Part 136: The Next Head IV
Video: Succession, Part 2
"...Whaaat?! Why?! It's Gaap, isn't it? Taking someone else's summonings without asking!! Gap! Gapgap!!
"...Confirming Battle Regulations. Requesting permission to fire at the escapees."
"Do it...! Kill them, kiii-!! Gapgapgap, gap, gya!!!"
"Understood. 45, 410, Prepare for Sniping Pursuit Combat. Ammo Type, Guided Cluster Rounds. Virgilia-sama, an escape prevention barrier, if you would."
"Owowowow... Y-Yes, you're right. Hohhoho, I won't let you escape from here. Owow, bit my tongue saying Gapgap..."
...However, that was no problem for them now.
"Kanon, it's those metal bars again! We're counting on you...!"
"...Still, that's incredible. ...I wonder what kind of principle it works on."
"I'm not interested in principles. All that matters is that he can sever the metal bars... and that we can escape from here...! Don't worry, Kanon, do it!"
"Leave it to me...!"
Kanon sliced the metal bars again with his red curved blade. But there was a harsh, strange noise, and the metal bars only had a slight scratch.
"Wh-What's this? These are sturdy..."
"Can you cut through it?"
"Of course. But it will take time."
"We'll wait three minutes...!"
After taking a deep breath and concentrating his mind, Kanon extended a red curved sword again. When he pressed it hard against the metal bars, sparks sprayed, almost as though he was melting through it with a burner.
"It looks like we'll be able to cut it, but it'll be tough."
"...Krauss-sama, you've been targeted by the enemy. Please move back."
"Huh? Pursuers? There's no one coming!"
"Please get behind me. They're aiming for you...!!"
"410, Data Received. Checking Hazard Zone, no problems."
"00, Loading 48 Sub-rounds, Individual Homing F&F. Guided Cluster Rounds, Preparations Complete."
"45, Firing Preparations Concluded. Loading Guided Cluster Rounds."
"410, nihhihihihi! Firiiing!!"
A golden arrow that sparkled gold was fired, leaving a gold tail streaming behind. It drew a curve, went through the door, through the keyhole, down the stairs, towards the underground path at full speed...!
"...You can't block the golden arrow with a shield. Kanon-kun, Interception Stance. Let's link."
"Gatekeeper, understood. It's been a long time since I've fought with you, Nee-san. Don't screw up."
"Yeah. I'll be serious."
"Then there's no problem!"
Kanon stopped cutting the bars and stood in front of Shannon. Behind him, Shannon closed her eyes, concentrating her mind deep, deep into the darkness of the underground path...
The strength of each individual one is low, but they pierce through all shields and possess a perfect wounding and killing power against personnel. And on top of that, each one of the 48 possesses autonomous guidance towards their individual targets.
"...It shone. It's divided..."
"Confirming Guided Cluster Round Division. 46...7...8... 48 Sub-rounds, All Rounds Locked Onto. Interception Control. Data Link to Kanon."
"Kanon, Data Received. You're incredible, Nee-san. You can actually 'see' all 48."
"Concentrate on Interception Prioritization. Trust your Nee-san."
"Of course. I don't even need to open my eyes."
"Nihyah?! All 48 of them?!"
"Hohohoh... After all, Shannon and Kanon were originally a furniture pair. They're strong when they're together."
"...Owowow. Is this gonna become a mouth ulcer or something...?"
"Calm down, Reload. Updating Ammo Type. Precision Light-Speed Sniper Rounds. Preparing for Precision Sniping."
"Sounds good nyeh, impossible to intercept super high-speed rounds! Impossible for a mere Gatekeeper to defend against nyeh!"
"Precision Sniping, roger that. Commencing Collection of Precision Firing-use Data..."
"Don't worry, I don't have a clue either... All I know is that we would've died if not for these two..."
"Kanon-kun, thanks. Go back to the metal bars. The next shot will probably be one we can't intercept."
"How can we defend against such an attack...?!"
"We don't let them shoot. Kanon-kun, Initiate Spirit Particle Combat Countermeasures."
At those words, Kanon closed his eyes tightly and ground his teeth. With Shannon at the center, a pressure and impact that only nonhumans could perceive struck.
"It's Spirit Wave Jamming! Activate Spirit Particle Safeguards, hurry! What are you doing?! Cover your ears quickly, 45!!!"
An unseen, unheard impact had struck the Chiester Sisters. 00 and 410 crouched down, covering their ears, but 45 didn't make it in time. As she stood bolt upright, her eyes rolled.
"Ukyu...?!?! Kyuu? Kyu-! Kyu- kyu- kyu-!!!"
"45 got damaged...! Her IME's busted...!! Nn, gya, the noise... is also horrible for me nyeh..."
