39 Chapter Four : Missionaries - Path Of Thorns (2)

I manage to deflect some daggers that were thrown at me by the ninjas in the room. I tried not to flinch when the daggers I didn't dodge left cut marks on my face and my hands. Well, I was being distracted by dodging the weapons being thrown at me. I couldn't have my full attention to Maria.

Weapons materialize like magic from the sleeves of the ninjas that infiltrated the hospital room. Numerous flashes of light appear in the air as they aim Maria. I wanted to rush over to her but I was too busy dodging attacks on the other ninjas in the room who wouldn't let up from attacking me from a distance.

"Your efforts are futile." Maria's vines extend, blocking the throwing daggers and ninja stars flying toward her. I was so impressed with how she was able to handle herself in battle.

"You're wide open!" Another ninja who was previously knocked away draws the sword on his back and attacks Maria from behind. I reacted quickly once I saw this happen.

"Not so fast! Attacking from behind is a dick move!" I quickly blocked his sword with mine. I push him back with my sword and covered Maria back so no one could get close to her again.

"Masato!" Maria looked at me from over her shoulder with surprised eyes. I smiled at her as I got into a defensive position behind her. "I've got your back!"

"Thank you… Now let us end this. Thorns of Golgotha!" The vines thicken in response to Maria's call, covering the entirety of the hospital room. I was safe from getting in the line of attack from the vines as they closed in on the ninjas in the room.

"It seems it is time to withdraw... " Suddenly, the rest of the ninjas retreat, leaving only one left in the room.

"How did I miss their exit? They're so flashy!" I couldn't understand how people who were showing that much skin could exit the room without me even knowing. It seems like something anyone would notice!

"We shroud ourselves in technique, not in the color of our clothing. Farewell!" The last ninja flips around and attempts to flee. However… The mass of vines that fill the room wrap around him in an instant, binding him in place. The vines constrict around his limbs and pull him back inside.

"You shall not escape. Nor will I allow you to end your own life. Know that resistance is meaningless. You will tell me what your plans are." Maria was looking at the ninja who was held in place by her vines. I couldn't help but think she looked so amazing with that firm stare on her face. Totally my type at the moment.

"Hahaha… Aaahahaha! What do you take me for, girl? Do you think I fear death?!" The ninja just started to laugh in Maria vines and Maria just frowned at how he was acting at the moment.

"You're really not afraid to die?" I was confused by that and Maria just gives me a sorrowful look and begins to speak.

"Masato… The Transients you've seen until now are merely one side of the coin. Transients are given a certain standing here in Tokyo, with the understanding that they are to use their knowledge and power to aid their Summoner. That is the side of Tokyo that is bathed in light. Yet where there is light, there will always be a shadow. If these Transients who lead happy lives despite their difficulties are beings of light… Then the Stray Transients whose lives are traded for coin and treated like dirt are being of shadow. That is the reality for many who live in Tokyo, this city who crossed with other worlds." I couldn't really understand what Maria was telling me and I really didn't want to think about it. But it seems like that some Transients aren't as lucky as others… I wonder if this could have been me?

"You dare look down on us from your high horse with pity? Don't patronize me!" Even though I couldn't see the ninja face fully I could see that he was glaring hard at Maria as he pulled at the vines holding him in anger.

���No, I do not look down upon you. In fact, I am in the same place as you." Maria didn't look faze as she told the glaring ninja this.

"What do you mean?" I couldn't really see how Maria was in the same place as him. Wasn't she living a life that is good to her? I really don't fully understand Maria…

Maria just looks into the ninja's eyes without answering me. I wanted to ask again but I felt like the place wasn't right for this.

"Is there any way to convince you to speak?" Maria calmly questions the ninja again.

"No. I will gladly give up my life to protect my allies. It is my duty as the rear guard." The ninja kept to his resolve as he told Maria this.

"I do hope you realize there are many things far worse than death." With those dark words, Maria withdraws her vines and releases the confused ninja. I look at Maria with questioning eyes. What did she mean by her words?

"Very well. You do not have to talk. Now… leave this place. Quickly." Maria smiled at the ninja as she said this and I was completely confused at what was happening currently.

"What are you plotting? Answer, girl!" The ninja looks at Maria with suspicious eyes but Maria offers nothing but a gentle smile.

