I know, it’s been a while, right? No, I didn’t die…no, I didn’t drop the project. I got caught up with various things, some of which don’t serve as an excuse, so I’ll just refrain from putting those down :3.
As an aside, here are some Crunchyroll guest passes I have that nobody I’ve given them to has used (and it’s been like a month for each of them):
Just consider it a bribe even if the real reason is I don’t like letting this go to waste.
I just checked my guest passes and it looks like they’re all redeemed now. One of them appears to have made the account just to redeem the guest pass xD. I’ll probably be releasing the guest passes with the update I post after I get them, so there will be certain updates in roughly one month intervals that have a guest pass attached to them…
The far-off cry of wild birds could be heard.
An area of scattered large trees that towered towards the sky. Within that world of deep green, advancing would bring an equal amount of green and serenity.
A vivid orange transport vehicle continued on ahead within that silence.
A detour made to the giant trees to avoid the swamplands. Finally ─── the dense pack of trees thinned out and the transport vehicle stopped at a point that had good visibility of the area.
“Oh──, what an amazing sea of trees. It reminds me of the forests of the floating archipelago <Lagoon> we went to last time.”
“You’re being too loud, Ilis. The time we went to the floating archipelago <Lagoon> is a secret from everybody.”
Calming the high-spirited Ilis down, Sheltis placed his luggage on his shoulder.
“So we’ve arrived. It’s the final selection so don’t get careless.”
“……Since we’ve come this far.”
Kagura and Monica stood up with their luggage in their hands. He moved to follow the two who exited through the back doors on either side of the vehicle but suddenly stopped to face the teammate behind him.
“We’re here, it seems.”
“I got it. Sheesh, what a pain this was. An overnight transport, and on top of that, the road was bumpy so I only managed to get an hour of sleep?”
Vaiel, who had been reclining at the seat furthest in, got up.
“Let’s get going; it seems like we’ll lose points if we keep the examiner waiting.”
Sighing at the weight of the luggage biting into his shoulder, Sheltis descended from the transport vehicle.
“Hurry and line up, you guys; Nash’s unit has already lined up ─── now then, mission number 16, [Governmental Sector Deployment]’s final selection shall commence.”
The examiner, I’sa, pointed around at her surroundings.
“As you can see, this is deep within the Nature District. It’s closer to a biotope than the Living Districts. There are no first-class dangerous species like dragons but there isn’t a lack of large species that will attack people. We’re out in this place so there’s no guarantee that it’s safe……more than anything, there is a chance of encountering Yuugenshu.”
The Regular Guard surveyed the expressions of the eight Cadets.
“I think you understand but the protection of the Queen and the Priestesses at the tower is the mission of the Guards. What you guys will do is one part of that, a patrol for the purpose of investigating the Yuugenshu.”
Of course, Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> had instruments for detecting Yuugenshu.
However, they measured the wavelength of a Yuugenshu’s mateki so they could not track those that appeared and disappeared. For that reason, the last measure was to confirm by eye ─── patrols were carried out in a human-wave tactical effort.
“You’re likely well-aware of this as well but the first and third rank Priestesses are also patrolling the perimeter of the floating continent. Well, that just means this is that important of a job for the Guards as well. Act without forgetting that……here, Sheltis, distribute these.”
“Eh? Ah, ahh. Understood.”
He handed everyone theirs from the stack of paper I’sa passed him. The first sheet showed the three-day schedule. Then the second was a map of this area’s surroundings.
“Everyone’s got one now, I see. You can understand the first one by looking at it, so I’ll explain the second sheet. We’re currently at the white circle and the area bordered in red is the patrol area. The eastern side is Nash’s and the western one is Monica’s.”
The area indicated in red likely stretched out several kilometres in all four directions. With the three day period in mind, it was a safe amount of land.
“Then the all-important schedule and……hey, hey, what’s this immediate departure upon arrival about?”
Vaiel sighed after looking at the schedule.
“Then will you sleep outdoors? I forgot to mention this, but the blue circle is the cottage you will be using. There’s no food or water until you reach it.”
“……God damn it.”
I’sa smiled loosely in response to Vaiel who was in a bad mood.
“You understand, right? By the way, I’ll be patrolling alongside you guys as the examiner. I intend to do the first day will be with Nash’s unit, the second with Monica’s.”
The ground was strewn with tree leaves.
They entered the path which was, with its muddiness despite the lack of rainfall or other precipitation over several days coupled with the large trees that were gathered here and there which made it even more complex, a path which couldn’t be called such.
“Hey, hey, hey, what’s with this place. Is this really a path? This is just the inside of a forest.”
