“Please don’t say you are lazy~” sang Valeriya’s ringtone.
She leisurely picked up her terminal and held it to her ear. “Yahallo!”
“Can’t you do something about that disgusting greeting?”
“Kai! What’s up?” Valeriya lay prone on the white beach, her bikini top unfastened. Her plump bosom was firmly pressed against the breasts of the brown-haired maid printed on her beach towel.
“You know why I called.”
“I’m surprised you took this long.”
“I was busy.”
“Let me guess, did you call to brag about winning the bet?”
“I intended to, but I lost the urge just now. You don’t sound upset about it at all.”
“I’m sunbathing. It’s only natural I sound relaxed.”
“It’s supposed to be a business trip, but my daughter seemed down, so I brought her along for some R and R at my villa. Remember the last orphanage you visited? The one in Manila.”
“How could I forget,” said Kaika, annoyance oozing out of her voice.
“You don’t have to be so angry. Anyway, I went there for an inspection after getting reports about theft. Turns out, the nuns watching over the kids were selling off the toys I sent over.”
“You personally went there for that?”
“I also dropped off a boy I picked up a while back. His only relative was killed in the arena.”
“That’s some dedication. Aren’t your charity organizations just a front?”
“What makes you think that? If anything, that’s my true calling. I love kids. They’re so cute.”
“If you like cute things so much, why not get a pet? Or maybe start a zoo. You can afford it.”
“I’m allergic to fur,” said Valeriya in a despondent tone.
“…I’m sorry to hear that. Wait, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about.”
“Did you want to ask how your videos turned out? I just marathoned them last night! You looked adorable! Your bodyguard too. I’m envious. I want a cutie like that in my personal security detail.”
“You really should fix that obsession of yours.”
“Why are you complaining? It’s because of this obsession that I agreed to our bet. Entertaining my kids is a cheap price to pay.”
“My pride isn’t cheap, Ria.” Kaika’s tone took a serious turn.
“The same goes for the KyberCorp shares I sold to you.”
“I take it you’re done with the paperwork on your side?”
“My lawyers should be contacting yours to finalize it within the week.”
“You could be more thankful. I’m taking a large risk here.”
“Isn’t it the rule of the underworld for the losers to obey the winners? Ageha beat your fighter.”
“It wasn’t a one-on-one. You’re lucky I’m honoring it.”
“You’re the one who suggested that change during the semis.”
“Says the one who entered Saionji in the tournament. I couldn’t let Ageha get disqualified before fighting Crescent. I had no choice but to suggest a team match under the circumstances. Don’t tell me you didn’t plan all that.”
“Saya’s entry was completely unrelated to our bet. I had a different objective for that. You’re the one who violated our agreement. You reported Ageha as rogue and had arena security come after him.”
“Didn’t you want Ageha back? I did that to cut ties with him.”
“You expect me to believe that? You could’ve just fired him in that case. I put free ARMS supply for your organization on the table. If I won, I would get the KyberCorp shares and Ageha. That was the deal. What if he got killed by arena security?”
“Are you joking? That’s impossible.”
“Then why did you do that?”
“To kill Saionji.”
“I’m not upset about losing the bet, Kai. In the first place, I didn’t agree to it because I wanted to win.”
Kaika did not reply.
“What I wanted to see was Ageha in top form against my best student. I went through the trouble of teaching him various styles just to make the match more interesting. Saionji fixed whatever his inner conflict was, and I was grateful for that.” Valeriya furrowed her brows and sighed. “But she just had to interfere at the end.”
“It was a team match. What did you expect?”
“An amateur like you wouldn’t understand. That fight was a turning point for Ageha. I wanted to see how far he could evolve, and in turn, how far he could push Crescent. But Saionji messed that up by spreading her blood all over the ring. Ageha won by luck, and that’s the most boring outcome.”
