So I was on a fishing trip for a week and didn’t post aaaaanything. Did anybody think I went into a coma again?
Here’s another code:
EDIT: It’s gotten a little bit busier with university starting again…
EDIT: A few issues with the editor lately…it started getting rid of the <Rosario> and <Knuckle Dusters> stuff because of the delimiters around it. Only happens in text mode though because I started copy-pasting it into there so I don’t have to manually take care of all the italics changes. I’m gonna switch back to just manually doing the italics…it’s so much work to replace all the other stuff.
EDIT: In addition to posting it here, I’m throwing up a pure raw format on Pastebin to get around issues that may have arisen from putting this through WordPress. It might also help people that are transcribing this to Baka-tsuki. http://pastebin.com/xCkBgLtQ.
All individuals ── make preparations and be on standby for an urgent mission from the executives.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, floor 11.
The Cadet Guard residences were filled with nervousness because of the proclamation from the Guard Regulation Institute.
“An urgent mission announcement, huuuh. Ain’t there some more suitable unit other than us for that kind of exaggerated thing? We’re a newbie unit that’s only completed one mission since we formed.”
“That’s for the Instructor to decide. The opponent is a Yuugenshu so the main force will be Regular Guards and the Cadet Guards shall act as support. Depending on the details, we might be recommended by the Instructor.”
Vaiel advanced down the hallway quickly and just behind him was Kagura.
A recommendation from the Instructor ── in the case of a large mission for units of Regular Guards or above, Cadet Guards were chosen as support for them.
“Support, huuuh. I’ll pass on participating in that kind of pain-in-the-ass cooperation.”
“This is my opinion, but I don’t think we need to worry about that.”
Kagura said that while confirming something on the floating machine pearl <Machina>’s screen.
“If we are recommended by the Instructor, it will not be for communications coordination or as a medical squad but as a direct addition to the Regular Guards’ unit. In other words, a Yuugenshu battle mission.”
“Wha……like hell there’s support like that! Ain’t that why it’s a Regular Guard job?”
“It’s rare but there have been cases of orders like that being handed down. On the other hand, there is no chance of us being called out for any missions other than that.”
Units each had their own specialties. Taking that into consideration and recommending the unit most suited to a necessary support mission was the duty of the Instructor.
“Other units cover coordination and medical issues and there was a deciding battle for determining which unit would participate in the expedition to the Governmental Sector, right? In that decisive battle, Nash’s unit should have been exceedingly above us. Because they have a wealth of experience.”
“……What a hapless recommendation.”
Holding onto his blue steel Iron Fist Protector’s , Vaiel looked tired to the core.
“In exchange for that, the merit points are high. Though there’s still hope as long as you’re alive.”
“And where’s the all-important captain?”
“Already on standby. It’s just that they said they’d be taking a detour, so I assume they’ll arrive after that’s done with.”
“A detour? They’re damned relaxed for being on standby. Just where did they take this detour?”
Kagura pointed at the ceiling in response to Vaiel’s stunned expression.
“Floor 288, the floor of the second and third Priestesses.”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> floor 287, emergency stairs.
“Sheltis!? You said to follow you but you’ve just been running along the emergency stairs this whole time.”
“Sorry, Monica, just hurry! We’ll talk later!”
The space was dimly lit by only the emergency lighting. The pair’s footsteps continued to echo in the emergency stairwell which was filled with cold air.
“You said floor 288, so Meimel-sama and Viola-sama’s floor?”
“That’s right, but those two aren’t who we’re aiming for.”
The blinder-wearing Ex Machina. She was versed in using every gun and a shooter who was overshadowed by nobody in sniping long distance targets.
“I don’t understand where you’re going with this!?”
“I’ll explain later so just follow me for now!”
A badge’s ID was necessary to activate the elevator specifically for the Priestess floors. If they used the elevator now, it would become apparent that they were ignoring the standby order from the Guard Regulations Institute.
Running up the winding stairs, he jumped over the last step. He pried open the door before his eyes……
“Just how much will you get in my way……Ymy Ele Soufflenictole!”
Floor 288 lay beyond the door.
When he took one step in, what Sheltis saw was ── Horn who was facing the elevator which led to the surface floor and Ymy who stood before her.
“Get out of the way and disappear from my sight.”
“……No. I cannot allow you to go alone. You should know just how fearsome the Yuugenshu you are pursuing now is.”
“Are you saying that while knowing that I’m a Sennenshi? Are you saying that a Sennenshi is inferior to a single Yuugenshu?”
“This is not a discussion about being inferior or not. It is because you are a Sennenshi that you should uphold the rules more than anyone else.”
The Priestess held both hands out and obstructed the Sennenshi.
Even while being pierced by Horn’s gaze as she approached menacingly, Ymy resolutely remained in that spot.
“A Sennenshi is a Priestess’ partner. While Viola is within the tower, it is your duty to be accompany her.”
“A Yuugenshu has appeared and it is also a Sennenshi’s duty to defeat it.”
“Then please take along your unit. ……When Hyouketsu Kyoukai was broken, you, Ran, Leon and the others did that when holding them back. You absolutely did not fight alone.”
“The situation is different. The opponent is only a single Yuugenshu. Rather than waiting for my subordinates to gather, I will handle it myself. It is my decision as the captain so there are no problems with tower regulations.”
“I’m saying that I’m afraid of how you think of it as ‘only a single Yuugenshu‘.”
Ymy continued while staring at Horn without blinking.
“……I have experienced it first-hand, so I can say this. There are really Yuugenshu that cannot be opposed with the strength of a person. It is too dangerous to underestimate the Yuugenshu.”
“Then are you underestimating the Sennenshi?”
The Sennenshi went past anger and sighed.
“For a Priestess who should be the one that most trusts the Sennenshi to make light of them like this.”
“You’re wrong. I──”
He looked on at that scene while pressed up near the emergency door.
Clenching his right hand to the point of whiteness, Sheltis nodded with his breathing ragged.
……I know. This isn’t an argument that a Cadet Guard like me can go out and stop.
He and Monica were no more than ten metres away from Ymy and Horn. Even with her back turned, Horn should have noticed them and Ymy was facing them so she must have seen them.
……But from their points of view, we’re not related to this.
A Priestess and Sennenshi were seriously clashing opinions. This was not something that would be resolved by a third party like himself or Monica interjecting.
But. Just before that.
“……That’s enough, Ymy Ele Soufflenictole.”
Horn’s air of intimidation expanded explosively. The feelings mixed into each word had surpassed anger and were close to hatred.
“Don’t go? Don’t chase it? Don’t underestimate Yuugenshu? Who are you to say these things?”
Horn reached out to Ymy’s collar and tugged her face closer like that.
“To begin with, you and Tessha……”
Even with her vestments being grabbed, Ymy’s words didn’t stop.
“It would not have come to this if I could have purified that child’s mateki. That my words would not reach you because of that……I was prepared.”
……Normally……no, really, Monica and I.
……We might have jumped out when Ymy was grabbed.
The reason Sheltis and Monica had not done so and continued to stand there was because Ymy was nothing but resolved.
Even while being held by the collar and showered with harsh words, the Priestess was not wavering.
“I’ve also been doing my best this whole time. You may have said that I went to the Governmental Sector on a sightseeing trip but I went there with the intention of gaining many things. There are things I would not have gained without going to the Governmental Sector and things I could not do without having gone.”
“Aren’t you talking big.”
Horn put strength into the hand holding the Priestess’ vestments.
“And what exactly did you manage to gain?”
“……I will once again try to purify that child’s mateki. If that fails, then I will accept any insults or act.”
“Then quit being a Priestess.”
Was the limit for Sheltis and Monica who were watching so as to not disturb the equilibrium of that place──
He had been about to wordlessly run out but he stopped.
……Why. Why……are you looking at us with those kinds of eyes?
Monica and even machine crystal <Ilis> were at a loss for words. “You mustn’t come here.” was the message conveyed by Ymy’s eyes.
“……You mean to make me leave the tower.”
“You’re the one who said you would accept any act, aren’t you?”
The Sennenshi looked down at the Priestess with her blinder-covered eyes.
“A Priestess who can’t even save a single child is unnecessary. I’ll pass on being satisfied with just having a Priestess who’s there to fill in the numbers and fails big time at the crucial times. In that case, it would be best not to have her from the start.”
“Understood. I will bet everything I have as a Priestess.”
“───Are you insane?”
“However, I also have a condition.”
“” [T/N: The heck am I supposed to put for only a っ…that thing makes absolutely no sound on its own.]
For the first time, Horn stirred even if ever so slightly. That was because the girl who had only been held by the collar was now holding her wrist with all her strength.
──She’s looking at…………Monica and I?
Figuring out the meaning of that gaze, Horn turned towards them.
“What about them?”
“You……you will travel together with the unit of senpai whom you called useless. Monica-senpai is absolutely not useless.”
“……! W-Wait, Ymy.”
Before Monica herself could speak up, Horn rebuked,
“Don’t screw around. Travelling with somebody I know is baggage──”
“I’m not screwing arouuuuuund!”
Ymy’s angry roar turned into a sound wave and shook that floor.
“I won’t lose to mateki and Monica-senpai is not baggage!”
Holding fast to the arm grabbing her collar, the Priestess girl returned a glare.
“Even though I’m saying I will bet everything I have as a Priestess but I’ll reject it if you don’t accept my one condition. ……When I went to your treasured orphanage, all the children there said that they really loved you. That you are strong and kind and they really love you. But that’s wrong: you’re just a weakling who can’t love anybody except for the children from the orphanage!”
A crack developed in the iron expression the Sennenshi had been keeping until now.
“……And if so?”
Horn distorted her mouth unpleasantly and she spat out.
“I’m a weakling? Even if that’s true, are you trying to say you’re not putting on airs!?”
The hand before Ymy’s neck tightened even more and,
“Okay, okay, that’s no gooood─, any more and the Priestess’ vestments will tear. Horn-chan, did you have an interest in such things?”
Surarii ── as quickly as if that onomatopeia could be heard, Ymy’s vestments slipped through Horn’s fingers.
“Ehh, ah. Huh?”
Ymy who was suddenly free again stared in wonder with a confused expression.
“Hey there, it’s been a while, Horn-chan. Been wellll?”
The person who had released Ymy’s constraints was smiling aloofly.
The Sennenshi she was facing also showed a rare obvious grimace. It seemed to be saying that somebody annoying had shown up.
“Oh─, there, there. It’s been rough on you, Ymy-sama─. Did it hurt─?”
“Ah. So─rry, I just treated you like I’sa-chan. ……Ahaha, well, pay it no mind.”
“──What are you doing, Cadres Guard?”
Horn revealed her displeasure at the sudden intrusion and drew closer. Both of them were as tall as grown men and their eyes were at about the same height.
“No, no, Horn-chan, you’re being scaaary.”
“Don’t play dumb. Even if it’s you, I have the higher standing──”
“Eh─? Unfortunately for you, this was a request from your onee-san? When the blood rushes to her head and she won’t listen to anybody, it might work if it’s you, Ishtar-san, is what she told me.”
“Oh? As expected, you falter when Viola-sama’s name comes up─? Fumu, fumu, heeeh, heeeh.”
“Cadres Guard, I would prefer it if you were to simply state your business?”
“Mm─. My business was just to cool Horn-chan’s head so I think I’ll call that okay. Rather, don’t you not have much time? That Yuugenshu you’re searching for might conceal itself at any time.”
Fwoosh. Ishtar’s left arm which had a little bit of bare skin peeking out rose up and came to a stop pointing in their direction.
“It’s a waste of time arguing here. You two, how about you go along with her like Ymy-sama said?”
“If Horn-chan defeats the Yuugenshu then there’s a chance that that child’s mateki will also disappear. If so, then the first thing should be for you two to go with her and defeat it. If the mateki happens to disappear, then all the better. Ymy-sama betting her position as Priestess on purifying will come after that. How about it?”
“……I have my misgivings. Taking along unnecessary Cadet Guards for exterminating Yuugenshu is against the tower’s regulations as well─”
“They are useful.”
Completely opposite Horn who was talking on and on quickly, Ishtar had a pleasant and calm tone.
“I said they are useful. It wouldn’t be a problem bringing them along. They’re perfect subordinates for Horn-chan who only likes outstanding subordinates.”
The Cadres Guard showed a daring smile. The Sennenshi stared at that expression enough to burn a hole in it. Time passed with both of them maintaining their silence──
“Excuse me, Captain Horn.”
Monica who had been silent until now interposed between the two who were staring at each other. She took out her silver plate-shaped badge and put the LCD screen on its back before Horn’s eyes.
She thrust out the LCD screen with that displayed.
“A recommendation from counter-measures HQ? You can’t mean that you”
“Just now, we received a request to deploy from headquarters. In accordance with the recommendation from the Instructor, myself and three others shall be rightfully participating as the supporting unit for this case. With this, there should be no issue.”
The Sennenshi closed her mouth and was silent.
“Truthfully, I cannot understand what is ‘useful‘ about you.”
“I have directly received such great trust from Ymy-sama so I will do my best. Also──”
She exchanged looks with Ymy who was restraining herself.
“If we defeat the Yuugenshu and that child’s mateki disappears, then the talk of Ymy quitting being a Priestess also ends. To that end, I intend on accompanying you no matter what.”
“……So you’re of the same opinion as Ishtar.”
Horn muttered with a voice that let no hint of her feelings in.
“So, how about it, Horn-chan?”
“Time is precious.”
Twisting the corner of mouth unpleasantly, she took out her communications device from the holder at her waist.
“It’s me, put Catria on the line. …………Catria. It’s me, is the gun maintenance I asked for complete? I’ll be heading over within four hundred seconds from now so place those two and the other gun I handed to you on my transport. The crew members will be me──”
Horn turned her head halfway to them.
She looked appraisingly at Ishtar, Ymy and finally Sheltis, then gave a long, long sigh.
