Humans are, by nature, divided into the leading actors and those who are not.

Every existence is different, and the have nots are no match for those who do have.

…….Effort? When has that ever worked out for someone?

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I can’t help but believe that my previous life was some sort of villain. Killing and killing. Stealing and stealing. A great villain rejected by the entire world and forsaken by both God and Buddha. Enough crimes that it would take 7 times reincarnating to repent──what? ……Like this, wouldn’t anyone give up a little?

……So, I’m quite grateful to Mio.

<Haniel> changed ‘me’ to ‘me but not me’.

And above all else, it gave me the chance to meet everyone.

……No, that’s not right. In my bullshit life, I think there is only one good thing. With just this one point, I think its fine to write off everything else.

If a convenient Goddess appeared now and said to choose between ‘the same garbage life as before’ and ‘a promise of a successful life where I can’t meet everyone’, I think I would choose the former.

But……no, so that’s why.

Once in a while, there’s this anxious feeling.

A supporting role that has slipped into the leading role.

A have not trying to join a group that do have.

An ugly duckling trying to grow up.

Am I──really good to be here?

“…………”

February. One month before <Beast> appeared.

In one room of the soaring mansion next to the Itsuka household, Natsumi was staring at the envelope placed on the table.

It felt like this has been going on for almost an hour now. She didn’t check in the mirror, but her usually sullen eyes had and an even steeper expression.

But this was inevitable. After all, it contained information of when Natsumi was human.

Yes. Natsumi had once refused to view the contents, but after that she visited Kotori again to secretly receive the envelope.

A few days ago, her mind had changed. This was when she visited the city where Yoshino once lived with Shidou and Yoshino.

She wondered why, looking at Yoshino at that time, feeling the thoughts of Yoshino’s mother entrusted to ‘Yoshinon’──Natsumi felt her heart intensely shaken.

Of course, she didn’t think her personal history was as wonderful as Yoshino’s past. Indeed, as shown, the envelope handed to Natsumi seemed thinner than Yoshino’s. As expected, she was a thin person with a thin history. Natsumi remembered a mysterious feeling.

However, Natsumi taking action would be very noticeable. Visiting Kotori with an awkward face, it took 30 minutes to get to the main topic and she received the envelope from Kotori who was growing a little impatient.

……But still.

“Hmm……”

Even with every action taken so far, when trying to check the contents, “……I mean, I just got it for the time being, but is it always good to check?” the little Natsumi of sloth living in her heart whispered. Incidentally, there were seven little Natsumi in total, with the trademark of the little Natsumi of sloth being laying down like the image of the reclining Buddha and a chubby stomach protruding out from a tight kusoda jersey.

“……Ehh, the hell with it!”

Nevertheless, there was no point to keeping this situation up forever. Natsumi decided to open the envelope and soon began to retrieve the documents inside. There was no special meaning to it, but it was naturally thin.

The documents were slowly exited the mouth of the envelope, and the characters written on it gradually became visible.

The first thing she could see was──a full name.

“……Kyouno, Natsumi.”

Reading the text on the document, Natsumi thinly sighed.

With the mysterious feeling of having a family name, the strange relief that it was a surprisingly ordinary surname filled her lungs.

But that was it. For Natsumi who had completely lost her memories of the past, it was just new information.

Speaking of which, it was also the same for Yoshino as well. When looking at her name, looking at the photos, looking at her entire background, it all didn’t seem real. Yoshino remembered everything after visiting the hospital room where she had spent her days being hospitalized.

If so, for Natsumi to remember the past, does she also need to visit where she once lived?

Somehow, it felt……awkward. It would be difficult to go alone, but to have Shidou and Yoshino accompany her would be embarrassing──

“────Eh?”

Then.

At the very next moment, Natsumi flinched from the sudden pain coming from her head.

“Uh, ah, ah, ah, ah……!?”

As if a sharp needle had pierced her head, the intense headache was like a needle branching out from within her head. She dropped the envelope and involuntarily crouched down on the spot.

At the same time, the contents of the envelope were gorgeously scattered and came into Natsumi’s view. A face photo. Family structure. The city where she once lived. The time of disappearance when she turned into a Spirit.

Then, in response to that, the headache increased in intensity──

“Ugh──”

Eventually, Natsumi felt something rising from the back of her stomach. Severe vomiting. She rushed to the toilet while holding down her mouth unintentionally, spewing out vomit into the toilet. Her throat and tongue were irritated by the regurgitated stomach acid.

“……Uhh……”

The urge to vomit wouldn’t go away even though there was nothing left to puke out. Natsumi wiped away her tears and half-forced herself to adjust her breathing.

“Haah……haah……”

And so, how much time had passed? The headache, although little by little, began to subside.

But this melancholic mood didn’t clear up. ……That’s right. After all, that headache had left something extraordinary in Natsumi’s mind.

“……Wow, really. …..Really?”

……Ah, ah. It really was instantaneous when compared to Yoshino.  Right……just looking at some of the documents, Natsumi remembered her memories of being human.

And──

“……!”

It was exactly at that moment.

The intercom in the room made a nimble sound as if calling for Natsumi.

“………….Ah……”

Natsumi raised her face that was as pale as ghost and walked towards the entrance like a moth lured to a lamp.

Opening the lock, opening the door. Then──

“──Hello, Natsumi-san. Is everything okay right now?”

“Hey, it’s everyone’s idol, Yoshinon! How are you doing Natsumi-chan?”

A gentle girl with fluffy hair, Yoshino, and a lovely rabbit puppet, Yoshinon, energetically jumped into Natsumi’s field of vision.

“Yoshino…….Yoshinon……”

“Yes……what happened, Natsumi-san?”

“Hey, you look a little groggy? Did something happen?”

As soon as they saw Natsumi, Yoshino and Yoshinon gave a worried look. Natsumi shook her head back and forth.

“……I don’t think so. It’s almost usually like this. The usual operation, the usual operation.”

As Natsumi said so, Yoshino replied with, “I-Is that right……?” and seemed to be convinced for the time being. Just for once, Natsumi thanked the gloomy face she usually had during normal times.