"45, 410, and 00, Damaged... Abandoning Sniping Posture. Ack, it came straight through the link... I-If we don't reboot..."
Raising their spirit particle sensitivity for precision sniping had backfired. They had taken the full brunt of the spirit particle shock wave Shannon had released, and not only 45, who had been hit directly, but also 00 and 410, who had been linked with her, were taken down.
"Are you okay?! I'll make you some more delicious black tea later, so get ahold of yourselves!"
"...M-My apologies, sir... Rebooting. Please wait several hundred seconds..."
All of the Chiester Sisters had fallen over. They would probably get back up eventually, but it looked like it would be hard for them to return to the battle lines for a while.
Virgilia tore the air with a large gesture, motioning as though opening a door.
"Come, arise, goat attendants...! It's time to work. Catch and kill the escapees. Corpses are fine, we can just revive them anyway!"
A gold-colored door opened in the air... and countless giant goats with muscular bodies peeked their faces out...
"Come now, hurry. There are five escapees, so the fastest five of you win! There will be a wonderful prize, so give it your all, give it your all!"
Virgilia clapped her hands, urging them on. A prize?! After facing each other at those words, the goats all rushed to the door at once, trying to get out, making the exit as packed as the Touzai or the Yamanote rail lines in the morning. Each wanted to get out first, so none of them could get out. Virgilia held her head in frustration.
It had been a bit of work for Krauss, large as he was, and Nanjo, with his lethal waist, but even so, they all managed to make it through. But after they did, they only had a couple seconds to be relieved. Immediately, another set of metal bars blocked the way in front of them.
"This certainly is secure. I'll bet they really didn't want the people in here to escape."
"Kanon, sorry, but I'll have to ask you again. It may be tough, but please...!"
There was sweat on Kanon's forehead. You could tell at a glance that cutting the metal bars, which had been made even more solid by magic, had physically exhausted him.
"...Yes, leave it to me, Krauss-sama."
"Only you can do it! Please, we're counting on you...!"
Only he... could do it. Holding tightly onto those words, Kanon concentrated his mind once again and set himself to the task of cutting metal bars again.
"...Enemies are coming from behind. Multiple targets."
"Yeah, this time even we can tell. The ground's really shaking. I can tell that some ridiculous monsters are rushing at us."
"Don't worry. I'll use a magic lock to make a blockade of the metal bars we just came through. Mere goats won't be able to break it."
Shannon held her hand out towards the metal bars they had gone through. But she stopped right away.
"Wh-What is it...?"
"Virgilia-sama has started neutralizing the Spirit Wave Jamming... It'll be bad if it's broken, and we'll lose the initiative once the Chiester Sisters are rebooted...!"
"If you're trying to gain the advantage with those clever spirit particles of yours, I'll tear all that away and rob you of them."
"I don't have a clue what you're saying, but-"
"We know it's something pretty bad."
Kyrie picked up a metal bar that Kanon had just cut. Krauss had no weapon, but he rubbed his fists, and the two of them glared into the depths of the underground passage where the shaking was coming from.
"...I believe these are the final metal bars blocking the way."
"How far is it to the mansion from here?"
"Quite a walk... The path is even, but I seem to remember walking for 30 minutes..."
"So if we run all out, it'll be half that time."
They couldn't tell for sure, since they didn't have the three-sided mirror, but there was no guarantee that George and Jessica would still be all right against demon opponents after all this time.
"...If we run at twice the speed of walking, it'll be 15 minutes. And twice that speed would make it eight minutes."
"And if we sprint all out at double that speed, it won't even take 5. No problem."
"Wh-What an unreasonable calculation... But that's how you calculate in a fire...!"
"...My sincere apologies, everyone. Please watch my back...!"
"Leave it to us. Kanon, you cut the bars as fast as you can. Shannon, you concentrate on jamming this witch called Virgilia or whatever. Kyrie-san and I will defend against our pursuers...!"
Goats that were several levels more massive than the guards were rushing with an incredible force. The tremors they created were almost like an earthquake. They brought a frightening intensity and terror, but Kyrie actually laughed with relief. Those massive bodies wouldn't be able to go through the crack in the bars!
The group of goats crashed into the metal bars with a fierce sound like that of a train colliding with a dead end. Clumps of dirt fell here and there from the ceiling, and you could tell that the metal bars had bent as if collapsing. Their charging power probably was on par with a train. If the metal bars hadn't been there, they would likely have overwhelmed the five of them and crushed them in an instant. When the group of goats pressing up against the metal bars noticed the five people right in front of them, they let out a terrible howl, trying to intimidate the five. Or maybe that was out of pain from their game of push and shove.
