Chapter 1 – What has to be seen through to the end
On her way back from school, Tatewaki Shouko unconsciously tensed her body when she saw the message that she had received on the ROPE messaging application; or more to the point, when she saw who had sent the message.
The message that she had received from Kenzaki Yasuo was very concise.
『Can we meet today?』
She stopped in her tracks, took a deep breath of air, let it out, and tried her best to calm her heartbeat.
There was nothing to be worried about.
Just when she was about to start walking again, she received another barrage in the form of one more message.
『There’s something I want to talk to you about.』
“Stop sending such suggestive messages.”
Shouko unconsciously said that aloud.
From the way the messages were written, it looked like he wanted to meet her so that he could confess his feelings for her.
She waited for a while longer, but she didn’t receive any further messages or stickers.
Since she was staring at the message screen, the sender should have already seen that the message was marked as read.
It would be bad if she made him wait too long and caused him to send another strange follow-up message.
The sender was that Yasuo, after all. That Kenzaki Yasuo.
Trying to guess the intent behind the message was well and good, but in this case the meaning behind it was definitely going to be something that would exceed her imagination.
“Ugh….. Ugh…… Haa.”
While gritting her teeth, Shouko gathered her resolve and sent a reply.
『Sure, if it is after my classes at prep school today.』
Although Shouko and Yasuo went to different high schools, they lived close by and went to the same prep school.
If they wanted to meet, there would be a number of chances for them to do so, but talking after her classes at prep school would be the most 『natural』.
She received a reply immediately, as if the sender had been waiting for her response.
『I’d rather not be overheard. Can we meet privately?』
Shouko looked up from her phone for an instant and her her composure cracked.
She then started operating her slimphone with so much force that the LCD screen was in danger of breaking, and pushed the button for the telephone call. After a few rings, Yasuo picked up.
『Ah, T-Tatewaki-san, sorry about the sudden—』
“Choose your words more carefully!!!”
『Eh!? Did I write something weird? I’m sorry!』
Even ordinarily, Shouko was under a fair amount of stress on a daily basis.
On that day. The day when her relationship with Yasuo had gone through a perceptible change.
When Shouko had returned home, she dove into her bed, pressed her face into her pillow, and continued groaning and screaming into it for about an hour.
Even later, whenever she remembered what had happened, she felt like hitting her head against the wall at home, or against her desk or locker at school. She had actually done that a few times.
At that time, she had done it so casually.
She had told Yasuo how she felt about him.
Even though she had told him, what came after was the absolute worst.
Despite the fact that she had been influenced by the atmosphere, why had she gone and done something so rash?
She must have been delusional. There was no other explanation for it.
Considering what had happened to her recently, becoming delusional might have been unavoidable.
Another mistake she had made was to not ask for a response from him.
However — no, exactly because of that, this was a little cruel.
“Everything about what you sent is weird! What is it!? Did you feel like responding to my confession or something!?”
『Ueeh!? Eh, t-that is…』
“I’m ready to hear your answer anytime!”
『Umm, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, did I really write something that made you think that?』
“If anything, it felt like you were going to confess your feelings for me instead!”
“I know, okay!? It hasn’t been that long since that incident, and seeing as you want to talk to me about something, it must be really important, right? It probably has something to do with Ante Lande, right!? That’s why you didn’t want anyone to overhear and asked to meet in private, right!? Well!?”
『T-That’s right, yes.』
“Then write that to begin with! Don’t get my hopes up!”
“That’s right! Do you have any idea how I feel right now? I want to keep my hopes up but I feel like I don’t have any hope, which leaves me just feeling regretful, and in spite of that I’m still holding on to that hope!”
Even Shouko didn’t understand what she was saying anymore, but she didn’t think what she was saying was wrong.
“Well!? Is that something we can’t talk about now!? There’s no one around here right now!”
『W-Well, uh, It’s not that we can’t speak over the phone, but it’s a really serious matter so I’d like to talk about it in person and explain the circumstances.』
Despite the fact that Yasuo’s voice had become completely timid, Shouko did not show any mercy.
“What’s the topic!?!?”
『T-Topic? Umm, let’s see…. How do I put this… There’s this place I want you to go—』
“………I just told you to choose your words carefully, didn’t I?”
“You’re definitely not inviting me out on a date or anything, right? You’re talking about Ante Lande, right?”
『Eh!? A date!? Eh!? How did you know I was talking about Ante Lande!?』
“Are you making fun of me!? Fine, be that way!”
Despite the fact that she had confessed her feelings to him, she knew that Kenzaki Yasuo had neither a decisive personality, nor the experience of an adult.
It was apparent at a glance that he was not used to dealing with women, and he was more a child than an adult.
However, because of that, it could be said that he was more earnest and truthful than most other boys of his age.
With his personality, Yasuo would never try and make plans to meet or give his reply to her confession over a messaging application like ROPE.
He would definitely try to go about giving her his reply in a more formal way, and make a mistake somewhere.
That being the case, the only other important matters that Yasuo would want to discuss with her would be college examinations or the other world, Ante Lande.
“Haa, forget it. I don’t get what it’s about, but I’ll see you today after my classes are finished! We can meet up at the lounge at the prep school! Goodbye!! ……Aaaargh!”
After hanging up without even waiting to hear Yasuo’s reply, Shouko let out a rough breath and unconsciously gripped her Slimphone tightly in her hand, but,
Someone snatched her Slimphone out of her hand all of a sudden, and she quickly raised her head.
At some point, a beautiful young woman with golden hair and emerald-green eyes had appeared beside her, and was looking at Shouko’s face with a complicated expression.
“Be careful. Your eyes.”
The girl just said that short sentence, and Shouko unconsciously put both her hands over her eyes.
“Aaah… Ugh, my hands are so cold….”
While feeling the coldness from her hands over her eyes, she let out a large sigh.
“Umm, I’m sorry for doing that all of a sudden. At that rate, it looked like you were going to crush your Slimphone, so…”
“No… that’s okay. Thank you, Diana-san. I probably would have done that. Haa.”
Shouko pressed down on her eyes for about ten seconds.
By the time she moved her hands away, the ominous black flames that had been flickering around her eyes had vanished. Shouko, who looked a little tired, stared into the empty sky.
Diana, who had been guarding Shouko, could not hide her surprise at seeing Shouko control the flames so easily, even if it was only in the region around her eyes.
“……That was splendid. It looks like you have it under control now.”
“I wonder if something like this can be called having it under control.”
Although Diana looked impressed, Shouko shook her head.
“It has happened a few times since then. However, since I know the reason why it happened, I was able to learn a trick to calm myself down.”
“Umm… by a trick to calm down, you mean…?”
“It’s embarrassing, so I’d rather not say it aloud. Although it’s pointless to feel shy about it in front of you after all that has happened, Diana-san.”
While saying that, Shouko looked at her Slimphone which Diana had rescued.
The screen still showed the ROPE application with Yasuo’s messages.
Diana immediately realized what Shouko was thinking after following her gaze and looking at the screen.
“Ah, yes. Here you go.”
Diana returned the Slimphone to Shouko with a complicated expression on her face.
Shouko also understood that Diana had realized what she was thinking of, as she accepted the Slimphone and put it into sleep mode in an annoyed manner.
“Thank you. Actually, Yasu-kun was saying some stupid things earlier, so…”
“Apparently he wants to talk to me about something important.”
“Something important… Ah, so he put it like that?”
“Oh, so you know about it as well, Diana-san. That means it has something to do with Ante Lande, right?”
“That’s… right. It is definitely…”
“Dammit. Why’d I have to go and…”
Seeing Shouko slump her shoulders in an exaggerated manner, Diana once again showed a complicated expression.
The other world, Ante Lande.
Tatewaki Shouko had first found out about that ridiculous concept — or rather, that ridiculous world — only a week ago.
Apparently, the parents of Kenzaki Yasuo, her classmate from middle school whom she had been reunited with at prep school after entering her third year of high school, were a Hero and Sage who had saved that other world from peril around thirty years ago.
Even that sounded ridiculous enough that Shouko did not know how to react, but now that Ante Lande was apparently once again facing an unprecedented crisis, so they sent over an emissary to summon Yasuo’s parents back to that world.
That emissary was Dianaze Krone, a Magitech Knight.
That young woman, who was called Diana, told them about the monsters called 『Shii』 that were eating away at her world, and asked for the Hero to return to her world once more. However, after some dispute among the members of the Kenzaki family, for some reason Yasuo had apparently volunteered to become the new Hero.
All of this had been properly explained to Shouko, but she had only seen a small part of it with her own eyes and hence there were still parts of the story that she did not completely understand.
In fact, the part that was important to Shouko came after that.
The monsters mentioned earlier, the 『Shii』, had appeared in Japan, that is to say in this world. Due to that, Diana’s superior officer, Khalija Welleger, had also been dispatched to help guard the Kenzaki family.
However, while still in Ante Lande, Khalija had become involved with a group of people who could apparently control the Shii, and developed a deep-rooted conviction that it was possible to resurrect people who had died by using the Shii which imitated their appearance.
After a fierce fight, Khalija’s ambition was crushed and she was released from her delusion, but at some point between Khalija’s appearance in Japan and her fight with the Kenzaki family, Shouko had been possessed by one of those 『Shii』.