Well, because it was the kind Yoshino, she might have already known but was taking Natsumi’s circumstances into consideration.

“Hm, more importantly, what do you want?”

“Well, there’s a movie I want to watch, so if you would like, please join us. But if you’re not feeling well, please don’t overdo it.”

“……Ah, okay, okay. Great, a movie. I just wanted to watch one too. Yup. Then I’ll go change clothes now.”

“Ah…….yes. But……”

Seeing Natsumi’s increasingly empty reply, Yoshino looked worried once again.

Then, Natsumi smiled weakly while staring into Yoshino’s eyes.

“……Hey, Yoshino.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“……As expected, Yoshino is a goddess.”

“──Wha!?”

Hearing what Natsumi had said, Yoshino rounded her eyes. Natsumi smiled again at Yoshino’s reaction, closing the door after saying, “hold on a minute”.

──The center of the townscape had been absurdly destroyed.

A huge brilliant ‘leaf’ surrounded the beast of ruin.

“──Don’t……get in my waaaay──────!”

Beast raised an unusual roar, swinging either the ‘claw’ on her right hand or the ‘sword’ carried from behind.

Then, in line with that, a slash that could cut through anything, a multitude of beams of light, fire, and cold air surged out.

“Yoshinon-san, Miku-san, please add another layer to the voluntary territory!”

“Y-Yes!”

“I understand!”

Obeying Kurumi’s commands, the three sheets of <Yggdrafolium> formed an invisible wall in front of Shidou. After offsetting <Beast>’s attack, it shattered without any sound as if saying it’s role had been finished.

“──Ha!”

At the same time, accompanied by Origami’s voice, another barrier formed around <Beast>.

A territory that binds power was different than the one protecting Shidou. The ground around <Beast> collapsed slightly as if crushed by an invisible hand.

“……If this doesn’t work……then nothing will……!”

However, <Beast> escaped from the constraint in a single move, swinging her ‘claw’ aiming at Origami. Origami, who was only one among the girls wearing a CR-Unit, gently turned around to dodge the attack and left behind a trail of light in the night sky.

As <Beast> rampaged, the girls were somehow able to use the <Yggdrafolium> to suppress it.

──From earlier, how many times did this scene repeat? As Shidou realized that, he clenched his fist.

Indeed, with everyone’s help, the situation had managed to improve. Shidou was no longer finished in an instant.

However, even with such lifesaving support, Shidou was still unable to communicate with <Beast>.

This was just stalling for time and repeating that act on this dangerous tightrope. In this extreme state, he was trying his best to continue living. That was all that was done until now.

Their current status was a dangerous struggle that depended on relying on everyone’s power. Being in such a quandary caused Shidou’s heartbeat to gradually increase.

But──

“…………”

In this crisis, Shidou felt his consciousness focus and sharpen.

A strange feeling was born in the corner of his head.

Because of everyone’s blessing, he had the chance to closely watch <Beast>, examining the uncomfortable feeling of discomfort in her movements.

Certainly, <Beast> was rampaging violently. Firing attacks off one by one, a single blow was enough to completely change the scenery of the townscape.

However, the attacks didn’t seem to be particularly aimed at anyone.

Despite operating the <Yggdrafolium>, everyone now had the bodies of ordinary humans. If <Beast> really wanted to get rid of everyone, they wouldn’t have been able to hold out for so long.

If he would compare this──yes.

It was as if she had too many emotions that it was beyond control.

Or a spoiled child violently moving her limbs.

An unbearable sadness, someone crying out of not knowing what to do.

──Ah, that’s right. He remembered this feeling.

He felt this way two years ago, on a spring day when Shidou met a Spirit for the first time.

“──Darling! Watch out!”

“……!”

At that moment, Shidou’s eyes widened after he heard Miku’s voice. ──<Beast>’s attack had broken through Miku’s voluntary territory and was now approaching Shidou.

He was negligent. Because of being distracted by these thoughts, his response was delayed for a moment, Shidou leaped from that spot, gritting his teeth in preparation for the shockwave and severe pain.

But. The pain he had expected never occurred.

A new <Yggdrafolium>, which appeared in the sky, formed a new barrier to protect Shidou.

“……Fool. It’s all over if you get done in. I won’t forgive you from dying of carelessness.”

A small girl appeared along with a <Yggdrafolium>, speaking with sweat dripping from her cheeks. Her face was pale and her hair ragged from the intense exercise. Although her eyes looked strained from being in a bad mood, this wasn’t just from Shidou’s carelessness. It was just how they usually looked.

“Natsumi……! Thank you, you saved me!”

“……Un.”

As Shidou called out her name, Natsumi looked away while lightly huffing from her nose.

“Kya! Natsumi-san is so cool! I’ll hug you later as thanks!”

“That’s more of a punishment game than giving thanks……”

Seeing Natsumi play an active role, Miku bent her body loosely back and forth as her eyes sparkled.

Then, from behind Natsumi, the footsteps of two other people could be heard. ──Mukuro and Nia, both of whom were involved with evacuated the residents along with Natsumi.

“Are you safe, Nushi-sama!?”

“The rescue has been completed safely! Now, this is the main performance!”

While saying that, they turned to <Beast> to protect Shidou.  ──He could tell in his heart that Mukuro’s heart was full of energy.

“Ah, thank you, you three. But──”

Shidou faintly tensed up his eyebrows.

Certainly, it was great that they didn’t have to worry about the local residents and he was grateful for Natsumi and the others participating in this battle. However, even with their strength increased, he didn’t think they could get out of this stalemate.

Yes, something else was needed. Like something that could peel away at <Beast>’s power──

“──Yes, from here on out, it’s the main performance.”

Then.

A crisp voice came from above as if to interrupt Shidou’s thoughts.

Shidou raised his face to look at the owner of this voice.

Before he could notice, she had appeared there. Accompanied by shimmering <Yggdrafolium> floating in the air, Kotori was standing there with her arms folded calmly.

“Kotori!”