“……Don’t split off, Vaiel, you’ll become a lost child.”
Monica’s tone was completely serious. Gripping her Crossed Rods <Rosario> in her right hand, she parted the branches with her free left hand and continued in that manner.
“Kagura, we’re going in the right direction, right?”
The third member following after Monica and Vaiel was Kagura.
“Yes. Please continue like this for another five minutes. We’ll be going off the shortest path to the cottage but this path is safe.”
“Safe? This kind of spiderweb-like route is?”
“The shortest route is the habitat of cry birds and home to many of them. They’re harmless but their cries are very loud and will cover up the footsteps of dangerous wild beasts. Dangerous, right?”
Leaking out a grumbling complaints that showed he consented, Vaiel went silent.
“Sheltis as well, I think you understand already, but please be wary of the rear.”
“Understood, the rear is secure.”
He glanced behind again before replying to Monica. The tail of the group is the most dangerous spot and could become a blind spot so the responsibility attached to it was great.
“It doesn’t look like anything in particular is there; I’sa’s also not here.”
“I’sa……that examiner? If it’s about her, she said she’d be moving together with Nash’s group.”
“It’s an examiner’s trick.”
Having them let down their guard by saying she would go with the other unit, but in actuality, she would be following them secretly.
“Whether the unit is slacking off or not, or skipping out or not. You’d get a large demerit from not realizing the examiner was tailing you.”
“……I see. I didn’t think that far.”
Monica smiled wryly while sidestepping a protruding rock. Then the third in the line, Kagura, who was operating her machine pearl <Machina>, raised her face suddenly.
“By the way, Monica, what do you plan to do?”
“This patrol is basically for the purpose of finding the Yuugenshu that came up to the floating continent. Most of them would be found in their biotope but the chance of individuals penetrating as far as the Nature District isn’t zero. That it’s not zero means it wouldn’t be strange to come across one right now around here.”
If they just found traces of a Yuugenshu, it would be settled with reporting to the examiner. The question was what to do if they stumbled upon not the traces but the actual Yuugenshu.
To run away or to engage in battle.
“Haa? It’s obvious that we should run away from that kind of thing. Cadet Guards like us can’t win against that. Run away and report to that examiner brat! That’d settle it.”
Vaiel turned around to face Kagura who was behind him.
“Fumu, you’re being quite realistic.”
“‘Course I am.”
“……So he says. Well?”
Kagura’s words seemed to be testing her. On the other side, the unit leader that stood at the head of the group hadn’t opened her mouth yet and continued to remain silent.
“We’ll decide based on the situation.”
Monica swung the crossed rods <Rosario> in her hand. Breaking the branch that was obstructing her path, she kept on looking ahead the entire time.
“It will depend on the Yuugenshu’s strength……as long as it’s not a special case, I have a feeling that fighting would go well for this team.”
“Hah? Hey, hey, hey, captain-san, what kind of joke is this?”
The ever-unapologetic Vaiel shrugged his shoulders.
“Cadet Guards like us can’t win against Yuugenshu. Before that, we haven’t even seen a real───”
She suppressed Vaiel’s words with a nod.
“We have seen and fought one. Since I was……an apprentice Priestess until three years ago.”
This time, it was Vaiel’s turn to be coerced into silence.
An apprentice Priestess’ rank was the same as a Regular Guard. As part of their training to become a Priestess, they would form a unit with Regular Guards and fight with Yuugenshu on patrols.
“……First time I’ve heard you were an apprentice Priestess.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“I don’t get it.”
It was expected that Vaiel would spit that out. Because an apprentice Priestess who held the same rank as a Regular Guard had purposefully lowered their own rank to that of a Cadet Guard.
“Ahem, well that would be a long story, so let’s just leave that aside.”
Privy to the circumstances, Kagura cleared her throat.
“The words our unit leader spoke are true. If you doubt them, please consult the tower’s digital information. Her name is also upon the apprentice Priestess list of three years ago.”
“……Moron, like I’d do something that annoying.”
He seemed to feel a certain amount of credibility in Kagura’s information. Putting both hands in his pockets, he only groaned in annoyance.
“Then at that hypothetical time, you plan on a hard struggle?”
“Of course I intend to fight at the head but it’ll be rough with just me alone. Half……more than half of it will be Sheltis.”
“Eh. ……Ah, r-right. I’ll do my best.”
He straightened up reflexively when his name came up suddenly. ……He had thought it would be coming but didn’t expect it to be so frankly stated.
“Heeh, you, huh.”
Vaiel turned to him with a dubious look.
“Well, do as you like. I’ll say this ahead of time, but if it comes to that, I’m bolting by myself.”
