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Chapter 194: Hunting a Partner
The showdown at school, the arrest, the interrogation. As though caring about none of these developments, 【Sekai City】 continued to pass its day idly by. Day had turned into twilight, and twilight had given way to dusk, which in turn melted into night.
Yet, as the clock approached midnight, the movements that disturbed the shadows made it clear that night, too, would not be spared from another impending battle.
Of course, it was difficult to make out the identity of the figures scurrying through the cityscape, even if the metropolis was illuminated by the full moon. The reason for this was mainly because each of them wore black hoods that wrapped their frames in a shroud of darkness.
That being said, their black attire only served as a stop-gap measure which obscured parts of their features and was by no means enough to completely mask their characters. This was especially true for one of the three, who possessed a frame significantly smaller than their black-shrouded comrades.
The child-like build that one could describe as petite also seemed rather slender, making it seem like its owner was still undergoing puberty. At the same time, however, the slight curves that occasionally peeked out from the loose cloth made the figure seem more feminine than her small chest would seem to suggest.
The most distinct feature of this individual would have to be the lustrous ponytail that flowed behind her, the lavender strands billowing in the wind as they traced enchanting patterns in the air. Even as she ran across the rooftops at breakneck speed, this ponytail gently followed along, flowing with the air currents as it maintained its graceful appearance.
「I haven’t found anything here.」
Having suddenly come to a stop, the ponytailed figure allowed her voice to echo in the dead of night, her lavender pupils focusing on a patch of shadows cast by a water tower. As she did so, however-
「Same. How ‘bout you?」
Another voice echoed at her side, throwing the ponytailed figure off as she looked towards the voice’s source. With her steadied nerves, she was able to make out that the voice’s origin came from a figure similarly clad in black—her comrade.
Unlike the petite build of the ponytailed shadow, this individual possessed a rather tall frame that was bundling with energy. Although the black garbs obscured the true details of their slender and toned frame, one could also somehow make out that this figure possessed feminine qualities.
Through the hood that she wore, one could see strands of cerulean jutting out as though to assert their identity. Yet, what stood out more than these cyan locks as refreshing as the blue sky was her eyes that shone with a mischievous grey hue. Eyes that seemed like they belonged to a devilish tomboy.
This unique characteristic aside, the new entrant also directed her eyes towards a patch of shadows, the very same patch that the ponytailed figure was focusing on. And, while it didn’t seem like there was anyone there at first, this assumption was soon overturned as the shadows shifted, revealing the appearance of a third individual cloaked in black.
Compared to the figure’s two comrades, the build of this third individual resembled the she-devil more than the ponytailed child. Yet, other than its slender quality, the only word that could really be used to describe this frame was average. Even if it wasn’t wrapped in its black shroud, the body of this figure was non-distinct—in other words, absolutely normal.
Yet, it was because this frame was so unassuming that it had such an important characteristic. It was neither completely masculine nor definitely feminine, sitting on the border of androgynous as it sauntered out from the darkness.
Upon being revealed to the light of the moon, the hooded figure still did not display any unique traits, the strands of hair that could occasionally be seen through the hood being steeped in dark shadows. In actuality, this was the true colour of the individual’s locks, though the fact that his entire body was clad in black simply gave the illusion that the true nature of these strands was but wispy shadows.
Within this curtain of darkness, however, the first distinct feature of the androgynous figure could be seen. A red radiance in the right eye and a glow of emerald in the left.
Heterochromia iridium. The heterochromatic eyes of one Saito Junichi.
The dark-haired youth responded in the negative towards the two girls who had joined him in his search: Minamoto Rin and Miyazaki Sora. The trio was currently night crawling along the rooftops of 【Sekai City】 in search of their target: the assailant who possessed an identical appearance to Junichi.
And, while they had only just performed a preliminary sweep of the surroundings, it was a little peculiar that they couldn’t find a trace of the entity they had been looking for.
