Translator: DarkHeartedAlchemist Editor: Weasalopes
【Episode 3】Life and Mind: Part B (7)
「O-Okay, I get it, but afterwards, you two better explain to me what’s going on properly, understand?!」
And then she curled up into a ball between the cushions again. I truly felt glad that I had friends who were catching onto the important things quickly.
「As you wish. I will give you… a thorough explanation… once this is all over.」
It took me so much time to grasp the entire story when senpai explained it to me first, and now I had to explain it all to Fujisato in a manner that she could understand. You gotta love the irony, but that was the only right thing to do.
We had to do all in our power to bring about the future in which me and Kuhoh could explain everything to Fujisato without holding anything back. Damn, if only there was a way for us to end this thing without harming Kuhoh…
「Shiki, are you okay?!」
「Somewhat, but it’s too early to relax yet. I might know what her Gift is now, but I have yet to deduce it’s area of effect or its limitations.」
「Oh, is that how it it? Then I guess I got worried over nothing, since there’s still so much you don’t know about it. In that case…」
Right after a sinister smile appeared on Kuhoh’s face….
「Shiki, look out!」
Before I could react, Kuhoh had already broken free of her bonds and was now standing before Shiki. I don’t know when it happened, but somehow the wounds on her body got even more severe, to the point where she was bleeding all over, making me feel a little bit sorry for her. But more importantly, how was she able to break free of her bondage? And how did she received those terrible wounds?! Why are the questions without answers just keep piling up?!
No, wait… could it be? Was 「when」 the keyword we were looking for here?
「Your life is now mine!」
Kuhoh performed a blindingly fast thrust with her knife.
「Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s the other way around.」
Shiki then fluttered her lab coat around.
Thinking that it was just a ruse, Kuhoh continued her assault without stopping, but Shiki was no longer in the place where her knife was heading. From where I was standing, I saw that she used her coat as a cover to get down on the floor to avoid getting stabbed as well.
「So you’ve predicted it! Clever!」
「Of course. All of my senses are at their maximum sensitivity right now. There’s no way I’m going to lose.」
When she hit the floor, Shiki performed a spinning kick that connected with Kuhoh’s right leg. For someone so small she was actually quite flexible! Using the momentum gained from that motion, it looks like she tried to sweep Kuhoh off her feet, knocking her down on the floor…
… No, wait! Instead, Kuhoh’s arms were bound, and she was suspended in place by the wires that dropped from the ceiling, with her feet remaining a few centimeters above the ground.
「I can’t believe I’ve fallen for such an obvious bait. When I was stabbing your coat, the wires were already being deployed, am I wrong?」
「You were just no match for the power of the Yatono family, that’s all there is to it.」
That was a truly breathtaking battle.
Shiki must’ve prepared that trap way before all of us even arrived here, and used the party preparations as an excuse to check them up one last time. This would’ve not been possible if she did not understood Kuhoh’s Gift to some extent. Without her, the outcome of this skirmish would’ve been drastically different.
From a killer’s viewpoint, each and every one of Kuhoh’s moves was like a quintessence of lethality, void of any doubt or hesitation. This must’ve been something she was able to master throughout years of gathering experience while killing her targets. There was no other explanation for it. But Shiki’s movements were also that of an expert combatant, focused on countering every strike of her opponent without giving her even a moment to rest. Such crafty tactics required an inhuman level of understanding of her enemy only after a few short exchanges. That was also something that must’ve been practiced by her battling strong individuals over the years. Just how amazing was she really?
I couldn’t contain my shock. To think that I had many specialized experts near me and with added Gift users on top of that.
「So this is the power of the 『Demonic Gift Satori』? I knew it could sharpen senses, but to combine it with wires to create a combat style this powerful… you truly are full of surprises, Yatono Shiki.」
「Said the owner of the 『Divine Gift Chronos』.」
Even after being immobilized in such a painful way, Kuhoh still maintained her usual composure and only smiled wryly.
