Yumiko ran into her classroom and managed to make it to her seat before the opening bell rang. Ohara-sensei entered the classroom Soon afterwards and looked it over with a calm face, as usual. Yumiko had seen her crazy state that night in the CAI room, but even before that, the two had never gotten along. Looking down and not making eye contact with anyone, Ohara-sensei directed the students to go to the CAI room.
The CAI room for a classical Japanese lesson? What does she intend to do there?
In Yumiko's experience, Jusho High’s CAI room was only used for science, math, and English. Why would they need computers to teach classical Japanese?
Paying no attention to the doubtful Yumiko, her classmates closed their books and stood up, leaving their pens at their desks. Yumiko instinctively looked around to see if Nakajima was in class, but his desk was clean; it looked like he hadn't arrived at school yet.
"He's after you. You should stay away for a while."
All of a sudden, Yumiko remembered the words from the mysterious telephone conversation the night before. A bead of cold sweat ran down from her temple to her chest.
"Hey, are you OK?"
Yumiko's friend Kano Miyuki entered her spaced-out line of sight. Miyuki’s big black eyes were sparkling mischievously.
"Hey now, Yumiko, no cutting class."
"No, I really don't feel well...."
"Come on, let's go." Miyuki was oddly enthusiastic as she grabbed Yumiko's arm and pulled her up out of her seat. Right then, Ohara-sensei came close to them.
"Shirasagi-san, you look a little pale. Do you need to take a rest in the infirmary?" She spoke in a voice that sounded a little bit too kind.
"It's OK, sensei. I'll be with her to make sure she's all right." With a grand gesture, Miyuki patted Yumiko on the shoulder. The other students ignored the exchange as they left the room, but Yumiko sensed that there was something unnatural about the way they moved.
They're not acting normal!
A shiver ran down Yumiko's spine; Miyuki gripped her hand more tightly.
"I'm OK, Miyuki. I can walk on my own." Despite her confident words, Yumiko's voice was shaking. She was determined to throw off Miyuki's grip and make a break for it when she left the classroom, but the minute she stepped out of the door, a swarm of male students surrounded her.
"Come on, let's go."
As he urged Yumiko along, Takai's eyes wandered aimlessly through the air. Before she knew it, Yumiko was in the dead center of a throng of her classmates. Miyuki continued to hold her arm tightly. Her delicate frame belied the incredible strength in her grip.
"Please, let go of me."
As Yumiko opened her mouth to cry out, a handkerchief was thrust into her mouth to gag her. The students walked along the corridor, surrounding Yumiko as she tried to escape.
As soon as the class was inside the CAI room, Ohara quickly shut the door.
As if signaled by the sound of the lock, the students stopped moving. Finally released from Miyuki's grasp, Yumiko looked around the classroom and let out a shrill cry.
It's just like it was that night!
There were no chairs or tables in the classroom. Nakajima sat on the leather sofa in the middle of the room. There was a twinge of pity and regret in his face as he stared at Yumiko.
Nakajima, why... Yumiko's lips moved, pleading for an explanation.
Looking straight at Yumiko, Nakajima slowly stood up and pointed at the sofa that he had been sitting in.
"Today, this is your seat." His low murmur pierced Yumiko's soul. The events of that night garishly resurfaced in her mind.
"No, I won't!" Unable to stand, Yumiko slumped to the floor. The many scratches on the linoleum tiles only too vividly reminded her of that night. Nakajima had said that he offered Ohara-sensei to a demon. Was that for real? And now she was going to be the next offering? Unable to run or get help, Yumiko started sobbing, and her tears trailed off her cheeks to the floor.
Black vinyl high heels stepped on Yumiko's tears as they pooled on the ground. Nervously looking up, Yumiko saw Ohara-sensei looking down on her with an eerie smile on her face.
"There's nothing to be afraid of. Come on, stand up." Holding out her hand, Ohara spoke in a soft, coaxing voice.
"No! No!" Yumiko furiously shook her head, and looked to Nakajima, seeking rescue.
"It's too late now. There's no other way." Nakajima spoke as if trying to convince himself, and Yumiko listened in despair. Nakajima's narrowed eyes turned to the host computer beyond the plate glass as its magnetic tapes began to spin. In time with the tape, the display in front of him flashed in brilliant colors.
