Hi everyone and Happy New Year!
Here comes my first summary of Shouwa prequels. After reading this and Yashashuu Boogie-Woogie have to say that Kuwabara-sensei did awesome job again! :) The story is very compelling and (this is matter of taste but) in my opinion Sensei's way to write has become even better than in the main story. Somehow the description feels livelier, more detailed.
Have to say that the cover looks amazing! The art is so nice and Minako looks very beautiful!
Before moving to the summary, here are the kanshoushas:
Kase Kenzou/Uesugi Kagetora
Kasahara Naoki/Naoe Nobutsuna
Kosugi Marii/Kakizaki Haruie
Miyaji Ryou/Yasuda Nagahide
Sasaki Yukio/Irobe Katsunaga
Kuchiki Shinji/Oda Nobunaga
James D Handow/Mori Ranmaru
Spoiler alert: may contain big spoilers from the main story, so read on your own responsibility.
Shouwa prequel vol. 7: Higanbashi Buruusu (Earnest Wish Bridge Blues)
This volume starts with the funeral of Mr. and Mrs. Kasahara. Naoe's home was set to fire when he was absent, but his adopted parents died in the flames. Haruie, Irobe and Minako with her parents join the funeral. Kagetora also visits there alone, but Naoe is grieving so much that he doesn't recognizes their presence. Later Naoe visits the remains of his home and meets Kagetora there. Kagetora feels sorry for Naoe who is still totally in shock and heartbroken of this terrible way to lose family. In order to not let Naoe's heart completely to fall into sorrow, Kagetora on purpose makes him angry by ordering that Naoe has to exorcise Mr. and Mrs. Kasahara's souls if Naoe runs into them. Kagetora says that he exorcised his own parents after they were murdered. No matter if it's family member, an onryou is an onryou. Naoe is quite terrified and says that he can't exorcise his own parents. Due to the loss of family, Naoe quits his university studies, leaves all heritage matters to relatives and moves in with Nagahide, giving up his old life as 'Kasahara Naoki'.
Yashashuu uses the Nokizarus (=a ninja group that served Uesugi Kenshin. Hakkai is one of them) for investigating the murder of Kasahara family. Eventually the Nokizarus catch a man who is a believer of the King of Sixth Heaven cult. This black cult worships Oda Nobunaga and they have numerous 'shrines' all over Japan. Atou family (they also appear in the main story in vol. 30-40. The leader of Pigeons, Atou Shinobu, is a grandchild of Atou Morinobu who plays a big role in Shouwa prequels) leads this cult. The captive is taken to Matsukawa shrine that Yashashuu uses as their base. Kagetora, Irobe, Haruie and Hakkai try to question him, but the captive doesn't leak any information about Nobunaga's current location. Kagetora decides to revenge by setting fire on cults' shrines.
Kagetora and Naoe goes to see a construction site of a highway. Due to population growth and upcoming Tokyo Olympics, lots of infrastructure and new residential areas are built. Nobunaga's company earns money as they build these necessary things. However, Yashashuu has found out that Nobunaga is using these highway contractions also for his own purposes. They mix souls into the concrete they use for constructing the road. When the highways are ready, they form a road network that closes the central of Tokyo inside of it. Oda clan is planning to make a great spiritual barrier around Tokyo by using highways as the edges of this barrier. Cars speeding on the road will transfer spiritual energy, strengthening the barrier. Kagetora destroys several bright piers by his nenpa, making the whole construction to collapse into river. Naoe is a bit shocked how powerful Kagetora has become recently. He's getting stronger and stronger... Soon he will be dangerous to anyone, even to himself too. During that night Kagetora and Naoe also visit some other construction sites for sabotaging.
