Chapter 4 − Song of the Starry Sky
There was a small spiral of light, coiled in the sky.
It was very hard to see, but once you realized it was there, you would see that it appeared to be pulsating in a blue color, looking like the Pleiades cluster.
“Isn’t it time yet… How much longer is this going to take…”
Khalija was looking up at it with a flustered expression.
It had already been more than ten minutes.
She knew that it would take time, but did not expect that an unscheduled 『Activation』 would take such a long time.
“I won’t be able to buy much time if I’m up against Hideo. Every second counts. Hurry up……!”
The spiral of light that Khalija was looking at as if she was praying eventually coalesced into a pillar of light that dominated the heavens, and a small point of darkness opened up in the center.
“Alright! It’s open!”
If anyone saw it from far away, it probably looked like an illuminated christmas tree rising into the sky.
That was the appearance of the Polar Body Advanced Sorcery, the 『Return Path』 of the 『Gate Tower』.
“……No matter how much you cry out in that low voice, no one will be able to hear you from here. Seriously, having a place like this close by was really convenient”
After being able to calm down a little, Khalija looked around.
She was in a huge park.
Although she had captured the Shii that Shouko Tatewaki had transformed into, she had not thought about what to do after that.
However, Khalija had no other options when she saw that Shouko’s Shii had once again approached the Kenzaki house.
If a single Shii that was only slightly stronger than average was discovered in a place where Hideo, Madoka, and Diana were gathered, they would no doubt destroy it without a second thought.
Besides, this Shii was no ordinary Shii.
Only Khalija knew that Tatewaki Shouko had turned into a Shii while still alive.
If Dianaze or the members of the Kenzaki family destroyed it without realizing that, there was no telling what the consequences might be.
“That said, there’s no guarantee that you can be saved even if I take you back to Ante Lande with me…”
A snake of light was coiled around Shouko’s Shii a little distance above the ground, raising its neck like a poisonous serpent.
“…Looks like it was true after all. As long as they’re not touching the ground…”
If a defeated Shii was left unattended for too long without sending it off, it would be engulfed in a swirl of black flame similar to when it appeared and would get sucked into the the ground.
In that case, to keep a Shii from escaping, you just had to prevent it from touching the ground.
“Should I laugh at the fact that you are so inflexible, or moan at the fact that doing something like this is difficult precisely because it sounds simple?”
After giving a lonely smile, Khalija looked down at her hand.
In her hand was Marfik, which had shrunk down to a size that could fit in her palm.
The 『Snakebone』 Marfik looked like nothing more than a rod at first glance.
However, in reality it was a collection of small, individual units of cylindrical shape, and by controlling each of those units with the power of sorcery, the weapon could be made to take various shapes.
By detaching the individual units and re-attaching them with sorcery, it could be quickly turned into a sorcerous rope like its current form.
Although manipulating it was very easy for her to do, it was extremely difficult for anyone who was not used to handling it. Khalija had first realized this soon after she was assigned to the Research Division.
Marfik was one of the variations of a Techno Weapon created by her father.
After enlisting in the Knights Division and being welcomed into the Research Division with a lot of fanfare, Khalija had held the ambition of wanting to spread the name of this weapon that was notorious for being difficult to use, as well as the name of her deceased father.
However, no matter how much she tried to forcefully make it popular, there was no point if there was no one who could actually use it.
It was then that she had found those blueprints.
The blueprints were drawn up in her father’s style and in his handwriting, but it had been abandoned before being completed. Apparently, it was a design for a new Techno Weapon that was a stripped down version of Marfik, with reduced features and lower production cost.
Its name was Sinistra, the 『Gosetsu』.
Apparently, it was capable of taking on different shapes depending on the situation.
She didn’t know at the time why her father had abandoned the design before completing it.
Looking at the date on the blueprints, she saw that he had been working on it just before he passed away, so maybe he had just passed away before he managed to complete it.
At that moment, Khalija had become convinced that completing this Sinistra would be a shortcut to reviving the Marfik.
At that time, there had been a competition by the Research Division to develop the next generation of Techno Weapons. Khalija took over her father’s design, put all her ability into completing it, and turned it in as an entry for the competition.
It cleared many document selection rounds and product tests, and when it was finally selected for combat testing by the military, Khalija had felt proud from the bottom of her heart.
To train a person in using a Techno Weapon like the Marfik which had a high degree of variability, you would first have to train them to be capable of selecting the correct weapon based on the situation, and they would also need to train in using that particular weapon.
In addition, the Magitech Frameworks required by the weapon would increase, which meant that the weapon would not only cost more to produce, but also become more difficult to use. Only a limited number of people would be able to use it.
However, the Sinistra was a weapon with five, fixed forms that the wielder could choose from, so she had thought that it would counteract the complexities associated with a variable-form weapon, and could be wielded by more users.
It would be possible to develop Magitech Knights and Techno Weapons that could adapt to the ever-changing situations on a battlefield.
To Khalija, it looked like an extremely beautiful form of a soldier who had reached their peak.
“…I thought it was for the best. But it was bad luck. For both of us.”
Khalija looked upwards, toward the sky.
The hole in the sky had opened sufficiently.
With this, it should be able to somehow manage both herself and Shouko’s Shii.
“Wait for me, Father.”
After ensuring that Shouko’s Shii was still firmly restrained by the snake of light, Khalija flew up towards the hole that led to another world, the Gate Tower, guided by a pillar of stardust.
The inside of the Tower was also a space filled with stardust.
“Ugh, so heavy.”
As she thought, the Shii was also being counted as a heavy mass.
No, was it because the original body of the Shii was still alive?
“But it’s okay… Just a little… Just a little more!”
Her speed was less than half of what it had been when she came to Japan.
However, it was fine now. Since she had managed to enter the Gate Tower, she didn’t have to worry about being caught by Hideo and the others anymore.
If anything, the true battle would start once she made it to the other side.
Although she had been charged with the mission of working with Dianaze as her assistant, she was coming back after only a few days. What’s more, instead of Hideo the Hero, she was bringing back a Shii. Of course people would wonder what was going on.
If she was not careful, she could end up imprisoned and stripped of her military rank.
She was ready to face the consequences even if that came to pass, but it most likely would not.
There were plans to capture a Shii to learn more about them from when they had first started to appear, but all attempts to do so had ended in failure.
If she and Marfik were to succeed where so many others had failed, it would surely bring her closer to her dream.
The growls of the Shii brought Khalija back to reality from her dark desire.
What was I thinking just now?
Get closer to my dream? How idiotic.
Just for the sake of one wish, I was prepared to throw everything away.
I knew that every sacrifice made along the way was necessary.
That is why, if this wish is fulfilled, I cannot hope for anything else.
Once I return to Resteria, I will most probably be arrested, despite the circumstances.
However, I’m sure that 『she』 will make arrangements to get me released from prison in due time.
That was our initial agreement, and it wouldn’t be surprising for 『her』 to have that kind of influence in the first place.
This gift is also meant to ensure that she keeps up her end of the bargain.
Once everything is over and 『she』 grants my 『wish』, I will wipe away all traces of myself.
I will live in poverty in some place nobody knows about and wait for my life to come to an end.
That is what I have decided.
After unconsciously touching her circlet once again, Khalija apologized to the girl from a different world, and was about to laugh at herself for her own incompetence, when,
All of a sudden, the stardust around her wavered.
Her flight speed dropped.
The mass being transported increased.
Impossible. She had released such a large number of Shii into middle of the city.
There was no way they could have caught up to her so quickly.
Besides, it had already been several minutes since she had entered the Tower. The entrance should have closed long ago.
Looking back, she saw a portion of the view of Japan that she was supposed to have left behind, surrounded by the stars of the Pleiades.
The entrance was not closed. It had been anchored in place.
The entrance of the Gate Tower should have closed automatically, but someone had forced it open.
Something was heading towards her at high speed from the open entrance.
There was no need to consider who that was, it was obvious.
“Ugh… A little more. Just a little more, and…”
However, no matter how hard she tried, she could not increase her own speed.
The propulsion force of the entire tower had dropped because of the person who was closing in on her from behind.
Khalija gritted her teeth and looked backwards once again, and in that instant, she changed her strategy after seeing that person.
“……I can’t turn back from this path anyways!”
Khalija gave up on trying to run away and descended to stand on the wall of the tower of stars.
Perhaps because gravity was warped, she was able to stand on the wall of the cylindrical tower instead of falling back towards Japan that she had left behind her.
Seeing that, her pursuers also landed on the wall a little distance away from her.
“You came faster than I expected.”
Did her voice tremble when she said that?
While worrying about that, Khalija looked towards Dianaze Krone and Kenzaki Yasuo, who had followed her into the Gate Tower.
“Colonel… Colonel, what is the meaning of this!?”
“What do you mean by ‘this?’ The fact that I’m using the Gate Tower to go back? Or the fact that I’m taking this Shii along with me? Or maybe… the fact that Shii appeared in city right after I started behaving suspiciously?”
Diana looked shocked at the manner in which Khalija spoke.
Each of those were questions that Diana had wanted to ask, and she had hoped that Khalija was not involved in any of them.
“Let me make this clear, I wasn’t lying when I said that I was sent to Japan to assist you. I have written orders from Her Excellency Erijna and His Majesty himself. It’s just that I had another, personal, objective in addition to that.”
“A different objective? Colonel, what happened to you all of a sudden!? Going against royal orders and releasing Shii in the middle of a peaceful city, what is so important to you that you would go so far to achieve it!?”
Diana’s shout echoed through the emptiness of the tower of stars.
“I don’t plan of doing anything in particular. I have no intention of rebelling against my country. It’s just that I was weak. I was incompetent. Because of that, a bad person took advantage of me. I didn’t want people to scold me for falling into the clutches of a bad person, so I desperately hid the fact. That’s all.”
“I don’t understand! I don’t understand, Colonel! What are you talking about!?”
“You don’t need to understand. Major Krone. You, who have worked hard and overcome many trials without losing to the pressure from your family’s name, managed to free your father from the terrifying flames of the Shii, and are strong enough to fight alone in a different world will probably never understand. That’s why, if you want to stop me, you’ll have to fight me here.”
“Colonel! That wasn’t because I was strong! People who have died cannot come back to life, that is a law of nature! I had no choice but to submit to that!”
“…Just the fact that you can admit that is proof that you are strong, and I am weak. My aim is to twist that law, after all.”
“I don’t understand what your objective is that requires twisting the laws of nature, but what does Tatewaki-san have to do with any of it?”
It was clear that Khalija had no intention of listening to Diana. Yasuo summoned his resolve and asked Khalija that question.
“So you had already realized, Yasuo? That this Shii is Shouko Tatewaki.”
“……I only realized it quite recently. Tatewaki-san is a person from Japan. I don’t know why she turned into a Shii, but I can’t let you take her away. Please give her back.”
“What do you plan on doing if I give her back? I don’t think you have the ability to do something about this inexplicable phenomenon that caused a living person to turn into a Shii.”
Shouko’s Shii, which was still bound by Marfik and had been growling and struggling until earlier, now just stared at Yasuo with its red eyes.
“We’ll find a way, back in Japan.”
“Are you implying that Japan has any institutions that are capable of researching a phenomenon like this?”
