Around 50 pages for this chapter. Nice.
……It was quiet.
It was silent to the point of hurting the ears. A snowy mountain in the dead of winter which hid the breathing of all living creatures or possibly the complete opposite, hot sand at the height of summer.
It was silence which reminded one of those kinds of harsh examples from nature.
However, this was not that kind of large natural environment but the very different middle of the Living Districts.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, floor 269.
The tower which stood at the center of the floating continent, Orbie Clar, on a floor near the summit. Normally, it would be used by the executives of the tower for their meetings.
“Hey, hey, Sheltis? Come on, let’s go toooo.”
“Hey! Everyone’s left and it’s just usss. It’s boring with just us left in the meeting roooom.”
“You’re right, let’s go. We also have to make preparations.”
Left all alone in the room, Sheltis looked towards the ceiling light and sighed.
──Both his hands had been balled.
Opening his sweaty hands, he supported himself with the round table and stood from his chair.
“That’s unexpected; I expected you to be jumping for joy.”
“……I’m not a dog.”
Shrugging in response to machine crystal <Ilis> which was blinking at his chest, he moved towards the room’s door.
Meeting room 269-D. He pushed open the door labeled as such.
……I can’t celebrate yet.
……That will have to wait until I know if Igun’I knows how to purify my mateki.
Holding his breath, he forced back all the cramp-like tension throughout his body. Passing through the door of the empty meeting room, Sheltis went through the empty hallway and to the elevator.
Everything was but a short while before.
Meeting room 269-F.
One of the dozens of meeting rooms on floor 269 of the tower──
“Well then, I’ll announce the members who will be participating in the joint operation with the Governmental Sector─”
Meimel declared in her usual drawn-out voice. With that, the members filling the room had tension clear on their lips.
──The operation to infiltrate the third organization’s headquarters.
“Oh, you’re choosing already. That’s great, it helps us out too. Riiight, Kuro?”
The Number Nine <Huick> reclining in his chair and his accompanying female subordinate. To begin with, the chance for this plan was a proposition from the two executives who had come from the Governmental Sector.
The Lords of Unusual Books had once assaulted a Regular Guard unit of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and even attacked the Governmental Sector only some days ago. This was to infiltrate their base and ascertain their identity and aim.
……The unit members must be stringently selected for that.
Feeling his throat growing dry from the tension, Sheltis gulped.
At any rate, the opponents which ‘Golden‘ Maha and ‘Blank‘ Igun-I belonged to were of unknown strength. Their scale aside, nothing of their objective was known either. Just one thing was known: those who belonged to the group known as the Lords of Unusual Books had monstrous battle potential. Because they were infiltrating the heart of such an enemy, being chosen applied more of a heavy pressure than a sense of accomplishment.
“Say, Kuro, who do you think will be chosen?”
“……Huick-sama, please don’t ask such a question in front of the people concerned.”
Across from her superior who had his eyes semi-closed happily, Kuro shook her head at them with an exasperated look.
──Those of an absolute level in the tower gathered in the room.
There were three Priestesses. Meimel and Ymy, as well as Viola who was on standby.
There were also three Sennenshi. Ran and Leon, as well as Horn who was on standby. Added to that was the Cadres Guard, Ishtar, who was also idling in the room.
He secretly stole a peek at the comrades from his unit who were standing somewhat to the back of the room.
Mixed in with the distinguished personas was the Cadet Guard unit, which one could go as far as to call unique, consisting of Sheltis, Monica, Vaiel and Kagura. Because of their accomplishments on the Governmental Sector expedition, they had also become candidates for the unit proposed by the Governmental Sector.
“Now then, only those whose names are called may remain.”
There was only a maximum of five people who could be chosen.
With the infiltration being a covert operation, these were the select few elite. Only four people could infiltrate at one time ── so with the Ninth <Huick> and Kuro being pre-decided members, there were only two who could be chosen for the main unit. The remaining three would form a separate unit.
“Ah─, wait, wait, Meimel. What about those who aren’t called? Can they just go back and do whatever? Or will they go on standby?”
Ran’s raised hand interrupted Meimel.
“My, my, Ran, you sure like to fret, don’t youuu; you don’t have to worry about that─”
Facing her partner, the Priestess closed one eye.
“Rather than fretting, I think people would normally be wondering about it. There will be more not picked than picked.”
“Yes. But I will call everyone’s names so you don’t have to worry.”
“Only those who have their names called may remain here. But I didn’t say that means those called are those who will be participating in the infiltration unit─”
Meimel looked at Ran, who had her mouth hanging open, with teasing eyes.
“I was planning to explain after but I guess I’ll just say it. I will call everybody’s names in order from now, but I will also designate a room at the same time. Everyone, please wait in the room indicated. Those members who will remain in this room as well, it’ll be fine with just those who are told to stay here.”
“Fumu, fumu. So the different groups, the main unit and the separate unit……will each receive their own individual instructions from Meimel-sama in their respective rooms?”
