At the resting room of outdoor cafe 'The Two Swans <Albiero>'.
The young girl with her sky-blue scarf was continuously shaking the teenage boy, who was sleeping on the makeshift bed.
"Shel-nii, wake up quickly— The festival is starting soon—!"
"...... Let me sleep for an hour more. I worked till late last night."
"No— if you don't hurry up, the festival will end soon! Hurry, hurry!"
...... The Stars Festival will be held for three consecutive days, so it will not really matter if we miss it today.
Sheltis grumbled in his mind, and opened his eyelids slightly. He coincidentally looked straight into a listless Yuto, who looked like she was about to cry.
"Shel-nii...... are you really not going?"
"Do you hate being with Yuto?"
"...... No, nothing of that sort...... Ahhh, damn...... I understand, I admit defeat, alright!"
He could not endure that pitiful look of hers, and jumped out of his bed in desperation.
The three days of Stars Festival, which is dedicated to the Queen, will be held at the Second Living Sector.
The whole plaza was filled with banners of stars and the moon, as well as ceremonial decorations like pinwheels and wind chimes, which symbolizes the never ending winds of the floating continent. In comparison, the streets had a more typical look to them. They were typically filled with colorful balloons or ribbons, and the streets were bustling with activity from the various types of stalls.
"Oh, it has really started. So it is that lively right from the opening ceremony."
Sheltis took a brief glance at the surroundings after he placed Yuto down. The place was already filled with people, to the point where one will easily brush onto the shoulders of the passerby while walking.
"Ah- Sheltis! You are slow, I've waited for so long!"
The girl in overalls walked through the crowd. Her left hand was holding on a balloon, while the right was cotton candy.
"...... You are enjoying yourself really early."
"Well, I am waiting for you guys while enjoying myself. Ah, the balloon's for Yuto. Here's the pocket money as well - you can buy whatever you like."
"Yay! I like Eyri-nee the most!"
Having received the pocket money and the balloon, Yuto ran towards the stalls excitedly.
"Is it fine for Yuto to be alone? It will be bad if she gets lost."
Eyriey showed a confident smile:
"Don't underestimate me. There's a tracker attached to that balloon."
"...... So you have already expected her to get lost...... Forget it, it will be fine if we can get hold of her location."
Giving up on Yuto, who was already out of sight, Sheltis walked on with Eyriey.
Countless stalls were lined up along the two sides of the streets. Despite food and game stalls taking up more than half of the numbers, there were a few unique stalls around as well.
"Ah, Sheltis, look at that. There's a stall with a signboard that says, 'Helping you to find your lost items'."
"Probably a shinryoku spell that grants far-sight. It should not be a difficult spell if the area of effect is not too wide. Should be popular at festivals like these."
On the other side, was a temporary clinic set up by a shinryoku healer.
In this civilization where shinryoku and machines blend in harmony, the rapid mechanization may cause an illusion of a decline in shinryoku's usage, but in festivals like these, there are still remains of shinryoku deeply rooted into their culture.
"Oh right, Eyriey. How's it going?"
"Hmm? This cotton candy is delicious. Sheltis wanna try some?"
"I don't mean that......"
"I know, I know. You are talking about the message that I had left at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, right?"
Her mindless speech in the crowd had caused Sheltis to be in quite a shock. However, there was no suspicious glares from nearby. In such a festive place, there should be no one who is interested in listening to the conversation of others.
"There's no action from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> yet. Since it was left there only yesterday, plus the fact that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is busy preparing the ceremony of handover from the Queen to the Priestesses, there's not much hope to begin with - wasn't you the one who had said that, Sheltis?"
"Mmm...... you are right. Not to mention, this is all just my hunch."
He lifted his head and looked into the sky.
Blue and white. On the blue sphere of sky that reminds one of the deep seas, were clouds floating at a soothing pace. There is also chalk colored Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, that pierces through the clouds and the sky.
"Eyriey, isn't it time for the cannon salutes?"
When the Queen's praying period is over, the control of the barrier will be transferred to the Priestesses. At the same time, Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will fire the cannon salutes, to signify the official start of the Stars Festival.
"...... Eh? That's strange."
The person who broke the silence was Eyriey.
"No, it just feels strange. It's already past the scheduled time for the cannon salutes."
She took a look at the clock located on top of the street light, and compared it with her own watch.
"Hmm? It's the same? My watch seems normal."
There was no cannon salutes. That meant the control of Hyouketsu Kyoukai was not successfully transferred over. Logically speaking, that was something that will never happen. The maintenance of Hyouketsu Kyoukai is a huge ritual that is linked to the survival of the floating continent. At the very least, the time in regards to the handover should be flawlessly accurate.
Could it be that some accident had happened?
As he mumbled out the name of the girl who is already a Priestess, Sheltis looked towards the huge tower.
"Meimel, Syun-rei. I've made you guys wait."
The two Priestesses were already waiting for Ymy in the middle of the room when she reached the floor.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, two hundred and eighty first story - the Grand Holy Hall.
The ceremonial equipment shining in a yellow brilliance, together with a huge colorful stained glass etched with images of the stars and the moon. This is the biggest praying hall in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, as well as the sacred room that is used for the initial training for the Priestesses.
"............ Morning, Ymy."
The Priestess dressed in kimono turned around. The expressions on the typically docile girl was much more stiffer than usual. It was probably due to her nervousness.
"Morning, Syun-rei. Let's work hard together today!"
The people outside Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> were perhaps already enjoying a lively celebration of the Stars Festival.
However, for the Priestesses, they were about to carry out their absolute mission. They are to gain control of the barrier from the Queen, and then the three of them will have to maintain Hyouketsu Kyoukai together for three whole days.
"Speaking of which, Meimel doesn't seem nervous at all."
"Fufu, how rude - I am really nervous too?"
Despite saying that, there was still a slight smile on Meimel's face.