“Imōtogo!”

“Kotori-san!”

The girls all call out her name. Kotori turned around to respond to those cries as she lightly descended onto the ground.

“What happened imoto-chan? For the commander to arrive directly onto the battlefield. Or maybe you wanted to help your Onii-chan?”

“That’s not inaccurate.”

Kotori replied to Nia’s joke while slightly shaking her black and white ribbons. Not expecting that reply, Nia whistled in response.

“But it’s not just for sentimental reasons. I came here to──render <Beast> completely naked.”

“What did you say?”

Shidou asked in return, as if to match that, <Beast> let out a roar as she fired off another slash attack.

“Ku……!”

In response to that attack, the defense team formed their voluntary territory and the attack team kicked off against the ground as that unfolded.

Meanwhile, Maria’s voice echoed from the intercom he had received from Mukuro earlier.

“──Let me explain about that. Please listen while fighting.”

Apparently the transmission was reaching everyone through their headset. He could see nearby that Natsumi and Miku also gave a small nod.

“Let me describe it from the conclusion. The ten swords carried by <Beast>.──While they may be different in shape, they all have the same response as the Angel you all once had.”

“Wha……?”

“W-What do you mean?”

Hearing Maria speak, the girls all let out a cry of confusion. But that wasn’t without reason. The weapons that this mysterious Spirit was wielding, they were giving off the same reaction as their Angels which should have disappeared along with Mio.

But why? After hearing that, Shidou felt strangely convinced.

Flames to light, cold air to wind, and even a key sword that can open a ‘hole’ in space──

They all certainly shared a resemblance to the power of the Spirits he had sealed up until now.

“I still don’t know who <Beast> is. Could it really be a Spirit from the past or future, or perhaps even an existence from another world──?

But what’s important now is that the power she wields is the same type as you guys.”

“No, even if you say that, what is going on……to lead the conversation with the same ability I had in the past, has anything resembling a cartoon appeared yet……?”

From behind, Natsumi’s voice marked with suspicion was heard. Maria coughed a little before continuing on.

“Listen to the story until the very end. ──Everyone, please raise your hand forward.”

“……? Like this?”

“Question. What does this mean?”

The girls all followed Maria’s command and extended out one hand forward.

Then, to match that motion, from the sky──from the direction of <Fraxinus>, dazzling light poured down on the girls.

“……!”

“This is──”

As the girls were wrapped in the light for a moment, they all raised a surprised voice.

And then delivered onto the hands they raised, something resembling faintly shining weapon was seized.

In terms of shape, it closely resembled a Wizard’s laser blade. From the tip of the metal handle, a blade of light around 30 centimeters appeared from there.

However, the shape wasn’t as smooth as what a Wizard would handle. The twisted shape was reminiscent of a huge tree branch. 

“<Yggdraramus>. ──Let’s call it that. An experimental weapon modeled after Mukuro’s <Michael>. By inserting the blade into the Spirit’s body, that power is detached──in short; you can peel off an Angel from a Spirit.”

“Peel off──the Angel?”

“Eh? What’s with that heavy demo weapon? If there was such a convenient thing, why didn’t you bring it out earlier? Were you waiting for the excitement here to swell in order to give it overemphasis? That’s what Roboko is acting like.”

As Nia complained, Maria replied with a slight tinge of annoyance.”

“I’m not a third rate manga artist and I won’t do that. I would say this weapon is at the experimental stage. It’s still far from practical use yet.

──Indeed, this weapon can theoretically separate an Angel from a Spirit. But that’s just for a moment. If a Spirit is like a planet, then an Angel is a satellite. Immediately, there will be a pull reuniting the two together. It would have been too risky to approach the Spirit just for that achievement.”

But then, Maria continued on.

“Only now, the story has changed. For a moment. It doesn’t matter if for an instant. If you can separate the Angels from <Beast>──”

Kotori raised her voice to take over speaking.

“──Over here, just like <Beast>, there are ten former Spirit girls with the same gravitation pull for the Angels?”

“…………!”

The girls all filled their voices with surprise.

It was the same for Shidou. Anyway, it may be now possible to take the Angels away from <Beast>.

“If you can do that──”

“If, not really. We will make it happen.”

Kotori said to inspire everyone.

“Let’s go, everyone. ──To push our swords into <Beast>.”

“──Yes!”

Speaking vigorously, girls kicked off the ground and headed for the rampaging Spirit.

“……Haah.”

In this battlefield marked by the smell of iron carried by the wind and a flash of lightning, Natsumi was the only one to give a small sigh.

No, she was well aware that this was a tense situation. And this wasn’t as if she was distracted.

But no matter how powerful the enemy is, there was always a strange sense of relief coming from them working together.

Certainly, <Beast> had a mighty power. Honestly, she didn’t know what to do.

However, with Kotori participating in this war and the secret weapon presented by Maria, the clues to capture had come to light. Consequently, a slight fluctuation was born from within Natsumi’s head.

──Despite this crisis, there was still a light to be seen. As expected of Kotori. As expected of Maria. They were selected protagonists who were different from Natsumi. If left to everyone, everything would come to a close smoothly. After all, there were a number of excellent people here. The Yamai sisters with their high physical ability, the superdreadnought battleship Mukuro, the flawless superwoman Origami who was wearing her CR-Unit and Kurumi who refused to die even after being killed. Yoshino is a goddess and Miku is as strong as a demon when it comes to a beautiful girl. Nia well, she’s good at manga. It felt like that last point was something that had already been thought up before.

To phrase it positively, this was trust. To phrase it negatively, this was negligence. Certainly, someone skilled will push that sword into <Beast> and Shidou will seal that power. Such was the vague vision.

She mustn’t head out. Even if mistaken, don’t disturb everyone. Even if helpful, even if useless, if she gets involved it’ll become negative for everyone. Because I’m──

“……”

As such thoughts flipped past her head, Natsumi instinctively frowned.

──Why did she think of that now?