Ishtar had a fearless smile on her face which gave no indication as to how she felt.
“……Hm. Did Ishtar say too much?”
“It’s no problem〰. Rather, you said what needed to be said.”
With no signs of being upset, Meimel also smiled.
“Well then, first ─── Ymy.”
She didn’t think her name would come up first, so Ymy gave an inarticulate reply and then had her face dyed bright red.
“Are you okay?”
“I-I’m hine……I-I’m fine!”
“Yes, yes, settle down a bit. First, you go to the two rooms ahead after exiting to the corridor. Meeting room 269-H. Wait there until I come. Okay, hurry, hurry.”
Leaving the door open behind her, Ymy ran with small steps.
“Ah─ jeez……she left the door open. She really is bad in tense situations like this. Well, let’s continue.”
Meimel’s gaze moved to the girl reclining in her chair beside her.
“Ran, you stay here.”
“‘Kay, that’s easy.”
“Now then, let’s keep it going. Next, Sheltis.”
“Sheltis Magna Yehle.”
“Hey, you’re being called.”
Sheltis came back to Earth when Kagura tugged on his sleeve.
“Yes. You will go to meeting room 269-D two rooms over. Wait there.”
Using a paper fan she’d pulled out from who-knows-where, she pointed in the direction of the room’s right-side wall.
……I thought I would be called last.
Continuing from a Priestess, Ymy, and a Sennenshi, Ran, the logical progression would be Leon who’s also a Sennenshi ── it was a sudden switch from the top.
Ymy who had been called first went left in the corridor to meeting room 269-H.
Ran who was second remained in meeting room 269-F.
And he was in meeting room 269-D, two rooms to the right.
……Everybody’s split up so far.
……I can’t predict who will be the chosen members heading to the third organization.
“Now then, which room will it be? Though it’ll be fine even if it’s not the main unit, as long as it’s the separate one.”
“It’s just waiting now.”
It was a miscalculation that his name would be called this quickly. He wouldn’t know which rooms everybody who remained would be directed to.
“The ones you will know are just yourself and those who come to the same meeting room.”
“……I’m getting nervous.”
Wearing a wry smile, Sheltis opened the door to meeting room 269-D.
“My, a teapot and teacup. She’s well-prepared.”
“So she’s saying to drink up and wait.”
In accordance with the elongated shape of the room, there was a long table. Atop the nearest table surface, a tea pot with white steam rising from it was prepared.
“It should be Meimel’s work. Since the time the Governmental Sector’s ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘ came, she must have predicted most of these developments. How fearsome.”
“I’ll admit that that’s some amazing foresight but really, having tea elegantly here is……uwah, why is there even cookies and cake!? Wait, huh? This cake is──”
“From The Two Swans <Albireo>. Meimel buys snacks from there sometimes.”
“……This makes me want to solve the mystery of their connection.”
Though they’ve been prepared, let’s set aside the tea and snacks. He chose the table just behind the one with a tea cup on it and sat on a seat at the edge.
“Now we wait to see who will come.”
“You can make a rough estimate based on the members who were called. Oh, speak of the devil.”
Footsteps were heard from the other side of the door.
“Maybe this should be called an inseparable relationship.”
It was simultaneous.
Sheltis called his name at the same time as the silver-haired young man opened the door and showed himself.
“Welcome, Leon, would you like some tea?”
“I’ll pass. Unfortunately, we’re not here to fraternize happily.”
Leon replied with a serious expression and leaned against the wall.
“You won’t sit?”
“This is fine if the talk won’t take long. But being together with you, I don’t get what’s going on.”
“That’s righttt. In the end, is it this group or the remainders that are the selected unit?”
“Yeah. That Meimel……just what is she thinking.”
Leon’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“Sheltis, what do you think?”
“I wonder. Since Leon, you were part of the group that said you ‘aren’t going‘, right?”
When Meimel first asked who wanted to be in the chosen unit, in contrast to he who had raised his hand at the start, this man had not raised his hand to the end.
“More accurately, I’m in the ‘whatever’s fine‘ group. If there’s a call for it, I won’t refuse but I can’t apply for it myself because of my position as a Sennenshi.”
Leon crossed his arms while still leaning against the wall.
“While Syun-rei is supporting Hyouketsu Kyoukai, a single person can’t just run off ahead on this large-scale mission, can he?”
“Ah, that’s true. But Meimel would know that for sure.”
He who had said he wanted to go and Leon who remained firm in not raising his hand to the end. As both of them were gathered in the same meeting room, would this be the main unit or the group staying behind?
“By the way, why do you want to join the main unit?”
Leon’s gaze pierced in his direction.
“The information about the third organization is being kept a secret even within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Moreover, as it’s a joint unit with the Governmental Sector, the Sennenshi and Priestesses would be at the forefront and the main unit would consist of those of the Cadres Guard level. You should also be aware of that.”