That Shii had appeared in the form of a monster in front of Yasuo several times, and apparently used its inhuman strength to hurt Diana and Yasuo.
Shouko did not have any memories of the time when the Shii took over her body.
Annoyingly enough, when Shouko’s feelings of love for Yasuo grew too strong to hold in check, the Shii would start to manifest in the form of cold, dark flames that came out of her eyes and would attempt to take over her body.
That was a pretty girly reason for the Shii — which were said to be basically the same sort of existence as the living dead — to appear.
Not only Diana, but even Khalija had no idea how to effectively deal with Shouko’s situation, and they had never heard of a similar case occurring in Ante Lande either.
After being placed in this situation, Shouko decided upon the path of 『Confessing her feelings to Yasuo』.
After hearing all the details, Shouko surmised that the Shii would take over her body when her feelings for Yasuo got out of control.
She thought that if she just told Yasuo how she felt, she would be able to prevent her feelings from bursting forth unexpectedly.
Doing that had an effect greater than what Shouko, Diana, and Khalija had expected.
Just like what had happened earlier, if her feelings for Yasuo ever crossed the breaking point, she would be able to repress the black flames by calming her heart.
Looking at it another way, it could also be said that in the one week since Shouko had told Yasuo how she felt about him, the Shii had become that much more insistent on manifesting.
One of the reasons for that was the fact that even though she had told Yasuo how she felt about him, she had not demanded a reply, which left her in a state of constant worry.
The other reason, and perhaps this was unavoidable, was the fact that Yasuo had been acting evasive whenever they met at prep school.
He would not look her in the eye.
He would run away from her.
Just this was enough to make Shouko indescribably anxious.
It had taken her a considerable amount of courage to tell him how she felt about him.
And what’s more, it was under circumstances that could not be explained by common sense.
Despite all she did, since the other person was behaving like that, Shouko’s current feelings had bypassed anxiety and it didn’t take her very long to think, Maybe my confession has caused Yasuo a lot of trouble.
Perhaps Yasuo was feeling troubled by getting a confession of love from someone he didn’t care about at all.
Rather than the crisis in the other world or monsters that she had not seen with her own eyes, Shouko was constantly bothered by such uneasy thoughts that were far closer to her heart and were more concrete.
And then, she had received that ROPE message under such circumstances.
Shouko could hardly be blamed for letting the black flames leak out of her eyes.
“……So, what is it?”
Even before she called out to him, it was readily apparent that Yasuo was very tense.
“H-How about we leave this place first.”
A slightly shrill voice, and a red face.
Looking at him made even Shouko feel embarrassed. Yasuo was just that agitated when looking at Shouko’s face… or so it seemed.
“Take care on your way back.”
Kobayashi, the tutor in charge of them, had stayed back until the last time slot of the lectures to make sure all the students had left, and he saw them off. The two of them headed out into the night air that gave off a slight, but discernible, presence of approaching summer.
“So, where do you want to go?”
“Eh, ah, umm….. It’s pretty late, and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, so how about that Weloce over there?”
Cafe Weloce, located just off Prope Street, was an ordinary outlet of a cafe chain that was not particularly unusual in any way, but unlike the other cafes that closed at nine in the evening, Cafe Weloce was the only shop that stayed open until eleven at night.
At the prep school that Shouko and Yasuo attended for their university exams, 『Senshuu Academy』 in Tokorozawa, students could not stay beyond nine-thirty at night.
Even if they stopped at the shop on their way home at that time, about a quarter of the seats would usually be taken.
During the five minutes it took them to walk to Weloce, Shouko looked at Yasuo’s back as he walked slightly unsteadily, and once again started to imagine what he wanted to talk to her about.
Considering how much Yasuo was wavering as he told her that he wanted to take her somewhere, it didn’t take much imagination to deduce that their destination would be Ante Lande.
However, if that was the case, she couldn’t understand why they had to talk alone.
Shouko, Yasuo, and Yasuo’s younger sister, Kenzaki Nodoka, had guards accompanying them to protect them against threats from Ante Lande, including the Shii.
The guards were Diana, Yasuo’s mother, Kenzaki Madoka, and Khalija, who had sworn absolute obedience to the Kenzaki family and Diana after the recent battle.
Diana had been guarding Shouko today, and judging by the way she had spoken, Shouko felt that Diana didn’t plan on attending the meeting. However, even that was strange.
As she was thinking about that, she realized that they had already arrived in front of Weloce.
After they took up their positions in seats where the other customers would not be able to overhear them, Yasuo pulled out his wallet and turned to Shouko.
“What would you like, Tatewaki-san? Since I called you out here for my own reasons, I’ll pay.”
Shouko suddenly felt that her current expression was completely deadpan.
“……I’ll have a medium ice tea. I don’t need syrup.”
“Ah, o-ok, got it.”
Yasuo showed a look of relief for just a second after Shouko told him her order, and walked towards the register in high spirits.
On the other hand, Shouko sat down in the aisle seat and leaned back heavily after letting out a sigh.
“『My own reasons』, huh?”
From the way he put it, Shouko was certain that Yasuo’s business with her today was not something that would make her jump with joy.
No matter the circumstances, the place that he wanted her to go to was most likely the other world, Ante Lande. The destination would be the Resteria Kingdom, the country that Diana and Khalija were from.
The reason was probably to look into the matter of the 『Shii』 that was hiding inside her body.
When she once again looked blankly towards Yasuo, she saw that he was walking slowly towards her while holding a tray with glasses of ice coffee and ice tea on it.
Shouko, who occasionally helped out at the pub that her parents ran, 『Restaurant Saburou』, thought about something pointless like he wouldn’t last a second waiting tables with that kind of skill at holding trays.
Yasuo, who somehow managed to reach the table safely, let out his breath and put a glass down in front of Shouko.
With this, they were finally ready to start talking, but for some reason Yasuo had beads of sweat on his forehead.
“Just go ahead and drink up. We can talk after we relax a little.”
Yasuo meekly nodded and drank half of the ice coffee in one gulp, without even adding milk or syrup.
Was he just that nervous?
Shouko already had a fair idea of what Yasuo wanted to say to her, and she knew that telling her would be quite stressful for him considering his position, so she did not tell him to hurry up.
If she was in his place and had to tell a friend that got caught up in her own family’s affairs that they had to now go to some incomprehensible place, she would definitely be tense and find it hard to say.
“Umm, sorry for calling you out all of a sudden.”
“Forget about that. Let’s just get it done with. What is it?”
“Ah, okay. Well, you already guessed about half of it already, but basically, my father has decided to go to Ante Lande for a few days for reconnaissance, and he wants you to go with him.”
“A few days? Oji-san was Hero, right? Is he going to settle everything in just a few days?”
“That might be asking for a little too much, but he was saying that he wanted to get some firsthand information, as well as seriously negotiate with Diana’s mother and the Resteria Kingdom. To put it frankly, he wants to tell them not to be stingy with the guard detail.”
“That’s true. If you think about it, Khalija-san is the person who tried to kidnap me, and yet she’s now guarding me, you, and Nodoka-chan. I guess that’s pretty strange.”
“Right. And then there’s the matter of yourself, Tatewaki-san. Although we as a family feel very sorry about it, in a way you are the first victim caused by Ante Lande’s actions in Japan. Dad said that another reason why he wanted to go was to make sure that they take responsibility for that. Of course, he wants you to accompany him for that as well.”
“I see. I’ll be going to Ante Lande so that they can research more about that 『Shii』, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. Of course, Diana will go along as well, or maybe I should say that she will be returning home along with you.”
Up to this point, the discussion made sense.
Of course Shouko didn’t want that ominous existence hanging around her, and if they could research it and remove it from her, that would be great.
However, in the conversation so far, the name of the person who was important to Shouko didn’t come up even once.
“What about you, Yasu-kun? Aren’t you going too?”
“……For now, I am not included in the plan.”
Yasuo, surprised by Shouko’s unexpected outburst, spoke hurriedly.
“I’d love to go as well, but it looks like it costs a lot of money to go to Ante Lande.”
The pathway that connects the other world, Ante Lande, to Japan was called a 『Gate Tower』.
It appeared to be an extraordinarily large-scale sorcery system, as it would take three percent of the national budget to move a mass equivalent to that of an average adult male.
“But it’s not like your family is going to pay for that, right Yasu-kun?”
“Even I’m not sure how large a sum it is or who exactly will bear the burden on Resteria’s side, but they will be paying for the entire expense of the trip this time. Diana’s share is a given, but just the amount required for my Dad and you will apparently take a large chunk out of their budget.”
“If that’s the explanation from their side, that’s pretty awful of them, don’t you think? In the first place, they are the ones who allowed the Shii to come over here, and they are the ones looking to your father for help. Moreover, they even made you start training. They should at least pay the travel fee without grumbling.”
Yasuo smiled wryly after hearing Shouko speak.
“Well, nobody came over to arrest Khalija-san, even though she ignored the king’s orders and committed a crime here. Besides, between you and me, Tatewaki-san, it should be obvious who needs to go to Ante Lande more, right?”
“So you’re saying I’m an ultra-rare sample for experimentation who is more important than the Son of a Hero who is known in every corner of the world?”
“That’s a pretty harsh way to put it.”
“I mean, that’s how the people on that side will see me, after all.”
“Well, that may be true… Still, you seem pretty calm about this, Tatewaki-san.”
