Thanks for the encouragement and everything over this week, it really inspired to act like I wasn’t doing anything. It also inspired me to actually do nothing in the latter part of the week. I still got something done though.
The runway that stretched on endlessly.
Sliding into the runway that was gleaming silver in the sunlight, the airship gradually slowed down.
The airport that had been nothing but a speck slowly increased in detail and the control tower directing the airship became visible to even the naked eye───
Because of the shake from landing and the sudden braking, his body that was secured by the seatbelt jittered slightly.
“Oh─. It looks like we’ve arrived safely.”
“It’s about time.”
Confirming that the airship had come to a complete stop, Sheltis stood up from his seat.
“Okay, now the─n, Ymy-sama, this way─; make sure to follow me, okay?”
First was Ishtar leading Ymy.
Behind them were the General Affairs Bureau Chief, his female private secretary and the two clerks.
“Come on, Sheltis, your protege went on ahead.”
“I’m in charge of the one furthest to the back so it’s fine. It’s easier to work if I’m a little further away.”
His protege were the old man, the General Affairs Bureau Chief, the female private secretary and the two clerks.
Standing ahead of the four walking together was Monica, Kagura and Vaiel were flanking the left and right and Sheltis was behind all of them.
“Oh, it’s quieter than I thought it would be.”
Advancing down the pedway connected to the airship led them to the departures gate on the second floor of the airport. [T/N: 出発 is departure. Don’t know why they’re arriving through a departures gate.]
The information counter and observation seat and everything else in the giant hall were completely empty. The garbage collector and guidance staff that should be working in the hall were nowhere to be seen.
It was a given that machine crystal <Ilis> would question it; there were far too little people around.
“It looks like they reserved the airport.”
“So it’s that an airport with nobody in it provides complete assurance of safety. It’s kind of lonely though.”
They proceeded down the path from the departures gate towards the airport’s main hall. It was a strange feeling that they wouldn’t meet anyone regardless of how much they went ahead.
“Okay, o─kay, everyone, stop. This is the arranged meeting place─”
With that, Ishtar who was ahead came to a stop with a smile.
“A meeting place?”
“That’s right, Ymy-sama, it seems the person acting as a secretary for the Governmental Sector will guide us. ……Oh, maybe it’s that person? That’s them, that’s them. O─i!”
Look around at the surroundings, Ishtar suddenly raised a hand.
A woman of small build in a white suit slowly made her way over. She had slightly drooping eyes with black-rimmed glasses. Her light green hair was cut short.
“Everyone, I’m terribly sorry for having made you wait. I am the Governmental Sector, sector 1, administration department, general affairs division ── diplomatic secretary, Yuragi. Let us have a favorable relationship by all means.”
The woman lowered her head in an exaggerated action.
“Especially towards the Priestess-sama, I would like to extend my gratitude as a representative of the Governmental Sector to you for coming all this way from the distant Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. As you can see, I am the only one that has come to greet you but please forgive it in the name of complete security.”
The Governmental Sector’s guide lines were said in a practiced tone.
“Heh─, so you’re known as Yuragi-san. I’m Ishtar, let’s get along─”
“Yes, let us be amiable.” [T/N: You may notice this sounds strange(?). Emulating the difference in politeness is harder in English since we don’t have set forms.]
Yuragi replied to Ishtar with a business smile.
“Well then, Ymy-sama, I will first guide you to the hotel you will be using this time. The luggage you entrusted to us at the airport has also been carried to Ymy-sama’s room.”
“I-is that so? Thank you very much.”
“That is also our job.”
The secretary pushed on the bridge of her black-rimmed glasses with a smile.
“Today is the day we should commemorate the first time a Priestess has stepped foot upon these grounds……or so I’d like to say, but we of the Governmental Sector do not know how we should react to this situation.”
“……Is that so?”
“We also had thoughts of a grand welcome but there was also the chance we wouldn’t make it in time. Today we have prepared the public hotel on the highest floor of the airport but even that was only reserved yesterday.”
“A hotel reservation!?”
Ymy gulped without thinking in response to the secretary’s words.
“I……I’ve never received such treatment even at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“There are many specialized guards at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> but I don’t believe there is a necessity to bring such excess defenses here. Ishtar-sama’s prowess has also reached the Governmental Sector.”
“Heeh─. But being complimented here makes it scary afterwaaards. Are you planning something?”
“Who knows? That’s not something I of the general affairs division would be privy to.”
She brushed off Ishtar’s doubts with a smile.
“……Somehow, she gives off a very Governmental Sector feel.”
“It’s impossible to know her character?”
“Yeah, well, it can’t be helped if there’s doubt.”
The island with no map. The underground room at the ingeniously hidden facility. And the water tank breeding a Yuugenshu. Whether that would be cleared up would be following the meeting tomorrow but they couldn’t let their guard down at other times either.
Monica who was staying at the General Affairs Bureau Chief’s side approached without a sound. In a suppressed voice low enough that it would be erased by footsteps and wouldn’t be heard at all by anyone.
“I’ll tell you one thing about this female secretary.”
“The first sector……that is to say, she’s a spy for Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> that’s in the central division of the Governmental Sector. She’s part of an important function of the Governmental Sector with the aim of gathering information.”
“Shh, you’re too loud. It’s secret information, so be careful.”
“I get it but……is that for real?”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was dispatching spies to the Governmental Sector. Sheltis had also heard those rumors when he was an Elite Guard but he didn’t think they actually existed.
What’s more, that secretary was one?
