"Now, it's showtime!"

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"Hey, Kinos," Deen held his phone to his ear—he'd just dialed his closest friend, the guy who normally knew all this magic stuff. "What's this thing?" He forwarded the image to him.

Considering that he had no magic of his own, he never really paid any specific attention to the powers, but rather, as his training as a Rune Knight, he'd simply developed countermeasures to them.

As such, stuff like curses and all that were something he didn't deal with often.

"That's a nice looking belly. I'd pay to touch it." Kinos, on the other end of the phone, answered as he usually would. "Is that your girlfriend's—"

"N-No!" Deen snapped back; losing his cool. "We barely know each other anyway!" He was a little too defensive. Certainly, he thought that Kirika was attractive (as you would) but he didn't know her enough to fall in love with her. "Tch, just tell me what it is."

Kinos, on the other hand, swiveled around on his moving chair, withdrawing a rather ominous looking book. What was it with the council and ominous things, anyway? He flipped through the numerous pages, acknowledging several post-it notes that he'd stuck there for later; labeled "Diarrhea Inducement Curse" and "Mindwipe". It really made one wonder about that guy. "So," He put on his best dramatic voice. "This is the Tsuchigumo Mark. It's designed as a last-resort if the caster can't kill their target."

Of course it'd be a last-resort in this case; Kirika was damn near unkillable.

"Yes, but what does the damn thing do?!" Kirika yelled from a few meters away; her hearing really was something else. As was everything about her, really.

"Erm, well, it causes an excess of darkness to flow into the target's skin, which slowly but surely expands, which, is, well, it's shown by the spider crawling up the target's body until it reaches the neck. After that it'll kill them. It normally lasts five hours."

"Fan-fucking-tastic." Kirika snarled like a pissed off dog.

"Kinos, are there any ways to get rid of it?"

"There is one, but..."


"It's on the other side of the continent, in a place closest to the source of magic. You'd need some crazy fast transportation to get there."

"Gh," Kirika was fuming. "Ah well. There's no helping it. I'm just going to go to the Enderdragon."

"Wait," Deen protested, "Aren't you worried about yourself?"

"Who cares." Kirika retorted; she felt her fingernail snapping off. This Mark seemed to be physically tearing her body apart. "If you want my help, hurry up." Her tone went from faux-friendly to something far harsher than he'd seen her be before.

Deen, of course, wasn't convinced. "You're not scared of dying?"

Kirika's body movements became slightly erratic—though she shifted back to her seemingly boundless charisma. "...Again, I don't care." She strategically hid her expression from him as she touted those words, continuing to walk away...before she almost collapsed.

Deen rushed to her side without hesitation. "...What is your deal, Kirika?" Deen couldn't help but ask; he used his good hand to help her stand. "I've tried to help you, but you don't want anything to do with me. What's wrong?"

"You? Help me?" Kirika weakly laughed; blood trailed from her mouth. "You don't know the first thing about me."

"I don't care—"

"Let me tell you a story about a woman." Kirika began to narrate rather nihilistically; her eyes obscured by her silvery-white bangs, "Her family had a factory in the city. Her father was a skilled worker. One day, that factory was sold for a large sum of money. Her father...wasn't able to cope with the impact caused by the things he lost. He drowned himself in alcohol, got duped for his money by people who got close to him, pretending to be nice to him, and grew violent against his own family. Her parents became weaklings and died selfishly. Since that happened, the woman was unable to believe in anyone anymore. She was dirt-poor; and she's struggled for as long as she can remember to pull her life out of the gutter. Nobody helped me, not even for a moment. I realized, the only thing I can believe in now is my own strength."

That was the true reason she hated Gaiki and everything she stood for.

Even though they both had depressing pasts, Tsuruko Sejren was capable of keeping her spirits up.

Meanwhile, Kirika had nothing to believe in except herself.

That was why she designated Tsuruko as one of her biggest enemies.

The fact that she could remain positive no matter what pissed her off beyond belief.

There was no connection between them, no nothing. It was all a ploy in an attempt to bring her down to Kirika's level so that she could experience what Kirika had been going through.


"...I'm really scared." Kirika's voice slowly transitioned to something far more unstable instead of the suave, mock-sophisticated accent she normally had. "I'm going to die and nobody's gonna care that I'm gone...It'll be like a bad dream to them."

Deen wasn't sure what to think of her now; it was more like she was two people. The 'Super Galaxy King' was a sadistic cop killer, and Kirika Hotsuin...she was a scared little girl. "...Kirika."

"You and I, we have nothing in common—"

"We have a lot in common." Deen took her hand, refusing to let go. He realized; maybe the two weren't so different where it counted despite being polar opposites. He wiped away the tears forming on her face, reassuring her, "We're both fighting to change something that society branded us with."

For Deen, it was being a powerless nobody.

For Kirika; being the daughter of a washout and having been deemed as a 'criminal'.

The two aimed to circumvent their destinies.

And of course, criminal or not, Deen couldn't turn his back on somebody in a pinch. Even though Kirika had killed countless people, he'd seen a nicer side of her in the short amount of time they'd spent together.

There was no such thing as a truly evil person.

And maybe, just maybe, he could help her in putting her life back on track.

Deen quickly pulled out his holo-phone, dialing Kinos' number again. "Hey, Kinos. Bring my bike here. Teleport into my garage and then bring it here."

"Huh, weren't you gonna go find the Ender—"

"Maybe later. I'm going to the other side of the continent."

"Wait, what about the boss-lady? She'll get mad."

"Meh," Deen shrugged his shoulders. "I've been fired sixteen times last week. Now go." With that, Deen hung up.

"Kirika," Deen helped her stand to her feet. "Let's go."

Kirika didn't understand it; this feeling was different. Instead of acting with mutual interests, or manipulating somebody, this was completely alien to her. "...What are you doing?"

"I promise you, no matter what—I'm going to help you."

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