“……And a single Cadet Guard unit. No, you’re not mistaken and I didn’t say the wrong thing; I will be acting together with a single Cadet Guard unit. Got it? If you get it, then hurry up and prepare with the remaining three hundred eighty seconds.”
At the open-air cafe, ‘The Twins Swans <Albireo>‘.
“Yuto-cha─n, take this cake set here to table five─. Eyriey, you take table seven’s order. After that, clean up table nine and prep table ten.”
“O-Okayyyyyy! A-Aren’t we too busy, Head Chef!? I’m hopeless at this kind of physical laborrrrr!”
The adorable answer from Yuto was contrasted by Eyriey’s shout that bordered on becoming a scream and echoed across the kitchen.
The time was right at noon.
It was the time that they became busy with customers lured in by the smell of the cooking from the kitchen.
“I-It’s already noon! I made a promise to play with friends after noon, you know!?”
“You’re meeting them here, right? Then work hard until your friends get here. Come now, I’ll even pay you double time. Yuto-chan, watch and learn.”
With Sheltis gone, Yuto had now completely become the main helper in the store.
At first, she had just been helping as far as wiping down tables but now she was an all-purpose helper than even took customers’ orders and delivered food.
“Hey, hey, Eyri-nee! Yuto was praised by the customers as amazing!”
On each arm was two plates of a cake set and coffee. On top of that, she had a large tray on her head and she had another table’s lunch set consisting of three plates on there, so it was surprising.
“Eyriey, take a lesson from her as well.”
She headed out into the shop from the kitchen while holding a large tray.
“Ugeh, what a big line……”
The line that couldn’t fit into the store was lined up outside the store in a coil.
With the refreshing chime of the front door bell, the door of The Two Swans opened. Another customer? Everyone thought that and turned their eyes in that direction──
The store interior seemed to have become separated from the flow of time as it turned silent.
A single girl entered.
Wearing a simple and plain shirt and skirt, she was petite and had slender limbs. She had a face that still had youth left in it and she was just a little under Eyriey in height. She was not any older than her late teens. At best, she was thirteen or fourteen.
──Everybody forgot words and gulped.
──Her gem-like beauty could even be called a fantasy.
“……Umm, is Eyriey-san here?”
Her moist eyes that seemed sorrowful were a vivid azure.
Her skin was white like porcelain and there was not a blemish upon its smooth surface. And the most eye-catching thing about her was her long hair which extended to below her knees.
Just like seven-colored silk thread, it changed colors beautifully as it fluttered.
The color of reflective water ── with a translucent silvery white like ice as its base, the parts that light passed through shined with a compound color made with pearl and gold.
“Ohh, Shasa-chan. Been a while!”
At Eyriey’s voice, the majority of the customers finally came back to their senses.
“It has been a while. ……I’m sorry, it has been a long time since I came to the Living Districts so I was a little lost. Am I late?”
“No─pe, actually you’re right on time. Wait a sec, I can get off work so I’ll just go tell the Head Chef! Ah, you can sit there at that reserved seat!”
The girl sat in the chair with a wide smile. Just that small action gave the impression of an impressive painting by a first-class painter.
“He─y, Head Chef, my friend’s here so can I go─?”
“Oh my, it can’t be helped. By the way, your friend wouldn’t happen to be Sheltis, would it?”
“Nope. I met her while walking around observing at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and we got along. She’s amazing; she has the entirety of the tower memorized.”
“Ohh. If it’s a secretary from the tower, then I might have met her once before.”
What does that mean? While Eyriey’s mouth was hanging open, the apron-clad Head Chef trotted from the kitchen to the store interior──
From the direction of the store came the dumbfounded voices of the two.
“Oh my. What’s thiiis, it’s been a whiiile! I was wondering who it was but it’s Salah──”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Shasa.”
“Please refer to me as Shasa.”
After a little while, an uncommon wry smile appeared on the Head Chef’s face and she returned.
“Oh, hey, hey, Head Chef, do you maybe know Shasa? It sure sounded like it!”
“……………………No. I don’t know her at all.”
“What was that unnatural pause!? Hey, wait, don’t turn away!”
“Well, never mind, never mind. So, Eyriey, you’ll be eating with her and then going to play, right? I have two peoples’ portions prepared.”
Sandwiches with plenty of seasonal vegetables used and onion soup in a mug. For after the meal was bite-sized cakes and milk tea.
“Ohh! So with that, sorry for the wait, Shasa!”
She stared at the lunch set upon the table as if it were novel.
“Ah……nothing. I always only have meals from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> so it’s a little different.”
“Hohoh, now that you say it, there is a dining hall at the tower.”
“There is a dining hall but I have my meal carried to my room. And it’s been a while since I had something solid like this. I’ve at most had black tea with honey added.”
“Geh. That’s no good, Shasa, that’s why you’re so thin!”
“Thin……that’s right, isn’t it, like I thought. I’ve always had a lack of appetite though.”
The girl patted her chest through her clothes. The thickness from her back to her chest, as well as her arms and thighs, were thin to the point it seemed they would snap if she were to miss a step on the stairs.
“It’s not like you hate to eat though, right?”
“That’s right. Not having many chances to eat because of work and continuing a lifestyle of not eating affects your body like this.”
“Haa, you sound busy with work. Since you only get to enjoy yourself like this once a month.”
“It’s my job but it’s like my life. ……It is my duty, and a promise.”
Placing her hand to the edge of the steaming mug, the girl’s face reddened slightly.
“But it’s nice to ‘enjoy myself‘ like this as well. It’s somehow nostalgic.”
“That’s right─. Enjoying yourself is important, so eat well, enjoy yourself a lot and sleep well! Look, the soup’s gonna get cold. Eat the sandwich too!”
Shasa gripped the mug with an expression of utmost seriousness.
“W-Well then! I, Shasa Endens Lin Kale, shall now partake of this lunch!”
“You don’t have to be so serious about it.”
“At any rate, it’s been a long time. ……I-I’ll do my best. Eii!”
She timidly lifted up the mug and drank the soup.
“How is it?”
She couldn’t believe it herself. She blinked numerous times and brought the mug towards and away from her mouth.
“B-But I still don’t understand! Once more………………ah…………it’s delicious……”
The girl hid her mouth with her hand and her face went bright red.
“Right─. Our Head Chef is amazing. Try the sandwich too!”
She nodded with a some more vigor than just prior and reached her hand out to a sandwich on the plate──
Her hand suddenly stopped.
“…………My body……is…………after all…………right after the barrier…………transfer, if…………I get careless………………not good…………………………”
Her shoulders slumped and she collapsed off the chair in that manner.
──She’ll hit the floor at this rate.
Her hand that she reached out reflexively wouldn’t make it in time and the girl who had fallen out of the chair had her face make a beeline for the hard floor ── just before Eyriey who pictured that scene was about to scream, somebody’s hand caught steady hold of Shasa’s body.
“U-Uwawawawaa, E-Eyri-nee, help meeee!”
“Yuto!? A-Amazing, Yuto, good job!”
In place of Yuto who was holding up a body larger than her with all her strength, she held Shasa from behind. She sat the girl who seemed to have lost consciousness on the chair once again and steadied her against the back of the chair.
“Pheeew……that was dangerous. I wonder what’s wrong; we should call a doctor.”
“Hey, hey, Eyri-nee, I think Shasa-nee is probably just tired.”
Yuto tugged on the edge of her sleeve and nodded.
“She did say her work was tasking. I wonder if I should let her rest in my room until she gets better……daaarn, I don’t know where Shasa lives.”
It would be best to take Shasa back to her house but she only knew that she worked at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. She didn’t know which post she worked either so she didn’t know who to contact.
“Shasa-nee said she had a room at the tower.”
“Oh, really? Yuto, do you perhaps know where Shasa’s room is?”
“Yeah, yeah! Shasa-nee told me last time!”
“Ohhh, good going. You did well!”
It was the first time she thought of Yuto who energetically shook her head as this reliable.
“Should I go get an acquaintance of Shasa-nee?”
Yuto ran out of the shop door.
……Really, that’s great.
She hadn’t known what to do when she collapsed but it would be one thing off her mind if they could send her back home. The cause was exhaustion so she needed her to rest.
……She purposefully came even though she was this tired.
“Head Chef, I’ll be taking Shasa-chan for a bit───”
“That is a pleasing suggestion but it is not that much of a major matter. I alone will be enough.”
The bell rang again.
“I heard there was someone I knew causing difficulties here.”
It was a woman who was leaning up against the door frame.
Their eyes met and the woman smiled boldly.
……This is an acquaintance of Shasa’s?
……Uwaa, amazing. She’s really beautiful.
She was tall and slender with a sharp face to match.
Her glossy jet black hair was completely straight and definitely without a strand out of place. The beauty of her voluptuous body was also highlighted clearly through her pitch black vestments. Her twin mounds were full to the point that they seemed to be ready to spill out at any moment, her tight waist was curvaceous and it rose up once again at her hips. It was charm that even made Eyriey who was of the same gender gasp.
“It seems that you’ve taken care of Shasa.”
She walked up to the table they were at and indicated the sleeping Shasa with her eyes.
“Ah, are you the person Yuto spoke of? Shasa’s acquaintance.”
“Tsali. To this child……let’s see, I am a friend, quarreling opponent and guardian. We’re not family bound by blood.”
“Ah, like I thought! Ah─ that surprised me. Since your hair and eye colors are completely different. I haven’t heard of sisters that are this different.”
“──As usual, you’re unabashed regardless of the person, Eyri-nee.”
……Actually, did she just call me Eyri-nee?
“Ahh, I forgot to say that that’s what I heard Yuto refer to you as.”
Giggle. Upon Tsali’s lips which had only a bold smile upon them thus far, her smile changed just a little to one more friendly.
“That’s right! Right, right, Tsali-san, do you know where Yuto went off to? Rather, how did that kid manage to call you so quickly? A communicator? No, even if that were true, you wouldn’t have gotten here so promptly.”
“I thought that things would turn out like this again so I was secretly following her. As usual, she’s quite the handful.”
She carried Shasa’s body.
“Yuto will return soon. As for Shasa……let’s see, please play with her again any time from tomorrow on.”
“Ehh. That’s……I’m fine with it, but will Shasa be okay by tomorrow?”
“It seems that one day of rest really wasn’t enough but this always happens. She should be fine if she rests for the entirety of today. It would be fine if you came to floor 290 of the tower tomorrow at ten in the morning.”
“That’s fine with me……”
“Then it’s decided. I’ll also relay that to Shasa.”
She turned her back on Eyriey and walked towards the door──
Suddenly coming to a stop, Tsali turned just the side of her face to her.
A friendly and curious smile. Though her face was graceful and sharp to begin with, that smile was somehow really…………really……like an innocent child’s.
…………Huh, this person?
……This person’s smile……who is it……doesn’t it kind of resemble somebody’s smile?
“I’ll say my thanks.”
“This person here, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, is self-sacrificing and has a habit of reflecting so somebody has to forcefully take her out to relax. Originally, it was supposed to be my job, but it seems that you are better for it.”
The door the woman in jet black vestments pushed on opened easily. The path that was not a path became a path of its own accord and seemed to bless her steps.
“It has been a long time since Shasa made an expression of such enjoyment.”
That was the difference between her and Eyriey.
The words that were heard from Tsali that day were for the girl known as Eyriey and……in the distant future, what bestowed a ‘third possibility‘ upon the floating continent <Orbie Clar>, though nobody knew this yet.
And Shasa who continued to sleep within her arms, had yet…………
Scraps of clouds came from one end of her vision and disappeared out the other. The sky was a deep blue all across and continued on forever.
“……With the expedition to the Governmental Sector, this makes the second time we’re using an airship.”
Kagura followed the droplets of glass clinging to the pressure-resistant windows with her eyes.
“Our destination is the Biotope so there’s not much time to fully enjoying traveling through the air.”
“Fully enjoy, huuuh. The Governmental Sector mission was important so our treatment wasn’t bad but……unfortunately, this time it’s a transport ship so the inside is cramped and the cushions on the seats are worn out.”
Vaiel who answered like that didn’t stop looking out the window or crossing his arms.
“So, Leader. It’s about time you told us about the mission this time.”
“It’s as I said when we left. We were recommended as support for the subjugation of the Yuugenshu discovered in the Biotope──”
“Not that, I mean that over there.”
“Behind the general seating area ── the waiting room established for executive unit members. He indicated with his chin the heavy metallic door that was locked from the inside.
“Even if the support unit was chosen by the Instructor’s whim, why the heck are we riding with the O great Sennenshi?”
“Ah……you could call that her idea.”
Monica hesitated to speak with an uncomfortable expression.
“……Captain’s order: I leave it to you, Sheltis.”
Being elbowed in the side, Sheltis jumped up in his seat. ……I can’t let my guard down. Just when I thought I could just stay silent and listen, this happens.
“……Let me ask this beforehand: should I say the truth or the pretense?”
“Let’s start with the pretense.”
“It’s obviously most enjoyable to keep the speculation fun for last.”
That was the response from the two who turned around in a flash.
“U─m. The pretense is as Monica said just before. We’ll also be participating in the Yuugenshu subjugation so don’t we have to group up with the advance party on-site? And so the fastest way there just happened to be travelling with a Sennenshi.”
“Next is the real reason.”
“……You know, no matter how much of a public attitude you’re taking, it’d be nice if you were to show more of a reaction.”
He had expected this but it was kind of lonely garnering such a lacking response.
“As for the real reason, you could say a few coincidences overlapped or we got wrapped up in it……there was a little trouble between the fifth Priestess and the Sennenshi behind the door over there──”
“Ah─……that’s enough. I have an idea of what happened.”
“Sheesh, sticking your head into troublesome things of your own accord.”
Vaiel shook his hand, showing how much of a pain he thought it was.
“You probably just got mixed up in it as a mediator, right?”
“I-I’ll just say this beforehand but I simply had business with Ymy! It was Captain Horn who suddenly stuck a gun to me──”
“Umm, if you say it so loudly, the person herself will hear you.”