Naoe lays on the bed and angsts about the situation between him, Kagetora and Minako. Earlier Nagahide asked if Naoe is really fine with letting Kagetora to steal his girl. To this Naoe answered that if Kagetora wants Minako, he won't stop him. He's Kagetora's right hand, he does everything for his master's sake. Nagahide thinks that is the most stupid thing he has ever heard. Is Kagetora bossing Naoe so much that Naoe even gives the girl he likes to him? Naoe struggles with many complicated feelings inside of him. He knew that someday Kagetora may find a woman he's interested in. And now the time has come. This woman is Minako. It's clear that there are sparkles between her and Kagetora. They love each other. But Minako is just an ordinary woman, eventually she will die, but Kagetora keeps living. After she dies, their love story also ends. Kagetora will forget his feelings for her. Naoe will win his heart after that. He has lots of time. He can wait. If he supports now, maybe Kagetora recognizes that all he ever needed was actually Naoe? It hurts now, it really does. But everything will fine after Minako dies. Now he just has to endure this and support them. Kagetora has been totally tired of fighting against Nobunaga. This all is too much for Kagetora. But if Kagetora can find some relief from Minako, then it's fine to Naoe. Kagetora is the most important now. He has to have motivation and energy to fight. Naoe will stand and support his relationship to Minako... Naoe is just shocked because he couldn't imagine that seeing them together can hurt this much.
Kagetora and Minako meet. They always have only an hour or two to be with each other. Minako tells that her parents have found a fiancé to her. He's a talented musician. However, Minako says that she will refuse and if it's necessary she will also cut her adoption to her parents because she doesn't want to marry anyone she doesn't love. She wants to be a independent woman and stay unmarried. Kagetora feels surprised since Minako would get all that every woman could ever dream if she marries that man. Why would she give up her future? Minako explains that she got courage to choose and fight for her own ideal life after seeing how Kagetora is fighting. Kagetora is worrying what Minako's parents would say, but Minako says that she will pay them back all the money they have used for educating her. Even if she's planning to stay single, Minako whispers with a small smile on her face: "However... Since I was a child I had a dream. I dreamed that on one day it would be nice to marry the man I love and bear his child." Kagetora gives her an amulet that should protect her from onryous. Then, Minako also has a present to him. It's a red woolen scarf she knitted by herself just for him. Minako wraps it around Kagatora's neck and smiles happily.
M: "I knew it. Red suits you very well."
K: "Isn't this a bit too flashy?"
M: "Not at all. It's same color as red spider lilies... They are thought to be unlucky flowers since they're often found at the graveyards, but I have always loved these flowers. They're gorgeous, like fireworks. And they build a bridge between the Netherworld and our world. I believe that the place where people go after the death must be very beautiful. So beautiful that no one wants to come back to our living world anymore. Dead people will walk across that bridge where red spider lilies are growing."
*Kagetora smiles at Minako's cute imagination*
K: "Unfortunately the land of death isn't so beautiful. But anyway, thanks. Now I won't catch a cold this winter."
Before goodbyes they promises to meet again next week.
Red spider lilies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycoris_radiata#/media/File:Lycoris_radiata_-_Kinchakuda_Plateau,_Hidaka,_Saitama.jpg) seems to have quite important symbolical role in this story. As Minako told, these lilies are the flower of death/Netherworld. They're called 'higanbana' (彼岸花) in Japanese, and actually the name of this volume is 'higanbashi buruusu', but 'higan' (悲願) means the 'earnest wish' in English. :)
Kagetora meets up with Nagahide who immediately pays attention to red scarf.
N: "It's rare to see you wearing a scarf."
*Kagetora tries to hide the scarf inside of his leather jacket*
K: "It's because doctor asked me to wear something warm. You know that cold air causes me a cough."
N: "Oh, really. And that's why she knitted a scarf to you? Man, she really is crazy about you. I understand you're happy and want to show this nice present to everyone, but please, don't wear it when you're with Naoe."
K: "What do you mean?"
N: "Jealously will kill."
K: "I don't get the point. Why Naoe would be jealous?"
N: "Don't pretend that you don't know."
Kagetora says that they don't have time to talk nonsense, since they have lots of things to do. They go to another construction site that is by the river. There they run into mysterious man that looks exactly like Kagetora and who is breaking the bridge by his nenpa. He's just like Kagetora's twin! But not only the look, but also the powers. They start to fight. Every time this another 'Kagetora' gets wounded, similar injury appear into real Kagetora's body too! Kagetora and Nagahide are shocked. What is this clone?!
K: "Who the hell are you?! Why do look like me? And even your powers are same as mine!"
K2: "It's beause I'm you, Kase Kenzou. If you try to beat me, you will beat yourself."
K: "What the heck."
K2: "If you kill me, you will also die."
*fighting between two Kagetoras*
K2: "I'm you Kase Kenzou. And I'll do the things you want to do, but can't do."