Her manner of speaking was good, as well as her manners, and there was no doubt she was a person from the Governmental Sector.
“Since when have you known, Monica?”
“Ymy-sama told me aboard the airship. It’s information nobody other than Cadres Guard Ishtar and the General Affairs Bureau Chief should know so be careful.”
“……What an amazing person.”
Getting into the central division of was already of excessive difficulty.
One wouldn’t be employed by the Governmental Sector’s central division unless they were outstanding and being ordinary wouldn’t cut it when spying and sending information to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
“Now then, Ymy-sama, if we go down the elevator over there, we will soon arrive at the hotel on the highest floor of the airport.”
Whether knowing or unknowing.
The bespectacled secretary at the head of their group wore an unmoving smile.
Public integrated hotel, [Asterhythm]. [T/N: That’s asuterizumu (星夜見). It means “seeing the starry night”.]
The first class lodgings monitored by the Governmental Sector. It was a hotel containing various facilities such an exercise gym in the vast ceremonies hall, a pool as a matter of course and a movie theater and drama stage.
In the lobby. Ymy, who had been led by Yuragi, had just parted with the vigorous handshakes and voices of adoration that greeted her from the managers, chefs, the receptionists at the counter, the garbage collectors and the girls that were part-timing. It didn’t stop at the hall either as workers were lined up all the way to the next path.
“……Oh, my, my?”
Stopping at the gate, Ymy surveyed the gathering of people before her.
……This many people are greeting me?
……But Yuragi-san just said that they barely reserved the hotel.
“All of the hotel staff here have been awaiting Ymy-sama’s arrival. For the purpose of safety, the airport was unstaffed but, of course, we can’t have a hotel without its managers or chefs and other staff.”
“Ah, I see. That’s right!”
“Yes. My apologies, did it surprise you?”
Yuragi was smiling as usual.
“Ymy-sama and Ishtar-sama are this way and the others shall be escorted by the respective person in charge of them.”
“O─kay, well then, Ymy-sama, let’s go this way!”
Being pushed on by Ishtar, Ymy followed after the back of Yuragi who had went ahead.
Room number 700, [Asterhythm].
The instant she opened the room door that was decorated with the hotel’s name, a gentle breeze with the sweet and sour scent of citrus fruits wafted over her hair.
Standing in the center of the living room large enough to play tag in, Ymy once again looked over the room she had been gestured to.
……Even though she was in the room.
……There was a gentle breeze blowing and she could hear the chirps of the island. It was just like──
“Ama─zing! It’s like being in the middle of a huge plain!”
Ishtar who tossed aside the luggage she was holding had her eyes sparkling.
“Say, say, what’s going on, Yuragi-chan!?”
“The gentle breeze is being mimicked through cutting-edge air conditioning settings. The sound of the island is genuine and comes from a parabolic reflector device set up on the floating archipelago <Lagoon>. Also, the ceiling can be made to open and close, becoming a glass dome when open. I believe it is the best room to appreciate a full view of the starry sky.”
The secretary pointed at the ceiling with a shining chandelier.
“Oh─! That’s why it’s on the top floor of the airport?”
“Yes. That’s the selling point of this hotel. Does it meet your fancy as well, Ymy-sama?”
The Priestesses’ private rooms at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> were also made with comfort in mind but she felt that this room was also wonderful from the bottom of her heart.
……When it becomes night, the sky becomes really beautiful.
“Oh my, oh my, Ymy-sama? Your face is so─mehow grinning broadly─?”
“Heh?……Th-that’s not true!”
“Ahaha, it was a joke, a joke. Now then, Yuragi-chan, it’s about time for a serious chat, isn’t it?”
Holding the spear wrapped in cloth under her arm, Ishtar walked to the wall.
“……A serious chat?”
“That’s right. I should tell you soon. First of all, Ymy-sama, concerning my introduction earlier.”
Yuragi pulled out a white card from the breast pocket of her suit. It was a business card that used ink which would only react to reveal color under special lighting.
“Governmental Sector, first sector, administration department, general affairs division as well as Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> [Independent] special duties agency, Yuragi A Sohma. For six days starting today, I will be providing support on Ymy-sama’s special mission.”
“Is there something?”
“N-no!……It’s the first time I’ve spoken with someone from the special duties agency so I was a little surprised.”
Ymy waved her hands in a panic at Yuragi’s extremely deep bow.
The special duties agency was not affiliated with any bureau of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Starting with the Governmental Sector, she’d heard that they gathered information in various places. Meimel had told her that her senior Priestesses knew but it was her first time meeting them.
“If I were to say, it’s far more nerve-wracking for a person to talk to the Priestess-sama like this.”
“……Is that so?”
“Yes, but I’m glad. If I compare Ymy-sama with the other Priestesses, it somehow……feels like you’re not above us but a lot closer.”
Yuragi smiled with her hand to her lips.
“Well then, let’s move on to the main topic──”
“Ah……wa-wait! Umm……well……having that conversation here”
Sitting down on the living room sofa, Ymy looked around her.
This was already the floating archipelago <Lagoon> that the Governmental Sector monitored. What’s more, this hotel was directly linked to the Governmental Sector. It was the same for Yuragi herself; wouldn’t having a conversation related to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> here be bad?
“Umm, well, see……someone could be listening in or something.”
“I checked this morning for the presence of listening devices in this room. Additionally, I brought along jamming equipment, so please be at ease. ……Well, that took a while so I ended up being late in greeting you today.”
Yuragi stood in the center of the living room with her hands spread.