"Alright, the three of us are already here. Salah-sama has been maintaining the barrier for a month, and she is nearly at her limits. We should hurry there to take over, yeah?"
There is the Queen, and her five Priestesses. However, not all Priestesses are staying in the tower. In practice, there will always be around two Priestesses who are in charge of patrolling the borders of the continent. This time, the three Priestesses staying in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will be tasked with maintaining the barrier.
"Well I'll be heading there first. See ya later!"
Meimel gave a slight teasing look. She then disappeared into the lift.
Her destination is the highest story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> - the story named <<Paradise>>, where the Queen was. The handing over of Hyouketsu Kyoukai cannot be passed to all Priestesses at one go. As such, by sequence, the Queen will first hand it over to Meimel, then to Syun-rei, and finally to Ymy.
"Syun-rei, don't look so worried. Just do as you normally do."
The silver-haired young man propped his body off the wall of the Holy Hall.
"You need not worry about the things of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. You just have to focus on maintaining Hyouketsu Kyoukai. Leave the rest to me."
The girl let out an almost inaudible voice, and nodded her head.
"............ I'll do my best."
With that, the black-haired Priestess trotted towards the lift as well. Upon seeing all of that, Ymy could not help but to mutter.
"...... Leon is really something."
The young man gave her a questioning look.
"It feels like Syun-rei trusts you from the bottom of her heart."
Leon's reply was not out of pride. There must be a undoubted trust between the Priestess and the Sennenshi who is in charge of protecting her. However...... why was it so? Despite knowing that it is something to be expected, she still could not help but to be envious of Syun-rei and Leon's relationship.
...... If only I can have someone whom I can entrust myself to, just like how they are-
"...... No, nothing. Sorry for the sudden lapse."
Ymy hurriedly squeezed a smile, and acted as though nothing had happened.
"Ah, that's right. Can I put this in your care?"
She took down the necklace which has a blue crystal hanging from it, and handed it to Leon.
"That's how it is. Please take care of me, Leon."
"Ah, so it is Ilis."
"I will not be back for these three days, so I hope there will be someone whom she can talk to."
"This fella is really troublesome."
"Can you please use the words 'afraid of loneliness' instead? Not to mention, you should have nothing much to do as well, since Syun-rei is not around."
Machine crystal<Ilis> flashed about in Leon's hand.
"Well then. I shall get going as well. I will leave the rest of the things to you both."
Ymy stretched out her hand in front of the small lift located in the Holy Hall.
It was then, when she heard something.
*Ding...... innnnn............ nnn......*
Ymy stopped her footsteps, and turned her head subconsciously.
It was the sound of a solid object cracking, nearing the cries of a wail. The stained glass of the Holy Hall perhaps? No, that's not right. They were perfectly fine.
"...... It's as though...... something has broke?"
It was a sorrowful sound which was not commonly heard, that induces a feeling of numbness to the listener. Did it come from below her feet? No, it came from way further than that. Not from the floating continent either, but something that is deeper-
"What's wrong, Ymy?"
"Leon...... what's the sound just now?"
In actual fact, that sound was really faint - it was like the illusion of a mirage. But she had indeed heard it. That-
Just then, her sight was dyed red.
The lights from the ceiling disappeared in an instant, and was replaced with the red lights used in emergencies.
"A warning? What's happening? Oi, tower controls! Can you hear me! What is happening?"
Leon yelled at the receivers at the ceiling.
With a piercing sound, a broadcast came from the ceilings-
"Warning, this is an automated message to all members of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Currently, the Queen has declared the status of a level one emergency.
According to Tower's Law article number twenty-one, all members are to stop their current task, and take instructions from the Queen."
The broadcast stopped, and all that was left was the warning sirens.
"What's happening? A level one emergency...... it can't be......"
The level one emergency will only be activated when the floating continent is facing a crisis of being destroyed. It also means that humans are facing the danger of annihilation.
"Ymy, you said you had heard a sort of breaking sound, right?"
Even the tone of machine crystal <Ilis> was filled with an anxiety that had never been felt before.
"Actually, at that instant, my systems had detected a huge reading of mateki while it was monitoring Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. Base on the standard strength of a typical Yuugenshu, its strength is akin to that of hundreds, maybe even a thousand Yuugenshu."
"Hundreds...... how can that be possible? Ilis?"
If that was real, then it would be the biggest amount ever seen since Hyouketsu Kyoukai has been erected.
"...... What exactly is happening here?"
Ymy clutched onto her wildly beating chest. As a Priestess who maintains the barrier, she has never encountered a situation as bewildering as that.
There will always be a few Yuugenshu that manage to break through Hyouketsu Kyoukai alone every year. However, that was due to them doing it alone, resulting in them being able to squeeze through the narrow gaps of the barrier.
But this time, there was over hundreds of Yuugenshu from Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> that broke through the barrier at the same time?
"............ Hyouketsu Kyoukai was breached."
The voice came from Syun-rei, who should have had headed to the highest level earlier on.
Following her, was the Priestess in her gown.
"This is bad— What a headache."
Meimel's tone was as lazy as ever. However, her pace of walking was significantly faster, as though she was being chased by something.
"So even Meimel has came over...... what exactly has happened?"
"Calm down, Ymy. I'll explain it to you right now. Run, you there?"
*Kree......ee......e......* A dull sound rang, and the silver-decorated door of the Holy Hall was slowly opening. Behind the doors, stood a girl, whose skin was engraved with ritual marks.
"Firstly, there's me and Leon for the Sennenshi. As for the Priestesses, we have these three. Generally, that's all we have for the top brass in the tower. Though I am not sure what exactly is happening, but the situation seems to be really serious. According to the instructions from the top, all departments of the various guards are to gather at the two hundred and sixtieth story to await for further orders. At the lower levels, all Lions Squads have already been gathered, and are currently on a roll call. Currently, the Second, Forth and Fifth Lions Squad are ready to be deployed."
