I was going to keep this until I finished the entire chapter and then release that as a whole, but then I realized I said I would do part releases. So here we go…
As a note, I realized I forgot to insert an image into the last chapter, so you can take a look back there to see what has been amended (it’s the only white thing on the page so it’s really easy to find).
Completed on November 14, 2013 at 2:09 PM (PST).
You may wonder why there’s a color picture there. The right side isn’t relevant to the scene, but the left side shows the illustration associated with what Sheltis says there about not being able to speak on humanity’s behalf.
Also, I edited the damn thing to have those gaps in-between pieces that aren’t actually breaks into parts (that is to say there’s no break in the flow of time or perspective). WordPress, you weren’t this annoying before…
God damn part 6 took forever because I had to find that one specific line Sheltis said in volume 3 ><. That and it takes up like 1/3 of the entire chapter…
“Instructor? It’s me, ……yes, the circumstances are as I communicated earlier.”
The sea of trees returned to silence.
Only the examiner girl’s tense voice echoed.
“I’d also like to request the location of Nash G. Endolfin’s emblem’s signal. ───Ward 7, section 3……ward 7?……independent action, as I thought. Yes, we will proceed to rescue efforts at once.”
I’sa who lifted her hidden face shook her head.
“It seems my bad feeling was right on.”
Her self-derisive smile that turned to them.
“You remember that the Yuugenshu discovery report was from ward 8, section 68? I gave orders to return to the cottage in that same ward 8 and go on standby. The signal from Nash’s emblem is coming from ward 7.”
Rather than the cottage, contact with Nash’s unit was lost in ward 7. What could be inferred from that───
“……That moron. He went after the Yuugenshu himself.”
Vaiel spat out with a loathsome look.
“Leave the blame for later. For now, we pray that the unit is safe and only think about rescuing them even a moment sooner.”
Leaving behind words with a trailing note, I’sa waved her formal clothes.
“I’ll be temporarily assuming command. Follow me.”
The sea of trees was dyed in the singular color of scarlet.
Upon the animal trail shrouded in an eerie silence, the puppeteer girl’s figure ran along as if flying. The solid and pointy bedrock and marsh were ignored by sprinting through the large trees, leaping from branch to branch.
It was a form of movement that rendered the complicated landscape inconsequential as well as circumvented wild beasts. It was a simple spring, but the amount of continuous running needed to cover the harsh territory like this in one hour was truly as expected of a Regular Guard.
───How about this side?
Monica and Vaiel were lined up chasing I’sa who was at the front, with Kagura lagging slightly behind.
It wasn’t by file but simply the order of speed and physical strength. Vaiel had physical strength from his outstanding physique amongst men but the unit captain Monica was also keeping up well.
……It looks like she’s having trouble, but Kagura is also doing her best.
The last of the five people, Sheltis surveyed the backs of the members ahead of him.
───If it’s like this, we can perform the rescue faster than I thought.
“I wonder if we’ll make it.”
“That’s what we’re here for, right?”
Ilis’ reply that could even be called a challenge was correct.
Rescuing the lives of those attacked by Yuugenshu was a race against time. If it formal wear that had carved shinryoku seals applied, then there was more or less a resistance against even a Yuugenshu’s mateki. At any rate, if they arrived before it developed into a serious incident, there was the possibility that Monica’s purification spells would be enough to heal them.
Because they understood this, Kagura was trying her hardest to keep up and Vaiel, wearing his signature displeased expression, didn’t seem like he was going to voice any complaints.
I’sa who was at the front wordlessly held her hand parellel to the horizon. Lower your speed ─── reading that sign, Monica and Vaiel, followed by Kagura, halted.
The destination was close. At a crawling pace, they silenced their footfalls and pushed through the tree branches. What awaited them after they circled a gigantic tree was───
Four Cadet Guards were lying face-down on the ground.
“Monica, come with me! Sheltis, Kagura and Vaiel, keep watch on the surroundings!”
I’sa ran towards Nash while quickly sending orders out.
Holding up the black-haired young man, I’sa immediately pressed her finger against the artery in his neck ─── after a little while, she breathed out a long sigh with an expression of slight relief.
“It looks like the three over here are also breathing……I’m glad.”
Monica sighed, having confirmed the other three’s breathing in the same manner. But having been an apprentice Priestess, she soon tightened up her expression and bit on her lip.
“Examiner I’sa, I shall take over the rescue of Nash.”
She softly laid down the three people being held up. Monica, with a severe expression, stared at the dark purple mist coming off Nash’s formal wear.
───The corruption of mateki.
Yeah, said I’sa with her eyes slightly widened.
“I heard from Instructor Yumelda that you used to be an apprentice Priestess.”
“……I wasn’t very good at the baptism-type spells right to the end though.”
With a shadow falling within her eyes, Monica smiled wryly.
[Sia Sec elis arc……Is io miel]
[That day’s dream, once more……for the sake of that.]
The girl’s aria that wasn’t enough to be a short tune.
Her sakura-colored hair was, by a very deep red ─── it became shrouded in particles that shone with a crimson light. The light gathered to form a line which expanded and blew away the dark purple of the mateki.
The mateki eating into Nash’s formal wear was purified, then the ground underneath, and then it spread to wash away even the mateki that had infected the large tree to the rear.
“……The corruption of mateki has been repressed for the time being. How’s that side?”
“Not doing so well.”
Myun-fa ─── Kagura scowled as she held up the female shinryoku practitioner. The hand stopping the blood flowing from her shoulder and back wounds was soaked red with the bleeding.
“There’s no corruption of mateki but her injuries are more severe. ……She may have taken a surprise attack from behind so there’s a really deep scar on her back which might have pierced an artery. The other three also seem to be in the same state.”
───A surprise attack from behind.
Remembering their unease with that single phrase from Kagura, the other members turned around.
“Then it’s decided. There’s no use loitering here.”
Shouldering one of the Cadet Guards, Vaiel stood up.
