Let me open this up with a “HOLY CRAP, THAT WAS LONG!” And with that out of the way, here’s chapter 2. A few things to mention before you get right to it though…
First of all, someone pointed out that I forgot to add the volume’s title translation to the summary. The title for volume 4 is “Heavenly Melody”.
This chapter took from page 54 to page 135 with 2 images in it. That’s a total of 79 pages. What a whopper. I dozed off many times in the midst of translating this (I translate at like 2 AM?).
Yaaaay! Tsundere(?) or panicked Ymy is so lovable~
Tenketsu Palace, Outdoor Training Grounds.
The roaring sound of water and fog-like mist. She was there in the field where an imitation waterfall was flowing magnificently from a steep cliff.
She wore a navy blue suit devoid of any wrinkles along with a bright red necktie. Carrying a pitch black whip, she sputtered smoke from the cigarette in her mouth.
It was Instructor Yumelda who was known as a demonic coach amongst the Cadets.
“Ah, there you are. Instructor, the truth is I have something I’d really like to consult you about.”
Sheltis called out to that back profile.
“I haven’t even said anything yet!?”
“I’m joking. So what did you need?”
While spinning a spare cigarette with her fingertips, she gradually turned towards him.
“Well, it’s about the four person limit for mission number 16 from the merit system”
“That’s! Why! I said! I haven’t finished saying everything!?”
“It’s something I’ll understand even if I don’t hear it all. You want to go on that mission that has a four person limit but you don’t have any comrades outside of your group of three. You’d like to see if it’s possible to apply with just three people or otherwise be introduced to someone who seems like they would enter your unit as the fourth member ─── that’s about it, right?”
The instructor stared sidelong at the Cadet Guards participating in mock battles opposite the waterfall. She wrote down an evaluation on the score sheet in her hand and showed a grin.
“Perfect. It’s accurate to the point that it can’t even be grumbled about.”
The machine crystal <Ilis> flickered. That the machine crystal <Ilis> who rarely complimented anyone would give praise of this degree showed that the instructor’s observation was just that spot-on.
“It’s very interesting. How did you figure it out to such a degree?”
“There were other units that came to me with the exact same question. You guys are just starting late; the other units already started moving to secure a fourth member yesterday, you know?”
In others words, all the people with prowess were already snatched up.
“By the way, up to today a total of twenty teams have registered for mission number 16. The screening has already started so if you want to get in, you better hurry.”
“……Is what she says. What do we do, Sheltis?”
He stared into space while feeling the gazes of both Monica and the instructor.
───Even if the competition amongst units is harsh, I’d still like to aim for that mission.
It wasn’t just because he wanted to go together with Ymy. There was that Yuugenshu cultivation water tank at that facility as well. Then there was the girl who was known as the Forbidden Crystal.
……I have to go, that’s what my gut is telling me.
“It’s just my selfish wish, but I’d really like to find a fourth member and take that mission.”
“I see. Then it can’t be helped, I have a single candidate in mind.”
And with that, Kagura lifted her head that was staring at the machine pearl <Machina>’s screen.
“Ehh……Kagura has someone in mind?”
“Yes. It will be hard to win him over but I think [he] will be good.”
He, meaning a male Cadet Guard. But who? To think that she, whom everyone knew tended to be weary of strangers, would go as far as to recommend them herself.
“Fumu, I’m interested. Who is it?”
“Him. The problem child that the instructor also knows very well───”
The instant Kagura replied, the instructor was was about to put a cigarette in her mouth froze up.
“……Hey, you wouldn’t be about a name that starts with ‘V’.”
“It is that very one. We will invite him.”
“No, well, hold up, Kagura. Don’t be so rushed.”
With an uncharacteristically meek expression, instructor Yumelda held onto the shoulder of the girl wearing a mechanical helmet.
“He won’t become a fighting force. That eccentric guy……it’ll be negotiable if it’s just registering a member, but you can’t expect anything from him as a comrade.”
“Well, we’ll see. Come on, we’re going, Monica, Sheltis.”
Kagura shook off the instructor and quickly continued on.
Both of them left behind, Sheltis and Monica exchanged looks.
Kagura said while looking at the guidance screen on the machine pearl <Machina>. She was heading away from the training grounds and Monica called out to her with a stiff expression.
“Yeah, the instructor’s reaction was kind of……not good.”
“It is as the instructor said. He’s a ruffian and a sloth, as well as an outcast from the rest of the Cadet Guards. In the five years since he enlisted, he has done at best one or two missions.”
“……He sounds like quite a horrid guy. I wonder if there’s a reason for it. For example, a serious illness or the like.”
“No, he is the type that only has his body’s sturdiness to brag about.”
The girl with the mechanical helmet replied smoothly. She stealthily exchanged glances with Monica who was about to speak and then it was Sheltis’ turn to inquire.
“A strong body means……he has good endurance?”
“That’s probably not true. He has the basic body strength but he’s the type that thinks training is a pain so his strength probably ranks in the middle of the lower half or the bottom of the upper half. He also has no exceptional techniques.”
Those were the backbone of a Cadet Guard. He found that harsh training to be a pain and was a ruffian and a lazy person.
……Is such a person really okay?
“By the way, Kagura, why did you think that person was good?”
“Because he’s a good-natured person.”
A good-natured person? I wonder what she means. He looked at Monica from the side and she shrugged her shoulders saying, “Don’t ask me.”
Several minutes after they started walking.
In front of a bench that was far away from the training grounds, Kagura suddenly stopped.
“Okay, we’re here.”
“……Nobody’s here though.”
Looking around in front of the bench, there was not a single person there. Just to make sure, he also looked around at the surroundings, but there was not a hint of a Cadet Guard like [him] whom Kagura had described.
“Sheltis, not there, over here. Here, look up.”
What Kagura pointed to was not the bench but the large tree beside it that was almost a hundred years old.
The moss-covered trunk was about the diameter of even an adult’s embrace. That split into a complex set of branches and even further along those, the leaves were in full bloom.
“He should be here skipping training around now. So take this.” [T/N: It has 昼寝っている as the main and さぼっている above. The former is an “afternoon nap” or a “siesta” and the latter is “skipping (classes, lessons, training, etc.)”.]
Here, she said as she handed him an iron mallet.
“The interior is filled with gunpowder, so if you strike the base of the tree, it will release an immense explosion noise. It was originally for catching bugs atop the trees. By the way, it’s pending a patent.”
“……So it’s your invention. So I hit the trunk?”
He brandished the heavy mallet with both hands. He added his waist’s movement to his muscular strength and, just like that, slammed the mallet into the center of the trunk as hard as he could.
Zun ─── came a roaring sound.
The explosion noise rattled the large tree and the immense explosion noise echoed in the surroundings.
“〰〰〰Iittt huuurts……my ears……my ears are breaking!?”
He thought his ears were getting done in by the excessive explosion noise.
“Sheltis……you’re that kind of person. Couldn’t you tell beforehand that it would be like this?”
He looked back at Kagura while covering his ears that were still hurting.
“Kagura, I wasn’t told that the noise would be this extreme!”
“I have my ears hidden by this mechanical helmet, after all. Look, Monica also took refuge far away.”
“Isn’t that unfair!?”
“Come now, don’t say that. Look, our goal fell out properly.”
After Kagura pointed overhead───
Zaa……zuzazazazza……zazaaa……together with severed branches and countless leaves, something fell from the upper part of the large tree.
The one that fell backwards onto the ground was a young man.
“I…, i………it huuuuuuuuurts!?”
Letting out a yell, that Cadet Guard sprang up.
He had short-trimmed blond hair and light brown eyes. He was taller than Sheltis by about a fist’s length and he was muscular with a large build as Kagura had said. He looked to be in his early twenties. His looks were orderly but wasted because of how bad his face was; he was that kind of man.
“Ah, s-sorry. Are you okay ─── u-uwaa!?”
“Ahh!? Yoouu, you’re the bastard who’s disturbing other people’s sleep!?”
Calling out to him, the young man grabbed his collar.
“You’re pretty brave, aren’t you; if you’re looking for a fight then───”
“Yes, yes, stop there. Well, wait just a bit, Vaiel.” [T/N: His name is ヴァイエル. That’s “vaieru”. If you have a better suggestion for how to write his name, please comment it.]
Kagura held the fist of the man called Vaiel tightly.
“Huh? Who are you? Why are you suddenly butting in?”
“I apologize for disturbing your nap. We have come today with a request for you.”
“Haa, who the heck would listen to what a brat like you has to say.”
“Come now, don’t say that. The thing is”
“Do you want your front teeth broken? I already said I won’t listen!”
“It will take fifteen minutes.”
“Get lost. Get lost right now.”
“Then ten minutes.”
The hand of Vaiel who was about to leave was once again grabbed by Kagura.
“You……can’t you hearing me telling you to get lost?”
“The thing is we’re looking for a fourth member for our unit.”
“I see, it seems you wanna be sent flying. Grit your teeth.”
“And we have selected you. We have already told Instructor Yumelda.”
“Hey, somebody take her to a hospital; this isn’t even worth con───”
“First comes the explanation of the unit.”
Vaiel’s eyebrows stiffened and he fell silent.