“Of course not. But I know that it’s still a better idea than letting you take her away. The fact that you hid from us and tried to do things in secret proves that whatever you have planned for Tatewaki-san, it’s nothing good.”
“Hahaha. No doubt.”
Khalija’s eyes were completely serious.
“In that case, why did you come here?”
“Is it because this girl is your friend? It should have been Hideo the Hero who came after me, or if not, Major Krone should have come alone.”
“That’s because…… Guh!”
That sensation and impact were something he had never experienced until now.
Diana’s scream echoed throughout the Tower.
Yasuo’s body shook violently, and he fell to his knees on the wall of stardust.
Blood flowed out from his body from the side of his body that had been pierced, and spread into the world beyond the wall in the form of a haze.
At some point, Khalija had held up the cylindrical Marfik and was pointing it towards Yasuo like a handgun.
There was a hole on the end of the cylinder. She had fired a magical bullet from there.
She had fired it at Yasuo. A human.
A young man who had intended to risk his life for Resteria.
“Remember what I told you in the beginning? A person who can’t even stand by themselves will only die on the battlefield.”
From his position of kneeling, Yasuo fell over like a rag doll.
“I avoided his vitals. But if you don’t get him to a hospital soon, he’ll die.”
It was not a scream.
However, Yasuo, still lying on the ground, cried out once the pain finally hit him.
His brain could not handle that level of pain.
However, the signals that his life was in danger spread to every cell in his body, and filled his heart with fear.
“You intended to become a Hero with this level of ability?”
Khalija spat out those words as if she was disgusted, and suddenly, a shadow fell across her face.
Diana had closed the distance with Khalija in an instant, after deploying her twin swords at full power.
“That’s a good face. That’s what a soldier should look like.”
Khalija manipulated Marfik and blocked both the swords without batting an eyelash.
“It was unfortunate.”
Diana’s body wavered for a second after encountering this unexpected defence, and Khalija didn’t let that chance escape as she pointed the finger of her left hand at Diana’s body that was completely open to attack.
As Diana attempted to jump back to avoid getting attacked, something terrifyingly powerful grazed her flank and the shockwave was transmitted throughout her body.
Something small slammed into Diana from outside her field of view without making a sound as she tried to gain some distance.
Without being able to avoid that hit or even discern its nature, she took the brunt of Khalija’s melee attack and was slammed into the wall of stars.
She didn’t take any damage from that as it was not truly a solid wall, but she definitely received a fracture from that last attack.
She had managed to pull off a surprise attack, but could not do anything against Marfik at all.
“You’re a hundred years too early to try and beat Marfik and me with such an ordinary attack and such an ordinary Techno Weapon.”
Khalija grabbed Diana by the hair as she lay on the ground and pulled her upright.
“Can you see it? This is the true essence of my Marfik.”
After being pulled up, what Diana saw were over thirty small cylinders.
Each one of them glowed when receiving the light of sorcery from Khalija’s hand, connected with each other, and moved about freely.
This is what had hit Diana from a place outside her field of view earlier.
Khalija had controlled one of the units with a magical tether and slammed it into Diana.
If she wanted to, she could probably use each one of those units as bullets that could even break through rock and shred an opponent to pieces.
“You can still stand, right? Take Yasuo and go back right now. Even though I avoided his vitals, he’s an untrained civilian. If he loses even a little blood, he will die. If you’re too late, then none of your wishes will come true.”
“……Why are you doing this?”
“You want to hear my reasons right now? Is hearing the cause of my madness more important to you than Yasuo’s life?”
“Making an expression like that won’t stop me, and won’t save Yasuo either. Disappear from my sight. I will also disappear, and will never meet either of you again.”
Khalija released Diana’s hair and started to walk back towards the snake of light that was still restraining Shouko’s Shii.
However, she was stopped by a voice that was distorted in pain, and turned around with a annoyed expression.
“Why are you doing something like this?”
Yasuo, while drenched in sweat, had still raised his head and was looking at her.
“……Yasuo. Do you realize what kind of situation you’re in right now? You’ll die. A magical bullet blew right through you, and there’s a hole in your body where holes should not exist. Or has the fear made you go insane?”
“Shut up, I already know. But Khali… you’re not the sort of person who would do something like this.”
“Actually, I just did.”
“You must have a reason. Let me know what it is. Don’t make me ask you so many times.”
Khalija smiled charmingly in a manner that was no different from the smile she had shown Yasuo during the past three days when she had been teasing him, and lowered her shoulders.
“Is it one of those ‘My last request before I enter the abyss’ things? Well, fine. The abyss is the realm of the dead, right? My story is related to that, in a way. If things end like this, Major Krone won’t have much to put in her report either.”
Diana lifted herself up and prepared to leap at Khalija, but,
“I won’t let my guard down. Listen to me quietly.”
With a slight motion of her finger, she transformed one of the units of Marfik into handcuffs and pinned Diana against the wall of the Tower.
“Have you heard about the fact that my father was a Techno Weapons craftsman? He passed away before I grew up, but among my sisters I was the one who inherited his talent to the greatest degree. My father also imparted all the knowledge and skills that he could to me. He was an incorrigible drunkard and, with his age being what it was, he probably knew his time was near. In any case, because of the knowledge of Techno Weapons and the skills I inherited from my father, I was able to have a successful career in the Knights Division after his death. Her Excellency Erijina also kept an eye on me because she got to know my father through their work on the Regulus of 『Lightning』. I used to stand in front of my father’s grave and say that I was proud. I was such an idiot.”
Khalija crouched in front of Yasuo and her shoulders shook as she laughed quietly.
“But you know what? No matter how much skill you have, and how many things you learn, you will never be able to make a good Techno Weapon if you still have the heart of a child. If the craftsman does not understand 『the beauty of the weapon』, then it will never be transmitted to the person who wields it. By the time I realized that fact, many things had already passed the point of no return. Hey, Dianaze Krone.”
At first, Diana’s ears could only register that as a sound.
“What would you do if I told you that the underlying cause of General Alexei Krone’s death lies with me?”
Diana’s motions of trying to desperately break out of Marfik’s restraints suddenly stopped.
“If not for my thoughtless actions, your father might not have died.”
“………What… are you…”
“There were many things going on at the national level when General Alexei was sent on that mission during which he died. Along with the General, that expedition had many veteran Magitech Knights as well. It had been thirty years since the world entered an era of peace. As nobody expected to find monsters like the Shii, that expedition force was tasked with carrying out many 『experiments』. Now that I think of it, that expedition was also your first battle, right?”
Images of that incident which she had never forgotten flashed through Diana’s mind.
She had been in the tent with the other surveying officers, the people who were tasked with surveying the land, comparing what they saw to the topographical maps that had been prepared in advance, and determining what direction the expedition force would travel in.
Diana had been struggling with her paperwork inside that tent.
Neither her senior Magitech Knights, nor the veteran surveying officers expected to have to fight.
The Techno Weapons on her waist were pretty much just a decoration. There were even people who had no Techno Weapons within reach because they got in the way when drawing maps.
The Swordmaster, Alexei Krone, was present, and he was in command of veteran officers and the companies under them. In ordinary conditions, the surveying officers should have never found themselves in combat.
However, the result was that the expeditionary force fell apart after the raid by the Shii.
Unable to properly carry out even half of the retreat plan that had been set up in advance, the expeditionary force fell into a rout and Alexei had been killed.
Diana couldn’t really remember what she had been doing back then.
All she could remember was obeying the orders of her superior, and running desperately to the designated point without breaking formation.
She hadn’t been worried about her father’s safety.
The series of events that happened that day were a source of never-ending repentance for Diana.
“That expedition was also tasked with the official combat testing of a new generation of Techno Weapons. A few of the Magitech Knights were ordered to submit reports on the new model Techno Weapons after the mission was completed. Based on their results, the plan was to deploy the new Techno Weapons in a few selected divisions of the army. There were three new types of Techno Weapons to be tested, with fifty people testing each type. A total of one hundred and fifty people in that expedition had been assigned new Techno Weapons. Of the three, one of them was the the 『Gosetsu』, Sinistra, that I had developed. It was a variable Techno Weapon that could take five forms, namely a polearm, a longsword, a bow, twin swords, and twin pistols. I wanted to take this Techno Weapon that my father left unfinished and make it popular around the world, and someday increase the number of Knights who would be able to use Marfik.”
Her smile turned dark.
She was using that Marfik to kidnap a girl from another world.
Khalija continued to speak while turning around to look at Shouko’s ferociously growling Shii.
“All fifty people to whom my Techno Weapon was assigned, died. Not a single one of them made it back.”
“When testing new weapons, you need to be prepared to face unexpected situations. General Alexei was also aware of this, so he stationed the hundred and fifty people who had volunteered to test the new weapons close to himself. Apparently, he said that even should some of the new weapons fail against the mysterious new enemy, he would be able to protect them. However, you know the result. Instead of protecting their wielders and the General, my weapons presented their hearts to the Shii on a silver platter. Of course, there were other companies that fell into rout as well. However, all fifty people who used my weapon died, and the reason for that was simple. Sinistra was completely unready to handle the reality of the battlefield.”
“A deficit in durability due to the complicated shape-changing mechanism built into the weapon. Magitech Frameworks that demanded delicate control of sorcery for shifting the forms even in emergency situations. There were several other flaws that we don’t have the time to go into. Don’t you think it’s funny? Of the new generation weapons that were recovered on a later date, more than half of the 『Gosetsu』 were not in any one of the five standard forms.”
The weapons had failed in the initial steps of transformation, or the wielders had been killed while the weapons were in the middle of changing forms, or they had completely failed to change form in the first place.
However, the recovered weapons all had the same story to tell; their wielders had been killed before they could put up any sort of resistance at all.
“I ended up in a sorry state, like a snake that doesn’t know where to go and ends up tying its own body into knots.”
For a craftsman who had been told that beauty is strength, this was a very difficult sight to withstand.
“Since ancient times, weapon craftsmen have known that their creations were meant for the purpose of hurting other people. Even so, they took pride in the fact that that the weapons would protect their wielders, and the country that stood behind them. But what about me? I was conceited because of my skills and my father’s fame, and ended up causing the deaths of the people who wielded my weapons and the Hero who protected the nation. I was immature, and the weapon that I created for the sake of winning a stupid competition ended up taking the lives of fifty people!!”
As if responding to Khalija’s rage, Marfik bound Shouko’s Shii and Diana even tighter.
“I finally realized the reason why my father had left Sinistra unfinished. Even five forms is still too much. In battle, there is such a thing as an optimal disposition of troops. There is no point putting your troops armed with longswords in the same place as your archers. What use is a bow to a soldier who fights on the front lines? My father realized that half-baked versatility does not give more options, but instead reduces the level of each available option. That is why he abandoned Sinistra before it was completed, even though he came up with the idea. If you want to wield Marfik, then you have to wield it from the start.”
Khalija’s words came from her mouth without any hesitation.
She had probably had the same conversation with herself many times, many dozens of times, maybe hundreds of times.
Neither Yasuo nor Diana could say anything to interrupt her regret that had been refined to this extent.