Months ago, Ageha approached Valeriya for information after hearing rumors about her influence in the underworld. During their fight, Valeriya felt the workings of fate. Crescent needed a formidable opponent, and the perfect candidate had appeared on her doorstep. Once he was ready, Valeriya would have pitted Ageha against Crescent one way or another, even without Kaika’s proposal.
Soon after Valeriya employed Ageha, Kaika contacted her proposing a bet. She agreed to it because the young tycoon accepted her condition of personally doing children’s shows for all her orphanages worldwide. She chose that rather humiliating and tedious condition partly to get back at Kaika for getting the upper hand in their prior ARMS deals. But what ultimately cemented her decision was her desire to see the adorable girl genuinely embarrassed, a sight rarer than a decent anime adaptation ending.
Selling off her KyberCorp shares was an insignificant loss to Valeriya because Kaika would buy them at a good price. At any rate, she still owned a small chunk of NGC, spread across her numerous charity firms. Kaika’s success was partly her own.
The Russian turned over, causing her uncovered breasts to loosely sway to and fro before settling down. “I wanted to punish that naughty butler of yours for spoiling my long awaited fight.”
“And did you get that out of your system?”
“Yeah. I gotta admit it was a bit childish of me to blame her like that.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Kaika cheerfully, but then her voice lowered by an octave, “because I will forgive that only once.”
“Are you okay with openly admitting a weakness like that?”
“I’m not the only one who has important things.”
Valeriya felt a chill run down her spine.
Is she already ripe for the picking?
Valeriya loved a good fight, and that desire was not limited to physical combat. A battle of wits was just as exhilarating. Just as she had groomed Ageha to play with Crescent, she had also allowed, even supported, Kaika’s expansion of power.
“Wait a little more,” said Kaika.
“I’m not ready yet. Give me a bit more time. I promise it will be worth your while.”
Valeriya’s blood boiled from excitement.
Kaika had exceeded her expectations. The girl knew she was being fattened up for the butcher’s block but willingly and fearlessly used the opportunity. Terrifying.
Valeriya smiled from ear to ear. “Okay. Don’t keep me waiting too long.”
Kaika ended the call.
“Hey! What a rude kid. I wasn’t done talking yet.” The Russian pouted.
“She has a habit of not caring.”
Valeriya sat up. “Since when have you been there? I didn’t notice you coming.”
“I got here just now,” said Kanou Gen.
“I can’t believe you managed to elude my six sense.”
“That’s fictional hogwash. A ‘sixth sense’ is merely a combination of the other five senses and experience. You didn’t hear my footsteps because it was muffled by the sand and the sound of the crashing waves.”
“Scientists are so boring.” Valeriya shrugged. “Aren’t you hot in that?” She pointed at the doctor’s lab coat. “You could’ve worn something more appropriate for the tropics.”
“The villa is air conditioned, so I’m fine. I just came over to ask you something. Besides, I’m not the only one inappropriately dressed.” Gen glanced at Valeriya’s freely hanging breasts.
“Oh right. Kyaaa. You perv,” said Valeriya flatly, as if reading off a script.
“Please. I’ve seen more than my fair share of mammaries.”
“Doctors are so boring.”
“That’s inaccurate. Scientists and doctors are not necessarily boring. I’m not a good sample if you want to make a statement about those professions.”
“You’re boring, then.”
“That is correct.”
Valeriya looked at the doctor in disbelief. “Are you a robot?”
“I know you’re lonely with Ageha gone, but please do not use me as his replacement in your comedy routine.”
“It’s Mitsuki who’s been lonely since Ageha quit, not me. Besides, is taking on his role too much to ask? Aren’t you like a father to him?”
Gen actually laughed.
Valeriya tilted her head. “What’s so funny?”
“If I treated each lab rat as my offspring, I’d be financially ruined because of child support.”
The Russian’s gaze grew icy. “You’re quite cold, aren’t you?”
She hated irresponsible parents, and Gen was partly responsible for creating Ageha.
Gen ignored her glare. “Ageha has lost his value. I have plenty of other human subjects.”
