God damn it, I want my very own Iris that nags at me. I swear I'll be doing her 'skin care' properly every night, then we'll cuddle up and look into the starry sky projected by her.
Also, from a brief look into the preview of book 5, I am 99.99% sure that Hyouketsu Kyoukai no Eden is a 'sequel' of Tasogare-iro no Uta Tsukai.
EDIT: Forget 99.99%. They are definitely related. Am halfway into book 4, and the term Keinez <Red> is already mentioned. Seems like Ymy is sort of like Kluele's reincarnation or something. Damn.
Floating continent Orbie Clar.
A piece of land that floats ten thousand meters above the endless sea of ice, and protected by the barriers maintained by five Priestesses - the only place where humans can live on.
In the center of the continent stood a tall tower.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. It is a giant tower that is two thousand meters tall, and has a total of two hundred and ninety-one floors. At its grounds—
"Morning, Sheltis. What a beautiful morning."
"...... Fascinating. The sun is about to rise, and I have not even slept yet."
That was how this morning started for the seventeen year-old Sheltis.
A color of dark red was slowly mixing into the vast pale black skies. At a time when it is not even dawn yet, and the chirps of the birds could not be heard—
"Yeah, the weather for today looks fine too."
Sheltis went along with the strangely excited mechanical voice, as he tried to shake off his sleepiness.
The casually trimmed tea-red colored hair, and eyes that matched. An androgynous face. Along with a black jacket worn over his white shirt.
"According to the data gathered from the cloud patterns, wind direction and wind speed around the floating continent, today's weather will be sunny, and the probability of rain is close to zero. A great day to wash your clothes."
"...... Yeah, it is a great day to do so."
"An outdoor picnic is a another good option as well. As of the current season, the leaves are dyed in the bright greens of summer."
"...... Yeah, a picnic's not bad."
The mechanical female voice finally slowed down as she stopped her endless chatter.
"You seem rather listless. Anything wrong?"
"Well, the thing is......"
He lowered his head to look at the crystal machine <Iris>, and mumbled.
"The thing is?"
"...... Why do I have to stay up all night to sweep the grounds of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
As he held on to the old-styled broom, Sheltis complained softly.
"That's because eight hours ago, the swordplay training between Leon and you was overly intense. It resulted in you two slashing up all the leaves to the grounds of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
"No...... wait—! That was obviously done by Leon. You saw that too, Iris!"
"Ah— Indeed, that was shocking. The leaves were blown down just by the wind pressure from that swords of his."
"...... That muscled moron."
In front of him, were heaps of leaves he had gathered.
As he looked at the fruits of his own work through the whole night, he added in yet another sigh to the countless ones which he had done before.
"And why am I the only one who is cleaning this up! