TLN: I’m changing the barrier name to it’s romanji variant because the English translation sounds weird. So it’s now 『Amano Iwato』which is the barrier set up my Amaterasu.
Chapter 2 – Creeping Shadow
As he left school and walked along a road with low-traffic, Tsugumi tilted his head in confusion. He was concerned with the appearance of Suzune at that time.
「—I don’t really understand that person」(Tsugumi)
The woman named Suzune Nagisa was a little unreliable as a teacher, but her personality as an adult was reliable. If you consult with her on an issue, she will be friendly and cooperative and never say anything unreasonable. Perhaps because of this kindness, she was oddly accepted by Tsugumi’s class which was only filled with strange people.
—However, she was unstable on her feet most of the time. It was if she was looking where she was going, but at the same time not. There were times when Tsugumi felt that way.
—In addition, there were various rumors circulating about the teacher named Suzune Nagisa, that she was involved in the occult.
There were various variations of the rumor, from her being a retired magical girl, to being an heir to a famous shrine, to being a powerful psychic with great skill.
Recently, there was even talk in class of her predicting someone’s death, who later died in an accident, but since it was something that Yukitaka explained whilst joking around, Tsugumi didn’t take it seriously.
As a matter of fact, there were rumors since a long time ago that Saegami High School, which Tsugumi attends, had been haunted by ghosts. In fact, he still often hears stories of people seeing things in the middle of the night.
Although Tsugumi himself has never experienced such things, his sister Chidori often said that she had a strange feeling sometimes at school. Tsugumi doesn’t believe it and thinks that it’s all likely in her head, but he can’t say anything as he can’t disprove the existence of ghosts.
—Well regardless, it’s still best to be careful.
Whilst lost in his thoughts, Tsugumi slowly walked to the station in order to go straight home, when suddenly, he felt like he had forgotten something.
「….Ah, that’s right. I have to buy a book」(Tsugumi)
He suddenly remembered that the owner of the antiques store had contacted him to inform him that the book he had ordered a month ago had arrived.
Chidori, Tsugumi’s sister, had a habit of collecting foreign literature and children’s books. On her days off from school and club activities, she would often visit second-hand bookstores. Tsugumi had finally gotten his hands on a book that she had been wanting for a long time.
It was an old foreign book that was quite difficult to obtain now, Tsugumi was having difficulty finding a store that stocked it. He only managed to find this store because Yukitaka found it for him.
「Chidor’s birthday is the day after tomorrow. I have plans with Yukitaka after school tomorrow, so it would be more convenient to get it today…」(Tsugumi)
The day after tomorrow was the 17th birthday of both Tsugumi and Chidori. They don’t hold a special event every year, but on their birthday, it was customary for them to bring food and cakes and exchange gifts with one another.
—He could go home early, but the devil in his heart was whispering to tempt him to take a small detour.
He had originally been told to leave early by his homeroom teacher, normally the detour would end up with him getting home late, however now was the most convenient time to get the book. Fortunately, the store itself was within walking distance of the nearest station, there should be no problem.
「Well, I’m sure it’ll be okay」(Tsugumi)
In his heart, Tsugumi apologized to Suzune. Such detours were rare and far between.
As a matter of fact, his physical condition wasn’t that bad, so even if he heard an alarm he was confident he could evacuate and avoid encountering any demonic beasts. In addition, Tsugumi’s mobile phone was fitted with an alarm terminal, so it would be unlikely that he would miss an alarm.
The alarm usually rings 30 minutes before a demonic beast appears. So even if you miss the first alarm, you will still have enough time to leave the effective area that the demonic beast would spawn in. Tsugumi was feeling optimistic, so he broke the promise with Suzune and proceeded to the other side of the station.
—Without knowing that the choice he just made who lead to future life-shaking events.
◆ ◆ ◆
—Holding onto his side in an attempt to stop the bleeding. He knew it was fruitless, but it was better than doing nothing.
Through the rubble, dragging one leg that could no longer move after being hid with flying debris, he hid within the shade of a building that had not yet collapsed. The pain almost caused him to lose consciousness.
「Why did this happen….?」(Tsugumi)
Tsugumi thought back on what had happened to him.
