Accel World Volume 8 Chapter 11
At the same time his Over-Ray disappeared, Haruyuki’s wings returned to their original metallic fins. They were folded automatically and were stored in the interior of a cover-shaped protuberance. After softly casting words of gratitude in the back of his mind to his twin wings, Haruyuki looked at the faces of his comrades anew in order.
As if they had seen through Haruyuki crying on the inside of his mirror surface visor, all of them were laughing kindly with smiles. However, just now it seemed that there was no need to look down to hide his embarrassment. The reason was that the existence of the miko smiling in front of him was the realization of an indescribably huge miracle.
That was right. The «world-destroying conflagration miko» Ardor Maiden, who had been sealed at the south gate of the Imperial Palace in the Unlimited Neutral Field over a period of two years, had been released at last now. At this rate, if they moved a mere hundred meters south and passed through the portal established in the inner court of the triangular building—the real-world Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, Utai would be able to return to the real world normally together with her own alter ego.
“…You’ve done it, Haru.”
The one who had said that anew with a smile was Lime Bell—Chiyuri. Gazing at her eye lenses, which were filled with transparent drops, with an effort Haruyuki returned some words.
“Unh. —Thank you, Chiyu. Thank you, everyone…”
That moment, he seemed about to have the power drain straight out from his legs and sink to the floor there, but hurriedly he replanted his feet. It was too early to feel exhausted. There still remained one, no, two things he needed to do.
First, the purification of the «Disaster Armor» dwelling within Haruyuki. If they succeeded in that, the fear of being designated with a bounty by the Six Kings would also disappear. At the same time, the repeating disaster cycle would also finally be cut off.
When the purification ended, the joint training with Sky Raker’s «child», Ash Roller, who desired to acquire the Incarnate system, was waiting next. He could not even imagine what kind of Mind Power Ash would embody, but no doubt with a showy technique he would cause everyone’s nerves to—…
Having thought that far then, Haruyuki finally noticed that the skull face of that end-of-century rider did not exist before his eyes. Shaking off the tears brimming in his eyes by blinking, he turned to Fuuko and asked.
“What’s happened to Ash-san? He met up in front of my apartment house in Suginami and came this far together with us, right? …Ah, surely he didn’t get cold feet from seeing Suzaku and run away or something…”
He had added the end of his sentence thirty percent in seriousness and seventy percent as a joke, but however Fuuko did not laugh. Far from that, she bit her lip, and a seemingly anxious tint rose up in her eye lenses.
“…About that, the truth is…we, we were not able to meet up with that child.”
“Eh…wh, what do you mean…?”
Ash Roller should have dived from Fuuko’s car parked in the underground parking lot of Haruyuki’s real-world apartment house. The horizontal-direction distance between them was nearly zero. It seemed easy to meet up in front of the building.
Takumu explained it to the bewildered Haruyuki in a reserved voice.
“About that, Haru. In front of the apartment house, there were only tire tracks seemingly left behind by Ash Roller’s bike; no matter how many dozens of minutes we waited, the person himself didn’t appear…”
“Tire tracks…? Then, did he move to the Imperial Palace by himself, unable to wait…and get lost on the path somewhere…?”
“No…that’s difficult to consider.”
This time, Fuuko lightly shook her head.
“That child should know the route from Suginami to the imperial residence well. The path of the Demonic City stage is also easy to understand; it seems unlikely that Ash got lost.”
“Besides that, Haruyuki-kun. We tentatively did try to follow the tire tracks as much as we could, but it seemed that they kept going south from the apartment house.”
Kuroyukihime murmured that while crossing the swords of her arms before her chest. True enough, that was out of the ordinary. If one were to head for the imperial residence from Suginami, then even if one went south one would have to turn to the east soon.
An apprehension that seemed to block his breathing assaulted Haruyuki.
Ash Roller did have his whimsical points, but he was not the guy to stand someone up. In the first place, his master and parent Sky Raker was also included among the people he had arranged to meet. Even if he saw small-class enemies that seemed easy to defeat from afar, it was unthinkable that he would do something like chase after them with his bike.
In that case—«something» had happened. Probably, while standing by in the underground parking lot. Due to a situation so urgent he could not even wait to join up with Fuuko and the others, Ash had run south. And then, there a further something had occurred.
Also, two and a half hours had already elapsed since Haruyuki and company had dived into the Unlimited Neutral Field. And then if Ash had dived a mere minute earlier than the appointed seven o’clock in the evening, it would amount to a calculation of him having already spent ten-odd hours in this world.
“Uh, um…I’m, going to look for him!”
