Chapter 3 – Future
Chapter 3: Future
“If I could alter fate, I would.”
Everyone’s had thoughts like that before.
But we all live frantically within the bounds of fate,with nothing ever changing.
No doubt they also lived the same way.
Until they obtained a certain power, that is.
But they did obtain it—
—an item known as a “Relic” that had the power to alter fate.
And alter it they did.
They altered the immutable force that was fate.
But who could blame them?
If fate could be altered…
If unpleasant fares could be changed…
Anyone would have made the same choice
But fate would not forgive them—it would not forgive those people.
Never would it forgive.
The world was unequal.
Unequal to we, who never asked to be born into this world.
From the moment we were born, we were handed inequality.
From the moment we were born, we were allotted different amounts of happiness.
Differences in our race, in ourselves, in our wealth, in our gender, in our strength…and in our happiness.
The sort of differences we take for granted—inequality.
Like the parents we were born to.
Like the bodies we develop in the womb.
Like the first steps we take into society.
Like the power we’re given.
Like the tides of our fortune.
Nobody chose these things for themselves.
These are differences set from the moment we’re born.
These are differences set until the moment we die.
There was a time where I tried to change things.
I believed things could change if I lived the right way.
I believed that someday the world would come to save me.
But then there came something I could not do no matter how hard I tried.
Saving just a single life. That was all it was.
It was so simple, but no one could do it.
Even if I prayed, or begged, or cursed, nothing changed. No one couldn’t change anything.
Almost as if it was meant to happen from the very beginning.
That was the meaning of the word “fate”.
I learned of fate, and I despaired.
I learned of fate, and I gave up.
I learned of fate, and I abandoned hope.
I would live like this, and die in this unfair world where fate was decided by God or whoever else.
The moment I was left all alone in the world, I abandoned everything.
That’s why it didn’t matter if I did nothing.
Even if I did nothing, the world would still turn on its own and I would keep living.
The outcome wouldn’t change whether I did something, or whether I did nothing.
As humans had no choice but to live in this predetermined, unequal world.
It was then that I encountered Relics.
A certain person owned a Relic could make otherwise impossible things happen.
It felt like it changed fate itself. No, not ‘felt like’—it did change fate.
It changed the inherent inequality of the world, and then brought about even more inequality.
Despite there being people who lived and died within the bounds of their allotted fate.
Despite the fact that there were many people like that in the world.
Despite that fact that I gave up because everyone was like that.
How could they use Relics to warp fate to their own convenience when everyone else suffered inequality and an inescapable fate? It was unforgivable.
I seized those Relics and destroyed them.
However I learned that this world was full of these so-called Relics.
I couldn’t change the world by destroying just one.
I wanted to change the world.
I wanted to change it with my own hands.
But to do that I needed I certain Relic.
If I used that Relic along with my own, I could change the world for the better.
That’s why I was searching for and collecting Relics.
To change the inherently equal world, and to put an end to source of the ever-increasing inequality.
To challenge the inequality of the world and change it to one where everyone is equal.
Saki had come to save me after I was cornered by Asuka. With her quick thinking she was able to use the Mirror of Serenity to get me out of a jam.
But in the heat of the moment I ended up focusing too much on Asuka.
That boy had shown up behind Saki at some point.
I noticed him too late, but still shouted to warn her.
But Saki did not move.
Clearly Saki had noticed he was there. He was standing right behind her—there was no way she didn’t notice. But Saki made no attempt to escape.
No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to run. It was that she couldn’t.
He must have done something to Saki—she was essentially his hostage.
“Come to think of it, I never introduced myself did I? Just call me Shun.” The boy cheerily raised his hand and introduced himself.
“Let’s go, Asuka.”
Asuka quickly ran to his side when he called for her.
I frantically tried to stop her, but then I bumped into something that stopped me from moving. I stuck out my hand and felt something solid even though there should have been nothing but empty air. It was almost like an invisible wall.
“You won’t be able to reach the door.”
I found myself looking at Shun.
On his face was a faint smile.
Sitting snugly in the palm of his hand was a small black box with geometric patterns.
“Labyrinth.” He announced the name of the Relic that was blocking my way.
Labyrinth—in other words, a maze.
“You sure ran into some problems, didn’t you, Asuka. I came here because I was worried.”
Shun spoke to her with the kind voice one might use for a child.
Asuka showed him her phone to reply. She was using text so I had no idea what she said. The invisible wall was stopping me from going to Saki’s side.
“That’s not right, Asuka.” Shun refuted whatever she wrote. I was curious about what they were talking about.
Asuka took out a triangular pendant from her pocket, and held it up by its chain. The pendant seemed to show some kind of reaction and began to spin in an arc.
“Though it does seem Dowsing’s showing a reaction.”
Shun turned his gaze from Asuka to Saki.
“I’ll be taking you with us somewhere else. If possible, I’d like you to come quietly. I don’t want to be rough, but there are ways to compel you if we must.”
“Wait!” I heard those ominous words and banged on the invisible wall.
I tried to stop Shun and Asuka from taking Saki away, but knew more than anyone that my words would have no effect.
“Well then, shall we go?”
Right as Shun was about to leave, Asuka showed him something on her phone again.
“Ah, really? Well that’s a problem. And his path’s blocked off by Labyrinth, isn’t it…
“Hey man, could you do me a favor and give Otodama back?” Shun boldly asked.
I looked at Otodama— the flute I had stolen from Asuka. How was I even supposed to give it back when there was an invisible wall between me and Shun? At any rate, maybe I could use it as a bargaining tool.
“Do something about this Labyrinth wall thing right now if you want me to give it back.”
“Fine then, I guess you can keep it.” Shun easily shot my negotiation attempt down.
He gave up on Otodama and turned back to the door.
“You should know your place.”
Shun then urged Saki to the door, looking almost like he was escorting her. Saki herself quietly went along, perhaps thinking it was best not to resist.
But before she left, she turned to me just once.
And in her eyes, I saw fear, and a plea for me to save her.
I knew it was pointless, but I couldn’t help shout.
I knew it was impossible, but I couldn’t help but pound on the wall.
But it had no effect.
Shun and the others neither waited, nor took down the invisible wall.
“If you’re thinking of following us to negotiate, you have to bring Otodama with you. Don’t forget. You have to bring it.”
The cold sound of the door closing group through the roof.
I pressed my hands on the invisible walls, and slumped down on my knees.
I couldn’t do anything.
And Saki was taken so easily.
“Argh!” I ganged my head on the invisible wall.
It wasn’t to break the wall, but to break out of my pointless thoughts.
Reflecting, and lamenting on my powerlessness wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing now.
Shun and Asuka were after Relics.
The problem was with how much information they had at right now. From the gym at Toujou-san’s school, the concert hall with Maria and finally the time spent tailing Saki and me today. How much information did they get from all that?
Going by how they took Saki with them, there were a few things I could gather.
If all they wanted was to steal the Mirror of Serenity from Saki, there would have been no need to take her along. Either they wanted to user her as a hostage and steal my Vision, or they were going to try using her to get more information on Relics.
My worst fear was that they even learned about Tsukumodo Antique Shop and were investigating it, among other things.
I didn’t think Saki was simply going to tell them about Vision and Tsukumodo.
But if Saki insisted on silence or tried to tell a clumsy lie, there was a chance that Shun and the others would do something to her.
There was no time.
The things I needed to do hadn’t changed, but thinking things through had calmed me down.
First thing was to figure out how to break through this invisible wall and follow after Shun and the others.
I took the girl with me and went down the emergency stairs.
I was thinking I’d have to do something if she tried to escape, but now it seemed that concern was unnecessary.
We went down the emergency stairs and got to the first floor.
“Well then…Maino-san, right? Why don’t you tell me what kind of Relic this is?” I held up the mirror Relic we had taken from her earlier. “Though from the look of it, it seems to be a Relic that blocks sound.”
“… It’s the Mirror of Serenity.”
She answered quietly and slowly, choosing her word carefully.
“So what are you going to do now that you know? Do really want Relics that much? If you’re collecting them for fun, then I suggest you stop. Relics bring misfortune on their owners.”
“Sorry, but I’m not interested in playing questions and answers with you about that right now. If you’re trying to buy time, then I’d say give it up.”
I didn’t think he could break through Labyrinth, but in the off chance that he did escape, it would take him so long that there was no need for me to rush.
“You think so?”
Asuka wasn’t exactly expressive herself, but this girl was also something else.
“You believe in him? Well, I suppose that’s alright. Let’s get started now then to out of respect for him.”
