Here's part one. I've decided to do Eden and Onii-ai in tandem, but like I had said, I'll begin Onii-ai after I have finished chapter 3.
I'll begin work on its contents page though.
With that, enjoy.
—The winds blowing into the streets was damp with morning dew.
The sun was still half-covered by the horizon. Red light was slowly seeping into the dark sky.
At the outdoor cafe, 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'.
At the courtyard next to the back door, a teenage boy was standing in the cold winds of the morning.
It was at a green garden encircled by three walls. The boy was focusing at the tree in the middle - hanging on a branch of the tree, was a white piece of paper hanging by a piece of thin string.
"Oi— Sheltis. You have not talked since just now. Are you ready to start—?"
"Eyri-nee, Yuto is hungry."
"Ahh, me too. I am hungry as well. I've brought some chocolates. You want some?"
"Yay— I want it!"
"Alright Sheltis, stop staring at that piece of paper already, come and have a chocolate——"
"Ahhhhhhh! I am distracted yet again! Didn't I ask you not to talk to me?"
Sheltis yelled, and turned to look at the two girls behind him.
"What are you complaining about? It's the person who is distracted that is wrong. Isn't that right, Yuto?"
"......You two are the ones who wanted to see this."
Suppressing his urge to sigh, he took a firm grip at the silver-colored metal sticks. These are the alloy batons that is legal for use under the continental laws.
He reverse-gripped the two batons, with his two arms dropping downwards in a natural position.
The next instant.
With the winds and sounds purged off at the area he was standing on, Sheltis made his move.
With the girls watching, the young man's body became blurry at the instant.
And that happened just in an instant. The young man did not shift from the place he was standing on, and the batons were still hanging from his hands. However, beneath his feet, a small pit appeared on the ground where Sheltis' right foot came into contact with. The sands and grass rustled into a swirl.
It was as though something had past by at an extremely high speed.
"There, saw it clearly?"
He turned back to see Eyriey, who was at a loss for words.
The rectangular white paper that was hanging by the string, had been cut into two pieces neatly. A gentle gust of wind blew the bottom half of it to the roots of the tree.
"Ohhh...... How should I put it?"
Eryiey was still focusing on the ends of the string, and the remaining piece of paper was hanging from.
Despite being cut off at the dead center, the remaining upper portion of the paper did not move an inch. There wasn't even the slightest vibration to be seen on the thin string.
—There wasn't even a trace of any wind. His single move had achieved absolute silence.
"This...... is that even possible, physically?"
"Eyriey, not there. Look here, here's the place where you should focus on."
He waved at the girl that was standing quite far away from him.
"Not the paper. Take a close look at the string."
He lightly flicked at the string that was supporting the paper beneath it.
The string, with a thickness of only the size of a pencil tip, was split into two vertically downwards..... the split gradually extended downwards, and finally, even the remaining half of the paper was sliced into two as well.
"Eh...... How...... How is that possible? Is it magic?"
"Urm- I just slice at it like I normally do."
The baton at his left hand was drawn out like he was pulling out a blade from its sheath, and made the initial slice horizontally at the center.
At the same time, his right hand was reverse gripping the second baton. Swinging it upwards, he sliced the top half of the paper, together with the thin string...... Then again, as his actions were way too fast, Eyriey could not make sense of what exactly had happened.
"Mmm- I still don't get it. The baton has a round end, so how did you manage to slice up the paper and the string that beautifully? Sheltis, let me take a look at that."
Holding onto the two batons, Eyriey carefully inspected their ends.
Due to it being a weapon for self-defense, the baton was designed with an arced tip. The baton itself was made of light-weight alloy, and thus do not have much weight by itself. One will probably end up mashing the paper if they use it to slice paper.
"I did it by scrapping past it. The tip of the baton was used to brush past the surface of the paper."
"...... Ugh, if I had known earlier, I would have recorded it down."
Eyriey puffed up her cheeks and crossed her arms in dissatisfaction. Ignoring her reaction, Sheltis once again looked at the string that was tied to the tree branch.
"But Eyriey, to a guard from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, this is not a big deal."