“……Indifferent, aren’t you, captain-san.”
Vaiel, with a sour expression, drew near Monica who had been speaking calmly to the end.
“I’m saying I’ll ditch my comrades and run. You’d normally be angry.”
“If you really planned to ditch your comrades, you wouldn’t say so beforehand.”
The one who answered was Kagura.
“……! Don’t just decide that by yourself; I’m seriously gonna run by myself! Got it! Don’t cry about it later!”
Vaiel thrust out a finger and Kagura calmly gazed at him.
“Umm, umm~, say, say, could I say one thing?”
Machine crystal <Ilis> interjected with a nonchalant tone.
“Ilis, we’re busy right now───”
“You said we should proceed straight ahead for five minutes, but hasn’t it already been long past that?”
Four peoples’ voices overlapped at that spot.
Seven hours later.
“Th-that’s it. It’s our cottage.”
Comparing the digital map on the machine pearl <Machina> many times with what was before them, Kagura let out a small cheer.
“……It took a long time.”
“……It took over three times the original estimate of two hours after all.”
“The cute Ilis was bored and bored and about to die.”
“……I’m too tired to say anything.”
“Sh-shut up! I just made a little mistake on the route and we took the long way around!”
With her cheeks dyed bright red, Kagura swung both her arms around.
“It’s not just Kagura’s fault. ……At any rate, let’s check it out. We need to confirm the cottage’s interior as well.”
It was a two-floor cottage built with light metals. Against the deep green backdrop of the surrounding forest, the bright white paint of the walls made it obvious even at a glance from far away.
The card reader that scanned Monica’s emblem blinked. They could hear the sound of electronic locks being released behind the door and the mechanical door slid to the side.
“I’m surprised, it’s the same door as the dorms of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s lodgings.”
Holding her luggage over her shoulder, Monica passed through the open door.
“……The interior is impressive as expected.”
In the lit living room, Monica left her luggage on a chair and took a deep breath.
The residential kitchen had a refrigerator and sofa. With a table and whiteboard for meetings and a wireless computer, it certainly was a facility used for patrolling.
“Kagura and Vaiel, go ahead and check out the second floor. I’ll look outside. Sheltis, you have the communicator. Inform the examiner.”
“Understood. I’ll tell her we arrived at the cottage.”
He put down the luggage on his shoulder, took out and set up the large communicator on the ground.
If it was a simple transmission, then the emblems had such a function, but for reporting unit activities like this, it was customary to use a reliable communicator like this.
“I’m pretty sure it was this button───”
He pushed the red power supply within the blackened body and placed the wireless receiver in his ear.
“Ah-……testing, testing. ……It’s strange how I can really hear with just this alone.”
“Don’t say stupid things and just get on with the report.”
He ended up being flat-out interrupted by I’sa.
“Umm, then I’ll make the report. Monica’s unit has arrived at the cottage.”
“Eh, just that……meaning”
“Meaning you finally arrived at the cottage.”
The other end of the receiver sounded not angry so much as astonished.
“Nash’s unit also just arrived at the cottage but they’ve already patrolled half of the assigned area today.”
“And on your end───”
“No, no, no, have no worries! Umm……l-look, we’ll just save today. We’ll get our bearings for today and wrap it all out in one go tomorrow!”
“I’ll be looking forward to that. I’ll meet up with your unit at your cottage tomorrow, so for today until 23:00, work on a schedule for tomorrow and present it.”
“……Understood, examiner. With this, tomorrow’s gonna be rough.”
Sheltis cut off the receiver with a clack and collapsed onto the sofa.
“……We have to do our best tomorrow.”
Monica looked the comrades of her unit after they gathered in the living room once again.
Drawing a map on the giant graph paper laid out atop the table, she wrote down the patrol root in red pen.
“Nash’s unit will probably finish patrolling their assigned area tomorrow. At the very least, I’d like for us to follow suit. We have to go around the assigned area all in one day.”
“We will depart at four in the morning and return late into the night. ……We’ll walk way too much and have muscle pains the next day.”
Propping herself up on her hands against the table, Kagura muttered in a soliloquy.
The route drawn on the map was basically a net. There was no telling how far it would take to walk the entirety.
“Tomorrow will be a day of endurance. We’ll be departing at four in the morning, so keep that in mind. We’ll finish off here for today, so each of us should rest up.”
“The first and second floors both have three rooms each so there was an excess in rooms. The first floor will be for the men with the second floor for women. Here, these are the rooms’ card keys.”
Kagura indicated the card keys upon the table.
“I’ll just say this ahead of time, but if you come up to the second floor in the middle of the night, I’ll shoot with you with a stun gun, no questions asked.”