“From today onwards for six days, think of this room as the Tenketsu Palace side’s <our> command center. Bear in mind that the business meetings for the assembly that starts tomorrow as well as conversations about secrets regarding the tower should not be conducted outside of this room. Of course, secrets about the Governmental Sector as well.”
Faced with that sharp gaze behind those glasses, she nodded greatly.
“Thank you very much. So I say but I believe there won’t be many opportunities to have those discussions so Ymy-sama shouldn’t worry about it either.”
Yuragi who’d sat in a chair softened her tone with a smile.
“……Is that so?”
“There are all kinds of expectations mixed into this assembly but the bargains on that end are for the General Affairs Bureau Chief to handle. Ymy-sama’s job is not negotiations but to flaunt your status as a guardian of the floating continent <Orbie Clar>. That will become a heavy pressure on the Governmental Sector more than anything else.”
She held back the impulse to draw away.
The feeling of her cheek being poked with a finger. Ishtar who was supposed to have moved to the wall had sat beside her at some point in time.
“Ymy-sama, you’re bad at being ‘Priestess-like’, aren’t you〜?”
“……Eh……ah, umm, a little.”
While casting her gaze down at the carpet underfoot, she replied normally. A novice Priestess like her conducted training from morning to night every day. The dazzling image she was given was out of the question.
“First of all, for the good will meeting tonight, this hotel’s hall has been reserved for a dinner party. You will also meet the Governmental Sector’s important officers there for the first time.”
“……Being absent from my stomach hurting because of nervousness……isn’t allowed, is it?”
She was refused with a smile.
“Say─ say─, Yuragi-chan? That good will meeting is still hours away, isn’t it. What will Ymy-sama do until then? What are the plans─?”
The secretary pulled out an electronic notebook in response to Ishtar’s interjection.
“I shall guide you through the central part of the island. It is the best way to learn about the Governmental Sector’s rule.”
“There is also that meaning to it, but it’s fine if you just go with the intention to sightsee. I will guide you through a place with many carts and food stalls, so I believe it will be enjoyable.”
“Ah……I see! Meimel said to go because it would be fun.”
“Meimel-sama has come to the Governmental Sector secretly. During that time as well, she was mostly under my care.”
Meimel did?……I didn’t know.
I’d heard that this was the first time a Priestess was publicly visiting the Governmental Sector though.
“Then shall we head out?”
“Ah, please wait a little. Ymy-sama?”
While looking at the electronic notebook, Yuragi pointed at her travel bag.
“Before that, may I have you change your clothes?”
Room number 301, [Lily]. [T/N: The kanji for this is 姫百合. It’s literally “princess lily”. For those of you more informed, the 百合 part is “yuri”. And yes, that kanji combination is -that- yuri.]
It was a room that was separated from the Priestess’ room 700 by two corridors and a large hall. Different from the [Asterhythm] that was meant for guests, regular patrons could lodge here.
“Fumu, fumu, it looks like the layout for the 300 and 400 rooms is roughly the same. Our room as well as the General Affairs Bureau Chief’s room are of the same structure. This is convenient since we know our protege’s room structure and can react to even the one in ten thousand occurrences.”
Gazing at the hotel’s pamphlet, Kagura folded her arms in satisfaction.
“Was this Monica’s idea?”
“I asked them to to accommodate it. I said I’d like for them to be in a room aligned with ours but it’s great that that was granted……Sheltis and Vaiel, come over here as well.”
Monica spread a rough sketch of the hotel atop the table. Using red and blue ink pens, eight room sections were cleanly divided by color.
“First, this 300 room is the General Affairs Bureau Chief’s room and this neighboring one to the left is our room 301. Following that is the private secretary’s room, Sheltis’ room, the clerks’ room and after that──”
“Rather the important part is that the escort and protege’s rooms are mutually aligned, right?”
Vaiel was glaring at the rough sketch with a look like it was a pain.
“If there’s even a slight distrust on the side of either the escort or the protege, there won’t be any contact between the two……well, I don’t think there’s anything.”
“Being careless is forbidden. By the way, Kagura, I’d like to confirm once again.”
Monica slowly took something out from her pocket.
“Yes. There were no listening devices. It’s fine to speak normally.”
The thing that Monica was holding slipped from her hand.
Clack ── a transparent shard hit the top of the table. It looked like a crystal but the shape of its cracks suggested a different object.
“Reinforced glass, I see. If I were to name something like it that’s familiar, it would be the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s windows which are made of the same glass. It has a high value but it is also used in experimental apparatuses like water tanks or flasks.”
Sheltis looked at Monica’s face reflexively upon hearing the term that machine crystal <Ilis> used.
“Monica, is this”
“It’s a fragment of the water tank we found on that island; an answer finally came from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s analysis team last week.”
The group of three consisting of himself, Leon and Monica had gone to the floating archipelago <Lagoon>. It was a fragment from the time they had found the Yuugenshu breeding water tank.
“And this is from the case where Sheltis and Kagura were attacked by the caster Maha.”
Monica pulled out another glass crystal. This was a fragment collected from the Yuugenshu water tank that [Golden] Maha had been protecting.
The two shards fell onto the center of the table. It was reflective almost like a mirror.
“According to the analysis team, the composition of these two is completely the same.”
Sheltis exhaled while slightly biting together his molars.
The Yuugenshu water tank that was suspected to belong to the Governmental Sector and the Yuugenshu water tank that [Golden] Maha was protecting were the same. In the case that the Governmental Sector had set up the Yuugenshu water tank, there was also the possibility that Maha was an assassin of the Governmental Sector.