Only after one has survived through the hellish training and acquired extraordinary skills, can he consider himself to be on the starting line. If not, he will not be able to fight against Yuugenshu.
"You are joking, right? To me, that is already pretty sick...... That is just something minor?"
"That's right. Especially for the guards that are chosen to be Sennenshi, their skills are even more shocking. If it was Leon, he could have sliced it with his great sword, and not miss a single time, even with his eyes closed."
...... Perhaps, that was what one calls a 'window period'.
Even after he has moved to the living sector, Sheltis has never forgotten about his own personal training. However, at the instance where he was swinging the batons, he could clearly feel that his body has became dull, and he had nearly forgotten the feeling of slicing through air. It is natural for his body not to be in its best condition since he was far away from the battles, but he still felt worried-
Sheltis blinked, and looked at the baton in Eyriey's hands.
—Then again, why do I have such a sense of crisis?
The current him is just an ordinary person who is living in the living sector. He has no need to enter the battlefield, nor does he need to train on his swords play. So even if his techniques were to deteriorate, there should be no need for him to be worried. However, after moving into the living sector, he has been using the batons as swords to train, before he had even realized it. He was always worried about his skills deteriorating......
"Oh right, Sheltis."
He turned back momentarily upon hearing Eyriey's voice.
"Speaking of which, Sheltis used to wield swords back at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, right?"
"Yeah, but why?"
She immediately revealed an expression of incomprehension when she heard that.
"That's because Sheltis looks rather skinny, and you don't seem like you have much strength. It is hard for me to imagine you holding onto a great sword and swinging it about."
"...... You have hit the place where it hurts."
"So then? What is it in reality?"
"A great sword is way too heavy, so I can only use dual swords instead. Similar to the batons that I am using, except that it is thinner and lighter. Generally, I hold one sword normally, and another by reverse grip. It depends on my mood."
Suddenly, there was a tug at the edge of his short jacket. He turned back to take a glance, and saw Yuto looking at him in anticipation.
"...... Do you want a ride, or do you want me to piggy-back you?"
"Alright. Well then, does Eyriey finally believe in me now?"
After placing Yuto on his shoulders, he directed the question to Eyriey.
"After seeing those things just now...... I'll believe you for now that you know a Priestess from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. However, to be honest, there are still some things which I am still half in doubt."
"Things about me?"
Eyriey shook her head quickly.
"Not about Sheltis, but the mateki that exist within you. That is the only possible explanation for you being able to fight head on against Yuugenshu with your bare fists, and coming out unscathed. But......"
"Initially, Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was dumbfounded by that as well. They had thought that it is something that is not possible."
It has been three years since he had fallen into Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, while it was two years since he had returned to the floating continent. He has nearly no memories of the period of time where he was in that cursed world - obviously, one whole year had passed before he managed to return back.
How exactly did mateki get into his body during that time? Until now, there has been no answer to that question.
"About the mateki, will you be conscious of its existence in normal times?"
This time, it was Sheltis who shook his head. The body which is infected with mateki, is no different from his normal one. There were no anomalies found under the rigor checks by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as well.
"I guess - since it is unlike those of Yuugenshu, which gives off purple mist. Which means to say, even though you are the carrier of mateki, but under normal circumstances, it will be hidden in your body."
"Ah, that is not quite right. It is kind of like static electricity."
"What do you mean?"
"Though it is not in the form of mist that can be seen by the naked eyes, the mateki in my body will still radiate outwards. Due to that, once I come into contact with a Priestess giving off shinryoku, there will be a repulsive reaction."
"Wai......Wait! Which means to say, that we will be infected by mateki once we come into contact with you?"
"That can't be considered as coming into direct contact with mateki, I think?"
"Oh, sorry, but I have an urgent matter all of the sudden - Yuto, run away quickly! We ordinary mortals will die once we come into contact with mateki!"
"...... If that is really the case, I would not have been able to live in the living sector."
He walked to the trunk of the tree, while carrying Yuto on his shoulders.
He caught a leaf that was slowly falling down in mid air. It should have rapidly decayed upon coming into contact with Yuugenshu's mateki, but despite touching Sheltis, its emerald green color still remained.