I had no intention of keeping up the small talk, of course.
“I’d like you to cooperate with us.”
“You said before that we were collecting Relics for fun, but that’s not correct. We’re working to achieve a goal, and for that goal, we need you. More precisely, we need your Relic.”
“What are you going to use the Mirror of Serenity for?”
“No, that’s not the one we need.”
I fixed my eyes on her and spoke.
“I’m talking about the other Relic that you possess.”
After moment of silence. “… I don’t have any other Relics.” She replied with the same unchanging expression.
The lack of any reaction was so complete, that I was liable to believe her even if there existed a Relic that could read people’s hearts.
“We’ve met twice now haven’t we, you and him both. There was the time at that one girl’s school, and at the concert hall. Ah, that’s three times if you include today.”
“It’s all the same to me.”
“I suppose it is. Regardless, there was something I was extremely curious about in our first two encounters. The first time we met, you evaded all the falling in the gym even though you didn’t have a Fortune Relic.”
“You two didn’t have a single scratch on you either.”
“That’s true, but that’s because we were the ones who caused it. Though I guess there’s no point in admitting to it now. Either way, my guess was that you two were further away from the rest of the crowd and managed to evade because you noticed before everyone else.”
“And then there was the incident at the concert. You hit the fire alarm before anything even happened at the venue, didn’t you? We were thinking of dropping the stage light and killing Maria and her mother at that time, and would have never imagined that the fire alarm would go off first. Though in the end, I suppose it was good thing everyone was able to evacuate.”
“Yes, that was fortunate.”
“Now allow me to check something.” I said, and took a pendant out of my pocket. “This is a Relic that reacts to other Relics. It’s called Dowsing.”
“………” She swallowed ever so slightly, but otherwise kept silent.
“I’ll say this one more time. We need the Relic that you possess, because with it, we will—
—Change the world.
“Did something happen? Saki-chan took the Mirror of Serenity earlier, but she hasn’t come back.”
The very first thing I did was call Towako-san.
He usual teasing tone was gone. I had yet to return to the shop and Saki had taken the Mirror of Serenity with her, so Towako-san had an idea of what was going on to some extent.
I was thankful for that because it made the conversation so much faster,
“We were attacked by the pair from before. They took Saki hostage.”
There wasn’t much time, so I just gave her the simple version of what happened before hanging up.
Thankfully I was able to learn about the characteristics of Labyrinth from Towako-san while I still had her on the phone.
Labyrinth was a Relic that prevented its target from reaching a set location, or in other words, a goal. In my example, it created a maze that prevented me from reaching the entrance to the roof. It was possible Shun also used Labyrinth as a practical way to keep Saki from escaping.
But at the end of the day, it was still a maze. There wasn’t a maze in existence that had no route to the goal. Basically I just needed to find the way out.
What I had to do was simple, but it was by no means easy.
I slid my hand along the invisible wall, and it bumped into another wall. Then I stood up and continued to the right. The wall continued that way until it reached the fence. I stretched my hand out to the fence, but hit an invisible wall this time too.
The was a wall blocking my path in front of me and to the right.
I ran to the left. Suddenly the hand I had sliding along the wall thrust out into the air.
“There’s a space here.”
I groped along the wall to get a better feel for the space. There was enough room for someone to squeeze through.
I pushed myself through that space and continued forward.
But just as I got within three steps of the door, I was stopped by another wall.
Sure enough there was al wall to my right, but nothing blocking me on the left.
Maybe if I were able to se the walls, I would have known this was a path that turned left.
I continued left, but then bumped into another wall. This time there was nothing blocking my path to the left or right. It was a T shaped intersection.
If I went right, I’d be closer to the door. If I went left, I’d be further way.
… Given that this was a maze, it wasn’t likely for there to be a path straight to the door.
I choose to go left, temporarily distanced myself from the exit.
But after going for a while, I was stopped again.
My expectations were betrayed. It was like Shun had me in the palm of his hand.
I kicked the invisible wall, then turned around and headed towards the door.
This route also ended at a wall, and once again the path split to the left and right. Which one should I choose this time?
Labyrinth—the invisible maze. Yeah, it definitely was huge and invisible.
I chose the left path and continued. This one was a dead end too, but this time only a path to the left was open. I was already quite far from the door now.
Should I return? Or should I keep going?
I chose to continue—and the next thing I knew, I was right back where I started.
“Shit!” I shouted. My irritation had reached a boiling point.
It was nauseating just how good this Relic was for buying time.
Who knew what kind of horrible things Saki was going through while I was stuck doing this, and yet here I was, taking on a maze in a place like this.
What could I do? No, this wasn’t the time to stand around worried.
If I didn’t break through this maze—
“Change…the world?” She showed looked slightly bewildered after hearing of our goal.
“That’s right. We’re working to change the world.”
“Is something like that even…”
“It is possible,” I declared, “as long as we have your Relic and mine together.”
“We promise not to harm you if you cooperate. But if you refuse, we’ll take it by force.”
Things would probably get violent if it came to that.
“That’s why, if possible…”
“Can that Relic change the past?” She didn’t wait for me to finish, and conveyed her own wish.
She wanted to change the past.
I glanced Asuka. She used to have the same wish in the past.
But her wish didn’t come true.
Not even my Relic could change what happened in the past.
“Unfortunately that’s impossible.” I gave her a straight answer.
It would have been simple to hide that truth and take her in as our ally, but that would have been cowardly behavior. I couldn’t betray her hopes like that, even if it resulted in us having to steal her Relic.
My own honor would not allow me to earn her trust by hiding the truth and telling her lies.
That would make me no different from those who hid the truth and used Relics to make a perfect world for themselves as they saw fit.
“The events of the past cannot be changed.”
I could see the clear disappointment from her face.
“But if I change the world, maybe I could also grant your wish. If it’s alright with you, could you tell me about it? Your wish, that is.”
She didn’t answer.
Her wish wasn’t one she could share easily, it seemed.
“Does your wish have any connection the Relic he has?”
“!” Her expressionless mask broke, and now her face was the very picture of surprise.
“You thought we didn’t notice?”
“Well we did, and that’s why we’ve chosen the best way to do this. A method that doesn’t harm him or you.”
Rage flared up in her eyes.
“Are you saying you’ll do something to Tokiya?”
“If we must…” I responded.
I slammed my fist against the invisible wall.
I was now back at the starting point.
Just a few meters away from the door.
But it was so far.
I couldn’t make it there no matter how hard I tried.
Was there really an exit to this maze?
What if it made to look like there was an exit when there really wasn’t?
Doubts like that were starting to pop up in my mind.
No, stop. My heart would break if I kept thinking this way. There’s no way I could give up. Saki was waiting for me.
I looked at my cellphone.
I was using it to mark down my route so I wouldn’t forget.
It was a top down view of the maze, with the door facing north, with numbers of steps written down for all the paths going north, south, east, and west. I would have been able to draw an easier to understand map if I had a pen and paper on me.
I double checked the route.
There were four paths from the starting point, no more than that. From there they split into countless other paths. I had input dozens of routes into my phone at this point. Enough to make me if I really hadn’t found all of them. .
But the fact that I had yet to reach the entrance meant there had to be at least some routes I hadn’t discovered.
“Where is it? Where am I overlooking?”
Suddenly a sudden gust of wind blew around the building.
The wind blew in some leaves that passed through the invisible walls.
It was almost like the leaves were mocking me; they were completely unaffected by the invisible walls and floated right to the door.
In the end, that’s all this maze was doing. It was blocking me from the entrance.
It was an imperfect maze that couldn’t even stop leaves.
That’s right. The maze wasn’t perfect. There had to be some gaps I could take advantage of.
The wind blew again.
I turned around to face it.
The roof of this building was higher than its surroundings. All I could see were buildings far in the distance, and a clear blue sky.
Suddenly a flash of inspiration, not the noise of static, ran through the back of my head.
“Really?” She asked in a vanishing voice. “Can you really do something like that?” She sounded full of hope.
“Yeah. I won’t lie.”
Once more. My own honor would not allow me to earn her trust by hiding the truth and telling her lies. That’s why I admitted the truth.
“I will change the world. If you cooperate, we can change the world. Even if the past can’t be changed, we can surely reach the world you desire.”
I wasn’t saying that because I knew exactly what her wish was.
But if it was related to Relics, then I would probably be able to grant it.
I could sense that her heart was starting to waver.
What was it that was making her hold on?
Did she want proof that her wish could be granted, or…
“If you want proof, then you’ll first need to tell me your wish.”