In contrast to he who seemed to be ready to throw a punch any second, Kagura was looking up at that with an unchanging nonchalant tone.
“Uwaa── amazing, she’s silenced her opponent. Look, Sheltis, that’s how it’s done. That kind of self-centered negotiation. Please learn from it.”
For some reason, the machine crystal <Ilis> was being lively and seemed to be enjoying herself.
“Learn that?……I don’t wanna.”
Sheltis shook his head with a speechless look.
“Five minutes. I won’t listen for even a second more.”
Vaiel sat on the bench with a thump.
“Then I shall be brief. If I had to sum it up, we’re looking for someone to join our unit and we have come to invite you.”
“You guys’ unit?”
He leered over here and smiled.
“Hah! Two girls with no sex appeal and some mediocre looking brat. This unit looks like you’re playing house.”
“……Hey, Kagura, what’s with this guy. This kind of rude guy───”
As expected, Monica couldn’t keep silent and she stepped up front.
“Yes. We’d very much like you to take up the papa role in this play house.”
Having it returned so deftly, Vaiel fell silent once again.
“……I don’t feel like it. To begin with, three people is good enough for a unit. You can go on missions and also become Regular Guards. You don’t need me.”
“There is a four-person mission we want to go on.”
“Hah, aren’t you honest! In short, it’s that, you want to just make up for your lack of numbers!?”
Vaiel scoffed. In the face of those provocative argument, without so much as a change in face color, Kagura slowly shook her head. [T/N: 顔色も変えず is literally “face color also not changing”. It just means she had no reaction. What an iron maiden.]
“I told you. That we would like to add you as a proper member.”
“If you look at us, we’re a mish-mash of members, but I recommend us.”
“Are you stupid? Who would trust a mish-mash of three brats?”
Kagura shot out her hand in front of him as he tried to put an end to the conversation.
“So let’s do it like this. First, we’ll go on a mission together. Then we’ll see how it goes.”
“There’s no chance.”
“You don’t want to?”
“I don’t. I’ll pass on annoying stuff like that.”
It was curt. Resolutely cutting it off, he confirmed the time on his watch.
“It’s been five minutes. I’m gonna go sleep, so listen. Don’t appear before me ag───”
Kagura called out to the back of the man who didn’t even turn around.
“I see. Then we’ll go with the last method: persuasion by force.”
“Hah, you will?”
That calm manner of speaking seemed to grate on his nerves. Vaiel looked over with an expression that was half-angry and half-sneering.
“Yes. Until you cry and beg for forgiveness───”
“Ha ha ha, a hit from a brat like you won’t hurt or even itch.”
“I take it you are fine with me leaking your secret throughout Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?”
For an instant, nobody understood the meaning of those words and a eerie calm settled.
“…………Oi, what do you mean by that?”
“It’s simple. I have over one hundred observation cameras that I personally installed within the tower so I know secrets that people never want others to know.”
She pointed with her finger.
In that instant, the floating machine pearl <Machina> divided into a puzzle piece shape and spread out in the air. On that small piece, something was installed ─── a small camera with a high-powered lens.
“……You couldn’t have.”
He seemed to have understood what she meant as he bit hard on his molars.
“Have you understood that this is not a threat? Well then, what were you doing in a place nobody knows about, I wonder. For example, yesterday at the storehouse next to the outdoor training grounds──────”
In that instant, Vaiel’s face suddenly went pale.
“Wai-wait a second! That’s dirty, how is this not a threat!”
“It’s not a threat, it’s a negotiation. Once is fine, so come with us on a mission just once. If you do, I promise I won’t leak your secret to anyone. Of course, the decision of whether to properly join after the mission will be your own.”
“…………Interesting. Let’s do this, peeping young lady.”
The young man’s fist was trembling and a dangerous smile floated up on his face.
“Negotiations have succeeded then.”
“……That compromise will only happen once. Got it?”
She nodded seriously and then turned to come over here.
“Well then, Vaiel, I’ll introduce you to our unit. This is Monica, the unit leader. The unattractive one beside her is Sheltis.”
“The unattractive bit was unnecessary!”
His complaint was easily ignored.
“Well then, Vaiel, you also introduce yourself. With your full name.”
“Ha? Who would go to the trouble of naming himself to people he’s only going to go on one mission with. This Vaiel Bahhabel has no name to give you!” [T/N: His last name is バッハベル or “bahhaberu”. Another name that is hard to translate. Specifically because that ッ there means it has a pause, so you have to work that into the name. Any suggestions, folks?]
He raised his voice and folded his arms.
Not thinking on how to react, Sheltis timidly put his thoughts to words.
“You just named yourself. You said Vaiel Bahhabel.”
“I also heard that.”
“It’s also perfectly recorded in my logs.”
Having finally realized it after having it pointed out to him, he kept his arms folded and opened his mouth.
“Y-you guys, that was nothing just now, nothing! Forget it, forget it immediately!”
He went bright red and flapped his arms.
“See? He’s unexpectedly amiable.”
Pointing at him like that, only Kagura chuckled with a smile.
Floor 48 of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, Mechanical Bureau Reception Lobby.
“Shasa……Shasa, huh. I did a name search, but it’s not showing up……it doesn’t seem like she’s our bureau’s member.”
It was a past middle-aged man who was looking at an electronic terminal’s screen. [T/N: It’s 初老 which indicates somebody above 40.]
“I see, thanks, occhan. I’ll go search again.”
……Hm──, didn’t find her like I thought.
Scratching at her unkempt orange hair, Eyriey sighed for the umpteenth time today.
“Maybe it’s the General Affairs Bureau or Tower Control Bureau? The ones with the highest member count are those two so the change is high.”
“Ohh, that’s good information! Well then, I’ll go check it out!”
“Is she an acquaintance?”
“Yeah, that’s it, it’s a girl I just became friends with not too long ago in the tower. I was a little interested.”
[The next time we can meet will be in one month.]
It seemed like as an office girl, she would be swamped with work for a month.
“I thought that it was quite a difficult job so I was going to give her some candy.”
“Ohh. Then you really must search for her.”
“Yeah. Later then, occhan, sorry for bothering you in the middle of work.”
Waving at the staff member that was boxed in at the counter, she once again dashed down the path.
……As I thought, not here either.
There had been no matches in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s name registry. After that, she had been checking every Bureau’s individual name registries at random but the name ‘Shasa’ had not had a match.
[My name is Shasa Endens Lin Kale.] [T/N: This one’s pretty straight forward. Shasa Endensu Rin Ke-ru.]
[It’s difficult to remember, isn’t it. Everybody knows me as Salah, so you can also use that.”
She was sure she had named herself as that.
“Mm── this is looking more and more like I misheard it. Hey, Yuto?……Yuto?”
The young girl she should have been with wasn’t there. Eyriey noticed that after rounding the path’s corner and nearing the elevator.
With haste, that was the moment Eyriey’s objective went from searching for someone to searching for a lost child.
The sound of passing through that rent the wind.
That which was dancing about in the sky roared and nosedived, approaching in one go.
“One unit approaching, jump to the left!”
Responding to the girl’s voice behind him, he jumped. Dodging the black scrap of metal that passed by right beside him, Sheltis slashed into open space with his right sword.
The deflected scrap of metal flew in the exact opposite direction and collided with another scrap of metal. Becoming entangled, the two scraps unified and fell to the ground.
“Monica, go right, and Sheltis, go around the right just like that!”
Kagura was the one giving out successive instructions.
While checking both the screen of the eyeshade and the machine pearl <Machina> at the same time, she calculated the path which would guarantee optimal dodging space.
“Ohh, this is pleasant. Maybe I could have an afternoon nap?”
“Don’t say such easygoing things!”
Silencing the machine crystal <Ilis>’ carefree talking, he defended against the black scraps coming one after another with his left sword. Taking the strikes and killing off the impact with the back of the sword, he struck them down with his other sword the moment they stopped.
He did that how many times of times───
“Stop right there.”
The instructor’s order reverberated across the testing grounds.
“Fumu, it was passable.”
Instructor Yumelda wrote a number down on her score sheet.
“Shooting down count ─── Sheltis, 74, Monica, 21, Kagura, 1……that totals to 96 for the unit; it’s passable that it didn’t reach triple digits. There were two instances of being shot as well.”
“It looks like we’ll pass the screening.”
Monica said as she put a bottle of drinking water to her lips.
“The criteria for the first screening are shooting down over 90 and only being shot up to 7 times. It’s a number for screening so it would be troubling if this didn’t pass.”
……For the time being, the first screening has been cleared, huh.
He disassembled the blades machine crystal <Ilis> had constructed and put the swords that had become only hilts into their holders.
“However, that was another extreme assignment of roles.”
The instructor who was blowing tobacco smoke narrowed one eye.
“Kagura is specialized to control, Monica is interception and Sheltis is the suicide attacker. It’s incomparably extreme. An organization whose capacity would be paralyzed immediately if a single person fell isn’t something I should be praising.”
“Please say that it’s the right person in the right place.”
“You sure can say it well. By the way, where’s the problem child <Vaiel>? I heard you’d roped him in.”
“Ahh, if you’re talking about him.”
