The taste of betrayal


Yasuo Yasui never particularly liked celebrating a grown man’s birthday. But if his honor and money was on line, then it was a different story.

In a corner seat away from the window in a café not far from Amanoiwato, Yasui reported to his accomplice, who was busy sipping apple juice.

“I’ve pushed a ton of work onto Kuma-san as instructed. He should be stuck at his desk tonight, so he won’t get in the way.”

“I’ve also arranged for Ig to stay with a common marmoset breeder in Saitama Prefecture, under the pretense of finding a mate for her. However, I failed to keep Kaburagi away. That woman is sharp. Take care to not overexert yourself, as she might pick up on it.”

That day when Baba suddenly revealed everything about superpowers to Yasui and told him that Sago Kinemitsu was the mastermind behind everything, he had been terribly surprised. Her loli appearance and the complete lack of context didn’t particularly helped either. However, upon smelling fresh new bills and feeling reassured upon hearing how simple the tasks were that she asked of him, Yasui soon chose to nod in acceptance of her offer. Afterward, the simple orders continued coming, always followed by a generous deposit in his bank account. And now, he had come to place quite a bit of faith in her as a good business partner.

“There will be five of us in there; me, Kaburagi Shiori, Shouta Takahashi, Touka Hasumi, and Kinemitsu Sago.”

“The handcuffs?”

At Yasui’s prompting, Baba-Nyan took out a pair of handcuffs from her pocket and slid them toward Yasui.

“The effects are as I’ve explained. If you put this handcuff PSI drive on him, you’ll be able to seal Sago’s powers. Don’t let your guard down until you’ve done that, okay? Sago’s powers are beyond your imagination. Although you shall be catching them off guard in the midst of a party—”

"Don’t worry, I got it. I’m not stupid enough to face-off with ITInvisible Titan.”

For someone who has a “super” power that could destroy planets and stars, Sago was an extremely ordinary person. When he crashed and burned after splurging on loot boxes in mobile games, he would then rage quit and go to bed sulking. When there was a sale going on, he would happily rush over to buy a whole stock of toilet paper, but then realize that he had nowhere to store them all and end up just giving them away to other people. In short, his mindset was entirely that of a commoner.

That’s why he was so vulnerable to the police.

Despite having more than enough power to crush not only the entire police force, but the military of every single nation on earth, he would cower when in front of a policeman, like any other commoner would. Therefore, taking advantage of that to get the handcuffs onto him was going to be Yasui’s job.

While dreaming of all the honor and acclaim that was almost within his reach, Yasui let out a nasty chuckle. The crimes that Sago had committed included causing the Super Water-Ball incident, creating the World’s Darkness, and leading the secret organization responsible for blackmailing and manipulating the police force. And he, Yasui, was going to get all the credit for arresting this man. He very much looked forward to bathing in praise and recognition, and earning boatload of money incomparable to the paltry sum he used to get after dealing with the stingy yakuzas.

“Are you sure you don’t want a share?”

“I don’t need it. Making money off of revenge would only taint the taste of revenge.”

After giving him a confirmation, Baba-Nyan’s expression distorted in hatred. Yasui didn’t know the cause her anger, but he knew better to place his trust on anger and hate than on something fragile like love or friendship. Those seeking revenge were easy to control, as long as you went along with their quest for vengeance.

“Ok then, I’ll see you in an hour.”

“Sure.”

As Yasui stood up and made his leave, Baba-Nyan saw him off with ice-cold eyes.

When it came time, Yasui stepped into Amanoiwato. What first caught his eye was Sago, who was wearing pince-nez glasses and a decorated hat. He was in the middle of cutting a cake, with his usual sour look still on his face. Sago also noticed him immediately. At that point, the party was in full swing, and Kaburagi’s face was slightly red from wine as Baba-Nyan continuously made sure to keep her glass topped up. Takahashi was holding a bunch of birthday candles together and was just about to light them all on fire, while Hasumi was in the middle of bringing a piece of cake to her mouth.

“Hello, good evening. Apologies for interrupting the party. I’m Yasui from the police.

