the escalator while smiling. Her flowing black hair and surgical gown of a ninja outfit absorbed the glow of the lava, she embraced her own breathtakingly beautiful body, and she gave off a sweet aroma.

She did not think of this as killing someone.

“I love someone who is not broken by fear. It feels like finally getting to stretch your arms and legs after being stiffly curled up for far too long.”

This was normal for her. It was no different from giving a casual greeting to someone you met on the street. The people who immediately died were like an awkward silence on the elevator and Sugiyado was like someone who would keep the conversation going.

“And I love freedom as well. Oh, how I envy you.”

She stuck out her alluring tongue and another attack manifested from her.

The entire 1000m structure tilted far too easily.

This was what lava was.

It erupted from the depths of the earth and destroyed all structures in its path. It did not matter if that structure was the tallest broadcast tower. Once the ground below it had been melted from a solid into a liquid – from dirt and rock into ultra-hot magma – no structure could remain standing. Not even a feudal lord’s castle.

In another few minutes, the mall, the broadcast facilities, and the upper observation deck would all collapse like a stick stabbed into a pile of sand. When caught in that fall and collapse, no flesh-and-blood human could survive.

But that was fine.

While even the directions of up and down were shaken in the mall, Sugiyado Souha continued ever upwards. He only wore a short-sleeved dress shirt and loose pants with no equipment to boost his strength, so he only had that one ninja sword to assist him in running, leaping, and continuing onward.

The entire mall was 5 stories tall. The 6th floor contained the ticket counter for the observation deck. From there, it was a straight shot to the observation deck at 700m using either the elevators or emergency stairs. The remaining height could only be climbed using the work gondolas or open-air stairs only used by workers.

It was like being caught in a never-ending flood. Each consecutive floor of the mall was covered in and consumed by the lava while he climbed over the ticket counter and ran to the emergency stairs.

He had finally left the mall and arrived at the actual broadcast tower.

Beyond the reinforced glass and complex arrangement of steel beams, he climbed further while awash in the light of the moon from above and lava from below. He ran up the emergency stairs that coiled around the central elevator shaft that contained a few different elevators.

There was no sign of Sagami Oniyuri.

But he did not relax. He had not shaken her. He had simply lost sight of her.

The wall right next to him glowed orange.

(The elevator shaft!?)

The wall melted and burst out toward him as a 2000 degree weapon. It truly was like a scorching flash flood. Trying to block that with his sword would have been foolish.

Simply following the stairs up would not be enough anymore, so he twisted around and leaped out onto the complex arrangement of steel beams beyond the railing and just inside the reinforced glass.

He gathered strength using the compressed nitrogen pile driver installed in Salvation & Punishment’s scabbard and flew upwards with his spine protesting.

Once the glowing drops from the melted elevator shaft had settled down, Oniyuri emerged from within.

She looked up at him and spoke in amusement in her ninja outfit that’s bodysuit accentuated her figure and that otherwise looked like an ancient queen’s dress or a surgical gown.

She licked her lips like she was feasting on the fierce high found in a true fight to the death.

“Oh? You shouldn’t have been able to predict that, so how did detect me through the wall? Hee hee.”

Or was she simply applying that state to her own mind?

In the air, he untied the exceedingly long decorative cloth wrapped around his sword’s scabbard and threw the weighted end toward a steel beam overhead. After confirming it had caught solidly on the beam, he swung like a pendulum and ran along the steel beams near the glass interior wall.

Scorching heat swept through that space.

Oniyuri gathered a ball of lava below her feet with Divine Decree and used its explosive power and the liquid’s jet propulsion to rocket upwards.

A direct hit from this would kill him instantly, but even if he dodged it, the lava being scattered in all directions would be devastating enough.

He desperately moved from the outer steel beams to the emergency stairway railing toward the center and then jumped to a different steel beam, but a sweet voice slipped into his ears along with the wet sound of the saliva on her tongue.

“Hee hee.”

Black-haired Sagami Oniyuri had moved out ahead of Sugiyado after missing him. Her front skirt fluttered as she pointed her slender index finger skywards.

“The sun☆”

The compressed lava burst and flooded the world.

The New Yokohama Aeromonolith was like a giant transparent smokestack that used reinforced glass to cover the entire hexagonal tower built from steel beams.

