"Well well, Hakumen, it is nice to meet you, at last." Kokonoe said with a cat smile.
"Hey, no need to get pissed off. What can you do after all? We have taken Susanoo away from you just in case. So be a good boy and stay there, alright?"
"You won't get away with this, cat!"
Kokonoe smiled to herself. Even with all the mishaps that occurred, she captured Hakumen as she planned.
"I have to say, nice work out there, Tager."
"Thanks." He said shortly. "However, I have to ask you, Kokonoe, what are you going to do with that other thing?"
"Oh? You mean this?"
Kokonoe pulled out a red card, which teleported with Hakumen when the temporal distortion happened.
"Well, you know me. I wanna know everything about this bitch! The raw magic in here is...just amazing!"
It is still just a card. Raim's card, by the way.
"Oh great..." Tager rolled his eyes, knowing that nobody could stop Kokonoe when she was in this state. However, he couldn't help but ask... "What are you going to do with that, anyways?"
"Remember the Prime Field Device I made you pick up last time? The 11th, I mean."
"The one from..."
Jin didn't know where he was. His body was not responding. Even with his nigh-immesurable determination to stand up, his body didn't respond. There are limits to the body, you know.
His consciousness was slipping away, when...
"...! There's someone here...!"
"Dear god, is that the Hero of Ikaruga?" A voice said. "Someone, bring the doctor!"
The last thing Jin saw was several people running to him and helping him move.
"Well well, this was a fun day!" Hazama laughed to himself as he saw Jin being taken away from afar. "Still, have to hand it to Rags, he really did a number to Mr. Personality down there..."
He then put a straight face when remembering something.
"...And that kid wasn't half bad either. It looked just like a mini-Rags, if you know what I mean."
"Don't get any funny ideas." A voice said from behind. "I thought I told you that you..."
"Yeah yeah, don't kill him, I get it." He snorted. "Still, he was fun enough for yours truly to give him a hand against the shitty vampire."
"You almost made her notice you."
"You mean the shitty vampire or that broad in purple?"
"Both." The voice said. "You really are not careful, are not?"
"Well, I have my own style to do things, you know? Besides, the kid's okay. Stop whining about it."
"...Then I think our deal is done." The voice said. "You did not harm the kid."
"And you used that laser from Take-Mikazuchi for god knows what." Hazama laughed. "Though honestly, I'm kinda curious of what are you planning."
"There was no plan." The voice seemed calm. "I just asked for permission to use it. That's what a good gentleman does when things don't belong to him, doesn't it?"
"Pfft! Ha ha ha ha ha! I take it back, you are funnier than the kid!"
"Your compliment is noted." The voice seemed to smile.
"You know, we are not so different after all..."
"You see, I just want the world to stop lying to itself and embrace despaaaair! What you want is a world of unparalleled freedom, not caring shit about a set order. It's basically the same."
"In that, you are wrong."
"Oh. My apologies. Did I touch a nerve?" Hazama said with high sarcasm. "So sorry, your highness."
"But yes...humanity has become blind of its true potential. That kid is..."
"Wrong again. I want him to become the paragon of the true freedom I plan for humanity to follow." The voice raised his tone. "I won't let Him continue His tyranny."
Oh god, you are Lucifer, aren't you? !
"...Basically, a tool."
"...At least he chooses what to do. I just am...trying to make him see what path I've chosen and what will it lead him to."
"But if he's allowed to choose, he might go against you, don't you think? Me? I just prefer to play around with them or brainwash them. You know, classic fun."
"Fine by me."
That surprised Hazama.
"If he chooses not to join me, I'm fine with that too. If he tries to fight me, it's okay." Louis explained. "As long as he doesn't become His sympathizer, I won't oppose him. And I doubt he will."
"But what if he does, in a, you know, hypothetical scenario?"
"...Then I'll crush him down."
"Wow. Cold to the core. Classy!"
"I have been around for too long. And I've seen humanity's progress far more than you. And I'm betting on them."
"Dibs on them destroying themselves."
"...We'll see about that..."
Hazama then started walking away.
"Well, it was nice to do business with you." Hazama removed his fedora, quite dramatically.
"I just asked for a favor."
"And in return, I won't get involved in your affairs here." Louis said.
"Good. You don't cross me, I don't kill you. Well, not that I think I even can..." Hazama was really wary of his status and power.
But then noticed that Louis was gone.
"Geez, guy's too freaky even for my standards..."
"Is something wrong, m'lady?" Valkenhayn inquired.
"...Nothing. I was just contemplating the events of today. Even though the crisis was averted, I feel like something's missing."