“My wish is…”
“I should be able to grant it for you.”
“My wish is…”
All of a sudden I heard a clanging that sounded like something was hitting metal. That sound was clearly approaching here.
I looked at Asuka.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and listened carefully to the approaching sound.
“[Someone is coming]”
At the exact same time Asuka told me what was happening, a shadow fell from the atrium of the first floor.
The one who appeared was Kurusu Tokiya, his shoulders heaving.
With my frantic arrival, I saw the people I was looking for.
Shun, Asuka, and Saki.
I shouted to her, and after a brief moment of hesitation, Saki began to run towards me.
But Shun was faster.
He ran his finger across Labyrinth, which he had in his hand, and Saki suddenly stopped, looking as if she had bumped into something. Shun must have put up a wall to stop her from going anywhere.
Saki tried to yell something, but her voice didn’t reach me either, because Asuka had taken the Mirror of Serenity from Saki earlier, and was pointing it towards her.
Neither Saki herself, nor her voice could reach me now.
“You arrived faster than I thought you would. Well done escaping from Labyrinth so quickly. But there’s something I don’t understand…I noticed you didn’t come down the stairs.”
“Meaning…wow, what a surprise. That’s what you resorted to?”
“Yeah, well I wouldn’t have made it without surprising you. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
I thought back to when the winds turned in my favor.
The wind was blowing, carrying with it leaves that floated right through Labyrinth’s invisible walls. Those leaves were what showed me the way out of the maze.
I wasn’t talking about a way to get to the door. What I realized was that the leaves floated into Labyrinth from behind me.
Which meant that there was also an open path behind me.
And that led to me jumping off the side of the building.
I didn’t just drop to the ground, of course. The building was still under construction, and that meant there was still netting in place to protect the exterior and glass, and also to keep the scaffolding from blowing away.
I used that netting and the scaffolds to run down the side of the building.
Although Vision didn’t show me a future of death, I held on the unreliable netting for dear life as I went down all eight floors. I couldn’t even begin to describe the terror. By the time I got to the bottom, the hands I held onto the netting with, and the legs I ran down the scaffolds with were so tense, they hurt.
Still, I made it somehow.
“I’m here for you.”
I couldn’t exactly say I made it in time.
But I was still here.
“I’d like to remind you that going around the maze is against the rules.”
“I wanna remind you, that kidnapping people and stealing their Relics is against the rules.”
“I suppose you’re right. Either way, we both went against the rules of the world the moment we used Relics. At this point these kind of infractions mean nothing.”
“Don’t try to act like we’re the same.”
Shun shrugged. That gesture, along with his lackadaisical attitude hit a nerve.
“You know, I didn’t think this would end up turning into a standoff. What to do do…? By the way, you did bring Otodama with you, right?”
“Obviously. It’s my bargaining tool.” I held up Otodama for him to see.
“I’d like to congratulate you, but if possible, could you not get in our way?”
“I don’t know what you’re planning, but you can’t be surprised that I’m going to try stopping you.”
“I suppose so. If only you had arrived just a little later, I could have…no, forget it. Anyway, what are you going to do?”
“Let me think about it after I capture you two.”
I didn’t give Shun time to protest, and ran to grab him
“Oh well. I figured things would turn out like this.” He waited for my charge with a relaxed attitude.
My outstretched hand reach Shun, and—
—M hands came out empty, even though I was sure I had gotten him.
I lost my balance, stumbled, and fell onto the floor.
“Frustrating, isn’t it?”
I looked up and saw Shun standing there, hands in his pockets with a smile on his face.
I was absolutely sure I had caught him, but he had dodged by a paperthin margin. It almost felt like the type of move a master martial artist would pull off.
I quickly got back up and tried to grab Shun one more time.
This time, I didn’t look away, and kept my eyes on him until the very end as I reached out to grab him.
But again, I just barely failed to catch him.
“You know, I’m actually not that good with these kinds of physical altercations.”
Shun was so relaxed, it was pissing me off.
“Did you really think you could do anything after going through a few fights with Relics?” His unpleasant smile grew even wider. “You might have thought the fact you arrived here would be enough to win, but now you’ve been caught in another maze. A labyrinth where I am the goal. Surely you didn’t think making mazes was all this Relic was good for.”
Labyrinth hadn’t just been a tool to stop me from escaping the roof.
Originally it was to prevent people from reaching the treasure at the center of the maze.
I was already trapped inside the next one—a maze that blocked all paths to Shun.
… How was I supposed to deal with this?
In order to reach him, I had to take Labyrinth away.
But in order to take Labyrinth away, I had to reach him first.
I have no way to beat him without doing something about this dilemma.
“So how are you going to break through this paradox?”
I was naive. What the hell was I thinking, assuming everything would be alright once I escaped the roof?
Now I understood why he was so relaxed.
At a glance, he seemed to be a weak looking boy that was younger than me, but given just how many Relics his had, he had probably gone through battlefields that someone like me had never experienced.
I had also run into classmates and criminals that went wild with Relics.
But Shun was different from my usual opponents.
He wasn’t just going wild with his Relics, he was using them very deliberately.
Fear of this unfathomable opponent ran through every part of my body.
But there was no way I could break here. Not until I saved Saki.
I was going to find a way out of this, just like I did when I escaped from the roof.
He had a look in his eyes like he was searching for something as he made his next move.
First, he tried to grab me, same as all the other times.
That didn’t work at all, of course; he missed me completely.
However, unlike before, he didn’t stumble and lose his balance this time.
Meaning he already knew wasn’t going to catch me and came prepared.
Next he threw a punch.
Naturally, he missed.
Next he through a kick.
Naturally, he missed.
I had a vague idea of what he was after.
He was trying to find out what could, and couldn’t reach me.
I suppose he was going to try a lot more things to see what kind of attacks were effective against me after this.
Indeed, it was an appropriate choice for someone involved with Relics like him.
He understood that Relics were not necessarily all-powerful.
… This was turning into a bit of a pain.
To think, if only he had arrived just a little later, everything would have gone exactly according to plan…
My grabs, punches, and kicks weren’t working…nothing was reaching Shun.
It was just like he said, all my paths to him were totally blocked off.
Going by the exchange so far, it was probably safe to assume that I wouldn’t be able to break through Labyrinth with a direct attacks.
Put another way, I needed something else.
If Labyrinth’s power was currently directed at me, then that meant Saki was free to move.
It didn’t look like her movement was being restricted, but I wasn’t planning to ask Saki to do something and put her in harm’s way.
I put my hand in my pocket to confirm it was still there.
To be honest, it wasn’t the type of Relic that could be used lightheartedly, but this wasn’t the time to worry about that. Moreover, I was feeling anything but lighthearted right now.
If I used this, maybe I’d reach Shun—
I put Otodama to my lips and blew.
But all I got was a high pitched whistle. No attacks came out like when Asuka used it.
I tried blowing again and again, but nothing changed.
“Otodama isn’t a Relic you can learn to use in an afternoon. Not even I can use it.”
Shun must have anticipated this, because he didn’t look shaken in the slightest.
Otodama wasn’t the kind of tool where you could just blow into it and have it automatically produce the sound and phenomenon you wanted. You still needed to have the appropriate technique to produce the right sound.
That was my miscalculation.
My grabs, punches, and kicks didn’t work, and now the Relic I was putting my hopes on was useless too. What options did I have left? There was hardly anything else I could do.
“… Shit!” I threw Otodama at Shun.
“Wait, wha—” Shun exclaimed, looking surprised.
“I never thought you’d actually throw the Relic. How unexpected.”
Looks like I was able to catch him off guard a little bit. But aside from making me feel a little better, that didn’t help my situation at all.
“Don’t you think you’re being too reckless here?”
“If can’t use it, I don’t need it”, I spat and charged at Shun one more time.
It went without saying that Shun dodged my attack.
But I had already anticipated that.
I didn’t turn around, and kept running straight past him.
My target was Asuka.
She raised Otodama up, having picked it up when I threw it earlier.
But even still, I wasn’t cursing myself for being stupid enough to throw my enemy a weapon.
I already knew this was happen. What I did was intentional, and all part of the plan as I charged towards her..
The distance between she and I quickly shrunk.
I was close enough that if she tried to do something like collapse the ceiling, she’d be caught up in it too.
“Asuka!” Shun shouted to warn her.
She nodded in acknowledgment, put Otodama to her lips, and blew.
—What was she going to do?
A small boom came out of Otodama, the sound of an explosion, almost like a compressed air bomb.