“That’s because I don’t have any hard facts. Although I would be scared if I found out after going there that they were going to cut my body open without using anesthesia.”
“Dad and Diana are going to accompany you, so they’ll make sure you don’t come to any harm.”
“Well, I suppose they won’t do anything that might upset the Hero of Salvation.”
Even Shouko was aware of something like that.
“I’ve heard that once you get there, Diana’s mother will be taking care of everything you need. It looks like the incident with Khalija-san has made them very sensitive, so they will be guarding you quite rigorously.”
“And what about Khalija-san?”
“Of course, she’ll be staying behind to take care of things here. Like I said earlier, if she goes over to the other side, she’ll be arrested. It might be fine if it was just that, but in the worst case there is also a danger of her being assasinated, so Diana’s mother has decided that it would be better for her not to return.”
“……Okay, now I’m feeling a little scared.”
To begin with, Khalija had come to guard the Kenzaki Family on the orders of the King of Resteria, just like Diana. However, she had also come to an understanding with a certain person who appeared to be capable of freely controlling the Shii, and betrayed the Kenzaki family once already in order to help further that person’s goals.
Beatrice Heller, the leader of an organization called 『Carnelian of the Coal Mine』 that took care of refugees.
That was the name of the person who could control the Shii, according to Khalija.
The Carnelian of the Coal Mine was an organization that mainly concerned itself with taking care of the citizens of the Grand Duchy of Torjesso, who were chased out of their homeland thirty years ago by the armies of the Demon King Kaul.
The plan to move them back to their country that was destroyed by Demon King Kaul was still not complete, and that organization apparently used its influence not only in Resteria, but all over the world in order to help the refugees.
No matter how one looked at it, it appeared to be a splendid charitable organization, so why were they controlling Shii which have the appearance of dead creatures? Moreover, just how much influence does that person called Beatrice Heller have over the organization? There was no way to answer these questions.
However, judging by the fact that Khalija, who was one of Resteria’s central military officers, fell under her evil influence, it was obvious that the power of the person who could control the Shii was far more widespread in their world than initially apparent.
Khalija had said that Beatrice Heller was looking for a 『Latch』.
Even Khalija did not know what kind of powers the 『Latch』 possessed, or perhaps would be given, but it appeared that requirement to become one was to be 『A living person who harbors the undead within their body』.
And so, Shouko, who harbored a Shii — an undead creature — within her body was the only 『Latch』 candidate discovered so far.
“Everything about this is so incomprehensible. I suppose this means that in the end, we don’t know anything about the matter.”
“I’m really sorry. Even though I was the one who explained it to you, I don’t understand most of it myself. However, that makes it all the more important that we make a move while we are still able to, which brings us to this discussion today.”
“Well, I guess you’re right. With things as they are, I can’t concentrate on my exams either.”
“B-By the way, Tatewaki-san.”
Yasuo appeared to have finished his ice coffee in the middle of the conversation.
He once again started sweating strangely.
“The discussion about you going to Ante Lande was of course important, but there’s something more important that I need to tell you, Tatewaki-san.”
“Ah, I see… Eh?”
Shouko, who was about to go along with the conversation as if it was normal, suddenly did a double take.
“Something… that you have to tell me?”
“Yes… This is something we need to discuss before you go to Ande Lande, no matter what.”
“Eh, w-what is…”
Looking at Yasuo’s eyes that seemed to tell her that he had resolved himself, Shouko unconsciously corrected her lax posture.
She straightened her back, put her knees together.
“Well, about what happened earlier, I thought that we should make it official.”
“O-Official……? Uh, h-hang on a second…”
Although they had been having a completely unromantic conversation about the other world until a moment ago, Yasuo’s behaviour suddenly changed which caused Shouko’s heartbeat to gradually speed up.
“If it’s not too much of a bother… Yeah, as I thought this is a protocol that has to be followed. Tatewaki-san.”
Even though she was supposed to be tired out from the classes at prep school, her blood ran quickly through her entire body, and even her eyes were widened as we waited to hear what Yasuo would say.
“Tatewaki-san… Would it be okay if I went to greet your parents some time?”
The moment those words fell upon her ears, Shouko’s brain overheated.
What came her her mouth was not a word, but merely a sound.
It could be said that Yasuo’s request came so far out of left field that the language processing center of her brain refused to work properly.
It was just a reflex action.
“I guess… that it’s not okay, after all?”
Yasuo himself had a bright red face, as if he had been thinking too hard about this.
“………………It’s……….. It’s not like it’s n-not okay, but…………”
It was such a sudden attack.
Shouko, who felt like she had received a bodily blow to her blindspot from ultra-long range, could only wait while her thought process began to spin around in circles uselessly.
“………..About what happened earlier…. You’re talking about that, right?”
“T-That’s right. What else is there?”
“T-That’s right, but…… I’m sorry, I didn’t imagine that something like this would happen, I mean, Yasu-kun, don’t you think it’s a little too early?”
“I don’t think it’s too early. If anything, this is the proper procedure to see things through.”
“I-Is that so? Is that how it works!?”
“That’s how it works. This is something that will affect the rest of your life, but we are both still students right now, so we can’t really go ahead without your parents’ permission…..”
“A-Ah, but… Eh, the rest of my life? Y-Yasu-kun, what’s up with you? This isn’t like you at all.”
“Eh? What isn’t?”
Although he had seemed so hesitant in the beginning, once the words had left his mouth, his strong will and sincerity strongly shone through.
Shouko’s face had turned so red that there was no way to hide it.
Was this a dream?
Had she perhaps dozed off in the middle of her lecture, and started dreaming about Yasuo because she was frustrated about not getting an answer from him about 『what happened earlier』?
“Yasu-kun, about that, where were you planning on meeting…?”
“If possible, I would like to visit them at your house… but since it’s an important conversation, it might be better to go on a day when your parents are not working.”
“Y-You’re… That serious…”
“Yes. I think it’ll take time to get them to understand. Still, I’ll explain it to them properly.”
“I-I understand. Umm, t-thank you…”
Hearing Shouko talk as if she was delirious from a high fever, Yasuo shook his head.
“You don’t need to thank me. If anything, I should be thanking you for agreeing.”
“O-Of course I would agree! I-I mean… I didn’t think that you would take this so seriously, Yasu-kun…”
“Of course. I don’t know if your parents will believe me, but my Dad, my Mom, and Diana will come along as well and we will try our best to convince them.”
Shouko felt like a crack had developed in her vision, and the north and south poles of the planet had suddenly been reversed.
“………Your Dad, your Mom, and Diana-san too? They’re coming? To my house?”
“Eh? Well, that’s obvious.”
“What do you mean, why… If they don’t, there’s no way your parents will believe me.”
“T-Tatewaki-san, what’s wrong? Are you okay? I mean, it’s obvious……”
Yasuo started to panic when he saw that Shouko was acting strangely, but Shouko just felt like the world was rapidly losing color and the temperature was dropping.
“If you go to Ante Lande, you won’t be able to return on the same day. Due to limitations of the Gate Tower, I’ve heard that it is better to keep about five full days open for the trip. However Golden Week is already over and there are no more consecutive holidays coming up soon, so if you have to go to Ante Lande there’s no choice but to take time off from school. Moreover you have exams this year so we can’t really take you away for one week without explaining the reason to your parents. So we all sat down and thought about it, but in the end we decided that we would need to tell your parents about the circumstances in Ante Lande as well.”
“……………..Oh, I see.”
“I know that the whole thing is pretty incomprehensible, and I don’t know if your parents will believe me, but trust me when I say that I don’t have any intention of deceiving your parents. I will sincerely explain everything to them.”
Now it all made sense.
In that case, they would have to come on a day when her parents were not working, Yasuo would also 『seriously』 talk about 『what happened earlier』, namely the incident that Shouko was involved in, and if the Kenzaki couple and Diana were not present, the discussion could not even start.
Now it all made sense.
Shouko felt like all the strength was leaving her body, and unable to recover, she felt like she might slide and fall out of her chair.
“………….It must be nice to be an adult!”
“I guess this is the kind of situation where they would drown their sorrows in alcohol!”
“What are you talking about!?”
Yasuo panicked as Shouko’s voice got progressively more hoarse, but of course Yasuo didn’t stop to think for a second that he had something to do with it.
“Come here for a bit.”
While still looking like she was about to fall off her chair, she beckoned towards Yasuo with her hand.
After Yasuo obediently stood up and came to stand next to her, Shouko looked at him with a feeble glare and then, “Sei!” She drove her fist into his side with a fair amount of power.
“Guaaah!? What the heck!?”
Yasuo groaned at Shouko’s sudden violence, but Shouko just gazed blankly ahead.
“……That’s my line… I feel like I’m going to turn in a Shii any minute……”
“E-Eh!? Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m not…”
As Shouko moaned indistinctly, faint black flames started to rise up from her eyes and Yasuo started to panic for real.
If Shouko were to turn into a Shii in the middle of the city like this, there was no way for Yasuo to handle it.
However, Shouko seemed to realize something all of a sudden, as she straightened her body and started looking around restlessly.
And then, when she found what she was looking for, her expression relaxed slightly, and then she glared at Yasuo once more.
“I suppose our discussion is done for now?”
“For now, this is my answer.”
