Prologue: The Price of His Contract
“It’s quite hot today too, ne?”
Mashiro said, looking up at the sky. Her face was already sweating as she blocked the sun with her right hand.
Now that it was already the second week of July, sitting on a concrete rooftop like this with the sun shining directly on them was far from comfortable. And even if they stayed under the shade of the water storage tower, there was still the summer heat to contend with.
“It’s exhausting to come to the rooftop at a time like this.”
Tooya agreed, his forehead was already sweating too. Then again, he definitely couldn’t say something like ‘Maybe we should try another place’. There were a lot of cool places around here, but they’d all be definitely crowded with students.
“There’s still some wind today, it’s better than nothing.” Kuroe said with a cool expression. She was not sweating at all.
“Kuroe-senpai is very resistant to heat, ne?”
“That’s not true, I just don’t let it show.”
Kuroe answered with a grin. Actually, Kuroe was a monster literally.
『You are so rude, ne? I’m just cooling the air around me.』
Her voice appeared in Tooya’s mind along with the image of her shrugging.
Why don’t you think of making us cooler too?
[Is it fine to let Mashiro suffer the heat alone, master?]
She said it in a sarcastic tone. How Tooya could do something that unfair? It wasn’t like he couldn’t stand it, so he decided to just bear with it.
“Speaking of the heat, the holidays are coming up soon, ne?” Mashiro said.
Heat. Summer. When talking about summer, it was inevitable for students like them to associate it with the concept of holidays.
“I feel like having fun somewhere when there’s a holiday, ne?” Mashiro excitedly made a proposal.
It was a very natural thought. Only people like Tooya wouldn’t think of doing anything in particular during the month-long holiday. He couldn’t even imagine what he would have liked to do during that period of time.
“If that’s the case, let’s travel to somewhere far, ne?” Kuroe suggested.
“That’s not a bad idea! A three day-two night trip!” Mashiro accepted Kuroe’s suggestion immediately. Kuroe definitely looked at him with a smile.
“Since it’s summer, it should be the sea, right?”
“Then how about we look for a resort where we can see the sea?”
“Yeah, yeah! That’s not a bad idea!”
A resort with a hot spring and a view of the sea was what Kuroe was going for. Ever since Tooya allowed Kuroe to take a bath, she’d been in love with the idea. Because of the bath, she also suddenly became interested in the hot springs she was averse to before and always asked Tooya to take her to one. Tooya had previously rejected her with reasons such as the lack of money and time. However, the reward for the Demon Sword incident took care of the former reason, and the latter would not be an issue after two weeks.
『 Are you trying to dampen Mashiro’s enthusiasm?』Kuroe’s delighted voice sounded in Tooya’s mind.
He’d been seen through by Kuroe. Mashiro would be sad if Tooya said that he didn’t want to go and Tooya couldn’t think of any reason to reject her.
Just do what you want, was what Tooya thought.
Things wouldn’t develop if all he did was think, though. If he wasn’t going to reject them, he might as well agree with it. Watching the two discussing the trip happily, it was impossible for him to not join in.
“That’s right, ne?”
Kuroe grinned, knowing everything. She had a horrible personality. Right now, at least, Tooya was in no mood to discuss the trip happily with them.
“We should decide the place early. Better to reserve it earlier, too.”
“Alright! Leave the alternate location to me!”
“Yeah, I will be counting on you.” Tooya forced a smile because he couldn’t stand to see Mashiro being sad.
“It will be a very fun trip!”
A cheerful smile.
Melancholy hiding behind a bitter smile.
And a happy grin.
The three of them wore different smiles.
That night,everything was surrounded by darkness. Even the moon at the sky seemed as if it was dejected.
Even though it was only 9pm, the store near the intersection they were instructed to go to was already closed, so the area looked dark.
“Is that it?”
“I think so ne.”
A lone car stopped at the roadside under the streetlights. It was a black and very upscale car. The driver flashed the car signal, showing they noticed Tooya and Kuroe, so they walked slowly towards the window at the driver’s seat.
It was Tanaka sitting in the car.
“………Good evening.” Tooya greeted for politeness, even as his face remained expressionless.
The last time they met Tanaka was when they made a contract with the Order of Black Magic. Now they met again, to discuss some unpleasant business.
“Long time no see, ne?”
“Yeah, Kuroe-san was following, huh?”
“Of course, ne? It will be meaningless if I don’t come, right?”
“It’s just as you say.” Tanaka nodded gallantly. “Anyway, please take a seat at the back. We don’t have much time, so we’ll talk while I’m driving.”