It was a mission which a Cadet Guard could name himself for. Despite knowing that, is there a reason you’re pushing for it anyway? ── Leon was implicitly adding that.
“……Something like that.”
“With that response, it seems like there is something.”
Leon sighed with wryness mixed in. In front of his old friend, Sheltis ignored that and looked up at the ceiling lighting.
“Well, I guess there are two reasons. Both of them are related to Ymy and I.”
A bright light.
Even though it seemed like he could grasp it by reaching his hand out, it would slip through the gaps in his fingers.
“You remember the floating archipelago <Lagoon> we went to together, right?”
“That time we searched the deserted research facility. It looked like the Governmental Sector’s work no matter how we thought of it back then.”
“At that place……you didn’t fight it directly, but Monica and I fought a Yuugenshu there. That was the first thing that caught my interest.”
The Yuugenshu being nurtured in a water tank, known as the ‘Sleeping Child‘. Why, for what reason and with what techniques did they cultivate a Yuugenshu?
“Nurturing a Yuugenshu is not something somebody would normally think of. ……There should be something to it. If we figure out the third organization’s objective, the investigations into the Yuugenshu and the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> should also progress. It might also be able to lessen the load on Ymy.”
“I see, so that’s the reason connected to Ymy.”
It seemed that he’d understood as his expression loosened.
“The other one is?”
“The Lords of Unusual Books.”
“The shinryoku spell caster known as Golden Maha? I heard you repelled him though.”
“No, not him. The other one known as Igun-I. You also know about the case a while ago where a mail was simultaneously sent to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>’s work terminals that went like, ‘A Yuugenshu which is taking on human form is in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>‘. That was also his work.”
“……That was? No, wait. If that wasn’t a joke or prank mail, then that Igun-I guy knows about your──”
Leon’s expression turned doubtful.
“That would mean he knows about your mateki.”
“……That’s the second reason.”
The power to freely operate Mikuva’s Crimson Eye and the mysterious aria which resembled mateki.
Also, why did he know about my mateki?
“Those Lords of Unusual Books knew about my mateki. Knowing that, they said something like ‘Let’s meet again‘……it seemed like they knew something about my mateki.”
“So they might know something about how to remove your mateki too. ……I see, that would explain why you raised your hand.”
“Well, there’s a problem before that though.”
He looked around the meeting room which only had the two of them.
“……Isn’t it taking too long for someone else to come?”
“It’s unexpected, but were the only ones sent to this room us?”
Leon glanced at the wall-mounted digital clock.
“I’m also interested in the attitude of ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘ which remained in 269-F. Though I think we can react to anything that happens since Ran stayed back.”
Clack ── a light footstep sounded from the corridor.
“Oh, this high heel sound would make it her.”
“O─kay. Thanks for waiting, you two, now let’s get straight into the strategy meeting─”
Opening the door with gusto was Meimel with her usual smile.
“Did I keep you waiting?”
“I’m tired of waiting.”
“Sorry〰. But I prepared black tea and snacks because I thought it might take a while, you know? It would’ve been okay if you’d eaten them while waiting.”
The Priestess winked with a teasing smile.
“As my excuse, I had to explain to everybody in the three rooms in order by myself. With convenience in mind, it can’t be helped if the room which requires a strategy meeting is left for last, right?”
“Maybe so but──”
Leon forced back the words he was about to speak.
“Wait, did you just say strategy meeting? That means”
“As you surmised.”
The Priestess who managed the tower suddenly turned her gaze in his direction.
“You two, as part of the joint unit with the Governmental Sector ── I appoint you to the main unit.”
The joint unit which would infiltrate the third organization’s base.
Moreover, the main unit.
At the same time he acknowledged it, his stiff shoulders were hit with a sense of exhaustion.
……That’s one step forward. The possibility of nearing the secret of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> has appeared.
“Sheltis and I are part of the main unit so we’re together with those two from the Governmental Sector, huh.”
“That’s how it’ll be. Sorry, Leon, you didn’t even raise your hand but I put you in the main unit.”
“If that is the will of the Tower, then I have no reason to oppose it. Now then, I’d like to get down to hearing this strategy meeting.”
“That’s right─. Well then, let’s start with the entire thing. First, what was the criteria for how everyone that was in the room was split up? You’re curious about it, right? Ah, a cup of tea before that.”
She held the ceramic cup that nobody had touched with grace and started pouring tea from the teapot.
“As you know, I split the members in the first room into three. There are a total of nine people between meeting rooms D, F and H. The sisters, Viola and Horn, are on standby so they’re a separate matter.”
“So it’s three for the main unit, separate unit and those staying behind.”
“My, you’re close, Leon. But that’s not perfect. Fifty points.”
“There are three meeting rooms but there are four roles. That’s the point right now. ……Oh my, that’s not nice─, don’t look at me with such doubtful eyes. I’ll explain properly.”
Meimel placed the teacup to her lips.