Monica nodded with her head downcast and was silent.
“……I’ll treat you to lunch next time. How about the special lunch set at the large dining hall on floor 248?”
“I’m even willing to add on after-meal coffee?”
“I’ll have milk tea.”
Monica nodded reluctantly and the negotiations were completed.
“Hey, hey, Sheltis, I have one thing I’m curious about.”
“What is it?”
“That pilot kid has been glancing over at us since a little while ago so I wonder if he wants to join in. Ah, it’s the one that just drew his head back.”
Pilot? Come to think of it ── he had noticed someone watching them but it didn’t seem like it would be an issue so he hadn’t paid it much mind.
“Hey, the one at the pilot seat over there, did you need us for something?”
“…………N-Noooo. D-Don’t mind meeee.”
The one peeking out from the pilot seat was a boy still in his mid-teens.
He had greenish-brown hair and brown eyes. He had a thin face, his response was weak, he still had an expression like he’d burst into tears at any moment and his ears which jutted out on either side were also shivering slightly.
……Are those Nell Folk ears?
“What, I was wondering who it was, but isn’t that Catria?”
“……That voice, Kagura?”
The boy who was hiding in the shadow of the seat widened his eyes.
“Seriously. It’s me; didn’t you realize it with this on me?”
Kagura removed the machine helmet which was completely covering her head. Her ears also reached far out to the sides and were covered in warm-seeming fur.
“Mm? Acquaintances between brats?”
“Since the Nell Folk working at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> have constructed their own independent network. This child is……well, it’s as you can see, he’s more cautious than I am. Though it was unexpected for him to become the third unit’s pilot.”
“N-No. You’re wrong…………I’m Captain Horn’s maintenance worker. Piloting is……an e-extra.”
The boy set it to auto-pilot and stood up from the seat.
“I see. So, what is it? Looking over here would suggest that you have an interest but that’s unusual for you.”
He stayed silent for a moment but the sound of him breathing in could be heard.
“……U-Um……I just thought, you were a really close-knit unit…………”
“Is that so? Isn’t this normal?”
“Probably……I think it’s really rare.”
Having that said directly ── Sheltis exchanged looks with Monica beside him.
“Monica, is that so?”
“I think it depends on the unit. ……Though we’re not on the bad end.”
“That’s because everyone gathered here is a meddler.”
Vaiel crossed his legs and sighed to indicate them.
“…………N-No. ……I-It’s just……well, ……I thought it was nice. …………Captain Horn doesn’t have that feeling to her much.”
“You don’t get it. Then why don’t you switch units?”
The Nell Folk boy narrowed his eyes and looked downwards in embarrassment.
“……But she’s cool.”
“Your Captain, you mean?”
“…………Yeah. ……Also, she always leaves the gun maintenance to me.”
His hands were worn out ── from touching the gun’s rust and oil and they had burns and scratches from injuries during maintenance.
He looked dearly at his hand which was painful to look at.
The boy hopped up in place when Horn, who had come from the rear, spoke.
“This was in my cargo, but what is it?”
It was an automatic handgun painted silver. It was easily two times larger than the guns used by gunners with twin pistols in Tenketsu Palace <Sohpia> and a shinryoku carved seal was etched into its grip.
“Uh……umm, it’s a new creation. Production code, ‘Silver King <Rusty Heidt>‘……the gun’s slide and rifling are designed to be larger and it also uses special bullets.”
“Y-Yes! I wanted to make the bullets themselves in a new metallic structure. After making a request to a Priestess many times, I finally got a carved seal with a Priestess’ baptism spell applied to it. It hasn’t been tested, but it shouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a bullet specialized to Yuugenshu!”
“A Priestess’ baptism spell meaning ane-ue’s?”
“Ah, n-no. Viola-sama was always out of the tower so the best at baptism type spells──”
“……That’s enough. I have a good idea of who it was.”
Horn put the giant one-handed gun into her shoulder holster and sighed.
“U-Umm! Not many bullets have been made so there are only three loaded……”
“I don’t mind. Either way, I won’t immediately use it in real combat. I don’t have a habit of using a gun I’m not used to and increasing the risks.”
The boy visibly drooped his shoulders visibly and was downcast.
“……I was wondering if I would just barely make it in time for the subjugation mission this time.”
“I believe I told you I didn’t require any useless consideration. Rather than that, return to the pilot seat; aren’t we arriving at the great salt lake soon?”
Speaking back with an indifferent voice, the Sennenshi turned towards them.
“I’ll say this ahead of time. You should just stay quiet and follow. Don’t think about providing support or fighting the Yuugenshu; you should just bear in mind not to get in the way of my battle.”
“……But then there’s no reason behind us coming as a support unit.”
The words which permitted no rebuttal brought silence to the airship.
“I took you along because of the Cadres Guard’s suggestion. I will decide everything beyond that. The support unit will abide by the commander’s orders at once upon reaching the site ─── that is what is detailed by the Guard Regulations Institute, but is there a problem with that?”
“It looks like you want to say something?”
Monica gnashed her molars and shook her head sideways. Horn seemed to snort at that gesture and quickly turned her back to the pilot’s seat.
“Relax. It’s not like I won’t entrust you with anything. Manpower will be required to track the S vector, eighth class. I will have you aid in the tracking and discovery whether you want to or not. ……Catria.”
“How many more minutes until we arrive?”
“Th-The great salt lake is already visible below! We will land now!”
“──It’s finally time.”
As she squeezed out that in a hoarse voice from within her throat, both her hands were lightly shaking.
“You bunch, get ready as well. Once we land, we will set out in the direction of the S vector, eighth class’ escape route.”
A pure white glimmer extended as far as the eye could see on the downhill of a gentle slope.
It was a scene reminiscent of a large snowy valley with many large mountains stretching out. It was not actually snow but countless salt piled up over the course of many years.
“Look, Sheltis, it’s an amazing place.”
Accompanied by machine pearl <Machina>, Kagura gave a sigh of admiration.
“Water with a little salt content flows here into the basin from the river and evaporates, accumulates and creates this beautiful scenery. I’ve seen it in documents but it’s my first time seeing it in person.”
“Really, it’s like snow.”
Salt grains crunched underfoot. It felt like he was stepping on a lump of snow.
Shantia Great Salt Lake.
It was one of only two salt lakes that had been confirmed in the vast Biotope and was terrain that bore the prefix of ‘Glittering <Shant>‘.
“It really is amazing; this is all salt?”
“……It’s not very appealing.”
It was somewhat unusual but Monica and Vaiel who were walking ahead frequently surveyed the surroundings.
“Captain Horn, sorry for the wait.”
Two Regular Guards were bearing a machine gun and jogged over when they noticed them.
“What’s the situation?”
“No changes. With the two units patrolling the vicinity and the two support units, there are four units in total surrounding the great salt lake. To now, there have been no reports of it slipping through the encirclement.”
“Good work. Don’t slacken your caution; I’ll be tracking the ‘S vector, eighth class‘. I ordered Scheele to be on standby but have she arrived?”
A girl in vestments walked up after the two Guards.
“I have only one order for you. Erase the Yuugenshu’s mateki with a barrier type spell when we find it. I won’t say you need to restrain it, but at least keep it in one spot. You can do it, can’t you.”
“I will do my utmost.”
“That’s good; then follow along.”
Yes. The apprentice Priestess who spoke suddenly stopped moving and stood still. She wasn’t even quivering but only her shoulders shook lightly──
Without answering Horn’s question, the girl removed her hood.
“Monica-senpai!? Monica-senpai! I-It’s me! Pia!”
With a glance at the girl’s face exposed to the sunlight, the girl who served as unit captain greatly widened her eyes.
“Wawaa, it really is Monica-senpaiii! No way, no way, why are we meeting here!? Actually, what’s with your appearance? You look just like a Guard!”
“Not just look like, I actually am a Guard. Since moving past being an apprentice Priestess, about three years ago…………h-hey, wait! I get it, so let me go a bit!”
Monica earnestly pried herself loose from the apprentice Priestess clinging to her and sighed.
“……I told you many times to refrain from just hugging people.”
“I’m just that happyyy! Since I managed to reunite with a senpai I thought had retired in this kind of place. It’s not like I’m trying to act the part of a mature apprentice Priestess either───……ah……”
Falling silent and taking care of her surroundings, the apprentice Priestess slipped her hood back on.
“A-Ahem……my apologies, Captain, I lost myself there. As it was a reuniting with a revered senpai, please overlook this.”
“Just give me a brief explanation.”
“Y-Yes! This Cadet Guard here is my senpai as an apprentice Priestess. This is from two years ago, but she advanced as far as the final trial for a Priestess.”
“……Is that so.”
Horn raised an eyebrow at Scheele’s words.
“Yes. Pardon me, but did you not allow her to travel with you because you knew this?”
Without answering the apprentice Priestess’ question, Horn casually folded her arms.
“I see, an apprentice Priestess who made it to the final trial. So that is what the Priestess <Ymy> and the Cadres Guard <Ishtar> appraised you on.”
Monica directly faced the Sennenshi who spoke with an implicative tone.
“That appraisal was not mine but my entire unit’s.”
“You sure can talk.”
Horn smiled boldly.
“──Change of plans. Scheele.”
“You will remain on defense of this camp. In this large of an area, we don’t know where the S vector, eighth class will appear.”
Watching the apprentice Priestess slowly back off, Horn’s next focus was the girl holding the crossed rods <Rosario> in both hands.
“Your said your name was Monica.”
“……What is it?”
“I’ll have you take responsibility for what you said.”
Massive, black machine pistols. The Sennenshi who held one in each hand of these heavy firearms that a normal person would require two arms to hold.
“I will also order you into combat based on the enemy’s strength so be prepared.”
In a hallway filled with light.
“……I’m really sorry. Ymy-san and Ishtar-san.”
Fluttering her tunic-styled vestment, the petite Priestess hung her head.
“If only I had kept Horn in check more.”
“It’s fine─. Viola-sama, you don’t have to lower your head like that.”
With the same aloof smile as ever, Ishtar patted her delicate shoulders.
“I think the location was the great salt lake. Then they should be arriving around now. That’s a nice place─, and the view is also good so it’s easy to spot a Yuugenshu. Horn-chan is outstanding and the Cadet unit travelling with her is also a gathering of individuals with more than meets the eye. Right, Ymy-sama?”
Being urged with a suspicious smile, Ymy’s face unconsciously twitched.
……I wonder what she means.
Monica-senpai as an apprentice Priestess? Or……Sheltis? When I talk with this Cadres Guard, it feels like the inner reaches of my mind are being seen through.
“You can also relax, Viola-sama─. From Ishtar’s point of view, well, they won’t ‘lose‘. If there’s anything to worry about, I guess it’s the enemy escaping? And one more thing ─── Ymy-sama?”
The second question was much heavier and sharper in her look and tone.
“Are you serious about that promise you made with Horn-chan?”
“……I will once again try to purify that child’s mateki. If that fails, then I will accept any insults or act.”
“Then quit being a Priestess.”
“Understood. I will bet everything I have as a Priestess.”
If Horn defeated the S vector, eighth class and the mateki disappeared with that, then that was fine. However, in the off-chance that the mateki remained despite the main body’s defeat, she would once again attempt to purify it.
……If she were to fail.
Viola’s voice which was mixed with anger did not permit Ymy’s words.
“I would also like to speak on that matter. I’ve heard that that was basically something Horn decided on her own. It is clear the fault lies with my little sister. ……Ymy-san, you cannot allow yourself to be swept up in the heat of the moment and accept such a thing. If you have awareness as a Priestess, then reconsider this.”
“Ishtar is in agreement─. A Priestess isn’t somebody that can just be replaced with a person if one is gone. I think Horn-chan would also understand if she cooled her head?”
She understood that. She tried to understand it.
She knew better than anybody else that a vacancy in the Priestesses could not be permitted and that Horn’s words at that time were impulsive.
“Thank you, Viola, Ishtar-san. But it’s fine? I don’t have any intention of quitting being a Priestess from this. I don’t feel like failing at purifying the mateki either.”
“That’s sufficient. But then wasn’t there no need to accept what Horn-chan said?”
Ymy shook her head with a smile in response to Ishtar who spoke inquisitively.
“It’s true that I think I need to do it with that much of a resolve.”
A Priestess who can’t save a single child infected with mateki is no good.
My goal is much, much higher.
That’s right. If I compare myself to that child I met in the world of a thousand years ago───
“[Unto me, the only wish of which I am capable……]”
“[Yu/ ris-ia Sophie, Arma-Selah]”
The child known as Shasa.
The more she remembered it, that child’s shinryoku spells were of a different level. Compared to the current Priestesses of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>……no, it might even rival that of the Queen’s.
She had a goal.
Not just the personal goal of curing Sheltis’ mateki but a goal as a Priestess. That child awaited on the path to accomplishing both. That was what she felt. [T/N: “That child” refers to Shasa.]
“I mean that you’re the only one who hasn’t changed a bit from three years ago.”
“Change. There will definitely not be enough stimulus for your shinryoku to bloom.”
The words spoken to her at the Grand Sanctuary by the woman named Tsali.
……I might need the resolution to change myself on my own. If I can’t do that, then that’s all the more reason to have the resolve to quit being a Priestess.
“Well, Ymy-sama is a specialist in baptism spells. It’s not Ishtar’s place to stick her opinion in─”
The Cadres Guard shrugged with an expression that was no quite a smile and not quite a bitter smile.
“It’s dependent on you. You too, Viola-sama.”
“……Yes. Ymy-san, please pay no mind to Horn’s words from just before.”
Being prompted by Ishtar, Viola also turned around. The Priestess headed towards her own room and the Cadres Guard moved towards the elevator. Ymy watched both of them go──
“Say, Ymy. I wonder if you’ll hear my voice soon enough?”
In a far off and distant place.
She heard a nostalgic voice from someone. She felt so.
A mirror world.
A thin layer of water stuck to the surface of salt which spread out endlessly, making the great salt lake into a gigantic mirror of the world.
“……Amazing. Everyone’s faces are reflected on the ground.”
Kagura sighed while staring directly down. It must have been fairly curious as she had removed the machine helmet she had been wearing and looked around at the surroundings.
“It’s like the ground is a mirror. A mirror with enough clarity to see every strand of hair.”
“Even if it is a great salt lake, it seems it’s limited to after rainfall.”
With the sound of a puddle of water splashing underfoot, Sheltis turned towards Kagura who was beside him.
“……The problem is that it’s just a little too bright.”
The ground underfoot was a mirror. Because the sunlight was reflected as-is, the reflected light was also strong. If they stayed in that place for a long time, it might hurt their eyes.
“Hey, hey, Sheltis, I have a good idea. Sunglasses!”
“No. It doesn’t seem like they’d suit me.”
He responded bluntly to machine crystal <Ilis> who was swaying at his chest and looked at the members walking ahead of him again.
Walking at the front was Horn with machine pistols in both hands. On her back was a long-range sniping rifle and reserve revolving machine pistols could be seen at her waist holsters.
A little bit away from her was Monica gripping her crossed rods <Rosario> and Vaiel with his iron fist protectors <Knuckle Dusters> equipped. Kagura followed behind them with Sheltis walking more-or-less beside her.
“……It’s a little bit of an odd order in a certain way.”
A gunner coming up to the front went against the basics of formations but as this was concerning the Sennenshi, Horn Nova, this didn’t apply. She was a generalist that excelled in anything from long-range sniping to hand-to-hand combat. Her combat skills were high enough that she had been attributed as such.
And just before that.
“You are a curious individual.”
She said it with a sigh.
Horn, who had been silent to this point, suddenly murmured with her gaze still fixed ahead.
“You seem to have been quite close with Scheele.”
“……Yeah. We were both apprentice Priestesses so she’s two years my junior.”
Monica nodded, knowing the line was directed at her.
“I had heard from ane-ue that apprentice Priestesses did not form friendships amongst themselves.”
“It is as Viola-sama said. It is well-known. In comparison with the handful of Priestess positions, there are ten times to a hundred times that number in apprentice Priestesses. The fact of the matter is that they are all competing against each other.”
Monica faced the back of the Sennenshi walking ahead and continued.
“Scheele and I are the same. I’m a busybody so I would look after my juniors’ troubles but that was an even more detested act. For Scheele as well, putting aside what it looked like on the surface, there would have been times she would be troubled by being in my care. Looking from her viewpoint, it would be like being pitied by an enemy.” [T/N: The original literally means “being sent salt by an enemy”. It’s when you assist your enemy when they’re suffering.]
“And in the middle of that, Scheele grew attached to you?”
“That’s……because I quit as an apprentice Priestess, I think.”
She spun together words plainly and without any personal feelings.
“Not being opponents has removed the fence in our hearts. We couldn’t do it as apprentice Priestesses but with the pros and cons relationship gone, Scheele can connect with me honestly.”
“That’s a pleasant irony.”
Horn who was walking ahead laughed.
“There’s no difference between Guards and apprentice Priestesses. The Elite Guards are also like that. They’re under the command of the Sennenshi but every single one of them is an ambitious person looking to get you while you’re not looking. ……Though they would be unreliable as subordinates if they weren’t at least that ambitious. It’s quite a dilemma.” [T/N: “get you while you’re not looking” is literally written as “cut your head off while you sleep”. That old assassination one.]
“……But competition like that is everywhere. If not for that, the quality of the Priestesses and Sennenshi could not be assured, so it is necessary.”
“Then those in your unit are also opponents for you.”
Monica went silent at the Sennenshi’s words.
After a little while.
“……It is my goal to become a Sennenshi with all of my teammates.”
“So you’re putting up a front.”
The resolute girl’s voice and Horn’s half-surprised mutter were transmitted in that place.
“Cooperation, teamwork, collaboration. I’ve heard it put many ways but all the way until I became a Sennenshi, I have never experienced the meaning of those words. Apprentice Priestesses and Guards are cut from the same cloth. The bunch at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> are all dead set on defeating their rivals.”
“Pardon me, but what of Viola-sama? She also has a history as a member of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“Ane-ue is not in the category of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. She is a family member of the orphanage, the same as me.”
Saying that, Horn kicked rock salt under her.
“Children without parents and children without friends. ……The children at the orphanage gathered from that and continue to cooperate and live on. Those children are much better than the bunch at the tower. ……Though for thinking like that, that Priestess branded me a ‘weakling‘.”
While watching the rock salt split under her feet, she continued on.
“I don’t place faith in the bunch at the tower and only treat the orphanage family specially. That Priestess doesn’t seem to be able to tolerate that. If that makes me a weakling, then that should make her a weakling Priestess for asserting she can purify mateki when she can’t.”
Whispering that within his heart, Sheltis clenched his fists without anyone’s notice───
“It looks like you want to say something?”
Immediately afterwards, Horn turned to him with a tone mixed with cynicism.
“It was the same a few days ago but I’ll at least praise your courage in not showing cowardice while facing me.”
The piercing gaze that was felt even if one did not wish to was turned towards the end of the formation.
“……You’re referring to me?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t notice you glaring at me so openly? You look like you want to say something, so if you have a rebuttal then say it.”
A smile with provocation and inquisitiveness mixed in spread on her face seen from the side.
“What I……want to say most is”
Coming to a stop there, Sheltis forced out the voice he’d kept within his throat.
“that she is not a weakling.” [T/N: With this, it’s decided that I won’t be separating any sentences that are split like this into two. I might still do it for less obvious ones though.]
The land of shining salt.
The quiet and coldly transmitted sound waves.
“The Priestess named Ymy Ele Soufflenictole is……very strong. Stronger than you or me, I believe that she carries stronger feelings than anyone.”
“Your basis for that is?”
“The Priestesses’ purification room.”
It should have been conveyed to Horn the Sennenshi with those words.
“There’s no way you don’t know of the Priestesses’ purification room. As you requested the purification of a child named Tessha, you must have also entered Ymy’s purification room once.”
The fastening belts meant to restrain a patient who was thrashing out of control.
The blood stains left behind by Guards who had set into necrosis after being infected with a great deal of mateki were still vivid. Surely they had been unable to wipe it off no matter how hard they tried. In that ghastly place where blood had been spilled to that extent, Ymy fought with mateki alone.
She resisted the unease and loneliness to her utmost, alone.
“How much of a heavy pressure do you think it is for a girl of not even seventeen years to be called the ‘Priestess of Baptism‘ and have expectations of her from those of the floating continent <Orbie Clar>? The Priestesses are relied on by the Guards and those in the Living Districts to be able to purify any mateki……she was persuaded that she is the last hope and that cornered her into extending the Priestess training which should normally not be lengthened.”
“That’s not just for the child named Tessha. It’s not related to the Guards or the civilians in the Living Districts either; the Priestesses work hard for all those living upon the floating continent <Orbie Clar>. They absolutely will not slight others for reasons like they can’t trust them or that they’re useless.”
“……Let’s suppose that’s true.”
Slowly, Horn looked ahead and started walking again.
“Are you not denying that the Guards and apprentice Priestesses of the tower do not view the others as their comrades?”
“On that point as well, my view is different from yours.”
“How is it different?”
“It might be like Monica said earlier, that people cannot open their hearts to each other because of competition. But do you think they do that because they want to?”
It’s not just Ymy and Monica. The apprentice Priestess, Scheele, from just now was also a good example. They didn’t actually like that thorny relationship.
“If they don’t like it, it’s fine if they quit. It’s a simple matter.”
“──They can’t quit!”
Before he himself realized it, he had put strength into those words.
“……Despite undergoing harsh training and being unable to form friendships with those around, apprentice Priestesses still aim for something they want to achieve beyond those painful memories. I can’t understand what it is that you can’t accept about those from the tower who do their best.”
“You patrol the dangerous Biotope by your own will and continue to search for the Yuugenshu……honestly, you’re amazing. But Ymy is the same. While almost being crushed by the surrounding pressure, she does her best for the sake of those suffering from mateki. ……Even so…………why is someone like you who is doing her best to save a treasured child unable to acknowledge a Priestess who wishes to protect those important to her in the same way!”
A nervous silence filled the land of salt which shined silver.
“That was quite the outstanding speech.”
With slow footsteps, the blinder-wearing Sennenshi turned to him again.
“And you’re a Cadet Guard? What are you preaching to me? Do you want to call me a weakling as well?”
Horn’s tone was plainly provocative. Her gaze was sharp enough that it was clearly conveyed even through the blinder.
“──A waste of time.”
Contrary to expectations, the one who looked away first was her.
……So she won’t deny it.
Looking at her back from the end of the line, Sheltis narrowed his eyes slightly. Despite her biting response, she had the same reaction as the time with Ymy.
“But that’s wrong: you’re just a weakling who can’t love anybody except for the children from the orphanage!”
“……And if so?”
Judging from Horn’s personality, there was no way that Ymy’s words would not have wounded her pride. At that time, Sheltis had been prepared for Horn to be enraged. However, Horn’s response had been sharp but she had not denied Ymy’s words in the end.
……It’s not that she didn’t deny them but that she couldn’t?
……Maybe Horn actually acknowledges Ymy at the bottom of her heart?
She knew of Ymy’s efforts as a Priestess and that the Guards and apprentice Priestesses serving as her subordinates were helping her.
However, Horn did not acknowledge those yet.
──Because she wants to save the child named Tessha.
Not a single Priestess could save the child who was part of the orphanage family. She couldn’t acknowledge Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> which placed those Priestesses at the top and there was no way she could acknowledge the subordinates of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
……Even though, in actuality, they are two people who should be able to understand each other the most.
……Even though Ymy and Horn should be the two who most wish to save those afflicted with mateki.
However. No matter how much Sheltis stared at her, Horn’s wordless back was firm and her mind isolated from the outside.
“Yoo, by the way, how long are we gonna keep walking?”
Vaiel who had kept his mouth shut suddenly turned to Kagura.
“Wasn’t it said just a little while ago? Until we reach the center of the great salt lake.”
The girl pointed at the digital map displayed on the machine pearl <Machina>.
“If we corner it up to there, the Yuugenshu won’t have a place to escape to. From the center for a radius of two kilometers, the Regular Guard unit has formed an enclosure.”
“They’re being really strict on the preparations.”
Vaiel kicked the rock salt at his feet and sent it flying. Looking at that from behind, Kagura turned to him and called out.
“By the way, I would like to ask you something. A little while ago, you said the great salt lake was ‘not very appealing‘.”
“Ah? Did I say something like that?”
“You can’t play dumb because the recording has been saved on this machine pearl <Machina>.”
“……Damn it. So what do you want to ask?”
Being told that it was no use trying to fool her, Vaiel shrugged.
“This place is beautiful and unusual. However, the first thing you said was that it’s ‘not appealing‘; what do you mean? I remember something out of place.”
“Ah, I would also like to ask. Though I thought I’d ask afterwards.”
“……I can’t hear anything.”
The person in question turned his face away while keeping his arms crossed.
“Did I say that too fast? Then I’ll repeat it.”
“Not that, you idiot, I meant that it’s bothering me how quiet it is.”
Plop……He forcefully lifted his shoe which was submerged in water to the ankle.
“Look, there’s this much water. It’s enough to call it a salt lake so it must be a lake to begin with. Even so, there’s nothing here. Not a single fish is swimming in the water and there’s not a single bird flying in the sky if you look up. That just doesn’t sit right with me.”
“There’s just this much salt, you knooow. It would be hard for a living creature to survive.”
“I get that but somehow, I’m not used to it. It’s too quiet.”
Vaiel had his brows knitted as he tried to start walking again, but just before that, Kagura suddenly pulled on his sleeve.
“……Ah. No, you said it was ‘too quiet‘……but wasn’t there the cry of a cat just now?”
“Yes. It was a cute cry that went ‘nya─o‘.”
She touched the sides of her ears that were poking out. Because the Nell folk lived in a snowy region of the floating archipelago <Lagoon>, they developed the hearing necessary to hear others in the middle of a snowstorm.
“Did you hear it, Sheltis?”
“No, but what about you Ilis?”
“I am the same. I’m not good at perceiving sounds. I’m this small crystal so my sound collection devices have a limit.”
……If Kagura said so, then I’d like to believe that it’s true.
……In that case, is the sky suspicious?
Without relaxing his wariness of the ground, Sheltis tilted his neck a little and looked overhead.
“There shouldn’t be any cats around this place so isn’t it just a bird like a seagull? That bird that goes nya─ nya─ for its cry. I’m pretty sure they lived around river mouths or tideland.”
“I wonder. ……I’m not sure because time has passed but, at any rate, it was a cat-like voice.”
Following him, Kagura and then Vaiel looked up at the sky.
“……Is it that?”
Monica suddenly pointed at a spot on the salt land.
A small black shadow. It wasn’t a shadow but a black body. Four thin legs and a roundish tail. Long and narrow pupils that shined golden.
Its cute mew was like that of any black cat in the Living Districts.
“It appears to still be a kitten. Its gait is also premature.”
“It got lost all the way out here? Sheesh, the parents are probably looking for it.”
Monica and Kagura naturally leaked their feelings out at that appearance.
Sheltis widened his eyes and glared at the black cat which had come right before their eyes.
……I was on guard.
……Just when and how did it manage to get this close?
The entire surface of the great salt lake shined silver. If there was something like a black cat in this world of just white, then he definitely should have noticed. Not just him, Horn Nova should have perceived it, of course.
“Poor thing. I wonder if walking around has made it weak?”
The kitten tried to draw closer to Monica’s legs──
“Monica, get away from that!”
Everything was simultaneous.
Sheltis jumping out in front of Monica and.
“That’s supposed to be camouflage?”
Horn’s bullet piercing the kitten’s body.
The Sennenshi interrupted Monica who raised her voice reflexively.
