Interlude – 4
“Aah… I wonder if that bastard will really come back in one week…”
“Nodoka… You seem to be very upset….”
“When I think that I’m working hard at school and cram school, and Onii-chan is enjoying a carefree vacation in that paradise-like other world with a pretty girl on each side, and moreover, he’s using someone else’s money to do it, I can’t stop my resentment from building up.”
“A pretty girl on each side… Yeah, I won’t deny that, but I don’t think Yasuo is capable of doing anything to them, and I don’t think he’s having such a carefree time either.”
“I know that, but just think about it normally.”
“They went to meet Shouko-san’s parents before they left, right? And of course, in the other world, they will be meeting Diana-san’s mother as well, right?”
“That should be the case.”
“Isn’t that basically like a parent-approved relationship? It is definitely a parent-approved relationship, isn’t it!? Despite the fact that he’s useless. Even though he’s useless!!”
“Parent-approved? What are they approving? And why did you say it twice?”
“Diana-san and Shouko-san share a big secret with Onii-chan, so they’re like the only three people in the world who have that in common, right?”
“Myself, you, Madoka, and Hideo. Then there’s Her Excellency Erijina, and the Tatewaki couple as well. Altogether, there are ten people.”
“Thinking about it normally, wouldn’t he raise a flag with either one of them!? Diana-san is sickeningly sweet to Onii-chan to begin with, and Shouko-san seems strangely accepting of Onii-chan as well.”
“And it’s Onii-chan we’re talking about, so he’s just going to break all those flags into pieces and come back like nothing happened, right? Aargh, I’m so irritated! If I knew this was going to happen, I should have volunteered to become the Hero instead!”
“Well… Yasuo…. It looks like you’re going to have a rough time after you return.”
It took half a day for Shouko’s mood to improve.
It was not really a big enough deal for her to misunderstand what had happened, but since she had come looking for Yasuo because she was worried about him, only to find him lying on the ground hugging Diana (or so it appeared), her anger was probably inevitable considering her position.
Even after they confirmed that there were no more Shii inside the town of Galedeite, they were kept busy and most of their day was taken up with things such as trying to understand the total scope of the damage, Diana’s discussions with Galedeite’s Knights Division about her crossing the border as an emergency special envoy, and confirming the safety of the people associated with the House of the Fireflies.
In the end, all the people who had been present at the location where Balor=Shii’s body had disappeared were only able to meet again late that night.
“Umm… I’m really sorry. I let my emotions get the better of me when I saw that Yasuo was safe, and I really had no other ulterior motives….”
“It’s fine, already!! If you apologize any more, I’ll be the one who gets embarrassed!!”
They rented rooms at an inn that was located in a section of the town with relatively less damage, and Yasuo, Shouko, Diana, Catalina, and Feigreid were all assembled there, but Diana had been continuously apologizing since the start and on the other hand, Shouko found herself being steadily driven into a corner by Catalina’s smirking expression.
“I’m so jealous of Yasuo. I wish that I can follow in his footsteps as well.”
“Feig-san, stop saying things like that with a refreshing smile!!”
It was an honest opinion that came from his steadfast personality, but just made it even worse.
“Anyway!! Like we explained, after Yasu-kun and I fell out of the Gate Tower, we were rescued by Catalina-san and ended up here! What about you, Diana-san!? Just what happened to you after that!?”
“I-I was the only one who drifted to the exit of the Gate Tower in Resteria as per the usual process. Yasuo, Hideo, and Shouko were not with me, so everyone who had assembled there, including my mother, fell into chaos.”
She explained that it wasn’t just Yasuo and Shouko, even Hideo had been ejected from the Gate Tower.
There were many conceivable reasons for that, but apparently they discovered the location of his father a few dozen minutes after Diana reached Resteria.
“My mother used Pomona to determine Hideo’s approximate location. Pomona, Liutberga, and Madoka’s Marlowe rule over all of creation in Ante Lande, and they are sacred treasures that act in concert with each other… However, there was a problem.”
Yasuo had already heard about this right after he managed to escape from Diana’s embrace and Shouko’s cold glare, but apparently his father had not yet made contact with Diana or Erijina.
“He is at a place that he cannot easily move from. Compared to Yasuo, if word of Hideo’s existence got out, it is capable of doing far more damage, so unless it is someone like Second Lieutenant Feigreid who is a special case, he cannot carelessly ask people for help even within the country.”