Kagura pointed to the bench that lay beyond the sandy soil. Taking up a position at the center of that was a blond young man who seemed to be in a bad mood and oozed an air of not wanting to do anything.
“I don’t see anything but his usual self. He’s not going to participate in the mission’s screening?”
“Our promise with him is that we’ll travel together for the mission so the screening before the mission is outside of our negotiations.”
“……Well, I don’t mind if you guys says you’re fine with it.”
An appalled sigh or sympathy or otherwise ────── the smile leaking onto the instructor’s face was filled with numerous emotions.
“By the way, you guys have no external injuries? Excess stamina?”
Sheltis, who reflexively answered like that, regretted it immediately after.
“Okay, then we’ll do up to the second screening today.”
“……People like you.”
“……What are you doing.”
They changed locations to a shaded water supply area───
Unable to withstand the silent pressure, Sheltis submissively apologized.
───Though the truth is there was a reason.
He thought the question the instructor asked there was also a part of the screening test. If they gave a weak-sounding response there, they’d be targeted for a failing grade. Fearing that, he had answered more quickly than anyone else but it had backfired.
“It has already happened, so it can’t be helped.”
Monica waved her hand at the base of her neck.
A slight feverishness tinged her snow-white nape. Her skin’s pigments were probably faint to begin with. That appearance made one naturally feel that it was sweet and amorous.
“At any rate, let’s clear the second screening as well. Two hours later……I heard that it will be a unit battle.”
Monica was regathering her hair into one lock when her expression stiffened.
“It’s a four-person battle, so we’ll need Vaiel to participate as well.”
The person in question who was sprawled on the bench said crossly,
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, don’t joke around. This is different; I said I’d go on the mission, but I didn’t hear anything about participating in this farce of a unit battle.”
“Well now, Vaiel, how about this.”
Interrupting Monica, Kagura took a step forward in her place.
“You don’t have to do anything other than come out just to fulfill the number requirement. If you’re at the very back of the formation, then there will be no reason for the opponent to attack you.”
“You mean the rear guard?”
“Yes. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll leak that secret to everyone.”
Perhaps it was a really hazardous secret as Vaiel’s face immediately went pale.
“How about it?”
“……Damn it, but I’m only being the rear guard. Even if you make a mistake, I’m not moving up front.”
Understanding the meaning of his words, Kagura smiled.
“Sheesh. This is the worst, why did I have to meet these kinds of people today.”
Vaiel turned around while cursing. Monica chased after him.
“Hey, Vaiel, where are you going?”
“Ahh? I’m just going to get my weapon. Should I go out completely unarmed? I haven’t used it lately, so it hasn’t even been maintained.”
He shrugged without looking back. With his formal clothes draped over his shoulder, he was without a single weapon just as he’d said.
“B-but independent movement is……”
“Do you not trust a single word your comrade says?”
This time it was Monica’s turn to fall silent.
“……Understood. After your weapon’s maintenance is complete, please meet us at the southern desert field.”
“I’m not a brat. I at least remember the location.”
“……We’ll be gathering in an hour and a half.”
“You’re persistent, I said I’ll keep my promise.”
Leaving behind his words in a tone that sounded neither like a lie nor a truth, the young man lazily walked away. They became unable to see that well-built back.
“……He got me.”
Monica smiled bitterly with complex emotions on her face.
“I couldn’t retort with anything for a moment there. ……That’s right, he’s also our comrade right now. Then I must believe that he will come on time.”
It was truly risky. If Vaiel didn’t have the intention of keeping his promise or his weapon’s maintenance wasn’t finished in time, they would be short of people for the unit battle and lose by default.
“He will come.”
But as if to dispel that insecurity, Kagura lightly nodded.
“……Aren’t you quite trusting of him?”
“Yes. Sheltis, you also heard. He said that he would keep his promise.”
However, it couldn’t be helped that he would become even more interested. The [secret] that had been used in the negotiations with Vaiel was the only thing that hadn’t been told to Sheltis and Monica.
“Say, Kagura, is the secret that you say you ‘will reveal‘ really amazing of a secret?”
“No, it is absolutely nothing major.”
“It’s nothing major, but it has great importance for him.”
……What does that mean?
But even with him and Monica asking her, Kagura didn’t tell them.
“Rather than that, we’re having a strategy meeting. First is the formation───”
A desert ─── one of the harshest fields aboveground.
The shining assassin-like direct sunlight coming from overhead was burning his eyelids and the fine sand mixed with metallic materials underfoot was reflecting the sunlight back. There were no shadows or oases in those hot rays.
It was normally forty degrees Centigrade, and depending on the day it had been recorded to reach fifty degrees.
It was a plot of land that faithfully replicated the deserts that lay far from the floating continent. It was the stage designated for the second screening.
“Ahh──……It’s such a pain with this heat, what the Hell was the guy who made it thinking?”
Vaiel had his formal clothes’ sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
On his two hands were iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters>. They extended all the way from his fists to his elbows and had numerous designs on the front that showed the formal carved seal of Shinryoku. [T/N: Knuckle dusters is 拳鉄甲. Literally “fist iron armor”.]
“That’s quite an uncommon weapon.”
“Ahh? This is?”
Nodding wordlessly, Sheltis also readied his dual swords in both hands.
“Since I haven’t really seen anybody who uses them.”
Iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> were a weapon that specialized in [hitting].
They aimed to raise striking power and also protect the fists from the impact.
Depending on how they were used, they were stronger than edged weapons because of their ease-of-use but───
“You’re not going to say it’s dangerous?”
A Yuugenshu’s entire body was a lump of curses. For that reason, using hand-to-hand combat which required close proximity was extremely dangerous. Even though there were Shinryoku carved seals upon those iron fist protectors <Knuckle Duster>, it was the same as saying that taking an attack with anything other than those fists would result in being showered with Mateki.
For example, the Sennenshi, Ran ─── she was the sole guard who fought Yuugenshu empty-handed, but that was because her skin was directly engraved with the formal carved seals. It was because she had endured the harsh pain and rejection reactions of the carved seals that she was permitted to do that. If it wasn’t like that, fighting up-close with a Yuugenshu was a suicidal action.
Yes, unless they were extremely reckless or were unparalleled in skill.
“I haven’t used any other weapons before.”
“Ah, i-is that so?”
……So it was because he’s reckless.
He scratched his cheek in response to the answer he had somewhat expected.
“I’m just gonna say this, but I’m only here to make up for the count. I’ll just be loafing off in the rear guard.”
“……That’s what we promised.”
It seemed like he really intended to make up for the count. His behavior didn’t beget any will to participate in the unit battle……but if he had no intention of becoming a Regular Guard, why had he entered the tower in the first place?
“Can I ask one thing? Do you have some kind of goal, Vaiel? Like aiming to become a Sennenshi or something.”
“None. To begin with, even though I had no interest in becoming a Regular Guard, that Instructor Yumelda half-forced me to enlist. The instructor’s a scout or something like that.”
“A scout? That’s definitely strange.”
There was no end to the hopefuls who enlisted as a guard. At any rate, out of those who were skilled in martial arts, an instructor singling one of them out was exceedingly rare.
“It’s a real nuisance for me though.”
Something had caught the instructor’s eye. There were also the hopes of the instructor and it should be fine for them to aim to become Regular Guards together.
“It’s time. You two, get into your positions.”
Suddenly interrupting their conversation, the unit leader <Monica> raised her voice from behind.
“Sheltis, I’m sorry but I’ll be relying on you.”
“Rather, we’re welcoming that. Work him as hard you want.”
“Is what she says.”
Flicking machine crystal <Ilis> to silence her, he lined up to the right of Monica.
……That’s right, I have to focus on this first.
The battle with four people unified as a unit.
On the opposing sand hill about twenty metres away. Beside that should be their starting position.
“Well then, we’ll start. First unit, limit of four people.
The format is [Open Flag], time limit is three hours.” [T/N: The “open” here is 公開 which means “open to the public”.]
The instructor’s reverberating announcement.
Open Flag ─── one of the main methods for unit battles. One person from the team would be the general and defeating that person would constitute victory. Who was the captain would be openly known to both sides and that person would come under concentrated attacks.
“Kagura, I leave it to you.”
“My specialty is escaping, after all.”
She sat down on the floating machine crystal <Machina> with a pwoof.
“Ohh, you can ride that?”
“It also serves as an emergency pod that accommodates one person. Rather than that, Sheltis, you need to attack the enemy general or we won’t win. You know that.”
“───Suicide attacker, right.”
The general holding out at the back would be Kagura and the central interceptors were Monica and Vaiel. And the duty assigned to him was front line enemy lines penetration.
At the same time that the instructor’s order came, four shadows flew out from the sand hill.
Two of them were approaching without hesitation while the other two were keeping their distance and circling around.
“The general is positioned in the back. It’s a standard formation with two up front and two in the back.”
Against their vanguard that consisted of two people, they also had two interceptors. Without significant difference in their battle strength, Kagura’s defense line wouldn’t fall. The only thing left was for him to engage the two in the rear guard in a solo suicide attack.
He broke into a run and accelerated.
He kicked off the sand and jumped, closing the distance between him and the opponent’s vanguard.