Perfect. With the distance between us, it was impossible for her to pull off indirect attacks like collapsing the ceiling, or breaking something in the area.
A direct attack—this was definitely going to be a direct attack.
Knowing what was coming, I instantly jumped to the side.
And with me out of the way, there was now someone else directly in front of Asuka’s line of fire—Shun
I hadn’t thrown Otodama because I was reckless and angry. If my punches and kicks weren’t working, then my only option was to attack with a Relic. And if I couldn’t use Otodama myself, I just had to give it to someone who could.
Everything was going according to plan, from Asuka picking up Otodama, to her using it for a direct attack.
Everything after this was going to be a gamble.
I looked in Shun’s direction while I rolled out of the way.
There he was—standing there with a cool smile.
“What a shame.” Shun started, sounding like he had seen through my strategy. “I can’t be harmed by any attack that comes from Otodama.”
Shun should have been hit by the shockwave that Otodama created, but he was just standing there looking composed.
The materials on the ground were caught in the blast, and they were lifted from the ground and slammed into the wall.
There definitely was a shockwave.
But it was only the area around Shun that seemed like it had no wind at all.
Shun didn’t dodge this attack.
But even though he didn’t dodge it, the attack still didn’t reach him.
Was this also because of a Relic’s power?”
“Disappointing, isn’t it? You had a good plan, but I told you before, didn’t I? You’re reckless.”
This gamble end in my loss.
I lost, and all I accomplished was handing over a weapon to the enemy.
Asuka fixed her gaze on me, and raised Otodama to her mouth one more time.
Leaving aside whether or not he could use it, I foresaw he would try to use Otodama against me and took measures beforehand.
However, I never imagined he would actually throw it at me.
Nothing would have changed even if he hit me, assuming it was even possible for his attacks to get past Labyrinth in the first place.
That wasn’t the issue, though.
The problem was that I never considered that someone who knew the value of Relics would ever do such a thing.
In the end, there was a limit to what I could predict.
People didn’t always behave as I expected them to.
But that didn’t matter anymore.
All we needed to do now was take him down with Otodama.
With that, the fight would end.
And when it did, our wish would be granted.
“Why don’t you behave yourself now?”
There still weren’t many things I could hide behind here on the ground floor. I dealt with this problem the first time by running up the stairs, but there was no way I could do that now.
Leaving Saki here and running away simply wasn’t an option.
I noticed her try to take advantage of the opportunity and move while Labyrinth’s power wasn’t being aimed at her, but Shun was a second faster. He ran his finger on Labyrinth and sealed her movement again.
“That applies to you too, behave yourself. I won’t let you go to him.”
“He’s right, stay put. I’ll be there to save you soon.” I smiled at Saki, even though I really didn’t have that leeway right now.
“Asuka, do it.”
At Shun’s signal, Asuka raised Otodama to her mouth.
I hid myself behind a nearby pillar.
A moment later, I heard the same exploding sound as before, followed shortly by a matching blast.
The pillar on my back shaking from the force of the explosion.
Was she seriously trying to kill me? A cold sweat went down my shivering spine.
Then I heard the sound of something breaking above my head.
I responded instinctively, and leaped forward without even looking up.
A few seconds later, steel poles came crashing down at the spot I had been standing just moments before, clanging as they landed and rolled on the ground.
Just from what I could see, Asuka had a number of things she could use to attack in this unfinished building, from the lumber leaning against the wall, to the steel poles assembled above us, to the concrete chunks off the ceiling .
Next, I heard a pop, and the light above my head burst into pieces, showering glass above my head.
I jumped to the side and rolled to avoid the shards.
Having rolled out from behind the pillar, I found myself in front of Asuka.
Thanks to that, I could now see Saki’s face too.
She was still reflected in the Mirror of Serenity, and Labyrinth’s invisible walls were stopping her from going anywhere.
But even still, Saki was pounding against the invisible walls, trying to tell me something.
Don’t worry. Otodama can’t hurt me at all. …I tried to imitate Shun, but couldn’t force myself to be so relaxed, and my faces cramped up instead.
Asuka focused on me, and played Otodama again.
Another explosion rang out, sending steel beams flying at me almost like someone threw them.
I instinctively protected my face with my hands.
Of the six poles, four of them went in a different direction, and one of them hit me in the side. Before I could even scream out in pain though, the remaining one then hit me square in the head.
A wet substance flowed down from my head and dampened my forehead.
I would have been skewered by now if it was the tip of the pole that hit me.
But this was still fine.
Vision hadn’t shown me anything.
I wasn’t facing life threatening danger just yet.
I wiped away the blood from my head with my sleeve and responded to Asuka’s next attack.
It was the same kind of explosion used against Shun earlier.
But due, to the damage on my head, I had failed to hear it in time.
And that was a fatal mistake.
I took the shockwave almost head on and was slammed to the ground.
Pain battered my body, and for a moment, I blacked out.
It was only the pain from my head bumping into the lumber leaning on the wall that let me hold onto my consciousness.
I was getting hit on the head an awful lot between yesterday and today. What was I going to do if I got even stupider somehow?
It was then, in that moment, that I saw Saki.
She was shaking her head—and if I wasn’t imagining things, she wasn’t expressionless as usual. Saki looked like she was about to cry.
It hurt. Never mind my head, there was another part of me that felt an aching pain.
Don’t make that face. Just your usual expressionless face is fine.
… Ah, I was the one who caused her to make that face, wasn’t I?
What should I do? How can I settle this without Saki crying, without her making that face?
Simple. I just had to beat these two.
If I beat them and saved Saki, then what more did I need?
… That said, it was going to be a bit harder than usual this time.
I was all out of ideas.
Vision hadn’t shown me anything, which meant I wasn’t going to die just yet…but I wasn’t optimistic enough for that to be a comforting thought.
It was probably only a matter of time before Vision showed me a future of my death.
And when that time came, I wasn’t confident I’d have the strength to avoid it.
Stop being so weak, I tried to psych myself up.
Not for anyone’s sake. Not even Saki.
Then, I heard the snap of something coming apart.
The wire holding the leaning pieces of lumber together fell onto my face.
There’s no way I’d survive if I got pinned under the lumber like this.
I leaped up, and quickly jumped out of the way.
Asuka walked over to inspect after I jumped out of the way, perhaps to see if I had been crushed underneath.
If she’s this close…
I psyched myself up, and leaped at Asuka to snatch Otodama from her, and
Suddenly my eyes were spinning.
For a moment, I had no idea what just happened.
I crashed into something and fell to the ground.
It was as I lay there that I realized—
—Labyrinth’s invisible wall.
I didn’t even have the luxury to feel regret falling for the bait, because when I sat up, the next thing I saw was…
“This can’t be real.”
The sound of a rumbling forklift engine as it made its way towards me.
Otodama can even make sounds like that? I could only bounce those stupid thoughts in my mind while I waited for the forklift.
My body couldn’t move, but my mind was still pointlessly active.
And it wasn’t like I could think efficiently given the circumstances. Pointless thought were all I was capable of now.
—It’s all over.
But just when the thought went through my mind, by sheer coincidence, a number of steel beams suddenly crashed down in front of me, and acted as a shield to stop the forklift.
It seemed I still had some luck left somehow.
“Looks like I’m late.”, I heard a reliable voice say from behind me.
The timing seemed almost intentional, but I was going to assume it was just a happy coincidence.
Towako-san had come for us.
I suppose it would cruel to call it Asuka’s weakness.
Her Otodama was actually capable of making direct attacks.
A sound to tear skin, to break bones, to cut blood vessels…there were countless sounds she could use to injure people.
But Asuka wasn’t good at that.
Her skill with Otodama wasn’t the issue; the problem was with how she wanted to use it.
If Asuka was left with no choice, or was in a dire situation—or maybe if I asked her to, she would likely dirty her hands.
But I didn’t want to force her if I could avoid it.
I didn’t want to hurt her.
… Perhaps you could call that my weakness.
But it was just a matter of time.
No doubt this battle would soon come to an end.
Was Maino just going to forgive us and cooperate even though we hurt him so much?
No, perhaps it was best not to dwell on that.
She all but wanted nothing to do with us now.
But all we could do to achieve our dreams was harden our hearts against pity.
Asuka used Otodama to play an engine sound.
A nearby forklift responded to her playing skills that could even be called art.
The forklift wasn’t moving all that quickly, but I suppose it was good enough given the heavy steel beams it was carrying.
This whole thing was going to go a lot faster once he was concussed or otherwise stopped from moving.