"That's excellent, Run. As expected from my Sennenshi-"
The teenage girl's concise report put a small smile on Meimel's face.
"In any case, I shall briefly explain the situation. Just like what Syun-rei had said, Hyouketsu Kyoukai was breached."
Having heard Meimel's explaination, Ymy felt as though it was all just a dream, and could not believe that it was all real. Hyouketsu Kyoukai is the strongest shinryoku barrier that has not been breached for over a thousand years, so why now-
"To be honest, the reason for its breach is probably due to us humans underestimating the Yuugenshu...... The Yuugenshu have targeted the moment when Hyouketsu Kyoukai is at its weakest."
The barrier will become weak?
Only one thing came to mind.
"Could it be—!"
"That's right, the instance when the Queen handover the control to the Priestesses. During the moment where the Queen passes control to the Priestesses, there will be a brief pause in the prayer that maintains the barrier, no? It seems like they have locked their sight on that brief window-"
The words "Star Festival" flashed past Ymy's mind, together with a chill that ran down her spine.
The festival starts at the same time as the Queen finishes her prayers. It was almost like the festival is announcing to everyone about the exact moment of the handover.
At the same time, she recalled what seemed to be a warning message, that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> had received.
"Warning - there is abnormalities in the behaviors of the Yuugenshu."
So that warning was real...... If only she had tried to confirm its validity, perhaps-
"In any case, we have no time to be regretting. Meimel, please carry on."
"Well, up till now, there is only a small portion of Hyouketsu Kyoukai that is breached. It's a hole about the size of a few hundred meters. From the sheer size of Hyouketsu Kyoukai, that is nothing more than just a dot. That hole was opened for only a few seconds, and it has already been patched............ However, the problem is-"
At then, Meimel closed her mouth. It was not like she was hesitating to say it, but rather, there was no need for her to continue.
The Yuugenshu has always been waiting for the chance to attack the floating continent. For those strange beasts, a small 'hole' in Hyouketsu Kyoukai is more than enough for them.
Those unknown presence, has always been waiting for this very moment-
"In any case, I think the observation units should have detected over a thousand Yuugenshu that had passed the barrier...... By the estimation of Salah-sama, we have about an hour before the first wave of attacks from the Yuugenshu arrives."
Huge amounts of Yuugenshu were rising from the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> ten thousand meters below, up towards the floating continent. The sheer size is something that has never been seen before since the establishment of Hyouketsu Kyoukai, and their intention was-
"The observation units of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> has send back numerous reports. The Yuugenshu are currently moving upwards towards the floating continent in various large groups, instead of acting individually. From that, we can deduce that they are not targeting the whole floating continent, but rather, they are attacking a specific place."
Everyone went silent for a moment after hearing Ilis' explaination.
There can only be one target on the floating continent.
Without a doubt, it is Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. The Yuugenshu will be here soon.
"...... Meimel, what should we do? Salah-sama should be at her limits soon."
Ymy looked at the senior Priestess in front of her, while clenching on to her trembling fist.
For the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> like Leon and Run, the number of Yuugenshu was just way too huge for them to handle.
Without the support of the Priestesses, they will definitely suffer from huge casualties. However, the three Priestesses are required to maintain Hyouketsu Kyoukai, as the Queen is about to be exhausted of her strength.
"Salah-sama is nearing her limits, and as for us...... aside of concentrating on maintaining Hyouketsu Kyoukai, there is not much we can do. That said, are we letting Leon and the rest of them to fight against the Yuugenshu by themselves?"
"That's our only option."
The silent silver-haired young man broke his silence with a sigh.
"Run and I will gather our remaining subordinates who are on standby, to prepare for the attack."
However, a Priestess clutch onto his coat.
"............ Leon, don't....... Leon will die, so don't go alone."
The black-haired girl shook her head repeatedly, with an expression close to crying - Leon himself knew, that this is an attack by the Yuugenshu with a scale that was never before seen in history. There are some variants among the Yuugenshu that are strong enough to even take down a huge dragon by itself. No matter how strong a Sennenshi is, to be facing against such a number of enemies-
"But, what else can we do?"
"Hold on. That is just too reckless. We can assist you guys, but-"
Just when Leon was planning to shake Syun-rei off.
Meimel placed her hand on his shoulders.
"Listen. Us Priestesses can support the Sennenshi for up to a maximum of three hours. That is the time limit that determines if the floating continent will fall."
Upon hearing that, Leon stopped moving.
"...... What do you mean?"
"I am about to explain that, but I need to tell that to everyone on the floating continent as well. Ymy, Syun-rei, you two come over here."
Meimel elegantly waved her hands.
"I am about to send a telepathy message to the Priestesses and Sennenshi that are patrolling the borders, as well as the people of the floating continent. Similar to Hyouketsu Kyoukai, it will be easier if us three are to split our jobs. I will be in charge of the putting the spell together, while Syun-rei will be in charge of controlling the spell. Lastly, Ymy will be providing the necessary shinryoku required."
"...... Hold on, Meimel."
Run walked over with loud footsteps.
"Telepathy is Syun-rei's strength, and you are in charge of putting the spell together, so I have nothing against that. However, won't the burden be too great on Ymy?"
The telepathy shall spread throughout the floating continent.
That means, that Ymy will have to release her shinryoku to cover the whole of the giant continent.
"Well, don't worry. Ymy's not too good at controlling spells, but the amount of her shinryoku is shockingly deep. You should know that too, right? Aside from Salah-sama, Ymy is the only other person who can maintain Hyouketsu Kyoukai for three days, as though it was nothing."
"...... Run, thanks for your concern. However, I am willing to do it."
Facing Run who was still not willing to back down, Ymy gave her a nod of agreement.
Just do it without reservation. At that situation, it was due to the trust of the senior Priestess in her, that she was delegating such an important task to her.