Another 'Kagetora' escapes the site as police officers rush there and arrest Nagahide and real Kagetora.
When Minako is arriving home from her meeting with Kagetora, she sees Naoe waiting for her on the yard gate. Naoe tells that he saw Minako's fiancé playing with some beautiful women at Ginza. He recommends her to break their engagement so that she could be free from such a player. Plus, if she breaks up with her fiancé, she can freely date Kagetora. Minako is confused why Naoe is trying to pair her and Kenzou. Naoe also warns that if she chooses to be with Kagetora, she has to take a risk that something terrible will happen to her family. Oda clan may murder her family too... like Naoe's family was murdered. However, Minako doesn't show any worries and says that she will do anything for being together with Kenzou, even abandoning her family if it's the only way to protect them. Minako says she has to be with Kenzou, because if she isn't who would save and protect him? This comment irritates Naoe. She is so similar to Kagetora... As stubborn as he... And strong. Naoe understands that no wonder Kagetora chose Minako, not him. Strong ones will always choose strong ones, not weak ones.
Naoe returns to Nagahide's apartment and gets a call what happened to Kagetora and Nagahide. He and Irobe visit the site where Kagetora and Nagahide met this mysterious doppelganger. They run into Kousaka who has came to investigate the spiritual energy there. They decide to do co-operation since Nobunaga is definitely related to this incident. While looking for evidences, Naoe sees Kagetora standing by the riverside. Naoe rushes to his side asking wasn't he arrested and where is Nagahide. He senses that something is wrong. "Kagetora-sama?" he asks, but 'Kagetora' just keeps staring at him without saying anything. For Naoe's great surprise, 'Kagetora' grabs Naoe's chin and brings his face closer to him. When their lips are about touch each other, Naoe can't stand anymore and pushes 'Kagetora' back.
N: "W-What are you doing...?'! How dare you to bully me at the moment like this!"
K: "You can't stop me."
'Kagetora' breaks more columns by his nenpa as Naoe tries to stop him. Eventually Kagetora's nenpa hits Naoe and he falls on his back on the ground. Without any words, 'Kagetora' walks to him. Naoe wonders if Kagetora is angry that Naoe tried to scare Minako, but for some reason Kagetora doesn't look angry at all. Naoe gets more confused as 'Kagetora' comes to sit on the riding position on Naoe's stomach and starts to strangle him. 'Kagetora' seems to enjoy seeing suffering expression on Naoe's face. He start to bring his face closer again, so close that their noses almost touch. Naoe can't do anything but look into 'Kagetora's' eyes.
N: "Kagetora... sama..."
K: "Don't escape."
'Kagetora' presses their lips together and 'kisses' Naoe violently, sucking his mouth.
Irobe rushes there and with nenpa, forces 'Kagetora' away from Naoe.
I: "Are you fine?!"
I: "Kagetora! What the heck?! Are you possessed by hyouirei or something like that?!"
'Kagetora' is surrounded by blue flames, and a group of possessed people surround Naoe and Irobe, but they manage to exorcise them. During that 'Kagetora' escapes. Naoe is still dumbfounded what happened. He wasn't possessed by a hyouirei... And it wasn't hatred, it felt like Kagetora was hiding something in his heart... Kousaka jumps in their conversation by telling that it was Kagetora's copy. With a secret magic it's possible to copy someone. Not only the appearance, but the mind and heart too. According to Kousaka it was originally used by Imperial family. If Emperor passed away suddenly, the priests could make his copy in order to prepare succession without any riots. Irobe says he has also heard about that magic, but this was his first time to see it with his own eyes.
Nagahide is released and he runs into Naoe. Kagetora is still questioned at the police station. Nagahide tells how Kagetora's doppelganger appeared earlier. It's scary that this fake Kagetora can even imitate real Kagetora's powers and hurt him if he gets hurt. Nagahide also says that doppelganger told them he's going to 'do what real Kagetora wants to do but can't'. Naoe gets confused. What does that mean? Nagahide continues his way and leaves. After left alone Naoe keeps thinking about what happened earlier. Kagetora strangled him, but it didn't feel like he wanted to kill Naoe... It was more like he was lusting something from Naoe? Is that what he really wants, but can't do? Is that Kagetora's true self? Naoe can't help but think over again and again what 'Kagetora' did to him last night. He felt he finally saw a part of real Kagetora. And it was quite sexy. Naoe feels he needs to meet this doppelganger once more and find out the truth.