Rachel looked directly at her tea.
"Don't you know that people do stupid things when they lack information? Energizer, seriously, they're asking you nicely."
"Tell me, Valkenhayn."
"What is it, madam Rachel?"
"Was I wrong about upholding the information I know from Ragna? After all, even if he wouldn't understand it with that small mind of his, part of me tells me he deserves to know a bit more."
"...If you want my opinion, m'lady, I do not think Ragna the Bloodedge is ready to receive the knowledge you hold. The temper of that man would just make him do something...reckless, if I say."
"True." Rachel closed her eyes. "He is the most reckless man I have ever seen. He's brash and might act like a fool any now and then..."
"...Yet, I just cannot deny the words of that boy." Rachel frowned. "Sooner or later, he must know."
"If that's the case, then I have no objections." Valkenhayn said politely. "I'll follow your judgment wherever it'll lead."
"Thank you, Valkenhayn." She smiled as she continued sipping her tea with utmost elegance.
However, she was still wondering why did Hazama help the kid. He wasn't vital in any plan she could think of, and yet, the sole act of him actually helping someone else just confused her.
"Who exactly was that boy?" Rachel continued to ask herself. "For Terumi to help him... what is he plotting?"
She shook her head. As far as she knows, Raim had already gone back home, so this mental trail was going nowhere.
"Perhaps I'm thinking too much..."
"How frustrating." Bang said, not so far from the NOL headquarters. "How could I let Ragna the Bloodedge and the other young man escape from under my nose? ! How inexcusable! Oh, how shameful!"
You know, for a ninja that you should be, you are too awfully loud.
"...No, I must come to my senses. After all, it is not over yet!" He proclaimed to the air. "Fear not, citizens of Kagutsuchi! I, BANG SHISHIGAMI, will not let those foul criminals to ran free, causing chaos whenever they go. This I shall swear!"
"...Mr. Bang?" The confused voice of Carl came to his notice. "What are you doing here? More importantly, where is this place?"
"Ah, my young cute disciple has heard my solemn oath of justice!" Bang smiled, almost seemingly crying tears of joy. "Come on now, let us walk into the sunset, proud of being alive another day to face evil in all of its incarnations."
"Huh?" That was Carl's only sane response. "Well, I don't know what you are talking about. Mr. Bang, I need to know if you have seen Ragna the Bloodedge around here."
"...! You have seen him?! Where? !" Bang shouted, looking around fiercely.
...Stop posing like that.
"That why I'm asking you!" Carl said.
The confusion continued for a while, until Carl calmly defused the situation.
"I see..." Bang crossed his arms, nodding profoundly. "It seems I was mistaken. And no, I have not seen Ragna the Bloodedge after my last encounter in the front of the headquarters of those fiends of the Library! However, he was not alone. That other young man was following him. I'm sure they were in cahoots! No doubt about it!"
"I understand." Carl said. "Thanks for your help, Mr. Bang. Now, if you'll excuse..."
He started heading into the NOL headquarters.
"Wait! You're not seriously going in there, right? !"
"...Mr. Bang, I have to do something important, for the sake of my sis."
"But you're too young for this!" Bang said, worried about Carl. "Ragna the Bloodedge is too strong for you! Be reasonable!"
"...You don't understand! I...!"
They instantly heard commotion inside. Carl hid, grabbing Bang by his arm in order to avoid been detected.
The footsteps drew closer and then, with a deafening thud, the door was kicked open. A troop of soldiers dressed in blue walked out, fast but not to the extent of running. Bang and Carl noticed from their hiding spot that they were dragging out a bleeding Jin, fresh out from his fight with Ragna, although they don't know that themselves.
"...K-Kisaragi-sempai?" Carl was shocked by his current state.
"Jin Kisaragi!" Bang almost yelled, but was stopped.
"Shh! Not so loud!"
"Ah...right, my apologies." Bang said. "But what in the world happened in there?"
"...If he fought the Shinigami, then...!"
Carl waited for the squad to disappear in order to ran to the entrance. Bang, being faster than he seemed, stood on his path.
"Please, Mr. Bang, move aside. I have something to do."
"...Young Carl, I'm afraid I can't do that."
"Why? !" Carl started to get impatient. "You don't understand! You adults never understand!"
Bang closed his eyes.
"May I ask what is so important that you are willing to run blindly into the face of danger? I admire your bravery, yes, but please listen to reason! If anything happened to you, an innocent young man like you, under my watch, I would never forgive myself!"
"Mr. Bang..." Carl stopped.
Carl stopped to think. He was tired from his previous encounter with the two, and he was also hungry. Also, he really didn't know if Ragna did those wounds. The thought of something worse down there finally hit home.
