Necromancers start their training by first staring at their own death. They must hypnotize themselves and see their flesh decompose many, many times. Their reflection in the mirror rots away disgustingly before their eyes—and they get used to it. They stare at death, carry death, and learn that life is always accompanied by death.
And necromancy is a craft that controls death.
Shishigou Kairi waited for the girl to arrive while smoking a cigarette. He didn’t set up any detection or protective Bounded Fields, leaving himself far too defenseless.
But then, Shishigou knew quite well that there was no meaning in such things if the one he was going to face was her. Any Bounded Fields he made at this point would simply be a waste of his prana and tools.
Shishigou noticed the wind change direction slightly, and flicked away his still-lit cigarette.
He looked up at the sky above and called out to the young girl suspended in the air there.
“Now then. You don’t mind if we skip introducing ourselves, do you?”
The man smirked, and the girl smiled in turn.
In a somewhat narrow alleyway caught between two buildings, Fiore Forvedge Yggdmillennia had stabbed the [arms] sprouting from her back into the walls of the buildings. The arms gave off the impression of being smooth yet hard, and were similar to insect legs—that was what Shishigou thought.
“…Very well. There’s no way either of us doesn’t know each other’s names. However, may I give a warning just in case?”
“—Leave now, necromancer. All this far and wide land belongs to us Yggdmillennia. I will overlook your insolent trespassing should you leave. If you ignore this warning, your folly will be repaid with compensation equivalent to death.”
“Heh… So, do you think I’ll obey that?”
In response to Shishigou’s words, Fiore spoke with a satisfied smile.
“No. But if I declare that first, I wouldn’t be able to resolve myself inside.”
I see, Shishigou thought with a wry smile. To put it another way, since she had warned him—she wouldn’t hesitate to kill him now.
And of course, Shishigou had no intention of obeying such a warning. His answer was to reach his hand for his shotgun. At that instant, the density of prana in the surrounding area thickened.
There was no more room for idle talk between them. Fiore knew that Shishigou Kairi was a freelance magus and that he surpassed her in terms of battle experience. Shishigou knew that Fiore Forvedge Yggdmillennia was a prodigy who bore the next era of the Yggdmillennia clan on her shoulders.
—The magecraft this person uses is necromancy. However, his magecraft isn’t as simple as turning corpses into ghouls and using them as slaves. For example, the small firearm he’s holding…
—The magecraft this young lady uses are Euryphis1 and human engineering… If I remember right, her Mystic Code is called the Bronze-Link Manipulator.
The frozen atmosphere between the two of them was blown away by the metal lid of a garbage can nearby. Perhaps blown by the wind, it fell down noisily and caused the tension between them to explode. Shishigou pulled out his sawed-off shotgun in a single smooth motion and Fiore whirled down from the sky fiercely and resolutely.
He pulled the trigger—and a bullet manufactured from a processed finger cut off from a magus sniffed out the presence of a magus and rushed out to hit her right in the head.
“—Jupiter: Tin Arm of Protection, intercept.”
A fatal magic bullet that targeted the enemy’s head without mistake and could not be dodged. That bullet, which wouldn’t stop until it planted itself in the head of the enemy, was plucked away without hesitation by the arms sprouting from Fiore’s back.
Shishigou’s shock at this lasted for only an instant. Moving quickly to retreat, he hid himself on the other side of a car parked along the street. The two arms sprouting out from Fiore’s back each split into two. With now four [arms] in total, two of them acted as substitute legs for her by stabbing themselves into the stone pavement. And the other two arms opened their jaws straight at Shishigou like menacing insects.
“—Mars: Iron Arm of War, shoot.”
With sounds similar to gunfire, [bullets of light] shot out from those openings. Those shots, which had force behind them equal to bullets, pulverized the stone pavement at Shishigou’s feet.
“Ah, damn it. So those arms can do anything, huh…!”
While pigeonholing himself, Shishigou used the car as a shield and withstood the machine gun-like strafing fire of cursed bullets. He threw out his shotgun’s empty cartridge and reloaded with a bullet from his waist pocket.