“Fool, like I’d have any interest in brats with no sex appeal like you guys.”
Vaiel took the card key and snorted.
“Fu, you don’t understand; true, my body is still not fully developed, but a slender body that seems like it would snap with only a touch has its own merits. Especially that one time Monica helped───”
“Why are you throwing my name out right there!?”
Monica covered up Kagura’s mouth that was speaking.
“A-at any rate……save the stamina for engaging in entertaining conversation for tomorrow.”
Monica took a card and folded her arms.
“Now are there any questions? If not, we’ll end off here.”
“Ah, just one thing……it’s not really that big of a thing.”
The three gazes fell in this direction as Sheltis timidly raised his hand.
“……What are we doing about dinner?”
The unit once again felt nervousness run at this instant.
“This is a problem.”
“Yes, this is a grave issue.”
Looking into the refrigerator stationed in the kitchen, the female pair of Monica and Kagura grimaced.
Within the freezer were vacuum-sealed bread, vegetables and smoked meat that was salted to preserve it. On the shelf beside it was a full assortment of spices. The variety and amount were both bountiful so it was well enough for three days or even a week, but the problem was───
“Fumu, fumu. The things that can be eaten without cooking are really just the packaged bread and bottled water. Well, if they were cooked they couldn’t be preserved so it really can’t be helped.”
At machine crystal <Ilis>’ calm words, the two female representatives exchanged looks again.
“……Kagura, can you cook?”
“……Monica as well, this is your time to shine as the unit captain.”
“……You know that I was an apprentice Priestess. I put all I had into my training and had no time for something like cooking.”
“……I also am working as a researcher for the Tower Control Bureau alongside being a Guard.”
It would appear that both of them were weak at cooking.
“……Kagura, what’s this flat iron tool?”
“……According to what I’ve read, it seems to be known as a frying pan. You use it like……this as a weapon to hit your opponent, I think.”
“……It seems like you could use it as a shield too. But why is there a weapon in the kitchen?”
Correction. Weak wasn’t how it would be described. Staring fixedly at the frying pan, the two ladies were discussing some frightening things with serious expressions.
“U-um, you two……a frying pan is for frying things……”
In an instant, the two of them overlapped their voices and turned towards him.
“How good are you at cooking!?”
“No……I’m sorry if you were expecting something but there’s not really a big difference between us.”
His position was different from them; rather than using it for cooking or such, he spent every spare hour training with his twin swords.
“This is bad, really bad. As I thought, somebody’s going to have to take the plunge and try cooking.”
“However, Monica, taking a risk here is not a good idea. Rather than everybody here retiring tomorrow from stomach pains, it would be best to go with the packaged bread”
“But that won’t be enough for us───”
The two who had started discussing again didn’t notice. There was a fragrant smell filling up the kitchen they were in.
“Hmm, there’s a good smell.”
Sizzle……the first one who realized that there was the sound of something being fried was Sheltis. Turning around, he found a young man with smoked meat and vegetables atop a frying pan on the fire.
“Eh, don’t tell me, Vaiel can cook?”
“‘Course. As a man, what would one do if he couldn’t prepare the meals he ate.”
While heating the ingredients on the frying pan, he quickly cut the remaining meat and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and spread them over the nabe. Solid soup and salt and pepper, with just the peel of dried fruits that had been sliced thrown in for the scent. Amongst that, a toaster that had been set up who-knows-when had browned bread peeping out.
To do this much in such a short time ─── this man, he’s capable!
In response to the spectacle unfolding before their eyes, the three exchanged looks with their eyes shining.
“……It’s a complete loss; who would have thought that we’d find the unit’s final weapon here.”
“Yeah, I thought Vaiel was a capable man. As I thought, the men of my unit are different.”
“It came, it’s here! With this, our victory tomorrow is unshaken!”
The three sent a grand applause from behind him but───
“Ahh? Ain’t you guys misunderstanding something?”
The three’s expressions froze.
“Who said I’d make your portions? Like I’d do something that much of a pain in the ass.”
“You guys are naive. You’re not kids, so nobody’s going to help you if you’re in trouble.”
Vaiel didn’t notice as he immersed himself in his lecture, arms crossed.
That Monica, Kagura and Sheltis had each grabbed the weapon nearest them and were edging closer.
“Got it? If you do, then make your portion yourself……mm? What’s with you guys, standing there wordlessly with a frying pan, pepper grinder and chopping board───”
“Hand over dinneeeeeerrrrr!”
The three that had gone wild attacked.
“Guhaaa!……Y-you guys! Three against one is cowardlyyyyy────────────!”