"...Sorry. You are a good person. I really shouldn't have shouted at you like that." Carl said. "Please, accept my apologies."
"Oh, it's nothing." Bang proudly smiled. "Come now, my young disciple, let us eat!"
"I'm not that hungry."
Cue the growl of your stomach. Carl's cheeks went red of embarrassment.
"Err..." Carl moved his gaze somewhere else.
"Oh ho ho!" Bang cheered him up. "It is natural for boys to be hungry at this time of the day! Don't worry, I, BANG SHISHIGAMI, will help you find some place to eat! Now...to Orient Town! We'll walk towards the sunset as man of destiny!"
"...It's night already. There's no sunset at all." Carl pointed out.
Bang remained immobile for some seconds. Then added...
"It doesn't matter. Come along, my young disciple! Towards healthy food that isn't bell peppers!"
Carl complied as he followed Bang around. In his mind, he thinks no adult should ever be trusted at all...yet Bang was not like them. Instead, he tried to help him and was even worried of him, a total stranger on his eyes. Also, Litchi also tried to help him.
...He then realized that he judged them wrong after all.
"...You know, sis. I don't think they aren't bad at all..."
"Look, doctor!" Linhua pointed at the fireworks. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes, it is." Litchi smiled.
Since this was New Year's Eve, everyone in Orient Town decided to celebrate it correctly, even though the NOL wasn't so fond of it. Some citizens of Ronin-gai helped too...
Yet, Litchi still looked pensive, even with the cheery atmosphere around her. Naturally, Linhua noticed this.
"...Doctor? Is something wrong?"
"...? Oh, it's nothing. Just thinking about today for a while..."
Linhua knew her too well to notice she was tormented by something.
"Look, if you don't want to tell me, it's fine. But that doesn't mean you have to look so gloomy about it."
"Hm? Do I look so bad?" Litchi asked.
"Well, no bad "bad". You just seemed...troubled, that's all." She said.
The fireworks continued. While the other residents were smiling at the spectacle, Litchi's thoughts prevented her from relaxing at all...
"You know, you can always tell me what's wrong." Linhua noticed her mood and quickly asked.
"...Perhaps someday..." Litchi smiled. "Thanks, you're right. This is no time to be sad about it."
She finally started to relax. Even though she crossed paths with Arakune, that doesn't mean she has to torture herself by thinking how is he.
"Ah, well. Perhaps another time..."
Ragna was not happy with his current situation. Sure, he was kinda okay with him being alive for another day...but now...
"Eeh~..." Noel was looking absentmindedly at the fireworks. She looked at least happy. Or perhaps she just wants to get distracted enough to deal with the realizations that happened today.
While she is too shy for her own good, I have to admit that she can easily cheer herself up.
Ragna frowned. He is a criminal, not a babysitter!
"You done?" Ragna said. "I had enough to look at that. You want to get seen and captured then, huh?"
"Eh? ! N-No, I just want to relax a little..." Noel said, fidgeting a bit.
Ragna could understand what she meant with that. He sighed, showing his discomfort.
"Listen, stupid." Ragna said. "I get that you don't get what the hell happened back there. Hell, I don't even know what the hell that rabbit meant! However, that doesn't mean you get to relax out there like nothing happened."
"As I said, we are on the run. I don't know what that bastard wants from you, but I won't let him get it. But understand this... I'm not doing this out of kindness. I just don't want him to win..."
"So don't do something stupid, alright?"
"U-Um...I really don't think you are being honest with yourself."
That surprised Ragna.
"The hell you mean by that? !"
"You could just left me there, you know. I-I think that, since you didn't, you really are a good person in heart...even if you don't want to admit it."
Ragna didn't answer. Instead, he turned away, deciding to lean on a wall.
"Don't talk like you know me."
"But I do!" Noel said. "T-The other guy, he said that you were nice enough to share food with a Kaka."
He instantly facepalmed and swore under his breath something, obviously towards Raim.
"That damn Raim..."
"Why are you always so...angry? I don't understand..." Noel said.
The fireworks continued, but this conversation reached a touchy subject for Ragna. Now that she was directly looking at him, he couldn't avoid to see the face of Saya on her, a fact that made him recall...uncomfortable memories.
Cue the stomach growls.
"A-Ah..." Noel put her hands on her mouth, out of embarrassment. "N-No, I'm not hungry..."
"*sigh* Follow me..."
The duo walked towards the same restaurant that he and Raim went into this morning...until Ragna remembered the place was wrecked in the end.
"Ah right, I forgot..."