“Come on, let’s start heading back. The Yuugenshu that attacked these guys might be hiding close by.”
“They’re not. There are traces of fleeing.”
Staring him head-on, I’sa didn’t quiver at all. The scars on the ground that were giving up smoke formed a direct line away from the large tree they were standing at.
“Hey, hey, don’t tell me you intend to pursue it……you sane?”
“In just a little under an hour, it’ll be night.”
I’sa didn’t turn around. In the sea of trees that were dyed crimson, the sun that was setting towards the horizon shimmered in the gap between the tree leaves overhead.
“The Yuugenshu at night are dangerous. The dark purple mist that covers their body blends into the night and they’re practically invisible……even if we return to the cottage, it’ll be dangerous if we receive a surprise attack.”
Then they should pursue now and strike.
I’sa’s words were filled with a force that wouldn’t accept any dissent.
“We’ll be dividing the unit into two groups, the pursuit squad and the rescue squad. Firstly, for the rescue squad that will stay here and look after Nash’s unit……Kagura and Vaiel, can I leave it to you?”
“Ah? Me?……it’s a lot easier than fighting Yuugenshu so it’s just what I wanted.”
Kagura nodded and Vaiel didn’t seem to have any objections.
“Then it’s settled. Monica who can use shinryoku to resist mateki, ……and that dual swords user over there.”
Not his name but dual swords user. The puppeteer girl presumed to call him that.
“I’m asking just in case but do you have any experience fighting Yuugenshu?”
“I won’t be any trouble.”
He drew out the hilts of the dual swords from the holder on his belt.
“I see. Then come along; don’t betray my expectations, okay?”
After I’sa who rustled her formal wear, Sheltis ran through the sea of trees wordlessly.
Seeing off the three who were following the Yuugenshu’s escape tracks───
“It’s just the two of us.”
Vaiel turned around with a sour look and Kagura smiled wryly at his unchanging aggressive tone.
Just the two of them. She had wanted to ask for a long, long time and had searched for a time and place to no avail. She hadn’t thought the chance would come with this timing.
“……Could I ask one thing?”
“What’s this, don’t get all strangely formal.”
She chose to remain wordless in the face of that displeased tone.
She silently took off her machine helmet. Deep green hair and ash grey eyes. The girl’s face was young and transient. The signature pointed ears of the Nell folk were exposed.
For an instant, for just an instant, his expression had certainly changed. She felt that.
“Have I met you before?”
Do you remember me? About me who had collapsed while crossing the desert in the middle of training……and how you piggybacked me all the way to the medical office.
“It’s already been two years.”
Turning his face to the side, his response was quick.
“……Is that so.”
I knew. I should have known but……as I had expected, he has forgotten me. When I invited him to the unit and trying to drag him in by even proposing a threatening deal, I had hoped that perhaps it would cause him to remember.
“How pointless. Don’t expect too much of people.”
Within the sea of trees dominated by silence, his click of the tongue echoed dully.
“……Is it bad to have expectations?”
“Think about that yourself. It’s because you don’t understand that that you’re a brat.”
The land corrupted by mateki gave off smoke as it decayed. That smoke became a path, showing where the Yuugenshu had escaped to.
“Monica, this is about Yuugenshu.”
He ran alongside Monica who leaped over a rock that was sticking out of the ground. Sheltis informed her while confirming her facial expression from the side.
“Keep careful watch on your surroundings while fighting. There might not be just one Yuugenshu.”
“……What did you say?”
Her grey eyes narrowed like a crescent moon.
“But there are only tracks for one Yuugenshu?”
“I know. But that area was very unnatural.”
Monica had been focused on Nash’s recovery and I’sa was checking out the Yuugenshu’s pursuit trail. Kagura and Vaiel had been focusing their attention on keeping vigilance of the surroundings.
On the other hand, he had been concerned with the blade marks and bullet traces gouged in the large trees and ground.
“Did you realize? The surrounding trees and ground where Nash’s unit collapsed had indiscriminate blade marks and bullet holes. If the opponent was a single Yuugenshu, they wouldn’t leave such large traces behind.”
The swords that had failed to strike the target and bullets that had missed the mark were too numerous.
“It was too unnaturally scattered. As far as I know, those kinds of battle traces are only left during times of a Yuugenshu’s mental control with mateki.”
Mental destruction ─── by breaking down reason, it would drive people to one form of rampage. It was like having an ally turn into an enemy. It was the most troublesome thing outside of immediate death.
“Those under mental control will rage without distinction of their enemies and allies so it’s easy for there to be blade marks and bullet traces like that.”
“You’re saying Nash’s group was subjected to that?”
Keeping his vision on I’sa to the front and staying vigilant of the sides and behind, he shook his head.
“The only one who received mateki this time was Nash. Then the one who was under mental control should also be Nash. Thinking along that line, I looked at the tools of the other three but amongst those three’s wounds, there were none inflicted by Nash’s weapon. If he had fallen into a panic after being mentally controlled, it wouldn’t be strange for at least one of them to have a wound from Nash’s weapon.”
There were none. That is to say, he hadn’t been mentally controlled.
“Then what are you saying?”
“I don’t know either. But we need to be prepared. ……I’sa.”
“───You meddler. If you talk in such a loud voice, I’ll hear it whether I want to or not.”
The Regular Guard who lightly jumped from branch to branch turned towards him.
“That’s for the best.”
“Hmph, I had no intention of letting my guard down from the beginning. Rather than that ─── we’re close.”
Letting out a small breath, I’sa came to an emergency halt.
“……I’ll praise you for not running or hiding.”
A fearless smile rose up on her face.
About ten metres ahead in the gap between two especially large evergreen trees.
Just like a king sitting in his throne, the Yuugenshu glared at them boldly. It was as large as a lion. Within its body formed of dark purple mist, its crimson eyes shined fierily.
─── [Deploy • Emission] ───
In the direction I’sa indicated, the super heavy steel ball drew in on the Yuugenshu. It was a “puppet” granted her shinryoku so if it directly hit, it would crush the Yuugenshu’s crystal.