I hate this man.
But he was necessary.
“History is moved by humans, not monsters,” she said.
“I’m not interested in history, only science.”
Still on the beach towel, Valeriya turned around and clumsily put on her bikini top with one hand.
“It seems I have offended you,” said Gen.
Her eyebrows rose. “That’s unexpectedly meek of you.”
“I’ll say anything if it means I can pursue my research.”
“Did you do that with your old boss too?”
“You mean Kaika? No, she was easier to get along with.”
“Do you regret switching sides?”
“Switching? I never took anyone’s side. Even she understood that. I currently work for you because you have a unique resource I need. That’s all.”
“Be careful who you’re calling a resource.”
“Apologies.” Gen bowed. “We got sidetracked. I came to tell you that the repairs for the two prototypes are almost complete.”
“That was fast. Ageha broke them quite badly.”
“That’s one of the advantages of the new models.”
“How are we doing with fixing the disadvantages?”
“That’s what I came here for.” Using a handkerchief, Gen wiped the sweat off his brow. “Can I borrow Sakuya for the afternoon? I want to run some tests using a new configuration for the control system.”
“That depends on if she’s awake.”
“She is. I saw her playing earlier.” Gen peeked in the direction of the villa. “Speak of the devil.”
A boy ran towards them, and a giant lumbered behind him, leaving deep footprints in the sand.
“How many times have I told you not to take those outside?” asked Valeriya.
Crescent crossed his arms. “I need the practice.”
“Hmm? You kept complaining that it was a pain before. Did losing the final match get you fired up?”
“I didn’t lose!” shouted the giant. “They ganged up on me. It wasn’t fair.”
“I get it, I get it. Can you please put those down and come over here?”
The boy and the giant bent down on one knee and stopped moving. After about a minute, a girl appeared from the villa doors and jogged towards them.
Sunlight reflected off her lustrous waist-length black hair. A loose red tanktop and white mini shorts covered her porcelain skin. Faint scars littered her hands and forearms.
“So, why did she hide this time?” asked Valeriya.
“She’s depressed because you told her Ageha quit.” Sakuya frowned indignantly at her mother. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
Valeriya secretly felt relieved. The sight of blood was the most common trigger, and that usually meant an injury of some sort.
“What are you talking about? I love you both equally.”
“That’s funny, because I hate you as much as Mitsuki loves you.”
Gen peered at the girl. “Considering that, you seem very obedient.”
“What can I do? Ria puts food on the table,” said Sakuya with a shrug.
“You’re still so arrogant even after losing to your own technique,” said Valeriya. “That was partly my fault for showing it to Ageha, but-”
“Technique? You mean his last dodge? I’ve never stabbed my fingers into the floor before.”
“He adapted it to his enhanced body, but it was definitely copied from me. In my match against him, I used your move. You know, the one you did when we first met.”
“Oooh that,” said Sakuya. “That’s not really a technique. Mitsu-, I just saw something similar in a TV show I watched with Dad.”
“You watched martial arts programs way back then?”
“No, it was a cheetah documentary. Dad loved animal shows. Anyway, the narrator said something about how the cheetah’s claws grip the ground and allow them to make sharp turns. When I attacked you, I grabbed Dad’s shirt with my toes as I stepped on him. That’s how I got close enough to cut that off.” Sakuya casually pointed at Valeriya’s shoulder stump.
Such incredible talent.
You stepped on your father’s corpse, you know?
But Valeriya loved Sakuya all the same. She had created her, after all. No matter how much the girl hated her, she would always return it with affection. If the girl asked for her life, she would gladly offer it. In fact, she once had. Valeriya recalled Sakuya’s seething response to her offer.
“Killing someone so eager to die is meaningless! This gnawing won’t go away!!!”
After her father’s death, Mitsuki pushed all of her painful memories and emotions onto her other self. The growing frustration from being unable to satisfy her bloodthirst drove Sakuya to cut herself. With mysterious wounds appearing on her arms, it was only a matter of time before Mitsuki found out about her other persona, causing her delicate mental balance to collapse.