“Nobody blamed me. It was the responsibility of the Research Division that had approved the design for combat testing, and moreover, there hadn’t been any problems in the earlier tests. That’s why my superior at the Research Division just told me to keep working hard. However, I wasn’t mentally strong enough to go back to my research just like that. Fifty Magitech Knights. The Swordmaster, Alexei Krone. Even though the Research Division knew just how huge the loss caused by me was, they just told me that. Remember what I said, Yasuo? The current Resteria is completely different from the land that Hideo traveled through thirty years ago.”
Just who was the scorn in her voice aimed at?
Was it the whole world, or perhaps at herself?
“It was only later that I found out that the Research Division had a hostile relationship with Her Excellency Erijina, who was carrying out Techno Weapon research on her own. In that peaceful world, the Division was just carrying out erratic research while being kept afloat with tax money, after all. Apparently, they didn’t see eye to eye with the country’s Heroes, the Krone couple, who expected constant innovation and integrity. There are records saying that when Her Excellency Erijina created the Regulus for General Alexei, the Research Division protested. They said that they would lose face in front of the citizens and other Magitech Knights, and that more consideration should be given when selecting the General’s weapon. Don’t you think that’s hilarious?”
“Something… Something like that…”
“From my perspective as a journeyman craftsman of Torjesso working on getting my Meister title, I could only see Resteria’s Techno Weapon Research Division as a rotten organization filled with bureaucracy. More than half of the contents written in the research process documentation were flimsy excuses to get a larger budget. Even the process of handing down skills to the next generation was perfunctory. All they did was to gauge the mood of the top brass and carry out trivial upgrades to trivial Techno Weapons, and they were using Magitech Frameworks that were several generations behind what other countries in the world were using. A country like that told me that I shouldn’t worry about getting fifty Magitech Knights and one of the country’s Heroes killed. It was insane.”
Khalija’s anger was burning as dark as that of the Shii’s, but the tone of her voice suddenly dropped.
“But the most insane person there was me. Fifty people—no it was far more than that if you count the number of people who were involved with them—died because of my arrogance, and here I was still living on like nothing had happened. I misappropriated a design that my father had already discarded and stained the name of Welleger as well. That was why I left the Research Division and moved to being a front line fighter. So that I could make up for the large hole in our defences that I had created, even if just a little. So that I could run away from my sins… but I would still see it every night, in my dreams.”
Khalija’s blue eyes wavered and she looked down at her own hand.
“In my dreams, the ghosts of the dead would torment me for continuing to live in spite of creating Techno Weapons that killed their wielders instead of their enemies. Behind the eyes of every Shii I faced, I saw the appearance of the Magitech Knights whose faces I had never seen. That’s right. I didn’t even know what the Knights who died using my weapons looked like. After some time passed, I had a thought. What would my father, a Meister, do at a time like this?”
Khalija’s father, Claudius, who was a citizen of the Grand Duchy of Torjesso, had escaped from the invading hordes of Demon King Kaul’s armies and sought refuge in Resteria. Back then, when Techno Weapons still did not exist, he was a weaponsmith who delivered a fixed number of arms and armour to Torjesso’s Knights Division from his own workshop.
“I only inherited my father’s knowledge and his techniques, I did not inherit his heart. I did not learn what beauty means. I had reached a certain level in knowledge and technique, but my father passed away before he could teach me to train my heart.”
Her fellow craftsmen, and rival researchers at the Research Division. Or even the weapon craftsmen who worked on the streets.
There were many people from whom Khalija could have learned the proper mindset required to craft weapons.
However, the Techno Weapon craftsman named Khalija Welleger had been replicating her father’s work for so long that she was incapable of adjusting her feelings based on the opinions of strangers.
“Would my father have scolded me for using designs that he had discarded to further my own ambitions? Or would he have talked to me about his own experiences of weapons he made failing to protect their wielders? Or would he have pushed me away without saying anything, and told me find the answer myself? I had no way to find out. Even so, I didn’t even know how to carry the sin of indirectly causing the deaths of fifty Magitech Knights and the country’s Hero without my father’s advice that was impossible to obtain. Major Krone. You praised someone like me for inheriting the title of Meister, didn’t you? Can you still say the same thing about me after hearing this? A failure like me who stole the name of her father, dirtied it, and yet could not help but cling to it!?”
Khalija looked at Diana who was pinned to the wall of stars.
“……You were given the mission to summon Hideo the Hero, Major Krone, and when your first report made its way back to Resteria, that woman appeared before me. She gave me this circlet and said something to me.”
In spite of having an agonized expression due to the pain, Yasuo furrowed his eyebrows.
“She told me that the Shii are just the dead people who are coming back to life. She said that they are still just incomplete expressions formed from the dregs of the spirits left over in this world, but that it would someday be possible to bring the dead back to this world… She said that she would be able to bring my father back to this world.”
“Did you actually believe something like that!? A person like you, Colonel, believing that the dead can come back to life!?”
When it was discovered that the Shii had the same appearance as the people who died during the war with Demon King Kaul, there were quite a few similar theories that said the same thing.
However, because of the Shii’s bizarre appearance, and their cruel tendency to steal the hearts of the living, such theories quickly lost traction.
There were whispers of a heretical cult that worshipped the Shii and claimed that they were lost souls who were coming back to life, but those rumors were not even at the level of becoming an urban legend; they were just on the level of being scary stories that kids told to scare each other.
That was why Diana couldn’t believe that Khalija took such idle gossip at face value.
“I believed her.”
Khalija’s reply was brief.
“She came to me, accompanied by fifty Shii who were equipped with Sinistra. What more reason would I need?”
Both Yasuo and Diana were lost for words.
Just imagining the sight of fifty Shii was enough to make a chill run down their spines, and on top of that they were all equipped with the 『failed experiment』 that Khalija regretted more than anything.
Perhaps that was the sight that Khalija had kept seeing in her dreams.
Moreover, that 『woman』 had chosen those fifty Shii equipped with Sinistra, knowing that it would pave the way for darkness in Khalija’s heart. At the very least, she certainly seemed to have the ability to 『selectively choose from amongst the dead』.
However, in spite of that.
“I thought that they had appeared to kill me. Part of me hoped that was true, and it was even something I had seen in my dreams. However, she said it wasn’t like that. She said that it was would be possible for me to apologize to them directly, and even receive judgement from them directly. However, there was still something that was lacking to reach that stage. She told me that a 『latch』 was required.”
“Yeah. She said that right now it was only possible to summon a shadow of their previous existence like the Shii, but if she could open the door fully, then it would be possible to summon a more complete existence. And she needed a 『latch』 for that purpose. I was still in a daze from seeing the fifty Shii before me, and I asked her what she meant by a latch. If she wanted to open a door, shouldn’t she be searching for a key instead? But she insisted that it was a 『latch』. Ever since the Shii appeared, she had been releasing them all over the world to try and find this latch. However, she had reached the limit of what she could do by herself, so she gave me this circlet. Apparently, it is possible to seal a certain number of Shii into the crimson stone embedded in this circlet and carry them around. She told me to use them to search for the latch…. But I never expected to find it in a different world, while on a mission that I just happened to recieve.”
Khalija slowly turned around.
Yasuo and Diana followed her sight and froze.
A latch to summon the dead back into the world of the living.
“It is a living person who harbors one of the dead.”
“Colonel! Please, stop this! Dead people cannot come back to life! People have no choice but to accept the pain and suffering that even the gods cannot do anything about…!”
The heartfelt cries of Diana, who had lost her father twice, failed to reach Khalija.
“What power do the gods have? If what I am doing is heretical, then it is their fault for making a world where people can lose their way.”
After declaring her scorn for the entire world, Khalija stood up, as if signalling that the conversation was at an end.
“Killing the two of you here would be simple, but I don’t want to do that. After all, I am the kind of person who would believe a story that ordinary people would laugh at, and betrayed all of you and my country because of that. The two of you don’t need to forget about my betrayal, it’s better if you hate me for it. I stayed here for this long talking about my past, because I don’t want you to struggle to come up with excuses for my behavior. I will never appear before you again. I might be dead in the near future. Once word of my pathetic death reaches you, I would be happy if you feel relieved.”
Saying that, she turned around and walked towards Shouko’s Shii.
“Colonel… Colonel, please wait.”
“I will leave that unit to you. You can use it as evidence during my trial. Goodbye.”
Khalija ignored Diana’s cries, waved her hand casually, and made to leave, when,
Someone grabbed her wrist and forced her to stop.
“I haven’t given you permission to leave yet.”
What Khalija saw when she turned around in shock was,
“For starters, return my tracksuit.”
It was the face of Kenzaki Yasuo.
The match was decided in an instant.
An intense pain ran through her wrist, and Khalija lost her balance.
Not only that, more than half of Marfik’s units that had been floating suddenly lost their support and scattered across the surface of the tower of stars.
Diana’s restraints were fully undone, and the restraints binding Shouko’s Shii almost came undone.
Diana, who had recovered some stamina after being forced to kneel for so long, hurriedly jumped towards Yasuo and Khalija, but Khalija had already shaken off Yasuo’s hand, moved away from him, and prioritized maintaining the bonds restraining Shouko’s Shii.
“There’s no point in doing all this if you get away!”
“Yasuo!? Yasuo, are you okay!? What just happened…”
“W-Why!? Why can you still stand!?”
For both Diana and Khalija, just the fact that Yasuo was able to stand was enough of a shock, but they were unable to suppress their astonishment at the fact that he had also used some unknown magic to nullify more than half of Khalija’s Marfik.
“……I’m probably not cut out for it after all. The kind of magic used to attack other people, I mean. I’ve never even been in a serious fight.”
He seemed to lose his strength at the same moment Diana moved to support him, and almost fell over. However, there was still strength in his gaze as he looked at Khalija.
Diana unconsciously looked at the part where the magical bullet from Marfik had pierced Yasuo.
It was his left flank.
Even though Khalija had avoided damaging his internal organs, Yasuo’s body was far weaker than that of any Magitech Knight. There was no way that he could be alright after having his body pierced through.
But what was happening here?
The blood had stopped flowing and was clotted, and the wound was in the process of closing.
“Everyone wants to become like the person they admire, and if there is someone close by who is brilliant, they want to become like that person, but they can’t. They cannot win against people with talent. If that talented person is also hard working, then it feels like there’s nothing that can be done.”
What was running through Yasuo’s mind was the sight of his little sister, who was also a student facing exams like himself, born from the same parents, managing to use flame sorcery after just listening to explanations from the sidelines despite the fact that Yasuo was unable to do it, no matter how carefully he was instructed.
Born with talent, knowledgeable about worldly affairs, and has good grades.
That was his talented little sister, who unhesitatingly called him useless to his face.
“But just because I don’t have talent, I can’t just keel over and die. In that case… I have no option but to do something that I am at least reasonably good at, and somehow stay alive… In the first place, I might feel that the grass is greener on her side, but I have no idea how she herself feels about it.”
“……No way, Yasuo, that wound…”
“If my Dad could do it, I just thought that I would be able to do it too… I might not be as good as a cleric, but Khalija-san also showed it to me, didn’t she? She showed me that Magitech Knights could use it as well.”
It was a type of magic used for things like treating external wounds, alleviating disease to a certain extent, and removing poison from the body.