This was a thought that should have been overcome once. Relying on others to achieve the objective. Leaving it to everyone else. Despite the thoughts of concern for her precious friends, to have a backwards attitude that won’t take any action. It was as if she reverted back to the Natsumi before meeting Shidou.

While still the ever pessimistic and negative Natsumi, it should have been slightly better since that time. The encounter with everyone should have changed those thoughts. From that end, it should have been as fast as a caterpillar running, but she should have advanced forward a little.

That, even though.

“……Ah, shit.”

Natsumi spewed out a sigh in annoyance.

The worst thing was that the cause was immediately known.

No doubt about it. ──Because she remembered it.

The root of Natsumi’s personality. The ugly personal history sunk in dirty mud──

“──Natsumi-san!”

“……Wha──!”

At that moment, as Yoshino’s voice echoed, Natsumi felt her shoulders tremble.

But──too slow. Just as Natsumi realized that, the rubble of the building destroyed by <Beast> was falling down towards Natsumi.

“Fu────”

Origami thinly exhaled, focusing her consciousness with <Beast> at the center of her field of vision.

Laser spear <Einherjar> on her right hand and the experimental weapon <Yggdraramus> on her left. And also, she had the silver armor <Brünhilde> covering her entire body.

Yes, Origami, as a former AST member and Wizard, was the only girl among them to carry a CR-Unit.

Of course, her current fighting ability was by far the best among her peers. The <Yggdraramus> was in everyone’s hands. But Origami had a certain pride that only she would be able to sink the blade into <Beast>’s body.

It was in fact a common recognition shared among the girls. Although there weren’t any particular arrangements made beforehand, everyone had deployed left and right around Origami, forming a formation surrounding <Beast>.

“Kaka, let’s go Spirit! Feel the speed of the Yamai!”

“Cooperation. There’s no avoiding a simultaneous attack from both left and right.”

Kaguya and Yuzuru screamed loudly as they launched a pincer attack on <Beast>.

Normally, attacking while shouting would be considered a useless act, but things were different now.

The Yamai sisters were attracting <Beast>’s attention by daring to show their presence.

10 keys were prepared, and only one of them had to arrive at her.

“Aa───aaaaaaaaa──!”

<Beast> roared, picking up the ninth sword and pushing it into the ground. The air from there trembled as an invisible wall of ‘sound’ was formed.

“Nowa!”

“Shock. This is──”

The Yamai sisters couldn’t move their feet as their assault was halted. Then, the eighth sword wielded by <Beast> stirred a gust of wind that blew the <Yggdraramus> out of their hands.

But the offense of the girls didn’t stop there. Picking off where the Yamai sisters left off, everyone took the opportunity to launch an attack on <Beast>.

“Haaaa!”

“Give up nooooow!”

“Mun──!”

“──Aaaaaa!”

<Beast> drew her swords one after the other to handle the girls’ attacks, repelling and knocking them down.

The keys in everyone’s hands of recovering from this desperate situation were being destroyed one after the other.

“…………”

But──that was fine.

Origami calmly observed <Beast>’s movements and quietly kicked up to the sky.

The voluntary territory formed by the <Yggdrafolium> and the aftermath of <Beast> angrily swinging her swords. She flew into the tempest of Maryoku and Reiryoku generated from that as if soundless swimming.

The decisive moment for this battle as <Beast> pushed back from the other girls’ attacks. Origami used the voluntary territory to place the <Yggdraramus> on the tip of her laser spear.

“────Now.”

At the moment Mukuro rushed in with her <Yggdraramus>, <Beast>’s attention, which had been set up for her surroundings, momentarily shifted. According to Maria’s speech, the <Yggdraramus> were modeled after Mukuro’s Angel <Michael>. Perhaps because of this, she was the most accustomed at handling it then anyone else.

It was not like Origami to overlook this chance. Origami manipulated her voluntary territory, thrusting the <Yggdraramus> the moment <Beast> was closing in on Mukuro.

But──

“Wha……”

Origami heard a small voice leak out from her throat. The moment the tip of the <Yggdraramus> was about to come into contact with <Beast>, her aim was slightly off.

This wasn’t like being repelled by an invisible wall or being blown away by the wind. Rather, it was like her arm had moved against her own will──

“……!”

Then, Origami noticed. One of the ten Angels carried behind <Beast>’s back, the second sword was drawing brilliant letters onto the sky.

“Future description──”

Origami cursed her negligence. Despite hearing that <Beast> had all of their Angels, she ruled out this possibility because of the beast-like manner in which she approached the battlefield.

No──even if she did, the results wouldn’t have changed.

Future description. The words written on the omniscient Angel <Rasiel> became reality. Yes. Even the enemy’s actions towards her.

“……Ah, that’s right. ……Coming, you are. I wonder why……yes, I thought.”

<Beast> muttered in a hurry with hollow eyes.

She grabbed the sixth sword in a hurry and thrusted it into Origami’s body, twisting it as if turning a key.

“Ah──”

The CR-Unit Origami was wearing flew out as broken pieces.

As if watching the scene of a sakura petal blizzard, Origami sank into the ground.

“Nn……uh……”

Her face frowning from the dull pain, Natsumi slowly opened her eyes.

It seemed she was hit in the head. For a few seconds, her memory became cloudy.

However, after blinking her eyes several times, she gradually remembered what happened before losing consciousness.

That’s right. They were fighting against <Beast> right now. Just when everyone was about to launch a simultaneous attack, rubble suddenly fell on Natsumi──

“……I’m glad……noticed just in……Natsumi……san……”

“……! Yoshino!?”

Natsumi eyes opened in alarm to the voice she suddenly heard.

And then, she finally noticed. Yoshino, with blood shed from her forehead, had covered for Natsumi.

It was needless to confirm in order to understand. Yoshino must have protected Natsumi from the falling rubble.

“W-Why──”

Natsumi gulped, saying that word as she glanced around.

But this wasn’t the time to be asking a useless question. She had to call for help in order to treat Yoshino.