One calm goat among them figured out what should be done about the metal bars, then grabbed two of them with its massive arms and began bending them as though opening double doors. Kyrie sharply jabbed her metal pole at that goat's vitals...! The goat let out a roar of anguish. It probably hurt a lot, but that was all. It wasn't enough to bring it down...
Still holding the metal pole she had stuck out, Kyrie relinquished the opposite tip to Krauss. Krauss ran there with all his might, jumped up and kicked down with all his weight and kicking power combined...! All of that destructive power was focused on a single pole, drilling it in!!
As the goat who'd taken a pile bunker to its vitals writhed with teary eyes, it nodded its head.
"Looks like our link isn't that bad either. We won't lose to Shannon-chan and Kanon-kun."
"Naturally, for a loving family like us."
"We can do it if we take them together! Next, that one on the right!"
"Understood...! You really are a good wife. That Rudolf must have grumbled a little too much."
"Ooh, tell me about it later. Rudolf-san, suddenly turning pale in heaven won't do you any good, okay?"
To think that those massive bodies had been kicked in the chin and flown through the air... It was too fierce! Even George seemed a little surprised.
"...To think that my kick works on monsters too. Now there's a shock."
"...It's because of your counterattack-style barrier. The attacking power that grazes you is added on to your own. Your kick has been supplemented by those monsters' superhuman strength..."
"Oh...? I don't really get it, but isn't that just perfect for me? No matter who attacks me, they should be prepared for a counterattack of equal measure. Nonaggressive defense. That's my policy."
That's why Gaap couldn't easily touch him. The counterattack-style barrier had no defensive power. However, because of its countering ability, it could be useful in defense by making the opponent hesitate to attack. The goats had been foolish and so had attacked without worrying, but this second effect had worked in full against Gaap.
"These guys really are dull. When your power's even, it's always an advantage to have a smaller build."
He lightly dodged the log-like arms. When those arms touched the barrier that protected George, they let off a strong, red light. The tip of the counterattacking foot would then gain the same sparkle... and the superhuman power of the goat added to its own. The second goat fell forward and floated in the air for a second.
Then, George's next roundhouse kick missed right over the falling goat's head. For an instant, the goat hoped it might get away with its life. But no!! A heel was dropped onto the back of its head, and it was forced to kiss the ground.
"This guy's...a problem, seriously, a problem...!!"
"What do you mean, demons? What do you mean, witches? The rulers of Rokkenjima are the Ushiromiya family. I'll make you physically aware of that."
The only way to finish off George, now that his body was wrapped up in a counterattack-style barrier, was to deny him a chance to counterattack. Nothing to do but suck him into the Abyss next, then kick and drop him, kick and drop him, kick and drop him... until she kicked him to death!!!
But George had already completely seen through the faint warning signs that told of the appearance of Gaap's pitfalls. If he could jump over that next pitfall, then this time, he would probably pulverize Gaap's head with his whirlwind-like kick, without holding back in the slightest, just as had been done to his parents. She was able to envision that scene vividly. Gaap hated Kinzo more than ever for calling her out to this ridiculous island...!
Without a more powerful shield, he wouldn't be able to block Jessica's fists anymore. The enchantment on Jessica's fists grew the more she fought. The permeating upgrade had already grown several times, and those fists had also been given an impact upgrade, a piercing upgrade, and a speed upgrade, making them fists worthy to fight on par with a demon...
"No. Your movements and thoughts and kinetic vision have been rapidly enchanted. My movements have not changed from the beginning. Your movements are beginning to catch up to me."
"And you still won't fight back...?!!"
"This is my style. However, I cannot allow it to continue at this rate. It's about time for me to get serious and end this...!!"
Ronove's face turned into an expression he hadn't shown before. It was full of respect for Jessica in a truly demonic way. Because it was an expression he only showed for enemies who made him get serious.
"Whooaa?!?! What the?!"
It was more tenacious than a simple shield. It literally was a wall. And on top of that, with all of Ronove's magical power, it pushed Jessica back bit by bit. Did he plan on pushing her back against the wall and crushing her to death?
Jessica tried to break through the wall with both fists, but it was solid. Without any exaggeration, it was solid!
"Is this what you call serious...?!! No problem, I'll break right through iiiiiiiiiiitt!!"
"I will not let you this time. This wall is somewhat different. Here, allow me to enchant it as well."
When Ronove made a magic sign almost like a ninja, the wall glowed red for just an instant... and some kind of ominous power dwelt within it. Jessica was able to recognize that almost immediately with her body. Every time her fists hit the wall, pain as though glass fragments had scattered and hit all over her body rebounded against her.