"Prepare the sacrifice." There was no hesitation in Nakajima's voice as he gave the order. Yumiko saw several students approach to bring her to the chair. However, a sudden earthquake stopped them.
A gut-wrenching, solemn voice commanded.
"Why did you stop them, Loki!?" Losing his calm at the unexpected turn of events, Nakajima gripped the microphone, his hands covered with cold sweat.
"I don't need your help anymore," Loki said.
"Don't you understand, Nakajima? I already have the ability to materialize in the Assiah world on my own."
Nakajima's eyes were filled with shock as, right before his eyes, the monitor displaying Loki started to ooze a blue haze. A dimensional tear between the demon and human worlds was starting to form right then and there. Vibrantly-colored light shone like an aura, the atmosphere twisted and writhed unusually, and a pungent cold air burst forth.
Yumiko just watched the haze billow forth, her mouth agape. She was paralyzed with fear at the unbelievable events unfolding in front of her. The haze gradually thickened, and started to shape itself into a vaguely-defined shape much like a hologram. Slowly, the form solidified. The light dancing within the frigid gust changed into flowing black hair, and the outline of a handsome face gained bronze skin as its deep black eyes gazing at the students in the room.
"Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh."
In an ancient language, Loki declared his own divinity. Ohara, who had at some point fallen on her knees in front of him, put her hands together, looked up at him in awe, and spoke the same words as if worshiping an all-powerful god.
To think that Loki would have affected Ohara this much...
Powerless, Nakajima stared at Loki and Ohara.
I should have considered the possibility that this could happen. I'd better find a weakness, and soon!
Nakajima frantically pointed the sensor connected to his computer at the nearly-materialized Loki. Calling up the ISG host computer, he sent the data the sensor had gathered about the demon to Craft. Meanwhile, Loki extended his hand toward Yumiko, rigid with terror. His bronze, naked body was beautifully symmetrical, almost like the Greek Apollo, and his muscular chest was covered in black scales. His black eyes, from which no one could possibly fathom any emotion, paralyzed her.
"Come over here." Pointing his talon at Yumiko, Loki commanded her in a low, cold voice. Yumiko looked to Nakajima for help, but he merely glanced at her and continued talking with the AI.
Nakajima knew he wouldn't have a chance if he tried to fight Loki directly, but Loki probably couldn’t risk doing anything to him so long as Nakajima had control of the computer environment. Nakajima knew that he had to find some sort of weakness to Loki while he still had the chance. He had a hunch that Loki would not be able to leave the magnetic field being generated by the computer.
However, just as Yumiko tried to stagger away and flee, a strange sound came from Loki's arms. For a moment they looked like they were beginning to melt, and then they changed into giant, jiggling, pink-colored blobs of protoplasm. From their tips, multiple tentacles lashed out and wrapped around Yumiko's limbs.
"No, stop!" The tentacles gripping the crying Yumiko's limbs pulled her up into the air, toward the body of the blob. A new pink tentacle sprouted and wrapped around Yumiko's body, and the liquid leaking from its membrane melted her clothes, latched onto her now-exposed skin and started writhing along her slender body.
Covering his ears so he wouldn't have to hear Yumiko's screams, Nakajima frantically kept hitting the keys. Finally the data transfer LED lit up, and Craft sent a response.
ACCORDING TO THE DATA YOU SENT, THE JELLY SUBSTANCE IS 58% WATER AND 17% ECTOPLASM. THE REMAINING MATTER IS NOT NATIVE TO THE PLANET AND CANNOT BE ANALYZED.
>HAS THERE EVER BEEN A CASE OF SIMILAR MATTER BEING DISCOVERED BEFORE?
YES. THIS CENTURY, SIMILAR MATTER WAS DISCOVERED IN A MAYAN TEMPLE AND IN NEW HAMPSHIRE.
> WHAT IS ITS WEAK POINT?
I CANNOT MAKE A HYPOTHESIS DUE TO INSUFFICIENT DATA. HOWEVER, THE MATTER DISCOVERED UNDER A RELIEF IN THE MAYAN TEMPLE WAS REPORTED TO HAVE EVAPORATED WHEN IT CAME IN CONTACT WITH MERCURIC SULFIDE-BASED PAINT.