It was one of the few miracles left that could not be replicated by the Magitech Frameworks in Techno Weapons, and could only be performed by humans using 『Magic』.
After the fight against William, Hideo’s healing magic had even fixed Diana’s broken bones.
Khalija had also used the same power to heal the cut on Yasuo’s throat.
“I, too, want to look cool while fighting. I want to be like Diana and Khalija-san, like my Dad and Mom, taking down enemies without breaking a sweat and protecting my family. But I’m probably useless at things like that. I’m not cut out for that. Moreover, I’m so frightened that I can’t even keep myself standing firmly. In spite of that, it was you who told me that there was something I could do better than anyone else, Khalija-san… When I tried it, I was surprisingly able to do it. Although it still hurts quite a bit.”
“……I’m regretting ever telling you that. Although I don’t remember telling you the location of the main unit.”
“Hehe, I heard that from you as well. Don’t you remember, Khalija-san? You told me that Sorcery Circuits are weak against electricity. Such a small 『main unit』 probably has no durability to speak of. Sorry for breaking it.”
The bangles on Khalija’s wrists. One of them had been fried by Yasuo’s lightning magic.
Those bangles were the main units of the Snakebone, the control towers, so to speak.
“How did you know about them?”
“It was because you weren’t touching any of the other units. The reason why Castor and Pollux are specially made to be used by the right and left hands respectively is because they absorb magical energy from the portion of the grip that is in contact with the palm, right? In that case, I assumed that you wouldn’t be able to control the units without some mechanism to supply the magical energy, and kept watching while healing myself. And then I saw that the threads of magical energy that extended from the units closest to you were concentrated not at your palms, but at your wrists instead.”
“……You got me there.”
Perhaps it was painful, as Khalija fingered her wrist while smiling.
“I had completely let my guard down. I didn’t expect that you were such a quick-witted person who was capable of looking at things so calmly.”
“Despite my appearance, I’ve come close to dying once. You know about that, right?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. If it’s about numbers then I’ve experienced it far more times than you.”
“So you’re losing to beginner’s luck… being exprienced must be scary as well.”
Khalija’s expression lost all traces of being laid back.
Seeing that, Diana once again raised Castor and stood in front of Yasuo.
“Sorry, Diana. The healing worked pretty well, but the lightning was bad. I feel like I’m about to throw up.”
Despite the fact that he couldn’t even make a proper flame, he had generated an electric current strong enough to destroy a Techno Weapon.
Yasuo was assailed by a sense of energy loss and dizziness like he hadn’t eaten for three days, and collapsed to the ground, feeling like vomiting.
“Please don’t worry… I won’t be defeated this time. We don’t have much time either. I’ll settle this quickly.”
“Major Krone. Do you think that you can defeat me now, just because half of Marfik is gone?”
“Yes, I believe I can. No, I will defeat you.”
“……Very well. But I can’t hold back this time either. You will die.”
While Yasuo was collapsed on the ground, the two beautiful Magitech Knights faced each other with their lives on the line.
However, Yasuo was no longer looking at them.
He was only looking at Shouko’s Shii, that kept staring at him.
It was a landmark of Tokorozawa City. It was a place of relaxation for the people who lived in the city, and a place with a high concentration of administrative offices belonging to the government: Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park.
Inside the park, where entry during night time was restricted, Nodoka watched with widened eyes as her father carried a magical sphere that was giving off light like a lighthouse.
“……Uwaah, Dad, what the heck is that?”
“Seriously, this is so annoying! I heard that even if they are defeated, the Shii will just escape if you leave them lying on the bare ground, so I’m taking the effort to trap them in a barrier of light! I’ve covered pretty much all the places around here and I think I’ve defeated all of them, but it’s just a matter of time until someone finds these and calls the police!”
Up in the sky was the 『Gate Tower』 that even Hideo had never seen before.
“Don’t talk to me! I feel like I’m about to throw up as well! Nodoka! Wipe off my sweat, please. Also, give me some juice!”
“Yes, yes! On my way!”
Nodoka obeyed her mother’s instructions and wiped the sweat from her mother’s forehead with her handkerchief, and placed a plastic bottle of juice with a straw that she had purchased at some point near her mouth.
“What are you doing over there?”
“I’m anchoring the entrance of the Gate Tower! By the time we got here, she had already jumped in. Diana-chan wasn’t capable of doing this, so I had no choice!”
Madoka was already in full-throttle style while holding the Holy Staff Marlowe. She had unsealed the so-called Magical Lady appearance.
If she didn’t do this, she wouldn’t be able to fight against the energy trying to close the entrance of the 『Gate Tower』 which had taken three percent of the national budget to activate.
To tell the truth, she probably felt like jumping into the Gate Tower herself right about now.
However, there was no telling where the gate was connected to, and even if they somehow managed to save Shouko, if the gate was closed they might be unable to return to Japan.
If such a thing were to happen, she had absolutely no idea to to explain and apologize to the Tatewaki couple that their daughter had not only been possessed by a monster from another world, she had also been kidnapped by a Magitech Knight and taken away to another world.
Diana didn’t have the power to keep the entrance of the Gate Tower from closing.
Because of that, Madoka had no choice but to stay here and keep the the entrance open, and begrudgingly allowed Yasuo to enter the Gate Tower along with Diana after making him promise that he would summon his father if things got dangerous.
“What!? So Yasuo is in there as well!? I need to go there as soon as possible!”
Hideo panicked upon hearing what had happened and was about to jump into the entrance, but the Magical Lady stopped him.
“Wait! We need to wait until the last possible moment!”
“When Diana-chan and Yasuo jumped in there, the pressure from the Gate Tower increased drastically. If you jump in there as well, I probably won’t be able to hold it. Then there would be no point in doing all this! ”
“It’s okay. Yasuo and Diana-chana are still okay. They might be injured, but it doesn’t appear to be anything life threatening.”
“How can you possibly know that!?”
While Hideo looked frustrated, Nodoka held an unfamiliar Slimphone in front of his face.
Displayed on the screen was the free phone call window of the ROPE application.
The recipient of the call was 『Yasu-kun』.
Apparently, the call was being recorded as well.
Smiling wryly at her father who looked ashamed, Nodoka pointed up towards the sky.
“It looks like he’s still barely getting a signal. I’ve also pretty much understood the details of why Khalija-san did something like this.”
“Promise me that you won’t tell him I said this.”
Hideo gazed in amazement at the soaring tower of stardust in the sky.
“Onii-chan is doing quite a good job of fighting this time.”
Diana was calmly intercepting the units of Marfik that were attacking her like a meteor shower.
She used magical bullets to change their trajectories, and used the twin swords of light to hit away the units that came too close at a speed that the eye couldn’t follow.
Of course, that wasn’t enough to destroy Marfik’s units.
However, Diana only had to deal with slightly more than ten units right now.
It looked like the units that were controlled using the bangle on Khalja’s right hand that Yasuo had destroyed were mostly the ones used for attacking.
As Shouko’s Shii was still bound, it appeared that those units were all being controlled by the left bangle, but Khalija couldn’t use those units for fighting either.
Although it was called Snakebone, the current movements of the units were not snake-like at all, and although variability was its main feature, Khalija was only using them as projectiles.
Occasionally, one of the units would fly towards Yasuo, but Diana made sure to knock them away with magical bullets.
“Did you think I would lose my composure if you attacked Yasuo?”
“I did. I’m let down by your reaction, though!”
“I have also worked desperately to accumulate combat experience after that battle! I wasn’t just sitting around crying!”
“I see! However, all that experience is going to go to waste today!!”
“Don’t make me laugh!”
Diana swung both her swords of light at a unit that came close to her. That contact caused a dull sound that was heard for the first time in the battle, and two small explosions were caused in the distance behind Diana.
“I’m not so weak as to lose to you who called Castor and Pollux 『ordinary』 Techno Weapons, Colonel!”
“You’re acting a lot more tough just because the power of Marfik is halved! Fine, I accept your challenge!”
Khalija concentrated the units around her left hand.
“I will just need a single swing with my blade of light.”
The rod-shaped Marfik glowed and took the form of a short sword, and Khalija raised it high. Her right hand was empty.
Khalija pulled back the left side of her body pretended as if she was about to jump.
As soon as Diana braced herself to receive it, Khalija released a lightning magic from her right hand several times more powerful than what Yasuo had used, aimed perfectly at its target.
Diana was in a stance where she had no choice but to block them head-on with her Techno Weapons in order to avoid getting electrocuted.
The weapon that bore the brunt of the attack was Castor, in Diana’s right hand.
Castor, that had been heavily damaged after receiving the lightning of Regulus.
There was no way it could work at its best after being patched up using materials found in Japan.
Diana’s guard on her right was broken through, and a large opening was formed in her defence. Aiming at that spot, Khalija swung Marfik that was in the shape of a short sword.
Diana was also not one to go down from just that, and twisted her body to the right to barely avoid the slash from the short sword.
However, it had been Khalija’s intention all along to pull Diana into a fight where her own Techno Weapon had the advantage.
The short sword, made from the interlocking units of Marfik, was right next to Diana’s body.
Khalija had made the units take the form of a short sword to force this situation to occur.
Marfik was a Techno Weapon made of several units, and Diana had already seen that the units could be separated and fired off like bullets.
Even if Diana managed to dodge the blade by a scarce margin, Khalija just needed to explosively separate the units at a range close to Diana’s body.
In the next instant, Marfik exploded in Khalija’s hands.
Khalija could barely think through the intense pain, and from the position of still holding the short sword, collapsed to the wall of the tower.
Close to her left hand, she saw that Marfik had lost the shape of a short sword, and the units had scattered across the floor.
Khalija managed to turn her face in the direction of Diana, and saw that Castor’s muzzle was pointed towards her.
“……The Sorcery Circuits… didn’t break?”
“…They were made from iron wire found in Japan. They should have broken apart easily.”
“I believed that it definitely would not break.”
Diana declared while keeping her weapon aimed at Khalija.
“Castor is a robust Techno Weapon that only my father’s Regulus was able to break. It has a simple structure, and that’s what makes it strong.”
However, she had a very sad expression on her face.
“A craftsman who bore the name of Welleger repaired it for me. There was no way it would break from lightning magic of that level.”
Khalija laughed and looked at her own left hand.
“So you trusted me. Even though I told you all about how the Techno Weapons I had worked on had betrayed their wielders.”
The main unit used to control the other units was missing.
Her arm was bent at a strange angle, and the bangle had been reduced to dust and spread out over the wall of stars.
“No, I won’t.”
“I still have some magical energy left. Even with just my right hand, I can still fight.”
“No. With your leg in that state, you can no longer kill me.”
Khalija already knew that.
After the death of General Alexei Krone, Dianaze Krone had risen to the rank of First Lieutenant based on her fighting ability alone.
Of the magical bullets fired simultaneously from the twin Techno Weapons, the bullet from Castor had shattered the main unit of Marfik, and the bullet from Pollux had pierced through Khalija’s right leg.
The growling of the Shii closed in on Khalija from behind.
After being freed from the snake of light that had lost its function, Shouko’s Shii accurately selected the weakened enemy.
“…What a mess. I released all the Shii that were sealed in the crimson stone in Tokorozawa… You don’t have to save me, Major Krone. I will…”
“Don’t misunderstand. I said that I would not let you die.”