───Two people in the vangaurd.
───One used a rod and the other and the other wielded a metal cane. [T/N: The rod here is 昆 which is the same as in Monica’s weapon name.]
Either of their weapons had long reach and were well-suited to high-speed movement during use.
The rods whipped up the sand and the metal cane came crashing down from above. It was a pincer strike. He blocked the rod and used the resultant impact to dodge the metal cane.
It was a momentary passing.
Passing by each other, they only exchanged glances as they ran.
……So they won’t pursue me.
There was no meaning in a showdown between vanguards in Open Flag. If they wasted time on a match between the vanguards it would only serve to heighten the chances of a draw. Both sides were only aiming for the general.
The rest was a battle against time.
Dashing up the hill, he chased after the two who were trying to widen the gap with him.
“One is a heavy spear guard and the other one is……”
Before the machine crystal <Ilis> could finish speaking, something silver flew over.
The thing shining with the sunlight showering it was a circular blade. On that large flat circular blade was a donut-like hole in the center. One, two, three of those drew arcs───
“Throwing steel <Chakram>, huh.”
A throwing weapon that resembles the full moon. They didn’t have much power on their own, but each circular blade was razor sharp so grasping their movements in midair was exceedingly difficult.
He crossed his dual blades and matched them to the path of the throwing steel <Chakram> ────── and out came a dull grinding sound. He intercepted the incoming circular blades and smacked them to the sand.
……The sun is a nuisance.
The direct sunlight was beating down from above and reflecting off the ground. The enemy was aiming for the point where the two multiplied each other’s effects so the already hard to see blades of the throwing steel <Chakrams> were made even harder to see.
“The enemy’s general is a heavy spear guard. Taking out the defender first and then attacking the general is the safest course of action; the other means is a little riskier and involves just going straight for the general.”
“Which one do you recommend?”
“If you weren’t my master, it would be the safe method. But if you’re aiming to be a Sennenshi, then it’s the latter, and please do it with no injury in a swift breakthrough.”
“……How nice of you to make it sound so easy!”
Replying with a fearless smile, Sheltis faced his feet in the direction of the heavy spear guard.
Directly to the side, the throwing steel <Chakram> user sent out the circular blades in one motion. Five throwing steel <Chakram> danced through the air and approached, each on a different path.
───There was no need to go out of his way to track the circular blades that were hard to see.
It would be fine if he just dodged according to the predicted paths. Of the five, three were just threatening shots that weren’t actually meant to hit. He stared only at the two that were sure to hit and then.
Each of his dual swords deflected one of the two throwing steel <Chakrams> back.
His two opponents’ expressions trembled and their movements slightly stiffened up. He dashed, aiming for that moment. He passed and left behind the defending throwing steel <Chakram> user.
───What’s left is the finisher.
The heavy spear guard readied a very long spear in both hands.
Even amongst metal spears, the heavy spear boasts an especially great range. If the opponent were of the same calibre, dual swords wouldn’t be able to break through and he would get speared. It was that much of a bad match-up.
His opponent’s skill was unknown. It would be fine if it was just simple Cadet Guard-level skill but if by chance it was Regular Guard-level, carelessly jumping in would entail the danger of being one-sidedly speared.
He took a rough estimate of the heavy spear’s length and came to abrupt stop just short of it.
A distance that was uncrossable with dual swords. Ignoring the doubt that crept onto his opponent’s face, Sheltis swung down his sword at the sand below with all his strength.
Zaaaaaaaaaaaaa…………countless sand particles flew up into the air and completely shrouded the vision of Sheltis, the heavy spear guard and the throwing steel <Chakram> user who were in that area.
A confused voice was raised.
In the world veiled by a cloud of sand, Sheltis faced the heavy spear user, drew an arc and kicked off the sandy ground. Immediately after, with a whistle of the wind, he passed through the enemy’s spear’s right flank.
───As I thought.
The heavy spear guard thrust their spear out impatiently as a result of being blinded. If Sheltis kept going straight here, it would be a direct hit but he dared to take a roundabout route and the spear went in the wrong direction.
Holding back his breath, he sliced up with his right-hand sword from directly below.
The sound of metal colliding echoed.
The uplifted cloud of sand silently lowered to the ground and in his vision that had cleared up───
The boy thrust his dual swords at the heavy spear and its user that had been blown back.
“Fumu, let’s stop there.”
Then came the reverberating order from the instructor that sounded like she hadn’t found the battle enjoyable.
“The second unit will break up for today. Think up counter-measures for the second match tomorrow.”
……Finally a single victory.
The first day of the second day of the screenings was finally over. He didn’t think that the competition between units before the merit system mission would be this harsh.
“Ah, yeah. You too, Monica.”
The girl with sakura-colored hair descended the sand dune towards him. There was sand clinging to where sweat had flowed on her cheek and there were sand-colored patches on her formal clothes here and there……
“Was it also hard being the interception?”
“We won so it’s good result-wise but that was dangerous.”
She nodded with a halfhearted expression. She pointed to the other end of the sand dune with her crossed rods <Rosario>, indicating someone who was nonchalantly chasing someone else───
“Hold on, Vaiel, why didn’t you protect me even though you were in the interceptor role?”
“Ha? You’re the one who said something like escaping was your specialty.”
Kagura sat atop her machine pearl <Machina> as she protested about something with Vaiel who had his face turned away.
“There’s a limit to everything. You can’t just keep running away! If Monica hadn’t been covered for in time, right about now───”
“Idiot, for I who is a man amongst men, I can’t get serious in this kind of unrefined match.”
“A man amongst men? Then you shouldn’t be ditching and should come to help. Protecting a frail lady is the beauty of that.”
“Hah! A brat with no sex appeal shouldn’t run her mouth off in some knowing tone. Protecting someone in this kind of safe match guided by regulations can’t decide a man’s worth. A man will only get involved and protect a woman in a large battle of life and death. That’s my belief.”
“A man who can’t protect in a match saying that isn’t trustworthy.”
“So when was there ever a need for you to trust me? Ah── it’s so hot, what an unbelievable pain in the ass that there’s another unit battle tomorrow.”
“Ah, wait a second!”
The girl followed after the young man who was getting more distant as if trying to run away.
……Umm, so what basically happened?
Judging from the conversation just now, he could somewhat imagine what had transpired just now.
“So it would be correct to say that Vaiel who was on interception duty didn’t do anything and so you had to do your best to defend her?”
“That’s a good guess. ……It looks like it’ll be the same tomorrow, so it’s giving me a headache.”
Fuu. Monica sighed deeply.
“Let’s make a plan in preparation for tomorrow. I had intended to divide up but if Vaiel is going to do nothing like that that then it would be for the best to think of a formation for the three of us.”
“Yeah. ……It’s best if you don’t push yourself too hard. I’ll make up for the slack.”
“I’ll take you up on that.”
Leaving behind a momentary smile, she left as well. It truly seemed to have been a harsh battle. That back didn’t have its usual energy.
……I see, for Monica.
……This was her first unit battle as unit leader.
“It’s obviously she’d also be mentally exhausted.”
The responsibility of a unit leader. Monica’s worries would continue for a while longer. Depending on the situation, he might also have to think up a way to alleviate her burdens.
Instructor Yumelda’s voice came from behind him.
“Do you have any external wounds? Still have energy? Okay then, we’ll start today’s training.”
“Tell me, how did it lead to that!?”
He hurriedly jumped aside to dodge the hand coming for the scruff of his neck.
“Ah, but I’m glad. I had something to ask you, instructor. About our fourth person.”
“Are you interested about Vaiel?”
“Well, yeah. ……He’s actually hiding some ridiculous ability, and I was just wondering why.”
“Fool, you’d understand from his actions. He’s only at the top of the lower half of the Cadets at best.”
It was conclusive and without any hidden meaning.
“If so ─── why did you scout him?”
She lit her cigarette than was as thin as a needle and gazed at the flame.
“There are two qualities in a guard. There’s a need for at least one guy like that around.”
“There’s no loss in remembering this. Rather than the Priestesses atop the tower, there is also a man that is influenced by ‘something‘ completely different.”
I wonder what that means.
“I said you’d come to understand naturally, right. Rather than that, now’s training so let’s go so I can try the hellish training I thought up yesterday that I’ve been itching to test out.”
“……No, that’s why I said I”
“If you get careless, you’ll die. Now come along.”
“Like ─── I ─── said ────────────!”
His arguments had no effect as he was caught by the scruff of the neck and dragged along the desert.
Floor 11 of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the Cadet Guard lodging.
“Even though I was tired from the unit battles, why does the instructor always prepare something to add on top!?”
“The instructor was quite lively!”
“……She had the greatest smile on her face.”
Carelessly replying, Sheltis dropped down onto his room’s bed. After he ate dinner on the 25th floor, took a shower and returned, it was already the dead of night.
“Look, Sheltis, the stars are beautiful.”
In the window ─── the night sky that was shining like a tipped-over jewel box. Their respective radiances were meagre by themselves, which is exactly why they did not drown out each other and seemed to support each other as they shone.
“Ilis really likes stars.”
“Is it not romantic? I think they are the sole thing that goes on without changing.”