“Speaking from the results, you two of meeting room D are the main unit. After that, Ran and the three Cadet Guards I made stay in meeting room F are the ones staying behind. Ymy and Ishtar who were sent to meeting room H are one of the separate units. Do you understand up to there?”
“The last thing I’m curious about is that ‘one of the separate units‘ part.”
Leon pointed it out blandly with a serious face. And that was exactly right; she had specifically added ‘one of‘ to it so it was like there also a ‘second‘.”
“Well, we’ll leave that for later. Next is……right, shall we talk about the distribution of everybody?”
As if having discerned the murmurs within him, Meimel continued. Raising her hand up slowly, she extended her index and middle fingers.
“First, for the joint unit, this was decided almost immediately. At any rate, there are only two from the Governmental Sector. For covert operation, it’s understandable to have a few elite. In that case, we of Tenketsu Palace must also send a few elite. Would it be appropriate to send two like the Governmental Sector or three? Then let’s put two in the main unit, one in the separate unit and have the remainder stay behind. Like this, the general framework was decided.”
“Hearing that, I’m relieved. The Governmental Sector said there could be up to five, but if we sent out five Sennenshi or Priestess-level people, the overall strength of the tower would be in danger.”
“That’s exactly it. Speaking from how it turned out, no Priestesses are in the main unit or separate unit. It would be a great departure from a Priestess’ true role and, to begin with, there are no Priestesses excelling in covert techniques. At this point in time, it has been decided for Ymy, Viola and I to remain in the tower. Then came what to do with the main unit……right, Sheltis?”
The Priestess looked at him with a meaningful sidelong glance.
“The joint plan with the Governmental Sector. I was happy that you raised your hand to start with, but I would have had you take part even if you didn’t.”
“……Is that how it was?”
“The reason is simple. The ones that you will be facing from now on are Golden <Maha> and Blank <Igun-I> and the one who knows them the best is you. Particularly the Lord of Unusual Books known as Blank <Igun-I> has not been seen by a single Priestess or Sennenshi. We only know his name.”
“Ah, I see. If you think about it calmly, that’s true─. There was a reason you would be chosen for sure.”
The only one who knew the appearance of Blank <Igun-I> who had appeared at the Governmental Sector’s Holy Hall was just him.
Rather than the minus point of being a Cadet Guard, the plus point of having directly confronted and gained information on two of the Lords of Unusual Books was greater.
“Then, Meimel, the reason for adding Leon to the main unit is really that?”
“Yes, with a long history of working together, they should be synched right down to their breathing. If it were anybody other than you in the main unit, I would have chosen Ran instead of Leon.”
At any rate, this was how the two members of the main unit had been decided.
The next curious point was the single person in the separate unit.
“The one person chosen for the separate unit should be one who will be a simple and powerful fighting force. She should also have fought against one of the Lords of Unusual Books before. Now then, would it be Horn or Ran who are Sennenshi or possibly the Cadres Guard, Ishtar? But I have a different mission that I would like to give the Ishtar the Cadres Guard. That’s why, there were two options for the separate unit. Now then, did I choose Ran? Or Horn?”
Both are Sennenshi. There’s also no doubt about their strength.
“You chose Horn, correct?”
“Yes. She has a long history of experience in patrolling the Biotope and she should be specialized in solo action. Also, above all, her combat style is decisive.”
“……Ah, I get it.”
Sheltis himself used dual blades and Leon used a great sword. The battle formation of the main unit was specialized in close combat. What set the empty-handed Ran and gunner Horn apart was their compatibility.
“I’ve only seen a little, but I think her long-range guns will be a powerful support. She should be pretty strong against enemies that Leon and I are weak against.”
“Yes. That’s why I settled on Horn. I haven’t told the person herself yet, but that should be fine.”
Meimel placed the teacup back on the table.
“That is to say. Those remaining are automatically part of those staying behind.”
“……I see. That’s true.”
Ran, Ymy, Ishtar.
Added to that the Cadet Guards consisting of Monica, Kagura and Vaiel would be remaining in the tower.
“I wonder if it’s disappointing that your comrades from the same unit weren’t chosen.”
“……No, the reasons I heard just now for the distribution were very convincing.”
He thought that Meimel’s decisions were accurate. If each person had to be a fighting force on their own, then it was natural to choose Sennenshi.
……But I wonder if that’s the reason for this unease in my chest.
……I feel like Monica, Kagura and Vaiel haven’t been valued. It can’t be helped for that to bother me.
And then he realized.
He who had once been an Elite Guard and returned to the tower just to keep his promise of protecting Ymy……
Had, at some point in time, come to think of the other Cadet Guards as treasured ‘comrades‘.
“May I continue?”
“……Ah, y-yes! That’s fine!”
He took a deep breath to change gears. On the other hand, Leon was still leaning the wall and keeping a tranquil expression.
“So, Meimel, is it okay to think of the separate unit as consisting of only Horn?”