“Honestly speaking, I am still very much a novice, so I am a little tense. More importantly, when I think that I am witnessing a legendary moment with my own eyes, my heart cannot help but leap with joy.”
Feigreid was older than Diana, but perhaps because he was keeping the difference in their social status or the difference in their fighting strengths in mind, from the moment he met her, he had been looking up at Diana with sparkling eyes as though he was her subordinate.
“I swear upon the name of the Great Sorceress Erijina that I will never carelessly reveal your secrets!”
“A-Ah… Yes, I am counting on you…..”
Diana felt like backing away from Feigreid who was speaking in a straightforward manner and giving off a strange sense of pressure.
“However, despite having heard the circumstances, my feelings are complicated. If not for the Carnelian of the Coal Mine, I might have lost my life when I was still a child… So I find it hard to believe that the Foreman of that organization is involved with the Shii that are threatening the whole world.”
“However, that is the truth. It is possible that even Balor=Shii that appeared this time was dispatched here on the basis of information sent by Director Kelly of the House of the Fireflies. We were almost certain that Beatrice Heller had the ability to selectively choose and lead the Shii that are based on Magitech Knights from Resteria, but the incident this time is even more serious. We cannot continue to ignore her.”
The Demon General Balor is famous throughout the world, along with the legend of the Hideo Holy Sword River.
It was impossible to ensure that every single person who was in Galedeite kept their mouths shut.
Sooner or later, word would get out that a demon Shii had appeared, and the world would be surrounded by an even more gloomy atmosphere.
“Well, we can worry about that later, but for now, why wasn’t Dad able to meet up with you?”
“About that… It appears that Hideo landed in territory controlled by Baskelgarde.”
“He’s in Baskelgarde?”
“Yes. What’s more, he seems to be in a region that is quite deep within the country, so if he tries to fly or use his abilities in any way, Baskelgarde will detect it and find out about his existence, so he’s basically stuck there… Also, the reason why you were not able to summon Hideo like you did in Japan is also probably connected to that.”
“Does you mean that is the place where the Holy Sword Liutberga originated?”
Diana nodded in reply to Catalina’s question.
“In the first place, Hideo’s Holy Sword Liutberga was first discovered in the Baskelgarde Federation, in a temple constructed by an ancient civilization that is located in the mountain ranges at the far north. Hideo’s landing point is also estimated to be somewhere around there. It is hard to imagine that this was just a coincidence…”
“……I see. Were Pomona and Marlowe also discovered in the same place?”
“No, each of them were found in different places, enshrined in temples built by an ancient civilization…”
The phrase ‘ancient civilization’ brings to mind a sense of persistent history and romance.
However, when Yasuo remembered the 『perfected form』 of his mother’s Holy Staff Marlowe, he didn’t really feel like accepting any sense of romance from the kind of ancient civilization that forces the user of the staff to fight in that sort of a Magical Lady form.
“While we had at least confirmed that Hideo was safe, we had absolutely no idea where Yasuo and Shouko ended up, so all of us fell into a panic. If something had happened to the two of you, we would not be able to face the Tatewaki family as well as Madoka and Nodoka, and more than anything, I was so worried about the two of you that I just couldn’t sit still….”
“So once you found out that Yasuo was safe, your feelings of relief and anxiety came to the fore all at once and you ended up hugging him, is that it?”
“……Yes…. I’m sorry….”
The evil old lady Catalina obviously found the situation to be highly amusing, causing Diana to shrink down even further and Shouko to yell at her with a red face, while on the other hand, Yasuo just elected to just stay silent.
“H-However, I was really surprised when my mother received the Magitech transmission from Catalina-sama. I had heard that she was living in Gaz, but I had no idea that she possessed a Magitech device capable of sending messages from so far away…..”
“Well, I suppose you would have no way of knowing that. Ever since I happened to meet Hideo and Erize during my travels thirty years ago, I have stayed in contact with Erize and we periodically exchange messages. Even though one of my paintings was selected as a national treasure, that fame alone is not enough to keep me fed for the rest of my life… And Erize appreciated my achievement of having continued to travel on my own for a long time… so she gave me various tasks from time to time.”
“Wait, does that mean….”
Hearing Feigreid ask that in an uneasy voice, Catalina shook her head.
“You may not believe me, but my work was confined to the interior of Resteria. I was born in Torjesso, but I grew up in Gaz, and I am happy that I was allowed to settle here permanently. I give you my word, I never sent Erize any sensitive information about Gaz. And besides, Erize probably has several talented people who could do the job better than someone like me who stands out a lot. On the other hand, there were things I could do to support Erize specifically because I stand out. In any case…”
Catalina looked at Yasuo and Shouko in turn.