“……We should also be prepared to receive an attack on this island.”
“It’s fine, Kagura, because you figured out Maha’s techniques that time.”
Sheltis gave a slight nod to the girl with a machine helmet who looked up at him with unease.
“We’ll get through this time too. I’ll also do my best. Okay?”
“Th-that’s right!……I’ll also support you. With that, you understand, right, Vaiel; do the escort properly!”
“Haah? Why are you turning to me?”
“You are the most worrisome. Ah, hey, don’t look the other way and pay attention here!”
“……Ow, owowow! Damn you, don’t just twist people’s necks by force!”
Kagura and Vaiel started to quarrel.
Looking on with an astonished face, Monica sighed.
“……Jeez, there’s no tension at all. Even though we were in the middle of a discussion.”
She combed her forelocks with her hand. While doing that, she let her vision wander in space as though in thought……in the end, the one who spoke first was machine crystal <Ilis>.
“Right, right. Speaking of which, how did it go? The relationship repairing you did with Ymy onboard the airship.”
“W-wait, wait. We weren’t fighting or anything to begin with!?”
She smacked the top of the table in her assertion.
Though with that said, her face from her cheeks to her ears was a brilliant red color.
“A-anyway……we decided that we’d act as before in non-public places.”
“Is that so. I’m glad.”
Before coming here, he had talked with Ymy in advance. That she should treasure the time with Monica on this mission.
“But a mission is a mission and Ymy understands that as well so we’ll hold back──”
Just as she was about to stand from the chair.
The door that should have been locked opened and someone ran in.
“O〜kay. Everyone gather in the lobby, we’re going on a tour with everyone!”
“Come ooon, Monica-san, come quick! We’ll leave you behind if you’re slow?”
Ishtar stood in front of the door and beckoned.
“Yuragi-chan said she’d guide us. There are carts and food stalls and you can eat as much as you want? It’s fine, we can draw out money from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s finances!”
“……My……Our unit’s first mission is……an all-your-can-eat tour……”
“C-come now. The Elite Guard’s saying that, after all.”
For the time being, Sheltis comforted the unit captain that had been moved to tears.
Governmental Sector, central area, Triumphal Arch.
It had been about half an hour since getting on a large transport vehicle when they came to see a large pure white gate shining in the sunlight.
Guessing by sight, the height was four or five metres. The width was well over twice that. Of course, it was a scale that would allow this large transport vehicle and even a large armored vehicle to pass through easily.
“It looks like we’ve arrived, so everyone please exit the vehicle.”
Yuragi descended from the passenger seat at the front and pointed at the large gate.
“The central area is from this gate onwards. If we compare it with the floating continent <Orbie Clar>, this area would be synonymous with the Living Districts and at it’s center is the agency known as the ‘Governmental Sector‘. Around this area is as you know.”
“……That’s a large gate. It’s white and large like Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
Ymy looked up at the pure white gate in front and sighed in admiration.
Maybe it was to avoid standing out in a crowd. Her current clothes were a common sky blue blouse with frills and a white mermaid skirt.
“It is known as the Triumphal Arch. At the time the Governmental Sector moved from the floating continent <Orbie Clar> to this floating archipelago <Lagoon>, it was a gift conferred by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as a proof of friendship. The pure white color is as Ymy-sama stated, it was done in the image of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“Is that so? S-sorry……I’m bad at history like that.”
“It’s fine; that is why the explanation has its worth.”
Yuragi pulled out something that looked like a tourism pamphlet. When he wondered what she was doing, she rolled up that pamphlet ── and pointed towards the path that led on past the Triumphal Arch.
“Let’s begin touring the city immediately. Or so I’d like to say, but we only have to walk straight down this road.”
It was a public road that was wide enough to have a footrace on.
The surface was a glossy black. The materials used to coat the ground also seemed special and the ground’s hardness couldn’t be felt when they walked on it. It was a feeling like walking atop a cushion.
“Such strange materials. Yuragi-san, what does this pavement use?”
“It’s asphalt with chemical fibres woven in. I’ve heard that the Governmental Sector’s development division is gathering data on it as an experimental material. It absorbs the impacts from walking and if a child falls, it’ll only end with a light injury.”
“……That’s quite intriguing. I’ll take a little data.”
Kagura squatted down and poked at the pavement’s surface.
“Kagura-san, it’s fine if you’re staring at the ground but pay attention to the front properly as well.”
Maybe that action was strange. In a rare moment, Yuragi smiled broadly in a natural fashion unlike her usual business smile.
“Yes, to both sides of this road.”
The large public road stretched out into the distance so far that it seemed like a mirage. The countless carts and food stalls that lined both sides of that street were the highlight of the scene.
Of course, there were carts and food stalls selling food and drinks that weren’t seen on the floating continent <Orbie Clar>, as well as flower shops, astrology shops, clothing and accessory shops, and even massage booths. Each of those was decorated with their own unique ornaments, calling out to the tourists that were walking through that public road.
“……Such amazing fervor; you can’t see a crowd of booths like this on the floating continent <Orbie Clar>.”
“Yes. The difference between this floating archipelago <Lagoon> and the floating continent <Orbie Clar> is in that ‘density‘. Ah, you over there, could I get mixed juice for all of us? Include straws.”
Turning to the boy vendor, Yuragi flicked out a pure metal coin.
“This island is only an eighth of the size of the floating continent <Orbie Clar>. Within that small area, the residents, travelers and merchants are gathered so the density naturally became high. ──Yes, thank you. It’s fine if you keep the change as pocket money.”