Ilis shined at the base of the pillow almost like a star.
“But you seem sleepy.”
“……I haven’t slept since yesterday. The main culprit is Kagura.”
Because of her lust for knowledge, he had been questioned by her since last night until the early morning, went through the first and second screenings and then taken the usual training from the instructor.
“Ilis, wake me up when it’s time to get up tomorrow.”
With that said, good night.
Lying face-down with his pillow hugged up to his eyes───
“Sheltis, come to my room now.”
“……Somebody, save me. A demon with a machine helmet is obstructing my sleep.”
“Who’s a demon?”
The one he could hear from the speaker at a corner of the ceiling was Kagura whom he’d just spoken of.
“Could it be another questioning session?”
“Of course not. Worry not, this time it won’t take more than thirty minutes. There is something regarding tomorrow unit battle that I would like to consult you about. It’s something I’d like to keep secret from Monica.”
It was odd that Kagura wanted to consult him about the unit battles and even wanted to keep it secret from Monica.
“Is there a reason?”
“We’ll talk at room 085 on floor 14, so could you come quickly?”
“Yeah, probably in a few minutes.”
His usual shirt and black top were in the closet. He was currently in his room-use attire. They could also be used during training, so there would be no problem going out just like this.
“Then I shall be waiting. Ah yes, just one more thing.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve called you out and it will be just us two. ……If you assault me, I will immediately press the emergency report button.”
“Isn’t that a little harsh when you’ve called me out!?”
Floor 14 of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
“Sheltis, why are you acting this nervous?”
“It’s because this is a girls-only floor.”
Disregarding in the middle of the day, he had no idea what somebody would think if he were found in the middle of the night like this. They might overlook it if he explained his circumstances but it would be best to have no misunderstandings.
“By the way, it seems Leon almost met the same problem before. His was due to night patrolling but he was surrounded by female Cadet Guards who knew that.”
“A molester uproar?”
“The opposite. The girls on the floor all came and gave him a hearty welcoming. ‘How about tea in my room?’, ‘Rather, please stay over!’; with that popularity, it’s an anecdote of how he was chased around and escaped.”
“He’s good-looking and tall with the superior first-class swords skills of a Sennenshi, and to top it off he has a serious personality. Of course he’d be popular. Why don’t you learn from him?”
“I’m not frustrated or anything!?……well, forget that. We’re here.”
Number 085 had a door that was just the exact same as every other room. The machine lock was also standard. That’s how it was even though her room at the Tower Control Bureau was different right from the door.
“……Unexpectedly, her room for sleeping is normal.”
“This room is regulated by the Defense Institution so even if I wanted to remodel it, the procedures are a pain.”
The voice from beyond the door.
“I’ll be opening it now, please come inside.”
The door unlocked with an mechanical and electronic sound. The mechanical door slid to the side.
“You were pretty fast. Please come this way.”
“……I’ll be intruding.”
Just a few steps from the front door was the living room. Further in was a kitchen and path. It’s structuring was completely the same as the room allotted to men.
It was the same for the interior design.
On the floor was a warm-colored carpet. In the living room was a table, chair and bed, as well as a closet.
“This is also more normal than I expected.”
“Did you think that I would have bundles of documents and machine cords covering the floor?”
Kagura who answered with a serious face was also in a thin dressing gown. Perhaps it was also for sleeping as the faint yellow clothing was sewn with soft-looking fabric and there were frills attached at the collar and on the sleeves.
And there was one more thing that caught his eye more than anything else───
“You’re not wearing your mechanical helmet?”
“Yes. There’s no reason to hide it in my own room. And I just took a shower, so it would be too wet until my hair dries.”
Facing outward from her dark green hair were two long ears.
Wrapped in warm fur like a fox, they were the distinguishing characteristic of Nell folk like her. She didn’t like having other people see them so she would normally hide them.
……Ahh, I see.
She’d removed her mechanical helmet so she didn’t want to go outside, so she’d invited him to her room.
“Well, it’s already late for you, right? Let’s proceed straight to the main topic.”
There were two chairs at the circular table. Being invited over, Sheltis sat down in the seat opposite her.
“I’m going to say it plainly. Did you go easy in today’s unit battle?”
Even though it should have been simple.
It took him a little while to comprehend those words.
“……You mean me? No, I didn’t do something so obvious.”
Different from the actual combat that he did when he exchanged blows with Leon, he put in as much strength as he did in the morning training. If he didn’t do that, his skills would rust.
“But when you fought with Maha, your movements weren’t like this.”
The gaze of her clear black eyes seemed to pierce through him.
“Fue? Who’s this Maha?”
“I’ll show you the recording, so please stay put for a little.”
She connected the machine pearl <Machine> with machine crystal <Ilis> and left them on the floor. In any case, with this he should stay quiet on things to say for a little bit.
“……That fight with Maha wasn’t a situation to hold back in.”
Even within his numerous experiences with actual combat, ‘Maha‘ was in a different class. Boasting inhuman strength on those grasslands, and with just a puppet; being such, just how strong the real one was……he couldn’t even imagine.
“And that was a real battle, so it was done with spirit.”
“It’s not a problem of spirit or conscience. I wanted to voice a different cause. There is a more frank and concrete reason.”
Putting both her elbows on the table, the Nell girl held each hand in the other.
“This is what I think. I think you were unconsciously tense.”
“You’re not used to it, right? Rather than battles where you guard other people, you’re not used to battles with other people supporting you ─── how about it?”
Things that pertained to that meaning arose in his mind.
Without himself realizing it, Sheltis stared at the ceiling.
……That might be true.
It was already something from however many years ago. The time he had just enlisted.
He had been paired with Leon until he became a Regular Guard, so they had been able to act as they liked.
When he became an Elite Guard as well, he was surrounded by people of superior ability. There was no need for support; rather, it felt embarrassing to have to request support.
───I have no experience in battles where I’m receiving support.
It was exactly as Kagura had said.
“……I understand but”
The past and now are different. Because Leon wasn’t in his unit.
Monica’s true worth was in combining her crossed rods <Rosario> with her Shinryoku arts and Kagura was completely a support type. There would be no hope for the unit’s growth if they were not making the best of their specialties.
“That’s right, you understand in theory as well. But that backfired today.”
That was about today’s unit battle.
“You moved while being conscious of Monica who was in the center and I who was in the very back, right? We can assume your thoughts of ‘I have to cover the both of them’ were too strong so they hindered your movements.”
Small hindrances would pile up to become great strain. The strain only from sensing Kagura at a location away from him. That was surely something greater than he had thought.
[Crossed his dual blades and matched them to the path of the throwing steel <Chakram>───]
Kagura quickly wrote an “x” sign on the white paper above the table.
“Even though there was only one throwing steel <Chakram> that time, you receive it with both swords. But you shouldn’t have needed to. With the skill you showed me in the battle with Maha, even if you ignored it you would have been able to deflect it with one sword.”
But why didn’t he do that?
“The answer is simple. You didn’t see the throwing steel <Chakram> at that time. Instead of deflecting it with one hand, you were watching both of us who were behind you, right?”
“……That was just once.”
“That’s right. But I think that’s enough. It is normal for the attacks to concentrate on the general in the Open Flag format. ───And the precedent for the real issue ends here.”
She stayed from for a moment and her gaze became icy.
“In tomorrow’s unit battle, I would like you to help Monica.”
“Help……you don’t mean just covering for her, right?”
“As you suspect, I mean my instructions in the midst of battle. Those with the leeway to observe their surroundings during battle probably consists of only you. ……It’s a shameless thing to ask but I’d like you to decide the commands for everyone to respond well. I would like you to give orders.”
While touching her extended out ears, Kagura continued.
“The unit’s leader is Monica, but in actual combat, you are the one who can best control the unit’s flow. I think Monica can also do it if she becomes used to it but it’s too much to expect from her when just became a unit leader.”
The first unit battle with first-time members and a first-time unit leader. Monica was dealing with all these first times. There was an unknown amount of pressure on that back.
“There are other things only Monica can do, after all.”
“That’s right. Applying for the creation of a new unit entails creating the name registry and contact list as well as the application to the Defense Institution, and other things.”
But the most important is……of course, the gathering of unit members like us. I am, as expected of my personality, not meticulous. Since you also want to hide your past from others, it’s hard to lead a unit, right?”
Nobody else could command the unit except Monica. There was no other choice but to depend on her.
───That’s why I will support her.
───Each of the unit members would, in things other than that, in areas they specialized in.
“So you’re saying the unit battle is my task.”
“Yes. If we expand it, that includes all of our battles as a unit. I will support in the area of information gathering for all things I can’t help with in that area.”
“You are not used to battles where you receive support. You are confused so it’s an obvious result that your movements become constrained. But I would like you to adapt to it. We require your support and you will make the best of our support ─── that kind of battle style.”
“……I’ll do my best.”
He had intended to recognize that requirement but he had felt it for real in today’s unit battle. It would take time to get used to this kind of battle.
……It’s quite harsh with only me at the front lines right now.
