Final chapter and afterword and DONE. Still, that’s like 30-some more pages to go.
Zeadoll, you’re so bad sometimes, it’s hilarious.
EDIT: Accidentally called this final chapter instead of epilogue. Thanks, iceacolyte, for making me notice this blunder xD.
EDIT: If you were wondering at all who Tsali is, there’s your answer.
Right in the middle of the very long Holy Hall.
What broke the excruciating silence was the hushed voice of a woman.
“What are you doing here, ‘Number One‘?”
“A moment of silence.”
Keeping his eyes closed and arms crossed, Zeadoll provided an instant response to his ally’s question.
“Indeed. For this is the first time I have allowed an intrusion of the Holy Hall.”
That’s why he was having a moment of silence. It was good that the heavily armored mechanical weapon and Yuugenshu had been defeated, but it was a fact that it had taken too long. He had permitted the mastermind, Igun-I, to escape.
“I’ve heard the story. It sounds like you let the intruder come in contact with the ‘Crimson Eye‘ and escape after that. Even the senate is viewing it as a problem. By the way, ‘Number Nine‘ was roaring with laughter.”
“Fumu, I am prepared for punishment. ……I’ll hit ‘Number Nine‘ later.”
“He’s out at the moment.”
“‘Number Nine‘ is out on a trip?”
“He said he had something to look into. He took along his subordinates and just disappeared.”
“So he just left the Governmental Sector without permission. ……Come to think of it, he investigated something with ‘Mikuva’s Crimson Eye’ a little while ago. When he comes back, I’ll ask him. With that out of the way──”
He slightly opened one eye.
He didn’t look at the ‘Number Seven‘ standing to his side but the Holy Hall ahead of him.
“I have an idea about that punishment. So ‘Number Seven‘, how about we try trading charges? You guard the Holy Hall and I’ll watch over yours……”
“Don’t mess around.”
An angry……more like an astonished tone. He didn’t know what face she had on but her expression was likely the same as the ambiance of her voice.
“Like I’d remain in this damp and humid place for even a day. You stay here for your lifetime.”
“I don’t mind that. But breathing the air outside is also a good thing once in a while. There are warriors like that at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“You mean Ishtar?”
The Cadres Guard that had been dispatched from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as the Priestess’ escort. It wouldn’t be weird for her to become a Sennenshi at any time. There were even people at the Governmental Sector that were wary because it was more unnatural that she hadn’t.
“Umu. But he was skilled. More than that, his eyes showed determination. There are warriors like that in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
He let out a breath.
“In my personal opinion, there may be a path to reconciliation with Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“That’s a different matter.”
The ‘Number Seven’s‘ voice cut him off decisively.
“Come to think of it, why are you here, ‘Number Seven‘?”
“I just came to see the vestiges of battle. I came thinking that I might be able to gauge the enemy’s skill but……”
Roughly half of the pillars supporting the ceiling were completely damaged and it was harder to find something that was undamaged. Cracks of various sizes ran across the ceiling and there were large depressions in the ground here and there.
“……It looks to me like all of these traces are yours, you know?”
“I’m bad at holding back.”
This damn destructive demon ── he felt like he heard the ‘Number Seven‘ mutter that, but he ignored it.
“Even if you’re worthless, you’re still of ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘. I’ll lend you the necessary people to repair this place.”
“How foolish. I won’t accept other people’s help to clear my own responsibility.”
“I won’t know anything if you cry and regret those words, okay?”
“……I guess I’ll depend on you.”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, Floor 65.
The terminal late at night. Glancing at the few night shift workers in the airship control room, it was the time that even the airships, guidance lighting and electronic bulletin board were put to rest──
In the terminal that was virtually deserted, a single girl ran over with her golden hair fluttering.
Ishtar’s face lit up after she descended from the airship. She forcibly hugged to her chest the Regular Guard girl who’d run over.
“Waa, there, there. Has I’sa-chan been a good girl? Onee-chan was so, so worried that bad men would hang around you while she wasn’t here!”