> MERCURIC SULFIDE? YOU MEAN A MIXTURE OF MERCURY AND SULFUR. BUT I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO FIND SOMETHING LIKE THAT. TELL ME HOW TO DEAL WITH HIM NOW!
UNFORTUNATELY I DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT DATA TO PROVIDE AN ANSWER.
Angry at Craft's ignorance, Nakajima punched the keyboard.
A strange gasping voice broke Nakajima's train of thought. He turned around and noticed Ohara writhing at Loki's feet, her chest fully exposed as she hugged her breasts. Nakajima did not miss the glowing fist-sized patch of skin below her breasts. He immediately reported the situation to Craft and asked what happened.
THE MOST LIKELY CONCLUSION IS THAT SHE IS PREGNANT WITH THE DEMON'S CHILD. SIMILAR SYMPTOMS HAVE BEEN REPORTED BEFORE IN EUROPE.
"That's impossible! Ohara only had sex with Loki in a virtual world. Could it be..."
Thinking of the terrible possibilities, Nakajima shuddered in fear. Could it be that Loki had already materialized several times before, only he had never realized it? Meanwhile, as if in tune with Ohara's gasps, Loki's entire body started to change into something bizarre. Except for his face, his skin turned pink, as if his cellular structure had changed entirely, and started to secrete a viscous substance.
Letting out a cry of joy, Ohara tore off her clothes and grabbed onto Loki's legs. Loki's body jiggled like jelly and started to envelop her. Be it the gods on Mount Olympus or the monsters of Hades, many beings from other worlds had their hearts stolen by the beauty and sexual allure of human females. Most likely, even a demon as powerful as Loki could not resist arousal at the prospect of having his way with two beautiful women.
Leaving his handsome face intact, Loki started to change into a cylindrical lump of flesh that sprouted countless small tentacles. The pink protoplasm started to glow and the movement of the tentacle fondling Yumiko's body became faster and rougher.
Yumiko lost all will to resist, and her head fell to the side limply as she passed out. Loki started to pull her doll-like body into his own; he failed to notice that Ohara was glaring furiously at Yumiko even as she was enveloped within the protoplasm.
Many women could not resist the allure of demons. Even if they despised them normally, they’d fall madly in love with them if they had sex with them even once. For Ohara, who had devoted herself body and soul to Loki, watching him have sex with one of her students in front of her eyes was an unbearable humiliation. Once Yumiko's slender white legs had sunk into the protoplasm and she was inside Loki up to her chest, Ohara went mad with jealousy, grabbed Yumiko’s head, and started to twist it.
"Agh!" Yumiko's face twisted in pain, and her body spasmed in agony.
"Stop! Stop it!" Crying out in anguish, Nakajima ran to her, only to be struck hard in the face by a thick tentacle. Knocked back against the wall, his vision blacked out for an instant. When he finally managed to pull himself off the floor, Yumiko's body showed no signs of life; her head was unnaturally twisted to the side and her eyes were open and glazed over.
Sitting atop the pillar of flesh, Loki's face wore a surprised expression before he glared with displeasure at Ohara, inside his body. But Loki was closer and more accustomed to Ohara; she was more important than Yumiko. Loki lifted his tentacle and dumped Yumiko's body on the floor.
Nakajima went mad with regret.
Why didn't I warn her more seriously last night? If I hadn't made such a half-assed phone call and instead told her everything, this never would have happened. I killed Shirasagi Yumiko!
Not only had he never thought that Loki would have attained the knowhow to materialize himself, but he had never even considered that Ohara might kill Yumiko. But Loki's sinister body was here in the Assiah world and the innocent Yumiko had been murdered.
And he just looked on, powerless.
Biting down in his lip, Nakajima noticed a faint scarlet light in his peripheral vision and jerked up his head. Loki's body had spread throughout the entire CAI room, and the classroom looked like a jungle of protoplasm. Pink tentacles pulsated and twisted as they grabbed hypnotized students and pulled them inside Loki's body, where they were consumed one by one. However, the red light that had caught Nakajima's attention lay beyond the carnage. By the room’s entrance, the atmosphere was permeated with red and shook like an aurora.
There's a dimensional warp! It can't be--a demon other than Loki....!? As Nakajima's attention was drawn away, several tentacles wrapped around his legs.
"Loki, what are you doing to me!?" Nakajima, shocked to his very core, could not believe that Loki would attack him.