The steel ball passed through the Yuugenshu and simply formed a depression in the ground on the other side.
I’sa and Monica let out voices of shock at the same time.
■ ■ …… ■, ■ ■ ■ …… ■, ■ …… ■, ■ ■ ■, ■ ■ …… ■ ■, …… ■ …… ■ ■
Oe/ Dia = U elfa clar, deus mille phes thes, deus mille hypn noa thes.
Little by little, the Yuugenshu’s body began to tremble. The mist shrouding that body let off an eerie light and gradually spread to the surroundings. ───No, it was expanding.
“The Yuugenshu’s mist is increasing……it’s getting larger!?”
“That wrong. This is”
Staring at the strange beast from the front, Sheltis muttered softly.
The dark purple mist shimmered like a heat haze and formed an image like a mirage. Another mist was born from within the mist, forming another body.
Seven monsters’ crimson eyes shined. No,
“I’sa, there’s another one to the rear!”
Crish. The sound of the Yuugenshu’s claw ripping something to shreds echoed vividly.
“……Don’t underestimate me, you monster!”
Bearing a wound on her back, I’sa manipulated her puppets. Two shining steel balls closed in from directly to the side and crushed the Yuugenshu that had just injured her into little pieces from the left and right.
The annihilated Yuugenshu became a dark purple mist. ───There was no effect on the remaining seven.
“Illusions that also have physical properties……you sure can do it.”
The puppeteer girl stood up while grimacing from the wound on her back. Rather than being from the wound on her back, it was more an expression of irritation that a single attack from her puppet didn’t work.
“It is a Yuugenshu that I have little data on as well. Be careful.”
“───It doesn’t change what we do.”
The twin blades reverse-gripped in his hands let off light in the forest that was dyed deep red. The mysterious purple of the blades was formed by having mateki permeate the azure Hyouketsu crystals, resulting in a wondrous color.
Bathed in Monica’s shinryoku, her crossed rods <Rosario> were wrapped in a silvery white layer of crystal.
I’sa steel balls once again flew high.
Then the three people and eight beasts collided head-on.
Ahead of anyone, Sheltis took aim at and ran towards the eight Yuugenshu.
Two from the flanks and two from the center, a total of four of them were approaching him. From within the dark purple mist, eerie limbs and claws extended───
From the front, directly to the side, underneath, above, behind; many claws were aimed and launched at every blind spot. He dodged, parried and blocked every one of them.
Djidii. He dodged the Yuugenshu’s claw that grazed his bangs by jumping.
A sword flash.
Not letting the opportunity to strike slip, the dual swords mowed down the surrounding two Yuugenshu.
Not even allowing time to breath, machine crystal <Ilis> shone.
In the next instant, Sheltis stopped three Yuugenshu coming from the sides with his sword. At a separate location, I’sa was engaging two of them and Monica was taking on two at the same time……seven? There were nine Yuugenshu if he counted the two he’d just defeated. They had increased from before.
“At the same time Sheltis defeated them, two new illusions appeared. If you put together the main body with the illusions, it seems the max is eight bodies but I think the illusions can spawn indefinitely.” [T/N: That is to say that Sheltis thought there were nine without actually counting. He just added the ones he defeated in, but those re-spawned already. In case that was confusing.]
“No way but to defeat the main body, huh.”
Decaying the ground and flowers, the misty beasts pushed on towards him at a crawling pace. Two of them were circling around to his sides and the two that had just formed jumped into the air.
───Which one is real?
The four bodies were just like reflections in a mirror. Moreover, the movements of the four were different from each other so it was troublesome. It would be easy to single one out if it was the only one taking separate action but there was no other way but crushing them one by one if all of them were irregular.
However, it was pointless to destroy an illusion because it would just come back.
“……There’s no end to this.”
“It means there’s no point in beating the small fry.”
Monica yelled from the rocks at the far back and I’sa yelled while leaping up to a large tree’s branch. It seemed the two of them had also realized it. He could sense nervousness and impatience that wasn’t there before.
“Monica, I’sa, ignore the illusions and go for the real one!”
Shouting to the two, he leaped backwards. Kicking off a large tree’s trunk, he lept towards another large tree then kicked off that, staying afloat. In the blink of an eye, he had ascended to a height of roughly ten metres.
A bird’s-eye view.
He looked down on them from a location where he could see all eight Yuugenshu.
“……As I thought.”
He confirmed it once again after comparing the eight bodies. No matter how much their units were unmatched, the eight of them were attacking as if in competition.
If the real one was amongst the eight, then it would be over if they defeated that. If Sheltis was in the Yuugenshu’s position, then he would station the real body at the innermost of the formation in order to avoid the one in ten thousand chance that it would take a hit. But there was completely no semblance of that amongst these monsters.
It was almost as if they were saying it didn’t matter even if it the real one was taken out.
“Ilis, what’s the possibility that the real one isn’t amongst them?”
“Zero. The real one is certainly amongst these eight.”
Machine crystal <Ilis> flat out denied it.
“My calculation area is certainly sensing the Yuugenshu’s mateki. I can’t confirm the exact location because of the illusions but the real one isn’t a separate body.”
Two Yuugenshu were climbing their way up the large tree. There was no time to collect his thoughts. Feeling the quickly approaching killing intent, Sheltis jumped down to the ground.
“You’re in my way!”
Deflecting the awaiting two’s claws with his sword, he sprinted to open up distance with the Yuugenshu again.
───There are seven illusions. There’s one real body.
───But none of them are moving like the real body. As if they’re all the real body.
“That’s possible, huh.”
One. A completely outrageous hypothesis came to mind.
“Ilis, what if the Yuugenshu’s core crystal is transferring!?”
“……That’s a bold hypothesis. All eight are real but the core crystal controlling them is just one.”
The theory was just like I’sa’s “puppetry”.