To protect Mitsuki’s mind and body, Valeriya had no choice but to provide prey for the starving beast, hoping to stave off her hunger until a better solution was found. Sakuya started with random thugs, but her desire for stronger quarry exposed her to increasing danger. That led to the creation of the girl’s two invulnerable killing avatars.
There were other alternatives, but Valeriya’s love for combat, admiration for the girl’s talent, and position in the underworld all contributed to the rather extreme direction she took.
Sakuya placed her hands on her waist. “And like I said, I didn’t lose. I had a handicap. It was difficult controlling Crescent and 0.5 at the same time.”
Inspired by Mitsuki’s name, which was written as “full moon,” Valeriya had named Sakuya and the two androids after the other lunar phases. Sakuya, whose personality was opposite to Mitsuki’s, aptly meant “night of the new moon.”
“But Ageha broke the agility prototype after you got full control,” said Gen. “It was clearly your loss.”
The raven-haired girl giggled while clawing on her flat chest. “Telling people they lost over and over again… Maybe if you lose a limb or two, you’ll understand my feelings better.” Sakuya’s glare brimmed with lethal hostility.
“You should refrain from that, if you want to defeat Ageha in your next bout, that is.”
Sakuya wrinkled her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“Practicing with the current control system won’t do you much good. If you help me with the configuration adjustments, I can make it much easier for you to use. That’s the most efficient method to improve your performance.”
“But that’s so boring. Can’t someone else do it?”
“No, I wouldn’t be in this humid hell otherwise,” said Gen.
Valeriya scowled at him.
The doctor sighed and continued, “Your ability to translate mental images to precise motor movements is unparalleled. The current system would not even be usable without you. But technology reserved for one person is nothing but sorcery. Science lies in the ability to reproduce results. That’s why I need your cooperation. By automating the processes your brain does involuntarily, even normal people will be able to use it.”
“I don’t care about any of that,” said Sakuya.
“Let me finish. Think about it. If a normal person can use it, how much easier would it be for you? If you can tap the system’s full potential, controlling the androids would be no different from moving your own body. In fact, you can do even more because there is no need to fear pain or injury.”
“Then can I beat Ageha?”
“I thought you didn’t lose?”
“I didn’t win either.”
“When I reach the final stage of my research, cybernetically enhanced soldiers like him will be a thing of the past.”
“You will utterly destroy him.”
“What are we waiting for!? Let’s go! Hurry!” Sakuya grabbed the doctor’s hand and began pulling him in the direction of the villa.
“Why are you so focused on Ageha?” asked Valeriya. “I’m all for it because it’s an amazing matchup, but I don’t see why you are.”
Sakuya turned to her mother, her silky mane whipping around like a black snake. “I really, really, really, really, really hate that guy.”
Valeriya could not help but chuckle at Sakuya’s childish comment. “That much?”
“As much as Mitsuki likes him.”
The Russian’s breath caught in her throat.
She imagined Mitsuki’s crying face.
She recalled the lovable polar bear she named Po.
“I’d rather you not kill him, if possible.”
“No can do, Ria.”
“He called me piggy.”
Kaika ended the call with the Russian mob boss and slipped her terminal into the telemetry pocket of her hospital gown. “You can let go now.”
“Please do not push yourself, Ojousama. You are still recuperating.”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone walking around with an arm sling.”
“You speak as if you are not wearing one yourself.”
“A finger is enough to operate this thing.” Kaika placed her right hand on the wheelchair controls.
Saya released the chair’s push handle. The machine advanced a step away from her but matched her pace afterwards.
They continued down the hallway of an NGC-owned hospital.
After a few strides, the butler said in a worried tone, “Ojousama, please allow me to push-”
“It’s fine. Don’t underestimate the doctors here. They might not be as good as Gen, but fixing a bullet graze is child’s play for them.”