"Ohh! Then again, why is Sheltis' mateki safe?"
"I have no idea. Why is that so?"
Once again, he looked at the leaf in his hand. There was still no change to it.
"Were there any experiments conducted on your mateki, back when you were still in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
"Yes. Like shutting me in a huge machine and exposing me to huge doses of shinryoku, and locking me in a room and monitoring me via close-circuits television for a few days straight....... I was no different from a lab rat."
However, even with the countless tests, they still could not unlock the secrets to the mateki in his body.
"In the end, they could only come up with two conclusions. One is that my mateki will not bring about a negative effect even if I come into normal people like Eyriey. The other, is when the person in question possesses overwhelming amount of shinryoku, like the Priestesses or the Queen, a repulsion will occur."
"Mmm, so that is why you can't stay at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, but you can live in the living sector. I guess it is not all rain and no shine."
"However, I think I may be still under surveillance. I've mentioned it yesterday as well, when I was exiled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, I've briefly heard the term 'surveillance' being mentioned."
"Whoa....... can it be that our conversation is being tapped as well?"
"Hard to say. At the very least, it does not feel like we are currently under surveillance. Moreover, this may be a farce by them, in order to keep me in check."
He had told Eyriey briefly about his situation the previous night. As she had personally witnessed him being unscathed after coming into direct contact with mateki, rather than to stay quiet and let Eyriey make wild guesses, he had decided it is easier if he was to take the initiative and come clean with her.
"A question. You have never once seen our dear Priestess after that?"
"You are referring to Ymy?"
"Mmm. Since two years ago after you were exiled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, you two has not even met each other once? How about exchanging letters?"
"Just like I had said yesterday, they has released an order later, that no one from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is to come into contact me in anyway...... Then again how surprising it is for Eyriey to be using a term that is full of respect, like 'our dear Priestess'."
In the two years where he has worked with Eyriey together at 'The Two Swans <Albireo>', he had hardly seen Eyriey using honorifics to anyone.
"Eh - that is because they have protected the floating continent. It is due to their hard work, that I am able to focus on my research in machines. That is something that I can't be forgetting."
"You better not say these things while you are talking to her. Or else she will probably find a hole to bury into or something."
If the actual person was around, her face would probably be flushed red. But while she was feeling embarrassed, she would probably feel really happy from the bottom of her heart as well.
"Oh right. Our dear Priestess whose name is Ymy, she is older than me by a year right? What sort of person is she?"
Eyriey asked excitedly. Sheltis stared at the sky for quite a while after being asked that.
"What sort of person...... she's just a really ordinary girl. Though she makes a mess at cleaning and tidying."
"Eh— I am really curious about this. Is Sheltis really just in a childhood-friends relationship with that our dear Priestess? Or do you two actually share a much closer relationship than that?"
"Ah, it's time for work."
"Wait! Stop trying to end the topic!"
With his shirt being tugged by Eyriey, Sheltis turned around rather unwillingly.
"Nothing that you are expecting. We are just your normal childhood friends. Moreover, I am currently just your average commoner, while she is a Priestess. Regardless of the place we live in or our standing, we are worlds apart from each other."
...... I must convince myself with that.
Two years ago, Ymy was still one of the many apprentice-Priestesses, but now she is one of the Priestess that maintains Hyouketsu Kyoukai. She has turned into one of the people who is absolutely essential to the floating continent. On the other hand, he himself is just an ordinary person living in living sector, who will not be granted the permission to see her even if he wanted to.
"For me...... as long as Ymy stays safe and sound, I am happy."
"But- that Priestess named Ymy, she has not assign her own Sennenshi yet, right? Doesn't that mean that she is waiting for someone?"
Eyriey pressed on. Her intentions were good, but Sheltis had no option other than to smile bitterly.
"No. I force myself not to think about things like this. I'll waste a day if I think too much about such things."
Perhaps it was purely due to the fact that there is no suitable candidates around. Either way, as someone who can only live in the living sector, things like these are just way out of my reach.
"...... Whatever. Since this is what Sheltis has decided, then I'll not talk too much about it."