Manipulating the illusions created from its own mateki. If it was a human, this would be settled by attacking the real one but the Yuugenshu were mist-form creatures to begin with. If they were destroyed without breaking the core crystal within, they would just dissolve in light. It might not affect the concept of the real body.
In other words, the box containing the core crystal was the real body and it didn’t matter which box that was.
“If it looks like the core crystal is going to be destroyed, then that core crystal will transfer to another illusion. After that, that one will act as the real spawn and spawn illusions───”
“What’s the probability?”
“There’s enough value to be worth confirming. But it’s a hassle.”
That’s right, if his conjecture was correct, then the only way to defeat this Yuugenshu would be before the core crystal transferred ─── all escape routes would have to be sealed.
In other words, the destruction of all eight bodies at the same time.
“……It won’t be easy.”
He naturally put power into his hands that gripped the dual swords. The range of his weapon was this at most this short. Three……no, he had the confidence to take out four at the same time. More than that was a bet. That’s why he abandoned the notion of protecting himself and went for a suicidal attack for six.
Monica was being pressed into a defensive battle by two bodies.
Due to the blessing of the shinryoku silvery white crystals on her crossed rods <Rosario>, her weapon held great offensive power against Yuugenshu. But the problem was her technical ability to handle that as a Guard. Even if she could handle apprentice Priestess’ spells, even Monica was still a Cadet Guard.
“There’s no end to this……”
Passing through the space between large trees, I’sa skillfully widened the gap with the Yuugenshu by flitting through the branches.
It was possible to control up to four steel balls at once with her puppetry, but the weakness was that their movements would become monotonous. In her previous two-man cell, that was the reason Sheltis could cleave the steel balls regardless of it being the first time he’d seen them. By the same token, the Yuugenshu were gradually getting used to the steel balls’ movements.
“……It’s no good.”
He gave up on the idea of taking out eight bodies with three people. Right now, the communication required to match up their timings would be difficult. The two who were in a defensive battle didn’t have that leeway.
……Think; isn’t this something you decided yourself.
……What I can do for the unit.
“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.”
The thing he had thought up with Kagura and resolved himself to.
He would support Monica, who was embracing her responsibility as unit leader, on the battlefield.
“Ilis, how many ways can you think of to dispatch the illusions?”
“……Only one conventional method. As you know, a shinryoku barrier’s territory is confining.”
Barrier spells, in other words, the widespread release of shinryoku. Like Hyouketsu Kyoukai ─── it could weaken the mateki of the Yuugenshu within.
“However, Sheltis, for that, you───”
Machine crystal <Ilis> said something but held back.
“I won’t do that.”
Raising a laugh with traces of self-mockery, Sheltis directed his gaze at the other two.
There were numerous cuts carved into their formal wear. Being continually pushed by the Yuugenshu’s fierce offensive, these were the wounds from that harsh battle. Amongst those were some considerably deep lacerations.
Both of them were also tired.
I can’t let them push themselves. ……That’s why it’s best if I’m decisive.
“You are not used to battles where you receive support.”
“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.”
……Kagura also spoke trivially of it.
……But if that is my role.
“I’sa, Monica! Enclose the Yuugenshu in a barrier after forty seconds!”
Erasing his slight self-deprecating smile, Sheltis looked at his two comrades and shouted. The two girls and even the Yuugenshu paused for a moment at the sudden loud voice. Using that opening.
“Monica, how wide can you open a barrier spell!?”
“Eh, ah……? W-what do you───”
“Never mind that, just hurry!”
“I-if it’s a circular shape, up to a radius of twenty-two with a height of seven metres! I can reliably expand it to twenty metres with a height of nine metres!”
Monica yelled with a slightly red face. Beating only the approximation of twenty metres into his head, Sheltis continued to yell.
“First, Monica, erect a shinryoku barrier with me as the center. It’s enough if it’s twenty metres!”
And to the puppeteer girl.
“I’sa, deploy all four of your puppets at the same time! Set them up at the four corners of the barrier and obstruct the Yuugenshu that try to escape.”
The two shinryoku practitioner girls widened their eyes in tandem.
“Wh-what are you saying! Sending away all of my puppets……it’s the same as being naked to a puppeteer! It’d be the same as being defenseless!”
“The same for me. I’d have my hands full just erecting a large-scale barrier……”
Deploying a shinryoku barrier and even setting out a net to prevent escape. However, for the girls, focusing on only that was a thought close to being defenseless.
But he once again conveyed his idea with renewed conviction.
“I want to limit the Yuugenshu’s illusions. Within the shinryoku barrier, even those illusions can be obliterated and its movements restricted. That’s some only you two can do.” [T/N: “only you two can do” has “something I can’t do” written beside it.]
“……Wait, we can’t defeat the Yuugenshu by just enclosing it in a barrier.”
Taking on I’sa’s piercing identification head-on, he slowly nodded.
“I’ll take over after that.”
The ones who would wipe out the illusions after restricting them in the barrier would be Monica and I’sa.
Sheltis would have a direct showdown with the Yuugenshu within that barrier.
“……Okay. It doesn’t look like there’s any other way.”
The first assent came from the direction of the girl who was allowing her sakura-colored hair to flutter.
“……Being ordered by a Cadet Guard……but it’s fine.”
Seeing Monica returning her crossed rods <Rosario> to their holders, I’sa also once again let a smile rise onto her face.
“I’ll return the debt from Maha. I’ll owe you nothing with this.”
Then the three moved without a word.
─── [Deploy • Emission] ───
I’sa who deployed her puppets in four directions and Monica who was forming the spell jumped back. This was because they would otherwise be drawn into the battle that would be limited to within the barrier after its deployment.
[Sia Sec elis arc……Is io miel]
[That day’s dream, once more……for the sake of that.]
Within the sea of trees dyed crimson, an azure shinryoku barrier was soundlessly erected.
The glittering particles of light danced in the air.