Yasui’s self-introduction and brandishing of his police ID caused the bewilderment in the air to thicken.

Even though, Yasui was Kumano’s partner, but unlike Kumano, he wasn’t close enough with the members of the secret organization as to walk in uninvited to a birthday party. That being said, he was not a complete stranger either.

Yasui’s shoes sounded unnaturally loud as he walked straight up to Sago, who had taken off his party hat, and thrust a counterfeit arrest warrant at his face.

“Sago Kitemitsu. You are under arrest on suspicion of being related to the Super Water-Ball incident and the acts of violence perpetrated by black creatures of undetermined origin.”

“Wha–?”

The forgery of a warrant is a felony. However, Baba had procured and tested the watery remains of many World’s Darkness, and found Sago’s DNA from them every single time. Regardless of whether those test results were the real or not, it was more than enough to arouse suspicion. If Kaburagi did not have her hand in the police force, normally this would be enough to get a real warrant issued through the proper channels.

While having evidence was good and all, but what was even better was a confession. Therefore, Yasui had spent a week forging a fake warrant that looked extremely similar to a real one. As he was in the position to look at real ones for reference, this task was actually quite easy.

“Please put your hands out.”

“Wha–?”

Unable to process what was going on, Sago obediently held out both of his hands. Just as Yasui was about to clamp his handcuffs onto Sago’s wrists, Kaburagi leapt up with a pale face. However, immediately afterward she looked extremely shocked, and stared at her hands, whispering, “Why…?”

“It’s no use trying to stop time. I’ve mixed a special platinum compound into the wine. It would take three hours for it get out of your body. Until then you would have difficulties using your superpowers. Though with your proficiency, you probably won’t be able to use it at all.”

Baba-Nyan said in a soft, eerily voice.

The two high school students panicked.

“Hey, Baba, don’t talk about superpowers or anything like that in front of the detectives.”

“Detective, please wait. There must be some mistake.”

Yasui ignored those two.Finally realizing that he might be in danger, Sago tried to withdraw his hands, but Yasui held onto them firmly, and the handcuffs quickly clicked into place. Sago immediately tried moving his hands, but the handcuffs didn’t budge.

Then he took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes, staring intently at the handcuffs. Yasui’s heart pounded.

However, his fears were unfounded. The handcuffs remained intact without breaking, and Sago’s expression changed to one of astonishment.

“No way… With mere handcuffs!”

“What has happened to your pretense, Kinemitsu Sago? Or should I say, demon lord?”

Putting down her wine bottle, Baba-Nyan stepped forward. In front of Kaburagi, who tried to stop him, Yasui interrupted him. Kaburagi moved to stop her, but Yasui got in her way. Without her time-stop ability, Kaburagi was but a normal woman.

“Oi Oi Oi, Demon King? Master? What’s going on?”

“Shouta, you have the right to know the truth. And you as well Touka. Listen to me.”

“Baba-san? … … Are you possessed again?”

“There’s no way. That’s impossible!”

Hasumi’s murmur was immediately refuted by Kaburagi. With a natural motion, Kaburagi removed the strangely bulky barrette that she was wearing.

However, Yasui, who had been informed by Baba-Nyan, quickly snatched the barrette that was actually a modified foldable-type beretta from her hands. This “barrette beretta” was actually a firearm that Kaburagi, being the cautious person that she was, always kept on her person in case her superpower ever failed her. The disguise was perfect. If Yasui had not known about it beforehand, she could have shot him when his guard was down. Or at the very least, she could have turned the situation into a stand-off.

However, this hidden “barrette beretta” that no one would be able to see through at first glance was easily exposed and snatched away. Kaburagi gritted her teeth in anger and glared at Baba-Nyan with certainty.

“She betrayed us of her own volition.”

“I? Betrayed you? Are you kidding. You’re the ones who betrayed me.”

Takahashi and Hasumi seemed to understand that for some reason, there was a “Kaburagi and Sago” vs “Baba-Nyan and Yasui” stand-off happening at the moment, but it was taking all their mental resources to keep up with the abrupt shift from a happy birthday party to whatever this was.

Kaburagi had declared Baba-Nyan a traitor.