After shooting some restraining fire, he took out a processed owl eyeball and tossed it out through an opening in the car. It linked with the sight in his right eye, allowing him to survey the girl. First, he looked once more at the Mystic Code she wore.
According to the profile he’d obtained beforehand, she should be burdened with the handicap of being unable to move her legs due to a defect of her Magic Circuits that was a physical peculiarity of hers.
However, with that Mystic Code, such a thing was no problem. To her, that Mystic Code was exceedingly excellent legs in and of itself. Since it was able to pluck away a fired bullet, even if it was at subsonic speeds, it surpassed other Mystic Codes in terms of precise movement.
—The reaction speed of its autonomous defense was nearly perfect as well. Most likely, it was equal to that of the Volumen Hydrargyrum: Cerebrospinal Fluid of the Moon Spirit, the autonomous-type maid golem that accompanied the ‘young mistress’ of the El Melloi.
However, due to the difference in composition between mercury and metal arms, the arms would probably have trouble dealing with something like a claymore mine that attacks the entire surrounding area instead of a single point.
“…In other words, I’ll have to use this.”
Shishigou took out the heart of a magus from the inside pocket of his jacket. This internal organ, which had the teeth and nails of magi embedded inside it, was quite suitable as an anti-magus weapon. The teeth and nails it scattered upon detonation were charged with prana soaked in grudges and exerted an effect similar to a kind of [Gandr] when they hit a person’s body. However, their effect was much stronger than that simple curse, perhaps because they were made from the body parts of the dead.
Put simply, when the teeth and nails penetrated a person’s skin, their skin would decompose and melt away.
He pulled out the heart’s muscle fiber like a pin, and the halted heart instantly began beating and pulsing. He confirmed her location with the owl eye. While remaining hidden behind the car, Shishigou used a bit of sudden airflow manipulation and threw the hand grenade heart at the perfect spot.
If Shishigou had made one mistake, it was using this hand grenade in the skirmish against the homunculi before, thereby showing it to Fiore and the others. Having collected and examined the corpses of the homunculi and then hypothesized the power and effect of the grenade from their decomposed state, she knew that this attack would be fatal.
“—Saturn: Lead Arm of Roaring, crush!”
The metal arm that acted as her right leg seemed to turn itself flat like a spatula and squashed the rolling heart from above. The teeth and nails that should have been scattered into the surroundings with a destructive blast were pushed into the ground, unable to hurt Fiore’s body.
But the fact that Shishigou had managed to gain even a little bit of time was important. Getting into the car that he was using as a shield, he pulled out a hidden spare key from the driver seat’s sun visor and quickly started up the engine.
The instant that Fiore frantically turned around at the noisy sound of the engine—he pressed down on the accelerator and the car ran her over from the front with a violent charge.
—Geez! This person is so reckless and absurd!
Even as the car hood coiled around her, Fiore was not significantly injured. Her four artificial arms had instantly protected her.
However, at this rate she would definitely be crushed against a wall or something else. She dug her artificial arms into the car hood and pulled her body up. Her eyes met Shishigou’s in the driver’s seat—and then he turned the handle sharply to the left in order to shake her off.
But two of Fiore’s arms pierced into the car hood and completely fixed her body in place. Furthermore, she used her two remaining arms to tear off the car’s front glass along with its roof.
Shishigou was now defenseless, but he had gotten his sawed-off shotgun in his hand without her noticing. He smiled in satisfaction—and hit the brake. After having been hit by the car hood, Fiore was blown off this time by the sudden recoil.
Her four artificial arms detected that she was in a dangerous situation and stabbed into the stone pavement to act as a cushion. Instantly, Fiore understood. In this state, she couldn’t intercept his attack with her artificial arms.
In the car’s driver’s seat, Shishigou pulled out his shotgun. She shuddered as she felt the presence of death—and then he pulled the trigger and fired a magic bullet at subsonic speed. Fiore couldn’t think of any countermeasures.
And then, the silhouette of an animal quickly cut in before her.
The magic bullet smashed through the animal’s brain, ending its mission. As Fiore was frozen in astonishment, someone hidden behind a nearby building called out.
“Nee-san, don’t just stand there in shock!”