Pushed down in the blink of an eye, Vaiel caved in to the force of numbers.
At the same time, in a cottage far away.
In the other cottage, I’sa the examiner, could hear the sequence of events coming from the wiretap as she sighed in exhaustion.
“A unit that has internal strife from stealing food……this is terrible.”
The smell of earth was carried upon the wind. Inside the forest that was visible behind the steam that had humidity mixed in, the figures of five people walked on the desolated animal trail that couldn’t even be called a path.
“Ahh, damn it. I’m sleepy and sluggish……and because of the humidity, the ground is sticky and annoying.”
The one who was grumbling endlessly by himself was the third in the line, a young man with blond hair who was the tallest of the group.
“Vaiel, don’t be so noisy and look around you. This isn’t just a stroll.”
“I go──t it. I tell you if I find the mist of mateki, the traces of mateki or I feel a presence hiding. Right?”
Monica who stood at the forefront of the line assented without turning around. Just like yesterday, her left hand was empty and the blackened crossed rods <Rosario> in her right hand glinted with a dull shine.
Looking at that───
“Fuun. That girl, she’s overly serious, but she might fit the role of a captain. There’s one noisy problem child, but she’s keeping him down somehow……”
At the very back of the line, I’sa the examiner smiled like something was interesting.
The second day was the day that their unit would be traveling with the examiner. Their every movement being scrutinized and this feeling of being unable to settle down had both already continued on from when they’d awoken at four in the morning until now several hours later.
“That kind of thing is also graded?”
“Of course. So that nothing is left up to arbitrary decision by the examiner, it’s a given that the basics of the grading are extremely picky.”
She probably won’t say. Thinking that, Sheltis turned around and she had told him honestly with an affable smile.
“By the way, if just by grading, Nash’s group is perfect. The unit’s discipline, capacity in patrolling and in their reports to the examiner, there’s nothing to mention.
“……That’s a story to add pressure.”
“That’s what I’m doing. Because in grades, you’re completely losing.”
I’sa combed her blonde hair that shone even in the dark forest. It was in a small voice so it probably didn’t reach Monica, but Kagura might have caught wind of it.
“……Well, in the first place, there was nothing good to say about that group’s attitude towards the examiner. If there was a demerit to be given, that’s where it would be. Even then, their total is outstanding.”
“Their attitude wasn’t good?”
“That would be him in your group, right? Nash’s group is rebellious. It seems they’ve been a unit for a long time so they have enough merit points. Amongst them, they believe that they’re already Regular Guards. That’s why they have a tendency to take the words of a Regular Guard examiner lightly.”
“Yes, I told Nash in accordance with those grades. However”
Do you understand what I want to say? ─── I’sa smiled with that kind of challenging look in her eyes.
“Nash’s group is here with the intention to win with only that demerit. Do you get it? For them, this kind of demerit is like a handicap.”
“You mean they’re looking down on us that much?”
“That’s right. For me, well……I more or less know about you and Monica but you haven’t been a unit for very long and there are points about subordination I’d like to groan about. Nash’s group understands their superior position very well.”
……Kagura also said something similar.
That it was his job to give orders in the unit battles. He would look at how the battle was progressing and put Monica and Kagura’s specialties to use by controlling his surroundings. She said he would have to adapt to that kind of new way of battling.
“But it’s strange.”
“Why Nash’s group is rebelling against me that much?”
Yes, even moreso since Nash’s unit had been completing missions for a long time. When they became Regular Guards, they would also have to think about forming up with I’sa as fellow Regular Guards depending on the situation.
Having discord over a trivial thing like this would only do harm.
“They’re the same as me.”
“Not too long ago, in the western area of the Nature District, a case where a unit of Cadet Guards ceased contact occurred. An instructor from headquarters was also in the group so they gathered the best of the best and dispatched a rescue unit to the location they thought the unit was lost at.”
“……That wouldn’t be”
“Yes. The case from that time. The case of ‘Golden’ Maha’s attack. At that time, the first rescue unit chosen was Nash’s. And then same as me, they lost.”
I’sa toes snapped a small branch.
“Do you get it? A man who was outstanding until becoming a Regular Guard was all of a sudden mixed up in a case he didn’t understand and injured; it’s his chagrin from having the position of a Regular Guard distanced from him. The Instructor had expectations for him which is why he was recommended to the rescue unit but it became the feeling of having betrayed those expectations.”
He shouldn’t not understand it. Having ascended to an Elite Guard, the despair of losing the entirety of his position after falling into the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> ─── Sheltis had also tasted that.