When he broke his promise with Suzune and went to the antique shop behind the station, he had a strange feeling.
He believed it was caused by a cold, so he moved forward anxiously with that thought in mind. However the cause of his discomfort soon became clear.
—aren’t there too few people out?
It was as if everyone had evacuated, but that was strange. His alarm didn’t ring and until just a few moments ago, there were many people walking by here and there.
Suddenly there are no people? It’s not the Mary Celeste, so what was happening here?
—No that’s not it, there’s an even bigger problem.
—Just where is this place?
The location of the antique shop should have been along a straight road from the station to a nearby shrine. He had visited the store many times, so it was unlikely that he had made a mistake, and yet the place he was standing in now, was a place that he had never been to before.
Feeling anxious, Tsugumi hurried back the way he came. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt uncomfortable staying there.
—At that moment, he heard the sound of something like a bomb exploding above him. He thought it wasn’t possible, so he looked into the sky. There, he saw something incredible.
A magical girl and a giant gargoyle like creature were engaged in an aerial battle at dizzying speeds. It was the type of battle you would usually never see throughout your entire life.
「It, it’s a lie!? Why am I within the barrier!?」(Tsugumi)
The barrier was an isolated space magical girls set up before a battle. By trapping demonic beasts within it, they could prevent damage to buildings and harm to those who were late to escape.
—There would be no point in fighting if you destroy the city every time you defeat a demonic beast. The first magical girl appealed to Yatagarasu about this.
For the demonic beasts that appeared thirty years ago, only magical girls blessed by the Gods could fight them. However every time they fought, they would cause terrible damage to the city and the people who live there.
—Upon receiving the report from Yatagarasu, Amaterasu added a system to create an isolated space within the barrier of『Amano Iwato』. This way, whenever magical girls create a barrier, they move themselves and the demonic beast to『Another World』so to speak.
The the help of the God contracted to the magical girl, the demonic beast moves to this mirror space. By doing so, they reduce the damage to reality.
Objects destroyed by the demonic beast from within the barrier, are returned to their original state once the demonic beast is defeated. In this way the damage caused can be reduced to almost zero.
—So no matter how flashily they fight within the barrier, no matter how much of the city they destroy, it doesn’t matter.
However, the seemingly all-purpose barrier has a fatal flaw.
The barrier created by the magical girl won’t be released until either the demonic beast or the magical girl die.
Moreover, if the magical girl dies and not the demonic beast, the damage inflicted to the buildings will be fed back into reality after the barrier disappears. For that reason, evacuation is recommended whenever a demonic beast appears, to avoid any potential damages.
—That’s why magical girls are not allowed to retreat. Will they win or die? They can only choose one option.
But it’s not without it’s exceptions, if another magical girl re-establishes the barrier during the slightest time delay before the barrier dissipates, they can postpone the feedback into reality.
In the past, there was a lot of damage to the cities and towns as the magical girls didn’t receive much support, however now, since the movements of the magical girls has been organized significantly in the past decade, it was rare for damage to be caused.
….The explanation was long, but the current situation for Tsugumi was a different story.
The battles of the magical girls can be seen on monitors all over Japan, but what exactly is the spectacle Tsugumi is seeing right now?
Naturally, no ordinary human can enter this isolated space–that was one of the functions of the barrier.
He had never heard of another case where an ordinary person had walked into the barrier of a magical girl. It was certain that something unusual was happening to Tsugumi.
「Stop joking with me! What am I supposed to do here!?」(Tsugumi)
He shouted involuntarily, but he knew it was wrong to get angry in this situation.
…It seems that Sensei’s『Bad Feeling』had hit the mark in the worst way possible.
—For the time being, he had to leave the area. If he ended up getting involved in the battle, there wouldn’t be a scrap of him left.
Then, just as Tsugumi was about to escape, the magical girl who was fighting in the sky was blown away by the thick, rock-like arm of the demonic beast. A cold sweat flowed down his back.
—Ah, danger. By the time he thought that, it was already too late.
—The demonic beast was staring at Tsugumi standing on the road.
….His memory of how he escaped to the back alley was hazy after that.