Baba-Nyan had countered that Kaburaki and Sago are the ones betraying her.

While looking at the two students who were frozen with confusion, Baba-Nyan began talking in a faltering manner.

“Mast–, no Sago… He’s been pretending to be powerless… but he is actually… the oldest… the strongest…”

“Oi, Baba.”

Sago had the chain of his handcuffs wrapped around a faucet and was desperately pulling at them, but to no avail. The restlessness that was usually absent from his voice caused Yasui to smile thinly while enjoying a rush of sadistic euphoria.

“… esper, the boss of Amaterasu himself. Have you ever wondered? Where is the boss and what is he doing? Why does he know what you do and what you like? Well, fret not, he has been right here all along.”

“Stop. You’re ruining everything.”

Unfortunately, his desperate cry only ended up lending credence to Baba-Nyan’s claims.”

“The appearance of the World’s Darkness, and the World’s Darkness attacking humans. Shouta, Touka. Your awakening to your superpowers, and indeed, even the numerous trials and tribulations that have befallen you–”

“Shit, shut up!”

Kaburaki pushed Yasui away and tried to grab onto Baba-Nyan but Yasui used Kumano-style martial arts to seize Kaburagi and pinned her to the floor.

“—everything has been the result of Sago’s self-serving actions!”

“SHUUUT THE FUUUUKC UP!”

The handcuffs began to vibrate unnaturally as Sago screamed out. Although they still seemed to be holding, the creak of metal pierced the air, causing Yasui to start having second thoughts.

“O-Oi! Your handcuffs aren’t suppressing him fully!”

“Apparently so. In that case…”

She hit the floor hard. The floorboard spinned and a magnificent sword exuding a strong presence popped out. Baba-Nyan grabbed it and pointed at Sago.

“I shall strike him down here, without fail. Worry not, this Demon Slayer is far beyond what you can endure!”

“…..What? Wait Wait Wait, this isn’t what we talked about!”

What Baba-Nyan had told Yasui was that she was going to help him arrest Sago. All the credit laid in “arresting the esper behind the Super Water-Ball incident by himself”, and there was meaning only if he remained alive, whether to remain an experimental subject or to become forced into labor. In contrast, arresting a corpse would be of no meaning whatsoever. Rather, Yasui himself would be in hot water for suspicion of aiding and abetting murder.

“I haven’t forgotten the bitterness of having been summoned to this piece of shit world. Like hell I’d forget. If the hero has been misled, then I must do it, must I not? Ahhh, how I have longed for this time of revenge!”

Baba-Nyan held her sword low, dropped her stance, and slashed at Sago. Sago, constrained by handcuffs, clumsily rolled on the floor in an attempt to avoid the slash and create some distance, but then he hit a wall. He was cornered. It was clear that the next slash would be unavoidable.

Yasui immediately drew his pistol and fired a warning shot at the Baba’s feet. The sound of gunshot heightened the tension in the air.

“Drop that sword, Lonalia Linalia Baba-Nyan.”

Baba-Nyan gave Yasui a sideways glance and laughed mockingly. Annoyed, Yasui put his finger on the trigger and threatened her.

“I’m serious. I’m arresting you for attempted murder. If you don’t drop your sword, I’ll shoot you.”

As he said that, Yasui did a quick mental calculation. If he managed to stop Baba-Nyan here, he could arrest the two of them at once. It would be an even bigger deal than catching Sago alone. Baba-Nyan knew of Yasui’s thought process, but Yasui also knew that Baba-Nyan was not the little girl that she appeared to be.

If he handled this well, he could still rake in some profit.

“Master, calm down. Baba you too, and everyone. Or do you want me to chill all your head out?”

“Let’s at least talk about it, for once? It won’t be too late to draw some conclusions afterwards, I’m sure.”

Takahashi intervened with a white frost emanating from his hand, and Hasumi stood up to supported him.

However, Baba-Nyan didn’t listen. She kicked against the floor and jumped at Sago again.

The next second seemed like a tiny slice of eternity, as the world moved in slow motion.