I remember hearing the name Chronos before. I happened upon it when I was searching for the origins of my Gift’s namesake, Thanatos. If Thanatos was the personification of death, then Chronos could very well be called the personification of time. So Kuhoh’s Gift had something to do with time manipulation?
「That is why you can’t escape now, because your ability to move has been completely sealed .」
「Yes, well said. Indeed, my Gift allows me to stop time for the duration of one second, during which I, and only I am allowed to move. This is the power granted by my Lord to me, her Vassal.」
Stopping time for the duration of one second… now that answered so many of my questions! With the ability to stop time, all the mysteries were now making a lot more sense.
When she killed senpai, Kuhoh spend ten minutes in the kendo club’s showers to wash the scent of blood off of her, after which she met me in front of the school. She probably followed me all the way to the clock tower, using her Gift so that I wouldn’t noticed her. That way, she could follow me all the way to senpai’s room without raising any suspicions. Judging from her physique, running back to the clock’s faceplate before time started flowing again was a piece of cake.
When I came to the clock tower and found senpai’s body, she must’ve used her Gift to go up the stairs in a series of short jumps that made no sound when she was landing on the stair boards, probably by activating her Gift right at the moment of the landing. And that thud I heard the moment I was stabbed? Most likely an aftereffect of Kuhoh releasing her ability. Combined with her natural abilities, Kuhoh’s Gift was even more of a cheat than my immortality, but when during our detective game I asked her 「Do you have a Gift, Kuhoh?」, I never would have expected to hit a bullseye right off the bat.
「Monjiro-senpai, I am truly sorry. Look how pathetic of a woman I am, stabbing you not once, but twice. It’s so laughable that it’s not even funny anymore.」
Kuhoh’s tone was no different from her usual calm voice.
「Killing Shiinamachi-senpai was not my personal intention, but rather a mission given to me by my Lord. I don’t hold a grudge against any of you, and I certainly don’t want there to be any bad blood between us. I am quite fond of all of you, and I don’t want you to worry or get the wrong idea, that’s why I’m telling you all this.」
「Don’t worry…? Us…」
「There is no denying that I’ve hurt senpai in the worst way possible. But you know what? I was actually happy when it turned out that you were alive after all. But knowing that I’d be forced to kill you again filled me with nothing but gut-wrenching guilt.」
「…Kuhoh-san, please don’t torment yourself so much. I am a Nightkin, who have always been targeted by people. There’s nothing that can be done about it. But knowing that you wanted to be friends with me filled me with nothing but happiness.」
Kuhoh sounded as if she totally gave up on living.
Bound by the wires, she was unable to make even a single move. Her Gift was not teleportation, but time stopping, so it was useless in her current predicament. She had no means of escape.
Was that how it all was going to end? Could we really bring this case to a close by confiscating Kuhoh’s weapons and persuading her not to go after senpai anymore? She did told us that that was the mission handed to her by her Lord, so probably not. Who was the Nightkin who orchestrated this whole thing? Who was the puppet master pulling the strings from the shadows? Are we going to fight her as well? Those were the questions that still weighed heavily on my mind, but for now, we have prevailed. We survived, so was it okay now for me to collapse from blood loss?
Everything was over now, and yet every fiber of my body was screaming that we were still in grave danger.
As I tried to stop the bleeding from my chest, I moved closer to Shiinamachi-senpai’s side. Since I was barely able to maintain my consciousness, moving as close to her as possible seemed like a good idea.
Senpai’s worried voice was very soothing. For just a brief moment, I thought that dying with her being this close to me might not be half bad.
My mind was going dark, and I had trouble with my hearing. If this continues, I’ll die for sure. For some reason, I was actually relaxed, treating death like taking a short regeneration nap before waking up.
I glanced at Fujisato’s direction to see if she was safe…
Only to discover that she was no longer there.