“O-Onee-sama……I-I can’t breathe. L-Let go!”
“No─pe. I’ll hug you a whole week’s worth.”
The older sister held fast and would let go of her struggling little sister.
“W-wait a second, please, onee-sama. I have to greet the Priestess-sama first. And……I heard that Golden <Maha> attacked the Governmental Sector.”
“Ah, that’s right. There might be something like that.”
“Priestess Meimel-sama and boss……I mean, Captain Ran and the Instructor with a few others. They were eager to hear about the circumstances upon onee-sama’s return. They’re already waiting in the meeting room.”
“Ehhhh!? I thought I could finally take a break……”
Ishtar’s shoulders drooped in disappointment.
“Then I’ll go on ahead. Onee-sama, please come afterward.”
“‘Kay─…………we’ll do this again later, I’sa-chan.”
The older sister weakly waved her hand as she watched her little sister leave. Or so it seemed, but her little sister turned around and bowed spiritedly.
“Now, Ymy-sama, thank you for your hard work!”
“Ah……y-yes! Thank you for your hard work; I’m really thankful.”
“No, no, Ishtar should be the one thanking you.”
“Ah, just talking to myself─. Rather than that, you should thank them too.”
……Monica-senpai, Kagura-san and Vaiel-san.
In a place a little ways off, the exhausted General Affairs Bureau Chief’s group and the Cadet Guards defending them. The three’s expressions seemed to be saying, “Finally”, as they carried the General Affairs Bureau Chief’s group’s luggage without saying much.
“Ymy-sama…………well then……we’ll part ways here……”
“For I as well……guarding the……General Affairs Bureau Chief’s……group until the end is……my job……”
Their parting words were just like an incantation.
“……Everyone’s tired so I don’t think it’s a good time to thank them.”
“Right─. Monica-san’s unit had that as their first mission and it’s the first time the General Affairs Bureau Chief has experienced an attack of that magnitude first-hand, right? Well, everything’s an experience.”
Ishtar’s laughing voice resounded throughout the floor.
……I’m no match for her.
She hadn’t slept a good amount for several days and even had a harsh fight with Golden <Maha> at the end, but she still had leftover energy.
“Well then, Ishtar will also head to the meeting room. They’re waiting without getting sleep.”
“Th-that’s right. It sounds like there are some great people at the meeting room.”
“I meant I’sa-chan!”
“It would be terrible if the cute I’sa-chan were to lack sleep so I’ll end this meeting or whatever in five minutes! Ahh, jeez, to have a little sister that waits for her onee-chan until this late at night, Ishtar is the happiest person in the world. This excess happiness might make me lack sleep tomorrow too───”
She spoke heatedly with a clenched fist.
“Mm, what’s the matter, Ymy-sama?”
“No, ……what should I say. I feel like I also understand I’sa-san’s feelings. Even though you looked cool when you protected me from Golden <Maha>.”
The light in her eyes seemed like it would cut you with just a touch and her voice was low.
It was a little scary but when she stood between them and Golden <Maha>, she had unapproachable majesty and pride.
It was the same since she’d met her at the terminal several days ago. What was this slack state of hers?
“I feel like I’d like to see the cool Ishtar normally too.”
“Ahaha, I’sa-chan also says that oftenn. She says that no matter how much it’s to make people let down their guard, onee-sama is playing innocent too much. Ymy-sama, you also think that?”
The Cadres Guard smiled embarrassedly with her tongue poking out.
In response to that childish way of feigning ignorance.
“Yes, if you had asked me up until yesterday, I would have thought so but──”
Ymy shook her head with a smile.
“When you’re fighting is the exception and this right now is your true self, right? It’s not you playing innocent.”
Her eyes suddenly sharpened.
“I remember our conversation back at the hotel quite well.”
“I’sa, you meaaan? Yes, she’s Ishtar’s only family in any case.”
“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.”
She took one step towards Ishtar who was staying silent.