Even though Natsumi and Yoshino couldn’t participate, they still had the advantage in numbers. Now should be about the time to peel off the Angels from <Beast> and Shidou to enter a dialogue with her. Then, there must be some free hands around──

“…………”

As Natsumi was looking around and thinking about that, she breathed out in horror.

A mountain of rubble spread out to the point that no one would believe it was a cityscape just a few moments ago.

Here and there, the girls collapsed.

And then, on that terrible battlefield, a single girl was slowly walking.

──<Beast>. The Spirit, which shouldn’t exist in this world, was still carrying all ten swords on her back.

“It can’t……be……”

Natsumi’s throat trembled in a daze.

Kotori, Kurumi, Mukuro, Kaguya, Yuzuru, Miku, Nia, and even Origami, were all done in without accomplishing anything.

They were leading actors that Natsumi could never compare to. The chosen people selected by

God.

No, that wasn’t all. Perhaps caught in the aftermath of this battle, Shidou also collapsed within this rubble. The occasional groans told her that they were still breathing──but it was clear from whoever was watching that <Beast> would hasten and take measures to end their lives.

“Natsumi, san……”

“……”

Unable to look at her directly in the eyes, Natsumi choked on her breath.

Yoshino’s eyes had a strong determination that was incomparable to her injured body.

“Now, Natsumi-san is the only one that can stop that person. Please. Go──help Shidou-san.”

And so, she infused all her emotions into speaking each word.

Natsumi’s face turned pale.

“I-Impossible, I can’t do it! An opponent everyone was no match for, I can’t do anything……!”

They were all better than Natsumi, sharper than Natsumi, stronger than Natsumi.

What they couldn’t achieve could never be done by her. Natsumi couldn’t do it. She shook her head with tears at the ends of her eyes.

However, even after hearing those words from Natsumi, Yoshino only gently smiled.

“It’s okay……if it’s Natsumi-san, you can do it.  Natsumi-san, I think has always been a great person.”

“T-That kind of thing……”

“Please, Natsumi-san……Shidou-san is……”

As Yoshino was speaking, her eyes suddenly closed as she powerlessly collapsed. The <Yggdraramus> she was holding rolled onto the ground.

“Y-Yoshino……!”

Natsumi rushed to call out her name, but Yoshino didn’t reply. Likely, she had reached her limit. She had kept her consciousness solely through willpower.

In order to confirm that Natsumi was safe.

And──to entrust the rest to Natsumi.

“……W-Why, of all things to be me……”

Natsumi muttered in despair as she looked again to the battlefield.

The king of this debris, <Beast> was striding through this land of death. Despite the onslaught of the eight girls, the depths of that power was unfathomable. Surrounding her body with the ten swords like a cage’s bars, slowly but surely she was progressing to Shidou.

Without the girls, Shidou was completely defenseless. Eventually as <Beast> arrives, he as a human would be easily slaughtered.

The protagonists that could help were all lying on the ground.

The only one safe──was Natsumi.

When realizing this again, the dreadful palpitations struck Natsumi, with the urge to vomit as if her stomach had turned inside out.

Her brain was going to burn out from the tension and frustration. Sweat gushed out from her entire body as her limbs trembled.

──Why, why did this happen?

Why was Natsumi, who shouldn’t have anything, given such an important role?

A stage that was excessively not suitable. A spotlight was suddenly being casted on the supporting character in a supporting role.

The desire to escape from this place if that was a choice. Or to crouch down and avoid even letting out a single breath. The actions allowed for Natsumi should have been only that much. That was natural. That was natural for Natsumi.

“…………!”

The moment such thoughts began to dominate her head, Natsumi bit her lips. A sharp pain pierced her brain. The taste of blood gradually spread in her mouth.

Flee from this spot?

Crouch down and hold her breath?

Is that much actions allowed for Natsumi?

“……Don’t, screw around……”

Such a thought unconsciously arose in her head. Such thoughts were naturally smashed and trembled by the heel for Natsumi.

──Naturally? When did such rubbish thinking become commonplace for Natsumi?

Ah, ah, it came to light. Everything had come from those memories.

Natsumi gripped on the <Yggdraramus> with a shaking hand.

She didn’t remember her father’s face

──Because he was already gone by the time she became self-aware.

She didn’t remember her mother’s face.

──Because any look that gave the impression of talking meant getting beaten.

So, even now after her memories of being human are remembered, that scene had a defect.

Even if she tried to image a woman that seemed to be her mother, the face portion was crumbled as if painted over with a black sharpie marker.

Ah, but, only the voice she remembered.

Mainly a voice yelling in anger, a voice that always rebuked her.

The woman named Kyouno ■■ was always displeased and irritated by Natsumi’s existence. At first, she couldn’t understand the words uttered, but because of the vehement tone and violence set, she could guess that it wasn’t good.

She thought that ■■ getting angry was due to her own fault.

So, she tried to be as skillful as possible. She learned housework, listened carefully to what was said, and tried to be a good child.

But that just made ■■ more displeased. So Natsumi then tried to do as little extra as possible. At most it was evident that she was a powerless insect in front of a storm. Just stick to the bottom of a stone and wait a bit for the weather to calm down. Although there were times of being blown by the wind, it was still somewhat better than facing straight to the forefront.

■■ often despised Natsumi as ugly. She didn’t know much about ugliness, but she thought it was true because ■■ said it so much.

If she were a little cuter, would ■■ love her? When thinking like that, it felt a bit uncomfortable.

A wish to have been born more beautiful, but of course she never said that out loud. By that time, Natsumi learned how to go through the lengthy storm.

──Nothing existing. Such was an ordinary household that could be found anywhere.

That was where Natsumi grew up.

……The sealed envelope Kotori handed over should have been thin. The documents compiled by <Ratatoskr> contained the minimal data. It didn’t mention much about the home environment.

It was difficult to imagine that <Ratatoskr> could only get that much information. Likely, Kotori had personally sorted out Natsumi’s information. While saying with a threatening attitude, “it’s not always pleasant information”, a skillful way to dodge the issue, but that is where Kotori fell short.

Well, Natsumi remembered those days just by looking at her full name. Kotori’s concern ended up being wasted. When thinking over it now, that omission may very well have been for Natsumi’s sake.