"Ymy is a really good girl. It may be slightly tiring later, but not to worry. Your spells may be in a hopeless state, but it seems like you have a limitless source of energy to power them."
"...... Meimel, are you trying to turn around and be sarcastic at me?"
"Nothing of that sort. Well then, Ymy and Syun-rei. Let us resonate the spell with <<Threefold Sonata>>. Can you two do that?"
Her originally smiling expression disappeared in an instant. Her eyes became sharp with the smile of hers gone.
"Just do like we always do during practice. Don't worry, you both have accumulated quite a bit of experience from training already."
Upon hearing her said that, Ymy and Syun-rei could not help but to look at each other.
...... Aside from practices, that was the first time they were using it.
<<Threefold Sonata>> is an aria sung by three spellcasters. They not only have to sing in unison, but their lyrics have to conform to the other two singers as well, resulting in a melody with hundreds of combinations of different lyrics. Due to that, it was extremely difficult.
"Well then - Ymy, Syun-rei and me. Let us synchronize ourselves."
The Holy Hall became dead quiet in an instant.
All sound had disappeared from the sacred hall, including the faint sounds of breathing.
Lin Endes pel On Nes
<I, shall release the ever-changing blessings>
phia-So la telah sitra
<The triangular door shall light up our prayers>
ele So Phi-a Arma-Riris
<Please accept in all wishes that I can grant>
————————————————————————— Following along the left side Singing along to the melody
Threefold Sonata Under the domains of the territory This shall be the main tune That links the melody together
————————————————————————— Following along the right side Singing along to the melody
A lengthy tone A dreamy timbre Circling the world Weaving into time
A faraway tone Luring people to sleep Converting into pulsation Changing into spiral
An unrestricted tone Filled with rules Creating ripples Surpassing countless forms
The great Blessings from within Words and phrases Are briefly sketched
The intricate And unparalleled glamour Words and phrases Interweaving together
The swirling Resonance overflows Similar to thin lines Circling endlessly
The trails of the dream Awakens the slumber from the faraway garden Dreams and reality Satisfy my body
The woven dreams The streams of the world transforms into a mirror Rules and regulations Makes me feel fulfilled
The burning stone within my embrace The scattered parts shall gather here today The lyrics and song Fills me up
The falling stars Streaks past the rings of the deep All so that I can know you here
The settling moon The intricate occasion All so that I can liberate you here
The torrential rain Flows along the lands All so that I can find you here
Winds Everything that is moving Shall become A miraculous road of impact
Winds Everything that has fluttered down Shall become A endless road of for the circling stars
Winds Everything that is ruffled up Shall become A road of hope for thousands
—— The forth Priestess Under the guidance of the domain, Using the procedures of the thirty-third power of verse three to construct the world
—— The second Priestess Under the guidance of the barrier, Using the procedures of the thirty-third power of verse three to create the world
—— The fifth Priestess Under the guidance of the baptism, Using the procedures of the thirty-third power of verse three to recreate the world
The sound akin to a falling water droplet, is the sound created by the spreading lights of shinryoku.
Similar to how a water droplet strikes the surface of a pool, which creates small ripples - the light that envelops the three Priestesses are expanding outwards at a blinding pace.
It passes through the walls of the Holy Hall, and went out of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. The light gradually stretches out to a size big enough to encase Orbie Clar, including the other conservation areas that are outside of the floating continent.
Syun-rei opened her tightly shut eyes.
Her gentle black pupils were giving off a emerald glow, having received the shinryoku required for the territorial spells.
"............ Nature sector, to the north of the Park Number Three. The southwest side of the conservation sector. There are traces of Priestesses and Sennenshi."
"It's tough for you, Syun-rei, but please continue to trace their location. I shall be performing the telepathy. Ah— ahem."
"To the two pairs of Priestesses and Sennenshi that are patrolling, it has been hard on you all. As for the people of the living sector, good day everyone. I am Priestess Meimel. Sorry for the sudden interruption, but I have something important to tell everyone, so I have no choice but to do it via telepathy."
An amplified voice of Meimel rang in Ymy's mind. Not just herself, but Leon and Run, and everyone in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> should be hearing Meimel's voice as well.
"Everyone, listen to me calmly - just not too long ago, Hyouketsu Kyoukai, which seals Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, has been breached by the Yuugenshu."
Leon lifted his head in shock. Meimel was way too direct with her speech.
The contents of the telepathy bears a huge impact. The residents may fall into a state of panic should they know that Hyouketsu Kyoukai had been breached.
"Leon, believe in her."
Ymy nodded at the silver-haired young man.
...... Meimel knew that better than anyone here, so please trust her in whatever she is about to do.
"Thousands of Yuugenshu are approaching Orbie Clar. To elaborate, the floating continent shall come under their attack within less than an hour."
The tall Priestess continued on without pausing.
There was no room for hesitation - Meimel's calm tone clearly emphasized that point.
At the same time, her message cannot be vague. That will result in her unease being revealed for all to see, which will cause panic among the residents of the living sector, resulting in chaos.
"Does everyone understand the situation we are in? As such, I seek cooperation from the residents of the living sector. Please head to the underground shelters within thirty minutes. The guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will be protecting those places with their lives on the line. Understand?"
Meimel heaved a huge breathe of air.
This time, her audiences had been changed to the fellow comrades that were outside of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
"The following content goes out to the two Priestesses and the two Sennenshi that are on patrol. Due to the time constrains, I'll cut to the chase...... Just as you have all heard, the situation is in a dire state."
The Priestess in her gown shrugged her shoulders.
Her tone was as lazy as ever, but it had a sense of authority in them.
"Currently, our biggest problem is that there are just too many Yuugenshu that have broken past the barrier. The Sennenshi and guards in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will not be able to handle them all by themselves. As such, the Priestesses will have to support as well...... However, that will result in a situation where there will be no one who can maintain Hyouketsu Kyoukai. Queen-sama is about to reach her physical limits, so the Priestesses will have to take over as quickly as possible."