While fighting at the far front lines as an attacker, he had to keep Monica who was at the middle and Kagura who was at the very back in mind. As Kagura had pointed out, his movements were being hindered by that right now. [T/N: Attacker here is 特攻 which is the same as “suicide attacker” from before. The only difference is that the author stuck “アタッカー” on top of it. Suicide attacker <attacker> sounds retarded, so it’s just “attacker” now. It’s probably gonna continue (kudos to the next line).]
If only there was at least one more attacker.
“We can’t expect much of him. Just having him participate in the unit battle is a big step forward.”
The Nell folk girl just shook her head.
“Are you wondering why I value him that much?”
He wordlessly assented. Doing so,
The expression of the girl suddenly broke down after she turned her head to the side. Her eyes that seemed to be nostalgic about and regretting something, mixed with holding back tears about something important───
“……It’s because I thought he was a good person. Is that bad?”
It was a strange and sad voice that sounded like a laugh.
“But……we fought after today’s unit battle. Why didn’t you protect me, I said.”
“Ahh, that was just simple communication.”
“Yes. He answered you properly, right? He said he’d also come for tomorrow’s unit battle.”
[So when was there ever a need for you to trust me? Ah── it’s so hot, what an unbelievable pain in the ass that there’s another unit battle tomorrow.]
“……That had that kind of meaning?”
“He didn’t say anything about how to interpret it. It’s just me interpreting it as I like.”
Kagura chuckled and smiled with a cheerful look.
“Even saying that, that’s not enough proof. ……Then I shall tell one story from a long time ago.”
The girl told him.
That was a story from almost two years ago. An episode about a certain Cadet Guard.
“It’s well-known, but there is training that consists of running across the entirety of the desert field.”
The first day when Sheltis had just enlisted, that was the task the instructor had assigned to him. It was harsh training where a great deal of the newcomer Cadet Guards had retired partway.
“It wasn’t on the day of the enlisting ceremony, but there was a day when that was part of the regular training menu. ……A girl participated in that. For the girl who was normally a computer systems researcher, it had been a long time since she’d undergone training.”
That was none other than Kagura.
There was nobody else who was a researcher and a Cadet Guard at the same time.
“The girl who wasn’t used to training collapsed after running half of the hot sand area. It wasn’t heatstroke or anything, she just didn’t have the vitality……and normally it would end there with an instructor or relief squad helping her but it was different that day. The Cadet Guard who came from behind her piggybacked her and ran across the hot sand, carrying her all the way to the medical office.”
“And the Cadet Guard who had carried the girl to the medical office also reached his limit and collapsed the instant they arrived. Say, he’s an interesting person, right?”
Those eyes that communicated that were smiling just a little sadly.
“The image of that time is probably strong. Even though he was saying that it’s such a pain, it’s such a pain, he would help someone when they were truly troubled. ……She came to think that.”
Being gazed at by those unblinking eyes, his words wouldn’t come out.
───Was that Vaiel?
He who kept saying everything was a pain and didn’t do anything during the afternoon’s unit battle?
“That there was such an old story, it would suffice if you just remember it for now.”
Narrowing her eyes in nostalgia, Kagura stood up.
“……I’m counting on you to keep this story a secret from Monica, okay?”
The girl said that in a calm voice.
The edges of the sky were being dyed red.
In the blink of an eye, the stars were also hidden somewhere. As if a black canvas had been painted over with red, this was the time the heavens slowly changed to the color of dawn.
“Today is the crucial part of the unit battles.”
Taking a break from flexibility exercises that stretched the elbow, Monica muttered that to herself.
“It seems there were twenty-two units that applied for mission 16. It was narrowed down to 14 in the first screening and from there, two units with high scores from the second screening will advance to the final screening, huh.”
There were a total of four battles planned for the second screening.
A win was three points and a draw was one. It was set up so the two teams with the highest scores after four battles would proceed to the final screening.
……We won yesterday, so we’re at three points.
“Monica, what happens if three or more teams end up with the same amount of points?”
He had been curious about the other units, but Sheltis didn’t have that kind of time yesterday.
“……That’s possible. They’d probably add another unit battle in. We have to leave excess strength in the odd chance that does happen.”
“By the way, it seems to have become even simpler than that.”
The machine crystal <Ilis> swaying at his chest deliberately made a sudden interjection.
“If you win the first match today, you’ll pass the second screening. There are only four units with all wins, so these four teams will fight each other in the first match and the winner will advance.”
“……That’s strange. I asked Instructor Yumelda about the number of applications yesterday. There should be at least fourteen units in the second screening.”
Stopping her flexibility exercises, Monica tilted her head.
“The teams who lost and tied yesterday all withdrew their applications. The ones left are only us and the teams who won yesterday.”
Wordlessly continuing her flexibility exercises, Kagura lifted her head.
“Fourteen unit battles were conducted with five of them reaching conclusions and two ending in a draw. At this point in time, everybody except the five units that won seem to have given up on this mission.”
“Ah, I see.”
Putting together Kagura and Ilis’ words, Sheltis also came to see the current situation.
The second screening used a system where the collective results of four unit battles would decide the outcome.
However, with a loss in yesterday’s single battle, it would be difficult to come out on top. Then they would give up on this mission and apply for another ─── it was an experienced decision.
“There were five teams that won yesterday but one of the main members in one of those teams was injured. As a result, four teams are left. If we win once more, we can proceed to the final screening.”
“……We can’t lose, huh.”
“The opposing unit should also be thinking the same thing. They will absolutely not be off-guard.”
Monica re-tied her vivid and long hair.
“Can we do it with the same setup as yesterday?”
“I’m good. Kagura?”
Yes ─── with a nod, the girl with the mechanical helmet got onto the machine pearl <Machina>.
“Kagura’s also fine. And the last one is Vaiel.”
Vaiel still hadn’t shown up. Monica had told him it would be early in the morning at the training grounds but doing something so troublesome ─── it seemed like he would flat-out refuse it.
“Sheltis, rather than about him, this is about you.”
Getting Monica’s attention, Kagura whispered into her ear.
“Our deal with him is only that he enters the unit battles to meet the person count requirement. It’s that kind of promise. Whether we win this unit battle depends on you.”
Different from three years ago, it was combat as a member of a unit who would receive support. While affirming the battle situation, he would also be expected to issue orders in place of the unit leader.
───For the sake of Monica who is a first-time unit leader.
───The battle that is a first for me as well is waiting.
“Are you nervous?”
In response to the question posed by machine crystal <Ilis>, he unconsciously made a wry smile.
It was different from when he was a Cadet Guard or a Regular Guard and his competitive battles with Leon.
It was also different from his solo battling as an Elite Guard.
The first time he would fight like this. To add to that, he hadn’t thought about how it would be during an important step in slipping into the Governmental Sector.
“If you focus too much on how you’re not used to it, the unit will fall into a predicament, so just avoid that.”
“……I know, I have to put winning as the first priority.”
Sheltis looked at his hand that was slightly sweaty for a little while.
“Ymy-sama, excuse me.”
The girl saluted courteously.
With a sharp gaze and countenance, her deep blue suit suited her tall and slender body.
“He-hello, Instructor Yumelda!”
Stopping her hand that was shoving clothes into a travel bag, Ymy looked back in hurry.
A certain Priestess’ private room on the 287th floor of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. It was unusual that the instructor who usually drilled Cadet Guards outside the tower would take the trouble to come here.
“Sorry for coming during your precious relaxation time. Is this a good time?”
“O-of course. Ah, go ahead and sit.”
“Don’t mind it. This will only take a few minutes.”
At the spot immediately after entering the room, the instructor corrected her posture. Behind her was one more person, a girl with dazzling blonde hair that was bound into two locks was on standby. Her age was……probably one above or two below her own. Her upper garment was the formal clothes of the guards and the bottom was a pleated skirt.
“Our business is regarding the matter with the Governmental Sector that will be coming up before long. The matter for which you will be traveling.”
She unconsciously fixed her posture.
“First of all, your escort has been officially decided. The Cadres Guard will be in charge of that. Her abilities as a guard are assured so please be at ease for the journey.”
It was rare for Instructor Yumelda to praise someone. The Cadres Guard was a person whose skills were such that even the instructor recognized them.
The one standing behind the instructor on standby, that Elite Guard───
“Ahh, no, it’s misleading, but she’s not her. The introduction is late, but this is the Regular Guard I’sa. The blood-related younger sister of the Elite Guard that will be traveling with you.”
“My name is I’sa. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
She grabbed the ends of her skirt and respectfully curtsied.
“Y-yes. I’m also glad to meet you! I’m also counting on your for the Governmental Sector……h-huh?……But just now, you said younger sister. I’sa-san is……the younger sister?”
Not the Cadres Guard herself, the instructor had specifically brought a relative of hers with her for the greetings?
“There’s a reason for that.”
The instructor took out a cigarette from her pocket. While putting that in her mouth,
“We’re currently in the middle of choosing the Cadet Guards who will be traveling with you. We’ve whittled it down to the last two units but the last test will be proctored by I’sa here. That’s what it is.”
And the Regular Guard that saw that frowned slightly.
“That’s no good, instructor, you can’t smoke in front of a Priestess.”
“I haven’t lit it. I can’t settle down if I don’t have something in my mouth.”