"I'm sorry, but I would like to let these people go, Masato. I must seem quite foolish… After you just helped me take care of them." Maria had a troubled frown and I couldn't help but let out a sigh at how worries.

"No, it's fine. If that's what you want to do with this situation I am fine with it, Maria." I knew that there had to be a reason Maria was doing this so I just let this happen. Even though I was worried the ninja would do something I decided to put my trust in Maria at the moment.

"Thank you for not questioning me about this, Masato." Maria had a pleased smile on her face as she spoke and I couldn't help but blush a little at this, feeling a bit embarrassed.

"Masato! Sorry, I'm late! You didn't do anything weird to Maria, did… Huh?" The door to the room opened suddenly and I looked over to see a confused Ryota who had food in one hand.

"The room is a mess! What happened here?!" Kengo came in after Ryota and looked around the messy room with cautious eyes.

"Will you please explain the situation, Masato? It appears to me that you were attacked by these brazen, ninja-like intruders and defeated them." Shiro looked towards the ninja who was still in the room with firm eyes.

"Ninjas? Aren't those guys supposed to be sneaky?" Kengo looked at what the ninja was wearing with confused eyes.

The ninja was still in the room looking at Maria with suspicious eyes. I could understand his hesitation but Maria did allow him to run away.

"Why do you idle? I understand that you are suspicious of us, but you must flee now! Quickly! They're coming!" Maria looked urgent as she spoke to the ninja and I didn��t know who she was talking about.

"They…? You wouldn't happen to be referring to us, would you, Lady Maria?" Angel Transient filled the room as one of them spoke to Maria. Maria's expression was troubled once she saw them arrived.

"Bind and take him away at once." As soon as the wood angel Transient said that the rest of the angels surround the ninja and tie him up tight.

"So you have been following me. Did you use me as bait?" Maria looked upset as she questioned the wood angel. The wood angel's silence confirms Maria's suspicions.

"This had to be done, Lady Maria. An unfortunate necessity. Since Lord Arsalan was targeted, it was logical to assume the other leaders would be in danger, as well. We suspected the assassins would target you next. As suspected, they have appeared. They may be the ones who abducted Lord Arsalan. Therefore, this man must be taken in to be questioned by Lord Zabaniyya." The wood angel spoke calmly to Maria but that only made her expression get dark the more he talked to her.

"Stop. You mean to have him tortured, not questioned… Do you not? Even if what you say is true, it is no excuse for torture." Maria looked at the angel with hard eyes and the angel looked back at her with an indifference expression.

"Are you defending them, Lady Maria? Is that perhaps… because you have been working with them?" The air between Maria and the wood transient angel grew tense. I noticed that the rest of the angels in the room were giving Maria a cold look as well.

"What are you saying…?" Maria looked confused as she questioned the angel and I felt like the situation may get bad soon.

"We suspect that you were the one who allowed Lord Arsalan's abductors through." The wood transient angel coldly told Maria that and I noticed that all of the angels in the room were resting their hands on their spears as they looked at Maria.

"You believe I deliberately removed Arsalan? For what purpose? How preposterous! You seem to be confusing delusions with reality." Maria looked offended at the angel claim as she gave him a stern look.

"Hmph… Very well. However, Lady Maria… You should know that we are discontent and suspicious of your leadership. The sudden expansion since you have taken on the role of a leader has been a serious issue for the Aoyama Guild. You are the one at fault for inviting any and all into our guild when it should only be composed of those with an Aether affinity. The newcomers have no sense of duty and only care for their personal gain. Not to mention that you have even accepted those born into Nether. The responsibility for all of the chaos currently plaguing the Aoyama Guild is yours alone. Is it not, Lady Maria?" As the wood transient angel spoke down to Maria, I could see the anger in her eyes as she clenched her hands into a fist to her side.

There are so many things that are currently happening with this guild but the main thing I notice is that they are so distrustful of everyone and not willing to trust anyone unless they fill the box of what they think is good. That doesn't seem like a smart way to live at all.