And driving this wheelchair is more fun than I thought.
But she did not say that out loud.
“You still cannot contact Kanou-sensei?” asked Saya.
“He probably went to Ria.”
“Wha- That is an emergency!”
“Kanou-sensei knows a lot about us.”
“Nothing that Russian doesn’t already know.”
“How do you know he defected to her?”
“Ria has been trying to recruit Gen for a long time. The odd anime goods in his house were from her. I didn’t think he would actually give in though. Ria must have something indispensable to him, something even I can’t provide. The two robots you fought in the finals are likely related to that. At the very least, they are products of his research. Look into it.”
“…But don’t overextend. You just lost a leg.”
“And it got repaired. ARMS are very convenient.”
“I was worried.”
“That is my line. While half the fault lies with me for failing to protect you, I wish you would be more careful. I know you want to regain Natsume-san’s trust, but jumping into the line of fire-”
“My body moved on its own.” Kaika noticed the footfalls behind her turn silent and stopped the wheelchair. “Sorry. I’ve asked you to sacrifice so much, but I couldn’t even throw away such weakness.”
The wheelchair resumed its advance before Saya could reply.
“Ojousama, please wait!”
“We’re almost at Arashi’s room. Hurry up.”
Saya caught up to her. “Why the rush?”
“I invited someone. I have something important to tell Arashi, so I want to get there first.”
“It’s not something I care to repeat. You’ll know soon enough.”
They turned a corner and approached the first door on the left. The room’s nameplate was blank. Saya knocked on the door for her mistress.
“It’s me, Kai.”
After a few seconds, a loud crash came from inside.
Saya hurriedly opened the door and entered. “Are you alright!?”
Kaika followed her inside. Arashi, still connected to several plastic tubes, was sprawled on the floor. White bandages covered her eyes, and her hospital gown was pulled up all the way to her stomach, exposing her belly button and baby blue panties. She fumbled around, blindly searching for something to grasp. Saya grabbed her right hand.
“Okay, up we go.” The butler pulled the teen to her feet and then laid her down on the bed. “What were you doing on the floor?”
“You don’t need to get up for something like that,” said Kaika. “It’s been a few days. How are you feeling?”
“Okay. Not… as much pain.”
“I see.” Kaika closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “Thank you, Arashi. You’ve saved my life twice now.”
Arashi’s shoulders twitched. Her cheeks blushing, she said, “My… job.”
“Yes, you did great,” said Kaika with a pained voice. “Really great… That’s why, you can rest as much as you want.”
“No need,” said Arashi. “I’m ready… to go back to duty… anytime.”
Kaika tightly gripped her hospital gown. “About that, you don’t need to go back to work anymore.”
Saya, brows furrowed, looked at her mistress.
Arashi tilted her head for a moment and then said, “No, I- I’m… okay! I can… still fight!”
“I spoke to your doctor. The nerve damage to both your eyes… is too severe. They can’t connect the nerves to bionics even with the latest technology.”
Saya covered her mouth with her fingers.
Arashi’s lips parted but closed wordlessly. After a few more failed attempts, she asked, “What… do you mean?”
“You won’t be able to see anymore,” said Kaika.
Arashi touched her covered right eye with her fingers. “Broken..?”
“Th-then fix it. Please Kai.”
“I don’t need… money! I need this to… fight!” Arashi stretched her arms out, trying to find her mistress in the empty space before her. “Please fix it! Kai!!!”
“I said I can’t..!”
“…There’s no way to fix it. I’m sorry..!” Tears rolled down Kaika’s cheeks.
“I can’t fight… anymore?”
Kaika shook her head, but the blind girl could not see her do so. Saya still looked stupefied.
“I can’t… fight Ageha?”
“I can’t… be with you?”
“…No. You, we’ll both be in more danger that way.” Kaika bit her bottom lip, turning it white. “I can’t keep a blind bodyguard.”