“Yeah. I didn’t say anything about agreeing to go to Ante Lande yet, after all.”
“Aah… Eh? N-No, that won’t do at all, deciding not to go will make things more difficult for you as well, Tatewaki-san….”
“Yes, I know. But deciding to agree to everything unilaterally doesn’t sit right with me.”
“Well, I can see where you’re coming from…”
Seeing Yasuo look confused, Shouko smiled at him cynically, as if she had regained some of her energy.
The flames in her eyes had disappeared at some point, and her teasing gaze now looked straight at Yasuo.
“So let me just put one condition forward.”
Shouko made a clear declaration.
“Yasu-kun, you have to come along as well. As long as that condition is accepted, I will go to Ante Lande.”
Yasuo was just a messenger, and he had no authority to decide anything regarding the trip to Ante Lande.
However, Shouko spoke in a tone that precluded his answer and cut off his confusion.
“I told you the condition for my Shii’s activation along with 『that other thing』, right? If I’m separated from you for a long time and placed in an unfamiliar environment, who knows what might happen~”
When Shouko’s feelings of love for Yasuo grew beyond her control, the Shii would show itself and take over her body.
Yasuo had certainly heard about that already.
When she brought that up, Yasuo, who could not even call Shouko by her first name, turned bright red and became unable to speak.
“Well then, convey my regards to your father and Diana-san. I’m going home. Ah, you don’t need to walk me back.”
“Ah, ok, I understand. Umm…”
“I’ll contact you again later. See you. Ei.”
“Ouch! Eh? Ehh!?”
Shouko, who quickly got ready to leave and stood up, hit the top of Yasuo’s head with a karate chop as a parting gift and left the cafe right away.
Yasuo, who was just blankly gazing as she left, suddenly noticed the presence of someone beside him and turned towards them.
Diana was sitting in the chair that Shouko had occupied until recently, with an expression that was equal parts embarrassment and exasperation.
“Wait, were you in the shop the whole time?”
“Well, yes. I switched with the Colonel for Shouko’s guard duty.”
Since it was a public store, it was not that strange that she had decided to come inside to carry out her duty as a guard.
“So you heard what we talked about right… tell me honestly, what do you think? She said she won’t go to Ante Lande unless I go along, but I think that’s pretty impossible… Diana?”
Yasuo had wanted to discuss the condition that Shouko had brought up, but he suddenly realized that Diana was actually giving him a reproachful glare for once and he stopped talking in the middle of his sentence.
“Yasuo. I am aware that it is not my place to interfere and say something like this, but what you did earlier was bad. It was horrible.”
“I think that you should look for an opportunity and properly apologize to Shouko.”
“I understand that you didn’t do it out of malice, but there are cases when something is bad precisely because there was no malicious intent. Especially when you are dealing with Shouko. If Nodoka had been here, I’m sure that she would have barged into your conversation at least three times.”
This might be the first time that Diana had reproached him so frankly.
Yasuo, who realized that, finally started to think that he might have done something unforgivable.
“D-Did I really say something that would upset Tatewaki-san to that extent!?”
“Yasuo. Sit down.”
Diana, while frowning and appearing reluctant, made Yasuo sit down in his seat.
Yasuo also felt some sort of disquieting pressure from Diana, and straightened his back unconsciously.
“I don’t particularly think anything about it. But the Colonel probably found it amusing. Just so you know, she heard everything as well.”
Seeing Diana’s reluctant face and hearing Khalija’s name come up, Yasuo started to realize that he might have made a fairly large mistake.
“As for the condition Shouko brought up, we will consider that from our side so you needn’t worry about it, Yasuo. More importantly, let me explain to you how cruelly you acted towards Shouko so that you will be able to somewhat withstand the attacks from the Colonel after you go back home.”
“What do you mean, acted cruelly….”
For Diana who usually saw everything he did in a positive light to say something like that, just how big a mistake had he made?
For the next few minutes, Diana explained in detail just what Yasuo had done, and after that Yasuo put his head down on the table and was not able to get up for a while.
“Welcome home, Colonel. That took a while.”
It was quite late at night by the time Khalija returned to Room 101 of Marigold Hills Tokorozawa, the apartment where Diana was staying and was a thirty second walk away from the Kenzaki house.
“Ah, there was just a bit of trouble with Shouko.”
“Did something happen?”
“Because of what a certain idiot did, I wasn’t able to come back home for quite a while. It took a lot of effort to bring her flames back under control.”
“Ahh… Thank you for your hard work.”
After showing a wry smile, Diana took Khalija’s cup out of the kitchen cabinet.
“Would you like something to drink?”
“If we have any ice coffee, I’d like some. I actually worked for once after a long time, so I’m tired.”
Putting it as “work” was quite strange, and for Khalija to actually make a request for something was also quite rare.
Ever since their battle that took place a few days ago, Khalija had not broken her stance of absolute obedience towards the Kenzaki family, and even towards Diana.
On top of being injured, Khalija was aware that she was dependent on Diana for most of her living needs, so that last command she had given to Diana as a superior office was, 『Don’t take my needs into consideration. Feel free to kill me at any time if you think I’m acting suspiciously.』
Since she said that, Diana could understand just how much Khalija regretted her actions.
Until now, whenever Diana had asked her what she wanted to eat or drink after she finished her shift at guarding Yasuo, Nodoka, or Shouko, Khalija would only ask for bread or water. That’s why, hearing Khalija ask for something else actually made Diana happy.
“Would you like milk and sugar?”
“No, I don’t need any. I’m just so thirsty… Ahh, thank you.”
Khalija drank the ice coffee which had no milk or sugar in one gulp and then sighed in contentment even while looking like it gave her a headache.
“……Still, what did you think of that?”
“Are you talking about Yasuo?”
“He’s eighteen years old, right? If this was Resteria, it wouldn’t be strange if he was running a household of his own at that age.”
“I suppose it’s just a matter of the differences in culture.”
“You think so? While walking around the city, I’ve seen students who looked younger than Yasuo getting along well with members of the opposite sex.”
“Yasuo has not yet reached that level of maturity when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex.”
“Shouko was saying something similar as well, but that’s only if you look at it positively. If you consider it from a neutral standpoint, he just lacks consideration. There are too many problems with his ability to deal with others.”
It was really quite rare for Khalija to be this talkative.
However, Diana had already objected to Yasuo’s behavior as a female who happened to be present when Shouko confessed her feelings to him, so she did not refute Khalija’s viewpoint.
“I properly explained everything to him, so please don’t tease him too much.”
“Major Krone, you’re too soft on him. For a weakling like Yasuo, someone strict like Nodoka would be just about right. If not, he’ll just start depending on you, in a bad way.”
“A bad way?”
“Yes. Can I have another cup?”
“Here you go.”
After getting a refill of iced coffee, Khalija made a grim expression.
“Major Krone, you see Yasuo’s various actions too positively. It is still fine right now, but if he gets into the habit of thinking that you will affirm his worthless behavior every time he encounters trouble, at some point in the future he will just come to a standstill when he encounters an obstacle.”
Diana understood what Khalija was saying.
However, in Diana’s eyes, Yasuo was definitely not that kind of person.
He was just an ordinary person living in this country called Japan.
Saying that he was ordinary meant that he was properly living his life.
“Yasuo isn’t that weak. He may spend more time lost in doubt that most people, but he is still moving forward.”
“That’s so sweet.”
“That coffee isn’t supposed to have any sugar in it, though.”
“You’re doing that on purpose, right? Do you consider him to be nothing more than a troublesome younger brother?”
“Sure, Yasuo is not strong, but he’s not weak either. I don’t think that there are many high school students in this country who can heal themselves and make a plan to defeat you after having a hole opened up in their side.”
Once Diana brought that up, Khalija, who herself had lost to that, felt weak instead.
“From my perspective, Yasuo is… that’s right, he is hope.”
“Hope? That guy?”
Khalija did not know about it.
She did not know how fiercely Yasuo had fought to deny the existence of Diana and Ante Lande.
The instant when his denial turned to acceptance.
The effort he put in to change everything about himself that he had accumulated over the past eighteen years.
“Even Hideo did not start off as the strongest Hero. Moreover, there is no need for Yasuo to become the kind of Hero that Hideo was. That’s why someone like me is only fit for…”
Moreover, Khalija did not know how many obstacles he had overcome, both big and small.
“…supporting the Hero who just began his journey and affirming his every action, don’t you think?”
“……Fine, do as you like.”
Khalija’s expression looked like she was both exasperated and impressed by what Diana had said. She took a sip of her coffee and mentally added a warning to Diana.
Don’t ever say something like that in front of Shouko.
“Although that might be amusing as well.”
“What are you talking about?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Three days later, on a Saturday.
There was a group of strangely nervous people standing in front of the pub for the masses, 『Restaurant Saburou』.
“……I say, Dear.”
“I feel more nervous than I did before the fight with Kaul.”
The Kenzaki couple, Hideo and Madoka.
The Hero of Salvation and the Great Sage were both pale faced and drenched in a cold sweat.
The suit Hideo was wearing wasn’t the one he usually wore to work; it was an expensive tailored-to-order suit that he only wore for very important job meetings.
The suit his mother was wearing was not tailored-to-order, but it was brand new and she had purchased it particularly for this meeting.
Yasuo was naturally wearing his school uniform.