Fundamentally, ■■ never prepared any meals for Natsumi. Her main source of nutrition was the elementary school lunch.

……Well, of course that lunch didn’t seem paid for either. The homeroom teacher did nothing on principle. Rather than pretending to look into Natsumi’s situation; that point wasn’t questioned either.

The problem was long vacations like summer and winter vacation. That was a life or death issue for Natsumi. The house had stockpiled on instant noodles and ready-made packaged foodstuff. But she was convinced that she would be killed if she touched that.

However, if she didn’t eat anything, the result would end up the same. Natsumi needed to find a way to get calories without ■■ noticing.

The conclusion she arrived at was the seasonings. If it was still divided into single meals like cup noodles, no one would mind the seasonings being slightly reduced. During those times, Natsumi was also thankful for ■■’s slovenly personality.

Natsumi’s staple food during the long vacation was sugar and soy sauce diluted with tap water. It was a lucky day if the refrigerator has butter and margarine. The taste of oil and fat permeating on her tongue gave Natsumi a small degree of happiness.

Because of living like this, Natsumi’s physical growth was stunted compared to her peers.

Additionally, any attempts at bathing or washing her clothes had to be done when ■■ wasn’t looking. Often, she had to go to school looking filthy.

Children are geniuses at discovering things that are different. Natsumi, who was ‘unlike everyone else’, was avoided coming in contact with or even looked upon. In the world of children, the rules were that coming in contact with anything different would mean becoming different as well. One cannot live in a community until proving to friends that you are no different than them.

Inevitably, Natsumi hated school. To be honest, she wouldn’t go there unless she had to.

But she had to go there as long as there was lunch. For Natsumi, school was no more than a food supply where she would get the nutrients needed to keep enduring this harsh environment.

And then……when did that happen?

Yes, one day after Natsumi became a junior high student for a while.

(……Wow. What is this?)

As usual, Natsumi arrived home with melancholic steps, knitting her eyebrows while opening the front door.

The reason was simple. The inside of the house had absurdly fallen into ruin.

Shelves, TV, microwave, had all been flashily pulled and thrown aside. Tableware and glass fragments were scattered on the floor. It looked as if a typhoon had occurred only from within Natsumi’s house.

However, from the looks of it, Natsumi didn’t think it was a hoodlum committing an act of robbery or burglary.

■■ from the start had a temper, breaking apart things when stimulated. It seemed she had been dealing with illegal drugs for a while now.

Well, the disastrous condition of the room on that day was as disastrous as ever.

As she later learned, apparently on that day ■■ had been contacted about a certain message.

──The man who was Natsumi’s father had died.

It seemed Natsumi’s father had another wife and child. He appeared to have kept paying a large amount of childcare payments, including hush fees, in secret to ■■.

In short, ■■ had been notified on that day that her living expenses would be cut off.

And that meant, for ■■ it was synonymous with the last meaning of Natsumi’s existence disappearing for her.

(…………Hey)

She must have noticed that Natsumi came home. Couching down on the dresser that was inverted and laid down horizontally, ■■ let out a groan.

(…………What?)

Natsumi replied, lightly tensing her eyebrows in regret in having been discovered. ……Speaking of which, this was the first time in three weeks where she had exchanged words with ■■.

(……Money…….bring me.)

(……Ha? There must be no such thing.)

(Go work no matter what, anything including prostitution to bring money here for me!)

While shouting, ■■ threw a nearby glass at her. The sharp edge of the broken glass struck Natsumi’s forehead, causing it to bleed.

(…………)

Even though Natsumi kept her hands away from this natural disaster on principle, she couldn’t hold back the feeling of unrest in her chest.

She wasn’t angry at all over her face being hurt. However, this woman, who continued to despise Natsumi as ugly and hideous, was now showing her true intentions while speaking at her own convenience.

(What are you talking about? As ugly as I am, there won’t be any customers. Sorry that I’m so similar to you.)

(…………!)

She couldn’t remember well what else was in the conversation they had.

By the time she noticed, ■■ was on top of Natsumi, strangling her neck with both hands.

(Ka……ah……ha──)

A fading voice leaked out from her throat.

Her vision was flickering, her consciousness gradually fading. Her face grew hotter and her limbs lost strength.

──I’m going to be killed. I’m going to be killed. I’m going to be killed.

Natsumi’s brain was solely controlled by that thought.

That was when.

(Hey, you. ──Do you want power?)

That was when.

An unidentifiable mosaic appeared before Natsumi.

<Phantom>. The Spirit of Origin. ──Takamiya, Mio.

Although she now knew the true identity behind that, Natsumi at that moment wondered if she was seeing a hallucination due to falling into critical condition. 

But that was fine. Natsumi was frantic in her desperate wish for that power. She clung onto the spider’s thread dangling in front of her.

 (─────)

There was no more voice coming out from her throat──

That mosaic sensed Natsumi’s feelings and handed her a sparkling gem that glowed green.

──After that, the incident probably took no more than 3 full minutes in time.

Becoming a Spirit, with the Angel <Haniel> in her hands, Natsumi used that power to transform ■■ into a small frog.

Looking up, Natsumi tried to raise herself up while having a frantic coughing fit. A frog was bouncing around as if frightened.

Small and ridiculous state, more than delight or pity, Natsumi remembered a deep feeling of exhaustion.

(…………)

──Of course, she raised a leg. But when she tried to crush the frog, her feet stopped.

As it was, Natsumi straddled onto <Haniel> to pierce through the window glass.

(────Ha, haha……)

While racing through the sky dyed in the color of the setting sun, Natsumi felt laughter leak out from her throat.

She didn’t know what happened.

Something strange suddenly appeared and gave her a strange power.

And the problem she thought was helpless was quickly resolved.

Ah, even the terrifying ■■, her mother that was so powerful was reduced to such a small existence.

(Ahahahaha……hahahahahahahahahaha!)

With that in mind, her laughter grew steadier.

Why couldn’t it have been that easy until now?