Boiling lava filled that entire space and gravity pulled it down like a suspended ceiling. It swallowed up and melted everything in its path, including the steel beams and reinforced glass.


His soul told him to run – to get as far away as he could. He needed to move down to avoid the deadly lava sealing things off overhead. His short-sleeved dress shirt and pants were no defense against that. A single drop would burn him to the bone.

But he chose to ignore his instincts.

He could not survive if he only ever thought one step ahead. Besides, the ground was already covered in the orange lava.

If he wanted to save her, and if he wanted to seize victory here, he had to continue upwards. He had to face the falling lava!!


He let out a quick breath.

He twirled around with the tungsten steel ninja sword in hand and intentionally altered his center of gravity to throw his axis off balance and create an irregular rotation.

Steel beams crisscrossed in a complex pattern overhead. Since the melting point of steel was around 1500 degrees, it was no match for the 2000+ degree lava, but it was not liquefied in the blink of an eye. With even a slight moment of resistance, the liquid lava would splash off of it and the suspended ceiling would be torn through. It was a lot like threading a needle, but there were small gaps there.

Those slight safe paths wriggled like amoebas and kept opening and closing.

By slipping through there, he passed through the blazing hot suspended ceiling.

He continued up.

He continued on.

“Ah ha ha! Incredible!!”

When he caught up to her in an instant and began running alongside her as she flew with her psychic Divine Decree, Oniyuri’s face bloomed in a truly unrestrained smile. With a stray stand of hair in her mouth, she licked her lips with her seductive tongue.

She held herself tight in her arms, which seemed to accentuate the chest of her sleeveless kimono top, and she seemed focused on the back of his short-sleeved dress shirt.

“I see, I see. The pain from the bolts in your spine let you detect the faint magnetism from the moving lava. You transform your risks and weaknesses into weapons and you obtain further freedom from your irremovable restraints. Incredible. Yes, freedom truly is incredible!!”


Was that how it looked to her?

But the freedom she sought should not have been restricted to this small and bloody world. Why could she not envision a freedom where she could get together with friends for karaoke or look up at a planetarium with a romantic partner? She had forgotten that even she had written it off as impossible and turned her back on that hurdle.

He had to teach her how big the world really was.

He had to correct her so she could stand on her own two feet in that world and reach an understanding with it.


So he could not afford to lose here. No matter what.

More and more steel and concrete melted and lost shape and the resultant liquid was guided by Divine Decree to attack him like a great serpent. The entire broadcast tower groaned ominously and the angle of its tilt grew. The New Yokohama Aeromonolith was not going to last much longer. Sooner or later, it would fall. He knew that, but he still climbed it.

He climbed up, but even that concept was changed little by little as the tower tilted.

His spine ached. The grim reaper was approaching from behind.

Climbing the stairs was not enough. The complex arrangement of steel beams was not all-powerful. He finally set foot on the reinforced glass. It felt like a steep slope, but that was because the vertical glass had tilted enough to stand on. The windows must not have been built to withstand the distortion in the overall structure because more and more cracks formed in them. Once he started stepping on it, it broke and shattered. He could only rely on the slight moment of resistance as it broke, so it was a lot like running on water.

“Ah ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”

The pursuing girl’s empty laughter seemed to ring endlessly. The simple act of walking lifted up one’s organs and the shock of taking flight and landing had to be considerable. Her implants should have been replaced since they gradually shifted out of place every time she moved, but they had been left in there, making her life as fragile as glasswork. She wanted to leave the destructive marks of her life on the world in order to celebrate her freedom that could come to an end any minute or any second.

She was strong enough to follow that path wherever it might lead, but also hopelessly and pitiably weak.

She may have been the strongest, but no one would ever follow her. No one would praise her or look up to her.

“What will you do?”

Instead of using the unsteady footing, the psychic girl used Divine Decree to fly around within the tower. Her speed caused her skirt to whip around and she asked a question with a smile.

She almost sounded like someone sad that a fireworks show was ending.

“This game of tag is fun and all, but we’re approaching the end of the course.”

She was right.

The tower was now angled at more than 45 degrees as it leaned out over the city below. He passed through the general observation deck and used a maintenance door to burst outside. The chill of the late-night air hit him while he ran directly along the exposed steel beams.

This was past the point any ordinary visitors would go.

Only the workers were allowed on the giant antenna rod here.