“Take a good look. If you look at it, does it still appear to be a kitten?”
Fshhh ── though it was supposed to have received a fatal wound, ‘something‘ stood up without injury.
The eyes that should have been golden had turned into a reddish crimson at some point. Its body which should have been the size of a kitten was also expanding at an unpleasant rate.
“Unfortunately, my eyes are special; isn’t it unfortunate that you didn’t get in a surprise attack?”
Tap. Touching the side of her blinder with the gun barrel, Horn’s lips drew out a dangerous smile.
“……Viola-sama’s ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘?”
“As expected, a former apprentice Priestess would know. My eyes are the same as my older sister’s, with shinryoku to see the future ── I clearly saw the future in which that attacked you. What a cheap act.”
Confirming the world of the future a few seconds ahead, foreseeing the opponent’s movements and firing. One of the reasons that Horn Nova reigned at the summit of the gunners on the floating continent was this.
“Hereditary territory type shinryoku art. Syun-rei who’s also a Priestess possesses the power to ‘see the shape of others’ shinryoku‘ but my sister and I……well, ours is like a degraded version.”
Muttering almost to herself, Horn once again pointed her guns forwards.
“Now then, we’ve finally met. You’re the S vector, eighth class, right?”
What the Sennenshi declared that to could no longer possibly be called a kitten.
Its crimson eyes were filled with a clear hostility and its large body which was wrapped in a dark purple mist continued to swell. Its legs were originally four but they each split at the tip and became eight. Its roundish tail also distorted into an oval and wriggled almost like a snake.
“Sheltis, it’s that time’s……”
“I thought the same thing.”
It resembled the Yuugenshu they had found in the underground room when they accompanied Leon to the floating archipelago <Lagoon>. It had been sleeping within a water tank at first but that Yuugenshu had also become gigantic the instant it left the water tank.
……It’s really like it just came out of slumber and grew up.
In actuality, the Yuugenshu from that time was called the ‘Sleeping Child‘. And this ‘S vector, eighth class‘ also used mateki to assault its opponent and put them into a coma.
“Does it not resemble it?”
Sheltis chose to remain silent in response to Monica’s question.
The image that formed a common point between the two Yuugenshu ── ‘sleep‘ and ‘awakening‘. Was that a secret connected to the truth of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>?
“That’s enough talk.”
Horn’s voice flatly interrupted.
“Except for Monica, move away from me and spread out. This guy’s mateki is troublesome.”
A Yuugenshu which commanded mateki which even a Priestess could not heal.
……Other than me, if someone is bathed in it, they should sustain great damage regardless of the presence of formal wear.
A pincer attack with him moving in for close-range combat and Horn sniping would be more definite. But that was because of his secret that he could nullify mateki. It was not a plan he could use in front of Monica, Horn and Vaiel who did not know this.
Gently, light wrapped around Monica’s surroundings as if jumping. The azure light indicative of the activation of a barrier type arts sparkled as they weaved layers.
In a moment, something broke underneath the Yuugenshu’s legs.
With the sound of something hard breaking, a black crack appeared in the pure white ground.
That crack spread in all directions from beneath the Yuugenshu in the blink of an eye.
“It’s a gigantic crevice! Something like this was below the rock salt layer……everyone, retreat!”
“Following Ilis’ warning, they jumped back. Kagura and Vaiel who were at the end of the line also turned around and moved away from the crevice.
It can’t be.
“It didn’t run away but instead lured us to this crevice──”
Horn and Monica who had been the closest to the Yuugenshu would not make it in time with their flustered reactions. The ground below was breaking so they couldn’t jump or move back.
With the voice that became a echo and was disappearing, the two fell along with the Yuugenshu into the crevice.
“Sheltis, you mustn’t!”
He was halted by machine crystal <Ilis> before jumping into the crevice to follow the two.
……The hole is too deep.
He had no idea how it went underneath so it was too dangerous to jump in to follow those two right now.
“! Sheltis, a mateki reading detected to the front and right. Incoming!”
“A new one, huh!”
Cracks sprung up one after another like a spider’s web in the vast rock salt. Those gradually expanded and from within the gaps overflowed deep purple mist.
“The leaders, Monica and Captain Horn, are underground and its allies are going to fight us here……we’ve been splendidly divided in strength. At any rate, it seems like we’ll have a basis for verifying the Yuugenshu’s intelligence after this. Even though in the past, it was said the Yuugenshu had no intelligence.”
Kagura smiled wryly, accompanied by the floating machine pearl <Machina>.
“Though that’s if we return safely.”
Sheltis drew his dual swords from their holders and stared fixedly at the deep purple mist.
Crimson eyes rose up within the mist. One, two……three, four…………there might be many more still hiding underground.
“Connection successful. I have requested support from the unit who has set up camp at the coast.”
All directions. The mist beasts creeped up from the crevices around them to surround them. Each of them was a small one which took the form of a lion but it was troublesome because a Yuugenshu’s strength could not be judged from its appearance.
……Which ones are strong and which ones are weak?
……I don’t have time to think about that.
Telling that to the two behind him, Sheltis ran along the silver ground.
The droplet of water that dropped off the edge of a crystal made a small splash.
“Are you dead?”
“Please don’t just kill off people like that.”
Replying like that to the Sennenshi’s disinterested murmur, Monica slowly raised her body. Despite everywhere on her body hurting from the shock of the fall, it was fortunate that her injuries were only to that extent.
Mental fortitude. Isolating the pain signals running throughout her, she concentrated on her shinryoku spell.
[Sia Sec elis arc……Is io miel]
[That day’s dream, once more……for the sake of that.]
The release precedent.
The azure light indicative of barrier type arts spread out in a sphere around her with a radius of 10 metres. It lit everything within its area up equally.
“A crystal cavern?”
Crystals stuck out from the ground underfoot and the walls to the sides. Those reflected the shinryoku’s light and glittered in seven colors.
……To think that an underground world like this was below the great salt lake.
The crystals which far exceeded her height were sticking up all over; it felt like she had been thrown into a labyrinth made of crystal.
“It’s a long-awaited invitation but I don’t have any intention of keeping it company for long.”
Placing a hand to the blinder over her eyes, Horn forcefully tore it off. Her sharp, almond eyes were revealed. [T/N: Almond here referring to shape.]
“I will perceive the present world with my own eyes and the future world with ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘. It puts a burden on my mind and causes dizziness so I don’t like it but……this also raises my accuracy. There’s something more important than that.”
She lightly pressed the black gun tip against a crystal.
“Don’t get too close to the crystals; we don’t know which ones a Yuugenshu is hiding behind.”
“……Wouldn’t that be within the predictions of your ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘?”
“I can’t see that far ahead into the future. If I could, I would have been able to avoid that crevice from before too. ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘ is a power specifically for sniping.”
Her eyes were tinged emerald. Emerald was the color of shinryoku arts of the territory type so that had gathered and could be seen as her real eye color.
“Protect your own life.”
……Where will they come from?
The handles of the crossed rods <Rosario> she held became sweaty. It was a trap conceived by the Yuugenshu to begin with, so it should know their location and be concealing itself nearby.
The crystal world which spread out was filled with silence to the point that it hurt the ears.
……It’s been a while since I’ve felt this silent tension.
She couldn’t even wipe the sweat that went from her brow to the tip of her nose and to her lips. If she crumbled her stance for even an instant, she would be attacked from behind. It was that kind of deja vu feeling.
“You’re too roused up.”
“……My apologies. It’s nerves.”
“I’m praising you.”
Those were unexpected words of compliment unsuited to this Sennenshi called Horn.
“A Guard who does not know the strength of the Yuugenshu can’t be that cautious. It looks like you’ve piled on battle experience with Yuugenshu, including when you were an apprentice Priestess.”
“I jumped to a hasty conclusion. I’ll take back the words I said to you at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. It looks like you’ll be moderately useful.”
She put her two machine pistols back in their holders and walked towards the large crystal ahead of her.
“!? Captain Horn!”
No way, she sheathed her guns?
That defenselessly. And this from the person who said not to approach the crystals unprepared!? That’s like asking to be attacked.”
“I’m telling you to attack me already.”
The instant Horn’s monologue echoed throughout the underground.
■ ■ ■, ■ ■ …… ■, ■ ■, …… ■, ■, ■ ■ ■ …… ■ ■
Oe/ Dia = U milve / x-recrey mihas I, xay xephnis xin sis.
A mysterious and heavy sound echoed through the crystal cavern.
Within the barrier of azure light, deep purple strands of light wove together into a strange pattern in the air.
Crossing her crossed rods <Rosario>, she put together an opposing protective spell in her head.
However, the curse over her head did not fall regardless of how long she waited; it seemed to be getting sucked into the higher parts of the cave just like that.
A dull sound came from the crystals jutting out of the ceiling. It wasn’t one, but two and three. Each of them was far taller than they were and extremely heavy.
At the same time, the giant crystals lined up overhead caved in. The landslide with crystals mixed in closed in from above with a violent, thunderous noise.
──It decayed the ceiling with mateki’s corrosion, huh!
Dodging the dirt and sand, she deflected the crystal fragments with her crossed rods <Rosario>. Jumping to dodge the avalanche of earth and rocks that reached up to her knees, Monica jumped onto the nearby crystal──
The cat-like cry came from directly behind her.
What was before her when she turned around in a panic was a large black shadow. The mysterious beast with eight limbs upon its body which resembled a black leopard swooped down at her.
Its crimson eyes were filled with hostility.
“You’re in plain view.”
Those eyes were easily shot through with a silver bullet.
Even more silver bullets pierced the back of the beast which was turned. Continuing on, its eight legs which were planted on the ground were knocked out as a matter of course. With its balance destroyed, she aimed at its head and shot even more.
“The bullets with trajectories made with ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘ were, so to speak, unavoidable magic bullets.”
Horn’s gunfire didn’t cease.
The silver monad surface of the bullets had shinryoku carved into it and pierced the Yuugenshu’s mateki bullet by bullet, wearing it away.
“You cannot dodge my bullets no matter where you might run.”
A barrage filled its escape route and bullets broke its legs when it stopped. When it staggered, bouncing bullets pierced it from below. Even falling was not permitted. As if anticipating where it would fall ── no, it really was shooting done while seeing the future.
Catching a glimpse of a battle which could be called one-sided, Monica even forgot to breathe in her surprise.
……I thought I knew but to think it was to this extent.
The Yuugenshu was not allowed to counterattack, much less run or even expand all its energy and fall. What made this possible was Horn’s sniping ability with her future sight granted by ‘Celestial Map Drawing‘.
……She’s holding one of those machine pistols which should require two hands in each hand and being that accurate while firing so quickly.
The physical strength required to handle those hefty guns and the lithe shoulder muscles to distribute the recoil from firing. And above all, the fearsome concentration and force of will which made it possible to do that super precise shooting.
Is there anybody with more skill than this Sennenshi in long-range combat? When she asked that question, Monica had no confidence she could reply.
……I’ll assist her. Like I can say that.
For example, Sheltis. His fighting style which challenged Yuugenshu to super close-range combat was filled with severity which dazzled onlookers’ eyes. But what about her? Being only one-sided, it could not even be called a battle and would end with that one-sidedness.
“This is the end.”
The Yuugenshu had its entire body pierced by bullets bestowed with shinryoku. The core crystal at its center was pierced by the final bullet. The mist beast fell over while crying its death agonies, having exhausted all its energy, and didn’t even twitch. Its body also grew faint and was dispersing.
“The S vector, eighth class was of this caliber, huh. This thing did that to Tessha……”
“……It’s nothing; let’s go. We’ll find and exit and escape.”
Putting back on her blinder, Horn turned around.
It was then that Monica felt discomfort.
The Yuugenshu had certainly fallen and the crystal core within it had been pierced by Captain Horn’s bullet.
……But……I didn’t hear the sound of the crystal core shattering?
What lay before her as she hurriedly turned around was──
Horn turned her head only halfway over and gasped, stiffening her whole body.
“……I see. So its true body is just like mateki. If the entire body isn’t eliminated, it’ll immediately multiply and regenerate.”
The mist which should have been dispersing once again multiplied and solidified into the original beast shape.
A cute cry ── she understood that wasn’t to have them let down their guards. That was truly a ‘coaxing voice‘. The monster which boasted overwhelming strength was sneering at the weak.
The third Sennenshi once again tore off her blinder.
“I’ll keep you company until you lose the will to regenerate.”
The silver smoke drifted up in a dense cloud.
It was not a darkish cloud of sand but sparkling particles of sand flying in the great salt lake air.
“Two approaching from behind.”
He spun around, raising water splashes. Bringing his twin swords directly across, he blew away the two Yuugenshu attacking him from behind.
■ ■, ■ …… ■ ■, ■ ■ ■, …… ■ …… ■ ■
Oe/ Dia = U xeph cley, Di shela teo phes kaon
The swelling dark purple light swooped down.
Fshhh……immediately after, the spot he had just been standing at ── on the ground touched by mateki, the water had turned to mist and the rock salt had melted.
“Super high heat, huh; you two, be careful!”
“……Gimme a break.”
The two’s voices came from where they were fighting a ways away.
“They seem to still be energetic; that’s a relief.”
“It would be troubling otherwise.”
Their responses were proof that the two were safe. Then in the time Kagura and Vaiel were devoted to defense, he would eliminate at least one of the many Yuugenshu. It would be best to wear down the enemy’s combat strength even a little before the reinforcement unit arrived.
……The best option would be to wipe them out but can we do that much?
“A new reading of three units has been detected to the north.”
“There’s an unusual amount of them.”
He had already defeated five of them but rather than their numbers decreasing, they were rather increasing. It was difficult to imagine this many breaking through the barrier at once.
“They most likely came in with that time Hyouketsu Kyoukai was penetrated. You can think of them like the leftovers.”
“The ones that didn’t die and ran away, huh.”