She was a heavy smoker so she obstinately kept her smoking habits. [T/N: Habits is originally etiquette. I find that makes no sense though.]
Of course Ymy was also aware of that. She saw that she wasn’t going to light it so she hadn’t pointed it out.
“Nash, and Monica ─── there’s no need to memorize the unit leaders’ names but the plan is to have one of the teams they lead accompany you on the journey.”
“Oh, is there something”
“Ah, n-no, no, no, no! I-it’s nothing. It’s fine!”
Being looked at by the instructor who had her head tilted, Ymy frantically waved her hands.
……Monica……Monica is a girl’s name, right.
……Is that my……the name of the person who was my senpai?
[We might meet in an unexpected place, you know?]
[See you, Ymy, I’ll be cheering you on to becoming an outstanding Priestess.]
Is it a coincidence?
Is there such a coincidence?
“Then I shall make a quick report. We will have the final screening in two days, so the introduction of the unit’s members will wait until the day after.”
“U-um, Instructor Yumelda? Could I ask you something strange?”
“What is it?”
“Umm, what kind of teams do you see the two teams as?”
……I wanted to know more about the person called Monica.
It couldn’t be helped that her heart was pounding since the moment she heard that name.
“Fumu. Let’s see, Monica’s unit was just formed. It’s a team that still needs looking after……I’m a little worried about their teamwork and cooperation but it’s a unit that’s achieved complete victory for the unit battles.”
She took out the scoring sheet from her chest pocket. Confirming the results which were written in elegant strokes, Instructor Yumelda gave an unusual wry smile.
“Ah, umm……so this Monica person is truly that strong?”
“Monica is an older sister character who’s good at looking after people. Her accomplishments as a guard aren’t outstanding or bad. In essence, the one pulling up the unit’s level is a single dual sword user. That boy has trained for a long time……if it’s just in his battle ability, he could blow away the entire opposing team all by himself.”
“I-is that so?”
……A dual sword wielding boy……ahh, I’m glad.
……Sheltis is also there as promised. Just one more until we can go together.
She pat her chest as she put the good news she’d heard to heart.
Leon had also said that the competition for the expeditionary mission to the Governmental Sector was harsh so she’d been worried that Sheltis might have lost in random happening.
……Hmm? But, but, wait a second?
……That basically means that Monica-senpai and Sheltis are in the same unit?
“And so saying,”
The sharpness of the instructor’s eyes multiplied.
They seemed to see into the deepest parts of her heart.
“We cannot decide the superiority of a unit based on their strength in battle. The unit that excels in control and discipline of the entire unit is Nash’s and their balance is good. Opposite that, the members of Monica’s team are too strong individually. Their cooperation is also superficial.”
“Yes. To tell the truth, I am uneasy letting them travel together with Ymy-sama.”
This was the person that she knew was like a lump of cooperation.
……So like she thought, it was a different Monica-san?
“Fumu. Then would you like to meet them?”
“If you would like to, I will introduce you to the two units. Don’t worry, this is also prior inspection. We can’t choose a unit that’s rude to the Priestess, after all.”
The steep and hard slope of bedrock and the precipitous cliff just below it.
What made up their footing were countless rocks of varying size. From those the size of a palm to gigantic ones that surpassed an adult’s height, they were placed without consideration, forming an area that one could barely walk on.
“……The theme is a mountain, huh.”
He took a deep breath as he looked over the tall mountain field. Sitting down on a jutting out rock, Sheltis put away his dual swords into their holders.
───Unit battles, complete.
The time taken was twenty four minutes and seven seconds. It was victory by surrender of the enemy general. The battle’s conclusion wasn’t dangerous, but getting to it couldn’t be said to have been easy.
“Ah~ jeez, that’s why I’m asking you why you didn’t protect me! Where can you find a comrade who ditches the general! This time was really, really dangerous!?” [T/N: “General” and “me” are used interchangeably here. What I mean is “大将” (general) is the kanji and “わたし” (I/me) is the reading given for it.]
“You mean I’d shield you and take attacks? Don’t be stupid, I’d get hurt doing that.”
From a cliff a ways away came Kagura’s angry voice and opposite to that was Vaiel who was about to descend with an expression that showed that he thought it was a pain.
“I’m tired so I’m gonna sleep.”
“Eh, no, wait. This is where we go over the battle or have a meeting.”
“Do that between you fellow guards that get along well. See ya.”
The blond young man immediately descended the slope. Even if they went out of their way to invite him, it would just make it worse ─── having come to that conclusion, Sheltis sighed and watched him go.
“It was a great effort.”
“Is that sarcasm?”
“Oh, how cruel. I meant it as positive encouragement.”
Machine crystal <Ilis> said nonchalantly.
“You said it yourself, that there are a mountain of problems.” [T/N: 課題は山積み means “the theme is a mountain” and “there are a mountain of problems”.]
He put his elbows on his knees and propped his head up.
Sheltis was the solo suicide attacker at the far front lines. Monica who was at the center was stalled by one person and Kagura who was the general was chased around by the enemy’s pursuit from beginning to end.”
“Somehow……it felt like a dispersed battle.”
“Victory had the highest priority this time so I don’t think you need to worry that much about it. Kagura also said it, that it would be fine even if you didn’t adapt immediately.”
Unusually, machine crystal <Ilis> also had a considerate tone.
───Which means it was that far away from ideal.
Result-wise, it was a victory by crushing the enemy unit’s general. However, that was a victory gained through solo conduct, it was not a victory made by combining the unit’s strength.
“What needs to be done is regarding the orders that will allow Monica and Kagura to best utilize their abilities. I understand what I need to do but it’s not working.”
He looked for a flat rock and lay down face-up. He reached up a hand towards the azure sky that was showing through a crack.
……Yeah, it’s really difficult.
While he was moving around in order to give them orders, he was also taking orders from them. That was the ideal and it was his duty to facilitate it in practice.
“But in reality, the only one with the leeway to look around at his ally’s movements is you. For Monica who’s burdened with the duties of a unit leader, you have to support her burden in combat.”
“Yeah. I tried just now and……yeah.”
If he paid too much attention to Monica and Kagura’s movements, he’d be distracted from his own and his movements would become dull. Making the unit’s cooperation and his personal strength coexist. He didn’t think it would be this difficult.
……This will be my assignment for a while, huh.
A cloud like cotton torn to pieces. He absentmindedly chased with his eyes it as it rode on the wind.
“Were you injured anywhere?”
A shadow cut across the middle of his vision.
“No, I’m thinking. The answer isn’t coming out at all.”
“……The instructor is calling. If you’re fine, please get up.”
Monica lightly brushed aside her sakura-colored bangs. He took her outstretched hand and she pointed down the slope.
“It seems we’re to gather at floor 269 of the tower……what about Vaiel?”
“He said he was tired and went back.”
“I thought so. Then let’s go by ourselves; Kagura also said she was going to organize her machine pearl <Machina>’s recorded data and will catch up later.”
The slope formed from countless giant rocks. Sheltis followed after her as she jumped from boulder to boulder descending the slope.
……Floor 269 of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?
The highest floor an ordinary guard could enter. It was an important floor for important meetings that included the Priestesses and Sennenshi. It was not a floor Cadet Guards like them used.
“That the instructor called us to that floor……did something happen?”
He muttered to answer himself and stared down the steep slope.
Floor 269 of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the floor for meetings.
The path that returned to silence was without a single person and had the atmosphere of an empty husk.
“Is this place always this quiet?”
Behind him, Monica looked around as if it had just struck her.
“It a room for important meetings so with the door it’s completely airtight. No matter how loud the meetings get, it won’t be heard out in the passage.”
“You know quite a bit, huh?”
“Ah……y-yeah. Ilis told me before.”
I used this floor a lot back when I was an Elite Guard three years ago ─── not saying that, Sheltis came up with some reason for it.
“Rather than that, look. Probably after rounding this corner……”
They progressed just as was written on the electronic map. After turning however many corners, the recognized figure of a female instructor in a deep blue suit was standing there.
“The other two?”
With one glance over here, Instructor Yumelda raised an eyebrow.
“Kagura is servicing her machine pearl <Machina> and Vaiel is……getting treatment for his wounds.”
“There’s no need for worry. He’s skipping anyway, right? It’s as I expected.”
The instructor looked sullen as she chewed up the end of her cigarette.
“Well, whatever. At any rate, I’ve formally received notice of your passing the second screening. If you pass the final screening, you’ll be cleared to take on mission 16 and journey to the Governmental Sector.”
“Yes, ye──s, one question! When is the final screening?”
Machine crystal <Ilis> asked in a carefree tone. The instructor also didn’t mind that and,
“It will be from the day after tomorrow over a period of three days. Meet up at the training grounds at nine in the morning and I’ll introduce you to the proctor and the opposing unit.”
A selection test that took place over three days and even had a proctor. It was difficult to think of a unit battle taking that long. It was also unlikely that they’d have a written or interview at this point. What he could think of was───
“Patrol defense of the nature district or a practical of VIP escorting, one of these?”
“Sheltis, look forward to tomorrow’s announcement.”
The instructor played dumb with a happy smile. From the expression, it wasn’t a problem of which was correct but what would happen within them.