The azure shinryoku barrier. The light fragments that resembled Hyouketsu Kyoukai’s crystals each had the power to oppose the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>’s curse.
───Those two are already outside of the barrier.
Without hiding the sound of his footfalls, he prepared the swords in his hands and drew in.
The mist beast howled in a strange voice. The seven illusions were negated by the shinryoku barrier and its body gave off sputters of black mist.
“……Are you taking damage from the shinryoku barrier?”
The beast did not answer.
But the strength within its eyes that had been there until now was gone and its movements were clearly lacking.
Looking at that, Sheltis weakly shook his head.
The dark purple smoke was also coming off the boy’s body.
That body which housed mateki from falling into the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. In exchange for nullifying the mateki of Yuugenshu, this body would take damage from the shinryoku that people were supposed to possess.
……I knew that I would take damage within a shinryoku barrier.
But he had had Monica and I’sa erect the barrier while prepared for that. That was his role. Without that resolution, he would not be able to be a member of the unit.
“Perhaps there’s not a single difference between you and me. ……I might not have the qualifications to speak on what people are. However”
On his back and neck and his entire body, every spot was inflicted with burn wounds. As if to show that, the boy drew near the beast step by step.
“……Even so, I wish to return to the place of those waiting for me.”
He raised the shining blades that were facing each other.
The boy’s dual swords shattered the Yuugenshu’s core crystal this time.
From outside the barrier shining with azure light, Monica was staring fixedly at its interior.
……What’s going on right now?
With the barrier shining and the sea of trees and thickets added in, she completely couldn’t tell what was happening inside. She wondered if Sheltis who was left there was alright.
She knew his skills but his opponent was still a Yuugenshu.
Immediately after, the vague shadow of a person wavered from within the barrier.
She ran with her breathing in a mess to the boy who walked out of the barrier.
“! Those burns……were you bathed in mateki!?”
“Ah, no, I’m fine.”
The boy acted bashfully.
“These burns are……from yesterday’s dinner when I messed up the strength of the gas burner.”
She wondered if something like that happened during yesterday’s dinner. Putting that aside, his expression as he slightly averted his face seemed somehow very……lonesome.
───I don’t want to see Sheltis with that kind of expression.
The moment she thought that, her chest tightened painfully.
Monica placed her head against shoulder and closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see that bitter expression. If he was safe, then she wanted him to be lively.
“Don’t make……that face.”
“……Don’t make the captain……worry so much, you scoundrel.”
Was it because she was relieved Sheltis was safe?
What was this. The heat within her chest was irrepressible. As long as she couldn’t put it into words, she entrusted herself to his shoulder───
“Unit captain Monica? Indiscrete relations within the unit is the largest demerit.”
Having I’sa whisper into her ear, Monica sharply returned to her senses.
“Y-you’re wrong! You’re wrong, examiner, th-this isn’t”
Even if she was the examiner, she was just gazing over with a deeply meaningful look.
“Well, whatever, at present we’ve defeated the Yuugenshu. Next, we’ll go to Nash”
“No, please wait.”
The gem attached to a pendant at Sheltis’ chest ─── machine crystal <Ilis> twinkled.
“It’s strange. Even though we should have defeated the Yuugenshu, the mateki response hasn’t disappeared.”
“……What did you say?”
“I’m currently in the middle of observation but……this is……dangerous. It is approaching the two from our unit and those of the injured unit at a high speed.”
He doubted his ears at machine crystal <Ilis>’ words. That couldn’t be since Sheltis had defeated the real body and as proof, the illusions had disappeared.
“There were two Yuugenshu from the beginning……we’ve been had; the Yuugenshu was possessed by another Yuugenshu. You could even call it parasitism.”
───If that was so, then another part also became understandable.
Those seven illusions were not simply the result of the Yuugenshu’s battle-use mateki. It had been a disguise to hide that there were multiple mateki responses. ……But in that case.
“The Yuugenshu is heading towards Kagura and Vaiel!?”
Without forewarning, that appeared before them.
“……Oi, this ain’t no joke.”
Feeling the pressure of that from up close, Vaiel felt shivers run through his whole body.
Carrying the ability to decay whatever they touched, the invaders from the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>.
“Don’t screw with me; I didn’t hear nothin’ about this! The examiner or the unit captain, what happened to those guys that were crazy worked up!? You telling me they all got done in!?”
“───No, I can’t imagine the group of three including Sheltis was done in.”
The one who answered was Kagura. But the lips that were peeking up from under her machine helmet were pale and that tone that seemed calm at first glance was shaking with fear everywhere.
“It probably ran away to here.”
“Isn’t that the same thing!……damn it, what do we do about this guy!”
It was the first time the iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> he wore on both arms felt so unhelpful. It was a fear of death that he hadn’t felt from any gathering of valiant men in the unit battles. That was just how “real” the beast before his eyes was.
A real Yuugenshu.
It was a strange existence that would be rare for a Cadet Guard to fight, let alone even encounter.
……On this side are me and this Kagura. And behind are the four injured members of a unit?
……Like hell there’s a way to win.
Even while backing away quickly, he whispered to Kagura who was standing directly beside him.
“We’re grabbing those four and running; fighting with those absurd bastards isn’t sane.”
The girl didn’t reply. It was like she didn’t even hear him.
“Oi, you listening? Oi!”
“It’s futile. Running away with these four by ourselves? While we do that blockheaded act, we’ll get wiped out in one shot by mateki.”
“Then what the heck are you saying we do!”
But the girl once again fell into silence and didn’t answer.
“Damn brat, are you only powerful in times of peace!? You───”
Without the time to speak more, the Yuugenshu moved, leaving traces of decay along the ground. Their eerily shining crimson eyes were locked onto them without a doubt.
───This is bad.
The mist beast jumped at Vaiel whose reaction was slow, lunging at him as if leaning.
Light filled his vision.
Being hit from a very powerful light from the front, the Yuugenshu stiffened.
What made him realize that it was a flash bullet from Kagura was the resounding noise of a small machine having fallen after being tossed high into the air.