The two of them opened the rear door and took a seat.
Suddenly, Tooya heard a voice that made him shudder. It was definitely Akane’s voice. Her voice was very deep and low, filled with animosity, as usual.
Tooya greeted her but he received a sound of clicking sound from the other side.
“So rude, ne?”
“Shut up you man-eating monster.”
Akane showed her killing intent towards Kuroe who was wearing a sarcastic smile. Akane, sitting at the front seat, didn’t turn her head, otherwise, Tooya would have definitely seen her glaring at them.
“Good grief, Tanaka, you didn’t need to bring this troublesome girl along.” Kuroe said with a cheerful look despite the words.
“Well, she’s part of those who want your elimination.” Tanaka replied calmly, as usual. “Since she can’t do that, only me coming her should be enough but she’s not someone who will listen to what others say, you two can understand that, right?”
Tooya could imagine Akane glaring at Tanaka until he was forced to accept her coming along.
“Since she agreed not to interrupt us, just think of her as a decoration.”
“……..Tsk.” She clicked her tongue.
What kind of decoration had such a strong presence?
“Anyway, it’s time to go. The journey will be three hours, so go buy a drink at the convenient store first if you’ll need it.”
The car was in total silence as it moved. Tanaka was driving, Akane clicked her tongue once in a while, Tooya looked out the window without saying anything, while Kuroe stared at Tooya in excitement.
“If there’s something you want to ask, you might as well ask it now.”
Tanaka said all of a sudden. He probably couldn’t stand the silent atmosphere. Tooya knew that he was talking to him. Something he wanted to ask, huh…
Tooya felt troubled. He already knew what they were going to do today and he didn’t need to confirm it again. Something other than that… well, there was something, although Tooya felt that now was not really the right time for it.
“Um, I want to travel.” Tooya said, distinctly aware of Akane sitting in the passenger seat. “I have to apply for permission in order to do that right?”
Tooya was certain something regarding that was written in the terms of the contract they made with the Order of Black Magic.
“Yeah.” Tanaka nodded.
“The holidays are coming up soon, so I feel like wanting to go somewhere, is that all right?”
Tooya seriously thought the topic didn’t suit the current atmosphere at all. It wasn’t like he intended to ask right then with Akane there. Since the location and time of the trip wasn’t decided yet, it would have been better to contact Tanaka later and ask him about it. However, it would have gone through Akane anyway. That being the case, he might as well ask it now even with Akane there.
『 Master really is a masochist, ne?』 he heard Kuroe’s laughter in his head.
“Tsk.” An annoyed clicking tongue sound came from the passenger seat.
“It shouldn’t be a problem.” Tanaka answered, ignoring the sound.
“Since the two of you properly fulfilled the request given by the Order of Black Magic, going against the contract at this point doesn’t seem like something that would benefit the two of you. I guess it would be fine as long as there are staff members monitoring faraway.”
“You guys are really free huh.” Akane said frankly. “You want to have a cheerful holiday at the summer even though you are a murderer?”
“We’re planning to bring along Mashiro to have fun at the seaside for two days, ne?”
“…….Tsk.” Akane clicked her tongue after hearing Kuroe’s answer. A girl that she wanted to kill but saved at the end of the day. Akane was quite concerned with Mashiro too, so she wouldn’t be that harsh when it comes to her.
Mashiro was innocent. Since she was innocent, she would naturally be excited about the trip without any motives. Akane could imagine that. She was the same as Tooya, both of them were very kind, yet their relationship was the worst.
“If you enjoy the trip, I will kill you.”
“We will enjoy it for sure, ne?”
“There will be one day where I will kill you monster.”
“I will kill you even if you don’t enjoy it.” Akane ignored Kuroe. “Understand?”
“………Yeah.” Tooya nodded.
Tooya wasn’t actually thinking of enjoying it in the first place. Although he would try to ‘enjoy’ it so that Mashiro wouldn’t feel that something was off, that was already the limit of what he could do. Ever since he was separated with Rikka, Tooya didn’t look forward to the future anymore. The drawing called future was totally blank to him and he was just went through his life day over day without thinking of it.
Tooya suddenly felt that the situation right now was somewhat similar. At the time, Rikka forcefully brought Tooya, who was suffering on his own, to the amusement park. While he was still gloomy at first, he ended up throwing that away and enjoyed it all with Rikka.
However, Mashiro was not Rikka.
Tooya did not intend to replace Rikka with Mashiro.