So far it was not particularly strange for a group of people who were visiting another person’s house, but beside them was Diana, dressed in her full dress uniform as a Magitech Knight, which immediately caused their motive to become unclear.
“I-It’s okay. In the worst case, I will take care of it…”
In this situation, Yasuo, who was standing next to Diana while her thought process was stalled, had no idea what was counted as the worst case scenario or what Diana intended to do, but since the previous day he had been so tense that he had not even been able to eat anything.
He had no idea that it would be this frightening to “just” tell strangers who knew nothing about the situation about their absurd secret.
Ever since he had entered middle school, Yasuo had wondered countless times why protagonists from manga, anime, and movies who possessed some special ability or came in contact with other worlds disliked telling other people about their secret.
Considering the commonly used 『Fewer people that know my secret, the better』theory, it made no difference whether the people close to the protagonists knew their secret or not; there was no telling how the enemies would make use of them in either case.
As for the 『I don’t want to get them involved』 theory, it was often the enemies, and not the protagonists who got people involved.
It was usually such protagonists who had a tendency to disappear without saying a word to the people close to them, so in most cases those people would appear at the critical moment purely because they were worried, or act strangely and get noticed by the enemy, and in either case they would get involved in a lot of trouble.
That being the case, Yasuo had always thought that it would be better for the protagonists to take some effort to get those important people to understand their special natures, properly explain the difference in fighting ability and give them an idea about what might happen in the future, and then convince them with a logical argument as to why they should keep their distance.
However, Yasuo finally understood their reluctance, now that he was placed in the same situation.
He understood it precisely because he had felt that way earlier.
What would happen if they revealed their special circumstances, far removed from common sense, to strangers?
It might spell an end to their own 『social life』.
In other words, people from their community in the surroundings they were raised in might say things like, 『That person is a little strange, it might be better to not get involved』, and keep their distance.
Given a choice, he would prefer to be able to go back to his original peaceful life after getting rid of the danger that threatened the world.
What would happen if they put their lives on the line and defeated the powerful enemy to protect the peaceful world they lived in, only to come back to find people saying things like:
『Did you hear about Kenzaki-san’s husband? I heard he tried to take the daughter of the couple who run Saburou away by telling them some nonsense about other worlds and demon kings.』
『Oh my… I wonder if he had some problem at his job or something.』
『Both their children have important exams this year, I wonder if the family had a falling-out of some kind.』
『What should we do? By rotation, the next chairman of the regional committee will be Kenzaki-san’s husband…』
『How about we say at the next regional event that kids are easily influenced, so someone who talks about “demon kings” is not suitable?』
『Lately there have been a lot of things breaking at the Kenzaki family house… I wonder if those are really accidents… You know, we often hear of incidents caused by people who become unable to tell the difference between reality and fiction.』
『I wonder if they’re alright… I wonder if we should consult with the head of the neighborhood association or the district welfare officer… this is so scary.』
If things turned out like that, their only options would be for the whole family to quietly run away to some other place in the dead of the night, or move to the other world and settle down in a place where nobody knew them.
Even Yasuo had not been able to easily accept the reality, even after seeing his father’s holy sword and his mother’s magic.
Even if Hideo, Madoka, or Diana floated in the air or used magic in front of other people, such things were already a part of the common sense of people living in Japan, and people would forcefully come up with their own explanations for it and things would stagnate there. Such an outcome was also definitely possible.
In the end, he had only believed the story about his parents’ past or about the existence of Ante Lande after experiencing the fights with Alexei’s Shii and William Bareig.
Even Shouko had only believed it because of the fact that she herself had transformed into a Shii, and also because she encountered the other members of the Kenzaki family, Diana, and Khalija under extraordinary circumstances.
That’s why, showing up during a peaceful time and talking to Shouko’s parents about things like 『The other world, Ante Lande』 or 『The Holy Sword, Liutberga』 was a daunting task.
Firstly, Shouko’s parents were probably not that different in age from Yasuo’s parents.
In which case, they would not be less than forty years old. It was still considered within the prime of one’s working life.
Yasuo imagined the appearance of Shouko’s father, whom he had not seen yet.
The owner of Restaurant Saburou.
He imagined a burly man who dealt with drunk people on a daily basis, and could resolve any problems that arose with just one hand.
A person with a solidly built physique and a taciturn personality which showed on his face, with a headband tied around his forehead and wearing a black t-shirt and an apron with the restaurant’s name printed on it.
Judging by Shouko’s skill at cooking and what he had heard from the neighborhood rumor mill, he could imagine that they were a family who communicated well with each other.
And Yasuo’s father was going to go into such a place and start the conversation with a sentence like, 『Actually, I was a Hero in another world thirty years ago.』
““I want to go home.””
Just thinking about it made Yasuo’s palpitations increase all of a sudden, and he felt the scant contents of his stomach start to rise. Behind him, the Hero of Salvation wholeheartedly agreed with his words.
Perhaps seeing how similar the father and son were served to actually strengthen Madoka’s determination instead.
Madoka stepped up to the door and pressed the intercom button.
The two men let out a wordless scream, but Madoka no longer paid attention to them.
The Tatewaki family house was integrated into the same building as the restaurant Saburou, and actually had a different entrance from the entrance to the restaurant.
However they would have to walk quite some distance through the alley to reach it, and since the restaurant entrance was normally used as the main door by the Tatewaki family as well, Shouko had told them to use the restaurant entrance when they came over.
After a short while, 『I’ll be right there!』
He heard a male voice that was far lighter than what he imagined.
“Hello… my name is Kenzaki. We are here to talk to you today about Shouko-san…”
It appeared that Madoka’s ability to speak clearly was affected by her stress, but, 『Ah, Kenzaki-san. Please wait a moment.』
The reply was once again far lighter than imagined.
After the call over the intercom ended, Yasuo felt that the following ten-odd seconds stretched on for a horribly long time.
“Hello, welcome. Sorry for having you come all this way.”
The person who appeared from behind the sliding door was very different to the image of the owner of a pub that Yasuo had imagined.
He had a slight build and a handsome face, and he was wearing silver-rimmed glasses. He had a smart air about him.
He was wearing a fresh-looking polo shirt and chino pants, and looked more like a salaryman on his day off than anything else. Was this person really Shouko’s father?
“My wife was supposed to join us, but she had some unavoidable personal business to take care of, so I will convey what we discuss to her.”
He had a very gentle expression, and even when he saw the Kenzaki family dressed formally, or Diana who was dressed in an obviously strange fashion, he didn’t change his expression at all.
“Thank you for taking the time to meet us on a holiday. I am Kenzaki Hideo.”
Now that things had reached this stage, there was no way that Hideo could stay hidden behind his wife.
He took one step forward and, prior to mentioning his business for the day, he gave a precise bow, and Madoka and Yasuo also bowed upon seeing that.
“It’s nice to meet you. I am Shouko’s father, Tatewaki Kousuke. Everyone, you don’t need to stand on ceremony, please raise your heads.”
“No, we can’t do that.”
“I believe that your daughter must have already told you about the situation to some extent, but since the matter is quite removed from what would be considered within the realm of common sense, I assume that you must be quite confused. Everything that happened is our responsibility……”
“Kenzaki-san. And the rest of you as well, please calm down. For starters, please come inside.”
Shouko’s father, Kousuke, invited the group into the shop without any hint of harshness in his attitude.
“Thank you for inviting us in.”
Hideo finally raised his head, bowed once more, and proceeded to enter the store. Yasuo and the others followed him inside.
“Welcome. Please take a seat over here.”
Kousuke welcomed them in and seated them as if they were regular customers, but the Kenzaki family could not rid themselves of their nervousness.
They could not allow themselves to think that they were welcome here.
It was likely that Kousuke didn’t understand the situation at all.
As if to prove that, there was only a slight amount of trepidation mixed into his gentle tone.
Despite the fact that they had obviously come to apologize as a family for having caused a problem, the reason why Kousuke had invited them in with just that much amount of trepidation was probably because of his etiquette as a member of society.
And then, the first person to crumble under the stress of the situation was Diana.
“I am so sorry for what happened!!”
Diana, unable to sit in the chair she had been offered, kneeled down right there on the floor of the restaurant and prostrated herself in front of Kousuke.
“H-Hey, what’s wrong!?”
“I am so sorry for doing something so unforgivable to your daughter during a period of time that is very important to her!”
Kousuke looked bewildered by Diana’s sudden prostration, while on the other hand Yasuo once again felt like running away, but for a different reason from before.
Diana’s apology was certainly not wrong, but seen in the light of Japan’s typical social etiquette, the current situation and Diana’s wording might be seen as an apology for Yasuo having committed some sort of immoral mistake with Shouko.
“You are Diana-san, right? I assumed that you were the one the instant I saw you.”
Putting Yasuo’s unscrupulous imaginations aside, Kousuke spoke to Diana is an unexpectedly gentle tone.
“It looks like your Japanese is quite fluent as well. I’m sorry to say this in the middle of such a tense situation, but I seriously felt like laughing just now.”
Seeing that Diana was not even able to lift her face, Kousuke kneeled down and lifted her face up.
“I mean, from the way you put it and the current situation, it sounded like there some serious mistake that happened between Yasuo-kun and Shouko.”
Diana made a sound because she didn’t understand what he meant, and as for Yasuo it was because he hadn’t expected to hear that.