After all, 《Cross》, who had been corrupted by a ［Negative Resonance］, should have lost his sanity and started causing a rampage in the city. Yet, no matter how the group looked, they couldn’t find a single trace of any disturbances through the metropolis.
Well, none besides the one that had affected a certain police department.
「Geez, why do we gotta wear these stupid hoods? I’m drenched in sweat!」
「No complaints. We’re not taking any chances of someone recognising us, so just deal with it.」
In the face of Sora’s groaning, Junichi felt his eye twitch as the athlete’s whining quickly got on his nerves. And as a result, this irritation caused him to involuntarily flex his hand into a claw, which instantly clasped itself onto the blue devil’s cranium.
A pitiful cry left the athlete’s mouth as she was unable to resist the pressure coming from the youth’s iron claw. The deep trauma evoked by this unrelenting grip on her skull caused Sora to exaggeratedly fall onto her hands and knees, signifying her complete and unconditional surrender.
Yet, as the wails of the sportswoman, who was slumped over onto the ground, dissipated into the atmosphere, another voice soon followed, preventing silence from reigning over the surroundings.
「E-Erm, senpai. Are we going to be ok by ourselves?」
Although slightly taken aback by the display, the shortest of the black figures—Rin—posed a question that had been on the tip of her tongue since they had left the hospital. After all, she was fully aware of how much of a threat that 《Cross》 posed, even when not taking into account the fact that he had assimilated ［Counterpart］ after ［Counterpart］ into his body.
Thus, she felt that their current team composition, although not awful, was somewhat lacking when considering the behemoth that they were to face.
Yet, upon closer inspection, the members of this strike team were actually anything but ordinary, each of which a force to be reckoned with in their own right. To say nothing of the blood and iron mercenary’s killing prowess, Miyazaki Sora was a literal tank capable of enduring any attack with negligible damage.
Even Rin, despite feeling that her training was still inadequate, was an exceptionally skilled assassin-type combatant capable of performing lethal strikes from the shadows. With this combination of fighters all ganging up on a single mindless individual, it was hard to imagine anyone feeling worried about such a formation.
—that is unless the cause for Rin’s concern lay not in the team itself but something else entirely.
「If you have something to say, then say it.」
「Senpai isn’t–you aren’t protected by a ［Counterpart］, right?」
Indeed. This was the main source of the petite ponytailed girl’s fear.
If this was a normal encounter that remained constrained to the laws of humans, then there was nothing to fear with the strike team’s current line-up. However, the truth of the matter was that they were not hunting a human—they were hunting a ［Counterpart］.
Beings who possessed the ability to overturn reality, to cause all types of inexplicable phenomena at their whim. This was the type of entity that they were going to fight.
And when facing such an irregular power, one needed measures of a similar nature to combat them.
The cerulean-haired athlete had 《Diamond》 at her side, while Rin was paired with 《Tear》. The dark-haired youth, however, was the only member who did not possess such an asset.
A fact that meant he was the most likely out of the trio to run into trouble during this encounter.
「If you’re concerned about me being able to fight, we’ve gone over this already.」
Junichi rested his hand on Rin’s head in a reassuring manner, narrowing his eyes as he used his other palm to pat his chest. Needless to say, it was not his chest that he was trying to draw attention to, but the tunic that covered his person.
Although it looked very much similar to the ones that the two girls wore, the dark-haired youth’s garbs were actually woven with ［Soul Power］, bestowing upon them properties that would allow the mercenary to fight ［Counterparts］ without fear that his attacks would go through them. It was for this reason that the youth also wore gloves which had been similarly interlaced with the spectral energy.
In addition to this, the youth possessed a belt of ammo wrapped around his waist, each cartridge fitted with ［Soul Power］ so that they would be able to inflict damage upon otherworldly entities.
Now, that’s not to say this was the perfect solution. Not only did the large array of magazines increase his weight, resulting in Junichi’s top speeds being reduced, but it also signified the other glaring issue with this strategy—his ammunition supply was finite.