The secretary took the paper cup with drink the boy was holding.
“Go ahead, Ymy-sama and everyone else. The moon viewing apple and blue lemon juice……because of the climate, neither of them are cultivated on the floating continent <Orbie Clar>.
Let’s see, let’s see ── the instant Sheltis drank the sample half, the pleasant aroma of fresh sourness and faint sweetness spread within his mouth.
……Ah, this is delicious.
This cool and gentle refreshing feeling is something that other drinks fall just short of.
“This tastes good. It’s not too sweet nor too strong.”
“……Hmph, it’s not bad.”
Kagura and Vaiel who had cautiously confirmed the smell had also drank a mouthful and it seemed it had fit their fancy, so they drank a second.
“That’s a relief. There are many other delicious cuisines so please enjoy it so long as it doesn’t affect tonight’s dinner party. ……What I wanted Ymy-sama to know was in fact this.”
Ymy stopped the hand she had the juice in and asked back blankly.
“This scenery isn’t bad, right?”
Yuragi who was walking at the forefront spread her hands in a slight gesture.
The road ahead was overflowing with the fervor of the tourists and vendors and would have anyone’s eyes shining. That scene was not different at all from something that could be seen at the floating continent <Orbie Clar>.
“The Governmental Sector has two sides. The side that acts as a political opponent to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and the other is this. The side that acts to regulate and eagerly strives to preserve this lively townscape. Both of them are real and not a ruse.”
“……Truly, it’s different from what I imagined.”
Ymy who was looking around at the public road nodded with a subdued expression.
“Of course, marking the Governmental Sector as a ‘good thing‘ is premature. But on the other hand, I think that knowing about this side is important.”
“Y-yes. It’s become a really good reference!”
“That’s great. ……You also drank all the juice; the child from before is also delighted.”
Ymy nodded many times. Yuragi took the empty paper cup that she had been holding with a smile and quietly threw it into the collection bin on the side of the public street.
“By the way, about Ymy-sama’s escort”
“Ishtar-san, is it. ……H-huh? Come to think of it, she’s been quiet since a while ago.”
Ymy looked around for the escort that should have been beside her.
“Ah, over there, Ymy, at that child vendor. She’s in the middle of discussing with that kid that sold us juice.”
In the direction that machine crystal <Ilis> had talked about ── the figure of the spear user could be seen handing a coin to the boy Yuragi had bought juice from, receiving juice that was bottled in clear glass in return.
“Okay, onee-chan, two one-litre bottles of the juice from before!”
“Thanks. With this, the souvenir for I’sa-chan is settled, yep. Buying Jin’s portion as well and that’s two bottles. Perfect! Ah, the dry flowers over there are also really beautiful!? That might also be a good souvenir for I’sa-chan!”
Putting the two glass bottles under her arm, she went further and further away.
“……Somehow it feels like she’s really enjoying herself.”
“Yes, but it also feels like that’s fine. Ymy-sama is also in disguise so it would be more unnatural for Ishtar-sama to stick right next to her as an escort, right?”
The Priestess sighed and Yuragi had her arms folded with a wry smile.
“Shall we go find a good bargain like Ishtar-sama?”
She tightened her fists and turned towards her senpai, the ex-apprentice Priestess.
“Monica-senpai, let’s also go with the intention of not losing!”
“Ehh! W-with me!?”
“Didn’t you take me out for shopping together in the past?”
“Th……that’s right but……umm.”
The unit captain let her gaze wander in embarrassment.
“…………Well, it can’t be helped. If that’s also included in escorting.”
The wind blew into the public street. Her sakura-colored hair flowing, Monica took her kouhai’s hand and walked on.
“However, don’t separate from me. It looks like Ishtar-sama is also doing whatever she wants so I have to protect you.”
The two held each other’s hands and walked.
They should be close to them but not at too close a distance and keep watch──
“Ah. Hey, hey, Sheltis, are you by any chance jealous?”
“Not at all.”
“Eh─, but the position by Ymy’s side has been taken. Really? Really?”
Bearing it with a wry smile, he shook his head sideways.
“The one beside her is Monica, a girl. What’s more, she’s Ymy’s senpai, and looking at that great relationship makes me also feel happy.”
“……Well, that laid-back attitude is very like you.”
Machine crystal <Ilis>’ sigh resembled an amazed laugh.
And in a spot a little further away, Vaiel with a tired out face,
“But you know, it’s such a pain to walk on and on. How far are we going?”
“A little more. Somebody with good vision should be able to see it soon.”
Yuragi prompted in the direction the large public road extended.
Above the horizon that her gaze led to, a towering black shadow stood with a grand sea of clouds as its backdrop.
“That is the Governmental Sector. It is the agency that oversees this world’s politics including legislation and the administration of justice and it is the place that everybody will be visiting tomorrow.”
Yuragi narrowed her eyes behind her glasses.
“I believe this is something you’re already aware of but the Governmental Sector was formerly a member of the floating continent <Orbie Clar>. About half a century ago, they contested their respective authorities and it ended up in a separation from the floating continent <Orbie Clar>……it has existed since then as the agency focused on legislation and the administration of justice.”
“However, by splitting up, they also removed the reason for discord. As a result, it repaired their amiable relationship to the current state. ……It’s nostalgic, that was back when I was still a bad kid.”
An elderly person that was standing behind the group looked up. Taking that gaze on directly, the woman who was part of the Governmental Sector smiled.
“It is as the General Affairs Bureau Chief stated. The assembly tomorrow is also for the purpose of promoting deeper friendship. At the very least, that’s what I believe personally.”