"You intend to pick and choose those who will be saved? Have you forgotten the aspirations upon which our guild was founded? What meaning is there in a utopia built upon the sorrow of others? It appears you have forgotten the reason we call ourselves the Aoyama Guild, despite being based in Daikanyama. We set out to accomplish something, even if it meant antagonizing the guild in Roppongi… Have you forgotten that goal? We made a vow over the graves of our brethren, those angels resting in the cemetery there. We vowed to stand firm so that we may save any and all people. Do you intend to abandon others, just as our brethren were abandoned, now that you've reached the top? No matter what, I will not allow that to happen!" Maria's eyes hardened as she held her ground against the other angels who were against her at the moment.

"You… are no angel. Do not dare presume to speak for our brethren! You know nothing of the grief and anger that we, the minority, have endured!" A fire transient angel shouts that to Maria, animosity palpable in their eyes.

I felt like the situation was getting dangerous for Maria and went to move in front of her but was stopped by Shiro. I threw him a confused look but he only shook his head as he kept his hand on my arm.

"No, Masato. It's not our place to stop them." I really wanted to protest that but I could see the reasoning in why he told me that. So I reluctantly stood off to the side and continued to watch this tense confrontation, feeling restless as I watched Maria get ganged up by all of the other angels.

"Do you intend to repeat the same cycle of sorrow as the minority that became the majority within its small guild? This conversation has strayed too far… Please release him before we discuss this any further." Maria didn't look affected by all the dark looks she was getting from the rest of the angels and tried to convince them once again to let go of the captured ninja.

The angel who had the ninja in his hold didn't let go of them and just looked at Maria with a blank expression on his face.

"I am the acting master of the Aoyama Guild. Are you saying you refuse to comply?" Maria looked irritated at the angel who didn't release the ninja from his hold.

"Indeed. We refuse. We are an elite unit under Lord Zabaniyya, who directly follows Lord Arsalan's orders." The angel then points their spear at Maria as if to warn her, but she glares back, undaunted.

"N-No, don't fight! Aren't you guildmates?!" Ryota suddenly shouts and forces his way in front of Maria with his arms spread wide. When I saw Ryota rush over I gave Shiro a look and he just gave me a tired look back. I have a feeling a fight may break out soon between the angels and us…

"Ryota?! Stay back! It's too dangerous!" Maria's expression was surprised at the fact Ryota was getting between the angels that were pointing spears at her currently.

"C-cowards! You can't… gang up on one person like this!" Ryota was shaking as he spoke but he didn't move from standing in front of Maria.

"Cowards? You dare call us cowards?!" The first transient angel glared harshly at Ryota and his grip on his spear tightened. I still had my sword in my hand but just resting on my side. I was getting tense as I kept on waiting to see what would happen. I wanted to jump in so badly but I couldn't cause problems for our guild… This is too much trouble for me!

"Eep! B-But….!" Ryota got a bit small from being yelled at by the angel transient and it really pissed me off. They were being assholes to my friend and I didn't like that at all.

"I see… So these people are your replacements, then?" The wood angel transient finally acknowledged us with an indifferent glance. I really didn't like that high and mighty attitude of theirs.

"Replacements?" Shiro was confused as he repeated what the angel just said to Maria.

"Are these your new shields now that Lord Arsalan has served his purpose, Ms. Stand-in?" The spiteful comment comes from the wood transient angel, and the others laugh with scorn.

"You will never understand… Lady Maria. A mere commoner such as yourself can never begin to understand a Transient's pain and anger." I wanted to be angry at the angel transient but I knew that they were acting like this due to the way transients are treated in this world. I wonder if I looked like someone who didn't look the same would I be treated the same?

"No, that is not true. I…" Maria tried to speak up but she couldn't say anything as she was silenced by the angel who was getting even more aggressive.

"What do we do, Shiro? I think we've gotta shut them up by force…!" Kengo was slowly getting himself ready to fight as he looked at all the angels in the room with serious eyes, checking to make sure they didn't make any sneak attack against us.

"H-How do we help Maria, Masato? I can't do anything by myself!" Ryota looked over to me with tears appearing in my eyes and I looked over to Shiro with an anxious look in my eyes. I really wanted to help out but I didn't want to do anything that would mess up with Shiro planning. Shiro was quiet as he began to think deeply about what he should do in this situation.