Minako, her parents, her fiancé and his parents are enjoying a concert at the music hall. On the lobby Minako runs into Naoe who has come to look for Kagetora. He tries to chase Kagetora's doppelganger and asks if Minako has seen Kase today. Minako answers that she hasn't. Naoe is a bit confused since if the doppelganger is going to 'do what Kagetora wants but can't do', he would definitely come to see Minako when she is with her parents and fiancé. Minako's fiancé, Kitazato Takehiko, comes there, possessively places his hand on Minako's hip and asks if Naoe is the man who is secretly meeting his fiancée. Minako is a bit shocked. Has someone see her together with Kase?! Naoe sees that Minako is feeling very uncomfortable since Takehiko keeps touching her and now he even blames that she is cheating him. Naoe decides to save Minako's honor and with a loud voice (so that Minako and Takehiko's parents also hear) he says that Takehiko should look at the mirror first before blaming Minako. He lies that Takehiko 'girlfriend' came to Kasahara's hospital for asking abort. Naoe recommends him to decided whether he keeps playing with other women or be with Minako. Takehiko gets pissed off and slaps Minako on her cheek, calling her 'promiscuous bitch'. Naoe gets angry and grabs Takehiko's shirt, ready to punch him. Kagetora's doppelganger comes there and is furious since he can't accept anyone to speak like that about Minako. 'Kagetora' attacks with his powers, making concert visitors to escape outside. Naoe tries to stop him, but only Minako's cry makes 'Kagetora' to stop and after all he loses his consciousness.
Meanwhile real Kagetora is caught by Oda clan's onryous that are possessing police officers. One of the onryous is Nobunaga's general, Takigawa Kazumasu. Kagetora is sitting on the back seat of the car, unable to use his powers since the handcuffs he's wearing, are actually a tamakase, a spiritual tool that blocks the powers. They arrive to Nobunaga's gorgeous residence in Tokyo. Kagetora is taken to a room. Wearing a luxurious kimono, Mori Ranmaru steps into room and sits in front of Kagetora, who asks where Nobunaga is. Ranmaru tells that he was the one who asked Kazumasu and the others to bring Kagetora there. He wants Kagetora to join them. Kagetora has served navy and during bakumatsu (Meiji restoration when Tokugawa shogunate collapsed) he helped to avoid big massacre. Ranmaru explains that they aren't Sengoku warriors anymore, but modern people. Oda clan wants to help this society to grow. If Kagetora joins and helps Oda clan, together they can make Japan greater than ever before. This war between them will eventually destroy both clans if they don't make an alliance. Kagetora agrees that this war won't have any winners if the battle continues any longer, but working together with Kuchiki (Nobunaga) sounds ridiculous. Kagetora feels quite suspicious if Nobunaga really wants to make an alliance with them as Ranmaru says. Kazumasu joins to the conversation by saying that if Kagetora accepts their propose, Kagetora and everyone in Yashashuu can continue their current life. Kagetora would finally be able to live his life as Kase Kenzou and do whatever he wants with his life. Kazumasu also mentions that in the past Nobunaga regarded Kenshin as a friend. He sent many presents to Echigo as a sign of their friendship. Oda clan wants still keep Uesugi as their partner. Kagetora feels a bit puzzled. He asks what kind of favor Oda would do for him. Ranmaru says that they promise to destroy Kagetora's doppelganger. Originally they used it for making Kagetora being modern people's enemy by destroying bridges and roads, but if Yashashuu isn't in Nobunaga's way anymore, they don't need doppelganger anymore. However, Kagetora refuses. He explains that the problem isn't Oda clan's policy or social targets, but the only problem is that they're onryous. Kagetora tells that he has made a vow between Bishamonten, he can't break that. His task is to exterminate onryous, not make alliance with them. Kazumasu gets angry and says that spirits like them are also living beings, not vermin. Ranmaru is the only one who stays calm while Kazumasu and Kagetora are assaulting each other. He confesses sounding a bit disappointed that after all this peaceful reconciliation was just a waste of time, if Kagetora thinks that death people are just rubbish. Kagetora provokes more and eventually Kazumasu is about to shoot him by a gun. Devilishly Kagetora mentions that if his body dies, he can perform kanshou on Ranmaru and exorcise everyone in this building... and then go to see Nobunaga and exorcise him too. Ranmaru immediately orders to not shoot Kagetora. It's too dangerous. What Kagetora said is true... Ranmaru knows he can't fight against Kagetora's kanshou powers, so it's better to keep him alive.