The fact that he was unable to create bullets on the fly meant that the dark-haired youth had to finish his hunt before he fully depleted his limited stock of otherworldly bullets. Another component that worked against him.
And yet, even so, Junichi still chose to persist with this arrangement.
「Now, now, Rin-chan. He’s already made up his mind, so nothing much we can do about it now.」
Sora shrugged, chiding her ponytailed friend as she locked eyes with the dark-haired youth. Despite appearing to be flippant on the surface, however, the athlete was similarly concerned for the boy as she recalled the events that led up to this decision.
「Hi, hi~ We’ve arrived~」
「……pardon the intrusion.」
Two figures of grown women—one a bubbly blonde and the other a terse red-head—entered the hospital room. The former possessed an hourglass figure that one would expect of a busty westerner, while the latter’s slim but tall figure carried itself in a composed manner, bringing about its own enigmatic charm.
Needless to say, the identity of the two new entrants were none other than the older sisters of the mercenary sister, Roxanne Leblanc and Wen Li Qiu. A pair of beauties who would not only attract crowds of admirers by themselves but also possessed outstanding capabilities that would put professionals in their craft to shame.
Naturally, this excellence was a common theme amongst the mercenary sisters, which was why the dark-haired youth would often rely on them when he needed help. And, despite his awareness that he might be a little overly reliant on the trio, he currently wasn’t in a position to mind such trivial details.
Hence, after a little deliberation, the dark-haired summoned the mercenary sisters to the hospital room so that he could work out a plan.
As a side note, the moment that the women entered, Junichi directed a grateful nod towards the platinum blonde woman, a slight smile forming on his face. It needn’t be said that he was expressing unspoken gratitude towards Roxanne, who had put her life on the line to assist him during his capture.
And, while a slightly bitter smile flashed across the platinum blonde’s face upon receiving this look, the boy didn’t linger on the matter for long as there was pressing business to attend to.
「Did you bring the goods?」
「Sure did! Aki-nee~」
In response to her little sister’s call, the blood-haired woman threw a heavy duffel bag that she had been carrying at her side, seemingly expending very little effort as she launched the parcel into the air. Not missing a beat, the dark-haired youth quickly caught the flying bag by the strap, staggering slightly as he was once again amazed at the monstrous strength packed within Li Qiu’s slender frame.
Now, it was only later revealed that the contents which made this duffel bag so heavy were the equipment that Junichi would wear on his hunt. A copious amount of ［Soul Power］ imbued ammo and clothes similarly woven with the ethereal energy. This was actually a stash that the dark-haired youth got his ［Counterpart］ to make in case of emergencies, and so he asked the mercenary siblings to pick them up on their way here (along with his dual pistols).
Yet, seeing how the weaponry would only come into play later, the boy placed the bag down and out of the way as he focused his attention on more important matters.
「Alright, here’s the situation.」
Junichi spoke as he swept his gaze across the room. Blue, brown, navy, red, and blonde–5 beauties of distinct colours had been gathered here, all of them paying attention to his words as he explained to them the current circumstances.
From how his other self had been assimilating ［Counterparts］ without restraint, to the events that had occurred just before their meeting. Although the nitty-gritty details were glossed over, the youth recounted the overarching chain of events that led up to the current state of affairs, ensuring that everyone present was brought up to speed.
And as his speech reached its conclusion, the first one to speak up was the blood-haired woman.
「……Jun. What are you going to do?」
Li Qiu murmured, averting her gaze from the man’s unwavering eyes as she briefly glimpsed at a certain, brown-haired maiden. It needn’t be said that she was drawing parallels with the current situation and the previous dilemma during Shiori’s ［Negative Resonance］. However, considering that Junichi’s relationship with this time’s victim was not as intimate as the bespectacled childhood friend, Li Qiu believed that she needn’t say anything inappropriate at this juncture, and so fell into reticence.