Driven on by an ineffable unease, Haruyuki again widened the metal wings on his back. Using his special technique gauge, which had been charged again during his battle in space with Suzaku, he lightly floated up.
“Haruyuki-kun, operating solo is dangerous! If we’re to search, then together with everyone…”
“I’ll be fine, if I find something I’ll return! Senpai, you and the others, please wait in front of the Metropolitan Police Department’s portal!”
Interrupting the words of Kuroyukihime, who had tried to curb him, Haruyuki took an even higher altitude.
“…Haru, if you don’t return after we’ve waited for an hour, we’ll pull the cable on the other side!”
While giving a forced laugh at Chiyuri’s words, Haruyuki nodded, shouted just “Understood, I’ll leave it to you!”, and rose to a greater altitude in one go.
Presuming that Ash Roller had headed south from Koenji, he should be southwest of the Imperial Palace. From about fifty meters from the ground, he tried to strain his eyes, but there were many tall buildings in the Demonic City stage, and he could not see through. While raising his altitude further, he began to move slowly.
From the south of the Imperial Palace, basically Kasumigaseki, Haruyuki moved in a straight line to Akasaka and Aoyama. While flying, he scanned with all his might, but all that moved were small~medium-sized enemies. He thought about interrogating enemy hunting parties if there were any, but perhaps due to the fact that it was a weekday night, not a single sound of combat reached him.
Even if he strained his ears, he could only hear the sound of the wind blowing across the stage. However, that stillness further stirred Haruyuki’s anxiety. Although he was flying at the bare minimum energy-conserving speed, moment by moment his special technique gauge decreased. And being able to use his new Incarnate technique that had just spiritually awakened a while ago, «Light Speed», was very unlikely in this state of mind.
“…Guess it can’t be helped…”
Resolving himself, Haruyuki ran the risk of being discovered by hostile existences on the ground and raised his altitude. Before he was aware of it, he had reached Harajuku. Ahead here was already Yoyogi Park, and south of that was Shibuya.
And then—at that moment.
Smack-dab in the middle of the wide intersection where Meiji-dori and Inokashira-dori crossed, he had the feeling that something had gleamed with a flicker. Even if he looked down again, there were neither Burst Linkers nor enemies, but just in case he opted to try descending.
Haruyuki, who had landed on the blue-black surface of the road while being cautious about his surroundings, reached his hand down to his feet and picked up the thing that seemed to be the source of the reflected light.
At first glance, it was an unidentifiable object. There was an orange hemisphere-shaped clear lens fit in the silver disk about four centimeters in diameter. There was a thin rod extending from the side of the disk, but it seemed to be snapped halfway.
“…What the heck is this…”
He murmured and twirled the mysterious part in his hand; it reflected the faint sunlight of the Demonic City stage and flickered periodically in an orange color.
That moment—Haruyuki noticed it.
This was a bike winker. To be precise, it was the very winker part that Ash Roller had made blink in order to pull a feint on Haruyuki in their duel conducted this morning on the Loop 7 road.
In the Unlimited Neutral Field, objects missing from Enhanced Armaments remained for a fairly long time compared with those in the normal duel field. Some accident had probably happened when Ash Roller’s bike was passing by here, and the blinker had been damaged. Looking around at his surroundings again with that conviction, he discovered some damage tracks burnt black on the surface of the walls of the buildings lined up along the south side of the road.
The orientation of the attacks was from north to south. Basically, Ash had driven from Loop 7 to this place via Inokashira-dori, at that point had been attacked by someone, and had turned south at the intersection…?
Still gripping the winker part, Haruyuki kicked the ground and flew up. The level of the dread filling his heart had already reached the area around his throat.
At the bare speed such that his gauge did not decrease steeply, he flew south along Meiji-dori. In doing so, in a mere two twenty seconds the next fallen object caught his eye. He descended to the ground and made sure of it.
There was no longer the need to be perplexed about what that was. A hub and rim fixed in place with a thin spoke. In its vicinity, a gray, thick rubber wheel. It was a bike tire. From its width, it was the front wheel.
The same black traces of attack as those he had seen a while ago were concentrated on the surrounding ground. It seemed that here the bike had taken big damage, its front wheel had fallen out, and its experienced rider had headed south furthermore with a wheelie. However, that trick play would not continue forever.
Haruyuki let out a hoarse voice and looked out to the far side of the road that extended south.
A faint sound of impact rocked the air at that time.
The surface of the walls of a mass of buildings about a hundred meters ahead shone in a flickering green color. The hard sound and the brilliance were not the explosion of an object or an attack effect. It was the death effect of a duel avatar.