“I don’t know if it’s right to call it impatience but I think he hasn’t come to terms with it even now. That’s why he’s leading a unit despite not having fully recovered.”
That rebelliousness had become a distortion, and manifested as a rebellious spirit against Regular Guards.
“Well, but that’s that. There are those who should sympathize with him but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strike back as the examiner. The exam will proceed fairly.”
I’sa brushed a leaf off her skirt.
Like that, they both kept their silence───
“By the way, this is a personal question, but you said you knew my onee-sama?”
He certainly remembered saying that in front of the door to the training grounds.
“Because the name of Ishtar is famous even amongst the Elite Guards.”
“……Could it be”
Her small voice he could feel from behind resonated with his slight shaking.
“You’ve fought with onee-sama?”
“……Can’t be. I’m a Cadet Guard and she’s the Cadres Guard. Our positions are completely different.”
“That’s right. If that’s so, then that’s fine. I was just a little interested.”
It looked like she had something left to say. Leaving behind that lingering feeling, I’sa fell silent.
“We should take a break soon.”
The light murmuring of a river carried over.
Monica stopped as they approached an open rocky area.
“Ah── so hot. How many hours more is this gonna continue?”
Vaiel fluently dipped his hands in the flowing water. Just like that, he scooped up water and washed his face and Kagura who was drinking the water downstream knitted her brows.
“H-hey, do that kind of thing downstream! I nearly drank the water you washed your face in!”
“Ah? It’s your fault for being downstream.”
“No, it is your fault for being upstream.”
Putting aside the two who were glaring at each other───
“Monica, how much have we walked now?”
“Embellishing it a bit, about thirty percent. We might return to the cottage in the dead of night, or it’ll go right through into the morning.”
Sitting down on the rocky area that was jutting out, Sheltis looked up at the brilliantly shining morning sun. They’d walked for five or six hours. The sun that had been at the horizon when they left now neared the zenith.
……In the future, this will be something we have to experience even if we don’t like it.
……It would be for the best if we suffered a little right now.
The center of the floating continent was the Living District, beyond that lay the Nature District and either further out was the Biotope. This one would end with the Nature District but they’d be entrusted with patrolling the Biotope as well when they became Regular Guards.
It was the turf of first-class dangerous creatures starting with dragon types.
Regardless of noon or night, the patrol missions were always fraught with danger. It would last for about a week, but during that time, he had no memories of sleeping enough.
……That’s right, I wonder if I’sa has been to the Biotope before.
“Say, I’sa. Have you been to the Biotope───”
There was no response.
“I see……I got it. After going around the indicated area once, there were only traces at that one place. Yes, there were also traces of an escape, right?”
The female Regular Guard who was more upstream than anybody in the unit was currently in a conversation on the small communicator in her hand. Without blinking even once, her expression as she held the communicator to her ear had slight traces of tension.
“Pursuit? That’s a job for Regular Guards. Yes, please contact the Guard Institute of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. I will be returning in the middle of the night.”
She cut off the conversation and returned the communicator to her belt holder.
A breath that wasn’t a sigh or deep breath leaked out from between I’sa lips.
“It doesn’t seem like that was a regular contact.”
Listening to the conversations of your superiors is a demerit ─── or so I’d like to say, but I’ll let you off this time.”
Getting off the rock she was sitting on, she looked down at the unit members lined up downstream. Normally, this should be where she gave a high-pitched laugh.
“Listen up, okay, I have a notice. Sorry for doing this in the middle of a break but I have something to say.”
That expression contained the same tension as when she was on the communicator.
“There was a report from Nash’s unit. ───It seems they found traces of a Yuugenshu.”
Monica gripped her crossed rods <Rosario>, Kagura held her machine pearl <Machina> and Vaiel, who sat away from the group, knit his brows slightly.
“The location is the northern area of the Nature District, ward 8, on the western side of section 68. It extends several metres in all directions and the large trees and ground, whatever it may be, have been corrupted by mateki and corroded. An image of the scene was also transmitted, ……eight or nine times out of ten, there’s no mistake.”
“Our current location is ward 8, section 4’s north side. It would take time to get there. What shall we do?”
Kagura’s machine pearl <Machine> displayed a digital map.
“The assignment shall continue; that’s also written in the Guard Institute’s manual, right?”
I’sa response was quick.
“It’s not odd to find traces of a Yuugenshu in the middle of an assignment. If the assignment was stopped partway because of that, it wouldn’t work. That’s why, well, we’ll just respond as usual.”
The assignment would continue so long as the Cadet Guards had no qualms.
The fastest in terms of dealing with the Yuugenshu would be the Regular Guard unit closest to the scene, so they would be in pursuit.