Personally. She emphasized that unnatural part. Basically, that was to say that even if she thought that way, above that ── there were those who didn’t think that in the center of the Governmental Sector.
“Umm, Yuragi-san, is it okay if I ask something really fundamental?”
“Yes. It’s just that in actuality, my senses as someone working at the administration department tell me that the consul is a figurehead in the end. In actuality, the ones administrating the law are the former old parliamentary members. ……The three administrators are the three oldest parliamentary members; you could say they act the part of elders.”
The three administrators and the parliament known as the former old parliament with its members.
Those were the top executives that ran the Governmental Sector.
“The ones that will be in charge of the assembly tomorrow are the former old parliament members but the administrator elders should also be present at tonight’s dinner party. It will likely be suffocating for Ymy-sama.”
“Fumu, fumu. Well, putting dinner aside, isn’t it fine if we’re enjoying right now?”
Machine crystal <Ilis> threw in some appropriate response in a nonchalant tone.
At a place away from the group ── two girls were in the middle of walking around the carts.
“Ah, Monica-senpai! I found a rare accessory shop on the other side!”
“Well, wait, Ymy, I’m interested in these fabrics here.”
“But, but, it seems like the accessories over here are special products?”
“Even this plant fibre isn’t available outside of this island──”
Even though they were pointing at completely opposite directions, neither of their hands would let go of the other.
It was like a scene of two sisters with a great relationship.
“……Their relationship was really good, wasn’t it, Monica and the Priestess-sama.”
“Both sides are brats, they’re brats.”
Rather than feeling touched, Kagura and Vaiel were now taken aback.
“Hey, Sheltis, I’m gonna ask again but you’re really not jealous?”
“……That’s why I’m asking, why do you think that?”
Without even bothering to hide his bitter sigh, Sheltis once again looked on over the two from behind.
Returning to her own room, Ymy staggered to and collapsed on the sofa.
“……I-I made it back.”
“Good work today. How was the dinner party? I heard that all the head chefs in this hotel made a full course meal with everything from the menu without discretion for this day.”
Yuragi was looking over a large amount of documents on the table.
After the noon touring ended, it was finally time for the evening dinner party. A good three hours had passed and she had been keeping watch over the room during that time.
“……I was nervous and couldn’t taste anything. It would’ve been great if I could have had Ishtar-san eat in my place.”
“Ishtar ate many things from the carts while walking at noon after all.”
The person in question shook her head with a smile.
Her seat was also prepared in the dinner party but she had just sat there smiling from beginning to end and hadn’t laid a hand on any food.
“Also, it would’ve been problematic if something had been mixed into the food at the dinner party. Even if the hotel’s cook-san has no such intentions, I have to at least consider the possibility of poison in the food.”
“Ehhh!? Say that earlier!”
“Ymy-sama is a guest so you can’t very well refuse the food that you’re offered, right? Ishtar is an extra so it’s fine if she doesn’t eat.”
That’s true but wouldn’t it make somebody suspicious if they’re told that twice?
“That’s why Ishtar didn’t eat. She also considered poison testing by eating ahead of you but that would serve no purpose if the poison was of delayed effect. Rather than having both of you eat and both of you going down, if Ishtar at least is still fine, then she can look over Ymy-sama. Forcing you to expel the poison and such treatments are her specialty.”
“Right? Though I thought it would be fine nine times out of ten.”
She continued on with an indifferent tone.
……I wonder if that was the reason when she was eating while walking at the carts at noon.
Maybe she never had the intention of eating at the dinner party from the start.
“Ishtar-san is quite the outstanding individual.”
Yuragi shut her notebook and smiled.
“Ymy-sama has returned so it’s about time I also return to the Governmental Sector. I’ll be here at nine tomorrow morning to greet you.”
“……The assembly starts at ten, right.”
Forming a fist with her fingers that seemed like they would start shaking, Ymy let out a deep breath.
The former old parliament would be attending from the Governmental Sector’s central division. From Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> would be the General Affairs Bureau Chief and his private secretary. At this place that was specifically for politics and negotiations, she wondered whether she could really fulfill her role.
The Governmental Sector-owned ‘island with no map‘. The mysterious experiment facility and Yuugenshu breeding water tank that Sheltis’ group had discovered there ─── even though they had to cross-examine them about the goal for that.
“It’ll be fine if it’s Ymy-sama. Well then, I’m off.”
Yuragi replied with a calm tone and bowed. She saw off Yuragi who walked out the door with a leisurely pace.
“Ymy-sama, you don’t seem like you’re going to be able to sleep tonight, huh─? Is your heart racing?”
Ishtar removed the cloth wrapping her spear with a swoosh.
“……I was also told that by Meimel.”
“Ahaha, if this was I’sa-chan, then I’d hug her tight and say, ‘It’ll be fine─‘. I wonder if the Priestess-sama wants to do that.”
Beneath the ceiling’s lighting, the spear sparkled by reflecting the light. Pearl-colored metal ── it was a strange material that was rarely used for Guards’ weapons.
“What is iiit? What could the Priestess-sama be interested in─?”
While sitting down in the chair, the Cadres Guard leveled her spear horizontally. There was something about her that had been bothering Ymy since she’d met her.
“Ah, well, you really like your little sister-san.”
“I’sa, you meaaan? Yes, she’s Ishtar’s only family in any case.”
“What about your other family?”
“There are none─. Ishtar and I’sa have been alone since a long time ago.”
A family of just the two of them with no parents or relatives.