Haruyuki, who had reflexively begun to run, switched to flying midway. He flew over the roof of the buildings and took a shortcut past the road, which gently curved left. The instant the road in the neighborhood of Miyashita Park in the Shibuya ward entered his field of vision, a profound shiver assaulted Haruyuki’s entire body. His wings stiffened and arbitrarily hovered about twenty meters high in the sky.
What his eyes caught straight away was the mercilessly destroyed object whose tire, engine, frame, and muffler were strewn about that previously used to be a metallic gray American bike.
A bit ahead from there, six Burst Linkers were standing in a ring. Of course, there were not any with whom he was friendly; there were hardly even any whose names he knew. What was common to the six was that thin auras of darkness were rising from their whole bodies. The Over-Rays of Mind Power. The sources of their energy were—the «eyes» glittering red like blood in the center of their chests. The «ISS Kits».
And then, in the center of the six people lined up in a circle was a single Burst Linker who had curled his body up and was cowering.
A sleek leather rider suit. Gaudy protectors on his shoulders and knees. And on his head, a full-face helmet equipped with a shield that imitated a skull—.
Haruyuki squeezed out a voice unlike one from his chest.
Deep scars were carved lengthwise and crosswise into Ash Roller’s whole body. However, why he was not trying to move was not because of the damage he had received. He was trying to protect the small light floating above the road with his avatar’s whole body as a shield.
That point of light, which flickered grass green, was the «marker» left at the spot where Burst Linkers died in the Unlimited Neutral Field. It was probably the owner of the death effect Haruyuki had felt a mere number of dozens of seconds ago. He recognized the hue of the light. That was—Ash’s friend who was like a younger brother to him, «Bush Utan», without a doubt.
In a moment, Haruyuki intuitively realized what had happened here while he and Utai were fighting hard to escape the Imperial Palace.
It was probably like this.
Ash Roller, who had been waiting for their dive time of seven in the evening inside the car parked in the underground of the real-world apartment house, had participated in the gallery of someone’s duel while standing by. In that stage, he had run across Bush Utan, who was either a duelist or likewise a spectator. There, he had persuaded Utan and instructed him to meet up at the same time in the Unlimited Neutral Field. In order for him to convey something that needed to be conveyed to Utan as his big brother.
That rendezvous place was probably in the direction of Shibuya. For that reason, before joining the four members of Nega Nebulas at seven in the evening sharp in front of the apartment house, he had dived early and headed for Shibuya to bring Utan along.
However, the place and time had somewhere—probably in the duel field where he was part of the gallery been leaked to one of the equippers of the ISS Kit. They had lain in ambush in front of the Meiji Shrine in order to hunt Ash and Utan as prey. Ash, who had taken a surprise attack from an Incarnate technique of darkness, had gotten away this far with all his might even while his bike was receiving damage, but in the end his beloved bike had been destroyed. No, that was not all. If he had dived into this world slightly earlier than seven o’clock in the evening, then Haruyuki guessed that over ten hours had already elapsed. Basically—undoubtedly, at this place he along with Bush Utan had died and been resurrected repeatedly no few number of times.
In the Unlimited Neutral Field, Enhanced Armaments that had been completely lost once did not regenerate unless one carried out a relogin into the field. Even if Ash Roller lost all his health gauge, died, and respawned one hour later, the American bike in which he had invested nearly all his potential as a duel avatar would not be brought back.
In short, the Burst Linkers standing in that place had surrounded Ash Roller, who had lost practically all his combat ability, with six men and furthermore were tormenting him to death with the strength of the Mind Power of darkness the ISS Kit produced.
Again and again. Again and again. Again and again and again and again—…
From the throat of Haruyuki, who was hovering, a husky voice leaked out.
Without the sign of even noticing that, one of the six walked up to Ash Roller, who was crouching on the road surface. His middle-class form was rather unremarkable, but there was a slight sense of volume in his hands. Haruyuki also had the feeling that he had caught sight of him somewhere, but he could not remember his name.
“Next…it’s my turn right. I wonder…does he still have points remaining?”
The avatar who had lazily put that into words clutched Ash’s helmet with his large right hand from which a dusky aura was being discharged. A dull crack! sound reverberated, and his trademark scarface was splintered into smithereens.
The aggressor seized anew the exposed neck of the duel avatar who gave off a delicate impression considering his character and who in some respects seemed like a young boy.
With all his strength, he dragged Ash Roller, who was still trying to defend Utan’s marker light, up from the road. The eyes of Ash, who had been forced to face upward, sighted Haruyuki, who had frozen on the roof of a building.