Yasui felt like he was spectating in third-person mode as he felt his finger pressing on the trigger of his gun as if guided by fate.

Kaburagi thrashed about while wailing and crying. Fire and ice exploded in between Sago and Baba-Nyan.

Baba-Nyan leapt and pierced through the torrent of superpowers, her sword flashed forward like a spear.

The same instant that the handcuffs shattered from extreme vibration, Baba’s sword pierced Sago’s chest at precisely the position of his heart.

Sago’s eyes opened wide and he roared like a beast, blowing Baba-Nyan away with his invisible power.

Baba-Nyan slammed hard against the wall, blood spewed out of her mouth as her back made forceful impact, then she slid to the ground limply. The sight of her head being turned all the way around to her back and her limbs all being twisted in unbelievable angles spoke volumes as to her ghastly demise.

Sago, too, reached out to grip the sword in his chest with shaking hands, but then fell over as bloody foam came out of his mouth.

While listening to Kaburagi wail at his feet like it was the end of the world, Yasui slowly lowered his still smoking gun, terrified to his core.

He had not actually intended to shoot. But he did pulled the trigger. Did the bullet hit him? Did it not?

Baba-Nyan looked like a ragged doll that some child had finished playing with. Clinging to a tiny sliver of hope, Yasui tried to feel for a pulse, but got nothing.

“Sh… She is dead…!”

Yasui slumped and trailed off. Was the blood staining Baba-Nyan’s chest the result of vomiting blood? Was it due to gunfire? He was terrified to even confirm.

At the same time, Kaburagi scrambled toward Sago’s limp body. She was beyond herself, and crying in great heaving sobs.

Takahashi and Hasumi also made their way over. The former took Sago’s wrist to also feel for a pulse.

“Not good. I can’t feel a pulse! Call Ig– no, she’s not here! Damn it! At a time like this!”

“Out of the way Shouta. We still don’t know for sure. Let me try his neck, sometimes you can get wrong readings from the wrist.”

Hasumi pushed Takahashi away and placed her hand on Sago’s neck. However, she then immediately hung her head.

“No way… it has stopped. Oh right! Even though Ig isn’t here, we have the healing PSI drive–”

“No we don’t, they were all among the ones that Baba switched out, and we haven’t gotten them back yet!”

“Then call an ambulance!”

“Oh.. Okay. But….”

Takahashi gnashed his teeth while staring at the pool of blood spreading on the ground. Let alone the aorta, Sago’s heart would have to be punctured for him to have lost so much blood in such a short amount of time. Even in the eyes of a layperson, it was clear that the wound was fatal.

As Hasumi continued desperately fumbling around for a solution, Kaburagi suddenly shoved her away with eyes red and puffy from crying as she screamed.

“Don’t touch me! What more will you do to Sago-san? How much more of Sago-sa…! Just, get out of here! Get out! Everyone! Everyone just get out!

Murderers!

You’re all murderers!

Murderers!!!!"

“A-All right, we’ll take our leave. Come you two, let’s leave her be for a while.”

Already in the middle of backing toward the door, Yasui took advantage of this timing to grab the two students’ hands and drag them toward the door.

If an ambulance got called over, then everything that had just happened would get blown wide open.

Yasui staked everything on the hope that, since it was a secret organization, with enough time everyone involved would calm down and this incident would also remain a secret. If not, Yasui himself would be doomed, charged with the discharge of his pistol and for homicide. And during the subsequent investigation, his other crimes might get exposed as well. For all these reasons, his most important goal at the moment was to convince the two school kids not to call an ambulance.

“What are you doing, get your hands off me!”

“Touka, calm down. I’m sure people everyone’s confused right now. We need to cam down. Calm down. Shit, I can’t get my head around this.”

With the two students in tow, Yasui tried his best to push his paralyzed mind into action while quickly making his escape.

After the three had left, heart-wrenching wailing alone filled the air.

In a pool of blood and misery.

The wailing went on forever and ever and ever—


-*-*-*-

—For about three minutes, that is.