“What’s the Yuugenshu’s direction of movement?”
“Nash’s unit reported that they would remain on standby at their cottage so the details are still unknown. At any rate, a Regular Guard unit is in pursuit so I think this will be confirmed soon.”
“……It’s quite tense.”
Kagura murmured with the same expressionless face as always.
“If the Yuugenshu’s escape route overlaps with our patrol route by a one in ten thousand chance”
“Observing the response at that time is the assignment, so be prepared.”
Four metal spheres floated around I’sa’s proximity.
They were the puppeteer I’sa’s puppets, endowed with shinryoku as her weapon. She had increased that to five previously but it seems she returned to using four as she was used to it.
“I’ll give the orders in an encounter. Everyone, keep that in mind.”
An instant. Directly behind the rocky area Kagura was sitting at, the thicket shook unnaturally.
“Kagura, get away from there!”
Materializing the translucent purple blades, he carried the twin swords in his hand and moved into position to defend her. In replacement of Kagura who hurriedly lept to the rear, he held his twin swords at the ready at the frontlines closest to that spot.
The time that wouldn’t forgive even a blink. From there, three seconds……five seconds……ten seconds passed.
The thicket swayed once again and something flew out from within.
“───A rock fox?”
Looking at the fox that jumped along and was getting further, Vaiel murmured.
It had blackish gray fur, large ears and a small tail. It was a herbivorous species of fox that lived in the Nature District. Its numbers were small so it was rare to come across one.
“……Jeez, don’t surprise me, damned fox popping out.”
“It’s better than a Yuugenshu. Rather than that, we should end our break. There’s still a lot to go.”
Gripping her crossed rods <Rosario> with both hands, Monica flapped her formal wear.
Following that were Kagura then Vaiel.
“It’s rare that a rock fox would come out in front of people.”
The only one left behind of the unit, Sheltis continued to leer at the interior of the thicket.
“Ilis, what’s the possibility that the rock fox just now was being chased by something?”
“It’s not zero. And it was something scary enough that it didn’t mind being seen by people. I think that possibility exists.”
“……Ilis, go into standby as well, so you can produce the blades at a moment’s notice.”
Sheathing the twin swords that had lost their blades into their holders, he went off after Monica.
The deep green forest of trees, the reddish-brown earth and the perfectly clear azure sky.
Sunset ─── the time when everything was died in a color that was a mix of yellow and scarlet. The cottage that was one shade of white as well, its walls were dyed in a vivid shade of scarlet.
“I’m saved. I’m already exhausted.”
“Sheesh, in the end, after that, not a single animal came out. Such a fuss.”
Kagura and Vaiel continued to sigh. They were normally talkative, but because of the fatigue from the second half of the patrol, they had become silent.
“……In the end, we completed the seventy percent we planned to do in the morning.”
Monica folded her arms with a complicated expression. At first, they had had the intention of patrolling the entire area but she had suggested a sudden change. They would give up on the late-night patrolling and return at sunset.
“I think it was a decisive judgment.”
Exchanging looks with Monica who was talking to herself, Sheltis pointed at the setting sun.
The sea of trees in which they couldn’t tell if a Yuugenshu was hiding. For Cadet Guards like them, searching in the forest at night after the sun had sunk was fraught with peril.
Should they persevere to match up with Nash’s unit or pull back to ensure the safety of the unit.
At the end of troubling over that, Monica had chosen the latter.
“The assignment is to patrol the assigned area over three days. It’s obviously better to get it done faster but we’ll just be thorough to make up for what we’re missing.”
“……That’s right. The test lasts until noon tomorrow, after all.”
Maybe she had wanted support from somebody else as Monica’s expression relaxed.
“Anyway, let’s end today’s patrol. We need to make an official report to the examiner……or so I thought, but she’s in the middle of a conversation with Nash’s unit.”
I’sa had the communicator up to her ear. But what let on that something was strange was her voice being too quiet.
……She’s not talking?
I’sa was wordlessly holding the communicator to her ear.
Normally, like this afternoon, she would give affirmations or give orders as the examiner.
“……No response. It looks like they got done in.”
I’sa muttered while putting force into her hand that was holding the communicator.
“Everyone, I’ll have you perform a single job now.”
“Mm? Hey, hey, what’s this, you’re not gonna say you’re tacking on an exam, right.”
In response to Vaiel who was conspicuously scowling,
“I won’t say that. It’s not an exam, it’s a real battle.”
I’sa cut him off with a calm tone.
“All members, listen well. Communications from Nash’s end have ceased. I think it’s likely that they engaged the Yuugenshu in combat and were wiped out. ……You understand, right? As members of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, what you must do in times of receiving a direct injury from a Yuugenshu.”