However, if the Priestesses are to take over at the highest story, then there will only be the Sennenshi left that will be fighting against the incoming Yuugenshu.
"As such, I am about to convey the suggestion from the Queen - ready?"
"I can still hold Hyouketsu Kyoukai by myself for about three hours.
All Priestesses, Sennenshi and the guards on standby are to eliminate the Yuugenshu that has broken past the barrier within the time period...... However, I will not be able to do anything should the time exceeds three hours. Once the time is up, the Priestesses will have to take over the control of Hyouketsu Kyoukai. Please remember that clearly."
Eliminate the Yuugenshu within three hours, and then the Priestesses are to take over the control of Hyouketsu Kyoukai from the Queen. Those are the absolute conditions for protecting the floating continent.
"As such, I am asking a favor from the Priestesses who are patrolling outside of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. As you all know, Yuugenshu are a creature with a mist-like body, and are floating upwards from Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> ten thousand meters from below. They will be reaching the borders of the floating continent first, which means they will strike from the conservation sector and the nature sector. As such, prior to them attacking the living sector, please reduce their numbers as much as you can. Thirty...... no, a minimum of forty percent. The rest of us in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> shall take care of the remaining Yuugenshu. That's all, and good luck everyone."
The telepathy ended.
Meimel turned around, her forehead filled with sweat.
"Everyone heard it as well. We have to destroy all Yuugenshu within three hours, then gain control of Hyouketsu Kyoukai from the Queen. These are the absolute conditions to protect the floating continent. Once the time is over, even if there are remaining Yuugenshu, the Priestesses will still have to head to the highest story. We will not be able to wait, even if we are to see the Yuugenshu attacking others."
"That's enough. That is what us Sennenshi is here for."
Having received Leon's agreement, Meimel showed a smile.
"That's really trustworthy. Then I shall leave this place to Syun-rei and Ymy - let's go, Run."
With that, the Priestess turned away from everyone else.
"Meimel, where are you going?"
"Do you even have to ask? Who will be protecting the civilians if we do not head over to the living sector?"
The senior Priestess replied calmly, with her back still facing them.
"But, what about Hyouketsu Kyoukai?"
"Ymy, I shall leave Hyouketsu Kyoukai to you. We have always deployed multiple people to maintain the barrier, in order to play safe. However, you should have undergone training to maintain Hyouketsu Kyoukai by yourself, right? In actual fact, one Priestess is all it needs to maintain the barrier. To be safe, Syun-rei can support as well. Shouldn't the remaining Priestess lend their strength on the battlefield?"
"But......! If so, let me go instead. Should Meimel leave Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>-"
Currently, the one in command is Meimel.
Ymy and Syun-rei lacks the experience, and has never lead the whole of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> before.
"Ymy? How are you able to lead the battle without a Sennenshi protecting you by your side?"
"That...... However, didn't Meimel say that Priestesses are absolutely not allowed to die?"
An important task of protecting the civilians will be added to their objectives, should they head to the living sector to fight. Despite being a Priestess, such a mission would be way too dangerous for her.
...... As such, being the Priestess of the lowest position, I should be the one heading out. Should anything happens to me, they should be able to find a replacement for me easily.
The senior Priestess in front of her slowly turned her body.
"You must remember - there is no Priestess who should die in vain. The positions are just arbitrary - it does not mean that I am more important than you, due to me having a higher position than you."
...... How unbelievable. The positions of the Priestesses are bestowed by the Queen herself. Ymy was surprised to hear that from Meimel, as someone who views the positions with great importance, more so than anyone else.
"Just like how Syun-rei is good at territorial spells such as far-sight and telepathy, you do possess the absolute strength of shinryoku. Every Priestess have fields which they are good at - for me, its the barrier types. I am the only one who can construct barriers around the shelters, and fight."
"Still...... Even more reason for me to go!"
Facing Meimel who had continuously kept her calm, Ymy raised her voice.
If she is to direct her powers to the barriers of the shelters, then Meimel will not have enough shinryoku to protect herself. Should she come under an attack from Yuugenshu in that condition......
"Ymy, that's what Priestesses are. Priestesses are to protect the floating continent with all their might, while the Sennenshi are in charge of protecting the Priestesses. The floating continent can retain stability for over a thousand years due to such a trusting relationship. It is natural of us to put ourselves in danger to protect the people of the living sector. Isn't that right, Run?"
Meimel winked at her guardian and Sennenshi.
"Don't worry. I will protect Meimel."
...... I have finally understood.
I understand how deep the trust is between the Priestesses and their Sennenshi. I have understood what I, someone who does not have my Sennenshi, lack. The absolute relationship that is brought down for over a thousand years, is right in front of me.
"Well then, it's been decided - we shall be in charge of destroying the Yuugenshu that are heading towards the living sector. Despite us aiming to annihilate all of the Yuugenshu, considering the fact that we have to protect the civilians who cannot escape in time, we can probably clear about forty to fifty percent of them. As such, once they have broken past this line of defense, there will be nothing else protecting Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Leon, I shall put Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> in your hands...... You must give in your everything. I shall not let you off should anything happens to the Priestesses and the Queen."
"You just like to worry for nothing. You yourself should concentrate on protecting Meimel."
Having heard Run's provoking speech, Leon struck back with an aggressive smile.
"Syun-rei, Ymy. I shall be engaging the Yuugenshu at the hall at two hundred and forty first story. Please take over the defense of the Holy Hall. Once three hours is up, head over to the highest story."
Ymy placed her hands gently on her chest, and gave a nod...... the overwhelming pressure had caused her chest to hurt a little. The final line of defense is herself and Syun-rei. That place shall be the last fortress that protects the Queen.
"Ymy, what about this fella?"
Leon took out machine crystal <Ilis>, that was tied to a necklace.