"I bet you thought you were safe so long as you were in charge of the computer. But this woman can serve as your replacement easily enough. Now that I can appear in the Assiah world, not only are your abilities no longer useful--they're a liability."
As if to back up Loki's statement, Ohara laughed within his body.
Nakajima immediately grabbed his handheld computer and entered the command to summon Kerberos. From the liquid crystal display, a white mist wafted into the room.
"Come forth, Kerberos!"
In response to Nakajima's cry, the mist rapidly solidified, impatient to fully take form, and assaulted Loki.
"You are a beast of the demon world and yet you side with the human!?"
Flame-like breath burst forth from the fang-lined maw, and Loki let out a cry that shook the very earth. Deftly dodging an attacking tentacle, the demon beast Kerberos bit down at the tentacle’s base and tore it off of Loki's body. Loki's purple blood gushed out and melted the linoleum tiling on the floor. The two demons let out roars like thunder; cracks shot up the plate glass window, and the ceiling and walls started to crumble. Despite the fierce fight, Loki refused to drop Nakajima.
"Kerberos, over here!"
As Kerberos leapt through the air in response to Nakajima's cry, he was finally caught as a tentacle wrapped around his body. His tail split in half and became two serpents; they raised their heads and tore off the tentacle holding him. Freed from Loki's grasp, Kerberos leapt at the tentacles restraining Nakajima in an attempt to save him.
As if to thwart the beast's effort, Loki bent his tentacle and smashed Nakajima's head against the floor. The impact was almost enough to crack his skull. Nakajima's consciousness wavered as fresh blood poured from the split in his forehead. His sight was drenched in red. With his vision distorting, the ferociously fighting Kerberos seemed like a far-away illusion.
So this is the pathetic fate of the magician...
As his consciousness faded and he prepared to die, memories of those strange illusions from before spontaneously appeared in a corner of Nakajima's mind.
What were those? The woman from them called that man that looked just like him "Izanagi." Did it have any connection to the story of Izanami and Izanagi from Japanese mythology?
Even if I knew, what difference does it make now...?
Muttering to himself, Nakajima closed his eyes in acceptance of his fate.
The heart of the seemingly dead Yumiko started to beat faintly.
A kind voice was calling her name.
Who are you? Is that you, Mom? Yumiko asked instinctively in her mind.
As if recognizing that she had awakened, the voice cut off briefly, then resumed speaking in a kind voice.
Stand up, Yumiko.
Yumiko did not hear the roars of the demon beast nor the sounds of the classroom being destroyed. In fact, she had no sense of her terrible experience at all. All she could hear was the voice of the woman. Timidly opening her eyes, Yumiko realized that the voice was coming from the red aurora in the warped area in the air.
Through the aurora, the mirage of a peaceful countryside was visible. Blue rice paddies with not-yet-ripened seeds. Rolling hills covered in summer grass. Groups of giant boulders, simple yet mysterious.
Yumiko had seen that scenery somewhere before.
Isn't that the Asuka Ishibutai tomb...? As the thought popped into her mind, the woman's voice spoke again.
When you were Izanami in a former life, that's what you called it.
My former life? Izanami...you mean the goddess from Japanese mythology?
Yumiko was confused by the suddenness of the words, but what the voice said had the sense of an undeniable truth.
Stand, Yumiko. This space in the air is connected to Asuka, where I rest. Take Nakajima--no, your dearest Izanagi--and come to me.
The instant she obeyed the voice and stood, the angry cries of Loki and the roars of Kerberos filled Yumiko's ears as she returned to reality. Overwhelmed with a sudden dizziness, she immediately sat down again. But as blood rushed to her head and she saw the crumpled Nakajima on the floor, she was struck with an overwhelming sense of duty.
I've got to save him!
It was a feeling greater than love or friendship, closer to instinct. It was a powerful emotion; the boy named Nakajima Akemi was literally a part of her, and if he was lost there would be no meaning to her continued existence. Without any idea how to save him, she stood up and clenched her teeth, and the voice sounded again.
For the moment, I am going to enter your body so you can use my power--the power to burn anything you stare at with conviction. I pray that your body can take the strain of it.
From the dimensional rift, a blinding flash pulsed, and a pure power Yumiko had never felt before rushed through her body.
A bizarre cry snapped Nakajima Akemi back to consciousness.