“It’s just about time I got around to that. First of all, you may think of Horn as the only member of the separate unit. But that wasn’t with the intention of creating a support team. That is the ‘separate unit disguised as a group staying behind‘ I mentioned not too long ago. It is formed from Syun-rei, Ymy and the Cadres Guard, Ishtar.”
“Ahh, I might know what you mean. Remote observation using the Priestesses’ clairvoyance.”
Meimel clapped for machine crystal <Ilis> who was flashing.
“If it’s Syun-rei, it should be possible to even listen in as far as the floating archipelago <Lagoon>. I’ll ask her to keep watch over your actions in detail. That information will be shared with Ymy and she will relay it to myself, Ran, Viola or Cadres Guard Ishtar. If something unexpected happens, the tower’s support unit will be able to immediately take action under Cadres Guard Ishtar’s instructions. ……And this is the important part, but we will not be information the Governmental Sector of this three-person team consisting of Syun-rei, Ymy and Cadres Guard Ishtar.”
“It could be construed as surveillance of ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘, huh.”
“That’s it. We don’t know the background of their elites. If they show any suspicious movements, we’ll inform you via telepathy……although the Governmental Sector knows that the Priestesses excel in such techniques so it’ll be good if they don’t interfere with it.”
How’s that? ── Leon’s reply was wry in response to the Priestess whose eyes were shining.
“They’re words of praise. With the Governmental Sector’s proposal, I wouldn’t have thought you had calculated so much for the main unit, separate unit and remaining group to that extent.”
Sheltis’ and Leon’s opinions were roughly the same.
“The Governmental Sector will be heading out on a counterattack now. We’ll be entering one of the bases Kuro and I found.”
Not even an hour had passed since the Number Nine <Huick>’s suggestion.
……Her skill as a Priestess is also amazing, but I think she was already a person whose brain works fast to begin with.
“Have you already spoken with everybody about this?”
“Of course, I came here after having finished speaking to the other rooms. Cadres Guard Ishtar should be speaking with Viola and Horn about now as I requested. After that, it would be best to head out quickly like the Governmental Sector side said. The plan is for you to leave the day after tomorrow in the morning and return within the same day. I don’t think you’ll need to bring much but are both of you okay in terms of weapon maintenance and health?”
Departure on the day after tomorrow. He had expected such but it was really quick.
At Meimel’s question, Sheltis exchanged looks with Leon who was against the wall.
“I……leave the weapon maintenance up to Ilis and my health is fine. How about you?”
“My health is always perfect.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
“He’s a walking picture of health.”
Everybody there let out a wry sigh.
On the other hand, the person in question had a serious face to the end and was taking out his badge.
“I’ll apply for the expedition. After that is some miscellaneous schedule arrangement and……Syun-rei is in charge of Hyouketsu Kyoukai until tomorrow afternoon so after she rests up, I’ll speak to her about the circumstances. How about you?”
“Me? I don’t have much to bring either so if you’re applying for the expedition, there’s nothing──”
Despite saying up to there, Sheltis closed his mouth partway through his words.
“……I’d like to say something to everybody in my unit.”
“Riiight. That might really be necessary.”
Meimel leaked a breath.
“I’ve also finished explaining the circumstances to the three members of your unit. But it looked like they were saddened from my perspective as well. Especially the unit captain, Monica-san. That girl was making a pained expression.”
“……Is that so.”
“Ahh, also, those two from ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘ are guests in the end, so I plan to give them guest IDs with transmission functions and have them stay at the tower’s hotel. If there’s something you’d like to ask them directly, speak to me. Okay, with that, we’re done. I also have a mountain of things to coordinate.”
Clapping her hands, Meimel herself was the first to turn around. Right behind her was Leon.
“Aren’t you going?”
“……Just a second.”
The teacup Meimel had left behind. He just stared at its flowing liquid surface.
“I wonder what I should tell them.”
His comrades who were down. Because his vague feeling of ‘I have to talk to them‘ came first, he didn’t actually know what to say.
“Though it was expected that Monica and the others wouldn’t pass the selection. After all, it was a gathering of Priestesses, Sennenshi and the Cadres Guard, Ishtar. There wouldn’t even be a place for Regular Guards to come in, and for Monica and the others who are Cadet Guards, even more so. Even your being chosen is something which is based upon coincidental special circumstances.”
“……I understand that.”
He sighed very deeply.
Like that ── only Sheltis was left behind in the room which returned to silence.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, floor 17.
Coming out into the elevator hall, Monica stood silently for a while.
“It’s a pity, Monica. However……well, I think it can’t be helped that we weren’t chosen.”
Kagura spoke from behind her. One of the ‘Nell Folk‘ demi-humans, she was a petite girl who had a machine helmet worn low over her eyes.
Right behind her was a tall and muscular man who contrasted with her, Vaiel.