“……Seriously, I feel like you’re doing this on purpose just to embarrass me.”
They heard a voice from the side.
Looking over to that side, they saw Shouko wearing a triangular head covering and an apron, standing there with a red face.
She was holding a silver-colored ladle in her hand, and Yasuo, whose senses had been dulled due to nervousness, suddenly smelled the aroma of broth that stimulated his appetite.
“I’ve heard about the general situation from my daughter already. Sure, I had trouble believing it in the beginning, but I’m not so hard headed as to not believe something that I saw with my own eyes. Come now, everyone sit down. Ever since she heard that all of you would be coming over, Shouko has been unusually eager in many ways.”
Yasuo, Hideo, Madoka, and Diana were confused, but sat down at a table for four after hearing Kousuke speak.
“What were the appetizers again, stewed radish?”
Diana, who was teary-eyed, suddenly shook when she heard the word “radish.”
“Shouko said that she wanted to invite you all to sample her cooking. She said that Diana-san really enjoyed the lunch she made for the picnic last time, so I thought that I’d let all of you judge whether she is ready to cook for our customers.”
“That’s right. If even a person from another world found it delicious, there should be no problem with serving her food to our customers here.”
Hearing Kousuke casually use the phrase 『another world』, Hideo could not hold himself back from speaking.
“Umm, Tatewaki-san, this might be rude of me, but…”
“There are some things that I believe, and some things that I don’t.”
Kousuke answered Hideo’s unspoken question without changing his gentle expression.
“After hearing Shouko’s explanation, I came to believe that 『Magic』 exists, and that Shouko has been possessed by some strange being. However, I do not believe in the existence of this other world called 『Ante Lande』 ”
Yasuo spoke up for the first time since they had gotten here.
Now that he thought about it, he had not even properly introduced himself, but Kousuke replied like he didn’t particularly mind.
“I didn’t hear a logical explanation for its existence. And also, because I haven’t seen it.”
“Because you didn’t see it… Eh, hang on!”
Yasuo was not the only one surprised by the implication behind what Kousuke had said.
He would believe it when he saw it.
In that case, just where had Kousuke seen the use of magic?
“Ah, about that, I requested Khalija-san to show it to him the other day.”
“Eh!? The Colonel!?”
Hearing Shouko’s explanation from the kitchen, Diana was surprised.
Under what circumstances had Khalija come into contact with Shouko’s parents?
“Khalija-san escorted me home after my lectures the other day, right? That’s when I asked her.”
Speaking of which, Khalija had returned home unusually late that day.
“I mean, I had a really hard time holding back the Shii that day, so I decided that it might be a good time for Khalija-san and I to give my parents a brief explanation.”
Shouko’s verbal arrow struck Yasuo’s heart directly.
On that day, after Diana explained what he had said to Shouko, he had spent the night writhing in agony on his bed.
“In the beginning, I wondered why on earth you were wearing sunglasses like that.”
Shouko’s Shii would manifest from her eyes.
If she managed to hold the flames back to just her eyes, then it was certainly possible to hide that by wearing sunglasses.
“What did the Colonel… What did Khalija Welleger say to you?”
“I had her show pretty much all the magic she was capable of. Earth, water, fire, and wind were a given, and lightning as well. But the most amazing of all was probably that one, the portable stove.”
Since the topic had suddenly changed from the attributes of magic to a portable stove, all members of the Kenzaki family asked that in unison and tilted their heads.
“That’s right. I thought that the fire and lightning were a trick of some sort and I was still not sure if I should believe her, but there was no way I could explain the portable stove.”
Saying that, Kousuke stood up and went to a shelf in the corner of the store, picked up two portable stoves, and brought them over to the table where the Kenzaki family were sitting.
“We use these to keep dishes like stew or boiled tofu warm at the table when we serve them, but these two were broken and Khalija-san fixed them.”
Kousuke pumped the gas and twisted the knob on one of the stoves lightly, turning it on and off to show that it was working.
“She just used some copper and metal wire that we had at home. To be honest, that was more surprising than any other magic that she showed that day. The stoves came apart by themselves even though she didn’t even touch them, and the components floated on a slab of light. And then she added in the copper wire and pieces of metal… there’s no way for me to explain it but to call it a mysterious power, the pieces were floating and melting and then she gathered them all together again and as you can see, it started working again. Really, it’s such a convenient ability!”
Khalija had been born in a family of Techno Weapon craftsmen, and her skills were so advanced that she was scouted by the Techno Weapons Research Division soon after she enlisted as a Knight.
Yasuo, who was not good with mechanical things, had no idea if Khalija’s knowledge of Techno Weapons would be useful in repairing a portable stove, but it appeared it was a piece of cake for her to fix them.
“Also, one of her arms is fractured, right? So I asked her if it wasn’t hard for her to do it with one hand, and she replied that for something of that level, one finger was more than enough. So I took the opportunity to have her fix this other stove as well!”
“The Colonel… did something like that…?”
“But, thanks to that I decided to believe in the existence of your magic. I don’t think it will take much more to convince me that this so-called other world exists as well. Especially if Shouko will be going there.”
“Are you okay with that?”
When Diana asked that, Kousuke nodded.
“It’s not a matter of being okay with it or not. I don’t think that whatever is inside Shouko is something doctors or a hospital can handle. Besides, if there is a world where magic exists and that thing came from over there, then I believe that we should let the people from that world remove it from her body.”
“……To be honest, I could not bring myself to hope that you would be so understanding. Seeing as this will end up causing problems for your daughter’s studies as well.”
Kousuke smiled bitterly after hearing Hideo’s honest opinion.
“Well, if you think about it rationally, that might be true. It’s just that I had a similar experience as well, although on a smaller scale.”
Could it be that Shouko’s father was also a person who had visited another world?
“This is not something I usually tell people, but I actually graduated from Tokyo University.”
The person who was most shocked by this statement was Yasuo.
“Oh yeah, even I only found out about that recently.”
Shouko’s voice from the kitchen also sounded like she felt uneasy about it.
It was true that he had an intellectual air about him, but Yasuo had not imagined that he had actually graduated from Tokyo University.
“So you opened this shop here right after you graduated?”
Of course, Hideo did not show any surprise and asked that question calmly. In response, Kousuke shook his head.
“No, I worked at at an energy regulatory company for a few years after I graduated.”
The name of the company that Kousuke told them was so famous that even Yasuo had heard of it.
“It was boring, so I left.”
The job must have paid a pretty high salary, but he left it just because it was boring.
It was something that Yasuo could not understand at all.
Kousuke looked at Yasuo and smiled, as if he could read Yasuo’s expression.
“Do you think that it’s incomprehensible? Everyone around me told me the same thing, repeatedly. They asked me what the heck I was doing, in spite of graduating from Tokyo University and getting a job at a good company. However, don’t you think they only spoke to me that way because I 『graduated from Tokyo University』? There’s no law that says that a Tokyo University graduate isn’t allowed to run a pub, right?”
“Well, that’s true, but…”
“When I quit my job, people around me just had absurd expectations and asked me things like whether I was scouted by another company, or if I was starting up my own venture, or if I was moving overseas. Back then, I was already engaged to my wife and my parents were in good health. I intended on working in my hometown, so when I told my parents that, they were very shocked. I rebelled against them quite strongly, asking if it was really that strange.”
Kousuke looked a little worn out as he recounted his experiences.
“Even school kids would often look at me like I was from a different planet when I told them that I was attending Tokyo University. Even now, you see ads on television with some strange criteria for measurement like 『The brand chosen by Tokyo University students』, right? Even though I was just a normal person like everybody else, the moment I got into Tokyo University, I was treated like I was somehow different. I’m sure there are some people who enjoy that feeling, but I couldn’t endure that. I wonder if there is anyone who studied at Tokyo University who hasn’t been called 『Student of Todai』 or 『Todai-kun』 at least once in their lives. That’s why I decided to join a large company where being a graduate of Tokyo University would not be particularly rare.”
“In a place like an energy regulatory company, I assume there were naturally cliques formed based on what college you studied at? Also, I assume when dealing with administration or the government regulatory offices, the matter of what college you graduated from would only become even more important?”
Kousuke nodded strongly in reply to Hideo’s question.
“It was exactly as you said. There were a lot of people who said that I was special even among the people who graduated from Tokyo University. Well, in short, I was not suited for the status that came with being a graduate of Tokyo University. When I thought that after all the hard work I put into my studies, the destination I arrived at was a place where people only saw me through the filter of my alma mater’s name, I just got fed up with everything… Don’t you think that the title of 『Hero』 is also something similar to that?”
“I suppose… you’re right.”
The Hero, Hideo.
Khalija had already explained to Yasuo very clearly about the irresponsible wishes and hopes that the people placed upon that name.
Diana had also gone through hard times because of her family name.
Both Hideo and Diana could not treat Kousuke’s story as somebody else’s problem, and perhaps the reverse of that was true as well.
“Because of that, I became the kind of person who does not expect anything special from the result brought about by a 『school』. That is why I never did something like put on a frown and force Shouko to study. However… the fact that I let my disinterest go so far as to not hold any interest at all in her student life was bad. I was not able to pay attention to Shouko’s environment when she was in middle school. In that matter, I feel like I failed as a parent.”
“I told you, I don’t care about that anymore so you can just forget about it.”
“As your father, that is not something that I can just forget about.”
Shouko probably wasn’t lying about the fact that she didn’t resent her father for not intervening.
However, it was still something that any parent would regret.
“…We got a bit off topic, but in any case, it’s like I said. Saying this may make me sound like a doting parent, but Shouko is not the kind of child who neglects her daily studies. Taking a break of one week from school is no big deal. If she herself wants to go, neither I nor my wife have any reason to stop her. As for the matter of what reason to give to her school, you can leave that up to us. Of course, as parents we will add the minimum condition that her safety will be thoroughly seen to at all times, but…”
“Of course, the Resteria Kingdom’s Knights will spare no effort in that regard!”
Diana replied enthusiastically and got a little ahead of herself, but Kousuke just smiled and looked at Yasuo.
“Having the Knights’ protection is well and good, but Shouko mentioned a different condition, right? I would appreciate it if you could accept that condition as well.”
Shouko, who had picked up on her father’s intent, shouted from the other side of the kitchen counter with such force that it wouldn’t have been surprising if she jumped over it as well, but her father was not fazed in the least.
“Shouko. The frying pan has been on the fire for too long. The meat is going to get charred while you sautée it. Do it over.”
“Aaargh!! It’s your fault, Dad!!”
Shouko groaned after suddenly realizing it, but she still obediently went back to the frying pan on the stove with a bright red face.
While looking at Shouko behaving in that manner, Diana spoke.
“I discussed this with the people on the other side. If anything, it seems like they would be glad to have him come as well.”
The condition that Shouko had attached was of course to have Yasuo accompany her.
However, Yasuo hadn’t heard anything about it until today, but it looked like his father and mother were not surprised, so Yasuo looked at Diana in confusion.
Seeing that, Diana gave a small nod while looking slightly apologetic.
“……My daughter became more cheerful after entering high school, and after she reuniting with you, she became even more lively. I’m sure this is a very important time for you as well, but I would like to leave her in your care. Yasuo-kun, Kenzaki-san, and Diana-san as well.”
“I… I’ll do my best.”
“Even if it costs me my life!!”
Yasuo, Hideo, and Diana made their promises to that father who was worried about his only daughter.
“Alright, now our discussion is at an end! It looks like the fried food will be a little delayed because of me, but please, stay for a while and eat! Diana-san, the food will be freshly made this time, so eat as much as you like!”
“T-Thank you very much!”
At that point, Shouko appeared while carrying a tray with ceramic bowls on it, and placed a serving of stewed radish in front of the Kenzaki family members, Diana, and her father.
“Shouko. The bowls. None of them are facing in the correct direction.”
And then, she received that ruthless reprimand from her father.
“Ah! I’m so sorry!”
Perhaps as a result of not being strict with her studies, it appeared that Kousuke was strict when it came to serving etiquette instead. On hearing his reprimand, Shouko hurriedly fixed the positioning of the bowls and set the table as per the rules.
Diana’s eyes sparked as she looked at the radish that had been boiled in miso soup and garnished with yuzu zest, and even Hideo and Madoka widened their eyes at the effect of the presentation.
“This is a good opportunity, so let’s call this a sending-off party for the trip to Ante Lande. Everyone, I look forward to getting to know you better in the future. Now, come on, eat up!”
Shouko looked satisfied at the reactions of everyone present.
“Shouko, aren’t you supposed to say something?”
“Ah, that’s right. Everyone, please enjoy your meal!”
Yasuo was the first one to take a bite of the radish that had been boiled until it was soft enough for the chopsticks to sink into it.
“Oh my, that’s delicious!”
Yasuo and Madoka spoke up at the same time, and Hideo took another bite while nodding.
As for Diana, her bowl was already empty.
“Shouko… it was… It was really good!!”
Seeing his daughter smile with a happy expression on her face, Kousuke suddenly looked up.
“Shouko, I need to get something from the back room. Kenzaki-san, please excuse me for a minute.”
Kousuke, who excused himself temporarily from the table, went towards the living quarters instead of the back room of the store.
In the living room that could not be seen from the store, there was a woman sitting on the tatami mat.
“Are you sure you don’t want to join us?”
“It looks like you’re not very convinced.”
“Of course not. Thinking about it rationally, how could I accept something like that?”
Shouko’s mother, Tatewaki Youko, gave a large sigh and pursed her lips.
Both Shouko and Kousuke knew that Youko was at home.
However, since she stubbornly refused to appear in front of the Kenzaki family, they had to use the hastily contrived excuse of her having gone out on 『personal business』 despite the fact that an important conversation was about to take place.
Her eyes, behind large spectacles, were looking towards a particularly large stuffed animal in the room.
It was the magic-using version of the mascot of the most famous theme park in the world, located in the Chiba prefecture.
“So lucky, so lucky, Shouko is so lucky… A world of dreams and magic… that sounds so nice…”
Looking at his wife who looked vexed as she wrung the neck of the stuffed animal mascot of the most famous theme park in the world that was located in the Chiba prefecture, Kousuke gave a smile with mixed feelings.
Shouko’s 『Obsession with Princesses』that stuck with her from kindergarten until middle school was quite obviously because of her mother.
In the first place, the underlying reason why Shouko, who had an introverted personality, started to search within herself for 『an ideal young woman』 that did not exist was because of the influence of this mother of hers who was an enthusiast of that most famous theme park in the world that was located in the Chiba prefecture.
Of course, he had no intention of blaming his wife for something like that, and Shouko didn’t feel that way either.
However, looking at his wife who would still lead the charge into the most famous theme park in the world that was located in the Chiba prefecture with the enthusiasm of a school girl despite the fact that she was more than forty years old, and who was even now was showing envy toward her own daughter who had come in contact with 『real magic』, although he didn’t know how serious she was about it, he started to worry whether she would once again have a bad influence of Shouko.
“……It’s alright. I’m still an adult, after all.”
Youko let out a sigh, maybe because she sensed the suspicious gaze of her husband.
“I know that Shouko is going through a lot of trouble. It’s just that, when that child entered highschool and her personality changed, and during the time when she transformed into that outrageous thing called a Shii or whatever, I wasn’t able to deal with it at all, and I was forced to realize that I was far from being able to get close to her heart or to her life. That was a little damaging.”
“I’m not much different in that regard.”
“……So, what did you think of Yasuo-kun? Does he look reliable?”
“……Honestly, I don’t know. But… we have no choice but to leave her to him. Since we can’t go along with her, after all.”
“After grade school, middle school, and high school, she’s now going to a different world… why is it that parents can only stay with their children for such a short time?”
Youko’s sigh as she threw herself upon the low table in the living room along with the mascot character of the most famous theme park in the world that was located in the Chiba prefecture coincided perfectly with the sigh of her husband.
“Is it really okay for me to go along as well?”
It was night, after the nerve-wracking visit to the Tatewaki family house.
Diana, Khalija, Yasuo, and Nodoka were in Room 101 of the Marigold Hills apartment building.
There were pastel colored cups placed on the casual kotatsu, and steam was rising from the cups filled with warm tea.
The four of them were casually sitting on the simple-yet cute-cushions that Nodoka had picked out when Diana had first moved to this apartment.
“By the way, just how are you communicating with Ante Lande, Diana-san? It’s not like you have a cell phone that connects to that world or anything, right?”
“There is a type of sorcery for relaying messages. It is something like sending a letter.”
“Doesn’t that cost money to use, like the Gate Tower?”
“It is not completely free of cost, but for example if you consider the Gate Tower to be an aeroplane that carries a single person, then the Messaging Sorcery is like a home delivery service carried on a bike. There is a limit to the amount of information that can be transmitted at once, but the expense is not high enough to make a member of the Knights Division hesitate.”
The example using an aeroplane was easy for Yasuo and Nodoka to understand, but there was still something that felt off.
“But still, I wonder why Shouko-san wants to go along with someone like Onii-chan… Sure, traveling with just my father and Diana-san might be awkward for her, but still… It’s sort of like chartering a new flight just for Onii-chan, right?”
“Since that was the condition put forward by Shouko, there was nothing else we could do. Also, to tell you the truth, both my mother and I wanted Yasuo to come, even if it stretched the budget a bit.”
“Eh? Why’s that!?”
From the way Nodoka said that, it could be seen that she was greatly dissatisfied.
“Before that, it might be a little late to ask this, but… Are you willing to go, Yasuo?”
Diana checked with Yasuo about how he felt before replying to Nodoka.
“Well… if I take a week off from school, the guys from school will probably annoy me about it once I get back… But despite that, I am still more worried about Tatewaki-san, and if I have the opportunity to go, I feel like I should take it.”
“Onii-chan, that’s not like you at all.”
“However, I know that it costs an insane amount of money, and should I have wanted to go, it would have only put more strain on Diana and the others, so I wasn’t able to bring it up myself.”
“That’s right, it’s not too late to back out.”
“Nodoka, I think that you should leave it at that.”
Nodoka, who was the exact opposite of Diana and couldn’t sit still without rejecting her brother in some way or another, was gently pacified by Khalija.
“In the first place, I received a message from my mother at almost the same time when Hideo said that he wanted to go to Ante Lande. She asked me to try and bring Hideo over, at least for a short while.”
This was something that both Yasuo and Nodoka had already heard, on the night when Hideo had declared that he would be going to Ante Lande.