"Hey! Don't just stand there! You're supposed to handle situations like this!" Kengo got pissed off by Shiro who was being quiet in this situation but looked at him in confusion when he raised a hand and looked towards the door with a confused look.

"Wait. Do you hear that? It sounds like… music. Doesn't that seem out of place?" When Shiro mentioned hearing music I realized I could hear the muffled sound of something that was slowly getting closer to this room.

"Huh? Music?" Kengo's expression grew surprised when he heard Shiro say this. The faint sound of an upbeat melody cuts the unnerving tension in the air. Then…. An enigma appears, right through the door, with a cheeriness that completely disregards the atmosphere in the room.

"Hiii! Let's turn those frowns upside down! A hospital is a lovely place that makes people feel better. Bringing all that negativity in here is a big no-no! Gabriel, the idol Angel, is here to turn those frowns upside down!" A female student dressed like a pop star enters the room. I could feel my heart nearly beat out my chest when I saw how cute she was. She was like a cute pink marshmallow!

"Wha?! L-Lady Gabriel?!" The angels stand to immediate attention at the sight of the girl.

"Yeeeaaahhh! So CUTE! There is no way someone can be that cute! Am I dreaming right now?! If I am, I don't want to wake up!" The tension I was feeling in my body disappear as I went straight to admiring this new beautiful person.

"Wh-What? An idol? Wait, is that Gabriel?! Is that really her?! The superstar I've seen plastered all over TV and magazines is actually standing right here in front of me?!" When Ryota said that I realized I did see this cute girl before. But it feels so unreal seeing her right here at the moment.

"Hehe, thanks! Did my surprise appearance make your heart go boom?" Gabriel shot a wink in our way and I thought my heart was going to explode in my chest from how cute that was. I… I may be dying… What a good way to go out…

"Bow! Before you is she who has inherited the noblest blood in all of Eden! The holy angel who imparts the word of the great Lord and stands above all born to Aether… She is the one and only Lady Gabriel!" The wood angel transient who was hostile before seriously introduces Gabriel but I notice that he seemed a bit flustered at her sudden appearance as well.

"No, no! Take two!" Gabriel's cheek puffed up into a pout as she gave a disapproving look to the angel who introduced her.

"Pardon?" The angel looked confused at Gabriel telling him to repeat himself.

"I've been telling you not to call me that. Lady Gabriel doesn't fit my image at all! Idols nowadays need to have a more friendly and welcoming presence! Okay? So try again!" Gabriel gave him a bright smile as she told him this.

"...The holy angel who imparts the word of the great Lord… The one and only… G-Gabriel!" The angel quickly repeated what he said with a red face. The row of angels cheers and applaud for Gabriel.

"Thanks for the intro! It's me, Gabriel, the Idol Angel! Fighting is a no-no, my friends! Take that sorrow and hatred, wrap it all up… And toss it right in the bin! Okay?" Gabriel strikes a pose, raising her pointer finger, thrusting her hip to the side, and capping it all off with a wink. Her words shift the atmosphere in the room like magic. The earlier tension vanishes as if it was never there, to begin with. Due to how starstruck I was by her I sent my sword back and looked at her with starry eyes. So cute…

"Are you okay, Maria?" Gabriel went up to Maria and grabbed her hands with a smile on her face.

"Yes, thanks to you, Gabriel. But how did you time your entrance so well?" Maria looked happy when she saw Gabriel and I wasn't surprised that these two knew each other. Cute girls always knew each other.

"Azazel tipped me off. He told me you were in trouble! I was in the middle of a rehearsal for my show, you know! But I'm glad I made it in time." Gabriel gave a happy smile as she told Maria this.

"Father Azazel did? I see…" Maria nodded her head with an unreadable expression on her face and I couldn't tell if it was for a good reason or bad reason.

"Wow… It's really Gabriel! The idol angel herself, in the flesh!" Ryota still looked shocked at the appearance of Gabriel and I couldn't blame him. I was just blushing in excitement at the sight of Gabriel.

"I saw you fighting off tears a minute ago. You're easy to please, aren't you?" Kengo shook his head at the way Ryota was acting and he let out a sigh at the way I was looking at Gabriel.

"As if you weren't about to start swinging, Kengo!" Ryota shot that back at Kengo with a frown on his face and Kengo just looked away with a small frown on his face.