“Can’t be helped, right? Raising our hands because it looks like it’d be hard on him alone is fine and all, but it wasn’t the kind of conversation Cadet Guards can butt into. At any rate, there were Priestesses, Sennenshi and Cadres Guard Ishtar in that meeting room, ya know?”
“Right. There was no opening for a Cadet Guard to interrupt. He was chosen amongst that because he has seen both Golden <Maha> and Blank <Igun-I> and, despite it being a clone, he has an achievement for having defeated Golden <Maha>. I believe Meimel-sama’s selection reasoning to be correct.”
Vaiel snorted meaningfully.
“Don’t you also fit the bill for that?”
“Yes. It’s true that I was the first one to find those two at the Governmental Sector and during the fight against Golden <Maha>’s clone, I was also there with Sheltis. However, only he has spoken face-to-face with Blank <Igun-I> and is acquainted with ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘. There is a reason for only him being chosen.”
“So it was a given that he’d be chosen and we wouldn’t, huh.”
Yes. Before Kagura could agree with that.
“We’re in the same unit as him……is that not enough?”
Monica squeezed out a hoarse voice.
“I am……the unit captain for his unit but is that not enough?”
The girl’s answer was swift.
“Sheltis is a member and Monica is the captain. That doesn’t have enough sway on its own. A different, more firm reason is necessary.”
She didn’t have to be told to know that.
The reason she had been left out of the Priestess’ decision was because she lacked strength. Even if she had made it to the final exam for Priestesses, she would be overshadowed by a real Priestess. Even her strength as a Guard amounted to nothing before the Sennenshi gathered there.
……Everything is half-baked.
……Even though I understand that the best……myself……
Since I know that, my reason for wanting to follow after Sheltis……what is it?
“Monica, is that fine?”
“……Yeah. That’s right, I can’t be moping around forever. What’s done is done so all that’s left is to put it behind me as soon as possible.”
In order to convey that to the other two, she took a deep breath.
“Tomorrow’s morning training will be as planned. We’ll gather at four thirty at the outdoor training grounds and do some training that we don’t usually do. Since Sheltis will be missing, we’ll treat it as if a member has been wounded and think of a three-person formation.”
“Eh─……I thought you would have thought of something fun for once.”
“Freakin’ pain in the ass.”
“It’s fine; if I say we’re doing, we’re doing it! We also have to practice those kinds of things!”
Overcoming the two who were sighing, Monica replied with a clenched fist.
Hyuuuuuuu……the wind which passed through the half-closed window swayed the curtains. Bluish-white moonlight poured in through the flowing curtains.
Within the wrapped blankets, she slightly opened her eyes.
“Ahh……I forgot to close the window.”
Unable to stand the moonlight’s brightness which was burning her eyes, Monica sprung out of bed. She continued forward with her pajamas disheveled, hazy vision and tottering steps.
The window closed with a pishaa sound.
The brightness aside, there was also no fear of her shoulders getting cold from the draft. With this, she should be able to secure her precious sleep hours before the early morning training. Falling back onto the bed once again, she squirmed back into the covers and closed her eyes.
Just like that, she entered a dream as usual. Or so it should have been.
“……Why…………can’t I sleep?”
The sound waves vibrated the stagnant air.
……I can’t sleep.
She still had physical and mental fatigue. Normally she would fall asleep with the speed of losing consciousness but only today was her mind so strangely awake and clear.
……I wonder why.
……At times like this, I only remember bad things from the past.
What she remembered most often was the final Priestess exam three years ago. From the night prior to the exam, she had set foot on the highest floor of the tower, ‘Paradise‘ ── the next thing she remembered was being informed that she had failed the final exam.
……It definitely started back then.
……That I became reflective of the past.
Despite her sadness at failing the final exam having disappeared, the void in her chest gouged out with the shock of that time had not been buried and still remained.
She placed a hand to her barren chest.
“Unfortunately, you will be the group remaining at the tower.”
……It’s nothing……today……should be nothing major.
Compared with the final exam which was limited to a single opportunity, receiving the notification that they hadn’t been selected was nothing. At best, it was a one-time thought; it was something light when considering the bitter experiences she had gone through as a Cadet Guard.
Then why am I this concerned about it?
The reason I’m concerned to the point of being unable to sleep should definitely lie there──
“……We’re in the same unit as him……is that not enough?” [T/N: For some reason, this has leading ellipses despite the original line not having them. Things like this happen sometimes…]
Truthfully, she didn’t want to join the Governmental Sector joint unit.
But he……Sheltis had raised his hand signifying he wanted to go so she had thought that she had to go as well as unit captain and raised her hand.
“…………When did I first meet him?”
“H-Hey! Are you still free? You haven’t paired up with anybody?”
Pairing up by chance for the pair unit battle as two people who hadn’t found a partner was the occasion. After that, they went together with Captain Leon to the floating archipelago <Lagoon>.
“You should just make a new unit.”
As Instructor Yumelda said, they began searching for members in a unit consisting of only the two of them. He and I created this unit. That’s why, no matter what, I can’t think of acting as a unit without him……however.