We would get what we needed and leave.
Just as the forklift was moments away from hitting him—
Its was stopped by a cascade of steel beams.
A smile returned to his face even though he was still covered in injuries and was just on the verge of giving up moments ago.
“Just like you to show up with this timing.”
A lone woman had stepped onto the stage.
“Looks like they kicked the crap out of you.”
“Oh it wasn’t that bad.”
Towako-san’s banter sparked a fire in me, even if I knew she was doing it on purpose. In fact, it was because she was doing on purpose that I wanted to act tough.
“So did you bring the thing I asked for?”
Truth was, I had called Towako-san earlier and asked her to bring a certain Relic with her. With it in our possession, we could probably find away to turn this fight around.
“The thing you asked me for…”
The Relic I needed was Mind’s Voice.
I was going to use it to read Shun and Asuka’s minds to learn more about their plan as well as the Relics they owned.
“I couldn’t bring it with me.”
My mind went completely blank at Towako-san’s reply.
“Why!?” The next thing I knew, I was shouting.
The glimmer of hope that I finally had was disappearing all too quickly.
“I looked, but it wasn’t where I left it last. Did you guys go in there before on your own and take it or something?”
“Ugh. Actually that’s…”
“Really now. That’s why I keep telling you guys not to go in there.”
Even though we kind of brought this on ourselves, this turn of events hurt.
“I can’t call it a replacement exactly. but I did bring another Relic instead. I’ll try to work something out with it.”
“No time to explain. Tell me what happened here first.”
“Right. Well, let me say these guys are the worst.”
I told her about how they kidnapped Saki, how Asuka’s attacks had driven me into a corner, and how Labyrinth was blocking all of my attacks.
“Is that your friend?”
Shun’s smile didn’t falter even after Towako-san’s abrupt entrance. He took out a Relic from his pocket, the one they called Dowsing, or something. It looked like he was trying to see whether or not Towako-san had any Relics.
“I’ve got a Relic, alright.” Towako-san didn’t bother hiding anything and flat out admitted it.
But Shun kept Dowsing swinging.
“I just told you I had a Relic, didn’t I?. I don’t see why you need to keep checking.”
“You think I’ll just believe what an enemy tells me?”
“You don’t believe me? There has to be more to it than just that…I think you’re looking for something else. Dowsing doesn’t just react when there are Relics nearby. Its movement can also reveal a Relic’s name. At the end of the day, what you really want to know is the name of my Relic, isn’t it?”
Shun looked shocked.
“Tokiya, not knowing the names of a Relic puts them at a disadvantage.”
Towako-san pointed that fact out with her usual unpleasant and lighthearted grin, wiping the relaxed smile right off Shun’s face.
“You seem to be quite a dangerous person.”
“I suppose I am for people who use Relics to commit crimes.”
“Now, then”, Towako started, and took a deep breath. “I’ll have you return my precious employees back to me.”
Dowsing’s power worked by moving in reaction to nearby Relics.
Tracking its movement would then spell out the name of said Relic.
But it wasn’t all-powerful in that it could tell me about every everything.
There was a limit to the area it could search for one, and the further the distance, the more unclear the movement became. The fact that investigating took some time was another of its downsides.
Additionally, because its movement was dependent on the chain it swung from, Dowsing was also weak to outside forces like the wind. This wasn’t too much of an issue if all I wanted to know whether or not someone had a Relic, but it was hard to use to if I wanted to determine a Relic’s name.
That was the reason I didn’t use Dowsing on the roof earlier. There was no way to expect an accurate answer with all the wind blowing there.
But why did this woman know all this?
She knew a lot. Too much, even.
Who was she, exactly? She was able tell a Relic’s name and power at a glance.
Was that the result of some Relic ability?
Or was she just that deeply knowledgeable about Relics?
Either way, things weren’t looking good the way they were going.
This situation was only going to get worse if I didn’t make the first move.
“Tokiya, which one is harder to deal with: Otodama, or Labyrinth?”
After thinking about it for a bit, I responded, “Labyrinth.”
True, there was nothing more annoying than Otodama’s attacks, but if you asked me which one was harder to deal with, I had to say it was Labyrinth. Given that fact that it made all my attacks ineffective, among other things, I didn’t see any way to win.
“Got it. I’ll do something about Labyrinth, so you do something about Otodama.”
“You really think I…”
…could do something like that?, I didn’t finish that sentence.
If Towako-san said she was going to do it, then I would believe her.
Things were looking better now that she was here.
That said, it didn’t mean there was a surefire strategy for victory.
Towako-san probably knew that too, and that’s why she was going for a brute force surprise attack without waiting to get a better feel for the situation. It was do or die, and if there was any time to win, this was it.
I chose to believe in Towako-san and ran towards Asuka.
It looked like Shun had snapped out of his daze; Labyrinth was still in his hand.
But Towako-san told me she was going to do something about him—
Asuka raised Otodama up.
—Which meant my job was to do something about her.
Asuka’s reflexes and judgement ability weren’t all that great, so if I could confuse her, then victory was mine.
Thanks to the series of attacks from before, there was now some distance between Asuka and Shun.
I positioned myself so that Shun came diagonally between me and her as I ran towards Asuka. She must have recalled the event from earlier, because that caused her to hesitate from attacking for just a moment.
That was the chance I needed. I took advantage of that moment to close the distance between us.
Shun was watching, and put his finger on Labyrinth to stop me.
But Towako-san made her move before he could do anything.
I couldn’t make out what she was saying from behind me, but I did gather that she was muttering something.
Then I heard the soothing sound of a bell ring out from behind me.
And immediately after—
Labyrinth slipped our of Shun’s hand and landed on the floor.
It was too perfect to have been a coincidence.
In other words, the Relic Towako-san had caused it. Now there was nothing blocking my path forward.
Towako-san’s voice urged me on from behind.
Asuka was surprised that Shun dropped Labyrinth and was slow to react. She recovered in time to play Otodama, but in her panic, the sound she produced was at best a harmless pop that wouldn’t have even killed a fly.
“Asuka!” Shun yelled.
Asuka panicked and tried to play Otodama again.
But I was now close enough to snatch it now.
I stretched out my arm to grab Otodama, and—
Bang! An attack sent me flying back.
—What just happened?
I was so sure that I made it.
I was so sure I snatched Otodama before Asuka could play another sound.
But before my hand reached it, there was an explosion, and I was suddenly sent flying back.
Towako-san’s voice woke me up, and I saw Asuka standing right in front of me. She was about to play Otodama again.
She wasn’t close enough for me to counter attack, and to make things worse, I was in a terrible position.
I wasn’t going to make it…
It felt like I was hearing a voice.
The next thing I knew, I was right next to Saki.
I saw her soundless screams.
She pounded on the invisible wall, shouting at me with a voice that couldn’t reach.
It was that voice that let me see a way to save myself.
If I was here, that meant—
I quickly grabbed the mirror in front of me, the Mirror of Serenity, and held it up.
Reversal at the brink of death, and without a moment to spare.
I pointed the Mirror of Serenity at Asuka, enveloping her in a perfect silence—
“The Mirror of Serenity’s silence cannot block Otodama.” I heard Shun say from behind me.
Asuka looked unconcerned even as she was reflected in the Mirror of Serenity. She raised Otodama to her lips and let off the sound of an explosion.
That’s right, I heard the sound.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like I was frozen stiff, my body couldn’t move.
Suddenly a shadow darted out in front of me.
That shadow took the brunt of the hit, and was sent flying past me.
I didn’t have to take a moment to wonder what that was.
Even as dazed as I was, I knew.
I ran over to where she was lying on the ground. It almost looked like she had been hit with a real bomb; her usual shirt and suit pants were tattered, and her body—
“Wake up! Get a hold of yourself!”
“… Don’t make such a pathetic voice” Towako-san’s face was pained, but it was the same unpleasant smile as always.
“At my signal, go save Saki.”, she whispered in my ear.
“I actually put in some effort for once, so make it worth something.”
I saw now that Towako-san had taken Relic into her hand at some point.
She had done it. She actually kept her word.
Completely different from me.
“I’m sorry. All I’ve been doing is wasting my chances.”
I should have been able to make it.
I should have been able to steal Otodama before Asuka could play a sound.
I did get to her in time, so there was only one reason I couldn’t take it, and that was because I didn’t do it right.
“You idiot. Get it together. There’s no way you would have wasted your chance in that situation.”
“Doesn’t it feel like that have another Relic? There has to be something. A reason why things keep going exactly as they want. You can’t win without figuring out what it is, so do it.”