Arashi’s hands fell limply on the pristine hospital sheets. She slowly turned her head in random directions, as if searching for a reason why fate had forsaken her. Low moans gurgled from her throat as her life bled out of her, and eventually, her frame crumpled into a small fragile husk.
Kaika and Saya watched silently, unable to do anything for her.
Arashi slowly parted her lips. “Ro…ger.”
“You’ll be provided with the best care,” said Kaika. “Tell me if you need anything. Money is not an issue.”
The broken bodyguard turned away from Kaika’s voice. With her eyes covered, her expression was even more unreadable than usual, but her hollow, withered voice conveyed her anguish perfectly. “…No need. I have… nothing left.”
“That’s not true.”
Arashi did not reply, nor did she cry. Shedding tears was a coping mechanism against sorrow, a means of survival. Kaika knew that when someone truly fell into despair, no tears came out. Only an endless emptiness remained.
But that was not the case for Arashi. Not yet.
Several knocks came from the door.
Arashi did not react. Alerted by the visitor, Saya readied herself and glanced at her mistress.
Kaika signaled for her to stand down. “Come in.”
A middle-aged woman entered the room. Her long black hair was tied in a low ponytail. She emanated a serene aura and moved with grace. All that crumbled the moment she laid eyes on the room’s patient.
“A… rashi,” she said, dropping her purse.
Kaika reached out and touched the teen’s shoulder. “There’s someone here to see you.”
Before Arashi could respond, the visitor ran up to her bedside and embraced her. Clearly confused, the blind teen froze on the spot.
“It’s me, your mother!”
“Don’t you recognize my voice? I’ve missed you so much!” Kaoru held her tighter.
“Yes!” While shedding tears, Kaoru pulled away and kissed her on the cheek several times. “You’ve grown so much!”
“It… can’t be. Mom left.”
“I didn’t want to! I had no choice… If I didn’t leave your father, Godou would’ve harmed you..!” Kaoru gently held Arashi’s face with both hands. “I’m sorry for leaving you alone all this time!”
“Y-You’re really… Where… were you?”
“Godou kept me under watch in Okinawa. After he passed away three years ago, I tried my best to find you, but you and Souichi disappeared! I can’t blame him for keeping you from me. I betrayed you both when I agreed to take the transplant, but, but I..!” She embraced her daughter again.
Arashi gingerly placed her palms on her mother’s back. “Mom… I… I can’t see anymore.”
“I heard about it.”
“A-are you okay… with that?”
“You saved Nikaido-san’s life, right? I’m proud of you! I wouldn’t expect any less from my daughter.” Kaoru closed her eyes tightly, as if sharing the pain and fear Arashi was currently experiencing. “And don’t worry. Nikaido-san promised to do all she can to restore your sight. It might be difficult right now, but eventually…”
“Father, he… I ki-”
“You don’t need to say any more. I’m sorry you had to suffer through so much, but don’t worry, I’ll be with you from now on.”
“It’s really you, Mom..!” Arashi tightly hugged her mother. Like springwater breaking through barren soil, her tears finally came forth.
The mother and daughter cried in each other’s arms. Kaika beckoned Saya with her eyes and turned her wheelchair around.
“Thank you, Kai! Thank you..!” said Arashi.
Without looking back, Kaika rolled out of the room. Saya followed her out and shut the door. The young girl drove her wheelchair down the hallway. Her butler walked two steps behind her.
“I’m going back to my room. You can go back to yours,” said Kaika.
“I will walk you back.”
Kaika made no attempt to speak.
Saya continued to follow her. After a long, awkward silence, she lined up with her mistress and said, “I am impressed you managed to find Arashi’s mother. My contacts could not locate her current address. As expected of you.”
“…As expected of me, huh? That sounds about right.” The prodigy’s voice, usually clear as a bell, was muddled with complex emotions.
Kaika looked at her. “Of course you wouldn’t find Kaoru Tanizaki’s address. She’s been dead for years.”