Why did she stay with such a mother until now?

Why did she until now──

(Ah……aaah……aaaaaaaaaaaah──────!)

──The laughter echoing in the heavens changed into a tearful lament.

She knew it was the first time getting revenge for herself who was always oppressed until now.

I didn’t want to get revenge──

──I just wanted you to love me.

“……Da……mn……it!”

Natsumi shouted as if vomiting out, slamming her head against the nearby rubble.

Her head that was already injured began to hurt even more. A spill of dizziness struck her, with blood bleeding from her forehead.

But, that became good encouragement.

Natsumi took in rough breaths while gritting her teeth, and then kicked off the ground after resolving herself.

“────”

Quiet.

The Spirit, called by humans under the name <Beast>, was moving forward.

The grey cloudy field of vision reflected the ground piled up with garbage and dust.

And──in the center of that, there was appearance of a boy crouching and about to collapse.

“……Ah……gu……”

His breath was faint and it was currently painful to raise his voice. His clothes were torn, and there were many painful scars on his exposed skin. Perhaps even if left alone, he would soon expire.

But.

“It’s……o……kay……don’t be scared…….good.  We are……not……enemies……”

All of his friends had fallen.

And his body was inflicted with enough wounds to the point of dying.

But the words the boy spoke out didn’t change.

“……Shut up……”

The girl’s eyebrows tensed as she groaned.

I wonder why? The voice of this boy who was supposed to be dead was strangely hurting her ears.

Every time this boy spoke. Each time he made an appeal to her.

She was driven by an urge to scratch away at her ears, head, and throat.

Likely it was some sort of mental attack. There couldn’t be any human standing in front of her without any help. Hurry up and kill. Hurry up and erase. Hurry up and eliminate soon. If she kept hearing this human’s voice, her head was going to get even more lost.

But there were some subtle questions in her mind.

Until now, there had been several opportunities to stab this boy. But when the chance presented itself, for some reason her hand hesitated to swing down at his head.

The same goes for this situation in the first place. She traced his remaining scent and used the key sword to open a ‘hole’ in space. It was as if──she went to see him again.

I don’t know. I don’t understand my actions. Why did she care so much about this boy? I am──

“……So……don’t……look so sad……”

“…………”

The words of a boy who disappeared.

She involuntarily choked.

A strange throbbing. Severe pain as if having been pierced through the heart.

──Not good. Not good. This is dangerous. This would turn her into something that she wasn’t. I have to kill. I have to erase this. I have to destroy this.

“……Disa……ppear──!”

──Then

At the very moment she was about to swing this sword to kill this boy.

Aimed at her from the sky, the light of condensed Maryoku was fired.

“……!?”

Looking at the scene happening right in front of him, Shidou involuntarily choked.

<Beast> had soundly defeated the girls and was making her way to Shidou.

In the sky, a dazzling light fell like downpour.

One second later, he noticed a shining ‘leaf’ floating above <Beast>.

──<Yggdrafolium>. The all-purposeful weapon that the aerial warship was proud of.

But, even after noticing that, Shidou’s astonishment didn’t fade.

That’s right. All of the girls that could have handled the <Yggdrafolium> should have already been taken down by <Beast>.

Had anyone recovered? Had <Fraxinus> been restored? Or──

“──Impudent……”

As Shidou was thinking that over, <Beast> raised the fourth sword. At that moment, the surrounding temperature dropped drastically as an ice wall formed above her head.

The light of the Maryoku emitted from the <Yggdrafolium> was blocked by <Beast>’s ice wall, scattering the aftermath onto the surroundings.

But the one manipulating this <Yggdrafolium> knew 100% that this attack wouldn’t be enough for <Beast>. The moment <Beast> raised a single hand to repel the ray of light; a small shadow appeared behind her.

“──Uh……haaaaaaaaah──!”

With disheveled and ruffled hair, the girl attacked <Beast> with a branch-like dagger. Recognizing her appearance, Shidou widened his eyes unintentionally.

“Natsumi……!?”

Natsumi’s arrival, the charge forward of the person who had disappeared when they first all rushed to attack <Beast>.

Nevertheless, it was only for a moment where <Beast>’s attention was diverted to the sky. She already seemed to be aware that Natsumi was approaching from behind.

“……Get lost.”

<Beast> said in a cold voice, holding onto the eighth sword in her left hand and swinging it towards Natsumi. Flying alongside the trajectory of the vacuum blade──Natsumi’s head was sent flying very easily.

“Wha──”

At that sight, Shidou immediately screamed──but then he immediately reconsidered.

Despite how much she was cornered, he didn’t think Natsumi would embark on such reckless methods.

Uhh negative, pessimistic, and lacking in confidence ──Natsumi would be excessively cautious, never charging in against such a strong enemy without a plan.

That’s why Shidou was able to immediately notice this discomfort.

──From the neck of the Natsumi that had been decapitated, there wasn’t any blood flowing out.

“This is……!”

As if to match Shidou’s voice, Natsumi’s head trembled like a block of noise, disappearing as it dissolved in the air.

Then Shidou finally understood. ──The appearance of this Natsumi was a dummy image created by the voluntary territory.

The voluntary territory surrounded the <Yggdrafolium> projected the will of the operator onto reality. Complex operations may take some time to get used to, but Natsumi was originally the Spirit who wielded the mirror Angel <Haniel>. Manipulating the refraction of light to create a virtual image did seem like her strong point.

But the fact that this Natsumi was a virtual image meant that the real Natsumi was──

“────”

The next moment as Shidou was thinking about this.

It was like taking off the veil with a pattern that blended into the landscape.

A small figure appeared in front of <Beast>’s heart.

Like a virtual image, there was no futile scream or even the sound of footsteps.

No sound, no voice.

Like an assassin in the dark, Natsumi quietly──thrusted the <Yggdraramus> at <Beast>’s chest.

“……”

Natsumi choked as the feeling was transmitted to both of her hands.

──Hitting with everything she could do right now. Using the bombardment of the <Yggdrafolium> as a decoy, distract her attention with virtual images created by the voluntary territory, and then using that pause to step in for the certain kill.