He stabbed his right-hand sword into the salt and swung it up from that position. Giant rock salt pieces floated high in midair and fell towards the Yuugenshu directly below. Not wanting to be crushed by giant weights, the monster evaded.
There, it was cut down with a single flash.
“Increasing response from a unit to the right. Please crush it before the mateki activates.”
“You’re such a slave driver. Kagura, there’s a unit over there as well!”
He left the Yuugenshu that passed by him to the two and those two sprinted at the Yuugenshu they set their eyes on. Swinging down his sword before the mateki activated, it was interrupted.
“Hey, youuu, are you done yet!”
“Operating at depth five virtual territory <Layer>. Charge completion before micro shinryoku overflow……setting machine pearl <Machina>’s internal carved seal to a thirty second limit ─── Release.”
Kagura threw machine pearl <Machina> which she was holding into the air.
Machine pearl <Machina> which was wrapped in a faint green light split into innumerable pieces. Each of the parts which exceeded a hundred in number shined with the colors of crimson, emerald, gold, azure and pure white, accompanied by their own unique sounds.
“Baptism, territory, barrier, worship. It’s all five of the shinryoku types ── ahh, I see. I gave her some advice before and this is her response.”
The five colors were mixed equally and bore a rainbow-colored radiance.
At the same time this blinding light which even surpassed the sun’s rays fell upon the Yuugenshu, Vaiel who was upon the ground moved.
“Now, hit them!”
“You only have to say it once.”
Closing the distance with a Yuugenshu who was drawing near, he sent it flying with by swinging his fist against the tip of its nose.
Piercing ── the fist which would normally be counterbalanced by a mateki barrier easily blew through the barrier and the body shrouded in mist.
The mist beast let out a dying cry as it disappeared.
“……Hoo, I didn’t think it would actually pierce the barrier.”
“Fufun. How about it; isn’t it amazing?”
Kagura rubbed machine pearl <Machina> which descended.
“I was informed that it is easier to pierce the Yuugenshu’s barrier not with a single high-powered shinryoku attack, but with multiple small ones. This was an application of that. It fires truly minute amounts of shinryoku out at a rate of several thousand per second over a wide range and erases the enemy’s barrier.”
“It’s simple for machines, huh?”
“Yes. However, even within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, this is still in a trial stage. I am the first one to be personally equipped with it. As for why it’s difficult, it is necessary to attach a large amount of shinryoku to the a machine which is inorganic so an advanced carved seal is……mugyuu.”
“Ah─ that’s enough, it’s annoying to listen to. Let’s finish them off first.”
Pushing down roughly on the girl’s head, Vaiel forcefully stopped her from talking.
“A good decision and good support. Sheltis, please defeat them as quickly as possible. We should aim to clean up here even a moment quicker……and then confirm Monica’s safety.”
“Got it; you mean that crevice.”
The underground lake which had become the den of large carnivorous beasts. It could possibly be as hot as magma. Bottomless quicksand. At the bottom of such a crevice, he had no idea what the environment was like so it was ominous.
“On top of that is that Yuugenshu. That……has a high chance of being one of the old types from a thousand years ago. I also believe its intelligence level to be extremely high.”
“A thousand years ago?”
“Yes. They are far more powerful monsters than the current ones. You could say they are the perfect symbol of what Hyouketsu Kyoukai is meant to seal. It was most likely hiding here from before the barrier was erected.”
Machine crystal <Ilis>’ words were permeated with an unusual nervousness.
“Let’s hurry. This is that serious of an opponent.”
“I’m sorry, my power was not enough.”
Even now, Horn remembered those words spoken by the Priestess who came out of the purification room on that day.
“No matter how hard I tried……when there was just a little bit left before the purification was done, the mateki would multiply and regenerate itself. ……I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
It was mateki which would multiply and regenerate itself before being completely eliminated no matter how much it was purified.
“I see, so the Priestesses have silently yielded.”
Mateki that even the Priestesses gave up on purifying.
Horn was seeing how fearsome that was in reality.
She couldn’t hear that adorable cry as anything more than a strange sneer.
The mist which should have been hazily spread solidified in the air and supported the main body to its feet. At the same time its body which had been half-erased by shinryoku bullets was fully regenerated, it stood up as if nothing had happened. Rather than being a mist beast, it was more of a beast that was mist.
“……So this happens even if its head is completely destroyed.”
There was absolutely no meaning to having shot the entirety of its head and more than half of its torso. Even if a single leg were to remain, it would immediately regenerate.
“Don’t move; just focus on your spells.”
She pierced Monica, who was about to run over, with her gaze.
“It’s the same as before. Keep the barrier spell up at all times and if you have excess strength, time baptism spells to align with my shots and hammer them into it.”
……Its regeneration is being somewhat hindered by this barrier but even then it still has this speed.
On top of that, it was troublesome that the opponent was gradually learning. It was memorizing the gun’s piercing strength and speed while deploying the most appropriate barrier. It was showing that it wouldn’t dodge the unavoidable magic bullets and instead was focusing on defense. And if there was an opening──
■ ■ ■, ■ ■ …… ■, ■ ■, …… ■, ■, ■ ■ ■ …… ■ ■
Oe/ Dia = U milve / x-recrey mihas I, xay xephnis xin sis.
She jumped away to avoid the mateki which formed a giant circle. Placing a foot against the wall of gigantic crystals, she jumped to crystals which were even higher.
The eerily shining mateki wrapped everything up to the nearby crystals ── however, no changes occurred with the crystals. They didn’t decay or crumble; they didn’t even melt under super-high temperatures.
……That’s the cause of Tessha’s coma.
……Only that mateki requires caution.
“Now then, what to do.”
There was no impatience. It was her bitter enemy whom she’d been chasing for many years so this level of strength was to be expected.
“Monica, can you still maintain the barrier?”
“Y-Yes. ……At this rate, I could hold it for a few days.”
“Then we’re changing strategies. Don’t use Baptism spells and restrict yourself to Barrier spells; try to save stamina. It’ll be a protracted battle.”
There were two shots from her right-hand machine pistol and three from her left. A total of five shots pierced through the enemy’s limbs without fail. Rushing to the side of the enemy which couldn’t move, she fired another three shots at its head.
“You hide behind a crystal or something. If you don’t directly provoke it, it will come for me first. ……There’s no rush. After my reinforcements arrive, we’ll settle this.”
Other than her machine pistols, she had a rifle on her back, but these were not enough to finish this.
Then it was a simple matter: something with more power ── cannon-class power would be good enough. In the airship they had arrived on, there were also super powerful firearms for use against dragons. If the reinforcements were to carry those here, they would be able to wipe out Yuugenshu without a trace.
“So you deflected the bullet.”
It meant that the enemy’s barrier had been adapted that far.
With its barrier still up, it used its body’s springs and shot forward with explosive force. It was a form of combat it hadn’t shown until now.
“You’re trying to tell me you changed your fighting style too?”
She kicked off the crystal underfoot and flew into the air. She twisted her body and kicked once off a ceiling crystal, flew through the air from the reaction force and landed far away from the Yuugenshu.
The Yuugenshu which cut through the air continued on like that and crashed into a crystal. Immediately afterwards, an ear-splitting noise sounded and the crystal blew into countless fragments.
“……Just like your regenerative ability, that stupid strength is also appalling.”
Bathed in the shower of falling fragments, the monster appeared without a wound.
……It is no problem. If my weapons arrive, it is an opponent I can certainly defeat.
“I’d like this to be a short battle but I don’t have any intention of that.”
She continued to dodge the charging monster.
……Tessha, wait just a little longer. I will save you.
……I will be the one to save you where no Priestess could.
“You’re just a weakling who can’t love anybody except for the children from the orphanage!”
She remembered those words.
That Priestess……if Ymy Ele Soufflenictole who was acknowledged as the Priestess of Baptism was able to purify this, then nobody would have these harsh feelings.
“……Such flippant words.”
Clenching her molars, Horn muttered that with loathing.
“How can a Priestess who can’t even save a single child say that……!”
Look at reality.
She had chased down this Yuugenshu to where she could defeat it. Year after year, she had bowed her head to her older sister, Viola, caused her suffering and patrolled the harsh Biotope of her own will to continue seeking out the Yuugenshu. One’s best and tenacity are that kind of thing.
“……I am a weakling? A coward? Not relying on anybody in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> isn’t acting strong!”
The Priestesses of which not a single one could purify mateki.
There was no need to trust in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> which revered those Priestesses nor the subordinates of that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. She merely had to make use of them as subordinates and there was no need to expect anymore from them.
Rather than the people of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, there was nothing wrong with special treatment for her friends at the orphanage which had raised her sister and herself.
……I am not mistaken.
…………I should not be mistaken. Even so.
“Err……umm, I was fascinated by how amazing Captain Horn is.”
“I……If I practice, will I be able to become like the Captain──”
……Why am I remembering Catria now?
But what of him? In the tower, he isn’t a Priestess, apprentice Priestess or a Guard. Was there really a need to treat a maintenance boy harshly?
“……But she’s cool.”
“…………Yeah. ……Also, she always leaves the gun maintenance to me.”
Within the tower, he was the only boy that adored her.
He just innocently said that he wished to become her maintenance worker. Yes, he was attached to her just like the children from the orphanage.
On the day he was first assigned──
His eyes were shining like this underground crystal world.
“The Priestess named Ymy Ele Soufflenictole is……very strong. Stronger than you or me, I believe that she carries stronger feelings than anyone.”
“She was persuaded that she is the last hope and that cornered her into extending the Priestess training which should normally not be lengthened.”
……That Cadet’s words were the same.
Her older sister Viola would always come back weakened to the limit after training.
I hate night time ── it feels like I’ll see a dream about training. Seeing her elder sister squatting on the bed while saying that, it was apparent just how harsh the Priestesses’ training was even if she didn’t want to know.
……I knew it all from the beginning.
Just how seriously that Priestess considers Tessha and I.
Why of all times would only excess random thoughts emerge now?
Even thought she should have severed herself from all connections to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
……It’s the truth that Catria the maintenance worker and Ymy the Priestess and every person in the tower is putting forth their best to aid me.
……Since I can’t even acknowledge those two, I really am just like Ymy said──
──When Horn came back to reality, the area ahead of her was filled with mateki.
■ ■ ■, ■ ■ …… ■, ■ ■, …… ■, ■, ■ ■ ■ …… ■ ■
Oe/ Dia = U milve / x-recrey mihas I, xay xephnis xin sis.
……For me to lose focus in the middle of a battle.
Inwardly regretting it, she jumped back with all her might. Her back was on the point of freezing up at the sight of the spot she was just standing at being completely wrapped in mateki.
The gigantic crystal which was bathed in mateki let off a sound at its base and crumbled.
This effect was simple physical destruction. It’s not the coma effect it was using until just now!?
The crystal which had become giant rubble descended from overhead. It was of such weight that she would suffocate under it without being able to move a bit.
“……I’m being mocked!”
Twisting her body, she dodged the continuous rain of falling rubble. She shot the smaller fragments with bullets to deflect them while jumping directly sideways──
That voice came from right next to her ear.
No way……breaking the crystal with mateki was to direct me?
Without even time to turn around, she felt a large presence to her side.
In her peripheral vision, the eight-legged monster filled her view and pressed closer──
Nothing would make it in time.
The distance was too close for her to deflect it with simultaneous gunfire. Even with her firing speed, one or two shots would be the limit. But the Yuugenshu’s shield was already at the point where that wouldn’t break it.
…………Think. ……A plan to break through this crisis.
……The response is…………
There was no response.
Even with all her knowledge and techniques, she could not defeat the Yuugenshu charging at her. She intuitionally understood that.
“……It makes me hate myself from the bottom of my heart.”
Failing so stupidly right at the end. If there was a subordinate that failed like this, she would normally start with chasing them out of the unit.
“……I can’t laugh at that bunch at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
Struggle in vain?
With not even a second left before the Yuugenshu reached her, she had time for one shot. In that brief instant, Horn’s right hand had cast aside her favored gun while she wasn’t thinking.
She couldn’t think of anything. No, she didn’t have time to think.
While in that lost state, her right hand gripped a single gun.
And pulled its trigger.
A crimson flash.
Horn’s excellent vision witnessed the phenomenon that occurred in that moment without fail. A single bullet had been wrapped in a crimson light and shot through the Yuugenshu’s barrier and upper body.
A powerful mateki barrier and it went through easily.
A definite weight was felt in her right hand.
It was a weight she hadn’t felt until now but the large silver gun felt familiar as if it were made specifically for her. That was.
“This was in my cargo, but what is it?”
“Uh……umm, it’s a new creation. Production code, ‘Silver King <Rusty Heidt>‘……the gun’s slide and rifling are designed to be larger and it also uses special bullets.”
The gun christened Silver King <Rusty Heidt>.
She remembered having it pushed onto her by Catria at the airship.
“I wanted to make the bullets themselves in a new metallic structure. After making a request to a Priestess many times, I finally got a carved seal with a Priestess’ baptism spell applied to it. It hasn’t been tested, but it shouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a bullet specialized to Yuugenshu!”
“A Priestess’ baptism spell meaning ane-ue’s?”
“Ah, n-no. Viola-sama was always out of the tower so the best at baptism type spells──”
Specialized anti-Yuugenshu bullets.
It was not like like those until present which were only carved with shinryoku. Most likely, a Priestess had spent a great deal of time offering prayers and applying Baptism spells. She would have done it between regular training and forgone her own sleeping time to fill it with prayers.
Then the Priestess which granted this bullet this much power was?
There was nobody else who could be referred to as the forerunner in Baptism.
She should have known. She should have also known that the one who would use this gun was me. Even so, that Priestess……not considering how much I’ve rejected her, she did this for my sake.
……That idiot sacrificed her own time for this.
“That’s why……I don’t like you, Ymy Ele Soufflenictole.”
Catria as well.
Ymy as well.
Despite being treated that coldly by me, for my sake ── they have gone ahead themselves and become my strength.
……And this is.
……What that cheeky Priestess wanted of me for so long, huh.