Saya’s jaw dropped. Then her lips opened and closed several times, but no words came out.
“That’s a perfect Arashi impression.”
“Be quiet. We’re in a hospital.”
“…Kai-Ojousama, what is the meaning of this?”
“The real Kaoru abandoned her family for money. She took handouts from that Godou fellow, lived in luxury, and died from a drug overdose.”
“The woman with Arashi right now is an actress I hired. I gave her all the information I have about Kaoru. Someone needed to save Arashi from despair.”
“I see.” Saya sighed in relief. “There is no need to blame yourself. You did it for her sake. A white lie is hardly a sin considering that.”
“A white lie?” Kaika’s shoulders jerked several times as she tried to contain her laughter. “What if I told you Arashi’s optic nerves are perfectly fine?”
Saya fell behind, but Kaika did not stop.
After hearing her butler’s footsteps come closer, she continued, “I had to put her out of commission. It would be troublesome if she meets Ageha. We’re about to get him back. I don’t want any more hiccups.” A thin smirk appeared on her face. “It was easy to fool Arashi because she can’t see her fake mother’s face. This way, I can use her when the need arises. I’ll just fabricate some new technology that can fix her eyes. I can even use her mother as a hostage if she won’t listen to my orders. It’s the perfect plan.” She chuckled.
Saya sped up and tried to line up with Kaika again, but the girl accelerated, keeping her butler behind her.
“Please do not lie to me,” said Saya.
Kaika snorted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The Ojousama I know would not sound so ashamed when explaining a successful scheme.” Saya tried to overtake the wheelchair.
Kaika increased her speed to maintain their distance. “What nonsense.”
“Then why are you running away?” The butler grabbed the wheelchair’s rear handle and planted her feet firmly on the ground, bringing the machine to a halt.
Kaika almost fell forward from the sudden stop. Without fixing her precarious perch on the wheelchair, she tried to drive forward, but the motor was no match against Saya’s alloy limbs. After one more futile attempt, Kaika released the controls and sat back on her chair.
Saya went around the wheelchair and kneeled in front of her. “You do not have to lie to me. After soiling my hands for my own sake, I have finally come to understand the burden you carry. I only had a small taste of it, but it is already… overwhelming. All this time, I have been using my allegiance to you as an excuse when I commit atrocities to escape from guilt. I cannot apologize enough for that. To make up for it, I promised myself I will not look away anymore.” She grasped her mistress’s hand. “Tell me, why did you do this to Arashi?”
Kaika felt the eons-old ice encasing her heart crack. “Ever since Arashi came to me, I tried to give her a place to belong, a family, something more valuable than her twisted fixation with Ageha… but I failed. Before we fetched Rin on the night of the finals, I asked her, Saya.” Kaika’s faultless face wrinkled into a scribble of sorrow as her voice broke. “I asked her what it would take for her to give up on him. I offered her everything I could, but she shook her head! With that adorable sleepy face, she shook her head!!!” Kaika slumped forward, tears falling on her lap. “I don’t want Ageha or Arashi to die! I can’t let those two meet each other! This is the only way!”
Saya wrapped her arm around Kaika’s shoulders. Despite the cold touch of metal, an unknown warmth permeated the young girl’s core.
“You do not need to bear the burden alone,” said Saya. “I will never hate you. Even if you use me, betray me, and throw me away.”
“I could never do that!”
“Please do not say that. You can, and you will if necessary.”
Kaika could not deny Saya’s words. She had sacrificed too much to stop. Giving into weakness would not only invalidate everything and everyone she had squeezed dry and trampled on, it would also trivialize her very existence. Only third-rate villains changed their ways after growing a conscience.
Kaika pushed Saya away and dried her tears on her sleeve. “You’re right. That is who, what I am.” She raised her head, revealing a frighteningly beautiful yet savagely cruel smile.
She had no right to be human anymore.
The tragedy lay in the fact that she had never been as human as she was now.