However, the circumstances surrounding Diana’s mother, Erijina Krone and the people around her, were somewhat vague.
“The reason why Her Excellency Erijina is impatient about inviting Hideo this time is…… because of me.”
“Does that mean that the organization that tempted you, Carnelian of the Coal Mine or whatever, have become a threat?”
At that question from Nodoka, who had heard about the situation from Khalija herself, both the Magitech Knights nodded as one.
“In the thirty years since the military campaign against Demon King Kaul, the organization known as The Carnelian of the Coal Mine has not only helped the people from Torjesso, but also other war refugees as well. Their power is limited to not just Resteria, but is spread out among the surrounding smaller countries as well. It is obvious that an organization with such a large scope will have interactions with a great number of people, and that gives rise to certain interests that those people would like to protect. In that sort of situation…… I, who hold the rank of Colonel in Resteria’s core army and also have the blood of Torjesso flowing through my veins, yielded to a person who could control the Shii that were threatening the whole world. I’m sure Her Excellency Erijina considers this to be a very heavy problem.”
“The governing body of Resteria is convinced that the Shii are not merely frightening monsters that randomly appeared. I’m sure that the surrounding small countries will come to the same conclusion sooner or later. Once that happens, the world will… become a place where everyone doubts whether their neighbor is someone who can communicate with the Shii.”
“With a clearly defined enemy, such as the armies of Demon King Kaul, the people needed to only look for trouble in one direction. However, constantly questioning whether the person next to you might suddenly kill you, that will easily distract people from the threat and cause friction. It’s the same in this world as well, right?”
Back during the World War, the countries that fought knew who their enemies were.
However, in the modern age that Yasuo lived in, people were exposed to danger from 『terrorists』 whose identity was unclear, and the sources of that danger were extremely flexible and had no rigid form. Everybody was aware that they could easily blend into society and hide from sight.
And the social problem that arose from that was…
“A tendency to expulse all sources of threats…”
“That’s right. Once the persecution of the former citizens of Torjesso, other war refugees, and anyone connected to The Carnelian of the Coal Mine begins, it will be difficult to stop. However, if the people being persecuted don’t have any way of proving that they are not allied with the Shii, they will never be free of suspicion. The hatred and sorrow of both the people being persecuted and the people doing the persecuting will just continue to grow. No matter how many pretty speeches are made, neither side will accept it. Before something like that happens…”
“Shouko, who holds the key to understanding more about the true nature of the Shii. The Saviour, Hideo. And then… more than anything else, my mother wants to understand the extent of your current strength, Yasuo. That is what she said to me.”
“My strength? Do I have anything of that sort?”
“Does Onii-chan’s power really have that much meaning? I mean, all he can do is send Shii off with the song…”
“That is extremely important.”
Seeing that the siblings were confused, Diana and Khalija glanced at each other.
“Yasuo’s fighting ability is no match for our own, let alone Hideo’s. However, when it comes to Yasuo’s ability to send off the Shii with the requiem or his healing powers, even if you search far and wide in Ante Lande, you won’t find many who can equal him.”
“I-Is that so?”
“At the very least, there are likely none in Resteria.”
Diana’s proclamation only served to deepen Yasuo’s confusion.
“Being able to stop a Shii that is still active with just the song, and sending off three of them at once and still not running out of mana, such things are usually impossible by our standards. That power… there is a chance that it might become the impetus for saving Ante Lande, or at least that is what my mother thinks.”
“I don’t think that’s possible at all~”
“Even Japan has a method of solving disputes using means other than armed conflict, right? Of course, just that will not be enough to end all the fighting, but not using it all will also lead to a lengthening of the conflict. However, Ante Lande and this world are similar in the fact that the problems are not so simple that they can be solved by the power or ideas of one person. A balance is needed in everything.”
“Yasuo’s power has the potential to bring a new balance to the situation that Ante Lande has currently fallen into. That is why, as long as Yasuo is okay with it…… we would be glad to have him come to our world.”
He was told that he had talent and power, and that people would rely on him.
More importantly, he had already gathered experience to support that belief, even though it was only a little.
This was something that had never happened since the time he had begun to think and make choices for himself.
“……I wonder if it is okay for me to get cocky.”
Hearing Yasuo mutter that, Nodoka frowned and Khalija gave a small smile and nodded.
“Just letting you know, I won’t let you get carried away. For some reason, everyone around you has been too soft on you lately, Onii-chan. Geez.”
After saying that, Nodoka stood up.
“I’m going back home. I have homework, and I need to take a bath as well.”
“Oh, then I will accompany you.”
“It’s fine. My house is right over there.”
“Do not show the slightest gap or carelessness. That is what is required of a soldier.”
Even though Nodoka looked a little annoyed, Khalija just gave a wry smile and went along with her.
After the two of them left, Yasuo asked once more, to make sure.
“It’s really okay for me to go, right?”
“Yes. That is something that both Shouko and my mother wished for, and more than anything, I wanted you to come along as well.”
“Yes. I used to think that Japan, the 『Birthplace of the Hero』 was some sort of utopia or Shangri-La. After actually living here, I came to realize that it is just an ordinary world, with amazing things, strange things, and things that I cannot accept. I think you must have felt the same way about『Ante Lande』, as it only exists in your imagination so far. I think that letting you see it for yourself would be a very good thing…… Also, this is just my personal opinion, but…”
Diana smiled, looked straight at Yasuo, took a sip of her tea that had gone cold, and then once again showed a smile that was like a blooming flower.
“I want Yasuo to see the country where I was born.”
Those unexpected words made Yasuo stiffen his body.
“The country and world that I come from, that you said you wanted to protect… The Hero that Resteria and Ante Lande are looking for is still Hideo, but… to me, you are the Hero now, Yasuo.”
“Uh, no, that is…”
Yasuo looked flustered, but Diana just tilted her head and carried on.
“I’m serious, you know? I’m not just trying to flatter you.”
“That is… When you say something like that to my face, I…”
Even admitting that it was embarrassing would be embarrassing.
Diana was still smiling, as if she found the sight of Yasuo struggling for words to be amusing.
“When you sent off my father, when you said that you would become the Hero, and when you didn’t back down a single step even when fighting against the Colonel… to me, you looked just like the Hero that I had dreamed of in the past.”
When she said that he looked like the Hero she had dreamed of, did that mean that she was confusing him with his father who apparently had used to look identical to him?
Although Yasuo couldn’t tell if she had guessed what he was thinking about or not, the amount of teasing in Diana’s smile suddenly increased.
“Who knows? I wonder which one I am seeing.”
Wasn’t she just playing around with him?
It was only recently that Yasuo had learned that Diana was actually older than him, but ever since she had started to live with Khalija, Diana had started to state things confidently on many occasions.
It looked like she was holding a grudge against him for agreeing with Nodoka and saying that her personality was childish.
“W-Well, in any case, seeing as you said it’s fine for me to go, I’ll do just that. Right then, I should get going as well. Yeah.”
“Sure. I’ll accompany you.”
“No, it’s fine. My house is just…”
“I’m just going to say the same thing that the Colonel said, you know.”
“Right then, let’s go.”
After standing up and walking outside, Diana properly locked the front door before accompanying Yasuo to his house that was just on the other side of the road.
For the few seconds it took to reach his house, Yasuo peeked at Diana’s face as they walked in silence, and thought the following.
Guarding him for the few seconds it would take to reach his house.
At the very least, he wanted to grow strong enough so that she would not worry about him walking such a trivial distance on his own.
“Yasuo? Is something wrong?”
Diana turned towards Yasuo after catching him staring at her.
“No, it’s nothing.”
Yasuo just said that and shook his head.
It was night, two days later.
The Kenzaki Family, the Tatewaki family, and the two Magitech Knights were gathered at the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park.
They were gathered to send off Hideo, Diana, Yasuo, and Shouko, who were about to travel to the other world.
In the sky was a spiralling tower within which the stars swirled, and the slightly dark entrance to the other world, the 『Gate Tower』, opened up, just like it had when Khalija had summoned it one week earlier.
Hideo carried Yasuo, and Diana carried Shouko. It didn’t really look like they were about to travel to another world.
However, Tatewaki Kousuke and Youko just stared up at mute amazement as the four of them rose up into the air.
“Dear, and Nodoka! Take care of things here!”
“Khalija-san, please take care of the rest!”
“Well then, see you later!”
“Mom, Dad, don’t expect any souvenirs, okay~!”
The four of them rose rapidly upwards as if they were being sucked into the Gate Tower, and as they watched, their forms became smaller and smaller.
“……It’s really unbelievable.”
Youko only nodded after hearing what Kousuke said.
“Even Onii-chan and I are still constantly being surprised by all of this.”
Nodoka said that as a representative of the normal people in the group, and moved closer to the Tatewaki couple.
“While your daughter is absent, I will put my life on the line to protect the Restaurant Saburou, so please be at ease.”
Khalija, who had healed her right arm in preparation for the time when Hideo would leave, gave a respectful bow while dressed in her Magitech Knight uniform.
“Everyone, please be careful.”
As if Madoka’s whisper was the signal, the four of them disappeared into the night sky.
At the same time, the spiral of stars whirled furiously, and broke apart after leaving behind a single flare of light. After that, the only thing left behind was a starless sky.
The Hero of Salvation once again traveled between the worlds.