His pale green eye lenses opened wide for an instant—following that, they seemed as if they were weakly laughing. In Haruyuki’s consciousness, his normally reckless and boisterous voice reverberated in a manner that tended to cut off.
-…Heh heh…I made, a blunder. My bad, Crow…I made the feelings of you and Master…go to wast…
Glug. That blunt sound resounded; the assailant’s left arm had deeply penetrated the middle of Ash’s chest.
A pillar of gray light towered, and the thin avatar burst and scattered, rider suit and all.
While being showered in his scattered fragments, the attacker, perhaps looking at his own Install menu, slightly tilted his head and spoke.
“Oh, with one more time I’ll be able to level up. It’d be nice if he remained till my next turn, huh.”
Haruyuki’s whole body trembled so strongly that it seemed as if it would disintegrate. His limbs, tense to their limit, creaked with a grinding sound, and underneath his helmet his teeth rang repeatedly. The voice that leaked out from his throat had collapsed and was cracked in a tone so low to the extent where he himself had never heard it.
“Ah…a, a, aaah…AAAAH…”
From head to foot, it seemed as if he were filled with liquid of quite a low temperature. No, it might have even been the super-intense heat of melted iron. At the very least, it was unmistakable that a vast emotion had been compressed and was running through his entire body in place of blood.
Anger. A fury so great it made his view red hot. Blackish hatred. And then the impetus to destroy.
“AH…AA, A, AAAAH…!”
That sharp metallic sound rang out from Haruyuki’s hands. Silver Crow’s slender ten fingers had sharpened, curved, and been enlarged like the claws of a bird of prey. At the same time, his armor color changed too. From a shining mirror silver to a chrome silver like a shadow.
…You mustn’t entrust yourself to that emotion! You will disappear…!
Someone had shouted far away, very far away. However, that faint voice no longer reached Haruyuki’s consciousness.
The metallic sound did not stop; Haruyuki’s two arms were covered in chrome supplementary armor. Both his legs too. That form, whose edges were so effective they were atrocious, was far more sinister and looked more like that of a demon than when it had previously materialized at Hermes Cord.
Instead of the girl’s voice, a voice distorted by a metallic quality resounded throughout his mind.
—I am thee. Thou art me.
—Passing through a time of eternity, now at last have I been resurrected. I am «disaster». I am «demise». I be the one who makes the sound of the bell of the end ring out to the world.
It was exactly the same as the voice he had heard after school today in the real-world Umesato Middle rear garden, but different from that time he felt no pain whatsoever. Basically, this was not negative Mind Power’s «overflow». Haruyuki himself had called that awake and had yearned to fuse with it.
At the same its voice rang, Haryuki called its name.
——My name is——
That yell, which had ferociously surged forth, was the very howl of a beast that hungered for blood and desired massacre. Purple system font traversed the upper left hand of his field of vision from left to right like a flash of lightning in one go.
【YOU EQUIPPED AN ENHANCED ARMAMENT: «THE DISASTER»】
While releasing a violent metallic sound, armor resembling a demon’s fangs heavily covered him from his stomach to his breast. A sharp tail lengthened out in a slithery way from his back, and his two wings changed into a silhouette like some sort of weapon.
A visor in the imitation of the jaw of a beast swallowed up his smoothly round helmet from the top and bottom without leaving a gap. His view was wrapped up in a thin gray additional layer.
In the skies overhead, the dark clouds of the Demonic City stage were making an enormous whirlpool. From its center, a jet-black thunderbolt poured down together with a thunderous roar. Haruyuki received that with his outstretched right hand.
The thunderbolt stayed in his hand as it was, changed shape, and produced an object. A long sword possessing a hilt that shone black and a blade that was fiercely sharpened. A high ranking Enhanced Armament called by the name of «Star Caster» in the distant past.
That very thing was the binary star of destiny that twinkled in a bewitching manner and nestled close to the side of the sixth star «Kaiyou», alias the original of the Disaster Armor, the Divine Weapon «The Destiny». The eighth star of the Big Dipper—.
Brandishing the cursed sword high, Haruyuki howled.
That war cry was filled with rage and hatred, but as if weeping in some way, it resounded throughout the sky of the Accelerated World.
(To Be Continued)
1. Also called Yoyogi-koen (Kouen, 公園, means park).
2. The suffix -dori means “street” or “avenue.”
3. Like Yoyogi-koen, it is also referred to as Miyashita-koen.
4. Written as “leave and dive again” (離脱・再ダイブ) with “relogin” in furigana.