Figure it out.
That was a tall order.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try.
Labyrinth, Otodama, and Dowsing. They had another Relic besides those three.
They had another Relic hidden in their sleeves.
I sifted through all the information I had so far.
Grabbing Shun didn’t work.
Neither did punching him.
Neither did kicking him.
It was fair to assume all of that was because of Labyrinth.
But the most recent event was completely different. The fact that the Mirror of Serenity didn’t work was an entirely different matter.
The Mirror of Serenity did without a doubt stop Asuka’s Otodama from making a sound when we were on the roof.
But despite that, it wasn’t working now.
“The Mirror of Serenity’s silence cannot block Otodama.”
It was Shun who said that.
“I can’t be harmed by any attack that comes from Otodama.”
I knew that to be true as well.
Reality was going according to what Shun predicted.
… Was that really it? Could it actually be that the words Shun spoke had real life effects?
Wait, calm down. That was impossible.
If he had that kind of power, then everything would have gone exactly to his plan and this fight wouldn’t have happened in the first place.
When I failed to snatch Otodama from Asuka.
That wasn’t because I wasted my chance.
It was a fact that Asuka didn’t react in time. She hadn’t played Otodama.
But despite that, a sound came out.
Due to some other power.
“Tokiya, not knowing the names of a Relic puts them at a disadvantage.”
Those were Towako-san’s words.
Not knowing the name of a Relic put them at a disadvantage. Why did they need to know the names of Relics?
Because that information was valuable for them.
It was all connected. .
The power of the other Relic that Shun held.
From everything I had seen so far, there was only one possible conclusion.
Shun was able to manipulate the abilities of Relics that he knew the name of—
“Tokiya, are you ready?”
I knew what I had to do next.
“I’ll teach you the magic words that let you use this Relic’s power.”
Towako-san whispered the magic words in a weak voice, and place her Relic into my hand.
It was a small spherical Relic that was almost weightless, but to me, it felt extremely heavy.
“Just know that due to its special trait, there’s a limit to how much you can use it. My guess is that you get one more use, and that’s it. Make sure to only use it where it counts.”
Towako-san pushed me away.
That was the signal.
She ran her finger across the surface of Labyrinth, and then her arm lost its strength and fell to the floor.
It hurt to see, but I couldn’t afford to stop now.
I turned my back to Towako san, and dashed towards Shun.
Asuka immediately put Otodama to her lips and—and then she noticed…
… That Labyrinth’s invisible walls were restricting her movement.
Her hand which held Otodama, was blocked from reaching her mouth so she couldn’t play anything.
“Labyrinth cannot block Asuka’s movement.”
Shun’s words rekindled Asuka’s spirit.
I couldn’t afford to hold back.
Before Asuka could play a destructive sound, I held up the Relic Towako-san gave me.
“Unfortunately for you, I’ve already discovered the name of that Relic.”
Shun held Dowsing in his hand as he chuckled.
As long as he knew the name of a Relic, he could manipulate its power.
But it was too late. I didn’t mind that, and chanted the magic words Towako-san taught me.
A moment later…
A chunk of concrete came falling down from the crumbling ceiling above Shun and Asuka’s heads.
Unlike Otodama’s direct attacks, this was indirect and couldn’t be stopped even if the Relic’s power was manipulated.
“—It doesn’t fall on me and Asuka.”
However Shun chanted without hesitating.
The words to manipulate this Relic’s power.
In the gym. The incident at Toujou-san’s school.
What were they doing when the glass on the ceiling shattered and rained down on everyone?
All the other students suffered huge injuries because of the falling glass.
The two Toujou sisters were unhurt because of their lucky Fortune bangles.
I saw what was going to happen before with Vision, so Saki and I were able to find cover.
But what about Shun and Asuka?
… The didn’t attempt to dodge the glass. They just stood there with carefree smiles on their faces.
Almost as if there was no need to dodge the glass shards.
Or more accurately.
As if there was no need to dodge the glass that was broken by Otodama’s power.
It was like that earlier too.
It wasn’t that Shun was manipulating the sound that Otodama made. What he did was turn the ineffective pop that Asuka played before into an actual explosion.
In other words, Shun’s Relic wasn’t one that manipulated other Relics.
— It was one that warped their effects.
It was like that day in the gym all over again.
Shun and Asuka didn’t take a single step, and the concrete chunk crashed down somewhere else.
I had been naive. My read on them hadn’t been complete enough.
Or maybe I had just been wrong.
A thin smile returned to Shun’s lips.
Asuka, who had escaped from Labyrinth, raised Otodama to he mouth, and set her aim on me.
Saki was in view.
I hope you at least get away.
But my wish went nowhere.
Saki, that reckless idiot, instead of using this chance to escape, saw it as a good opportunity to turn around and snatch Otodama from Asuka now that there was nothing stopping her.
As soon as she did, Asuka lost her aim on me.
But there was still enough time for her to fix her aim.
I couldn’t do anything about Shun right now, but at the very least I could do something about her.
In which case, maybe I still had a chance.
I could make it in time—or so I thought.
I thought that this time for sure, I would reach to Asuka and steal Otodama before she should attack.
But I was mistaken.
I couldn’t call this making it.
What I should have focused on wasn’t attacking Shun, or stealing Otodama from Asuka. It was saving Saki. I had forgotten such an important thing.
There was no need for Asuka to aim at Saki, who was trying to snatch Otodama.
It was completely unnecessary, because Saki was right in front of her.
Otodama’s attack blew her away, just as Towako-san was earlier.
… I did indeed make it before Asuka attacked me.
I made it to Saki, who was injured because of Otodama.
Asuka turned to Saki, and raised Otodama to her mouth, seemingly ready to finish her off.
There was nothing I could do except shield Saki with my body.
This wasn’t part of the plan.
I didn’t want to injure anyone like this.
I didn’t want to hurt Asuka either.
But the fat was, we were simply facing that pressured, and lost didn’t have many options.
Perhaps it would be harsh to say they deserved it, but this was something they brought upon themselves.
We had already completed our objective.
It was done a bit forcefully, but that was just how things went.
That said, if Kurusu Tokiya hadn’t made it in time and we had escaped, then this kind tragedy of might have never happened.
Was this also the inescapable fate of those who got involved with Relics?
If was, then I was going to change that fate.
That was why was here.
… As if. I wasn’t going to feel any better about this no matter how much I consoled myself.
How long was I unconscious for?
When I came to, I saw Shun and Asuka leaving the building with their backs towards me.
I saw them walking right past Towako-san, who was collapsed to the side.
Saki wasn’t there.
What happened to Saki?
Where was she?
Shun and Asuka kept walking away while I was busy wondering.
But who cared about them.
I didn’t care what they did anymore.
What about Saki? How was she?
… Ah, here she is.
So she was this close to me the whole time.
This close to me…it looks like she collapsed?
I forced myself to crawl to where she as.
Her face was turned the other way.
Her back was facing me.
Shun and Asuka were continuing to leave while I was busy doing all this.
It didn’t matter to me that I lost.
It didn’t matter to me that they stole our Relics.
If Saki was alright, then that…
She was unresponsive, so I rolled her over to face me.
Her body turned over without resistance and put all its weight on me.
“… Saki. … Saki? Hey, wake up! Hey!”
I shook her.
But there was no response.
Then, the beautiful silver hair that was covering Saki’s face gently fell away.
Then, I heard the sound of myself snap.
A wild animal scream escaped my throat.
Shun and Asuka turned around, looking surprised.
I charged to where they stood at the building entrance.
Going by the events so far, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything to them, but there wasn’t enough reason left in me to consider that.
I leaped at them, and failed, falling to the ground in an unsightly heap. Then I quickly got up, and charged at them again.
Even when my head hit the ground, even when I crashed into a wall, even when I hit the construction material lying around, I kept attacking.
Over and over.
Like a bull going up against a matador, I charged at Shun.
My attacks may not have reached, they may have been meaningless, they may have been unsightly, but I didn’t stop.
I didn’t stop even after I exhausted my strength and stopped being able to stand back as quickly.
“Isn’t it about time you came back to your senses?” Shun asked, sounding like he had been waiting for the opportunity.
“… Like I could do that.”
Who in the world could respond reasonably after what they did
“How could you do that to her.” I asked them to buy enough time for me to stand up.
“How could you do that to her!?”
“For the sake of our goal.”
“Surely you’ve realized by now what my Relic can do.”
“You can warp the effects of other Relics’ powers.”