Fiore frantically stood up. Her artificial arms had already regained their flawless ready postures to protect her. She ordered her arms to release strafing fire with bullets of light all at once in order to blow way the car.
Clicking his tongue, Shishigou went back to hiding behind the car. He tried to figure out the identity of the person who had shouted just a moment ago.
“Nee-san, Nee-san, Nee-san… are you Caules Forvedge Yggdmillennia!?”
Caules responded with a shout from behind the building. Things have gotten troublesome, Shishigou thought. Magi had to create a situation as advantageous as possible if a battle should increase beyond just one-on-one between them. Trying to fight alone against two magi was pure folly.
According to the profile Shishigou was given before the war started, this younger brother was so inferior when it came to magecraft that he couldn’t even be compared to his older sister, but that just made fighting both of them all the more foolish. Being inferior in magecraft did not mean that he was weak when it came to fighting as well.
Rather, Shishigou knew well that the type of magi who would [do anything] in order to compensate for their inferior magecraft were far more formidable enemies. In the first place, this was not a battle of magecraft, but a war—a fight to kill each other. No matter how much you excelled in magecraft, if you died, you lost.
“Come out and show your face! How about introducing yourself fair and square like a magus!?”
In response to Shishigou’s provocation, Caules replied honestly.
“I refuse! Do self-introductions elsewhere, you muscle-headed daruma!”
What’s up with that blunt refusal?—Shishigou thought. In a complete reversal from earlier, he had fallen into checkmate. Honestly, he had no confidence that he could beat her in close combat. No matter how much he had trained himself as a human being, he couldn’t do anything against those fearsome artificial arms—the Bronze-Link Manipulator. In addition, Caules was his biggest obstacle. Shishigou couldn’t concentrate on fighting her one-on-one. Could he be watchful of Caules while fighting Fiore? Rejected; that was impossible.
…In other words, he needed something that would be sufficient to kill Fiore in a single strike.
“There’s no way I can die while keeping my treasure unused.”
He carefully took it out from his inside pocket. It was a knife with a thin blade that was hard to call practical in shape and design. This weapon did not automatically aim for the head like the finger of a magus that he had used earlier. But, this would kill the enemy if it hit. No, it would kill if it even touched someone.
When Shishigou accepted the request to participate in this Great Holy Gail War, he had asked for a baby hydra preserved in formalin as prior compensation. He had used each of the nine heads of the hydra to create either weapons or supplemental tools. This was an enchanted poisonous Mystic Code that should probably be kept in reserve for when he fought as a magus.
But—he was stuck in a stalemate no matter what he did. Just before he resolved himself and entrusted himself to a make-or-break gamble—the strafing fire suddenly stopped.
Finding it odd, he secretly peeked at Fiore to see her condition. With a calm expression you wouldn’t expect to see in the midst of battle, she lightly nodded. And then, she spoke to Shishigou.
“It seems we must end things here.”
“I can still fight!”
Shishigou shouted that while tightly gripping his knife. But Fiore shook her head and rejected that with a gentle gesture. When he saw her do that, Shishigou knew that he had lost the chance to use his trump card.
“I’ll be waiting in our fortress in Trifas for our next encounter. Shishigou-sama, I’ll settle my battle with you next time.”
Fiore said that and then quickly retreated. Her behavior was rather splendid, and not even a fragment of her desire to kill him here remained.
Shishigou quickly gave up on pursuing her. It was a self-evident truth that the pursuer had the advantage in battle, but it didn’t cancel out the disadvantage of numbers. The advantage of pursuing and the disadvantage of numbers. There was no need to weight them on a scale to choose which option he should take.
“…Did something happen to her Servant?”
In that case, this battle couldn’t even be called a draw. Sighing, Shishigou took out a cigarette from his inside pocket as he decided to wait here until Saber returned.
A cigarette after a battle was normally reputed to taste good, but—
“No good, this really tastes bad.”
Grimacing, Shishigou savored the taste of the world’s transience with his lungs.
(1) Here, it says “Euryphis” in furigana, while the kanji beneath it is the term for “spiritual evocation”, a certain type of magecraft that involves the summoning of spiritual beings.