"Yeah… But for some reason, I'm totally over it." Kengo mumbled that out with a confused expression on his face. I realize that I felt super relaxed as well and this happened as soon as Gabriel came into the room.

"See? I'm not sad anymore, either! Maria's smiling too, so everything turned out all right!" Ryota pumped a fist in the air as he said this with his usual bright smile back on his face and I felt even happier at seeing this. Shiro was quiet as he looked at Gabriel with a thoughtful look on his face.

"You guys are the ones who helped Maria, right? I want to personally thank you! So, thanks! I'm Gabriel! Everyone's favorite idol angel!" Gabriel came up to us after checking in with Maria and smiled at us as she thanked us.

"N-Nice to meet y-you!" I accidentally bit my tongue as I introduced myself to Gabriel, feeling nervous about being near her. She was basically shining in front of me…

"Nice to meet you too! Your name is… Masato, is it? That's a lovely name. Don't forget mine, okay?" Gabriel gave me a wink as she told me this and I felt my head start to spin at her smile. I was starting to see double and I felt my legs go weak. I could feel a hand on my back that kept me from crashing to the ground and I saw an irritated Kengo holding me up.

"It appears the culprit fled during the commotion… Lady Maria, we will now take our leave." The wood angel transient spoke stiffly to Maria and his eyes were that cold as before but it was still a bit cold.

"Very well. Thank you for your service." Maria gave a brief bow to the angel as he left the room with the other angels that came with him.

Outside The Hospital Room...

"State your report." The wood angel transient spoke to the other angels who were with him, his expression serious.

"Unit 3 currently in pursuit. It should only be a matter of time." The fire angel transient told him that with a serious look on his face as well.

"Understood. Proceed with secrecy. Take the target to Lord Zabaniyya once captured." The wood angel dismissed the fire angel transient with a wave of his hand.

Back With Masato Group…

"Aaaaaaaaah!" When we left the room we were in, Gabriel suddenly let out a scream with a nervous look appearing on her face. She was looking at her phone with a pale face.

"Wh-What's wrong, Gabriel? Why are you shouting?" Maria looked over to her with a concerned look on her face.

"I got a message from my manager asking where I ran off to in the middle of rehearsal! He's not happy… It's almost time for the show to start. I'd better get going!" Gabriel was nervously messing with her phone as she replied to the message she got.

"Show? Are you doing some sort of concert?" Shiro looked over to Maria with a curious look, wondering what Gabriel was talking about.

"There's a memorial hall in this hospital that occasionally holds live concerts," Maria explains this to Shiro who nodded his head in understanding.

"The venue is right next to this building, so any darlings who aren't in good health get special invitations to my show." I felt really jealous of those people who got to see Gabriel live. But I knew it for a good reason. I really want to hear her sing…

"It may seem unusual, but this is another way our group supports others. We extend invites to any patients who wish to attend. The concerts are so popular that someone once hospitalized themselves just so they could go…" Maria had a troubled smile on her face as she told us that but I could see why someone would do that if it meant they could see Gabriel live.

"It sounds like they might have missed the point… A bit overzealous, I'd say.��� Shiro shook his head at what Maria told him, not agreeing with that stranger thought process.

"I know! Since you're here, why don't you all come too? It's my special concert! Come see me once and you'll be hooked!" Gabriel looked at us with bright eyes and I couldn't just reject her offer! It would be a terrible thing to do.

"This, too, is one of the Aoyama Guild's fine guild activities. If you are so inclined…" Maria spoke slowly as she looked at us for our opinion on this.

"N-No way, not me! Idols really aren't my thing." Kengo quickly refused this and I looked at him in shock. Why would he turn down this once in a lifetime offer?!

"Whaaat? Come one! I haven't been to a concert in ages!" Ryota happily agreed to the offer to go to Gabriel live concert.

"Since it's put on by your guild… I would like to gratefully accept your invitation." Shiro nodded his head in agreement with Maria's invitation as well.

���Well, I won't! Call me when it's over. I'll be waiting outside!" Kengo was sticking to his choice as he crossed his arms over his chest with a scoff on his face.