“I’m sure the two of you were desperate, but I knew from the start that the two of you were lying to me and hiding something.”
“……I suppose we made fools of ourselves in front of a professional.”
“It’s like I said. Even if people suspect you, it is fine as long as you don’t let them find out any crucial information. That wariness of yours was commendable considering that the two of you were amateurs.”
After saying that in a consoling tone, Catalina turned to Diana and Feigreid.
“Honestly, it was only recently that I was asked to look into the activities of the Carnelian of the Coal Mine in Resteria. Considering that I am from Torjesso, it was a trivial task for me. I looked into several organizations that were affiliated to Carnelian, including Kelly’s House of the Fireflies, but as far as I could see, they were all still just charitable institutions. However, there was definitely something strange about them.”
The tip of the iceberg was probably that 『message from the Foreman』 that Director Kelly had received.
“I have no idea what that person called William Bareig that Diana-chan mentioned was talking about, but it seems to me that leaving this situation unchecked will lead to nothing but trouble. Whether it is for Resteria, Japan, or even the Gaz Commonwealth. What do you and Erize plan on doing from here on out?”
“Honestly speaking, we have not yet been able to come to any decision. Although Yasuo and Shouko are safe for now, when I think about Balor, I don’t think the two of them will be safe even if we send just the two of them back to Japan….”
“If the overall plan has yet to be decided, the only thing you can do is to take care of whatever is under your nose, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“There is no way to find out anything regarding that person called William, correct? And from what you told me, Diana-chan, it doesn’t feel like he is going to proactively take any action anytime soon. In that case, there are only three things that all of you should take care of.”
Yasuo couldn’t tell if that number of tasks was large or small, but as he looked confused, Catalina continued to speak while counting them out on her fingers.
“Regrouping with Hideo. Understanding the connection between Shouko and the Shii inside her. Eliminating Beatrice Heller. I think it should be alright if you work on these three tasks based on their priority and degree of difficulty.”
“Catalina-san, did you just say ‘Elimination’…..?”
“I am saying that based on the information we have right now, Beatrice Heller is a threat to all the people living in the world. Just the fact that she controls the Shii makes her someone who will not have a good effect on society, and it is also a fact that there has already been a large number of casualties. No matter how it is done, there is no choice but to eliminate her. However…”
“We currently have no definite proof or any means by which to corner her.”
Catalina nodded to what Feigreid said.
“That’s right. As for the disturbance this time as well, the only explanation we have is from that person called William Bareig, and of all the people here, only Yasuo and Diana-chan have met him. We have no objective evidence at all. If we make a move on Beatrice Heller right now, it will be considered as terrorism or assassination, and it will leave behind a lot of uneasiness in society. So we cannot eliminate Beatrice Heller right away. In which case…”
Catalina looked around at everyone present.
“The only thing you can do is to go to Baskelgarde. For the sake of both Hideo and Shouko.”
“Wait, for my sake?”
Shouko blinked when her name suddenly came up along with one of the countries of Ante Lande.
“That’s right. I am fairly certain that the Shii inside you was originally someone from Baskelgarde.”
“How could you know about something like that!?”
When Diana asked that vehemently, Catalina pointed to her own wrist.
“You may not have seen it, Diana-chan, but the things Shouko did were quite amazing. She fought barehanded against a Shii that wielded a sword, and still came out on top, after all.”
Diana looked at Shouko with a shocked expression, and Shouko did not deny it either.
“Yeah…. Well, it started ever since I came to this world. For whatever reason, when I got into trouble, the power of the Shii would activate to protect me. It’s like, this flame that is currently only in my left eye starts gushing out of my right eye as well, and also, rings of flames appear around my wrists, waist and ankles, and my whole body starts to feel charged with energy….”
“Wrists, ankles, and your waist…?”
“Wait, could that be…?”
Both Diana and Feigreid reacted at the same time after hearing Shouko’s explanation.
““Baskelgarde’s 『Destroyer of Armies』, Orion!?””
“Please explain it in a way that Tatewaki-san and I can understand as well.”
Catalina nodded as if she was satisfied, and Yasuo asked for an explanation.
“I can’t tell for sure until I actually see it, but if what Shouko said is true, then the shape that her flames took is similar to that of Orion, known as the 『Destroyer of Armies』, which is one the oldest Techno Weapons developed by the Baskelgarde Federation.”