Thus, with the oriental woman making no move to continue the conversation, Junichi judged that this diversion was over, and so proceeded to the next stage.
「Now, this is how it’ll work. Shiori, Roxanne, and Aki will stay here.」
The dark-haired youth glanced at the trio of brown, blonde, and blood, assigning them with the role of remaining stationed at the hospital. The reason behind this was not only so that Shiori could continue to heal the two incapacitated teenagers with her ability, but so that they could be protected in the event that 《Cross》 were to come back to hunt them.
With Li Qiu’s strength, a task such as holding back a single crazed individual should not be too tall an order, though Shiori’s «Augmentation» trait should provide good support in case things did go awry. As for Roxanne, her presence was required so that she could help the trio adapt to whatever situation may arise, or so was the reasoning behind Junichi’s choice in deploying these three for protection duty.
As for the remaining members-
「Sora, Rin. You’re with me.」
-they were immediately taken along with the dark-haired youth to the hunt.
But then again, it seemed only a matter of course that this trio would form the attack squadron. After all, each of its members was strong fighters in their own right, and their fighting styles complemented each other to boot.
The athlete possessed a boundless endurance perfect for a vanguard, and the assassin’s skill set made her an ideal close-to-mid-range attacker. Adding in Junichi’s versatile fighting style that allowed him to adapt to whatever role he pleased, the trio formed a strike force that covered any range they required.
Though, if only they had a certain liquorice-haired sniper, their formation would have been even better. The petite hacker and the smallest of the mercenary sisters who was not currently present: Cocoa Valentine.
Of course, it’s not that the dark-haired youth hadn’t thought of calling his partner to assist in his current dilemma. However, as he was aware that she was currently at work, he thought it best for her not to get involved, and so decided against contacting the small but reliable hacker.
And so, with everyone’s roles decided, the groups parted ways as the strike forced disappeared into the night.
「Anyways, why do you suppose you and Mana-chan were attacked, Junichi-kun?」
Sora wondered, snapping out of her recollection as she posed a question that had been bugging her towards her dark-haired friend. It was a fair question, as it was an unusual occurrence for the otherworldly entities to attack uninvolved humans.
And, while a case could be made towards the dark-haired youth being attacked, Mana was precisely one of those individuals who had nothing to do with ［Counterparts］ whatsoever. It was difficult to understand as to why 《Cross》 had targeted her of all people, hence why Sora’s curiosity was piqued.
Yet, the one to answer this question was not Junichi, but a voice that sounded precisely like her own.
『It’s likely because they both possess innate ［Soul Power］.』
In response to this declaration, all eyes immediately turned towards the source of the voice. And, as Miyazaki Sora so happened to be standing in that exact same place, she felt a slight chill run down her spine upon being subjected to the intense glares of the two mercenaries who had honed their blood lust through life and death battles.
Of course, seeing how the true origin of the voice was her ［Counterpart］, 《Diamond》, Sora ended up becoming an accidental casualty. Though, the entity didn’t care much for her host’s disrupted compose as she began to elaborate to the duo that was eagerly staring her down.
「《Cross’s》 goal, even before his corruption, was to gain strength through assimilating other ［Counterparts］, correct? Although the amount of it is low, ［Soul Power］ of high-quality dwells inside both you and your sister. It’s likely that, in his mindless state, he was attracted to the unique characteristics of your souls and thought that assimilating them would bring him more strength.」
「Senpai has……innate ［Soul Power］?」
Rin murmured, her eyes widened in shock as her mind stalled, rolling the words that 《Diamond》 had spoken in her head over and over in an effort to comprehend them. Yet, even after understanding their meaning, the girl’s visage was still dyed in disbelief as she turned her gaze towards the dark-haired youth.
The man in question, despite being similarly bewildered, did not express his surprise so openly, instead simply furrowing his brow in perplexity. After all, he, too, was struggling to stomach the words that he had just been told.