“I think you can relax a bit. This is a good moment to change the mood.” Tanaka said suddenly. He was totally oblivious to Akane who was in a bad mood beside him. “More accurately, it would be a problem if you don’t take the time to enjoy things once in a while. You would be broken if you forget how to enjoy things as a human being. It would be troublesome if you were broken as a result of being too unhappy.”
It wasn’t for Tooya, but about gains and losses from the outcome as the reason. That was just the way Tanaka would think.
It will be better if he was broken………or maybe he already was. At the very least he was no longer normal from the moment he lived while accepted the fate of a murderer. Well, despite that, he didn’t feel like acting independently.
“Tsk, you’re the worst anyway. No matter what kind of evaluation happens, it won’t change that fact.”
I am the worst, Tooya admitted. Therefore he would only expect the worst.
And he was going to prove that shortly.
They reached the location the next day. It was a tightly guarded place surrounded with high walls, yet they just entered from the front gate and Tanaka drove them to an open place which seemed like a sports field.
“It’s right there.”
Even without illumination, Tooya could see something in the darkness with Tanaka’s instruction. A person was sleeping in the open area. Wrapped with something looked like restraining clothes, he looked like a bagworm.
“It’s, in there?”
“Since the aftermath over there wasn’t that troublesome, if it’s Kuroe-san, she could probably carry it out perfectly from the beginning till the end. However, this time, it is our responsibility to observe this till the end, so let’s go.” Tanaka moved forward as he said that.
“………” Tooya followed with a confused expression. Behind him was Akane with an impatient look,and Kuroe with a pleasing face.
“He was also given sleeping pills, just in case.”
Like Tanaka said, that man was in deep slumber. He couldn’t notice Tooya and the others at all, and his eyes were still closed as he released quiet breaths.
“Fumu, so boring, ne?” Kuroe said.
“…would an active food will be better?”
“It would be more intriguing if it responded.”
“We will take that in consideration next time.”
A tongue clicking sounded after Tanaka answered. Akane was biting her teeth to tolerate something and glared at Kuroe to show her obvious animosity.
“Akane-san, we went through a lot of effort for this. Even if this is wrong, please don’t fire you gun.”
“…It’s been snatched by you so I didn’t bring it, are you satisfied?” Her gaze was saying that she would have already fired it if she was able to bring it.
“Well forget about it…now Tooya-san, please confirm.”
Tanaka then took out a fluorescent light and handed it to Tooya. He received it, took a look at that man, and nodded. As Tooya was right now, he could see things in the dark clearly even without light. There was meaning in him receiving the fluorescent light. It was to make sure that he had no excuses to escape with.
Tooya walked to the side of that man wrapped with restraining clothes and used the light to see his face. The man was around forty, with a ferocious look. Even being illuminated by the light,He didn’t seem to be waking up. Tooya switched off the light after confirming the man’s face and that the information regarding that man was correct.
“…It’s correct.” Tooya handed the light back to Tanaka after answering.
“Thank you… and now, the final confirmation.” Tanaka looked at Tooya. “Is he good enough?”
“……..” Tooya turned his gaze away, avoiding the question.
Akane glared straight at him.
Kuroe looked at him with a smile.
And Tanaka was just standing, waiting for a reply.
…There was nowhere he could run at all.
“Yes.” Tooya nodded.
“Then.” Tanaka declared. “Please offer the sacrifice to Kuroe-san.”
It was something that happened a week ago, when Tanaka contacted Tooya, almost right after the incident regarding the demon sword was resolved. The information was already given a long time ago, and Tanaka would be in charge of the arrangements. They were to go to the agreed meeting place, and then taken to this place. All Tooya had to do was to give the command to Kuroe. Everything else was prepared by the Order of Black Magic… Everything except the most crucial part.
Asai Shouji. Forty-five years old. Arrested for burglary and the murder of all the family members in that house. He even caused arson at the place of the incident and the fire spread quickly to the neighbors, bringing in new victims. He was sentenced to death a few years ago with the trial, and was waiting for the time for execution- no.
The execution was going to happen right now.
However, it was not according to the law.
It was not an execution done out of righteousness, as a punishment for evil people. Since he was someone who was going to die sooner or later, what happened right now was just a reasonable thing.
But it was all because of a person’s willfulness.
“Kuroe.” Tooya called that name.
“En.” Kuroe answered with a smile. She was happily looking at Tooya, who was showing a somber expression, as if asking for her supposed reward.
“This is the price of the contract.” Tooya said and pointed at that man. “Eat him.”
“Understood.” Kuroe nodded with a smile. Then, she transformed. Her body started to extend and expand. The appearance of a human disappeared in a moment along with the darkness, her size increasing a few times in the blink of an eye.