The final chance she gave to me.
She took deep, deep breaths repeatedly.
“U-Umm! Not many bullets have been made so there are only three loaded…..”
“I was wondering if I would just barely make it in time for the subjugation mission this time.”
She had two shots left.
She would get through ten minutes with those two shots.
“……And I’m sorry.”
Biting down on her lip and facing forward, Horn pulled the trigger.
Silver King <Rusty Heidt>’s bullet ── the bullet which had a Baptism spell bestowed straight upon it split into twelve smaller pellets immediately after firing. Each of those little pellets pierced through the barrier and body of the Yuugenshu which had regenerated, gouging out large holes.
The wavering beast let out a confused scream.
“Now, I offer my thanks to you.”
The last bullet.
Facing her bitter enemy which whose body was already half annihilated, she calmly pulled the trigger.
The bullet shone silver and crimson. It pierced the Yuugenshu as if being swallowed up and completely destroyed it save one leg.
……So two shots weren’t enough.
……Meaning my skills still have room to grow.
If even a single leg were left behind, it would regenerate. And Silver King <Rusty Heidt>’s bullet count was zero. If it were to regenerate, she would have nothing to shoot it with.
Horn smiled and threw Silver King <Rusty Heidt> up high.
[Sia Sec elis arc……Is io miel]
[That day’s dream, once more……for the sake of that.]
The leftover leg of the Yuugenshu was wrapped in even more crimson light.
The sound of a hard crystal shattering.
It was transmitted coldly, sharply and somehow sadly throughout the crystal world.
“I apologize, I disobeyed your orders.”
Appearing from behind a crystal’s shadow was the girl with sakura-colored hair. The final spell which had completely eliminated the Yuugenshu was hers.
“You said to limit myself to barrier spells but……”
“……No, this is fine.”
She faced the troubled Cadet and shook her head, then looked up at the towering crystals.
……The thing I understood from the beginning but couldn’t do.
The crystal world. A natural mirror which shined because of the sunlight flowing in. A very, very small smile appeared on her face which was reflected in that.
“I finally have the courage to face myself.” [T/N: The kanji for “myself” is 弱虫 meaning “weakling/coward”.]
Gun and crossed rods <Rosario>. In a place away from where two people put away their respective weapons──
“Hey, Sheltis, come on, Sheltis.”
“Shh. Quiet, Ilis, they’ll hear us.”
Covering Ilis who was blinking with liveliness, Sheltis once again hid himself in the shadow of the crystals.
“Mu─, I said it’d be fine if you went out. The one who subjugated the remaining Yuugenshu in this underground cave was you so it isn’t it fine if you just grandly appear?”
“……Well, there’s a mountain of stuff I want to do.”
He held his dual swords in his hands.
Wiping the sweat flowing from his forehead, Sheltis slowly sat down.
“Ah─, that was tiring.”
“Good work. That was fourteen aboveground and twenty five underground for a total of thirty nine. The average time taken was 12 minutes, 5 seconds and you also did well in keeping your injuries down to two light wounds. These are results enough to make a Priestess or Sennenshi go pale.”
“……It seems like the underground was the Yuugenshu’s home grounds.”
He had a bad feeling when the Yuugenshu had split the surface of the great salt lake and appeared.
That S vector, eighth class did not invite them to that crevice to split their unit in two. It was to surround them with the Yuugenshu waiting underground.
“It was a silver lining that Monica was there.”
If Monica had not quickly erected a shinryoku barrier, they would have been attacked by the Yuugenshu troops following the ‘S vector, eighth class‘.
──In reality, dozens of Yuugenshu had been waiting just outside Monica’s barrier.
And the one who wiped them out was Sheltis.
“But you know, you should also thank me. Since I found the path through this underground cavern.”
“……Wasn’t that just a pitfall?”
He had Kagura and Vaiel stay aboveground to communicate with the reinforcements.
That left him to follow Ilis’ guidance and charge into the Yuugenshu den alone. And just like that, he had entered a rough battle of which nobody knew.
He alone had wiped out the dozens of Yuugenshu in the crystal cavern.
For those who didn’t know the circumstances, it was a number which would even cause Instructors to doubt their ears.
“But I’m glad.”
“I just had a little feeling that something might change.”
From the shadow of the crystals, he stealthily peeked in the direction the two were standing at.
──Horn was staring at her reflection in a crystal.
“Like I thought, Priestesses and Sennenshi have to get along.”
A deep gap had separated Ymy and Horn.
The only ones who could repair that were the people in question. That was why all he could do was support them from the shadows at the conclusion.
“Helping repair Ymy’s relations from behind the scenes, hmm. But you know, sometimes I want to have the chance to do showy things in the open.”
“……That’s all up to chance.”
Machine crystal <Ilis> sighed and Sheltis answered that with a sigh of his own.
“Everyone, I’m glad you’re all safe.”
Those were the words first spoken by Monica after she was rescued from the giant hole.
“I was worried. After we fell down, there was no support or response for a while, so I thought that perhaps you were also about to be attacked by Yuugenshu.”
“……It wasn’t just about to be.”
“That’s right. It was a hassle.”
Kagura and Vaiel answered with dead tired expressions.
“Don’t say that. It was hard on our end too. At any rate, it was a really troublesome one which no matter how many times we defeated it──”
“Right, that. Ilis and I were also worried but……it looks like everything went alright.”
He didn’t have time to check while fighting the Yuugenshu underground, but she didn’t seem to have any injuries on her when he looked. He had more scratches on him.
“Captain Horn was the one who struggled so I was more of an extra.”
She dug her nails into her unharmed formal wear in shame.
“That’s wrong. The one who completely annihilated that was her.”
The blinder-wearing woman lightly rested her hand on Monica’s shoulder.
“My thanks; I was saved by your barrier.”
“Eh? Ehh, eh…… wa-wait, Captain Horn!?”
“I merely spoke the truth.”
The Sennenshi declared that plainly and turned around.
…………Should I say it?
He was lost for a moment on whether he should speak.
Sheltis called out to Horn who was about to walk away.
“What is it?”
“Thank you very much.”
She had a dubious expression on her face as he bowed his head to her.
“Isn’t Monica unharmed because you put yourself at the front?”
The fully depleted Silver King <Rusty Heidt>. The machine pistol magazines all around her waist were also used up by a great deal. It had been that much of a rough battle.
“All according to plan. There’s no idiot who would place a shinryoku spellcaster before the enemy. Also”
The tall woman slowly turned to him.
“I was indebted to you.”
“I’m interested in your background but I’ll let it slide for now.”
She turned away and walked away briskly.
……I see, so she really did notice.
“What’s wrong, Sheltis?”
“Eh? No, I don’t really understand it well.”
He folded his arms and thought. By the way, he had already asked Kagura and Vaiel to keep it a secret from Monica that he had headed underground by himself.
Horn, who was walking at the head of the group, suddenly came to a stop.
“Wa, wawaa……Captain Horn, I’m glad to see you’re safe!”
The boy with heavy firearms in both hands ran up to the blinder-wearing Sennenshi. He should have been in overalls but now he was wearing camouflaged battle clothes.
“Catria, what is that outfit for?”
“B-Because, because. ‘Bring a stronger weapon‘. It was a Yuugenshu even Silver King <Rusty Heidt> couldn’t defeat, right? For that kind of opponent, I-I thought I would also need to fight!”
“……Ahh. About that, your new gun was helpful.”
Horn replied with a strangely awkward expression.
“Eh, i-is that right!”
“But that doesn’t mean a maintenance worker should join the reinforcements unit. Somebody who doesn’t even know how to fire a gun shouldn’t come out onto the battlefield.”
The boy stared at the heavy firearms in his hands with a downcast expression.
“……I won’t say it again.”
“If you have a break from work, tell me ahead of time.”
In front of the boy who had his mouth hanging open absentmindedly, the Sennenshi averted her face for some reason and mumbled.
“……I’ll at least teach you how to handle a gun.”
“What is it?”
“B-Because, Captain Horn is……saying such kind words to me. Th-This is bad. You must have been hit with mateki and gone strange in the head──”
A fist sunk into Catria’s face with an unpleasant sound. Monica and the others who shuddered at the full-strength hit and the person who clenched that fist grabbed the boy by his collar.
“Come to think of it, Catria, how about the report to the executives?”
“A-All done! Everyone was relieved that the subjugation is complete.”
She muttered that as if talking to herself, then the female Sennenshi looked up at the sky.
“……The only thing left now is Tessha.”
There was no mistake that the one she defeated was the S vector, eighth class she had been chasing for many years. There was one concern left ── whether or not defeating the main body had managed to also erase the mateki eating away at the boy.
“Let’s have faith. Also, that it’s not the delayed sin-type mateki.”
That was mateki which became a stronger curse after its defeat. If mateki which the Priestesses couldn’t cure were to become even stronger, nothing could be done about it.
The only thing they could do was have faith.
In what they had come to do. As well as the meaning in what Horn Nova had spent years continuing.
“I’ll confirm it with the doctor in charge of the hospital. Sorry, but please wait a bit.”
Placing the communicator to her ear, Horn was silent. However.
“…………Why……is no one answering?”
Her whisper said everything with utmost cruelty.
“Is this Horn-sama?”
A nurse working at the hospital was heard from the communicator.
“What is it? Where is Tessha’s doctor──”
“Th-The doctor……he just ran to D ward and hasn’t come back yet! U-Um, he said that a patient’s condition had suddenly worsened.”
“…………Don’t tell me, is it D09?”
“I-I don’t know but it was the patient in the innermost room. ……Ah, h-hello, Horn-sama!?”
The communicator slipped from Horn’s hand which had lost its strength and fell.
Both her knees touched the ground followed by both hands. A sob leaked from the lips which the Sennenshi was biting down on hard enough to draw blood.
Delayed sin-type mateki. There was no way to stop the curse strength which had lost its control. It was of a strength which Priestesses couldn’t cure even before running out of control. There was no way they could deal with it.
“Why……nothing has paid off……I……what I’ve done so far, not a single thing has”
“It will pay off, definitely.”
From the communicator which had fallen to the ground, it was carried along the silver wind flowing to the great salt lake.
“I’ve heard the report. You defeated that Yuugenshu. ……That’s why, after that, you must believe. In what you have done. And in me.”
Whispering that with a sob mixed in, Horn Nova slightly lifted her face.
“Tessha-kun’s mateki was of the delayed sin type as I suspected. Because the main body was annihilated, his mateki has undergone a change. ……We don’t even have an hour to spare. I will be heading to D09 to perform a purification now. The supervising doctor is making preparations.”
“Are you uneasy? That I’m performing the purification.”
Horn didn’t answer.
“……Please have faith and wait. Well then──”
Horn’s hand once again gripped the communicator.
Such that everyone there could hear, she stood up and then.
The third Sennenshi lowered her head towards the communicator.
“……I am thankful that you are at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.”
“I entrust Tessha to you.”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia, internal hospital.
“Yes. I will save him for sure.”
With one eye closed while facing the communicator, Ymy quietly breathed in.
In front of her when she turned around was an enormous steel door which was shut firmly. This was already D ward. It was the floor for patients contaminated with powerful mateki who absolutely could not be helped with regular treatments.
It was one of the quietest places in the tower.
Everything from the ceiling to the corridor was covered in formal carved seals letting off bluish-white light. A single person was in the hall which was filled with the radiance of shinryoku, heading absolutely straight to the furthest depths.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Room D09. The attending doctor stood in front of its door.
“As you directed, the evacuation of attending doctors and apprentice Priestesses from around this room has been completed.”
“……Okay. I’ll tell you when I’m done so please don’t let anyone enter until then.”
The attending doctor saw Ymy off as she walked up to the door.
The instant she entered, her breath caught at the unnatural airflow.
The room was filled with deep purple mist.
The ceiling, walls and floor: every single thing was supposed to be one color by they were now dyed purple.
“This entire room is dyed with mateki.”
The sweat flowing down her cheek was cold enough to make her shiver.
……Such thick mateki.
It was almost as if this area had become a miniature Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. A regular person would be cursed by the mateki just by breathing. It was an outrageous density.
[Unto me, all the wishes that of which I am able……]
[ele So Phi-a-s Arma-Riris]
Particles shining with crimson light floated in the air and hazily wrapped her body.
……I must do what I could not do yesterday.
A single boy continued to slumber while attached to an artificial respirator. He was wearing a patient’s gown for children and continued seeing a dream without waking from his coma.
O seven colors of the interweaving dream
Yu/ ubinis ole = C kis tih Ies.
The slumbering spring’s rest is at an end, wishing, the augite that awakens with the path.
mios huda yum xeph fel hypne shel sephat, xephnis wision.
──Strange purple patterns emerged from his entire body.
It formed a complete contrast with the formal wear with shinryoku carved seals, nevi that looked as if a curse were carved straight onto the body had clearly emerged from his entire body.
“……I will save you this time.”
She gripped the hand of the boy whose eyes were shut and hugged that delicate body strongly.
Now in this place, the accumulated songs of praise, the quivering pulsations, arrive at the heavenly sound.
mehnes nelar, Ee toga-s-sia vea clar = C nelves zahl tis kyel Sophit.
The pouring drops, lovingly fill and run towards the fated time.
kei yum lisy r-blow-s-miel xins clue Is-Ye-fio missin.
O wishes, become the path of thousands of hopes.
Ris sia sophia, shel evoia steras tis lef ilis.
The Priestess’ prayer. Failure was not permitted.
Not for my sake, nor for Horn’s, but for this child’s sake.
……What I have trained so far. For a long, long time.
……Everything was for the sake of today.
───For the time the world is filled with prayers, I sing.
Yu/ Se = C clar fears valen r-miel noi I.
The crimson lights purifying the mateki become tens of times brighter in one instant.
The band of light was reminiscent of an aurora. The instant the deep purple mist wrapping the entirety of the room touched that, it disappeared with a twinkle like snow in the sunlight.
……It’s being purified?