“You don’t disappoint. That’s exactly right. That is the power of the Relic I have.”
“But my wish can’t be granted with this alone.”, Shun continued.
“Don’t you think this world is unequal?”
“Don’t be naive. Of course the world is unequal.”
“Right. The world is unequal to everyone in the same way. That’s how it should be. But there’s exist objects in the world that bend that inequality to one’s will..”
“Yes, I mean Relics.”
For the first time, Shun spoke with passion in his voice.
“You remember the incident before with the lucky bangles, right? Fortune and misfortune are normally granted unequally to people in unbalanced amounts, but they used Relics to make themselves lucky whenever they wanted. And it’s not just either . All Relics lead to people using them for their own selfish needs. And you know, I just can’t forgive that.”
“So I’m going to straighten the distortion. I’m going to straighten this world that has been distorted by Relics and return it to how it should have been. That is my mission as someone who understands Relics.”
“You’re not any different, you know.”
“You’re the same as the rest of them.” I laughed mockingly.
“I’m saying you’re exactly the same as all those other people who were controlled by their Relics. There’s not much difference between you and the girl you were mocking for obsessing over her own fortune. That naive stuff about a mission makes you even worse, I’d say.”
“I can’t let that pass without comment. She and I are completely different.”
“What part of it is different? Look at all the things you did to get your hands on the Relics you wanted and—”
“I told you it was for our goal, didn’t I? They simply weren’t enough. The Relics I had before weren’t enough to change the world. I can’t possibly manipulate the effects of every single Relic. Even if I can when a Relic’s power is activated, I can’t do anything before it’s activated. That’s why…”
“…I had to take it.”
What followed, were the last words I ever wanted to hear.
Grimoire, A Relic that could distort the effects of other Relics.
It’s appearance was that of a book.
The words written in it became spells that activated when they were chant it.
Through Grimoire, I was able to warp the phenomena produced by any kind of Relic.
However, the restriction was that any Relic powers that weren’t written down in advance couldn’t be manipulated even if I chanted the magic words.
My usual strategy was to use Dowsing to investigate people used Relics selfishly and correct they distortions they created. If circumstances permitted, I also seized the Relic or destroyed it as well. .
That was my mission.
However, the restriction that things had to be written down in advance was a huge obstacle for my goal.
I had to write down every outcome the Relic could used for, and what would happen once it was distorted.
This restriction meant I was required to predict all the phenomena thatt could possibly occur.
But that was impossible for one person.
It wasn’t like I could predict the future.
That’s why I wrote down what I predicted would happen in an encounter. I wrote as much as I possibly could.
But people subverted expectations. The actions they took turned my predictions on their head.
I suffered scores of difficult situations because of missed predictions. How many losses must I had taken by now…
Of people I should have saved, of life, of happiness.
I had the power to save people, but I had failed countless times.
I had the power to warp Relic powers, but there was nothing I could do.
The sense of powerlessness was just so frustrating.
That’s why I was searching for it…
… the one Relic I needed to complete my goal.
“I had to take it.”
In order to change this world to how it should have been, where everyone was equally unequal.
“The Relic to see the future—”
It was almost like he was another me.
He had a Relic with the power to save people, but there were many people he couldn’t save. Despite that, he held on to the hope that he could at least save somebody, and failed again.
Over and over.
He came to know the truth.
He came to obtain power.
But he couldn’t bear to give up.
If perhaps, he never known about Relic, or perhaps if had been powerless from the beginning, maybe he would have given up.
But even if I told myself that, I wouldn’t forgive him.
This guy hurt Saki.
When I—when I saw Saki’s face, I snapped.
Because what I saw…
… was that Saki’s eyes were missing—
The reality of what those empty eye sockets meant weighed heavily on me.
It was a cruel, heartless reality.
The reality that Saki had become a victim because of me.
That was the thing I could never forgive.
It was the Relic Shun and the others were aiming for.
Their Relic, Dowsing, could only tell if someone had a Relic or not and identify its name.
They tailed us, to see what kind of abilities we had. Perhaps they became suspicious after the events in the gym and concert hall, and suspected us.
And then they found out.
That the Relic I owned, Vision, could see into the future.
But they made one miscalculation.
They didn’t anticipate that Saki and I were always together.
So they misunderstood.
They thought the owner of the Relic wasn’t me, but Saki.
They stole Saki’s eyes.
I couldn’t forgive them. There’s no way I could forgive them.
No matter what happened, I would never, ever forgive them.
I just couldn’t.
“Well, we got what we wanted. Why don’t you let us go home now?”
“You think I’ll just let you walk away?”
“Can you stop us? The Relic that woman brought you that you were relying on is mine now.”
“You think you’re all that because you stole a Relic from me, huh? Well, it doesn’t matter if you have it now; I’ve already finished making preparations.”
I had the magic words Towako-san taught me.
“Oh? But I already know this Relic’s name. Even supposing you did something beforehand, or somehow take this Relic back, I can warp its effects. Didn’t I already explain that to you?”
“This time not even your Relic will be able to stop it. You want to try it?”
“That’s what I’d like to say.”
“…Are you sure you want to try it?”
“Persistent, aren’t you? Just do it already.”
“I suppose I will, then.”
I chanted the magic words Towako-san taught me.
“By chance, construction fall on top of you—”
As if in response to my words, the leaning construction material shook, and started to fall towards Shun.
These were heavy steel beams, about three meters in length.
It wouldn’t end well for anyone that got caught beneath.
But Shun didn’t take a single step away, and stood there quietly.
He had no intention of dodging.
Because there was no need to.
Because all he had to do was warp the effect.
Like the time he and Asuka stood without moving an inch among the countless shards of falling glass in the gym at Toujou-san’s school.
Shun quietly strung some words together.
Probably the spell needed to activate his Relic.
The same words he used to block my attack earlier.
A hex to distort the magic words Towako-san entrusted to me.
“Coincidences caused by Pendolo will not effect me—”
With that, he distorted the result that was meant to happen.
The falling steel beams, just like the shards of glass in the gym, avoided Shun, and crashed into the ground.
—or that’s how it should have been.
But the steel beams didn’t deviate from their course and kept falling.
Slowly they picked up speed, and simply, just simply gave in to the laws of physics. Unaffected by any outside power, they fell.
Straight at Shun.
The falling steel beams did not avoid Shun.
And Shun could not avoid the falling steel beams.
—There were times where I felt disgusted with myself.
Even after I saw what they did to Saki and snapped, there was always a part of me that was scheming on how to beat them.
If I going crazy was what it took for me to become stronger like some kind of a manga hero, then I definitely would have done it from the start.
But I couldn’t. I didn’t have that kind of power.
That’s why I hatched a plot.
I used a trick.
I told a lie
A reckless plot to make the steel beams fall with that timing.
A trick to make something certain look like a coincidence.
A lie, using the magic words moments before the beams fell.
The Relic Towako-san gave me allowed its user to purposefully create coincidences.
But this wasn’t a coincidence brought about by the Relic.
It was a certainty that I made look like a coincidence.
That’s why the Relic Shun had, the hex that he used—could not warp its effect.
The steel beams that should have avoided Shun slowly, but surely, kept their course and collapsed on top of him.
Kurusu Tokiya and the woman they called Towako were standing in front of me when I regained consciousness.
In her hand was a black leather book embroidered with silver thread. It was my Relic—Grimoire.
They must have taken everything while I was unconscious.
“You’re pretty lucky.” Kurusu Tokiya said as he looked down at me.
We were surrounded by fallen steel beams. He was pointing to Asuka next to me with his chin.
On her arm, I saw a bangle—the one that granted you luck when you shared your fortune with other people.
Asuka had put her life in danger to herself to save me, and in exchange earned enough luck to save her own life. If she hadn’t been here to save me, I might have been crushed and killed by the steel beams.
“I see.” said Towako as she flipped through the pages of Grimoire. “You wrote down all the things you expected to happen.”
“Did he really?”
Tokiya Kurusu had understood the nature of Grimoire, and used that knowledge for his bluff.
That’s why I had been completely outwitted.
“Well, what do you plan to do with me?”
She closed Grimoire with a snap and looked down at me.
“From what I understand, you’re collecting Relics.”
“I’m also collecting Relics.”
“Don’t act like I’m just some ordinary collector …”
“At the same time you believe the world would be better off without Relics, huh?”
Kurusu Tokiya next to her also looked surprised.
“Relics bring misfortune on to others. That’s why I believe the world would be better off without them.”