"Aww, don't be so shy! That just makes me all the more determined to win you over!" Gabriel went over to Kengo's side and grabbed his arm. She started to pull him behind her as they started to head off to where the concert was happening.

"Stop!! Quit pullin' my arm! Help me, Masato!" Kengo looked at me with eyes that were calling out for help but I was too lost in my thoughts about going to Gabriel concert.

"How exciting!" I follow after them with a skip in my step, feeling too excited about the very first concert I was going to... Actually, I don't know if this is my very first concert.

"T-Traitoooooooor!!" Kengo cried out that as he was being dragged by a happy Gabriel.

At The Concert….

"Yeaaahh! Gabriel!" Countless voices were screaming Gabriel's name in the room and I was following along with them. I had a glow stick in my hand that was given to me by Gabriel and I was waving it all over the place happily.

"Hiiii! Are you all having fun?!" Gabriel was standing in the middle of the stage as she held her mic up to her mouth. She had a hand to her ear as she listened for everyone to respond to her.

"Wooo! Yeeeeaaaaahhhh!" All Gabriel fans cried out that and I could hear many feet stomping at the same time.

"I can't hear you! Come on, Let's get this party started!" Gabriel struck a pose as a light went to shine on her. I yelled out in excitement along with everyone else as she started to sing. I was having so much fun!

After a while of Gabriel singing my group heads out to the lobby during the intermission. I was still shaking with leftover excitement from hearing Gabriel sing earlier.

"What did you think of Gabriel's singing? Doesn't she have a wonderful voice?" Maria had a happy smile on her face as she spoke about Gabriel singing.

"Yeah, it was incredible! Everyone was so into it! I might buy one of those glow sticks the people in the front row were waving along to the music. It looks fun!" Ryota was the same as me, his expression was still very much filled with excitement from Gabriel's concert. But it seems like not everyone really enjoys her singing…

"Kengo, are you okay? Should I get you some water?" I walked over to Kengo who was leaning against the wall with a pale face. He looked like he may fall over any second now. I didn't think something like this would happen to him after hearing Gabriel sing.

"Ugghh… Don't talk to me… I can't…" Kengo put a hand up to his mouth as he looks like he was going to puke. So he is weak against stuff like this… I learned something new about him today.

"Could it be… that the power of Gabriel's Sacred Artifact has something to do with it?" Shiro looked over to Maria as he asked this question.

"Why do you ask…?" Maria spoke carefully to Shiro as she questioned him.

"Earlier, at the hospital, her words reached the hearts of everyone in the room. The immediate calming effect was far from normal. It couldn't possibly have been that her entrance simply made everyone lose interest." Shiro said that with a serious look but if I am being honest I get calm instantly if I see someone as cute as Gabriel! That is something I have to work on…

"Yes… You are right. You're quite observant, Shiro. However, I wouldn't want you to misunderstand… The truth is, she does not use her Sacred Artifact during concerts. Her popularity comes from her own personal charm, not from her Sacred Artifact. Please do not forget that." Maria had a gentle expression on her face as she told Shiro this and he nodded his head at that.

"I won't. She has a beautiful singing voice." Shiro smiled as he told Maria this.

"Thank you, Shiro. She would be happy to hear that. One of the reasons the Aoyama Guild has become the biggest guild in the 23 wards is because so many of her fans have joined. Although I cannot go into delta about another guild member's Sacred Artifact… I will say that Gabriel's voice has a sort of charm that allows her to lead people and can convince them to trust her words. She and Arsalan are the spiritual core of our guild. The Aoyama Guild is a massive organization, and Gabriel helps to release the stagnation that tends to amass over time." At what Maria said, Shiro raised an eyebrow, not fully getting what she was talking about.

"What are your impressions of our guild members? Ryota? Masato?" Maria suddenly asked us this as she turned to us with a curious smile on her face.

"Y-You're asking me? Hmmm, well… How do I put this… Kinda scary? Or…" Ryota was struggling to find the right wrongs to say to Maria but I had a feeling I knew what he wanted to say to her.

"It's like they're the ones who are scared of something." When I said that Ryota's eyes lit up in agreement as he nodded his head towards me. "Yeah, that! That's what I meant!"