Wrapped in wrath that seemed to freeze the atmosphere, the Yuugenshu turned around.
“I didn’t think my machine helmet’s eye shield would become useful in a place like this.”
Once again, the small clattering sound of something light hitting the ground.
The machine helmet the girl had removed was rolling around on the ground.
“Now, this way!”
And then she added a shot, she now took out the medium range-use stun gun and shot it after turning towards the Yuugenshu. There was no way it would work but if that single shot made the Yuugenshu feel like it “received an attack”, then that was enough.
“…………Oi, what are you”
His eyes not working because he’d been bathed in the flash grenade at close range, Vaiel was staggering.
……I don’t get the meaning of this.
……This brat, challenging Yuugenshu like this……does she have a death wish?
“Stop, you idiot! Playing around like that”
“I’ll be targeted? It would be troubling if that didn’t happen.”
For a moment, he truly doubted her sanity.
“I will lead the Yuugenshu away to the best of my ability. If I buy enough time, Monica and the others will make it in time.”
Replying indifferently like that, the girl rode atop the machine pearl <Machina>.
…………Oi, don’t tell me this brat.
…………In order to let me and the four behind me escape, she’s becoming……the bait……?
“Wait up, damn you! Such an arbitrary”
“The one who invited you to the unit was me. My responsibility……it is my duty to ensure that you are safe.”
The floating machine pearl <Machina> let off a noticeably brighter shine. Halting its functions as a computer, it was concentrating all its output on propulsion as an escape pod.
His eyes couldn’t see well because of the flash bullet so he could barely stand up. While he couldn’t do anything, and while he couldn’t stop her.
“───If I come back alive, let’s do our best in the unit again, okay?”
Even though he shouldn’t be able to see anything.
Her smiling visage was vividly burned into his vision.
And once again, the forest returned to silence.
There was nothing in his vision that had finally cleared up.
Not the Yuugenshu nor the figure of the girl who fled far away to lead that Yuugenshu.
He wordlessly tightened his fists, then.
“Ddddoo……ooon’t screw with meeeee!”
The Yuugenshu and Kagura actions, whichever one didn’t sit well with him. ……As he thought, it was just as he thought. Nobody and nothing understood. About everything, everything───
“A dream……you’re dreaming too much……what’s this about Monica coming to save you or Sheltis coming to save you.”
There weren’t just those convenient events.
A Guard is a Guard. They weren’t like those heroes that came up in stories that would come running to someone’s predicament.
“……You’re wrong…………that’s wrong.”
There was nobody like that in reality. There wasn’t so somebody, somebody there would have to defend them in place of a hero. Even a man with no redeeming features had times where he would have to rise up.
Wasn’t that so as a human and as a Guard?
For example, that day when he piggybacked a girl that had collapsed in the desert.
“Have I met you before?”
At that time, Vaiel had acted as if he didn’t remember. He didn’t like gaining debts of gratitude or having words of repayment spoken.
“……Damn it, that brat……causing people nothing but trouble…………I’ll hit that joking face of yours and make you remember.”
He bit down on his trembling lips and gripped his quivering fist tightly.
His feet ───────── forward ───────── forward.
“That’s why……until I come to hit you……………………don’t die.”
“Kagura! Hey, Vaiel! Kuu……”
Yelling into the communication device, Monica’s face was unpleasantly strained.
───There was no response from the two.
Looking at the side profile of Monica whose face was unpleasantly distorted, Sheltis wordlessly tightened his fists.
They had ran and ran and ran with all their strength through the sea of trees.
Even then, the anxiety within their bosoms would not be quelled. Disregarding people like Monica who had a special background, it was exceedingly difficult for a Cadet Guard to win against a Yuugenshu.
Then did they run? No, Nash’s injured were still there. He didn’t think they could escape a Yuugenshu while carrying them.
Other than somebody sticking himself or herself out and holding back the Yuugenshu, there was no way to save everyone.
But just who could do such a dangerous act?
Kagura? Or perhaps───
“He would help someone when they were truly troubled. ……She came to think that.”
“Shel-nii, you know. Yuto was treated really gently by Vaa-nii!”
“There are two qualities in a Guard. There’s a need for at least one guy like that around.”
Why am I remembering only these kinds of conversations now?
“There’s nobody else who will do it other than me; that’s all it is.”
A ruffian and a sloth. That kind of loathsome Cadet Guard. He had also thought that to begin with.
But that was wrong. Yuto, Kagura and the Instructor had told him.
……This might just be my wishful thinking.
……But Vaiel, please help Kagura.
The sound of something touching the ground. What Kagura heard was the sound of her body hitting the ground.
She could taste earth upon her lips. It probably got in when she fell face-down.
Even though she wanted to wipe away the dirt in her mouth, her hands and feet couldn’t move at all from the intense pain.
Her hands and feet that had been bathed in mateki ─── she was too scared to look to see what was happening to them. Even though she couldn’t feel anything with her fingertips, only the pain was resounding noisily like a roar. Whether it was necrosis or burns, their seriousness appeared to have a paralyzing effect.
The sound of the Yuugenshu’s footsteps that creeped along the ground was growing closer. Even if she couldn’t see it while face-down, it should be arriving soon.
───As I expected, it was limited to several minutes at the highest output.
The machine pearl <Machina> that had expended its remaining energy fell to the ground and she’d tried to escape on her own feet, but without passing even ten metres, she’d been bathed in mateki and ended up in this state.
Even so, Kagura laughed.
With her entire body corrupted by mateki, her consciousness fading and the Yuugenshu soon to be upon that location.
───As I thought, I can’t be like Sheltis.
I’m a support-type that could only devote myself to the rear even in the unit battles. That is an existence that differs from the goals of a Guard that places themselves at the front to protect the Priestesses.
“Don’t you ever think of harming my companions again!”
For she who was like that, it was her first time meeting the real thing.