"Leon, bring me along with you. I can track the Yuugenshu that are entering Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and give you the respective reports. You can then instruct your subordinates at the hall."
"Well, it seems like everything has been settled. Well then, dismiss. Let's hope that we can all be safe."
Meimel clapped her hands, and gave her last order.
The Grand Holy Hall. Everyone at there began to make their moves, according to the tasks assigned to them.
"Just not too long ago, Hyouketsu Kyoukai, which seals Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, has been breached by the Yuugenshu."
— Priestess Meimel's telepathy message had spread through the whole of the living sector.
Yells, shrieks and chaos filled the streets in an instant.
Everyone, including the storekeepers, started to run. People separated from their families, and people searching for their lost lovers. The crowd formed a tsunami, which swarmed towards the shelters with an earth-shaking rumble.
Sheltis stood on his ground, and looked at the scene for a long time.
"...... That's terrible. Things are way worse than I had imagined."
He gritted his teeth. To think that Hyouketsu Kyoukai will be breached......
"She...... Sheltis! What should we do? Should we follow the instructions of that Priestess, and escape to the shelters?"
Eyriey was already by his side without him noticing.
— Those trembling lips did not seem to be just his imagination.
"We are just ordinary civilians, so that's the only thing we can do for now."
If the words of the Priestess was true, then the Queen is still at the highest point of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. That was an emergency message released by the Priestess in place of the Queen, who was unable to do so. Its contents are absolute, not to be questioned or refuted.
"...... We should locate Yuto first."
A familiar girl's voice came from a tiny crack of the incoming crowd. However, the sound was immediately drowned by the stampede and the screams.
Following the source of the sound, Sheltis pried open the crowd. Just before the short girl was about to be squeezed to the ground, Sheltis grabbed hold of her hand.
"Yuto..... That's great. We've got you."
"Shel-nii, what's wrong with these people?"
Yuto looked at the escaping crowd in confusion. Perhaps it was due to her enjoying herself too much, but it seemed like Yuto had heard nothing about the Priestess' warning.
"No, nothing. Let us escape. Follow me!"
He pulled Yuto's hand, and just when he was about to leave in a hurry-
"...... Eh? Shel-nii is running away?"
Despite allowing her hand to be grabbed by Sheltis, Yuto did not move an inch away from the ground.
"Mmm. We have no time to explain. We have to get to the shelters first."
"Yuto wants to be with Shel-nii."
"I know. I will be accompanying you at the shelters too."
"No, I don't mean it like that."
The little girl shook her head gently. Her sky-blue scarf was blown upwards by the winds.
"Shel-nii will protect me, right?"
Deep inside, it was as though something else was beating, and not his heart.
"It's fine as long as Shel-nii protects Yuto if Yuto is with Shel-nii "
His steps towards the shelters had stopped as well.
"As long as Shel-nii protects Yuto, then it's fine. Shel-nii had saved me at the park too......"
His throat was parched. He could speak not a single word.
...... I can save others from the wrath of Yuugenshu?
...... Me, a person who has lost everything after being exiled by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> - who is not even allowed to meet the Priestesses?
"Sheltis, what's wrong?"
A worried Eyriey then shook her hands in panic.
"Really, stop standing there and start moving! We are supposed to escape to shelter six. It's a little far from here, so we have to hurry."
— Seek shelters? Is it really fine to do that? Could it be that I am hoping to seek protection from someone else?
The voice that reverberated in his heart countless times was none other than his own.
His childhood friend whom he was banned from making any sort of contact, has already become a Priestess who protects the floating continent. His past friend too, is a Sennenshi who is protecting his Priestess. Both of them are already figures commanding respect from everyone in the floating continent.
On the other hand, he is just an ordinary civilian from the living sector.
There was only one thing that he can do. That is to pray in the living sector, and hope that both Ymy and Leon will be safe.
...... That was something I had told myself two years ago.
But, what's with this sense of anxiety that I can't shake off from me?
Amid the surrounding shouts and shrieks, Sheltis turned his body, against the flow of traffic.
— He then looked at the tall white tower.
The Third Residential Sector.
This is the area furthest away from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and closest to the nature sector as well. Different from the commercialized Second Residential Sector, this area has a strong emphasis on housings, with lots of apartments everywhere.
However, there was no one to be seen on the streets.
"There is no one on the streets. Houses...... are empty as well. Everyone must have followed instructions and sought shelter."
Yet, a dozen or so pairs of footsteps had rang through the silent streets.
They were a group of people with an obviously different atmosphere around them as compared to your ordinary civilians. They were dressed in robes, coats and gowns. Despite their strange attires, everyone was in their pure white ceremonial clothes.
— They are the guards and apprentice-Priestesses of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Aside from closed-ranged weapons like great swords and spears, there were also bows, throwing weapons and firearms. All of them are the rare experts in their fields of combat styles or shinryoku arts.
"How quiet. Run, can we impose ourselves at the houses of the civilians for a while?"
"Meimel, you are thinking of having tea-break already? But we have not settled things yet."
The Second Lion Squad of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Standing next to the Priestess in lead, Run shrugged her shoulders.
"We have to rest when we have the chance to - don't you all think so?"
Flipping her gown-like vestment aside, Meimel turned her head.
However, no one from the Lion Squad gave an answer.
....... Isn't it obvious? We are nervous too.
"Meimel, could it be that you are really tired?"
Meimel had visited all ten shelters in the living sector, and cast anti-Yuugenshu barriers at all of them, before arriving here. Run had no idea how draining that was, but it was definitely a huge burden for Meimel.
"Well of course - I am already panting from the walk."
Meimel stopped in her tracks.
In front of the many guards, was a huge protective metal wall. Its height is over ten meters tall, and it serves to separate the living sector from the nature sector, and at the same time, protect humans from the attacks of wild beasts.