After all, the fact that a human body possessed what 《Diamond》 referred to as innate ［Soul Power］ brought with it several implications. The largest of them being that “a human with otherworldly energy inside of them couldn’t possibly be a normal human”.
Junichi aside, his little sister, Miyazawa Mana, should have been just that: a simple human being. She was a normal girl who had no contact with this realm of ［Counterparts］, and so should have simply lived out a normal human life.
Yet, according to Sora’s story, she had performed an ［Arming］ with the knucklehead. An incredible story that, while unbelievable, could not have its credibility disputed. After all, the only way Masaru could have possibly fended off 《Cross》 was with an ［Arm］ from an otherworldly being, so there was no mistake about what she had done.
So does that mean the existence known as Miyazawa Mana was actually a ［Counterpart］? The answer was simple: no.
After all, ［Counterparts］ were incapable of remaining manifested in the human realm without being tied to a host. And there was no indication of Mana ever having difficulties with her body, nor did Junichi.
So where did that leave the siblings? Were they humans? Were they ［Counterparts］? Or were they something different? Something……more?
Unbeknownst to anyone present, Junichi’s red eye gleamed for a split second, as though in agreement with the final option. Though, without any knowledge of such an occurrence, the dark-haired youth’s pondering had reached a dead end, and so he let out a sigh.
「That doesn’t matter right now. What’s more important is that we need to resume the search.」
「Well, that’s all and good, but how do you suppose we find him? Don’t tell me we gotta scour every nook and cranny of the city?」
Sora asked with a pout, the mere thought of having to strenuously conduct a search all over the expansive metropolis already diminishing her morale. Although such brute force tactics were admittedly synonymous with her personality, she didn’t enjoy performing them when there was no guarantee of getting results.
As though expecting such a reaction, however-
「Don’t worry. Just watch.」
-the dark-haired youth scratched the back of his head as his right eye, with its distinct shade of piercing red, suddenly began to glow with a deep, emerald-green hue.
Upon looking closer, one could see that the symbol of a magnifying glass ［🔎］ was embedded within its pupil, which signified that they youth was making use of a specific ability: the trait he and 《Cross》 had obtained from a ［Counterpart］ called 《Scout》, «Soul Scanning».
An ability capable of detecting ［Soul Power］ and its frequencies, and then translating them into visual phenomena that the user could see. An ability that was perfect for scouting.
And it was only because of this ability that the dark-haired youth was perfectly confident that they would, at the very least, be able to track the corrupted entity down.
All he had to do was follow the trail. The obsidian black trail that would lead him straight to his prey.
「Eh? Found what?」
「Pick up the pace. Don’t fall behind.」
「E-Eh, what, what?! Hey! Don’t just go off on your own like that! No way, Rin-chan too!?」
Having already found the strands of obsidian black ［Soul Power］ that still lingered in the air, Junichi immediately leapt into the skies as he traversed rooftop upon rooftop as he traced the energy to its source. Upon seeing this, Rin silently followed close behind, leaving a bewildered Sora with no choice but to chase them.
And as the group shifted through the nightscape, they eventually found themselves stopping in front of a clearing. An abandoned construction site completely devoid of people.
The exact location of this open area eluded the trio. However, one thing they could say with absolute certainty was that the place was completely and utterly isolated. Forget people, not even the presence of an animal—nay, an insect could be felt within the immediate vicinity.
—a detail which only served to strengthen the idea that this place was not as it originally seemed.
「So? There’s nothing here.」
「Yeah. On this side, anyway.」
「Senpai, you don’t mean-」
That’s right. A plane of existence that was a complete replica of the world, filled with grey. A dimension that seemed to be but a shallow imitation of reality, in which it constantly tried to conform to. Any damage done to this space would not only remain isolated from the real world but would also be reverted as though it were a computer being backed up by reality’s data.
And it was in this field that the ［Counterparts］ chose to wage their wars.