Khalija made a dubious expression and raised her head. A song reached her ears.
The voice was extremely hoarse and the breathing was ragged, but the intonation was steady.
On hearing that, Shouko’s Shii stopped in its tracks and turned its head to look at the source of the song.
Those red eyes started moving slowly towards Kenzaki Yasuo, who was singing the requiem while sprawled on the ground, unable to so much as lift his head.
“Impossible… Trying to send it off without defeating it first…”
“He is not trying to send it off. However, I’m sure that Yasuo has already realized it.”
It had happened on the night when Khalija had first appeared.
They were on their way back home from dinner after celebrating Diana’s moving into a new apartment.
When Yasuo sang the requiem to send off the Shii that Hideo and Diana had defeated, the flames of Shouko’s Shii had also waned.
If Yasuo had kept singing the requiem like that, some sort of change would have definitely occurred.
However, Khalija had barged into the fight before that could happen.
Shouko’s Shii sat down in front of Yasuo and start swaying its body happily. In concert with the swaying, the black flames turned into soot and started vanish just like what happened when the Shii were sent off, and soon, those ominous red narrowed as if it was smiling, and then closed.
The black flames turned into soot and swirled away from the body, and were sucked into the human eyes that appeared from underneath.
After all the flames had disappeared, what was left was Tatewaki Shouko, naked as the day she was born.
From her posture of sitting down, Shouko’s eyes remained closed as she fell over sideways.
“Yasuo! Don’t lift your head! Turn around!”
“Eh? What… Ueeeeh!?”
Diana panicked and yelled at Yasuo, but she could not take her eyes of Khalija, nor could she stop pointing her weapon at her.
Of course, Yasuo didn’t immediately understand why Diana had suddenly yelled something like that, and when he raised to see if the requiem had worked, he was greeted by the sight of skin that he should not have seen, and hurriedly turned away.
He had thought that the song had worked to dispel the Shii transformation, and found that Shouko was lying naked among a sea of stars.
Just what had Shouko been doing when the Shii took over her body?
“Kukuku… Hahaha… Ugh!”
Khalija started laughing seeing the situation, and then her face twisted from the intense pain.
“Aah, why did things end up like this.”
“…I accept my defeat, Major.”
Khalija slightly extended her right hand and touched the wall of the tower.
The next instant, the sea of stardust was suddenly warped.
“This is… Colonel!”
“Calm down. I’m just closing the Gate Tower.”
Yasuo, Shouko, and Khalija were tossed up from the surface of the tower, and even Diana wasn’t able to remain standing.
“The 『Return Path』 is closing. We are going to be returned to the entrance.”
Khalija moved only her eyes to look upwards.
Over there, she saw the sky of the other world, a place called the Aviation Park located in Tokorozawa, which was located in the Saitama Prefecture, in a country called Japan.
The stars flowed in the opposite direction, and the space surged backwards.
“Aah… No matter what I do, it always ends in failure.”
Khalija said that as if mocking herself, and was the first person to be pushed out of the entrance.
Diana stretched her hand out towards Yasuo, but she was nowhere close enough to reach him, as she was mercilessly pushed out of the entrance.
For some reason, Shouko wasn’t being pulled towards the entrance and she continued to float in that space.
Yasuo unconsciously hugged her close because she was floating close to him. For some reason, he had a premonition that she would stay floating and be left all alone in the tower if he didn’t do anything.
The moment he grabbed Shouko, a powerful force caught hold of Yasuo and forcefully tried to throw him out of the tower.
Yasuo had used healing magic that he was unfamiliar with to heal the first serious wound he had received in his life, and on top of that he had also used the last reserves of his strength to use lightning magic, so he had absolutely no strength left to resist. He felt like he would be ripped away from Shouko if he let down his guard even a little.
“There’s something I have to tell you, no matter what…! Gaaaaaaaah!”
He refused to let her go.
Yasuo’s body had spun around so many times that he no longer knew what way was up, but he still refused to let Shouko go.
If he let her go, Shouko would disappear somewhere along with the Shii.
That was how he felt.
That time seemed to stretch on infinitely, but in reality it wasn’t even ten seconds.
The savage power that had swept Yasuo around like lint in a washing machine suddenly released its hold upon him and Shouko.
After the pressure was released, it took him some time to realize the fact.
By the the time he realized it, he was in the sky of Tokorozawa along with Shouko; then gravity slowly began to reassert its hold and he started falling towards the ground.
Yasuo had never been skydiving, but even he knew that this situation was pretty bad.
The ground was a lot closer than he had expected.
He couldn’t see Diana and Khalija anywhere.
However, Shouko was within his arms.
He couldn’t afford to die along with her before getting to tell her any of the things he wanted to say.
That’s right. There was something that he definitely had to say to her.
“I’m not dating anyooooooooone!!”
This was the perfect time to use that.
“The Hero Hideo is the person who will obtain victory for new frontiers wings go forth flower petals take flight gather the shining azure sunlight avatar of the wind Holy Sword Liutberga answer my call and take form!! Phew!!”
Yasuo somehow managed to say the whole chant in a single breath.
A pillar of light rose into the night sky of Tokorozawa, and from within appeared a salaryman on his day off, carrying the Holy Sword of the Wind and bearing a shocked expression on his face.
On the other side of the pillar that light that signalled the summoning of the legendary Hero, the 『Return Path』 of the 『Gate Tower』 that created a connection to a different world seemed melt into the night sky and vanish.
On the roof of the rented apartment, Marigold Hills Tokorozawa, Diana was standing with her arms spread apart and her eyes closed.
A crystalline substance the size of a clenched fist was floating over her hand.
The dust on the roof formed concentric circles with Diana at the center, and the powerful flow of magical energy caused it to whirl upwards. In the next instant, Diana shot that crystalline substance towards the sky.
There was a slight disturbance in the sky of stars, and the crystalline substance vanished.
The weather was warm enough to cause her to sweat a little, and she fixed her bangs that were stuck to her forehead.
After that, she heard a dull voice from near her feet.
“Did you send it already?”
“Yes. Just now.”
After Diana landed in the courtyard of the apartment site and entered her room through the window, the source of that voice spoke in a somewhat sad manner.
“With this, I guess I’m out of a job.”
“You brought this on yourself. I don’t want to lose my job either, so I didn’t hold back at all when I sent my report.”
“That’s fine. That’s fine, really. Aahhh.”
“Don’t think we’re done already. We’re going out again right away.”
“Yeah, I know. Where were we supposed to go, again?”
“For now, we’re going to the department store opposite Tokorozawa Station.”
“Ah, that’s right. What were you planning to buy? Sweets?”
“We can’t very well buy liquor. Rather than the actual item, what’s more important is the attitude of taking something to give when going to visit someone.”
“Understood. Ah, that’s right, we’re out of milk. Let’s buy some on the way back.”
“……Yes, yes. Now, it’s time to leave. We need to be on time. Are you ready, Colonel?”
“Don’t call me Colonel. I betrayed the Knights Division.”
Khalija Welleger appeared from the shadows in the back of the room, wearing a tracksuit and with her left hand wrapped in a triangular bandage.
After being ejected from the tower and returning to Japan, Khalija had received treatment for the injury to her right leg, but refused to allow her left arm to be healed.
After hearing the conversation that had been sent through Yasuo’s slimphone and recorded on Shouko’s slimphone, Hideo and Madoka hadn’t pressed Khalija to explain her actions.
The fact of the matter was that Khalija could not be judged by the laws of Japan.
Khalija herself thought that she should have been killed on the spot.
“Don’t worry about it. It barely took me thirty minutes to get rid of that number of Shii.”
“Although you looked like you were out of breath.”
She was overwhelmed by the words of the couple who were also Heroes of Salvation, who talked about the incident like it was no big deal.
Khalija had released twenty Shii.
Not only had they been defeated so easily, they had also been captured using some magic she had never seen to prevent them from escaping, this was no ordinary thing.
The magic was apparently not as flexible as the snake of light created from Marfik, and would not be able to hold the Shii for very long, so as soon as Yasuo returned, he sent off all twenty Shii using the requiem.
Khalija, having lost all her weapons, admitted her defeat and decided to leave her fate up to the Kenzaki family.
As a result, Diana ended up getting custody of Khalija, and she officially became a freeloader at Diana’s apartment.
“I’m just used to calling you Colonel.”
Even though their relationship from both official and private standpoints had been reversed, Diana still didn’t change her basic attitude towards Khalija, and once in a while she let Khalija catch a glimpse of her strong will that she had never shown in Resteria, which often surprised Khalija.
“It just sounds like you’re making fun of me.”
“In that case, let’s stay this way for a while. I am the master of this house, so please listen to what I say.”
“Have you always been such a straightforward person?”
Diana, wearing skintight jeans and a tunic, picked up her handbag that contained her wallet and slimphone, and gave Khalija a fearless smile.
“My surroundings have always been difficult in many ways, so I had no choice but to be this way.”
Khalija looked confused because she didn’t understand what Diana was talking about, but Diana just laughed and refused to say anything else.
“Well then, let’s go. I need to switch with Madoka and stand guard over Yasuo later in the evening.”
“Yeah, I understand.”
Khalija, who nodded, was still dressed in a tracksuit.
The tracksuit which had the name of Kenzaki stitched on it had ended up full of holes and covered in bloodstains after the battle with Diana, and they had no choice but to throw it away.
The matter had been settled with Diana paying for a new tracksuit for Yasuo, but for some reason, Khalija had gotten really attached to tracksuits and even today she was covered from neck to ankle in a blue tracksuit.
“…Time to go.”
After struggling to put on her brand-new sneakers with just one hand, Khalija lightly patted a small box that was placed on top of the shoe rack and followed Diana outside.
“Wouldn’t it be good to have Hideo or Yasuo fix that, after all? It’s inconvenient for your daily life as well.”
Diana suggested that after seeing Khalija struggle to put her shoes on, but Khalija shook her head.
“At the very least, let me stay this way until you get a reply to your report from earlier. That way, they will also be able to stay at ease.”
“Don’t be naive, Major Krone. I am a cowardly rebel and a traitor. In the first place, it would not be surprising if I was forcefully confined inside the room. What would you have done if I was powerful enough to fix my fractured bone on my own? There is no need to feel pity for me. You need to be resolved enough to use me as a shield if the Shii suddenly appear.”
“Is that something a traitor would say?”
“It’s because you are all too soft.”
“Japan is a peaceful country, after all.”
“It is sinful for soldiers to get accustomed to peace.”
Diana looked visibly annoyed with the topic, and suddenly remembering what Nodoka had said, she decided to try it out.
“But you already heard what Hideo had to say, and besides, I know that deep down you’re very kind and not at all the kind of weak-willed person that you say you are, Colonel.”
“You are still someone I look up to and trust, Colonel, and now that we have overcome that difficult battle, I believe that you will once again use that power for our sake.”
“M-Major Krone… Listen to me…”
“Please don’t tell him that I told you, but Yasuo also said this. He said, ‘The reason why we were able to stop Khalija-san is because she had paid attention to me all along and occasionally gave me advice.’”