"I think you are right about the fear. They are afraid of those who are different from them. Everyone depended on Arsalan, and now that we've lost him… It has been deeply unsettling for us." Maria had a troubled frown on her face as she spoke about the state of her guild.

"Arsalan… Everyone keeps mentioning that name. Would you mind telling us more about him?" Shiro was curious about this Arsalan person who kept getting mentioned by everyone and I was interested as well.

"He sounds dreamy…" I really like the sound of his name. It sounds like a man who is serious about what he does and always keeps on top with his tasks! I bet he is someone who is strict but in a gentle way!

"Yes… He is a wonderful person. Arsalan, along with Gabriel, was one of the spiritual pillars of support for our guild. But now… We do not know where he is. He has disappeared." Maria's expression was upset as she spoke about Arsalan.

"Disappeared? You mean… he was kidnapped?" It feels like everyone in this guild was just being targeted by everyone. I wonder if he had some type of ability that was really powerful?

"No one knows what happened. One day, he just abruptly vanished. We have searched for him, but his whereabouts are yet to be discovered." Maria had a frown on her face as she looked at her hands as she spoke.

"Maria… We'll help you look, too! I'm sure he'll turn up! It'll be okay!" Ryota went up to Maria and patted her on the shoulder in a comforting way.

"Yes… I am certain that he will return safely." Maria's smile returned as she nodded her head in agreement with Ryota's words.

"That's right! Let's stay positive together. It'll be harder if you let it bring you down. Besides, Gabriel will probably scold you if she sees you with such a sad face when she's on stage!" Ryota smiled as he told Maria this and I could see that she was feeling better. Ryota really had a way with his words.

"Quite… Thank you, Ryota. The intermission is almost over. Let us return to our seats." Maria bowed her head towards Ryota and headed back to the room where Gabriel was singing in.

"Maria, I'm so sorry… Words of comfort are all I have to offer…" Ryota mumbled quietly to himself as he followed after Maria. I didn't know if I should say something when I saw a sad look pass over Ryota's face. I really am not that good with words… I follow after him with a frown on my face, the glow stick in my hand not really looking that nice anymore…

Meanwhile…

With thick curtains drawn, it is as dark as night in the chapel that doubles as the Aoyama Guild's headquarters.

"Lord Zabaniyya, we have captured the culprit that attacked Lady Maria." One of the angels who were with Zabaniyya motion to the ninja who was currently tied up in a chair in front of Zabaniyya.

"So this is the sinner who violated our commandments?" Zabaniyya's expression was blank as he looked down at the ninja.

"Indeed, he is. And he might also be one of those responsible for Lord Arslan's abduction." The other angel spoke up as he glared down at the ninja.

"Hmph… Torture me all you want. My lips will remain sealed, even after death." The ninja glared fiercely at Zabaniyya as he said this.

"Hah… Hahahaha!" The angels in the background started to laugh at how the ninja was acting with a cruel smile on their faces.

"What's so funny?" The ninja asked that sternly to the angels but they only continued to laugh at him and looked at him with cold eyes.

"Very well. You all may return to your usual duties." Zabaniyya motion for the angels who were still here to leave him alone with the captured ninja.

"Please allow us to aid you, Lord Zabaniyya." An angel spoke up and looked at Zabaniyya with serious eyes but he only shook his head at them.

"Go, I beg of you. There is no need for any of you to bear this sin alongside me." Zabaniyya's face grew solemn as he told them this seriously.

"As you wish… We will leave it to you, then." The angels gave a bow toward Zabaniyya before leaving him alone with the ninja. The heavy sound of the closing door echoes through the chapel.

"Whatever you're planning is pointless. I'll never spill my secrets, even in death." The ninja kept with his glaring at Zabaniyya as he approached him with a sad look.

"No, there will be no relief of death for you. All that is left is for you to fall deep into the abyss. My Sacred Artifact inflicts eternal pain and suffering. It will continue without end. Its depths are unknown… Ah, the arrogance! That one so far below the Almighty should presume to bring judgment down upon other beings as lowly… The Heavenly Lord will surely never forgive me, yet my body is but a tool for the execution of our laws." Zabaniyya's hand shine brightly for a second and a fire was at the tip of his finger.

"Now, I shall do exactly that. Brace yourself." Zabaniyya's expression hardened as he approached the tied up ninja.