「Rin. Open a portal.」
Obediently responding to her upperclassman’s request, the ponytailed 〚Assassin〛 swiftly invoked 《Tear’s》 ability, causing a surge of violet-coloured energy to converge into a disc that appeared in the air. Needless to say, in order to access that alternate world filled with grey, on needed to enter one of these portals which could only be created by ［Counterparts］. Similarly, one needed to utilise the same portal once on the other side in order to return to reality, by which at that time the portal will close on its own.
Of course, in Junichi’s eyes, he saw the phantom of 《Cross’s》 obsidian portal floating right beside Rin’s, which told him that the entity had yet to exit from that world dyed in grey. Hence, without wasting any time, the youth decided that now would be the ideal time to strike.
After all, engaging in such a reckless fight in the real world would only bring about destruction and casualties, so finishing this hunt whilst in that world—the 【Alter Field】—would resolve matters in the cleanest manner possible.
「It’s done, Senpai.」
「Whoa, so pretty~」
「Look sharp, you two. We’re going in.」
The dark-haired youth spoke, ignoring the antics of his blue-haired comrade as he took a step into the portal. As he did so, his entire frame became submerged in a lavender light before eventually dissipating into nothingness. Following his lead was Rin, soon followed by Sora who chased after them in hot pursuit.
And so, it was in this manner that the trio of black, blue, and lavender entered the 【Alter Field】, vanishing into thin air as they disappeared off the face of the earth.
「Uwaah! What’s with this place?」
The excitable voice of one Miyazaki Sora echoed clearly through the shadows of the metropolis. Of course, even though the cityscape surrounding them belonged to 【Sekai City】, there was no doubt that this was not the same city that they lived in from day to day.
The night sky that should have been as black as ink was now lighter in tone, transforming into a colour that was between black and white. The asphalt of the roads below had also been altered in a similar manner, causing it to blend in with the grey concrete of the man-made structures that towered towards the skies above.
No matter where one looked, the surroundings were stepped in an irrevocable grey. Of course, that’s not to say the monotonous landscape possessed no variants in colours, as the light from the moon added brightness to some greys, while casting others in a darker shadow. The aptest way of describing the scene would be to imagine that someone had rendered reality into a 2D image and printed it out through grey-scale toners.
And, as she laid eyes upon such a world for the first time, there was no surprise that Sora’s eyes began sparkling like that of a curious child’s.
The boy commented, mostly ignoring the blue-haired athlete’s enthusiasm as he placed strength into his right eye. In doing so, the green glow caused by his «Soul Scanning» ability intensified, its warm radiance adding a splash of colour to the otherwise monochromatic world.
Of course, as this was but an inconsequential by-product of his actions, the dark-haired youth did not linger to admire the ways in which the rays of emerald emitted by his pupil intertwined with the grey landscape, unlike the two girls behind him. Instead, he simply focused on his ability with the sole intent of sniffing out a certain, dark-haired entity.
The youth prompted Rin and Sora, signalling the two to remain quiet with an index finger extended in front of his lips. After the two acknowledged him, the trio proceeded to trace the wispy ethereal strands of obsidian that weaved through the grey city. And, while the two girls weren’t able to see these strands as they followed behind Junichi, the path of destruction that lay along their path made it seem as though they could track the entity down even without the dark-haired youth’s help.
Craters embedded in the road, half-destroyed buildings, rubble and debris littered across the asphalt. If this was the actual city, instead of a grey replica, then one may have wondered whether or not a bomb had been dropped on the devastated remains of the metropolis. Granted, the area of damage was limited within a certain radius so it was hard to imagine that whatever explosion occurred within this vicinity was of a nuclear nature. Still, the destruction wrought was so disastrous that one couldn’t help but come to such a conclusion.
Of course, the trio knew that the true culprit that brought upon this ruin was none other than the ［Counterpart］ they were hunting: 《Cross》.
–the one and the same target that was currently whimpering in a corner of an isolated apartment.