She shrugged her shoulders and sighed, then raised both of her arms up high suddenly in the next instant.
"Alright! Well, in order to cheer Sheltis up, let us make use of the Stars Festival to enjoy ourselves as much as we can! We'll eat and play a lot!"
"Ah! But it seems like the person in question is not too thrilled about it."
"My pay for the month is dried up, after buying that top quality meat."
In actual fact, he had planned to survive on water alone, until the day his next paycheck arrives.
"Don't worry, I've checked. One can get free coupons just by helping out in decorating the streets. With that, we can eat and play as much as we like on the very day!"
"Oh- So there is such a thing...... Wait, who will be in charge of getting those coupons?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"I'll think of ways to get my own coupons, so you shall be in charge of getting yours and Yuto's, alright?"
The streets next to the plaza were filled with flags, that had pictures of moons and stars drawn onto them.
One could see countless colorful balloons floating in the sky. The adults were setting up the stalls, while the children were picking up trash on the streets.
"It seems like everyone is busy with the preparations for the Stars Festival."
On the roof of the outdoor cafe, 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'-
Sheltis looked downwards at the street, while grabbing onto a bundle of ropes and flags used for decorative purposes.
The streets are already bustling during the normal days. Right now, the temporary stage has already been set up in the plaza for the festival's use, while arching gates has been constructed along the streets.
"Hadn't I said so already? This is a once in a year festival."
Eyriey was at the roof of 'The Two Swans <Albireo>' as well. She was inflating up the balloons with a pump. They will be released into the air during the festival.
"I happened to be working last year, so this may be my very first time attending the Stars Festival."
"Eh? What about the times when you were at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
"I had been busy, since I was tasked to guard the place. Since-"
Sheltis stopped his work momentarily, and pointed to the direction of the white tower.
"There is not much chance for the Queen to leave the tower."
Stars Festival - the festival with the longest history on the floating continent. It is to be held the day after tomorrow, which coincides with the time when the Queen hands over control of Hyouketsu Kyoukai to the Priestesses.
"Oh right, has Sheltis ever seen our dear Queen before?"
"I've just talked to her once. During the time when I was taking the test to be a cadre-guard."
"How is she?"
"Hard to describe. She is covered in a shawl from head to toe, even her face...... However, she is a really amazing person. One of the reason that Ymy wants to be a Priestess, is because she aspires to be someone like her."
Queen Salah holds the highest position in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and is deemed as the one possessing the strongest shinryoku in the whole of the floating continent. The Priestesses that aids her do hold high positions as well, but the Queen is at a level above them all.
For the Priestesses, the task of maintaining the absolute barrier - Hyouketsu Kyoukai, is just something over a three days period. However, the Queen maintains it for a cubic amount of days, which is twenty-seven days.
"If I remember right, she is Queen Salah, right? There are rumors that she is the most impressive person ever in history."
The Queen holds Hyouketsu Kyoukai for twenty-seven days, while the Priestesses take over for three days. In Orbie Clar, thirty days equate to a month, while twelve months makes a year.
In the twenty-seven days, the Queen will have to pray continuously, without sleep or rest. The only time where she is relieved of all that, is during the three days where the Priestesses take over. In order to show their gratitude and respect for the Queen, the Stars Festival, which is held once per year, will take place during the three days resting period.
"Come to think of it, why am I the only one who is working, since some time ago?"
Sheltis' job was to decorate the houses in the area. He had been leaping between the roofs of the various buildings to put on the decorations, which was rather tiring.
"My job is already done. Here, look, there are no more balloons in the box."
One can get free coupons for helping out with the festival. Sheltis was originally thinking of how to obtain coupons for both Yuto and himself, and in the end he had no choice but to do the job load for two person.
"Well, with that, I am done...... Alright, I've successfully cleared the job for today."
"It's been hard on you. Let us head back down then. The view here is nice, but the winds are slightly too strong."
Eyriey was walking towards the ladder with the pump in her hand, when Sheltis called out.
"Ah, hold on a second. I remember Eyriey has a computer, right?"
"There is something that I hope you can help out with."
Upon hearing that, she gave a sinister smile.