Placing the communicator in its holder, the Regular Guard girl held up her left hand.
─── [Deploy] ───
Responding to the puppeteer’s directions, four metal spheres rose into the air.
“The time is seventeen hundred hours and twenty-three minutes. In accordance with article nine of the Guard Institute’s regulations, the assignment is temporarily on hold. Starting now, the Cadet Guard unit’s rescue and Yuugenshu pursuit shall commence. ───Come with me.”
The time was about one hour ago.
Even now, the scars upon the earth continued to give up smoke. Grass and earth had fused, and the trees had withered and died standing without a single leaf. The smoldering deep purple groaned just like a living creature and that cursed area was spreading even more.
───The corruption of mateki.
Glancing at the wounds from the Yuugenshu’s escape route, Nash leaked a slight smile.
“There’s barely been any time since the corruption; it’s been driven into a corner.”
It was easily several hours since they’d made their report to the examiner. It had taken a considerable amount of distance but that would come to an end shortly.
“Kimberly, Lasdax, just like always. It’s a single Yuugenshu.”
The great sword user and heavy spear knight each moved up wordlessly.
“Myun-fa, at the same time the Yuugenshu flies out, play one shot.”
“Leave it to me, I’ll play it flashily.”
The shinryoku practitioner woman prepared a koto with grace. [T/N: A koto (琴) is a 13-string Japanese instrument. It’s ancient.]
───It will happen before we go on a mission. With the merit points from defeating this Yuugenshu, everyone will become a Regular Guard.
There was the merit system which granted merit points for completing a mission, but there were also ways to gain merit points dubbed the “back rules”.
That was when one resolved a case that went beyond expectations. Rescue operations during a calamity and discovering a Yuugenshu while on patrol were also included, and defeating it alone could be used to request additional merit points.
……That’s right, that’s how it should be.
……Like I can always be dallying around in this place. [T/N: “this place” has kanji for “the status of a Cadet Guard”.]
It wouldn’t end with becoming a Regular Guard. In the future, he would become an Elite Guard and then a Sennenshi.
Though that was so, he was being ordered around by that examiner as she liked and in the end, even received orders that engaging the Yuugenshu was not permitted and he was to stay on standby? This was no joke, since they had enrolled to fight Yuugenshu.
……Who knew that he would hit a standstill at that time.
“There are no enemies before my [Golden Hexahedral].”
The rescue unit pulled together by the Instructor’s command. Being chosen for the unit that selected only the best of the best even amongst the Cadet Guards, while heading to the scene with enthusiasm.
“Now beginning intervention. Commencing elimination of the witnesses.”
In the face of the monster they met with on the meadow, Nash had been unable to do anything. When he came to, he was lying in the medical wing. That was his first and last humiliation as a Cadet Guard.
……I have no more intention of being content with the status of a Cadet Guard.
“A person who will become a Regular Guard……can’t be afraid of a single Yuugenshu.”
Leading the unit, they moved to the backside of a large tree.
At the base of the large tree ─── not hiding or planning a surprise attack, a beast swathed in a dark purple mist stood there boldly.
……You won’t attack?
It was just prepared without even twitching.
“Haa, there are also pleasant Yuugenshu. It’s just revealing itself boldly even though it’s alone……Myun-fa, cease your ritual. Observe its condition.”
A transparent blue bullet.
Loaded with bullets that utilized the Hyouketsu crystals from Hyouketsu Kyoukai, a large revolving pistol was readied.
“I wonder where that fearless confidence is coming from.”
Nash looked down the sight and pulled the trigger.
The blasting sound of gunpowder. But───
The bullet simply passed through the body of the beast wrapped in dark purple mist.
What’s going on, this is a bullet made from the Hyouketsu crystals formed with shinryoku. It should be a fatal wound with just one shot against a Yuugenshu but there’s not a scratch?
He felt a shiver at Myun-fa’s scream and turned around while ignoring the Yuugenshu before him.
North, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest.
In all eight directions with them at the center ─── a Yuugenshu just like the one ahead of them was standing there; they were encircled.
“……There are eight Yuugenshu.”
What is the meaning of this. No matter how you look at them, the traces of corruption left behind by the escaping Yuugenshu were only caused by one. Though that’s so, there are eight. And when did they appear? They completely had no presence.
……Why did the shinryoku bullet have no effect?
……How did eight of them hide in this forest?
He didn’t understand at all.
We had the intention of pursuing, but instead we were guided?
Fifteen minutes after that, communication with Nash’s unit was lost.