While looking at Sheltis who challenged “Golden” Maha who was blocking his way, her eyes were stolen away despite being a Guard just like him. She made her resolve in response to that ability and spirit.
Just once was fine. She admired that which was not a supporting role.
Just like he protected me, I want to protect somebody. That was why she had tried to protect Vaiel and the injured unit of four.
───I’d be laughed at if they knew the reason……was this kind of thing.
The sound of the monster’s footsteps which reached her ears arrived at her feet───
The instant she closed her eyes in fear.
“!” [T/N: There were a bunch of small ッ there, but they don’t even make a sound, so it became like this…]
That suddenly jumped far back. A violent sound. It was the sound of the machine pearl <Machina> sticking halfway into the ground.
───Somebody threw the machine pearl <Machina> at the Yuugenshu?
The machine pearl <Machina> also had a thin armor of shinryoku applied to it. The Yuugenshu had taken evasive measures because it loathed that……she understood that much. But who did it?
No, that dual sword user wouldn’t do something like this. To begin with, an acquaintance who brought to mind the savage image of throwing the machine pearl <Machina>……that acquaintance……no way──────
A single person, just one, was there.
But……but…………that shouldn’t be……that man is……
“Don’t underestimate humans, you black fur ball.”
The Nell folk ─── Kagura’s ears which were much more perceptive than a human’s certainly heard that voice.
With her body unable to move, she forced herself to the limit to bend her neck and what she saw there was───
Not the puppeteer Regular Guard that was traveling with them as the examiner,
nor the girl with the sakura-colored hair who carried the crossed rods <Rosario>,
nor the dual sword-wielding boy who had fallen to the Garden of Corrupsed Song <Eden>,
“The one who’s gonna hit and train that brat is me; a beast isn’t welcome.”
it was the young man with short golden hair and a sullen face.
Why are you here…………why…………didn’t you run away, why, why did you come here alone? Why did you come alone without calling Sheltis or Monica───
“That’s why you’re a brat.”
That was what he said first.
“Stupid, how stupid! What’s this about Sheltis or Monica. Are either of them here? Did you really think they’d come to save you? What are you pointlessly trusting in; don’t over-expect things of people.”
Don’t expect things.
Again, once again those words. The words he had said not too long ago with the two of them.
“Why……are you that cold?”
She thought he had come to help her, but why was he saying these words that thrust her away?
“I’m not cold.”
“Don’t have expectations of people; the ones people have expectations of are Guards!”
All of the words that were at the tip of her lips were blown away by that one speech.
“To begin with, you’re pointlessly pretentious! What’s this “It’s my responsibility“……while acting like a good kid and saying “Let’s do our best with everyone“, when it comes down to it, you go on a suicide attack by yourself! Can you just not trust in your comrades, huh!”
She didn’t understand what he was getting angry at in front of her. Saying not to expect things of people, now he was getting angry about whether or not she could trust her comrades.
She just could not comprehend what he was trying to tell with him being like that.
“…………Damn it……you still don’t get it, you moron?”
He clicked his tongue loudly.
“Listen up, I’ll only say this once!”
In order to gloss over something ─── in order to hide his red face, he shouted.
“I’m here! You added me to your unit, so why can’t you depend on me, you damn brat!”
……That was to say.
That he really thought of himself as a member of our unit?
That he came running to save me?
Why so suddenly.
Because if he was that strong-willed, then he should have done so during the unit battles───
“For sure, you can’t call me outstanding as a Guard. Ever since I was scouted by the Instructor for some reason, it’s been a given that I’d skip training and I’d definitely avoid a battle with a Yuugenshu. …………But you know!”
He kicked off the ground.
Running away by myself while making somebody else, what’s more, a woman, the bait? That’s wrong, all wrong! There’s somebody collapsed in front of me. At times like that, even before being a Guard, there are things you just don’t compromise on as a person!”
What he had said several days ago after the unit battles when he hadn’t protected her.
“Hold on, Vaiel, why didn’t you protect me even though you were in the interceptor role?”
“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.”
That’s right. He certainly said that.
Even though he said that, I didn’t believe in it.
……Even though I didn’t believe in it.
Even then, he came running. Just like he said.
“B-but……you can’t win……a Cadet Guard can’t”
“You’re noisy; who else is here? Is there a Regular Guard or Sennenshi here? Guards aren’t some kind of knight that appears when the princess is in a pinch. There’s no other way but for those there to stand their ground. That’s what you do as a Guard, as a person!”
He was vulgar, lawless, boisterous, pointlessly loud and thought everything was a pain.
Even then, he came alone, running until his breath was ragged to save me.
He told me to trust in my comrades.
……In the end……rather than me, he’s definitely closer to Sheltis.
Tears welled up in her eyes and traveled along her cheeks but she didn’t understand the reason for them.
But my heart can tell. I……wasn’t wrong.
……As I thought, this person……is someone who can’t leave others alone when they’re truly in trouble.
“What are you crying for?”
“I’m not c-cc……crying……I’m not crying!”
“Jeez. Whatever. Anyway, the brat at an age with no sex appeal should just shut up and watch. I’ll shatter its front teeth!”
“……How stupid; do Yuugenshu even have front teeth?”
Unable to even hide the tears in her eyes, Kagura suddenly smiled.
“……How noisy. ……That’s why I hate kids.”
Vaiel spat that out. His sour face tensed up.
And then he ran.
Roaring to wipe away fear, he brandished his fists. If the iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> which were shining azure from the shinryoku carved seal ceremony were to directly impact the Yuugenshu’s core crystal, it would be able to shatter it.
In front of his raised right fist, the shine of mateki spread in a fan shape to protect the Yuugenshu.
The shinryoku-infused iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> and the defensive wall that shone with mateki clashed.
Having his fist repelled head-on, Vaiel’s large body floated into the air. It was the repulsion from having the two directly opposite forces of shinryoku and mateki collide.
“……I-it’s nothing; I told you to shut up and watch.”