“It’s so spacious here, very easy to get back to my original form, ne?”
A few seconds later, she became a giant wolf monster. The only thing remaining the same was her voice. Tanaka couldn’t stop his surprised expression as it was the first time he saw it. Yet, Akane didn’t feel anything, continuing to glare at Kuroe.
***“Then, I won’t be welcome ne.”
Kuroe opened her big mouth, oblivious to Akane. Although Akane felt remorse, she didn’t have the power or an idea to defy this right now.
And so, Kuroe started to eat the sacrifice. The sleeping man’s head was raised, his upper body held in Kuroe’s mouth with her teeth.
One bite, and the man’s upper body was gone. There was the sound of bones cracking.
Two bite, and the man’s body disappeared from this world. Not even bloodstains were left, it was unbelievable. Only the sound of chewing was left, and that sound disappeared as well after a while.
“Thanks for the offering.” Kuroe said satisfactorily after the man’s body was swallowed. Her body shrunk rapidly and she turned back to human form in a moment.
“Master.” Kuroe turned back her head and look at Tooya.“I have received the price of the pact. So i will be in your care for the next month too.”
“……..Yeah.” Tooya nodded, turning his eyes to Akane.
Their gazes connected. She didn’t feel terrified because the person died without anything left right in front of her… The only thing she had was anger. Anger towards someone who killed unreasonably for his own convenience.
The ally of justice would never forgive Tooya.
Knowing that the day would come for sure where she would punish Tooya, he relaxed.
“We have confirmed that the price of the contract was paid and it is now done, so let’s go back. There’s still some work to do after this, but it’s all just for documentation.”
“You ate it nice and clean huh, that saves me some trouble.” Tanaka said something like that in addition. As usual, he made the decision in a rational manner without considering feelings, which was totally different from Akane.
“Understood.” Tooya answered.
“We’re finally back, ne?”
Tanaka drove back on the same road they went there from, and it was already four in the morning when Tooya and Kuroe reached their home.
“Although I don’t really hate vehicles, it’s exhausting when you sit for so long, ne?”
They left at nine at night and didn’t even stay at that place an hour. Most of the time was used up in the travel and it was totally silent in the car, so what Kuroe said made sense. On the way back, she just kept looking at Tooya and Akane with a smile, looking very happy.
“Are we going to sleep?”
It was supposed to be sleeping time but Tooya wasn’t in the mood to sleep right now even though he was already home. She already understood that even though Tooya didn’t say anything.
“I am going to sleep, ne?”
“……..Just do what you want.”
Kuroe laid her bed sheet quickly and slept on it. Tooya slept on his own bed too. Although he didn’t feel like sleeping, he wasn’t planning to just keep on standing there.
Wasn’t she going to sleep?
“Are we going to school?” It would be the time for them to wake up after three hours, and the time to go to school after another hour.
“…We’re going.” Tooya answered without much hesitation.
“Is that so.” She sounded delighted.
“Master got used to it quickly, huh?”
What do you mean? Tooya wanted to ask but he didn’t.
But Kuroe continued as if she heard the unspoken question.
He couldn’t sleep. But he didn’t feel like vomiting, and the world was still turning as usual.
It was the fourth time Tooya murdered a person.
The first time happened without him knowing anything.
The second time was decided in a trance.
The third time was done with killing intent.
And the fourth time was to comply with the contract made with the Order of Black Magic. However, Tooya acknowledged that he murdered that person with his own will.
After only three times and Tooya was no longer acting up regarding murder anymore… no, was it two times? The first time, he didn’t know it was going to happen and didn’t mean to murder those people, so he vomited right away. The impression of a dead person was far stronger compared to murder.
The second time and the third time too… no, regarding the first time, if Rikka was not there, then he would definitely never want to go out anymore. The existence of Rikka was the reason why Tooya forced himself to go school, why he forced himself to smile even when he couldn’t find any reason to.
However, Rikka was no longer beside Tooya anymore. Even though the distance between them never changed, she was going further and further away from Tooya.
There was no longer any reason to force himself but he still decided to go to school. Since he could see the Mashiro’s smile at school.
“Got used to it, huh.”
That should be the case but, something was different. Was it because the person Tooya relied on had changed? From the childhood friend who always supported him, to the ally of justice who always denied him.
It was because someone who would punish him one day was there that Tooya felt his guilt getting mitigated.
…despite the fact that he didn’t think that he would be punished at all.
“Seriously, I am the worst.”Tooya mumbled and closed his eyes.
He still didn’t feel sleepy at all. It was just that the world of darkness was quite peaceful