"I upgraded it with attack-reactive armor. An exceptional item that will decrease the force of your attacks by counterbalancing them... and which can even counterattack with reactive fragments."
"...It's perfectly fine to keep punching it, but doing so will damage you as well."
"Heh, heheh!! In short, it's an endurance test between me and your wall?!! No problem!!"
"Will you fall to your knees first, or be pushed into the wall first? Allow me to observe."
"Except I might break through it and smash that whole wall along with your face, right?! Watch iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!"
Instantly, several red gashes appeared all over her... She grimaced at the intense agony, but her eyes were burning with fighting spirit, and her lips curved in a grin that stood in sharp contrast to the pain...!
"Just... a little more...!"
"There's no stopping these guys... These metal bars might break just from them shoving each other!"
The group of goats made the metal bars creak. Several arms grabbed the bars, twisting them with superhuman strength. However, some bars were being pulled in opposite directions by different hands. Apparently, they really were stupid.
The way those countless hands grabbed the metal bars... sometimes happened to match up by chance. Several hands grasping two metal bars neatly put their power together and pulled the bars to the left and right. The incredible sound of metal bending could be heard, and that crack was getting larger bit by bit...! They attacked the arms of those goats one by one, but they weren't getting anywhere. They couldn't stop the gap from spreading left and right...!
"Kyrie-san, ladies first. You go next, Doctor Nanjo!"
"Krauss-sama, please leave this place to me...! Nng, this is?!"
Kanon's red sword that had cut the metal bars disappeared.
BGM: The Dark and Crazed Requiem of Purgatory
A magic circle column drew a complex magical formula with Virgilia at the center. With such genuine magic being used, Shannon's power couldn't even compete. On the contrary, it was surprising that she had withstood as long as she had.
"Spirit Particle Supremacy Ensured. Come, Chiester Sisters. It's your turn now, right?"
"Wait, are you still rebooting?! Why are kids these days so bad at waking up...?!"
"M-My apologies...!! We're all different versions..."
"Why do the shortcuts and pulldown menus get all screwed up every time you change versions nyeh...?! You did not shut down correctly last time? Administrator privileges?? What's going on I don't knooooooow!!"
"Ukyu-!! Ukyu-!! (Fix me quickly-!! Waaaah!)"
"Call the Imperial Guards' Troubleshooting Team! What? You can't help us without a user code?!"
"45 had the user code nyeh."
"Ukyu-!! U, kyu, kyu, kyo, ukyu, kyu-!!!"
"She can't reinstall her IME, so she can't write characters nyeh."
"...Y-You take your time fixing yourselves... I'm going..."
Virgilia was again shocked by this congestion.
"What are you doing...?!! Huh? You want to go first because you want the prize? You're getting in each other's way because you don't want the other goats to steal the prize from you? You stupid goooooooooooooaaaats!!! I'm going, so make way!!"
"What?! You don't want to?! Virgilia-sama is trying to steal your prize?!"
"Why are you all standing arm in arm?!! Aaah, tight, cramped!! When did this become a goats-only car?! Ugyu-!! You, that kid who just touched my butt, get off at the next statioooon!!!"
The five in Krauss's group dashed through the passageway with all their strength! They couldn't dawdle around in an underground place like this. They had to quickly join up with the children on the surface! If they could meet up, there would no longer be any more sorrow!
At that time, a terrible rumble started chasing them. Had their pursuers finally made it through the metal bars?! But they couldn't see anyone when they turned around. However, that rumble and the dirt that fell here and there from the ceiling grew closer and closer, finally catching up with them and even going past them. It felt almost like being chased by ghosts.
BGM: Death (from Stupefaction)
...Virgilia was sitting on its shoulder.
"This wise child knew a shortcut. What a good kid, you get first prize. Later, you can have some handmade mackerel curry."
Maybe it really was happy about that dubious prize. The massive goat showed its joy by putting its hands together and writhing. Virgilia leapt down, laughing that this time, it was finally checkmate.
"...Damn, it's no use... Our magic has been completely killed..."
"...Not yet... Even without magic, we still have these bodies..."
"D-Don't be ridiculous...! There's no way you could fight a monster like that without that strange power...!"
"...St-Stay back, children... I'll do something about this, so escape past the sides of that monster while I distract them...!"
"I won't let you. Hohhohohohohoho!"
"Is there... nothing more to be done...? N-No, not yet. Even Jessica fought. I must do so as well..."
"A-Are you serious?! It's not possible, not against that massive monster...!"
"Don't be absurd...! Krauss-san, let us think of another way..."
"If you think of something, say it. Until then, it looks like I'll have to manage something... Come on, get back."
"Hohohoho, hohhohohohohohohoho! My, my, Krauss. You intend to fight this child alone?"