Diana said that, and Feigreid also agreed with her.
“I saw it as well. It is an old Techno Weapon, so it is apparently not used in the field anymore, but everyone knows that it is the weapon that laid the foundations for Techno Weapons research in Baskelgarde. I have heard that unlike the modern Techno Weapons that convert the wielder’s mana into things like a beam of light, it is apparently used to increase the wielder’s physical strength and agility.”
“Ah, so that’s why…”
That not only explained why Shouko was able to do things like kick a beast high into the air and cause a Shii to get embedded in a wall ever since she got here, but it also explained why the Shii that they had encountered in Tokorozawa when Khalija first came to Japan had a level of strength and agility that was a higher than that of all the other Shii they had faced.
“If you is able to master the use of the Holy Armament Pomona, Diana-chan, then you should be able to get in touch with Hideo. Also, Yasuo and Shouko cannot return to Japan right away. The Techno Weapon that the Shii that is inside Shouko takes the form of still exists in Baskelgarde. Also, we cannot let Baskelgarde know that Hideo was summoned to this world, so it is not possible to get any reinforcements from Resteria…. I think that basically decides the issue, right?”
Diana looked towards the two of them as if she was taking over from Catalina.
“……I will make sure to protect the two of you this time… So would you please….”
Diana stopped talking because both Yasuo and Shouko held up their hands.
“That’s enough, you don’t need to say any more.”
“There is absolutely no reason for you to think that you were in the wrong, Diana-san.”
“I mean, we are talking about my father, after all.”
“And it involves me as well.”
Yasuo and Shouko said it like it was only natural.
“Let’s go together. To Baskelgarde. I realized that I don’t just want to be protected all the time, and if anything, I was the one who kept protecting Yasu-kun this time… although I’m not sure how well I’ll do if I am fighting against people.”
“After what happened this time, I understood more clearly than ever that I am of no use when it comes to fighting. On the other hand, I also learned that I can heal even fairly serious wounds as long as they are not immediately fatal. I think that I will be more useful than I was in the past, both before and after a fight. I won’t do anything like making you fight alone even after getting a fracture, Diana.”
“If you don’t mind, I would like to accompany you as well. I may not be as powerful as Major Krone, but I still have confidence in my skills. I will not lose to a regular shii or Magitech Knight!”
“Second Lieutenant Feigreid… Is that really okay? What about your duties here in Galedeite?”
Feigreid spoke as if to display his skill with the sword that hung from his waist, and Diana asked him that in return even though she was still teary-eyed.
“As a Magitech Knight of Ante Lande, I do not have the choice of not going along with you in such a situation. You understand, don’t you, Major Krone?”
“……You’re right. I’m sure I would have done the same thing in your place.”
All the soldiers who were born in the generation after the war against Demon King Kaul and who fought at the forefront of their Knights Divisions yearned to experience the same kind of adventures as Hideo did, while keeping their pride as soldiers.
Just like Diana, Feigreid was also a young man who admired the Hero.
“And besides, I am indebted to the Carnelian of the Coal Mine. If my mother and the organization she believed in are doing the wrong things, then I have a duty to correct them. I wish to fight, for the sake of the children who live in this town as well.”
“It looks like everyone is in agreement.”
Catalina nodded as if she was satisfied, and handed Yasuo a silver-colored pipe that she pulled out of her robe.
“I can’t go along with you as I would only get in your way, but take my scaled dragon with you. Keeping it fed is a bit of a hassle, but it can easily fly while carrying four people, so I’m sure it will come in useful even after you enter Baskelgarde.”
“……Thank you very much!”
It was certain that their travel would become a lot easier if they used the scaled dragon that could fly without using magic.
A lot of things had happened in the two days since they came to Ante Lande.
However, it looked like that was still just the tip of iceberg.
“I wonder if we will really be able to to back in one week.”
“When the two of us ended up in that forest, Yasu-kun, I already gave up on returning within the prearranged time limit.”
“I made a promise to your parents, so I will definitely send you back to Japan within the time limit, Shouko!”
“I will make sure to properly protect all of you during the journey! Please be at ease!”
Catalina gave a small smile after seeing the young people who were exhilarated about their adventure that would begin tomorrow, and spoke in a low voice to herself.
“I wonder if all of you traveled in this way as well… Hideo….”
The artist burned the enthusiasm of those young people into her memory, as if overlapping them with the Heroes of Salvation from thirty years ago.