“Umm, I never… I mean…”
“He also said that he had to work harder because even a strong person like you had things you were worried about. Yasuo had also realized that you spoke gentle words to him every now and then to keep him from breaking down….”
“I-I understand! I understand, so please have mercy…”
Khalija blushed a bright red and crouched down on the spot.
Khalija, 『who doesn’t like feeling embarrassed when she’s praised』, was unable to withstand Diana’s straightforward words and was moaning after covering her face with one hand because she could not raise her broken arm.
“Seriously, what do you say we get your arm fixed on our way back today?”
“…You’re doing this on purpose to tease me, aren’t you?”
Khalija looked up at Diana with a bright red face and teary, resentful eyes.
“It was half serious.”
Diana said that to her.
“You’re no friend of mine!”
“How many times are you going to say that?”
He had heard Aoto say that at least ten times today alone.
Aoto used that phrase like it was a suffix and randomly mixed it into conversations, so even Yasuo was starting to get seriously annoyed.
As expected, it seemed that Aoto had taken issue with the fact that Diana had come to pick him up the previous day, and Yasuo also realized that he wouldn’t be able to convince anyone using the same story that he had used with Khalija, so he ended up telling the truth by saying that Diana was the daughter of mutual friends of his parents to settle the issue.
Of course, just because he had told the truth, that didn’t mean that Aoto would be okay with it.
“So you’re saying that there’s a very good chance of your relationship progressing to something more serious…”
“If you want to talk about probability, there’s a fifty percent chance. Isn’t that the same with every girl in the world?”
“Don’t give me that sophistry! Tell me more about your blissful school life and make me jealous, Yasu!”
“Aoto, you’ve been seriously disgusting since the past few days.”
“I’ve never told anyone this before, but there was a time when I refused Valentine’s Day chocolates from one of my juniors to look cool, I regret doing something stupid like that that so much!”
“Shut up. Just go to your club already. Do what you originally planned to accomplish and show us all a great play.”
It was after school but the sky was still shining blue, and it didn’t feel like evening at all.
Actually, Yasuo, who didn’t belong to any clubs, had some work at the faculty office.
“Hmm? What’s that?”
Aoto asked after seeing the A4 size report that Yasuo pulled out of his bag.
“My make-up test for Social Studies. I told you that I had to submit an essay, right? I finished it earlier than expected, so I’m going to turn it in.”
“Oh? What was the topic again?”
“I had to write an essay on whether eighteen-year-olds should be treated as adults now that the voting age has been reduced.”
Seeing Yasuo state a difficult topic so casually, Aoto had a complicated expression on his face.
“I see. Actually, the mayor of our city retired due to illness, so we had a sudden mayoral election. I was so excited back then.”
“Hmm? But you’re not eighteen yet, right?”
“Yeah. I got depressed when I realized that. Sure, I don’t know if the mayoral election would have any sort of effect on my life, and I wondered what was so fun about seeing all those posters of old people smiling, but, how do I put this, it really drove it home, you know?”
“Drove what home?”
“Yeah, you know, when we entered middle school and stopped carrying the school bags made for kids, didn’t you feel like you were all grown up?”
“Aaaah… I probably did.”
“Even for stuff like manga, middle-schoolers read sports manga where high schoolers are the main characters, so they equate entering middle school to gaining powers they never had before, stuff like that.”
“Yeah, I understand that. The seniors from third year looked so grown up.”
“Yeah, but we’re like this now.”
“Don’t say it like that. Although I understand what you’re trying to say.”
Thinking that middle schoolers and high schoolers were grown ups, it was just a fantasy.
When they reached that age that they had respected and longed for so much when they were younger, and considered whether they had become existences worth of that respect, it didn’t feel like it at all.
Even though they had become third year high school students, it didn’t feel like they had become capable of smiling fearlessly at ace players from all over Japan, or using their strong will to break free from the persecution by adults, or using keen powers of observation and an intelligence greater than adults to calmly decipher everything they saw, and becoming the head of the students that everyone looked up to.
Not only did they not feel like it, in reality, they had not become such people.
The more people tried to act in that manner, the more they were forced to accept the difference between imagination and reality, and the speed with which they learned to recognize failure and give up was far greater than when they had still been carrying those school bags made for kids.
There were times when he was sitting with his friends, talking with them about vulgar things and chuckling, playing around, and studying because he had no choice, when he wondered if he was really all that different from the twelve-year-old elementary school kids.
“Even if you had been able to vote in that mayoral election, you would have probably been disappointed by how ordinary it was.”
“Probably, yeah. But, you know, eighteen is the age when you’re allowed to drive a car, and if you’re a guy, you can get married. It’s also the age when people go on to either become college students or members of society. On top of that you’re allowed to vote as well, so I remembered that feeling of excitement from my younger days and though it was really cool. Well, these are all things that adults do all over the world, so it can’t be helped if they feel a little ordinary.”
“…I wonder how it is in my case.”
There are many people who think that becoming an 『adult』 means that they will be freed from many restrictions that were placed on them before, and obtain the freedom to do many different things.
However, that freedom comes with many responsibilities and obligations, and 『adults』 spend every day worrying and working hard in return for that freedom.
There have also been cases of people who had been recognized as 『adults』 by society due to the law or customs, and those people couldn’t handle the responsibility that came with it and thus lost their way.
He had always thought that he would naturally 『turn into』 an adult someday, but the closer he got to being an adult the more indistinct it became, until he was not sure what it even meant to be an adult anymore.
In some ways, it was similar to the existence known as a 『Hero』 that Yasuo was aiming to become.
It was something everyone knew about, but no one had a concrete definition for it. In spite of that it was an object of longing for many, and was seen as being something special.
“I wonder how one becomes an adult.”
“If I become an adult, will I manage to find a girlfriend as well…”
“So you come back to that after all.”
Was Aoto really that shocked by the fact that Igarashi had a girlfriend?
Girlfriends don’t just naturally come crawling out of the woodwork just because you reach the age where it is appropriate to have one.
However, if Yasuo said that right now, it would just come back to bite him.
Yasuo sensed that Aoto was about to fall into a troublesome loop and decided to end the topic and quickly picked up his bag.
“Well then, I have to get going.”
“What, you’re going already? Stick around for a bit, I still have some time until my club starts today.”
“No, sorry. I have plans for later today.”
Yasuo really wanted to stay back for a little longer, but tardiness on today of all days would not be forgiven.
He still had some time, but if possible he wanted to get some stuff done earlier, and when he said as much, Aoto wrinkled his forehead as if unhappy about something.
“Plans… Which one is it!? Which girl!?”
“Uwaaah, so annoying.”
“You’re no friend of mine!”
“Yeah, yeah. See you later.”
“Yeah, just go. Bah.”
“You don’t actually need to say ‘Bah’ aloud.”
After leaving the classroom while laughing, he hurried to the faculty office.
“Oh, it looks pretty well put together.”
The teacher for Social Studies, Takayama, skimmed through the report and nodded as if satisfied.
“I’ll return it to you later after grading it, but thinking of topics is annoying for me as well, so study properly next time, okay?”
Now all he had to do was get through the make-up test for Classical Literature tomorrow, and he would be done with with this pilgrimage that started with him failing his tests. However, Yasuo had another difficult task to clear before that.
After leaving the main gate of the school by himself, he walked to the nearest corner in the road where Diana and Khalija waited beside a taxi.
“She had some preparations to make regarding the plans for later, so we switched guard duty with her one hour earlier and she already went back home.”
Diana, who answered his question, was carrying a paper bag with the symbol of a famous Japanese sweets store.
“Got it. Well then, let’s go.”
Saying that, Yasuo climbed into the taxi.
The two women climbed into the back seat, and Yasuo climbed into the seat beside the driver, and stated their destination.
“Please take us to the Aviation Memorial Park.”
The three didn’t talk much while sitting in the car, and there was not much conversation about anything apart from the souvenirs that Diana had purchased.
It took the three of them nearly double the time it would have taken by train, but they eventually arrived at the entrance to the Aviation Memorial Park that faced the national highway.
They mingled with the large groups of children, and there were unexpectedly a lot of families present considering that it was evening on a weekday.
In one corner of the park, they saw someone who had spread a sheet on the ground, set aside a large wrapped package, and was staring at the trees, even though the season for viewing flowers had passed by a long time ago.
Yasuo gathered his courage, and,
Hearing that, Tatewaki Shouko, who was sitting on the sheet, turned around slowly and slightly raised a hand in greeting.
Her expression did not show any strong emotions, and she looked the same as always.
I see black, gold, and silver heads bowing towards me, does that make me the platinum card?
While thinking of something pointless like that, she looked at the top of the heads of the people assembled before her.
Of course, those heads belonged to Yasuo and the two girls who had appeared around him recently.
It was a brilliant real-life demonstration of the art of prostrating oneself.
“We’re really… very sorry for the trouble we caused you…”
“You must be understandably angry about what happened, but I assure you, we will take responsibility and and we are doing everything we can to resolve the aforementioned issue, so if you can find it in your heart to forgive us…”
Shouko barely kept herself from laughing at the sight of this golden-haired beauty, who looked like a Hollywood actress, apologizing in such a formal manner using perfect Japanese. She waved her hand lightly, although she knew that they wouldn’t be able to see it.
“Yeah, that’s okay, I already heard about the circumstances the other day, and there’s nothing you can do about it now, right? So there’s no point in me getting angry about it.”
“Thank you very much…”
“It’s not a matter of forgiving you or not, and it’s hard to talk to you this way, so please raise your heads. It is a communication between people of different worlds, after all. Let’s talk about more constructive and fun things.”
After the three of them finally raised their heads, Shouko held out the wrapped package that she had prepared beforehand towards them.
“What is this?”
“That’s obvious. It’s a packed lunch.”
Saying that, Shouko pulled away the string that kept the wrapping in place, and a fairly old three-layer lunch box was revealed.
“Here, have some wet towels. Ah, you probably can’t use chopsticks with your arm like that right? Don’t worry, I have forks as well.”
Shouko efficiently distributed wet tissues, paper plates, and disposable chopsticks to everyone, and even prepared a plastic fork for Khalija who had an injured arm. After that, Shouko opened the lunch box to display a picnic lunch that looked like it had been made by a professional.
Diana’s eyes sparkled and she made a sound of appreciation.
The first layer was filled with cylindrical-shaped onigiri that were a brilliant fusion of nori-wrapped and rolled onigiri.
The second layer had several varieties of side dishes such as fried chicken, stewed vegetables, sausages cut in the shape of an octopus, and salad. Although there were a lot of different ingredients used, there was no sign of the food falling apart or leaking at all.
The third layer had a selection of cut fruits. There were oranges, apples, bananas, and strawberries. They were all cut into bite-sized pieces, and it looked like the sort of arrangement you would see at the buffet table of a restaurant.
Yasuo felt strangely nostalgic at seeing this arrangement of food that not only roused the appetite, but also roused feelings of exhilaration in those who saw it.
Now that he thought about it, it had been a very long time since he had seen a picnic lunch like this.
He had probably not eaten something like this since the last sports festival from his elementary school days.
“Alright, before we dig in, let’s take a picture together to remember this moment! Yay!”