Abruptly, the elven ears of the fallen Baba-Nyan twitched repeatedly, confirming that the cast had truly existed the stage. Her bent and twisted limbs slowly rotated back to their normal positions, and her head pivoted 180 degrees back to the front like an owl. She slowly got up, checking her own physical condition.

“They’re gone.”

Baba-Nyan said while spitting out the remnants of the blood pack she’d been keeping in her mouth, and Kaburagi stopped her crying or acting to be precise, then stopped time to wipe away the gore that had splattered everywhere before it stained the wooden floor.

“Clean up is done. Sago-san?”

“What? Is it OK to move now?”

Sago sat up straight and began to pull out the toy PSI drive that was digging deep into his chest. As it was coming out, the sword’s plastic blade that had been pressed against a spring protracted back out.

“Fu~~. That was a close call. I thought we would be busted for sure when they decided to check the pulse around my neck. Never imagined they’d check my neck after my wrist.”

“You’re right. How did you pull it off? I was sure we were done for.”

Kaburagi placed “The Entertainer” into the record player while tilting her head curiously. Sago ripped off the large blood transfusion pack stuck to his chest and chucked it into the sink.

“I stopped my heart with psychokinesis. Though, I started it again as soon as they were done checking. It was a near-death experience.

“You went that far!”

“Well, Baba stopped her heart completely.”

“It’s because an Alven has the natural ability to stop the heart. The range of motion in our joints also differs from that of a human body. Leaving that aside, here you go. It’s your birthday present.”

Saying so, Baba-Nyan went to the spot where she had kicked up the toy PSI drive, then removed a fake layer in the hole to reveal the real Demon Slayer kept inside the secondary compartment. When she handed it over to Sago, his eyes widened. Unlike the plastic sword that had been made just for looks, this real one exuded graceful artistry in concert with fine relief and detailed craftsmanship. The sense of weight and dignity it emanated was thoroughly overwhelming.

Sago was delighted, while Kaburaki was surprised.

“Ohhh…! This is awesome. No, this is frikin awesome. Thank you Baba!”

“This… when did you prepare such an amazing thing. I didn’t noticed.”

“Fufufu~, bow before the wisdom of an elder. When a surprise present ceases to be a surprise, does that not take the joy out of it? Pretending to not know about a surprise despite knowing about it, and proceeding with preparing a surprise while unaware that the surprise has already been leaked – both make fools out of those involved. Incidentally, Sago. Be aware that the dial on the guard can be turned to adjust the strength of the psychokinetic damage. It is my wish that you would find this helpful for your training.”

“Oh my God, Baba. You are the best! This is like the best weapons of both the Demon King and the Hero fused together into the ultimate weapon!”

“What about me? Don’t you have something? How about you give me a nice and cute magic wand?”

“Patience child. Patience. It’ll be given on your birthday.”

In the middle of excitedly swinging his brand new sword about, Sago suddenly calmed down and turned to Baba and asked.

“Hey, it was hard to make this, wasn’t it? Are you sure about this? Aren’t you still quite mad at me?”

“…So you were aware of that?”

“Every once in a while, you look at me with really pained eyes.”

Baba-Nyan smiled bitterly.

“Yes, I’m still angry. There is hatred within me, too. But there is definitely appreciation and respect as well. Respect does not negate hatred. Opposing emotions can certainly coexist. I know that by giving this to you as a form of respect and gratitude, I can nurture the good in my heart while waiting for the bad to wither away.”

Baba-Nyan’s eyes were filled with an unfathomable amount of affection attainable only after living out an unfathomable number of years.

“Well, whatever, it’s a party time now. Shouta and Touka had failed to see through my second betrayal, but there is a lesson to be learned there, too”

Baba-Nyan took a seat at the table where Kaburagi had finished making preparations for the set-up team only after party, and grabbed a can of apple juice for herself. Similarly, Kaburagi also sat down, and opened a special bottle of wine that she had been saving for special occasions. Upon catching eye contact from the both of them, Sago opened his can of low malt beer and cleared his throat.

“Ehem.. we still have a resurrection event left to do. But for the time being, the betrayal event is over. Good job everyone! Cheers!”

““Cheers!””


TL Note:

This arc is finally over! Up next is a side story.”



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