The tall woman stared down at her and she stared up at her expression.
“It might have been really hard to look after the previously sickly I’sa-chan that well. ……That’s what I thought. It’s not something that can be done easily with a simple reason like her being your precious little sister. Your happy face as you talk about I’sa-san can’t be you playing innocent.”
In place of a mother, a heartwarming smile was needed to comfort her little sister who was sickly as a child.
In place of a father, dignified strength to protect her frail sister was required.
Both sides could be said to be her. However, if it came down to a question of which one was her true self──
“There are probably a lot of people that are mistaken.”
“……That’s why I don’t like you; just when you’re playing innocent, you suddenly reveal your true colors.”
Those words that Sheltis said.
A large amount of the Guards thought the same.
“The Guards probably have great respect for the position of Cadres Guard. They can naturally imagine that you’d ‘be like this‘. That might be why they feel a sense that your usual carefree attitude is out of place. They think that it doesn’t suit the image of a Cadres Guard, it’s to have the enemies let down their guard.”
“But that’s wrong. When you’re fighting is the exception and I think that the motherly and kind Ishtar-san when with I’sa-san is closer to your true self.”
……I somehow have a feeling that I understand.
She was good at looking after kids and also at making meals and snacks.
Even if the given reason was to look after I’sa-chan, the truth is……isn’t the truth just that she likes those things?
“I just want you to answer me one thing. This is……a really personal question but, Ishtar-san, you didn’t really want to become a Guard, did you? For example, maybe you would have rather been a kindergarten teacher, a housekeeper, cake store owner or something similar?”
But she had chosen the path of a spear user.
Because there had been something more important than the road she wanted to take.
“I want to confirm that more than anything else.”
She said nothing, her lips remaining a line.
“Who knoows? Ishtar’s an idiot so she’s already forgotten things from so long agoo.”
She slowly turned her back towards her with a half-spin.
“Ah, w-wait! Wait──”
“See ya, Priestess-sama! Here’s one more thing from me. I understood over the four day period we were together but he really does suit Ymy-sama like I thought.”
Who is that?
“That’s right, I wonder how many years it’s been. I’ve heard Ymy-sama’s name before, you know?”
The Cadres Guard looked over with a sharp gaze and the corners of her mouth tilted up.
“‘She’s an apprentice Priestess right now, but Ymy will definitely become a Priestess. That’s why──’”
“Y-yeah. That’s why……?”
“‘It’d be the biggest issue for the tower if there were a mischievous, scatterbrained Priestess, so I have to be a Sennenshi to look after her.’”
“E-he-he. It’s a secret as to who said it〰. Well then, Ymy-sama, see ya─”
The Cadres Guard started to leave. She watched her go without being able to say anything.
It was then that the airship door behind her opened.
“Ah─……jeez! Monica and Kagura and Vaiel! How unfair of them to leave their luggage behind because they’re tired! Does this mean I have to carry this all myself!?”
“It’s your last job.”
Four peoples’ worth including his own and his three comrade’s. The boy she knew ran down the steps with nothing but travel bags loaded on his shoulders.
She looked at him blankly and blinked.
“Just standing there like that, did you forget something?”
“I found him.”
In front of her childhood friend who was looking at her face, she clenched her fist.
Ymy shouted with her face bright red.
“You’re the one who said it! J-just……who’s a scatterbrain────!?”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, Floor 291, ‘Paradise‘.
While it was a floor of the tower, there was no ceiling nor walls. The unobstructed white night sky spread overhead and the azure ice walls spread out to the distance below.
Even the body’s warmth.
Even memories, consciousness and anything else, all would freeze in this world.
All manners of protection from the cold were meaningless. All creatures, all substances and Yuugenshu. It was a world of ice which could freeze everything without exception.
“The fifth Priestess has just returned from the Governmental Sector.”
She was at the center of this world.
“Ymy Ele Soufflenictole. Even though I took the time, she still can’t hear the Forbidden Crystal’s voice. She couldn’t handle the plan I blessed her with……what a worrisome girl.”