Naoe managed to escape from the concert hall and brought unconscious 'Kagetora' to Matsukawa shrine. Naoe, Irobe and Haruie are watching over 'Kagetora' who is sleeping on a futon mattress. With her skills Haruie confirms that this body that looks exactly like Kagetora doesn't have any soul, it's just a creation. Irobe tells that they have to break the mirror that created this fake body. That's the only way to destroy fake body without killing the real person. But the problem is where the mirror is. It's definitely somehow related to Nobunaga religion, so they have to find out the correct shrine. Then, Hakkai rushes to the room and says that Kagetora was planned to transfer to government office building, but the car never came there. Everyone gets worried what's going on. Irobe and Haruie decide to go to track Kagetora and ask Naoe to stay here with the fake one. Time passes as Naoe patiently waits beside the bed that 'Kagetora' would wake up. He wants to know what did that strangling mean. This 'Kagetora' here looks like the real one and everything in that body is like real human, but it isn't. However, it has Kagetora's heart. Naoe comes closer and touches 'Kagetora's' face and lips with his fingers. This isn't real Kagetora. It would not be bad if he just a bit... touches it? No one would never know, not even Kagetora. Naoe moves his hand down and lets it dive under Kagetora's shirt, touching his skin and chest muscles. 'Now he is only mine, not Minako's. Only mine', Naoe thinks and feels then that someone grabs his wrist. 'Kagetora' has woken up and stares at Naoe with half opened eyes.
N: "Do you want to say something?"
N: "You aren't real Kagetora-sama, just his reflection. Am I right?"
N: "Why did you do so last night? Why were you sucking my lips? Did you try to suck up my vitality in order to keep your own body alive? Or did you want something else?"
*they stare at each other*
N: "Say something."
N: "If you're blaming me about something, then say it directly!"
K: "Do you wanna conquer me?"
*Naoe gets shocked*
K: "Will you feel satisfied if I let you do so?"
N: "What are you... talking about..."
K: "If I let you win and conquer me... will you be happy?"
*Naoe loses his words and 'Kagetora' reaches his hand to touch the skin on Naoe's neck*
N: "I... don't understand what you're talking about..."
K: "Wanna try winning?"
K: "Don't you wanna try to win... and make me yours?"
*Naoe feels as if he's about to melt as he looks deeply into 'Kagetora's' eyes*
K: "If you can do so, I'll be yours."
Shortly some Naoe's thoughts starting from p. 191:
Kagetora's hand on Naoe's neck didn't allow younger man to escape. Naoe started to feel dizzy. He wasn't sure where he was or what he was doing. He wondered if he's getting hypnotized or something like that. The feeling was same as being drunken. Tempted by those sensual lips, Naoe brought his face closer to Kagetora's. The older man didn't stop his actions. Naoe's forelock touched Kagetora's forehead.
- The things you want to do, but can't...
N: ('You want me to move first?')
Kagetora doesn't reject me. He lets me do whatever I want. At least it feels so. What do I want to do? How do I want to be with him? I want his heart. But is the heart enough? No, I want everything. I want him to be completely mine. I won't share him with Minako. I don't want anyone else to have him. He's mine. I want everything about this man to be only mine.
Naoe is about to press his lips against 'Kagetora's', but then he stops and separates their faces.
N: "Stop... You aren't Kagetora-sama..."
K: "I'm Kagetora."
N: "You're lying! It's impossible that his true feelings are like this!"
*'Kagetora' is about to get up from the bed*
K: "This is how he's feeling, it's sure. I can be created by pure heart, and I reflect only true feelings."
N: "No, you're just reflecting his malice! He always just provokes me in order to get a change to ridicule me. I won't be tricked so easily anymore!"
K: "Such a deep-rooted suspicion will just make distance between you and his heart."
N: "No! No, no, no! You're not him!"