In The Hospital…

"Well, then… I'm going to need some answers." Mineaki speaks to the empty hospital room, appearing to be talking to himself. Without a sound, ninjas appear out of nowhere. Mineaki begins to speak without turning to face them.

"I want an explanation. I thought your superiors understood that this is my place of work. If you wreak havoc like this, my work will be affected, too." Mineaki casually spoke to the ninjas, still not looking at them. None of the ninjas respond to him.

"The silent treatment, huh? Who is this client of yours?" Mineaki didn't seem to care that they were answering him and continued to talk like nothing happen.

"You may be an S-class agent, but we must ask you not to interfere with the work of other agents. This was merely the best place for us to attack our target. That's all there is to it." A Nether ninja spoke up to Mineaki with an indifferent voice.

"Right, but we should be sharing the bare minimum of info, at least. What if our plans clash in the future? If you are going to circulate false information, I need to be given prior notice. If you were to get in my way, I would have no choice but to dispose of you all… Is that what you want?" The ninjas shiver briefly in unison as if the room had suddenly turned cold. Mineaki still didn't look at them but his back seemed rather intimidating at the moment.

"V-Very well. Let's talk. First of all, we do not plan to circulate false information. It would require too much effort, and there is no need. We will simply expose the truth that the girl has kept secret. That alone will be enough to cause the Aoyama Guild to collapse." The Aether ninja was able to compose himself as he spoke to Mineaki.

"Her secret? Hmm, I see. Then I take it your clients are to be found among the big-shots who operate in the skyscrapers on the horizon. Understood. It looks as though your mission won't be clashing with mine after all. Either way, I expect you to fix any damage done to that hospital room." After he said that the ninjas in the room all disappear, leaving him alone in the room.

"Well, well… It appears the Minato Ward will be taking action soon. I expect it will get busy around here…" Mineaki's expression grew excited as he rubbed under his jaw.

Back With Masato….

I decided to stop by the merchandise stands as everyone spends their break as they please. I wonder if I got something for Ryota would he feel better…?

"Everyone seems so tense… What should I do…?" I sigh to myself as I could feel myself grow tense again from all the things I dealt with. I may be getting a few white hairs sooner than I think.

"Thanks for waiting! New items are now available for purchase!" At the announcement, the tension in the store erupts into a cacophony of people rushing forward all at once.

I was being pushed along with the group of people and I couldn't figure out a way to get out of this suddenly dangerous situation.

"Whaaaa?! I-I'm gonna die!" I had both my arms up in front of me to protect me from getting hurt by the many people who were rushing forward at full speed.

"Whoa, watch it! You all right? First time, eh? Be careful or you'll be pulled under by the current of love!" I was suddenly saved from being crushed under countless feet of different people by a wolf transient. I couldn't understand what was happening but I felt thankful I was no longer in danger of dying.

"This place is a holy land and war zone for us veteran Gabriel fans. Look around… Have you noticed it? Everyone around you has the eyes of a hunter. This is the merch corner! The number of danger zones where letting your guard down for a split second could spell you end! This is a battle for goods that can't be obtained anywhere else! Here, we must discard all emotions as we fight for our right to seek love! You'd better prepare yourself emotionally, or you won't be able to handle the heat. Do you follow, my rookie chum?" I was confused as this wolf transient had both of his hands on my shoulder as he looked at me with passion-filled eyes.

"C-chum?" That was the only thing I could manage to get out, still not understanding how my situation got like this in the first place. I just wanted to get something!

"Say no more. I'm with you, chum. Hati's the name. I'm just a humble wolf chasing a beautiful moon. Now, let's go… I'll show you how to survive in this dog-eat-dog world! The target? Today's brand new drop: Gabriel's latest photobook! The limited first printing comes with a special bonus! From this point on, we are entering a battle royale crowded with seasoned rivals… But I will not fall! I will be the one to seize that glorious moon! Wait for me, my moonlit idol! Onward, chum, to the merch corner!" I was being pushed toward the merch corner and I could only feel great confusion and fear.

Why is this happening? Why is he doing this?! Why does everyone in the merch corner look like they will rip my skin from my body and wear them for clothes?! Someone, please help me! I don't want to die young!

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