“We’ll disperse here for today. Do independent training ─── or so I’d like to say.”
She took out a communicator from her breast pocket,
“……It’s me. ……Yes, that’s right. They’re gathering right now, please come at your convenience.”
Their superior was reporting something in an unusually polite way to someone.
Who could it be? Someone that this instructor would be that polite to……a bureau chief? No, there’s no reason for her to contact a bureau chief. Then someone from the guards. Considering that for many of the Elite Guards she was originally their instructor narrowed it down to those above that.
In other words, a Sennenshi, or possibly───
Monica who kept silent nodded and gulped.
Yes. If one considered that Instructor Yumelda had specifically told them to assemble within the tower, he or she would eventually reach this conclusion.
“You guys are aware that you’ll be traveling with a Priestess for mission number 16.”
She put the communication device away in her breast pocket and looked over with a remarkably sharp look.
“Well, then. Whether a Cadet Guard will do something rude in front of a Priestess, we had the intention of having a surprise inspection now. Before the important journey to the Governmental Sector.”
“……Huh? But you’re not supposed to say that be”
There was no meaning in it being a surprise.
“I said we had the intention of inspecting. I was worried about Vaiel, you see. If that problem child isn’t here, there’s no point in holding the inspection, right? Well, in exchange it’d be good if you received one or two encouragements from the Priestess ────── there, speak of the devil.”
Ring came a sound like a bell.
The high-speed elevator before them came to a halt and slowly opened left and right.
“Ymy-sama, I’ll introduce them to you. Here is the unit leader,”
“That’s right, Monica-senpai……senpai?”
In front of the instructor who dropped her cigarette, the girl who came out of the elevator ran in small steps to Monica.
“I knew I was right! Senpai……Monica-senpai, right!?”
Letting her off-gold hair fly, it was the vestment-clad Ymy.
Running to the girl wearing formal attire with a bounce in her step, and still with that vigor ─── the Priestess took the hand of the Cadet Guard.
The surprised voice came from Monica who had her hand grabbed.
“Senpai, when did you become a guard? Why, why didn’t you tell me!”
“Eh……ah,……um……ah……u……?……th-this is…………you’re wro”
Ymy’s voice was lively with happiness. But the one whose hand was being held wasn’t moving and her face color was switching back and forth between pale and bright red.
“……Ilis, what does this mean?”
“Please don’t ask me.”
He watched over those two for a little while and───
The instructor whispered into his ear.
“Is Monica an acquaintance of Ymy-sama?”
“……Well, that’s what I what to know.”
He didn’t understand what was happening. He didn’t know too much about Monica from her days as an apprentice Priestess. Even Kagura probably wasn’t too clear on it.
“Fumu. Then it’s best to leave them alone. I’ll be returning so I’ll leave the rest to you.”
“Eh, wa-wait? That’s just shoving the bothersome stuff on───”
“I won’t hear excuses. Report how it goes afterwards later.”
“Are all adults this unfair!?”
By the time he raised a shout, the instructor had already rounded the bend at the crossroads.
“Isn’t it fine. Come, rather than that, look in front, in front. Pay attention.”
Following machine crystal <Ilis>’ words, he turned to the front and.
“Monica-senpai!? Hey, why haven’t you said anything since a while ago!?”
Over there was a really ─── oppressive expression worn on the face of the Priestess who was pushing back the girl with sakura-colored hair, and had been cornered her right up to the wall.
“I’ve been lonely ever since senpai left! Even so, why!”
“………………Th-that is……em……emba……rra, ssing.”
The excited Ymy hadn’t heard that. She closed in to the person in question until their faces were almost touching.
“Senpai? Um, your face is totally red?”
Monica seemed to be enduring something as she kept silent and hung her head. And then,
“She-Sheltis! I’m going to check up on Kagura. I’ll also inform Vaiel about tomorrow……I won’t be back for a while!”
She turned her head to the side and shook off Ymy’s hand and ran away with intense vigor.
“Eh? Ah, wa……wait, Monica-senpai!”
She seemed to hesitate for a moment and turned around but immediately after, she ran off again.
This time she didn’t stop. She was even too impatient to wait for the elevator doors to open, so she descended the emergency stairs at the edge of the floor as if tumbling down them.
The floor once again became silent.
The ones left were himself and Ymy who was watching the back of Monica who had left.
That girl contracted her shoulders and stood there looking extremely lonely.
“Sorry, Sheltis. I showed you a bad side of me……”
After a little while, his childhood friend turned to him with a calm feeling about her.”
“……I wonder why. Even though she was that kind of a senpai before.”
“You mean Monica, right?”
Ymy affirmed it with a nod.
“Excuse me. I’d like to confirm but Monica-senpai ─── would mean your senpai as an apprentice Priestess, am I correct in assuming?”
“Yeah……she was a very kind senpai and my aspiration.”
A long time ago, it was something he had heard as foolish gossip. The relationships of apprentice Priestesses were not actually that good. They were fellow competitors in aiming to be a Priestess until the bitter end.
That’s why having a companion as an apprentice Priestess held great meaning.
“Monica-senpai took the final test for a Priestess three years ago. But she failed right at the very end and quit as an apprentice Priestess……and about what happened after that, she didn’t tell me no matter how much I asked.”
“───Because she wanted to become a guard.”
He told it to the downcast Ymy just as he’d heard from the person herself.
There was no reason for her to hide that she’d become a guard. After all, Ymy would probably have recognized that when she saw her in her formal clothes.
“Even if she couldn’t become a Priestess, she said she wanted to be in a position to defend the Priestesses. That’s what I heard.”
“Yeah……it sounds like something senpai would say.”
To his childhood friend who was being bashful with a nostalgic expression,
“Say, this is just my thinking but”
Sheltis told her the impression he’d felt just as-is.
“Wasn’t Monica embarrassed?”
“Monica has been a Cadet Guard for three whole years. That she just couldn’t become a Regular Guard, she herself is very mindful of that. That’s why probably ─── she wanted to keep it a secret and clearly tell you when she became a Regular Guard.”
Her expression when she had been approached by Ymy. Her face went bright red and trembled, and although her words had gotten stuck, it was definitely not an expression of dislike.
“She just wasn’t mentally prepared and was surprised to meet you.”
She wanted to meet her but the time wasn’t right. She had decided that in her heart but hadn’t thought that Ymy would be the one to approach her.
Ymy strained her voice so she could hear herself say it.
“Yeah, that’s definitely it. Because Monica-senpai is a kind person. Not just me, she was someone who always looked after all the other apprentice Priestesses.”
“Yeah, that’s right. That’s why I think you don’t have to worry, Monica hasn’t changed.”
Sheltis didn’t know the Monica of three years ago. But he somehow understood, Monica’s base hadn’t changed at all from her time as an apprentice Priestess.
“She’s quite misfortunate. She was Ymy’s senpai as an apprentice Priestess and is the leader of Sheltis’ unit as a guard.”
“Ah, as I expected? The one who invited Sheltis into a unit was Monica-senpai. No, that’s not it, as I expected, Monica-senpai has a discerning eye!”
Folding her arms in a satisfied manner, Ymy had an expression of coming to some conclusion about something on her own. Or so he thought, but she ─── opened her eyes as if having just realized something.
“Mm, what is it? Changing like that.”
“……Monica-senpai is kind, right?”
“It’s as you just said. I wonder, maybe it’s possible to call it seeing into someone.”
For Kagura and him, either one was a Cadet Guard isolated from other units. The one who involved them who were like that was her.
“Is there something wrong?”
“U-um……Monica-senpai is a beautiful person. ……Her skin is really white and beautiful and her hair is also a wonderful color, and her style is also smart, right?”
“I don’t understand anything about skin though───”
Maybe it was the result of her efforts in training, her entire body gave off the impression of being without excess. Her well-arranged sharp looks let one feel the intensity of her will and her momentary smiles in embarrassing times were also lovely.
“Yeah, it’s probably just as you said.”
“……That’s right──. Even I see senpai as wonderful.”
Haa, sighed Ymy.
“? What’s wrong?”
Slowly balling her hands, Ymy took one step forward.
“……Wh-what is it suddenly?”
“Y-you can’t! No matter how cute senpai is…………th-that is……you can’t just look at only senpai!”
Ymy whose face was as red as a cherry didn’t stop.
“……E-even if she asks you to, you can’t! A lap pillow……like L-Leon isn’t allowed! Do-don’t misunderstand. This isn’t me having a guilty conscience……umm, this is a problem of the mental health of the character of a guard───”
……A lap pillow? Like Leon? The mental health of one’s character?
“Err, Ymy? Sorry, I don’t understand what you’ve been saying since just now.”
“Th-that’s all! Th-then I’ll be going now!”
Just saying everything by herself, she quickly waved her vestment.
“Eh……ehh! That one-sidedly!? That’s why I’m asking what you meant!”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know anything─────────!”
For some reason, his childhood friend dashed off with a expression that seemed like she was going to cry.
Sheltis chased after her.
“People’s thoughts are complicated.”
Only machine crystal <Ilis> who had seen the entire thing from start to finish was worrying endlessly in a circle.