Once he reached the very top, there would be nowhere else to go. Once he had nowhere to run, the rising orange lava would swallow him up.

He was approaching a hopeless precipice.

But he did not hesitate to answer while running alongside her.

“That’s none of your concern.”

“Ah ha ha!! Good, it sounds like you’ve got more fun planned for me!!”

The area around him exploded violently, the entire scene melted around him, and the amount of lava rapidly increased. It all moved to attack him.

(I won’t give up on you.)

He clenched his teeth, ignored the pain from his overloaded back and knees, and renewed his resolve.

(Even if every last doctor on the planet throws in the towel and even if every spokesperson of justice in the world condemns you, I will never give up on your future – on your possibility! Oniyuri!!)

The top of the diagonally tilted tower was approaching fast.

Their game of chicken was coming to an end. He could not move past that point.

Yet there was a smile on his lips.

But this smile was very different from hers.

“I was waiting for this.”


He ran across several parabolic antennae, reached the antenna rod, and came to a complete stop at the very top of that 1000m tower.

While rocketing upwards with the lava’s explosive power, Oniyuri moved to crash into his hips with bone-shattering speed. But he twisted his body to dodge her at the last second.

And after passing him by, the girl dressed like an ancient queen seemed to notice something was wrong. She licked her beautiful lips.

“What…is this?”

Her flight wavered as she started to move past the tower and into the night sky.

Just like a stalling aircraft.

She quickly flailed her arms and legs to regain control and found the top of the tower in front of her again.

That was when she seemed to catch on.

Sugiyado Souha smoothly drew Salvation & Punishment’s uncurved blade. That thick tungsten steel blade was designed to cut wires more than human muscle and bone. The tip reflected the cold moonlight and hot lava glow while pointing calmly at floating Oniyuri.

“I…see. Ah ha ha.”

“To be honest, your flight was a much bigger problem than the more obvious lava. I mean, you can fly from Hokkaido to Okinawa in half an hour with Divine Decree, so you could directly combat a stealth fighter with your psychic powers. The worst case scenario would be if you flew circles at Mach 2 and at an altitude of 10,000m while covering the surface below with lava. If you had gone for that kind of strategic bombing tactics, even I would have been helpless to stop you.”

But she had not done that.

Why not?

“Your flight has its limits.”


“I don’t know if it’s a physical thing or a mental issue of control, but it works kind of like a hovercraft or ground-effect vehicle. You can pass freely over the ocean or the land, but you can’t fly all that high. Had you never noticed that limit yourself? I’ve never seen you fly more than 5m off of the ground or away from a wall. Not now and not in the past.”

In other words, the pointed end of a tower was the best terrain shape to stop her. She was reliant on the tower, so she could not move beyond a spherical space with a radius of 5m. She could not use her fearsome speed of Mach 2 or 3 to continually fall back while destroying him with lava attacks.

Her position as the strongest had ironically never given her a chance to test the limits of her psychic powers.

What did she feel while facing someone who understood her better than she did?

“Ha ha.”

She formed a truly and hopelessly gentle smile that caught a stray strand of hair while she floated in the night sky.

“Simply incredible. But it’s hard to say you’ve captured me here. I mean, I can move anywhere within 5m of my footing, right? That means I can fly anywhere I want along the 1000m length of the tower.”


He had thought of that.


“I just have to sever that to fully bind you.”

The battlefield was sliced apart.

The impressive broadcast tower was an enormous mass of steel, but the very top was only a delicate antenna rod. It was only about 50cm thick and it was hollow on the inside, so it was actually thinner than the logs or makiwara he used in training.

It was possible.

He only had to use the tungsten steel ninja sword that had been designed to slice through thick chains and locks like a pair of wire cutters. He only had to convert weight, speed, and a sharp edge into a destructive force.

That allowed him to cut away the very top of that 1000m tower.

“Ah,” said Oniyuri.

She even forgot to smile.

By then, her body had already been dragged away. She could only fly within 5m of solid footing, so if that footing was taken away, she was taken with it.

Of course, Sugiyado was standing on the tip of the tower he had cut away.

Both of them were dumped out into the night sky.

She panicked at having her flight taken from her for the first time, but there was no disturbance at all in his eyes.

This time, the Hidden One faced the other Hidden One.

And the ninja whispered while holding the blade that had once failed to reach her.