While using abusive language, he shakily stood up. He’d been blown back through the air several metres and fallen on his back but it seems his body really was sturdy. However───
The Yuugenshu rushed in before Vaiel corrected his stance.
Jyuuu……when the mateki that decayed all it touched and the formal wear infused with shinryoku met, it scattered a large flash of light.
Confused by the Yuugenshu’s approach, Vaiel jumped away.
His right shoulder ─── the formal wear’s fibre had been decomposed leaving a large hole, and the surrounding area was dyed red. There was also a limit to the formal wear’s carved seals. The Yuugenshu had eaten away where the shinryoku armor had been destroyed by mateki.
Defending his wounded right arm, this time he threw his left out.
But the result was the same as before. Repelled by the Yuugenshu’s defensive wall, he was attacked before falling and a part of his formal wear was corrupted by mateki.
His left leg’s knee dyed with blood, Vaiel used his left hand as a support and stood up.
His leg injured, he moved at a speed closer to walking than running.
This time ─── the Yuugenshu didn’t really have a sense of caution. It just awaited the man approaching it and deployed the defensive wall to meet the swung fist.
That repeated itself many times.
Vaiel was blown away by the defensive wall and smacked into the ground. She didn’t know how many times it had been. And this time, he didn’t quiver as he laid face-up.
“……Vaiel? I-it can’t be. Vaiel, Vaie──────”
“You’re noi……sy; I can……hear you.”
The voice was hoarse as if spewing blood and if it wasn’t Kagura who came from the Nell tribe, one might have missed it.
“……Just shut up……and watch. Damn brat.”
With his entire body shaking a bit, he stood up. His bleeding right shoulder showed no signs of letting up and the bleeding on his left leg had dyed up to his shoes in the color of fresh blood.
Lastly, his face was pale from losing blood.
“Stop already! Please, I’m fine, so run already!”
Kagura shouted in a hoarse voice. She told him that it was enough. She was really happy that his spirit had not been a lie and his feelings to protect her. But……that was enough. She didn’t want to see anymore.
“Please……you can’t die. ……I’m happy you became a comrade but that’s exactly why I don’t want my comrade……to die.”
However ─── he didn’t stop even then.
With tottering steps that a kid would laugh at and eyes that didn’t see anything other than their focus, he swung his fist.
……Why, why are you being so stubborn?
Even though it’s fine if you choose to “run” instead of “fight” just once. Why won’t you choose it? Why are you so set on saving me?
“……Have your eyes gone bad?”
He indicated the Yuugenshu’s defensive wall. But……she couldn’t see. Because of the tears welled up in her eyes, her vision had already been severely obscured from a long time ago.
“There’s a crack in his defensive wall.”
Supporting himself against the large tree beside him, Vaiel stood up. Even though his injuries were heavy enough that he shouldn’t be able to stand, there was strength in his voice.
“After one or two more……I’ll punch out that damn fur ball.”
“You’re lying……that’s a lie!”
“It’s not a lie, there’s really just a little left.”
“Isn’t that one shot painful!……With that beat-up body……you can’t even walk anymore, right? Your arms and legs……they have necrosis, don’t they!”
His burns were inflamed and his arms and legs were swelled to purple.
His formal wear’s shinryoku armor was already unstuck and falling off. That was the result of someone who went to punch a Yuugenshu without protection by shinryoku.
He shouldn’t be able to move; he shouldn’t be able to stand. Kagura’s body was currently decaying from being bathed in just one attack. Even now, she would immediately faint if she wasn’t gritting her teeth and fall into a state where she wouldn’t wake up.
“That why, please, ……please stop already. The one who invited you to the unit was me and the one who got you wrapped up in this exam was also me…………I’ll apologize for doing it at my convenience. Please, I don’t want to see you hurt…………for my sake anymore.”
It was at that time.
He who had been looking only at the Yuugenshu turned his gaze to her.
It was a perfectly clear gaze. It was his true face that he hadn’t shown her once until now.
“It’s not your fault; I was the first one to start this.”
“I carried a brat that had collapsed in the desert to the medical office. ……That’s why you invited me to the unit, right? Then the cause is me, not you.”
He remembered me. That means he knew everything from the beginning and came along knowing that.
“…………Liar. You lied about not remembering me.”
“Like there’s any way I could forget a brat who made me do something so annoying.”
“……You’re the worst; even at a time like this, your mouth is foul.”
Not caring about her face getting dirty from the earth, Kagura pushed herself to wipe her tears away on the grass. All so she could watch over him from behind.
Vaiel advanced while dragging his feet.
With the hole-ridden formal wear that had lost its shinryoku armor, he dragged his necrosis-laden body that had received the mateki’s curse and advanced. He moved his legs that shouldn’t be able to move and tightened his fist that shouldn’t be able to close.
The vigor that wouldn’t become a voice shook the sea of trees.
Tightening his necrotic right fist to the point of breaking, he held it above him and brought it down on the beast before him.
Shinryoku and mateki. The two overlapped head-on───
The iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> and the defensive wall let off a clear sound and shattered.
The Yuugenshu immediately made to repair the destroyed defensive wall and its mateki gave of brilliance.
But somebody made a move before that.
“Yo, black fur ball, I’ve got one warning for you.”
Vaiel, who had completely lost his iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters>, clenched his right fist.
“Don’t underestimate humans when they’re serious?”
The young man who was just a human punched the Yuugenshu with that right fist.
Even though just touching the Yuugenshu’s body would curse him and his right fist became inflamed all at once, it didn’t stop. Passing the outer layer of mist, it reached the core crystal located at the center of the real body……and the sound of the Yuugenshu’s core shattering certainly echoed.
While hearing the death throes of the Yuugenshu that was disintegrating in light.
“That was an easy win, Yuugenshu.”
An unusual smile appearing on his face, Vaiel collapsed right there.
Inside his fading consciousness.
“……I’ve been saved by you again.”
The cheeky voice of a girl resounded strangely vividly.