K: "Is it that hard to accept the truth?"
N: "Kagetora like you isn't Kagetora-sama! He would never accept me! You aren't the Kagetora-sama I want!"
*Fake Kagetora looks a bit shocked and even sad*
N: "I... want... I..."
K: "Never mind. The one you want isn't me. I got it. Please, go."
K: "Get out of here. Here isn't anything you want, right?"
N: "I didn't mean-"
K: "I'm just doing what I needed to do. "
*'Kagetora' stands up*
N: "Tell me. What does Kagetora-sama want to do, but can't?"
K: "He wants to break. That's what he wants. Break everything. Burn everything to nothing."
For a moment Naoe is dumbfounded but as seeing 'Kagetora' walking towards the door, Naoe hurries to him and embraces him tightly from behind. Naoe says that he won't allow 'Kagetora' to do such a sad thing. 'Kagetora' tries to escape, but can't. Then he whispers something. Naoe widens his eyes and asks what did he say. Then, hot blue flames surround 'Kagetora' forcing Naoe to let him go.
K: <<"Don't worry Naoe...">>
K: <<"The one I want to break is myself, not you.">>
Naoe is confused what is happening. Eventually the flames burn 'Kagetora' leaving only some remains left.
At Nobunaga's residence Kagetora is kept imprisoned in a large cage. Ranmaru comes to see him. Kagetora senses that for some reason, even if it's just hatred, Ranmaru isn't happy about Nobunaga's obsession with Kagetora. It seems that Ranmaru can't accept if Nobunaga's mind is full of someone else than him. Kagetora bullies Ranmaru if he is jealous of him, causing a quarrel between them. There is a hint of truth in Kagetora's words, but Ranmaru tries his best to stay calm and modest. Eventually Kagetora goes too far suspecting that Ranmaru is afraid of being not enough for Nobunaga. Ranmaru totally gets pissed off and is literally about to cut off Kagetora tongue, but then blue flames surround Kagetora.
Meanwhile Irobe, Haruie, Nagahide and Kousaka have located the correct shrine where the magic mirror is kept. They have a fight against Nobunaga's believers and retainers. When Irobe and the others are about to enter the room where the mirror is, they are stopped by Kazumasu. He tells that Yashashuu (& Kousaka) has stepped into a trap. They're inside of a spiritual barrier, unable to use their powers, and what's more, the worst thing is that the type of barrier is called 'burning Hell'. The spiritual barrier will burn not only the host bodies, but also the souls, making them unable to perform kanshou anymore. Kazumasu laughs victoriously that he knew the Yashashuu would come to look for the mirror, so he took the mirror to different place earlier. When Kazumasu is about to start the burning reaction inside of the barrier, the building shakes due to someone's attack. The spiritual barrier that has locked Irobe and the others inside of it, starts to lose its energy. Fake Kagetora comes to save Irobe and the others. After that he vanishes in the air. Kousaka finds the mirror laying on the floor where 'Kagetora' was standing. The mirror has shattered. It seems that Kagetora's own power was greater than mirror's so he could break it by himself. Kazumasu leaves his hostbody there and escapes.
Ranmaru with some Oda's hyouireis has taken Kagetora to a small airport. He's planning to send Kagetora to Kansai area where Nobunaga is at the moment. Ranmaru says that Kagetora is a foolish man. He could have used doppelganger for saving himself instead of his friends and Kousaka. Nobunaga will use hakonha on Kagetora when the plane arrives there. When they're about to board on the plane, they're stopped by Naoe. It seems that he got information from cult members. Hyouireis take Kagetora as their hostage, but Ranmaru orders them to not shoot Kagetora. It's dangerous. Kagetora may perform kanshou on them.
R: "Get out of our way, Naoe. Or I shoot your head off."
R: "You aren't so strong as Kagetora. It's easier to end your days."
Naoe stays still as the plane behind them explodes. Ranmaru and the others needs to use goshinha for protecting themselves. They have a small fight with Naoe and eventually Ranmaru orders some hyouireis to attack as they release Kagetora to Naoe, and Ranmaru himself withdraws saying that they will revenge this to Uesugi later.