<Beast> could roughly be divided into two methods. One was slashing away with that ‘claw’. The other was a special attack using the ‘sword’. The latter is further divided into 10 patterns.

It was impossible to deal with them all. However, to use the power of the sword, she seemed to have to be able to hold it during use.

In other words, up to two ‘swords’ can be used at a given time. So if she could create a state where both of them were used up in a single moment, a chance opportunity could be created in a fraction of that time.

As the number one person in being a have not, this was a cowardly, shameless, and sly tactic. However, Natsumi didn’t hesitate to play this hand.

At this point, no insult could hurt her. The sense of shame had already been exhausted. If it meant saving everyone’s lives, being slandered as a coward would be little more than an itch.

──However.

“…………”

Quietly──

Without even frowning, <Beast> looked down at Natsumi.

It would be like this.

After all, the <Yggdraramus> blade brought out by Natsumi didn’t even reach <Beast>.

Yes. Just before <Beast>’s chest.

Over there, a small ‘hole’ opened that swallowed the <Yggdraramus>.

──The sixth sword. <Beast> was holding the handle of the key sword that could open a hole in space.

Monster. That one word robbed her thoughts.

Completely different from Natsumi, she was an overwhelming monster.

“──Ah──”

At this sight, Natsumi took in a small breath.

At that moment, the voice she once heard was again echoing in her head.

(……Hey, it was useless. You couldn’t do anything at all.)

──Shut up.

(So as it is give up and die. What have you accomplished? What changed about you?)

──Shut up.

(A dullard who rides on the coattails of others. You can’t do it. You’re weak. You’ll never be loved for the rest of your life.)

──Shut……up……!

Despite her heart desperately trying to resist, those words entangled Natsumi’s limbs just like an iron chain.

It’s not over yet. She still had her hands ready. Despite knowing that in her head, her body wouldn’t move. She had to take the next move, but ■■’s shadow caught Natsumi and wouldn’t let her go.

Eventually, <Beast> narrowed her eyes onto Natsumi.

An act done as if to signal the end for Natsumi.

“…………!”

──But, it was at that moment.

“Na……tsumi……!”

With a cry marked with anguish, the sound came from steps treading past the rubble.

“……Shidou──!?”

Natsumi felt her throat being tightly squeezed. But that wasn’t surprising. After all, full of wounds, Shidou was standing on that spot while bleeding from his entire body.

It was clear to even the untrained eye that he was in state where he shouldn’t be able to move. Close to death from bleeding out of the bruises and lacerations all over his body, this was almost suicide.

But Shidou stood up.

For what reason?

He didn’t even need to think about it. He knew how pessimistic Natsumi was.

──In order to help Natsumi.

“……Where are you going? Isn’t your target me? Now, come on honey. I’ll hug you gently.”

It should be difficult for him to even speak, but Shidou fearlessly smiled while deliberately provoking <Beast>. <Beast> twitched her eyebrows while staring at Shidou.

“──tsumi. Natsumi!”

“……! Eh──”

Then, a small voice arrived at her ear. It seemed Shidou was whispering through the intercom so that <Beast> wouldn’t notice.

“……Knowing you, do you still have something prepared? I’ll draw her attention. Do it with all your strength.”

“Why……”

“……I understand. Because of our long relationship. It’s fine……you can do it.”

“……Ah……ah──”

At that moment, Natsumi gradually felt tears oozing out from both her eyes.  

──Does anyone love you?

She was ashamed that such thoughts were in her head.

What was she thinking?

Even on the verge of dying, there was a man here who would stand up for Natsumi.

Standing at the edge of this desperate situation, even then so many friends believed in Natsumi and entrusted their lives to Natsumi……!

“Uh……ooh!”

Then, Natsumi issued a command to the <Yggdrafolium> through her headset.

“────!?”

The next moment, <Beast> had a look of shock for the first time.

But that wasn’t surprising.

In any case, right now on <Beast>’s back a <Yggdraramus> was deeply trusted, standing in place of the headless virtual image of Natsumi.

──Slipping into the virtual image, another <Yggdraramus> was fired.

Of course, there was only one <Yggdraramus> per person. As long as Natsumi was the one holding onto it, such an attack couldn’t be realized.

But in Natsumi’s hands there was another <Yggdraramus> which harbored the original owner’s regrets.

Yes──it was Yoshino’s dagger, the person who had to leave the frontlines after saving Natsumi.

“……Being so long-winded and meaningless in a person’s head for how long? It’s time to shut up you damn ghost.”

Natsumi’s throat quivered as if roaring as she operated the voluntary territory through the headset. With invisible hands, she gripped on the handle of the <Yggdraramus> protruding from <Beast>’s back.

“I can……do this.”

And while muttering, she placed her strength into her hands.

“I……am strong.”

Strong, strong, she kept telling herself.

There was already no hesitation in that voice. The rationale for those words was already given.

Not just Shidou. Yoshino as well. Kotori as well. Nia as well. Origami as well. Kaguya as well. Yuzuru as well. Mukuro as well. Kurumi as well. Miku as well. And despite being gone, Tohka as well.

Everyone had acknowledged Natsumi.

They said she could stay here.

What Natsumi once wished and yearned for──but they gave me what she couldn’t obtain for herself.

Natsumi──is loved.

“I am……cute……!”

Certainly, the opponent was powerful. The only mysterious Spirit left in the world. That single word held tremendous power.

Natsumi was exceedingly meager in comparison with only using a borrowed weapon. The rest could be easily fostered through looking at their different expressions. Any observation indicating otherwise would be considered abnormal.

But that didn’t mean she could give up.

She couldn’t let everyone that loved her be killed.

“──Everyone……I──”

Her voice broke off from that moment. This was an excessively arrogant and irrelevant remark.

But she reconsidered immediately.

Placing in her determination into her words, she released it like a bullet.

“I will protect you……!”

Natsumi placed her strength in her hands──twisting the dagger thrusted into <Beast>.

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