……For it to be this rough on me just being away from him for several days.
……Is that really the only reason?
A different, stronger reason.
A reason that she couldn’t even sleep……if there was……such a thing.
“……When I was an apprentice Priestess, there was a Guard boy that I admired. That’s all.”
“……I’m being stupid.”
Facing up while on the ground, she wiped her eyes.
……Why didn’t I realize something this simple?
“……Well……the air about you is similar to his so I kind of can’t ignore you.”
The boy with an air which resembled the dual swords user she admired.
While operating as a unit together with him, a single feeling had sprouted. But the feeling was not admiration.
…………It’s not admiration.
“No matter how you look at it…………a crush……huh.”
She didn’t know what she liked.
She didn’t think it was her being attracted to something special. However ── despite it only being for several days, she couldn’t suppress her anxiety at him being apart from the unit.
Her fingertip that had touched her eye was damp.
A tear traveled across her cheek and wet her pajama’s collar.
The reason her tears were so naturally wetting her eyes was unknown to her. That’s why it was so agonizing, painful and irritating──
She thought her heart would stop at the sudden telepathic message.
“Y-Yes! Umm……sorry for disturbing you so late at night. The truth is, I’d like to speak about today.”
Without responding to Ymy’s telepathy, Monica quietly gulped.
She couldn’t happened to have heard what I was saying to myself until not too long ago?……No, it’s fine. What I said was fragmentary and it’s no big deal even if they’re all put together.
“I-It’s nothing! So what is it that you’re calling so late at night for?”
“Well……it’s nothing major. You see, senpai, you didn’t get to go with the Governmental Sector like you wanted to……and one of your unit members was taken so you should have various worries……s-so……”
“Ahh, I get what you’re trying to say.”
A smile unknowingly rose up on her face at her kouhai’s reserved and hesitant speech.
“You’ll listen to my worries?”
“Ah, n-no! That would be impertinent of me……I was just thinking about if there was anything. I think it would be best to let those loose instead of keeping them inside you.”
……I wonder if that’s true.
But this aching that won’t let me sleep will probably continue from when he leaves to when he comes back. I’m already like this before he departs……what will happen tomorrow or the day after.
The void in her chest ached harder and harder.
“……Could I come over there right now?”
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, floor 287.
This floor which contained the Priestesses’ private rooms quietly became quiet as if to match with the darkness of night.
There was not a single person. With the consideration of not disturbing the Priestesses’ sleep, staff did not go to this floor at night. Security as well. To begin with, operation of the private elevator was required and that could only be operated by tower staff’s electronic identification keys.
In the off chance that an enemy from outside were to infiltrate, the Priestesses had the Sennenshi with them. That was why the Priestess floor was devoid of people and always filled with silence.
“……I wonder if senpai will be here soon.”
In the living space of the room, Ymy was propped up on her hands, leaning on the table.
She was still wearing her Priestess vestments. Though that was because she had been together with Meimel and Leon until this late having a meeting.
The joint unit between the Governmental Sector and Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> would deploy.
The main unit would consist of the Number Nine <Huick> from ‘Heaven’s Wheel‘ and his assistant, Kuro, as well as Sheltis and Leon. It was decided the separate unit would have the Sennenshi, Horn. Moreover, there would be a remote support unit consisting of herself and Syun-rei relaying information by clairvoyance and telepathy. It seemed that Cadres Guard Ishtar would also be on standby to move her subordinates at a moment’s notice.
……It’s kind of an amazing gathering.
It was weird for her to say it as one of the members, but pretty much all members participating in the plan were representatives of the floating continent <Orbie Clar>. ……But even amongst them.
“Sheltis really is amazing.”
While still leaning on one of her hands, she extended the other and grabbed the glass atop the table.
Click ── the ice floating upon the liquid’s surface sounded out a musical scale.
“He was chosen as a member of a joint unit together with those people despite still being only a Cadet Guard.”
Even if he had been an Elite Guard in the past.
He had fallen from the floating continent <Orbie Clar> to the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> and been exiled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> for having mateki within himself ── he lost everything and went to the Living Districts. Then a period of two years passed.
Starting again from the position of a Cadet Guard. What Sheltis has now is because he has worked hard since then.
“Yup, yup! I also have to do my best as part of the support unit!”
I’ll be together with Syun-rei so there’s nothing to worry about, but I really am still weak in telepathy and clairvoyance. I need to steady myself.
The sound of the doorbell came.
“It’s me; sorry about coming so late at night.”
“Ah, it really is senpai! Okay then, I’ll open it now!”
Within the darkness of the corridor was the faint outline of a girl.
“Thanks but I feel awkward having my kouhai looking out for me.”
“No such thing! Rather, it’s unexpected that there is anything I can do for you.”
…..Yeah, it really is unexpected.
For this person to rely on me ── no, for her to rely on anybody is extremely rare.