"Not too long ago, the two Priestesses at the nature sector and conservation sector had sent a telepathy message."
"What did they say?"
"They said they were in battle. There is way too much Yuugenshu...... 'There are a few hundreds that has bypassed the line of defense, and are heading towards the living sector'. The communication was cut right after they said that. It seems like they had no energy left to spare for telepathy."
The tall Priestess turned her back to the wall she was looking at earlier. Her gaze was directed to the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, all on standby and awaiting orders.
"Just as all of you guards should know, I had already done imprinting rituals onto everyone's ceremonial clothes, so it should offer some sort of resistance against the mateki of the Yuugenshu. However, the Yuugenshu that we are about to face, are all the strong variants that has breached the barriers. One must be prepared for the worse should they come into contact with the Yuugenshu's mateki. I'll stress this first: I will not have spare time to help those who are infected."
Upon being infected by mateki, even the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will not be spared.
Out of the various effects of mateki, the most representative ones are poison, permanent coma, decay and mental corruption. The worse thing is, all it takes is just a touch of the mateki, to be infected by its curse. There is only one way to cure it, and that is to be purified by someone with strong shinryoku. However, they will be beyond hope if they are to receive the treatment too late.
There will be no time for purification. Meimel's speech was similar to her saying that she will watch them die.
"Mmm, that can't be helped."
None of the members of the Lion Squad showed an expression of surprise. If they are frightened by such tiny matters, they will not be able to survive their daily training, much less becoming a guard of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
"That's fine. Though I think some of you guys may have the wrong idea about what I am trying to say-"
Run raised her eyebrows when she heard Meimel's mutter.
"Run, repeat the line that I always say, so that the others can have a listen."
"Mmm, let me see...... 'The Queen and the Priestesses who support Hyouketsu Kyoukai are the most precious lives on the floating continent. You people are the guards who has sworn your lives to defend the Priestesses. I absolutely cannot die. If my live is to come under danger, then please sacrifice yourself to protect me' — right?"
That is the unwritten rule that the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> adheres to.
As the members of the Second Lion Squad, everyone already knows that mantra of Meimel by now.
"Don't worry. No one from my team has tried to escape from a battle before."
However, Meimel was silent for quite a while.
"Speaking of that, I have something I had forgotten to tell everyone."
With a slightly embarrassed expression, the Priestesses took a deep breath of air.
"Just like I have always said, as a Priestess who maintains the barrier, I cannot die. Should something happen to me, then it is the guards' highest priority to sacrifice themselves to protect me. However, that only applies when the Priestess is in danger, so listen carefully - a truly capable guard will never allow the situation where the Priestess is exposed to danger."
Meimel then turned around yet again.
Looking at the wall in front of her, she continued,
"The Second Lion Squad falls directly under Run and my command. I do think that you people are the finest guards in the whole of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Precisely so, you guys should be able to do it, right? If the Priestess is not exposed to danger, then you will not have to sacrifice yourself to save her. Which means to say, not only will I not die, but so do everyone here as well - can everyone do that?"
*Kra...... kra...... krakaka............*
A sharp cracking sound came from the metal wall that was over ten meters high.
The heavy metallic barrier was being eaten. Just by the crunching sounds, once can already deduce that there were not just tens, but hundreds of creatures pushing on the other side of the wall.
They were the Yuugenshu.
Despite facing such a terrifying scene that would have made anyone tremble in fear, the Priestess remained motionless.
"This will be the last. As the second Priestess; as the Barrier Priestess - I order you all."
Meimel lifted her hand up high.
In her hand was a ray of dazzling blue light - the clear brilliance of shinryoku.
"I chose to lead everyone into the battlefield because I trust all of you. So, please put your all into the battle, hold on till the very end, and survive. I do not wish to see any familiar faces missing from here. Therefore, I shall do my all to support everyone as well."
She just looked so strong, elegant and pretty.
The Priestess who is protecting the floating continent; who is filled with honor, dignity and love - she is standing right in front of my eyes.
...... It is really hard to deal with our Priestess.
Run brushed the corner of her lips, and tried to hide her wry smile.
"Everyone heard that? Just protecting our Priestess and the civilians is not enough! Aside from protecting everyone, we have to survive through this as well. That is our mission!"
She removed her ceremonial clothes, and tossed it high into the air-
That was the indication of the start of the battle.
"Everyone, show your spirit! Let's go!"
With that, the young female Sennenshi rushed out.
"—Smug bastards. Watch me smash every one of you up to the moon!"
And endless amount of Yuugenshu came swarming out of the broken wall, and filled up nearly all of their sights.
The collapsed stalls of the Star Festivals. The goods from the stalls were scattered onto the floor, which were then stomped to beyond recognition by the escaping crowd. No one could be seen even on the main streets. What was left was the lonely scene of settling dust, with telling traces of the civilians who had all escaped.
—The Second Residential Area had been reduced to no-man's land, due to the majority of the civilians escaping to the shelters.
"Hurry up, move faster! The entrances to the shelters will be closed if we are late!"
The breathless Eyriey shouted.
The three-wheeled electric vehicle behind her roared in activation, and was ready to go off in an instant. On the back seats were clothes, food and medication, all enough for a couple of days. Those were all hurriedly scavenged from her room.
"Final check, Sheltis and Yuto have not forgotten anything right?"
"I am fine. So is Yuto."
Sheltis shook his head, while carrying Eyriey's computer.
He looked at the clock-tower on the street. At this time, the Yuugenshu must have already invaded the floating continent in full force. The guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> should had set up a line of defense at the living sector to engage the Yuugenshu.
...... But can they really hold out against the Yuugenshu?
...... According to the words of that Priestess named Meimel, wasn't the number of Yuugenshu in the hundreds?
It is impossible to fend off such a large number of Yuugenshu. The best they can do is to bid for time, so that the civilians in the living sector can escape to safety.