Tsugumi supported his weight against the concrete wall as he tried to adjust his rough breathing. To be honest, he no longer had the energy to stand anymore.
He couldn’t move, and above all he was bleeding heavily. If he didn’t try his best to stay awake, he would lose consciousness as is.
—He regretted not taking Suzune-sensei’s advice more seriously, but he never thought he would encounter a situation like this. If he ever gets home alive, he wanted to ask her what she meant. Yes, if he gets home alive.
Tsugumi bit his lips. The worst possibility flashed through his mind, he was going to die in a place like this.
Why didn’t the alarm sound in the first place? and where exactly is this? He felt like he was in a strange world.
There was nothing he could do about, even if he cursed his fate. This was the barrier of a magical girl, isolated from the outside world. Unless their battle reached a conclusion, Tsugumi couldn’t escape from the battle zone.
If he hadn’t been injured, he could have at least escaped from the center of the battle, but unfortunately he was attacked by the demonic beast and fragments of the building it had smashed into in the aftermath had pierced his legs and side.
Power gradually left his body as he slumped down onto the ground. Little by little, he found his surroundings growing hazy.
—He couldn’t think straight anymore.
Now that dozens of demonic beasts appear randomly throughout the day, it was not unusual to be rescued just in time by a magical girl after being attacked by a low-ranked demonic beast. In other words, it was not much different to the number of serious injuries caused by car accidents.
Although Tsugumi’s situation was a rare case, the result doesn’t change.
….In retrospect he felt like he had lived a short, but good life. He wondered what it was that made him want to look back on his life this way.
—Nanase had no memory before seven years old. His earliest memory was his sister, covered in ash, pulling his hand as they ran through a sea of flames.
A catastrophe caused by a special A-class demonic beast had occurred ten years ago. One of the few survivors that had survived the annihilation of the city, were Tsugumi and his sister Chidori.
Neither Tsugumi nor Chidori remember anything about it themselves, but they knew with certainty that they were a family. The two were taken in by an old man for protection and had lived their lives as brother and sister, supporting each other.
—What would Chidori think if he died?
Would she be sad? or would she be happy that her troublesome brother was gone?….he laughed to himself bitterly as he wondered if she would cry.
「—not…yet, I won’t die」(Tsugumi)
—Because when he dies, his sister Chidori would be left all alone. Thinking of her crying by herself in that large house, the thought was too sad.
Furthermore if Tsugumi dies in such a inexplicable way, she would be sure to find out eventually. When he thinks that she might try to become a magical girl in the process, a shiver ran down his spine. Fighting didn’t suit her.
—But what could he do? How could he survive this situation?
From the sounds of battle he could hear above, it was clear that the fight between the magical girl and demon would not end soon. Tsugami’s physical strength wouldn’t be able to hold out until the battle was settled.
He scratched his nails against the ground, feeling sick at his own helplessness.
But still, he can’t die, he refuses to die.
Because–he hasn’t been able to repay the favor to his sister yet.
—Ten years ago, she desperately pulled the hand of Tsugumi, who was crying within the ruins of the burning city. She should have been scared as well, but she continued to smile to put his mind at ease.
To Tsugumi, that strength of hers was more precious than anything else.
His sister stayed with him throughout everything, both the good and the hard times. Yet Tsugumi hadn’t given anything back to her. If he died like this, he would regret it forever. He hated that idea.
Whilst embracing such a thought, Tsugumi squeezed out a voice.
「I’ll live—in an unknown place like this, I won’t die…!」(Tsugumi)
Forcibly raising his weak body, he tried to support himself on trembling legs. It can’t be helped, his uniform had absorbed his blood and become very heavy. The ground on which he was standing was already covered in blood. But he was still alive.
The situation was awful and he didn’t know when he would be affected by the aftermath of the battle again. Even though the current situation was the worst, Tsugumi still smiled. It was an expression that showed his determination not to give up on anything.
—There was a black shadow staring at Tsugumi as he tried to walk with his body full of wounds.
The black shadow shook it’s lustrous tail, as if it had seen something interesting.
「—This is why humans are stupid」(???)
But that’s part of the fun right? With that said, the black shadow slowly began to move towards Tsugumi.