While the three of them were still hesitating at this sudden proclamation, Shouko expertly used the front camera of her slimphone to capture a perfect photo that included all who were present as well as the lunch spread.
“I’ll send the photo over ROPE later on. Right then, let’s eat. Ah, Khalija-san… did I get your name right? If you have trouble serving yourself, let me know. I’ll help you.”
Khalija was actually taken off guard for once by Shouko’s attitude.
Seeing that from the sidelines, Yasuo, who had not forgotten that they had come here to apologize, decided to ask Shouko about something.
“D-Did you make all of this yourself, Tatewaki-san?‘
“That’s right. Well, the only things I made from scratch are the stewed vegetables. I appropriated most of the other ingredients from the kitchen of my family’s shop. Ah, did the two of you already know that my family runs a bar?”
“A-Ah, we’ve heard about it.”
“Well that aside, eat up. It may not be as professional as the food made by my parents, but it shouldn’t taste bad either.”
“Y-Yes. I will gratefully accept…!!”
They couldn’t very well refuse after Shouko asked her so many times, and when Yasuo felt that something was off and looked towards Diana, he saw that her eyes had widened in surprise after she took some stewed radish from the box and put it in her mouth.
“W-What’s wrong, Major?‘
Diana trembled as she looked at the two people sitting beside her.
“It’s delicious… This is incredibly delicious!!”
“I see. That’s good.”
“Radish… This is radish, isn’t it? Ah, what is this inexplicable feeling, there are no root crops with such depth of flavor in Resteria. It is different from the flavor of soy sauce… just what is this flavor…”
“I let it simmer for quite a while in the soup stock, so that’s probably it. It’s probably better than the Oden sold in convenience stores, but it’s not that great.”
“No! I feel sorry for saying this in front of Yasuo, but even Madoka’s cooking has not reached this level!”
“Please go ahead and eat it! You won’t understand until you do! This delicate, sponge-like texture!”
Sitting beside Diana, who was eating freeze-dried tofu with a serious expression on her face, Yasuo also reached out with his chopsticks to take some chicken that had been stewed with vegetables and put it in his mouth.
He failed to notice that Shouko’s expression was tinged with nervousness.
“Ah, it really is delicious!”
He didn’t have an over-the-top reaction like Diana, but even Yasuo was able to understand that it was a flavor that was difficult to achieve in home-cooked meals.
Shouko, who appeared visibly more relieved than when she reacted to Diana’s praise, also reached out and took an onigiri.
“Starting from here, the fillings are plum, salmon, and kombu, in that order. Ah, you don’t have to finish everything, okay? I know we don’t have that much time.”
“I-I can’t possibly let this go to waste!!‘
“Major, calm down a bit. You’re losing sight of our original goal.”
Khalija admonished Diana who had a frantic expression, but Diana was serious.
“We didn’t come here to have a picnic. We came here to apologize to her once again, and decide on our plans for the future, correct?”
Diana froze with an onigiri in each hand, looking like she had just remembered. Seeing that, Shouko chuckled.
“This feels kinda weird.”
“I’m sorry, we relaxed too much.”
While Yasuo apologized, Diana sat beside him with a red face, but as expected, she did not let go of the onigiri.
“Yeah. To be frank, I find this easier. I was pretty nervous about this as well.”
“But I wasn’t kidding when I said this was delicious.”
“Yeah. I’m glad you liked it.”
Khalija looked a little dissatisfied while observing the conversation between Shouko and Yasuo, but understanding her position, she decided not to say anything unnecessary at this time.
They continued talking about inconsequential things for a while after that, and around the time when they had finished about half the food, Shouko suddenly asked,
“So, what should I do from now on?”
Diana, who had managed to calm down by then, spoke up as a representative for the three of them.
“You will have to accept that we will keep you under guard.”
“Guard, huh? Ah, there’s some rice stuck on your cheek.”
“T-Thank you. Ahem.”
It looked like the relaxed atmosphere was still going to continue.
“What you’re going through, Shouko-san, has no precedent even in Ante Lande. I’ve given you a gist of the current situation in our world, but the truth is that there are still many things that we do not know. Among them, your condition is particularly—”
“Worthy of observation, huh?”
“…Exactly. The fact remains that we are unable to remove the Shii from inside your body. I think the time will eventually come… when you will have to travel to Ante Lande.”
“……Travel to another world, huh?”
“Is it far away?”
“……It takes about two hours for a one-way trip……”
“That’s closer than I thought.”
Shouko smiled wryly.
“What about you, Yasu-kun? Have you already gone there? To that place called Ante lande.”
“……No, I haven’t. It apparently costs a lot of money.”
“I see. ”
“I see. Well, it sort of sounds like going on a trip to recover from an incurable disease, so I probably won’t be able to come back for a while once I go there. Although I don’t really feel ill at all. I’m in great shape, you know?”
Even Diana didn’t know how to reply to what Shouko said.
“Well, I understand, and I believe you. I’ll cooperate with you guys. There are a lot of things that can’t be explained if what you said isn’t true, and besides…”
Shouko glared at Yasuo through narrowed eyes on purpose.
“If the situation wasn’t really that grave, then it would mean I exposed myself for nothing.”
“Uh… No, that was…”
Having that topic raised without warning, Yasuo suddenly became flustered and was unable to look at Shouko’s face directly.
Shouko had woken up on the bed in Nodoka’s room, in the Kenzaki family house.
She noticed out of the corner of her eye that she had been covered with a blanket that she had never seen before.
“…Huh? Where am I…?”
Turning her head to the side, she saw an unfamiliar younger girl and a beautiful girl with golden hair whom she had seen before.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Kenzaki Yasuo’s little sister. My name is Nodoka.”
“Oh, Yasu-kun’s little sister… Why are you in my room?”
“Actually, you’re in my room.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You’ve been through a lot. I’ll go and inform the others that you’ve woken up, Tatewaki-san.”
After seeing the girl who called herself Nodoka quickly walk out of the room, Shouko realized that the room indeed smelled different from her own, and then suddenly noticed something strange about her own body and sat up straight in the bed.
“Why am I not wearing anything!?”
She had felt that the blanket was strangely close to her skin, and no wonder, seeing as she was naked.
Shouko was extremely confused at the current situation where she found herself sleeping naked in someone else’s house.
“U-Umm… you were like that before you got here.”
The golden-haired beauty spoke to her.
“No, that’s a misunderstanding…!”
That golden-haired beauty who called herself Dianaze Krone started talking about things that she could not understand at all, which only served to deepen her confusion.
However, in in her confused state, Shouko realized that there were a few points that explained some of the strange things that had happened to her for the past few days.
“So you’re saying I was wandering around the city after turning into a monster?”
“I understand that it must be hard to believe. However, it is the truth. Here…”
Dianaze held Shouko’s slimphone out towards her.
Shouko didn’t know why this girl had her phone, but she took it and unlocked the phone.
She saw that there were a bunch of apps that were already opened, and after going through them,
“…Yeah, I don’t remember this at all.”
There was a message in her conversation with Yasuo on ROPE that she had no memory of sending.
The time the message was sent was 23:30.
The last thing she could remember before that time was taking a bath.
However, she had no memory of leaving the bathroom, and the next thing she knew, she was lying naked in a room in the Kenzaki family house.
The only explanation that made sense that someone from the Kenzaki family, or this person called Dianaze, had kidnapped her from her house.
“I seem to remember someone singing.”
While she was trying to come up with an explanation on her own, a memory of hearing a song that put her heart at ease suddenly rose to the surface from within her mind, and she said it aloud without thinking.
When she heard that, Dianaze suddenly gulped.
“Yasuo was the one who was singing. The song was a requiem from our world.”
“Yes. Yasuo’s singing undid your Shii transformation, Shouko-san.”
“Yasu-kun… Requiem… Ah.”
“Shouko-san!? Are you okay!? Does it hurt anywhere!?”
A teardrop suddenly rolled down Shouko’s cheek, causing Dianaze to panic.
“Ah, no, I’m okay. But it’s strange, despite the situation, I felt relieved. When I heard that Yasu-kun saved me, I felt really glad.”
Her teardrops continued to fall.
“Wasn’t Yasu-kun angry?”
“Wasn’t he angry with me?”
“No, not at all. Why do you ask?”
“I got angry with him for selfish reasons and caused him a lot of trouble… I wanted to become like you, but couldn’t.”
“Become like me? Umm…”
“Sorry. It probably doesn’t make any sense to you, does it? In any case, I need to apologize to Yasu-kun. Is he around?”
“Ah, y-yes. But you should rest for now. Not much time has passed since the battle. You have received treatment, but we still don’t know what the after effects of transforming into a Shii might be…”
At that moment, they heard the sound of someone hurriedly running up the stairs.
“I heard Tatewaki-san is awake!? Tatewaki-san are you-!! Ahhh!?”
Yasuo, whose clothes were torn in many places and had injuries all over his body, barged into the room and froze after looking at Shouko who was still sitting upright.
“U-Umm… sorry, I…”
Seeing Yasuo go bright red and turn around, Shouko finally remembered the situation she was currently in.
She was covered with a blanket, but she was still naked.
For some reason, Dianaze had also gone red and was looking from one of them to the other, and Shouko’s face also suddenly turned red.
She ended up throwing the slimphone in her hand with all her strength at the back of Yasuo’s head.
Unconsciously touching the part of his head that the slimphone had connected with back then, Yasuo frantically tried to explain.
“I really had no intention of doing that!!”
“Nodoka-chan apologized to me later, saying that she tried to stop you but you didn’t listen.”
“Y-Yeah, but… I really…”
Khalija, who had been quiet up to that point, spoke in a subdued manner.
“As a man, you should do the honorable thing and take responsibility.”
“You’re the cause of this whole mess, what are you talking about!?”
“It’s true that most of the blame for the recent incident lies with me, but the fact that you ignored Nodoka and saw Shouko naked is entirely your fault.”
Shouko also nodded as if agreeing with what Khalija said, and Yasuo felt that Diana was also indicating that he should put up with Shouko’s mood.
“……I’m sorry… I was rash……”
Yasuo gave up and bowed his head to Shouko once again.
“Okay, I forgive you.”
“Are you really okay with that, Shouko?”
“Colonel, you have no right to ask that.”
“It’s fine. It was that kind of situation, after all, and it just goes to show how much he was worried about me, and besides…”
Shouko glared at Yasuo once again and delivered the final blow.
“If what I heard was the truth, then he had already seen me naked inside that place called the Gate Tower.”
Yasuo gulped hard and tried to settle his heartbeat.
“But it’s fine. I don’t really understand what it means to be possessed by the dead and turning into a monster, but if you saved me from that, Yasu-kun, then it’s fine.”
“There was a time in the past when even a rough girl like me looked up to and wanted to become a soft and fluffy princess like Diana-san.”
“Soft and fluffy… No, I’m really not so great…”
“Diana-san, your manner of speaking is like something out of a period drama. It’s pretty funny. Do the people from the other world speak Japanese as well?”
“Ah, no. It’s just that, because of Yasuo’s father, Hideo’s achievements, our country especially encourages the citizens to learn Japanese. That’s why, although imperfect, Japanese is widely understood by the commoners as well.”
Ah, so that was the reason. Yasuo’s question from a few days ago was finally answered unexpectedly.