Opening his eyes, he saw Loki's smoking tentacle spasming over his head as it gave off the stench of cooked meat. Enduring the head-splitting pain, Nakajima sat up. Pillars of flame burst from various spots on Loki's body, and his charred tentacles flailed through the air like waves, giving off dark fumes thick with that charred meat smell.
Yumiko, who he had thought dead, was facing off against Loki; gouts of flame shot out everywhere she stared. In medieval Europe, when magic use had been at its height, the ability was known as spontaneous combustion.
What the heck is going on...?
Nakajima stared, dumbfounded, as Yumiko wielded a power he could never have imagined her controlling. Nakajima soon noticed that her face was unusually pale, and that her entire body was shaking. Just with the force of her will, Yumiko was channeling the immense power of Izanami, and her body was getting close to the limit of what it could stand.
Meanwhile, under intense attack from the flame, Loki ejected Ohara from inside his body and started to chant a spell in an eerie rhythm. The pink protoplasm started to condense, changing back into the form of the bronze-skinned youth.
Yumiko desperately channeled her will and attempted to incinerate Loki with the power of Izanami, but the flames harmlessly dissolved against his bronze skin. Loki did not budge and simply stood still, as if waiting for her to expend all her energy. A wave of intense exhaustion swept over Yumiko's body, and her vision started to waver. Right as she felt like she was going to drop to her knees, no longer able to withstand the effort, the voice spoke once more.
Hurry, get Nakajima and escape!
Her courage restored by the voice, Yumiko ran over to Nakajima, but slipped and stumbled. However, determined not to show any weakness, she immediately looked up and glared at Loki. Witnessing her determined expression, something awoke in Nakajima's despair-filled soul. Ever since he had been beaten up over a foolish misunderstanding and had made the decision to summon a demon, he had sealed off his emotions; in that instant they came back, and he felt a kind of love that he had never experienced before.
For her sake, I can't die!
Nakajima's dizziness dissipated. He quickly looked around the room. At some point, the still-naked Ohara had gone over to a terminal. She was studying the screen as she typed in commands. She was nowhere near as skilled as Nakajima, but she was clearly used to operating a computer. Nakajima realized that Ohara was saving the changes in the data that had occurred when Loki materialized; he immediately understood the demon’s unusual actions.
The reason that Loki was staying close to the terminal was because the demon was not completely confident in his own materialization. There was a very good chance that his protoplasmic blob-form was a result of a coincidental bug in the data transfer. Loki must have been practicing transforming into that form. He probably didn’t know what would happen if he tried to leave the computer-generated magnetic field in his true form. He may have gained his freedom and escaped the limitations of existing digitally, but there was still a danger of annihilating himself entirely. Just in case, Ohara was saving all the data.
The instant Nakajima realized this, he deduced d that he’d be able to escape if he tried now. He quickly used his handheld computer to recall Kerberos, defeated in the battle and now lying on his side as if he was dead. Loki noticed Nakajima's movement.
No matter what happened, Loki could not let Nakajima escape; he knew everything about the demon. Even knowing the danger it would put him in, Loki stepped away from the computer and toward Nakajima.
"Nakajima, look out!" Yumiko desperately stood up. Everything went red. Yumiko's lips moved in words that she was not trying to say.
For a moment, Izanami took over Yumiko's body entirely and released all her energy. A gout of flame erupted on the approaching Loki's forehead, at the one spot where his body was still in gelatinous form. Loki let out a cry like an enraged beast, and the Izanami-possessed Yumiko grabbed Nakajima's body and headed for the aurora.
Overcome with shock and rage, Loki let out a roar and went after them. For an instant, Loki's body wavered like heat haze and his bronze skin became almost translucent. Numbers flowed like mad over the terminal's display as Ohara powerlessly glared at the screen.
A few moments later, the host computer stopped going haywire and Loki recovered his form. Right before the folds of the aurora enveloped Nakajima and Yumiko's bodies, Loki flew toward them like the wind and clawed at the two.
His long talons gouged Yumiko deeply from the nape of her neck to the middle of her back, and fresh blood poured out of the wounds. But as soon as the aurora enveloped the two, it immediately started fading. The only thing left behind where the aurora had been were streaks of Yumiko's blood, and the room shook with the anguished cry of the now completely summoned Loki .