New year eve 1960. Naoe goes to grief his deceased parents at ruins of their burnt home. He has brought some his parent's favorite food since in Japan New Year is celebrated together with family and delicious food. Kagetora comes there and says that Naoe should go to visit their grave, since Mr. and Mrs. Kasahara's souls aren't here anymore. Naoe answers that it doesn't matter, all his memories with them are here. Together they pray that Mr. and Mrs. Kasahara can rest in peace. After that they talk what happened at the concert hall. Naoe asks if Kagetora is now happy since Minako will be soon free woman and she can start to date Kagetora officially. They have the following conversation:
K: "It's not like that."
N: "But it gives lots of strength to have a woman you love beside you. A man partner can't give that."
N: "I wonder why do women have such a power. Just thinking about a woman satisfies man. Is it because we're males? Are we tempted by the softness and sweet scent that we don't have in our bodies?"
*Naoe smiles sarcastically*
N: "Women are flowers. A man can't fight against a flower, no matter how he tries. Is it our physical body that won't allow us to win? Or our soul? Our souls are so blank. Even if the bond between you and me is strong, I can't help but keep losing to her."
K: "You met my doppelganger, didn't you? What did you talk with him?"
N: "...Nothing special."
K: "What did I do to you?"
*Naoe wonders how much he should tell*
N: "...He straightforwardly showed your true nature to me."
K: "My true nature?"
N: "You just kept making fun of me."
K: "In that case he was normal me. What a relief."
N: "No, he was worse than you. Your true self is a Devil."
K: "Devil? I take it as a praise."
N: "You tempt me to come closer and when I do so, you just push me aside. That's the worst type of personality I have ever seen."
K: "Carrot and stick, huh? Why do you give in if you don't like it?"
N: "I should have opened your true self more... Your weakest point... I really should have open it more..."
*Kagetora gulps imperceptibly*
K: "Good that you didn't do so."
K: "If you want to open someone's heart, open mine, not my doppelganger's."
N: "Kagetora-sama... Why do you keep chaining me on you?"
K: "No, I'm not doing so."
N: "You do. Why are you propping up your own self-esteem by mocking and pushing me off? I'm just a miserable man. What about me frightens you so much?"
*Kagetora loses his words*
N: "And why do you provoke me all the time? You know about my feelings for you."
K: "Stop, Naoe."
N: "I wanted to become like you. To be a man like you are. But I couldn't. That's why I started to want you. I want you to be only mine! I don't want to give you to anyone else!"
K: "Don't say so, Naoe."
N: "If you have an only person to you can bury your loneliness... If it's me... I..."
K: "I'll cut their (the Odas) supplies of spiritual concrete. Let's start the operation after New Year and destroy their factories. Go to west together with Nagahide. I'll head for Nagano together with Irobe-san."
N: "You really don't care about my feelings..."
K: "It seems that Public Safety Commission has decided to start re-examination of Ultra humans. I'm not sure how long Shiki-san will stay with us, but we can't let him go."
N: "Who is the most important person to you?"
K: "I'll end this war."
N: "Who is the one you love?"
*Kagetora turns his back to Naoe and whispers*
K: "...Please, protect Minako..."
This scene ends with a mention that there is no return to past. Like going across the bridge of Netherworld, no possibility to return back to living world.
To be continued.
Oh boy, this was a very intense volume! The sexual tension between Naoe and Kagetora is so nice. In main story we used to see older and dominating Naoe, but this young and a bit unsure Naoe is also hot. :> Kagetora is escaping from his feelings... I feel that Naoe's "What about me frightens you so much?!" comment hit the nail of the head since Kagetora is denying the truth and trying to keep some kind of distance to Naoe even though at same time he's craving for Naoe. His behavior must confuse Naoe a lot. I loved Kagetora's reaction to his doppelganger's intention to do what he wants but can't, and how he seemed to be worry about what this doppelganger did or said to Naoe. :')
Generally I don't like main female character (expect Haruie), so I was a bit afraid if I hate Minako's character as well, but I was very impressed by her strong and down-to-earth personality. No wonder Kagetora feels save beside her.
Ultra humans are rumored to humans with supernatural skills (living forever, moving stuff without touching it...). Police forces are interested in Kagetora since some people has witnessed him to have such a power.
Ah, I'm falling more in love with MoB.
(Note by Asphodel: not sure why the text wasn't showing up, I just resaved it to fix.)