“I suppose that’s something we agree on, then.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as stealing them though. If possible I’d prefer if people let go of them willingly.”
“You’re a softhearted person, aren’t you.”
“Yep, and opportunist too.”
“That’s something we don’t agree on.”
“But you’re not some special exception. You said Relics bring people misfortune, right? That’s exactly why you shouldn’t have any either.”
“… I see. It looks like we have a difference of opinion. You see, I do believe that Relics bring people misfortune, but that refers to other people. I don’t care one whit about the misfortune that befalls the those who own Relics.”
“That includes yourself?”
“Please don’t group me with those people who abuse Relics for their own selfish desires. I’m only using them for the sake of my mission. And even if I were met misfortune, I’d be satisfied if that’s what it took to lead the world back to the correct path…and if that’s what it took to save those made unhappy by Relics.”
“Tokiya already told me about your goal.”
I felt there was a benefit in talking to her, so that’s exactly why I was concerned. Did she really understand my goal?
“Fate is predetermined and unequal, and everyone in this world is bound to it equally. I want to return everything to how it was, before Relics were used to warp the world to people’s own convenience.”
“I see things the same way you do, and that’s exactly why I’m telling you this.”
“That’s exactly why?”
“Relics interfere with otherwise predetermined fates.”
“However, fate has the power to return things to how they were before, and invites misfortune to those who interfere. That’s why Relics lead to sorrow. Misfortune will be the only thing that awaits you if you keep trying to reach your goal.”
“You have the same philosophy as I do, but still reject me. Why? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Towako had a similar way of thinking as me. In fact, you could argue it was the same. Relics created misery and the world would be better off without them. That was the entire reason for my mission, but she still didn’t approve of it.
For the sake of my mission, I wouldn’t complain even if I ended up miserable.
Was it perhaps that she was worried about me?
I didn’t need her concern.
“There’s one thing you don’t understand.”
However, her next words weren’t what I expected.
“What is it? What don’t I understand?”
“You said you were going to save the people hurt by Relics.”
“But look at how much misery you’ve caused though Grimoire and the actions you’ve taken. You don’t seem to what you’ve done, and even if you do, you’re not taking responsibility.”
“You caused a lot of students serious injuries to correct a girl who used a Relic for luck. You let another girl’s mother die because she was using the Switching Dolls. In your path to save others, you also hurt Tokiya and Saki.
“… You’re looking away. You’re protecting yourself behind a shield of self justification and looking away because you don’t want to see. That’s why I can’t support your actions. If you really want to correct the inequality that Relics create, then do it without using any Relics yourself, no matter how hard a path it may be. Your words won’t move anyone if you don’t.”
… She had a point.
But that was exactly why I couldn’t relate. That kind of reasoning was far too lenient for those who used Relics for their own selfish ends.
“This is why I said you were too softhearted.”
What a shame.
Even though I thought I had found someone who really understood my thoughts, and didn’t just support me like Asuka did.
“… Let’s make a bet,” Towako announced, “I’ll leave Labyrinth here, but you’ll only be able to escape the maze if you let it go.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“You’ll see soon enough.” She left it at that, and left with Kurusu Tokiya.
They had taken all of our Relics. Grimoire, Dowsing, and Fortune were all gone, not to mention the ones that already belonged to them.
All I had now was Labyrinth in front of me.
It was true, I couldn’t move right now.
She had used Grimoire to manipulate Labyrinth.
But if I let go of it now, then everything would end here.
This was ridiculous. What exactly was she trying to accomplish, going as using Grimoire.
Was she trying to buy time to prevent me from attacking on their way back?
This wasn’t going to buy them any time though. All I had to do was—
I was moments away from letting go of Labyrinth, but for some reason my hand froze.
The moment I let it go, I would return to not having even a single relic in my possession.
It was a strange feeling.
Like my whole body was going numb.
A touch on my shoulder.
Surprised, I turned around, and let out a sigh when I saw it was just Asuka, who had woken up at some point.
What’s wrong, Asuka looked at me as if to ask.
Nothing, I shook my head and explained the situation to her.
“[Are you going to follow them?]” She asked me through her, phone which somehow still intact.
Of course, I nodded.
I couldn’t fight without taking my Relics back.
If you really want to correct the inequality that Relics create, then do it without using any Relics yourself, no matter how hard a path it may be. Your words won’t move anyone if you don’t.
Those were nothing more than pretty words.
I didn’t have the same soft heart she did.
To fight a war, I needed weapons.
That’s why I was going to take Grimoire back.
I would throw away the one Relic she left behind and—
But contrary to what I wanted, my hand just couldn’t let go of the little black box. Almost like a curse, Labyrinth was stuck to my hand.
Asuka was looking at me confused when she saw me not moving.
I had to abandon Labyrinth and get back the rest of my Relics. I couldn’t fight without them.
But if I threw away Labyrinth, I wouldn’t have a single Relic left, and that was unbearable.
… I was afraid to let go.
I had gotten new Relics over time, but never had to let any go.
There had never been a time where I didn’t have any Relics since I first learned about them.
I was realizing that I had become dependent on Relics.
I couldn’t escape if I didn’t let go.
I couldn’t let go because I was afraid.
Faced with this contradictory paradox, I was trapped inside the maze.
If you really want to correct the inequality that Relics create, then do it without using any Relics yourself, no matter how hard a path it may be. Your words won’t move anyone if you don’t.
Towako-san’s words were still on my mind.
Shun rejected her, saying she was too soft, but I wondered if he would ever realize that that those feelings came from his own weakness.
If he didn’t, then he wouldn’t be able to move a single step.
And if If he did, then he’d be able to embark on a new path.
Would he start to collect Relics again when that happened?
“You’ve forced a really hard problem on him, didn’t you?”
Towako-san’s expression turned bitter at my comment.
“As if I had any right to say that to him.” She was being self-deprecating.
“But I don’t think what you said was wrong.”
If someone with a Relic told others to abandon theirs, then of course their words would hold no weight. .
Maybe Towako-san’s self-deprecating smile was because it was like she was looking at a mirror.
In fact, even I agreed with Towako-san’s thoughts that Relics brought people misfortune, I also had a Relic that I couldn’t let go of.
There were also times that I was left frustrated when my words didn’t reach others.
It felt like Towako-san had just pointed out why.
I didn’t have any grand ambitions like Shun did, but as someone who had done similar things, it hurt to hear.
What if Towako-san saw the same thing when she looked at me.
Or was it just that she thought I was reliable.
I was kind of afraid to know, so I didn’t ask.
“Can I ask you something?”
There was something even more important that I had to ask her—
—Immediately after Shun collapsed.
I ran over to Saki, whose eyes had been taken, and held her.
When I felt her weight and saw her slumped over I my arms, the fear inside me expanded and became even more real.
I couldn’t look directly at her face.
“Hurry! Hurry! Get her to the hospital! Get her an ambulance!”
I was calling for an ambulance to get Saki out of here a soon as possible.
As I tried to climb over the steel rubble, I saw Shun’s body through the gaps.
Up until that point, I hadn’t even considered whether he lived or died. It fact, you could say I didn’t even care.
But now that I felt with my own hands the danger he put Saki in, a new raged boiled inside me. I wanted to stomp the unconscious Shun to death.
This time, I really was going to lose it.
The one who pulled my arm to stop me was Towako-san who was now conscious again.
She was injured by Asuka’s attack, but it looked like she was at least able to walk now.
But I was so seething with anger that seeing she was alright gave me no sense of relief.
“Saki-chan is fine.”
“What part of her looks fine to you!?”
“That’s why I’m telling you she’s fine!”
Towako-san raised her voice and forced me to shut up. She sounded serious.
“Saki-chan’s are just like yours. They’re artificial.”
“What do you mean?”
If it hadn’t been for those words, I might not have been as calm as I was right now.
Towako-san’s determined that Saki lost consciousness after taking Asuka’s attack head on, but she didn’t sustain any major injuries.
“I understand that Saki’s eyes are artificial…”
There was something she said that bothered me.
“But when you said it’s the same as mine, does that mean…”
Shun was looking for the Relic that could see the future.
I thought he was after Vision, but made a mistake and stole Saki’s eyes instead.
But was really true?
Were they really after Saki this whole time?
If that was true, did that mean Saki had the power to see into the future?
In that case, Saki’s artificial eyes were…”
“If you have questions, then ask her yourself.” Towako-san said evasively.
Or maybe she just didn’t want to answer herself.
I could hear an ambulance siren getting closer, and didn’t say anything else.
With that, this story was over.
It was finally all over.