The room was regaining its pure whiteness. What was left was the boy who served as the source of the mateki. The ominous nevi were also disappearing quickly starting from the extremities, his arms and legs.
……Just a little more, just a little more.
The nevi at his stomach disappeared, and then the nevi from his chest to his neck, and even those at his shoulders were disappearing. Now if only the nevi with the mateki whose curse was strongest on his face and head were to disappear, the purification would be complete.
The shinryoku light climbed up from the base of his neck and the nevi disappeared in tandem. Just when she thought the crimson light was moving from his chin to his head.
The shinryoku lights became smaller particles and were deflected.
What happened? The purification isn’t over yet; the most essential part of this child’s purification is still left. The mateki which serves as the origin of his coma isn’t gone yet.
“I-It’s some kind……of mistake, right?”
Once more, one more try.
She strongly hugged the boy and once again spun the words of prayer. She wrapped her body in shinryoku to her limits and──
That light was once again rejected by the mateki eating away at the boy.
Mateki propagation. While she was doing that, the mateki nevi gradually returned from his neck to his shoulders and from his shoulders to his chest. The contamination had started again.
It escaped the limits of her power. The mateki had clashed head-on with her shinryoku which should be the greatest in quantity of all the Priestesses and she didn’t even counterbalance it.
……It’s the same phenomenon as when I challenged the Yuugenshu from a thousand years ago.
……Then the Yuugenshu that attacked this child was a strong type of the same strength?
No way, there are remnants of those powerful ones from a thousand years ago left on the floating continent <Orbie Clar>? And defeating one would only cause the mateki to turn malignant.
……That kind of thing……how do we counter it……
She opened her eyes and bit on her lip hard enough to draw blood.
Even if I try to think of a countermeasure, there’s no point. There’s no other way except for me to exhaust myself to the point of collapse time after time, however many dozens of times.
[Unto me, all the wishes that of which I am able……]
[ele So Phi-a-s Arma-Riris]
The second release precedent.
“After all……I am a Priestess.”
It wasn’t responsibility or duty. She became a Priestess because she decided that was what she wanted to do. Being taught by Meimel, trying her best along with Syun-rei, having her previous senpai return and, above all, her important childhood friend had returned to the tower──
……Because I like it!
That’s why I want to do my best.
On this floating continent <Orbie Clar>, in this tower, I like doing my best together with everyone!
She concentrated on the spell hard enough to faint and held the boy as hard as she could…………
That shinryoku shattered with a noise.
The overflowing deep purple mateki became even darker and only multiplied.
Sorry. She didn’t even have the strength to think of that word.
Her vision grew dim and something hot overflowed from the tip of her eyelids……it felt like something very important within her had come to a halt.
The boy who continued to sleep was pushed over and Ymy collapsed at that spot.
Within her consciousness which had been lost.
She heard a song.
In a far-off, distant place.
A nostalgic song in a nostalgic place.
……Somebody……a girl is……singing?
………………Who is it?
“I am myself. The form which your shinryoku <strength> shall arrive at and the existence which lies ahead of your possibilities.”
Only the girl’s smile echoed like a song.
[I am crimson A great mother and a girl]
[En Ze lu la clue. Zeul la ilmei Zelah -di- mis.]
[Made into a complete will, a single fragment of the great Selah]
[Zewl la elmei-l-phenoris Ema -di- lement lef Selah.]
[Governing the records of times of strife, forming knowledge with love. Its symbol]
[Sera, Zewl la clue-l-sophie neckt. tes Arma Risis.]
……What is……she saying?
…………I don’t understand.
“But you can hear my words, right?”
I can hear them.
But where am I hearing them from? It’s not through my ears; it’s a strange throb almost like I’m talking to myself.
That voice became somewhat lively.
“You who can hear my voice. You can finally awaken. Within this frozen, sleeping world, you will be able to walk with your own feet.”
Frozen, sleeping world……walk? Where have I heard those words?
“O sleeping children Your legs are still weak This frozen land is still pained”
“=C hypn phenoria, Eec wat nes ei getie bis kills cley kis ei mihas”
……That’s right, come to think of it.
There should have been a line like that in the Priestesses’ Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code>──
“Now, O children who have been born”
After the girl sung loudly.
“If the world desires you, then I shall teach you a grand chant.”
──Ymy’s consciousness sunk somewhere very, very deep.
A world filled with something that seemed like black water of pure darkness.
It was like the night sky.
What twinkled there were not stars but large and small frozen crystals. They were an azure which reminded her of Hyouketsu Kyoukai’s crystals.
……Why……is that in this world?
“…………Where is this?”
Ymy absentmindedly drifted in this space whose atmosphere had a strange density to it like water.
“This is a solitary world. My world.”
A red light shined before her eyes and a conspicuously large crystal appeared.
“A world filled with frozen crystals. Nice to meet you, Ymy. Ymy Ele Soufflenictole, I have awaited you for a long time.”
A shadow of small stature could be faintly seen within the frozen crystal.
……It’s a girl.
……A girl with crimson hair.
The radiance of crimson which was the symbol of Baptism. The girl who was producing as well as endowed with that color.
“……You know me?”
“I am the records of everything in this world. For I am the original of that which you know as ‘Mikuva’s Crimson Eye‘.”
Mikuva’s Crimson Eye. That should have been the treasure that the Governmental Sector secretly had.
It was a shinryoku system which would monitor everything about the floating continent <Orbie Clar> and record it. But……no way. The girl before my eyes is……the original of that treasure?
“The harsh and pure truth. That is why I am the Forbidden Crystal of this world.”
She strangely had heard those words before. She didn’t know who had said it or where. But sometime, somewhere, she had heard them. That was what she felt.
Within the frozen ice, the girl spread both hands.
“This world is a mirror. Two opposing sides filled by a single component.
The floating continent <Orbie Clar> and the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>.
Shinryoku and mateki.
And slumber and awakening.”
Slumber. With that word, Ymy finally remembered her mission.
“U-Um……sorry. I have a child I must save. So please, tell me……where is this? Send me back!”
“Were you to return, the current you cannot save that child.”
“……Then……what should I do!”
“I told you. You will awaken here. If you awaken, then you should also be able to awaken a sleeping child.”
What does that mean?
I am not…..yet awoken?
“You form the contrast with the boy who fell to paradise. If perchance you hear my voice……I shall teach you the true Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code>.”
The girl who named herself as the Forbidden Crystal loosened her expression.
“The Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code> which invites the world into slumber. The Seventh True Rhythm <Eden Code> which reawakens that world. Two lives which would normally never intersect. However, if by chance you reach the deepest parts of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, at that time──”
“……At that time”
“You must ascertain that for yourself. I will be naught but the opportunity.”
The Forbidden Crystal proclaimed those words.
She remembered hearing those exact words previously in the Grand Sanctuary.
“Change. There is an absolute lack of opportunities for your shinryoku to bloom.”
She felt that she had finally come to an understanding.
About the meaning of those words back then. The reason she caught a glimpse of the world a thousand years ago.
“Congratulations. You have reached it. The cries of your heart summoned me so I shall also impart a gift to you. A valuable gift.”
The Forbidden Crystal encased in a block of ice extended a hand.
That hand slipped through the water’s surface……
Her fingers stroked my off-gold hair gently. It was gentle like a mother combing her child’s hair.
“I’ve waited always. Always……always…………for the chance that I would be released.”
Flutter. A warm light gradually illuminated the night-colored world.
A crimson light.
Wrapped in the current of light which wouldn’t let her open her eyes, Ymy reflexively closed her eyes.
“I entrust you with my power and the door to ‘The Promised Land <Tsarabell>‘.”
“W-Wait───! You are, you are───”
The world was filled with light.
Chasing after the disappearing visage of the Forbidden Crystal, Ymy desperately reached out her hand.
The instant that hand touched the girl’s fingertips.
Ymy lost consciousness once more.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, floor 22, internal hospital.
Horn ran through the hallway of D ward which was isolated by a giant door.
“Th-That’s right! But……there still hasn’t been a report about Ymy-sama’s treatment ending.”
Running alongside Horn was a nurse.
……It’s been about two hours since we returned to the tower from the great salt lake.
……It’s normally unthinkable for a purification spell to last two hours.
“Ymy……is safe, right?”
“Monica, Kagura and Vaiel are undergoing post-battle diagnosis by a doctor. After that’s over, they’ll immediately head to D ward. So──”
“We’ll go there without telling them we’re going on ahead.”
A tinge of unease pressed down within his chest as Sheltis followed after the two before him.
“Purifying that mateki which has undergone a change because of the main body’s elimination……poses a risk of calling danger to the spell caster, Ymy.”
“……So the worst case scenario is a possibility.”
The effectiveness of a Baptism spell would change greatly depending on the shinryoku output. There were examples of using too much strength to purify mateki placing too heavy a strain on the spell caster’s mind and body, leaving them beyond recovery.
“If it were an apprentice Priestess’ purification, there would be a several people watching.”
Ymy was a Priestess. There was nobody who could stop her. Even if that were not the case, especially for this time, she would sacrifice anything to save the patient.
……Please be safe.
……The patient, and Ymy as well.
Clenching his fist solidly as he prayed, Sheltis followed after Horn.
A voice of surprise came from the attending doctor standing in front of the door.
“How’s Ymy!? How is Tessha’s healing!?”
“Th-There’s still been no report. She should be able to come out when it’s finished……”
“──I understand the situation. I’m using my authority to open this door. Okay?”
Allowing the attending doctor to step aside, Horn pushed open the door.
Sheltis stepped into the room after Horn and doubted his eyes.
The room was pure white and the white curtains swayed with the wind from the window. The boy clothed in a white patients gown. And the figure of the girl holding that boy as seen from behind.
The girl’s crimson hair flowed in the wind.
……It’s not Ymy?
Even though his childhood friend with off-gold hair should be here, it was a different girl standing there.
Horn wordlessly approached the lone girl.
The girl also turned to them.
A befuddled voice unsuited to the location.
“Is that……you, Ymy Ele Soufflenictole?”
“Eh? Ah, y-yes. ……Wait, eh? Is something wrong?”
Ymy tilted her head while still holding onto the boy.
“No, but your hair──”
In front of Horn’s outstretched finger, the crimson from Ymy’s hair fluttered off into the sunlight. Those were particles of crimson that had adhered to her hair.
“……So that’s it. It was just Baptism shinryoku dyeing her hair. Ahh, that surprised me. You really resembled that.”
Machine crystal <Ilis> at his chest sighed in relief.
“! That’s right, how’s Tessha! Is the purification over!”
The Priestess did not answer the Sennenshi who said several things at once.
Instead of an answer, she silently handed over the boy she was clutching.
The boy’s artificial respirator had been removed. It was slight, but his chest was moving up and down. He was breathing with his own strength of his own will. After that.
Weak and fickle though it may have been, his eyes surely opened.
Horn went to her knees while holding the boy.
“……I’m glad. Truly……”
Droplets passed through the blinder.
“It has been a long time……I wondered if it was hopeless how many times……I’d almost given up.”
That was definitely the first time she had shown that at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> ── those were the ‘complaints‘ that she had endured all this time.
Beside Horn who was hugging the boy, Ymy firmly puffed out her chest and turned to him.
“Well? Isn’t that amazing? It’s surprising, isn’t it, the purification of the mateki was done in one go!”
With a full-face smile that blew away the damp atmosphere, his childhood friend balled her fist.
“Now, now? Don’t you have something to say to me?”
“……Well, isn’t that amazing.”
“No, no! More like, like, you knowww.”
Being looked at with eyes of expectation, Sheltis suddenly leaked out a wry smile.
“You did well; good work.”
“……Ehehe, thank you.”
The Priestess smiled with embarrassment and happiness.
“You’re simple, aren’t youuu.”
“I-Isn’t that fine! Anybody would be happy to receive praise. I-It’s not like……that’s why I’m a Priestess……”
Ymy’s face went red at machine crystal <Ilis>’ prodding.
“A-Anyway, this solves one problem. I need to report to Meimel and the others──”
“Hoo. Well then. Then it’ll be fine for you to tell our story too, Priestess?”
That voice that he didn’t know came from directly behind in the direction of the door.
“Ahh, sorry, it looks like I’ve interrupted a fun mood. Since that’s how it is, let us in on it too. Right, Kuro?”
“……Huick-sama, even though I told you so much to read the atmosphere.”
A tall man was leaning casually up against the door frame.
And waiting behind him was one more person, a woman in a suit.
……They got this close without me realizing it?
No matter how much his attention was drawn by talking with Ymy, even if a Regular Guard were to pay attention to masking their footsteps, he was confident he would notice. Even so.
“Who are you?”
Still holding Tessha, Horn drew out an automatic pistol.
“State your affiliation, name and purpose in coming here within fifteen seconds. If not──”
“Yes, yes. Not like I had any intention of hiding them.”
But the man who had a gun shoved up against his nose didn’t falter from his calm expression.
“First, my intention ── ahh, this isn’t really anything major. I came from quite a ways away so I thought I might as well observe. You guys are also observing us quite harshly, aren’t you?”
“A question. Who is us?”
“The Governmental Sector. Didn’t that Priestess over there and that Guard nii-chan over there come? That time, it seems like a muscle-headed idiot of ours was really in your care.”
The suited woman wordlessly bowed.
“Next question. Who is this muscle-headed idiot?”
“Right, that nii-chan over there actually fought him so he should remember. About our ‘Number One‘.”
He said that with a cackle, enjoyment and resignation.
──The Governmental Sector. And the man who was known as the ‘Number One‘.
“Zeadoll of the Sanctuary Arts……?”
“Yeah, that guy, that guy. Nah, it’s because that muscle-headed idiot praised someone which is rare so we’d also very much like to meticulously adore them.”
The man drew near and straightened up.
Standing right beside the woman in a suit, the man pointed at himself and made a proclamation.
“‘Number Nine‘ Huick of the Governmental Sector secret military organization, ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘. I took all the time to come out here, so try being grateful?”