He thought fast and did an U-turn towards...
"...I think this place is okay, I guess..."
...Ragna? That's a baking store, not a restaurant.
"...You sure this is a restaurant?" Noel asked.
"Uh...yeah! Yeah, it is!"
Just admit that you are wrong. Save your dignity, man!
"...Okay." Noel was naive enough to believe him. "Hello? Anybody there?"
Ragna sat on the nearest bench he could find, trying to piece together everything what has happened today.
That thing about the Eye was still lingering on his mind. For some reason, the rabbit really didn't want to disclose any information to him, which just annoyed him.
Also, he didn't know what to do know. Part of him wanted to say "screw this" and chase after Terumi himself. But the other part told him to protect Noel, due to her looking like Saya.
"Dammit...what now?" Ragna closed his eyes.
"What?" He said, mildly annoyed.
Noel brought a pair of steamed buns, along with some water.
"I thought you were hungry too, s-so..."
"Stop stammering already." Ragna said. "You really need to stop doing that."
"And stop apologizing!" He growled. "You really have issues, don't you?"
"Don't say it like that!" She cried. "What's wrong with you? ! I just tried to be nice, and...and...!"
She was almost on the verge of tears. The other customers looked at Ragna, like saying "shame on you..."
Ragna noticed the oppressive atmosphere dawning on him. Sighing, he spoke once again.
"Look, what I'm trying to say is that you really need to stop apologizing. You did nothing wrong, I get it, so would you please stop crying already? !"
Wow. What delicacy, Ragna. What delicacy...
Both of them were tense. One due to him not knowing how to deal with the other and the other because she was nervous.
"...Aren't you gonna eat?" Ragna told Noel. "It's your stomach that was growling."
Noel remained silent, but he obeyed Ragna and started eating. Now that the whole chaos inside the NOL basement was done with, Noel noticed that all that fighting caused her to be really hungry.
"Aren't you going to eat too...?" She asked, in a very low tone.
"Well, I'm more of a meat person myself..." Ragna said, until he noticed he was hungry too. "But hey, food is food."
"So...um, why are you angry all the time?" Noel asked.
"Hm?" Ragna was still chewing. "It's not your business."
"O-Oh..." Noel said, almost like dropping the subject. "If you say so..."
Ragna stopped to think. Knowing that she will keep asking questions at this rate, he started speaking.
"...Let's just say that this world took away everything that was precious to me..."
"What do you mean?"
"I lost my family one day. There was fire everywhere..."
Noel cringed. She really wasn't ready for that answer.
"I'm very sorry. I didn't knew..."
"It's fine." Ragna said, his face showing melancholy all of the sudden. "It happened a long time ago...but that moment made me realize how cruel this world can be."
"Remember that bastard with the green hair?"
"The real name of that bastard is Terumi. He was the cause of me losing everything...my home, my family...my arm..."
"What? But your arm is fine." She pointed out.
"...It's a prosthetic." Ragna said, raising his sleeve.
Noel almost choked. The Azure itself contrasted with the rest of his skin. Not only did the mechanical look seemed alien to her, the chromatic choice of colors hinted that it was far more dangerous than it looked.
"...I thought the Azure would be different...I didn't know..."
"So you know..." He said while concealing the Azure again. "Done asking questions? Then we are leaving."
Ragna stood up without saying anything else. Noel quickly follow him.
Noel started following him again. They went away from the crowds, going from an alternate route that went through a deserted alley that headed below. The fireworks worked well as small flares in order to walk better.
"I think we can go out of Kagutsuchi for some time. But after that, I'll come back here. I have some unfinished business to deal with."
"Yeah. Can't let that bastard live..." Ragna said. "However, you can choose to leave any time you want."
"I understand. And, Ragna-san?"
"*sigh* What is it now?"
"Thanks for helping me. I'm really grateful for that." Noel smiled.
Ragna blinked. For just a second, he could have sworn he saw Saya smiling at him. For some reason, that kind of relaxed him. The lights from the fireworks that made a quite beautiful contrast with her face didn't help either. He then realized that he was hallucinating and shook his head.
"Hmph." Ragna smiled. "Thanks. Just try to grow a spine, avoid doing something stupid and we'll be fine."
"Hey!" Noel shouted, offended. "I'm not stupid!"
"Sure, whatever." Okay Ragna, now you're just teasing her.
Just for today, Ragna felt like relaxing a bit. After all, he hasn't been mildly happy until today, so he wanted to make it count.
"Control my anger, huh? Well, Raim, let's see how good I am with that...or how badly I screw up."
For the first time in his life after that day, he was at peace.