"Oh-? Are you thinking of something that is up to no good?"
"How do you know?"
"Simple. Because Sheltis will normally not beat around the bush."
"Mmm, you are right- Ah...... Wait."
Just when he was about to nod his head, Sheltis stopped moving subconsciously.
"No, I am thinking...... never mind, forget it."
"What the- I am even more curious now, since you have said things like that. Stop thinking too much and just shoot. I will be the one to decide if I can do it or not."
Eyriey said angrily.
"Mmm...... Well, here I go."
Despite having no one else on the roof, Sheltis still lowered his voice.
"—Are you able to hack into the central computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
At that instance, the expressions on Eyriey's face had disappeared.
She crossed her arms and looked into the distance, while muttering to herself. What she was muttering were high-leveled equations and proofs.
That is a habit of the girl. Whenever she is thinking of something, she will flood her brain with mathematical equations, in order to pressure her mind.
"I'll say this first. This is an illegal act, no matter how you see it."
Having finished reciting the mathematical formulas, Eyriey reverted back to her normal expression.
"Because I need some data."
"I need the records of the appearances of Yuugenshu that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is holding. The list that details when and where Yuugenshu are sighted at. If possible, please compile the monthly reports into a year, and I need the records for at least ten years."
"Huh, that simple?"
Upon hearing how simple Eyriey made it sound to be, Sheltis could not help but to doubt his own ears.
"Mmm? What's wrong with you?"
"No...... is it really okay? I'll make it clear, those data are of second-class security."
"Mmm, in any case, I'll try to help you find it."
...... Does she really understand what I am asking for?
To hack into the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Even as someone who is not well versed in the areas of information technology, he could easily imagine how difficult the task will be.
"Uhhhh...... For you to agree that easily, it just makes me feel uneasy...... Is Eyriey just an ordinary girl? Can it be that you are actually some sort of spy for some secret agency?"
"Nope. Even though I have not tried it before, I don't think there will be much of a problem. Come to think of it, this is actually quite interesting."
What is interesting?
Before he managed to come up with an answer, the teenage girl shrugged her shoulders and gave a wry smile.
"Sheltis has actually wanted to obtain information on Yuugenshu from the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. That's no different from the guards from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
"...... Eh? Is that so?"
"You are not even aware of it yourself?"
Eyriey's expressions became complex.
"Sheltis, you had said it to me before: 'If I am to be involved with things related to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, I'll be causing trouble for Ymy, who is a Priestess. As such, I will have to live on in the living sector as an ordinary person'. Right?"
"Mmm...... To think I had already experienced it myself two years ago."
For someone who is a carrier of mateki, his existence is on the opposite ends with Ymy, who is a Priestess. For him, the only thing he could do now is to care about Ymy from a place far away.
"However, aren't you getting involved with Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s matters, by wanting to illegally hack into their main computers? Most people will not be doing that. The reason for your hesitation is due to that, right?"
"...... Don't go about guessing randomly. I am just concerned about the information on Yuugenshu, due to us having encountered them recently."
"Well, I am just asking casually. You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
A secure yet lonely expression. The two conflicting emotions were flickering between Eyriey's eyes.
"It's enjoyable to be with Sheltis - that is good enough for me. I think Yuto thinks the same as well. However, you really do not wish to return back to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>? In actual fact, you must have been worried about Priestess, right?"
"...... That's quite a difficult question to answer."
He did not know if he was smiling and crying at the same time, when he said that.
When being asked if he is worried about Ymy, the answer is a definite yes. That was because, he had yearned to become her Sennenshi more than anyone else. However, two years ago, he had experienced it personally, and realized that it is a wish that can no longer come true.
"Even without me around...... Ymy will still be a competent Priestess."
"Forget it. Since you have put it that way, I will feel sorry if I am to retort any further."
"In...... In any case, I'll leave the matter about the data in your hands."
"Alright. However, don't you think you will need to prepare some sort of reward?"
Eyriey's sight went downwards - to the signboard of 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'.
"I am originally in charge of buying the ingredients needed for tomorrow. As you know, I am a night owl, so it will be tough for me to wake up early in the morning."