She combed her glossy black hair with her hand.
Clinging tightly to her long and slender arm was a pitch black vestment which faithfully mirrored her curvaceous body.
Wrapped in the vestment tailored specifically for her, the woman smiled faintly.
“Right? It’s just like a certain somebody from the distant past.”
In the middle of that area surrounded by the ice walls that spread out.
That voice came from the interior of a particularly large Hyouketsu crystal.
“Unfortunately I have no recollection of who that could be, so I wonder who it could be?”
Mature ── compared to that, it was the voice of an extremely young girl.
“Oh, so you were awake.”
“You were too loud so the shinryoku wavelength is getting disrupted. ……What are you going to do if a Yuugenshu manages to penetrate the barrier?”
“The supervisor of this tower, Queen Salah, would have her shinryoku disrupted with just this?”
Those words could be said to be cool-headed, but her tone remained intimate to the end.
“Even if the Yuugenshu rise to the surface, there is a suitable person to subjugate them.”
“……Sheltis Magna Yehle.”
“And there’s also Ilis for that purpose. It looks like that stubborn machine’s calculation abilities haven’t declined. There’s no problem with practical use.”
“Ilis is energetic. She seems to have devoted herself to support to make up for losing her body as a machine god. It’s praiseworthy. Even though when she was supporting you, she didn’t really support and kept complaining, but she’s now……sometimes dedicated to the point of causing me unease.”
Tsali’s lips stiffened for the first time with those words that reverberated from within the ice. She silently clenched her right hand that had languidly lowered.
“That’s not something I can comment on. ……Well, to begin with, that stubborn machine was more of a meddler than a machine god. It’s a little boring for me though.”
“She was a good quarreling opponent for you, after all. ──Mikuva the machine god who stood against a few million Yuugenshu alone. The strongest and final incomplete god-class machine to which the last hope of humanity was entrusted.”
“The problem is the two right now, right? What do you think about the essential part from your point of view?”
A curtain of silence descended upon the world of ice.
Invisible airflow. With a surge that couldn’t be called the wind or a blizzard, Tsali’s hair fluttered and after the time for that flowed forever. [T/N: Think “forever in an instant”.]
“It still won’t reach. The deepest part of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> still won’t answer.”
That was the answer the Queen gave.
“Sheltis Magna Yehle and Ymy Ele Soufflenictole ── the one chosen by the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>’s mateki and the one who inherited the Baptism of Amaryllis. I wonder if they will live up to expectations.”
“That is dependent on them.”
“It’ll take some time until things start up.”
“Yes, I’m counting on you for continued surveillance. I will contact you if there is a change with the Forbidden Crystal.”
“Contact, huh……ahh, that’s right. Speaking of contacting, I have one other thing to convey.”
Tsali’s foot that had spun on its heel came to a halt. With a fearless smile that could be seen as provocative spread broadly on her face,
“The third organization attacked the Governmental Sector’s ‘Crimson Eye‘. Those big-shots ── the Lords of Unusual Books are also moving, so Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> should be prepared for hindrances if they get near the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. I’ve confirmed five people from the Lords of Unusual Books and they’ve gathered a really interesting bunch of members. As far as I could intercept from their telepathy, pillaging Priestesses is also within their plans.”
“So you mention such an important plan as an afterthought.”
The voice that answered was shocked.
“I’ll leave the troublesome things to you. This tower is like your child, right? You deal with it.”
“I will overcome the obstacles. I will absolutely reach the deepest part of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>.”
“──It’s time; I have plans so I’ll be going.”
And she turned around once again.
Her black hair that covered her back spread like wings and, with her pitch black vestments, hid her body from view.
“Business? How unusual. What kind of business?”
“What, you ask, well that’s──”
After her black hair that resembled black wings had tapered to a point.
“I have a promise to play with Eyri-nee ♪”
Her innocent young voice echoed throughout the floor called Paradise.