“Would you like tea or something else?”
“No, I’ll pass. It won’t take that long. It’s just……”
Monica sat on the chair across from Ymy. Rather than the formal wear she had grown used to seeing, she was wearing a sweatsuit.
“Yeah……if it’ll help me be at peace.”
Her eyes were downcast and her voice seemed like it was about to vanish.
“Senpai, that’s not like you. You have to be more like zing! Come and talk with me about anything. Don’t hold back!” [T/N: Zing being a sound effect here to indicate a sharpness. It’s referencing her serious personality.]
Monica squirmed around and shifted her position in the seat many, many times.
“It’s about what happened at noon. One of our unit’s members was selected for the joint unit between Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and the Governmental Sector. His name is Sheltis.”
“Yes. I was also there.”
……Coincidences are amazing.
She had been thinking of him herself just now.
“It’s amazing. A Cadet Guard was chosen out of all those present. As for senpai……it’s a pity but you’ll be able to focus on your duty as unit leader instead.”
“……Yeah. From the beginning, I thought the position of unit leader didn’t suit me but there’s merit in doing it. I also feel like the two other members are synchronizing.”
Monica joined her hands together atop the table.
“That’s the result of senpai having gathered them together and doing her best.”
“I did it……with Sheltis.”
Her senpai’s downcast face.
That was when Ymy realized that her cheeks were dyed slightly red.
“I quit being an apprentice Priestess and……it’s been three years already but I was still dragging along my past as an apprentice Priestess and what changed that was definitely my meeting with him, I think.”
“As you said, Sheltis is amazing. I’m interested in what he did before but I won’t ask if he won’t talk about it. Rather than that, I’d like to cherish how much he’s helped me.”
“…………That’s right……I think.”
A single droplet of sweat drew a thin thread-like line down her cheek and fell to her lap.
……What……is this……strange feeling?
……Somehow……I have a bad premonition……even though I’m just listening to what senpai wants to say, why do I feel this cold?
“It started when we fought against the Yuugenshu and I received encouragement from him and gained courage. What is it……it felt like I had been able to go back to my initial resolution. I thought that if we continued to do our best together in the unit ── but that’s not it. Different feelings sprouted at some point in time.”
“He’s separating from me for the joint unit with the Governmental Sector and that may be a good thing in terms of results. Because I’ve come to honestly face my feelings.”
──It’s hard to breathe.
A very small doubt that had not been more than a premonition. She could tell that it was growing bigger very quickly and eating away at her deep within her chest.
……No, it can’t be.
She realized it.
The reason for Monica’s expression. The meaning for her embarrassed and happy expression.
…………Only that is……
……Even if it’s senpai, only that is…………
Monica put a hand to her chest and took a deep breath. Then──
……Stop it……only that…………please…………noooo!
“It looks like I’ve fallen for him.”
Within her heart, she heard the sound of something bursting.
Facing her, Monica was saying something.
But……no……my……head is completely blank and I can’t think. I have to say it……even though I need to say it.
I also think of Sheltis more than anybody else.
That’s why……I need to say it……or if Monica-senpai really confesses to Sheltis…………what would happen?
Monica-senpai is a wonderful person even from my point of view.
And she’s able to meet and speak with him every day as part of the same unit. She can be much closer to him than I can right now. More than I……more than I who can’t even touch him with a single finger because of Elbert resonance…………much, much more…………”
“Ymy, what’s wrong? It really must be because you’re up this late.”
“Ahh, that’s……that’s not it! It’s not that my health is suffering…………but……well……”
……I can’t say it.
Senpai could feel relieved by revealing this because it’s me, so there’s no way I can tell her that I’ve been interested in Sheltis since a long time ago.
If I do that, then I will surely be unable to maintain the same relationship with senpai.
We would be awkward and unable to look each other in the eyes…………then what should be done? What should I do?
“……I’m sorry for pushing you to meet me. Ymy, you really should rest now as well. You’re busy tomorrow too, right?”
Monica stood from the chair with a clack.
“Thanks. It was really sudden and extremely personal so it may have shocked you, but having you listen calmed me down.”
“Ahh, senpai, wait, wa────”
Wait! She intended to shout that at the back heading towards the door but only a strained breath came out in reality.
The girl left the room. The room’s door was shut.
Left all alone in her room, Ymy idly stood still.
……My legs won’t move.
……Nor my arms, fingers, neck, shoulders, everything; it feels like they’re not part of me.
A doll whose heart has been stolen.
Her lips moved slightly for a few words of sorrow.
“I didn’t intend to……”
I came to know what I shouldn’t have.
I heard what I shouldn’t have.
And above all, I couldn’t say it.
She had been scared to convey her feelings. She had also been scared that her relationship with her senpai would end should she have said it.
But more than that, the shock she had taken was too great and her heart had become empty.
…………I……What should I do?
Leaking out a wordless cry, Ymy collapsed at that spot.