No, perhaps it would be asking too much of them to stall for time. As a threat, a single Yuugenshu is more than enough - but now there are over hundreds of them. Since they were those types that had breached past the barrier, they would be much stronger than the ordinary variants. At times like these, an extra man will be an additional help.
Sheltis could only nod silently at Eyriey's call of concern.
"Shel-nii will protect me, right?"
...... What's wrong? That line had been echoing in my mind all these while.
The person who said that was waiting in front of the electric vehicle. There was no hidden meaning in Yuto's words. She had probably said it without thinking. Despite knowing that, there was still an asphyxiating pain deep in his heart......
Suddenly, a huge shockwave came from the grounds.
*Groooooooo...* The ground gave a deep rumble.
In the next instant, the loud sounds of heavy objects collapsing gushed onto them like an incoming tsunami.
"Could it be—!"
Sheltis turned around to look at the faraway Third Residential Sector.
A towering building of over ten stories high was gradually tumbling down in thick black smoke.
Building around it were collapsing in a similar fashion as well. Even though they were reinforced with ceramic and have an excellent resistance against acidity, the buildings could not withstand the corrosion of the mateki, and were gradually melting into a poll of viscid liquid.
"Crap, they were already-"
Eyriey froze halfway into her sentence.
Above the Third Residential Sector, were dark purple mist that are floating along with the winds.
"That is not mist...... Those black dot-like particles, they are all Yuugenshu?"
A huge amount of Yuugenshu had swarmed the sky pitch black. Though the winged variants are rare, Yuugenshu themselves do have the ability to change their bodies into a mist-like state. Right now, the winds were blowing in the direction of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. All the Yuugenshu need to do was to ride along the winds, and they can easily get themselves within striking distance of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
"...... Shel-nii, I am scared."
Unknowingly, Yuto was already hugging on Sheltis' leg tightly. She shifted her sight in an attempt to look away from the frightening beasts, and was trembling in fear. Her feelings were conveyed to him clearly.
The flying bodies in the sky paid no notice to the Second Living Sector. These strange beasts had only one target, and that is the huge white tower.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the place that maintains Hyouketsu Kyoukai. The Yuugenshu were heading in that direction.
...... That's right.
After slowly heaving out a breathe of air, Sheltis closed his eyes.
"Of course you will be scared......"
Everyone is the same. Including the Queen, the Priestesses, and the Sennenshi - there is no one who is not afraid of that strange existence. In fact, everyone will want to run away.
However, despite all that......
"Ymy, she...... will definitely not run away."
The Priestesses will never run away. That is because, their mission is to protect Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> until the very last moment.
Leon too. That man will never cower. As long as the Priestesses are still in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the Sennenshi will put their lives on the line to protect them.
...... The promise of that day was just that.
"Since Ymy wishes to become a Priestess to protect me, then I shall become a Sennenshi that protects Ymy. If so, we will be able to be together, right?"
"So stop crying, alright? Don't worry. I will definitely head to Ymy's side, to the peak of the tower."
— He had always worked hard to fulfill that promise.
The reason for him being that persistent in his dual swords during his time at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, was due to that.
He can only protect himself with a single sword. To protect his most important person, together with himself - due to him having decided on protecting two people at one go, he thus requires two swords.
Sheltis gently opened his tightly closed eyes.
...... Let's go.
"Sorry, for making you both so afraid. However-"
He tenderly stroked Yuto's hair.
"It is already fine. I will end everything."
With a smile, he then slowly turned his back to Eyriey and Yuto.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
"Eyriey and Yuto, you both should get to the shelters quickly. I am going to retrieve back the things that I had lost."
His dual swords, his friends, and his memories. And the most important thing of all - the promise between him and her.
He had abandoned everything in that tower two years ago.
— Let's get it all back.
"That's right. Exile? What bullshit is that."
Just because he was robbed of his right to be a guard of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>? Just because he was sentenced to eternal exile?
There was absolutely no need for him to be concerned about insignificant matters like that. Even with the mateki-contaminated body of his, there should still be some things that he can do.
"Why are you going alone? Get on the vehicle, quick!"
"Sorry. You can leave me alone. Go seek shelters first-"
"I don't mean it like that! You are going to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> right? Then get on quick, I'll give you a ride."
For a moment, he could not comprehend what Eyriey was saying.
"It will be too slow if you are to run there. Come. Yuto, take the back seat."
Eyriey made Yuto sat at the back seat. She then fastened up the safety belts in a flash. Upon seeing that scene, Sheltis could not help but to be in doubt of his own eyes.
"What...... what the heck are you talking about! Watch carefully - those are the Yuugenshu that are heading there!? Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> at its current state is just way too dangerous for you both!"
"But, Sheltis is going there, right? I am scared, to be honest. However, I've decided to follow through. I had already prepared myself for such a possible scenario ever since you had requested my assistance in hacking into the systems of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
The young girl answered in a half joking tone.
"That...... It is indeed my fault for getting you involved in all these."
"Moreover, you will not make it in time if you are to run such a distance, right? Also, it will not be good if you are to waste your physical energy before even getting to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. How's it? Just be a good boy and accept my offer."
The girl in overalls beckoned Sheltis, while putting on a calm smile.
"...... Thank you."
That was all he could muster.
"Alright, it's decided then! Let's go! Since everyone is at the shelters, the road shall be clear of obstacles. Let us speed our way to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>!"
The metallic chassis gave a loud roar.
Amid the shrill sound of the wheels rubbing against the road, the three-wheeled vehicle flew like a bullet.
"...... Eyriey, when everything's over, I'll introduce Ymy to you. Please befriend her."
"Ohhh! That's great!"
Come to think of it, it was not like he had gained nothing from his two years at the living sector. That's because he has came to know of a great friend who is willing to do crazy things like this along with him.
"...... That's why, Ymy. You must wait for me."
I will definitely reach the peak of the tower in time.