“It’s not something Ymy-sama has to apologize for, you know? And look, I’m carrying pictures.”
She rustled her breast pocket and pulled out a single picture.
Faded away by a large amount of time ── it was a picture showing the two blonde sisters.
The older sister was around over ten years old with a bright and cheerful air about her. The younger sister was still four or five. Compared with her older sister, she was more feeble and her expression was darker, leaving a timid impression.
“It’s a picture from almost ten years ago─, and this little girl is I’sa-chan.”
“……Are you possibly carrying that all the time?”
“Of course! I never let it off me!”
She gazed at the crumpled photograph dearly.
“I’sa-chan used to have a weak constitution long ago and would immediately get a fever, you know? On top of that, she was very spoiled and would cry while saying, ‘It’s lonely when onee-chan isn’t here!‘ when Ishtar went out to get her medicine.”
“……It’s somehow a little unexpected.”
“My name is I’sa. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Ymy’s impression of the Regular Guard I’sa was completely the opposite.
A shinryoku practitioner that had become a Regular Guard in their teens and had a promising future. Her manners were good and she was calm with an understanding of the duties of a Guard.
“But she’s become really outstanding now so you should also be reassured as her onee-chan, right?”
“Mm─ that’s……well……I wonder.”
That was really unexpected. Just when she thought that a flat-out agreement would come immediately, she went silent with her spear held against her chest.
“Well, that’s that. Okay then, once more to fix the mood!”
She once again leveled the spear horizontally while seated on the chair.
She thought she would do something but she just stared into thin air with her spear readied. For Ymy who was unlearned in martial arts, it was an unknown action that couldn’t be identified as training.
“U-um. That is”
“This? I’m just maintaining my feel for the spear─; see here. I asked Meimel-sama to add a new shinryoku seal here so the spear’s weight changed.”
The figure of an azure spiral was carved into the spear’s handle.
It was a formal seal that would defend against a Yuugenshu’s mateki as well as destroy the crystal at the center of their bodies.
“……Would that change much?”
“Mm─ well, about forty seven hundredths of a gram, I guess?”
Ymy completely didn’t understand the meaning of Ishtar’s words for a moment.
A change in weight that didn’t even amount to more than half a gram. A weight that wouldn’t even amount to a slight amount of dust stuck together. Rather, it would be okay to write it off as a measurement error rather than calling it a change in weight……no, to begin with, is it possible to even notice such an exceedingly small difference?
“With great reverence and dignity do I carve my name. That’s the path I’ve chosen, Priestess-sama?”
Her red lips whispered something…………or so she felt.
“Huh? Is so─mething up, Ymy-sama?”
Putting her hand on her chest, she blinked many times and then Ymy looked at Ishtar.
“Y-you said something just now, didn’t you? Sorry, saying it that quietly and so fast……”
“Nope─, Ishtar didn’t say anything─”
H-huh. She didn’t say anything?
That shouldn’t……I certainly thought she said something. Also, she seemed like a completely different person for an instant but……that was also a misapprehension?
“Rather than that, Ymy-sama, is this fiiine?”
“See, didn’t you make a promise with Monica-san and Kagura-san that you’d go to the baths together? You said you’d contact them after you returned from the dinner party.”
“Ah……ahhhhhhh, I-I forgooooot!?”
The hotel being reserved also meant that the large bath was reserved.
Without concern for status as a Priestess or Guard, they were going to chat while leisurely warming up with just the women ── that promise as well had flown out of her head due to the relief of having finished the dinner party.
“I-I wonder if it’s still fine. I wonder if everybody’s waiting for me……”
“If you’ve got time to worry, run, run!”
Holding a full change of clothes, Ymy flew out of the room.
“Oh my, oh my, how rushed.”
Looking on at the Priestess that had burst out of the room like a bullet, Ishtar softly loosened the edges of her mouth.
“……Now then, the assembly starts tomorrow─. It’ll be great if it goes well, I won’t say anything. But if not───”
With her pearl-colored spear held out horizontally, she quietly got up from the chair.
“I wonder if there will be a show of force?”
Hotel room 303, [Aster]. [T/N: The kanji here is 紫苑 which is literally purple garden. It also refers to a certain plant called aster tataricus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aster_tataricus.%5D
“Hey, hey, Sheltis─, take me along with your too to the large baths, okay─? Even though Ymy and Monica and Kagura are going, it’s lonely if I’m the only girl being left out.”
He closed the pamphlet he was reading.
He stared down at machine crystal <Ilis> who was rolling around on the desk.
“Isn’t Ilis the one always saying that she’ll break down from being exposed to moisture?”
“It’s fine; I won’t be in the bathtub but in the sauna.”
“But it’s a pity. We’re on lookout while Monica’s not here.”
Ishtar was on standby outside the large baths entrance.
During that time, Vaiel was keeping watch in front of the empty [Asterhythm] room and he who was left in the room was taking on the escorting of the General Affairs Bureau Chief’s group of four.
“Ah─ah, right about now, Ymy’s group is playing around and having fun. ‘A-amazing, Monica-senpai, your waist has tightened even more than three years ago. Can I feel it a little?’, ‘St-stop that, it tickles! Ymy as well, more than before──’. See, it seems fun even just by imagining it.”
“……That’s hard to comment on.”
He couldn’t imagine what girls would talk about, especially in the bath.
“Do they really have those kinds of conversations?”
“Of course, there’s no mistaking it. My previous possessor constantly said it. She had confidence to boast herself as humanity’s strongest in battle and style and when she entered the baths with her friends, they would compare and tease each other as an everyday activity.”