In the face of this anomalous behaviour, Junichi couldn’t help but furrow his brow as he gazed upon the surroundings. For some reason, he felt that their current location seemed awfully familiar. Almost as though he had seen it on a daily basis.
It was a single plain room that housed a single plain bed, with a single plain bedside table that sat near a single plain window. Despite its lack of individuality, its simplicity was a defining characteristic of the space which made it incredibly memorable. So memorable in fact that everyone present also recognised it.
After all, this place was Saito Junichi’s room.
Granted, it was but a grey replica that was constructed by the 【Alter Field】, so there was no possible way that anyone Junichi knew would be able to stumble upon their current location. That being said, one couldn’t help but wonder why their prey had arrived at such an obviously significant place.
Was it by pure chance? Or was there something more to it?
As the dark-haired boy was perplexed with this question, Minamoto Rin tugged at his sleeve, causing him to turn back curiously towards her. When he did so, however, he noticed that the girl was not actually looking at him, despite drawing his attention. Thus, he then directed his gaze towards the subject that had caused the petite 〚Assassin’s〛 eyes to grow so wide.
Though there was only one thing—or rather, one person—that the subject could possibly be.
「I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m-」
「What the………that’s kinda creepy.」
A perturbed Sora murmured, expressing the thought that was on everyone’s minds as she was unsure of what to make of the situation that lay before her eyes. But then again, it couldn’t be helped that she (and the two mercenaries) were so taken aback, given the state of the 《Counterpart》 before them.
The dark-haired entity was currently curled up into a ball, knees tucked into his chest with his arms hugging his trembling shoulders. As though trying to take up as little space as possible, the entity’s muscles tightened and squealed in an unsightly fashion, all in an effort to squeeze himself up into an even smaller size. This, in turn, caused the limbs that couldn’t move further to reject the force applied to them, resulting in the boy’s entire frame twitching and jerking unnaturally.
In the midst of these disturbing convulsions, a crazed whimper could be heard, repeating the same phrase over and over and over. The pitiful sobs were accompanied with tears, as could be seen from the way that the water refracted the red and green lights that came from 《Cross’s》 eyes.
The phenomenon of the fluids interfering the radiance emitted by the pupils caused a shimmering effect as pretty and as breath-taking as the stars that twinkled above in the model that the grey-coloured sky was based off. An absolutely gorgeous display that, when compounded with the atrocious sight of a grown man bawling his eyes out like a child, made the scene look even more surreal.
Though this just made one wonder—what happened to 《Cross》 that had reduced him into such a state?
Now, if Shizuka Manami was here, she may have hypothesised that the stress of having multiple souls in his, all of which vying for ownership of his body, induced the entity into a temporary state of insanity. Another theory may be that one of the entities amongst them was currently in control, and that ［Counterpart］, in particular, was experiencing a break-down due to having lost most of their essence.
Yet, for the dark-haired youth, he had seen this sort of reaction far too many times. After all, they were the symptoms of an affliction that was common amongst those he worked with back in the day. A disease that was unseen, yet more contagious than any other for those who lived on the battlefield: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thus, in the face of this scene, the boy was not bewildered. At the same time, however, he displayed no compassion.
Without a second thought, Junichi raised one of his pistols, allowing its black shine to glow ominously in the moonlight. The tip of its muzzle was pointed precariously at the ball of flesh, glinting with murderous intent as it locked the ［Counterpart］ in its sight.
Needless to say, the mercenary spared no hesitation for the shivering wreck before his very eyes as he stared at his soon-to-be victim with cold, heartless eyes. But then again, since he considered the entity to be an enemy that had harmed not only him but his one and only little sister, he no longer had any notions of mercy remaining as he prepared himself to pull the trigger.
Yet, just before his finger was able to make another move-
「No! Stay away!」
–the docile entity was docile no longer, entering into a frenzy as he suddenly launched an attack at the group.
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