“Let’s make this a fair fight, Oniyuri.”

7: What I Wanted to Teach You

Oniyuri could do nothing while she fell.

Her freedom of flight had been taken from her. Out in the open air, heating her surroundings with Divine Decree could not create new lava. She may have been able to lift up the existing lava from the ground, but it was too far away to stop Sugiyado Souha as he tried to cross blades with her right this instant.


Her wings had been taken from her, but in something like a magic trick, she pulled a standard 30cm dagger from her risqué surgical gown of a ninja outfit. Their weapons clashed a total of 6 times.

She really was a genius and the strongest in everything she did.

“Ha ha.”

She was unable to fight the earth’s gravity and fell toward the carpet of boiling lava below, but she laughed all the while. Her hair whipped around her and she alluringly licked her lips.

“Ah ha ha!! Incredible! Only you could keep up with me like this! Only you could speak with me like this! Yes, yes. I have never felt so fulfilled. It’s fun. So much fun!!”

If not for the speed of her fall, she might have clapped her hands together and held her sides as she laughed.

But Sugiyado Souha was not laughing.

“Hey, Oniyuri,” he said. “A truly happy person has more than just fun and they don’t push away everything else. We can call ourselves happy because we have overcome the hard times by working together with others.”

In that instant, he saw her expression silently but undeniably collapse. She finally had the look of a girl her age. Or so it looked to him.

“That’s more like it.”

She may have already known this.

She may have known it, but she had not had anyone to ask for help and was forced to continue on the only path she had. Because she was the strongest and a genius, turning back may not have been an option for her.

“You look much more human and pretty like that, Oniyuri.”

That was why he felt the way he did.

Yes, she had once slashed him in the back and he still carried the effects of that with him. Yes, she had bitten at the hand held out to help her and cruelly betrayed him. Yes, she possessed a soul that actively chose to trample on her own hope.

But when he had seen the way she lived her life, he had wanted to save her.

He had wanted to tell her she could live her life without following that path that was like walking on broken glass.

That was all he had wanted, and he was dead set on pulling it off.

Strength gathered in the hand holding Salvation & Punishment.

He suppressed the fear of falling into the abyss with her.

And he looked straight at her.

This was not an enemy to defeat. This was not an evil to be slain. She had simply strayed from the path and fallen into the mud without ever being taught how to find her way back.


In that case.

“Isn’t this enough, Oniyuri?”


“I will teach you everything you should have been taught in the first place! So stop here!! You can’t make any progress without first owning up to what you’ve done wrong!!”

He would catch her.

No matter how many times she fell, he would stay with her until she returned to the path she was originally meant to walk. He would work at it until she could do it.

Seeing her had made him want to be that kind of person.

And that was why he had become an instructor.

So he could not forget that here. No matter how many bolts he had in his spine and no matter what had replaced his torn ligaments, he could not forget that. He could not!!


With the seventh slash, her dagger finally came to a stop. His ninja sword had landed a solid blow on it. But that was not his only weapon.

He had the scabbard.

He spun it from his hip to push up the bottom end like a seesaw and it contacted the side of her dagger. The instant nitrogen foam burst out and the fearsome pile driver slammed into the side of the dagger’s blade, shattering it. The hand holding the remaining haft was knocked outwards and the kunoichi’s body arched backwards.

She was entirely defenseless now.

This was his first and last chance to get a unilateral attack in on her.

The boy reversed his ninja sword in front of the unarmed girl.

He would end it with his eighth attack.

He knew exactly what to aim for.

Her form-fitting cutting-edge ninja outfit used a spider web structure and her odd additions to that looked like an ancient queen’s dress or a surgical gown. That outfit’s defenses could stop a rifle bullet, but he ignored all of that while holding Salvation & Punishment in both hands and stabbing it toward her stomach.

It did not pierce through, but its weight could not be ignored.

This was a mass of well-forged tungsten steel, so the impact it provided had to be greater than a blow from a boxer.

“Oniyuri, this is your first lesson.”

He ignored the pain in his back as he raised his voice.

If he could find victory here, he did not care what happened to his breaking body. Some fights in life were simply that important.


“I will teach you how to lose! And how to accept that defeat!!”

With a great roar of impact, Oniyuri doubled over, her fingertips went limp, and the artificial madness in her eyes faded away.

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