“……What is that unlikeable person you described.”
Just who ─── when he had voiced that much, he tilted his head at the question that he thought of.
“Your previous body?”
“Ah, come to think of it, I forgot. There was a girl I supported before you.”
It was the first he’d heard of this. That machine crystal <Ilis> had a previous possessor before him……no, if he thought about it, there was nothing strange about that. But he had never been told that by machine crystal <Ilis> so now it drew his interest.
“That person hated speaking about herself with others. ‘Don’t talk about me.’ was how I was forbidden to speak. It was about ten years ago so I guess it’s hit the time limit?”
“Would that happen to have been the Queen? When I received machine crystal <Ilis> at the time I became an Elite Guard, it was from the Queen.”
“No, the Queen was just entrusted with me by my previous possessor. My previous possessor was a different person but well, the Queen knows her. It’ll be a long story but would you like to hear it now?”
“……Mm, then I’ll ask later.”
Picking up the pamphlet he’d closed once again, he proceeded to read each line intensively. He was also interested in machine crystal <Ilis>’ story but there were things he should memorize before that.
“Is that the floor map for the Governmental Sector?”
“Yeah, things like the emergency exit paths or barrier locations or the shelters. After that, I have to get as much of the layout of large rooms and whether there are one or two floors or such into my head.”
Of course, he had finished inputting the data into machine crystal <Ilis> before this. However, in real rushes, there wouldn’t be the leniency to ask someone so he’d have to know the location himself or he wouldn’t be able to react.
“How passionate. Is it about the case you talked about at noon?”
Noon at the large public road.
During the time they were being guided by Yuragi and touring, he had had a bad feeling that just wouldn’t go away. It was just like something was lingering over and continuing to observe them ─── a gaze.
It was from a distant location so nobody would know but it wasn’t friendly.
……As I thought, there’s something here.
As proof of that, Ishtar also showed no signs of slackening her vigilance. It was also like that at noon; while she showed off that she was going around the food stands, she kept a set distance from Ymy.
“It looks like stuck in the middle of the enemy’s camp〜. There are enemies in every direction?”
At around the same time.
The stage moves to the open air cafe, ‘Albireo’, in the floating continent <Orbie Clar>’s Living Districts.
At the small bathroom located at the interior of the shop.
A young girl sneezed with an adorable voice.
“Ah─, did the water get cold? Come on, Yuuto, wash the bubbles off your head and get in quickly.”
“……Yuto feels like someone’s spreading rumors about her.”
With shampoo bubbles left on the tips of her black hair, Yuto rubbed her nose.
Secretly smiling wryly at that adorable appearance, the orange-haired girl ── Eyriey slightly shook her shoulders in the bathtub.
“Mm? Ahh, you sneezed because somebody’s spreading rumors about you? That’s been said since a long time ago, hasn’t it. Why is that, I wonder……well, whatever. Anyway, get in. The water really will get cold.”
She raised her shoulders out of the milky white surface of the water and beckoned with her finger.
Hobbling over, Yuto faced the bathtub and jumped in. Normally, it was an action that would cause one to slip but this young girl was sensitive in strange areas.
“Oyo, you still have shampoo bubbles left.”
“Well─ that’s fine, don’t mind it, don’t mind it; it’s better than catching a cold because the water went cold.”
Scooping water from the bathtub with both hands, she poured that on Yuto’s head to remove the bubbles.
“……Still though, Sheltis is at the Governmental Sector, huh. How nice; I’ve never been there either so I’d have liked to go.”
“Governmental Sector?” [T/N: Not sure how to do this. Eyriey uses 統制庁 which is the Governmental Sector. Yuto uses トーセイチョー which is the pronunciation for the kanji (touseichou). It’s a way to show that a person doesn’t understand the meaning of the words (or are faking that they don’t?).]
“Right, right. I’d like to make an airship one day and try going. Me and Yuto and Sheltis, and I also have to invite Shasa-chan……ah─ but it’s so peaceful.”
She scooped up water with both hands and slapped it onto her face to keep herself awake.
……Sheltis just went to the Governmental Sector recently so he won’t be back for a while.
……It looks like Shasa-chan is also busy with her job at the tower.
“My name is Shasa Endens Lin Kale.”
The girl with the old-fashioned name she’d come to know at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. She had met Ymy and Monica with Sheltis as an intermediary but Shasa was the only one that Eyriey had found and befriended herself.
“It’d be great if Yuto could also meet her next time─. Hey, Yuto?……Yuto?”
What’s this, no response?
So thinking, she tried looking in front of her chest and what answered her was a sound of sleeping breaths. Hugging her own chest, the figure of a young girl who’d dozed off was there.
“Aha, it can’t be helped since it’s already late at night.”
Patting her head softly, she looked up absentmindedly at the steam-filled ceiling.
……Come to think of it.
……The place I first met Shasa was also at a bath.
That was about two weeks ago.
The time when machine crystal <Ilis> entrusted her with its own maintenance.
It was around that time when, at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the case where a practitioner that named himself as ‘Golden’ Maha wiped out a unit of Cadet Guards occurred. After that, she’d heard that just Sheltis and Kagura had wrapped up the entire case themselves.
“Ymy and Monica and Kagura are all at the Governmental Sector. If they don’t hurry up and come back, I’ve got nothing to do!”
She sunk her mouth below the water surface and blew bubbles.
Looking at the air bubbles that disappeared upon rising, Eyriey remembered the faces of her friends that were at the Governmental Sector and sighed.