As usual, Yasuo could not gauge just how much of an impact his father and mother had left behind in Ante Lande, but from what he had heard just now, it looked like at least in Resteria, there were more people who understood Japanese than he thought.
Yasuo felt like he had heard someone say something similar to him recently, but,
Shouko gave a small sigh and asked another question.
“……Yasu-kun, are you really going to finish your Hero Training and go to Ante Lande?”
“No, that hasn’t been decided yet. It looks like I won’t necessarily be welcomed with open arms, and as you heard earlier, I’m even lagging behind Nodoka when it comes to magic training.”
“I see. But that means you haven’t entirely abandoned the idea either, right?”
“Right now I’m just waiting and see how it goes. There is sure to be some sort of reaction from their side because of the recent issue with Khalija-san, so I can’t say anything about it right now.”
“If you ask for my personal opinion, I’d rather you didn’t go.”
Shouko said something unexpected, causing Yasuo and Diana to be surprised.
“Even without thinking about it too much, it’s easy to imagine that you’re sure to face a lot of trouble over there, and might also find your life in danger.”
Nodoka had something similar to Diana once in the past, and appealed to Diana to give up on taking her father away.
Diana also understood that feeling, so she couldn’t say anything.
However, Shouko’s expression hinted at a completely different sense of resolve.
“Besides, if you go away to Ante Lande before my issue is fixed, things might get messy.”
Shouko looked away from the three of them, and stared into the distance.
“If you leave, Yasu-kun, I’ll turn into that thing called a Shii again.”
“What do you mean?”
Diana and Khalija were startled.
Why was Shouko so sure about that?
Even Khalija, who had exercised some control over the Shii using the power of the crimson stone, didn’t really understand the logic behind the 『latch』.
“I’m just saying that it is a possibility. I’m not sure about it. But you know how being able to reproduce a phenomenon is important in science, right? After hearing about Ante Lande, I remembered a bunch of stuff that I think happened back when I had turned into a Shii. And then…”
The sun was low in the sky, and the red light of sunset was slowly covering the park.
“No matter what the situation, I strongly think that I want to be able to see you, Yasu-kun.”
Diana and Khalija suddenly turned to look at Yasuo at an incredible speed, and as for Yasuo…
He had a stupid expression on his face.
“When I saw you getting along with Diana-san and Khalija-san, I was really angry… But then you, who are so indecisive, sent me that message on ROPE and I was really surprised… But I still ignored your message without reading it and went to take a bath, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind…”
“Umm… That is… ”
A ray of sunlight fell across Shouko’s face and illuminated her brilliant smile.
“…Realized that I still love you after all this time, Yasu-kun.”
“………Wa wa wa.”
Yasuo looked stunned and his face gradually turned red, Diana understood what had happened a second later and looked flustered, and Khalija looked from Shouko to Yasuo as if she was impressed.
“Thank you for the good show.”
Shouko calmly parried Khalija’s teasing.
“This is really important, okay? I’ve loved you ever since we were in middle school, and even though we hadn’t met for quite a while, when we met each other again, I realized that I still loved you with all my heart, and so I got really jealous of Diana-san and Khalija-san, and then I ended up turning into a Shii. This is very important, do you understand?”
“T-T-T-T-T-That’s right, this is really important, but this is a little difficult to accept all of a sudden.”
“Major Krone, you’re not the one who has to accept it. What are you talking about?”
“Colonel, how can you be so calm!?”
“Just think that I’m not here. As someone who has sinned, I just have to sit quietly with my head lowered and await the ruling.”
Shouko was smiling peacefully as she saw the three people who were reacting in completely different ways to her suddain proclamation of love.
“Calm down. I’m not asking you to go out with me, Yasu-kun. However, this is something important to me, you, and Diana-san and Khalija-san as well, so I thought that I had to tell you. I thought it might be of some use to you when you go to fight against the Shii in the future.”
Using the love of a young girl as a hint to uncover the nature of monsters that are harbingers of death.
The very idea sounded sinful.
“Yasuo, don’t you have anything to say?”
Khalija prodded Yasuo who was sitting in a daze with his mouth open at this completely unexpected situation.
“A-Ah, I mean… that is…”
“It’s fine. I know that it must be hard to respond after hearing something like this all of a sudden.”
Even after being prodded, Yasuo looked like the unprecedented situation was going to make him overheat, and so Shouko stopped him.
“I don’t want to hear an answer that you came up with on the spur of the moment.”
“Ah, just one thing, Yasu-kun.”
Shouko suddenly pointed her finger at Yasuo, who was still agitated.
“Shouko. That’s my name.”
“Yeah, I know…”
“If you feel even the slightest bit sorry for getting me mixed up in a mess like this, then call me by my name.”
“What, you call Khalija-san by her first name as well, and you don’t even use honorifics with Diana-san, right?”
“Yeah, but you know, that’s not the same thing…”
“There’s no difference. The two of us are already partners on this grand adventure involving a different world called Ante Lande. Is it so strange to not want to be so formal with one of your partners?”
She actually called it a grand adventure.
“Come on, it’s Sho-u-ko.”
“Doesn’t the ‘-san’ just make it more embarrassing?”
Even though she said that, it looked like Shouko was also a little embarrassed.
Yasuo felt like his blood pressure was going to cross the safety limit.
“…Sho….u……no, I mean, this is…”
This situation was obviously different from calling Diana by her pet name without honorifics.
Calling a girl by her first name without using any honorifics all of a sudden, after she had just said that she loved him straight to his face, that was too difficult.
He could not come up with any logical explanation as to why exactly it was so difficult, but in any case, it was just too difficult.
It even felt like a taboo that he should not touch.
However, that is what Shouko had requested of him.
What kind of situation is this?
What am I doing?
“……Looks like this mission was a little too hard for you, Yasu-kun.”
While Yasuo was thinking that, it was Shouko who backed down first.
That merciless word from Khalija was the sound that signalled the end of the mission.
“N-No, it’s just that I’ve never done anything like this before, so…”
“Yes, yes, I understand, you can keep calling me like you have been. I’ll just consider that you took my words that seriously. Haa…”
Shouko’s smile looked like she was sad, but also relieved in some way. She then looked at Diana who was sitting next to Yasuo and blushing even more than he was.
She was empathizing with Yasuo as if she was the one who was confessed to and was completely lost for words. Just how much cuter could this girl from a different world become?
Shouko thought that she would never be able to become like her, no matter how much time passed.
“It’s so hard to have a princess as your opponent…”
Shouko muttered that and lowered her shoulders, and then,
“Well, it looks like we’re going to have a fairly difficult relationship from now on, Yasu-kun.”
She said that to Yasuo.
“Yes it does, Tatewaki-san.”
This was his current limit.
“Looking forward to working with you.”
So, for now, the fact that she had a reason to boldly stay by his side was good enough.
That’s what Shouko told herself.
“Onii-chan and Diana-san, what happened to the two of you?”
“Oh my, their faces are so red.”
“It looks like they’ve experienced a lot of things that are difficult for young people to endure.”
After returning home, Yasuo and Diana sat down dazedly in the living room, causing Nodoka to look confused and Madoka also wondered what had happened.
“Difficult things? Was Tatewaki-san unwilling to give her forgiveness?”
“No, that part progressed almost ideally, and she said she was willing to cooperate. However, the process of reaching that point was… I think Nodoka might not believe me even if I tell you.”
“I have no idea what you’re trying to say.”
Nodoka abandoned the matter of Khalija’s explanation that she didn’t understand, and changed the topic.
“So, did you find out anything? About that 『latch』 thing.”
“We discovered one of the triggers that caused Shouko to turn into a Shii. This depends on Yasuo, but there is a way to deal with it.”
Hearing that, Yasuo turned even redder than before, and Nodoka grew even more confused.
“However, we still don’t know the reason why Shouko became a 『latch』, that is to say a human capable of transforming into a Shii. Judging by the timing, the only logical explanation is that she somehow came in contact with the Shii during the incident with William Bareig. Besides there’s that person who gave me the circlet capable of controlling the Shii, and I don’t know how she sent the Shii to Japan. It doesn’t seem like she’s related to William in any way. In the worst case, you will have to consider that there were other people working for her who were sent here before me.”
“Even before Khalija-san, could that mean before Diana-san as well? If that’s the case, isn’t that quite dangerous?”
“I don’t know. Considering that nothing happened between the time after Major Korne arrived here through when I arrived, I might just be thinking about this too much… In any case, to remove the Shii from Shouko, she will have to go to Resteria at least once. However, the Shii are something that came from that world in the first place. I don’t know much of an influence that woman who approached me has. We are in a situation where we cannot make any rash moves.”
“…So you’re saying that nothing has changed, and we can only continue wait for something to happen?”
“It’s just as you have said, Madoka. Although it shames me to admit it, I moved only for my personal reasons and personal profit, but there might be people out there who will move because they believe in the cause and their ideals. If such people exist, they will certainly make a move sometime soon, so I think that you will not have to wait very long until something happens.”
Khalija agreed to Madoka’s words with a serious expression.
“Maybe Shouko is the one who should be protected more actively than Yasuo and Nodoka.”
“To protect her from people who are after her because she can turn into a Shii?”
“That’s right. Those people have connections all over the world. There is a chance that they can activate a Gate Tower in a different country based on information obtained in Resteria. You cannot let down your guard at all.”
“So what were they called again? The people who tempted you into doing what you did.”
Khalija looked like she was remembering her painful past as she answered Madoka’s question.
“There is an organization that gathers and supports the refugees who faced losses during the war with Demon King Kaul, who call themselves 『Carnelian of the Coal Mine』.”
The Grand Duchy of Torjesso no longer existed, but the people who used to live there were not wiped out.
There were many people from Torjesso who escaped to other large countries from the calamitous invasion by the Demon King’s forces and became refugees, and moreover, there were refugees from places other than the Grand Duchy of Torjesso as well.
During the war thirty years ago, in addition to dealing with the direct damage caused by the Demon King’s army, the countries also had to worry about how to handle such refugees as well.
The refugees were also desperate to live, and there were cases where the refugees turned to crime to survive in the countries that had given them shelter.
To reduce those sorts of incidents as much as possible, a number of organizations were set up after war broke out to support the refugees. Carnelian of the Coal Mine was also one such organization.
“That woman… she had silver hair and blue eyes, just like me. She’s probably someone from Torjesso as well. However, the Carnelian of the Coal Mine didn’t restrict themselves to helping only refugees from Torjesso. I cannot imagine just how wide their net extends.”
Those people had suddenly appeared before Khalija, who was in despair due to the failure of the Sinistra, used sweet words to trick her, gave her a circlet with Shii sealed inside, and told her about the secret regarding the 『latch』.
“The six Shii that attacked all of you when I first came to Japan were set free from my circlet without my approval. Now that I think about it, those people might have been using other people they won over like me to spread the Shii all over the world. There’s also a chance that they had something to do with what happened to the mission during which General Alexei was killed…”
Seeing Madoka’s expression turn stern upon hearing Alexei’s name, Khalija told her that woman’s name.
“That woman has the title of 『Foreman』 and is probably the leader of Carnelian of the Coal Mine. She introduced herself as Beatrice Heller.”
─ To be Continued ─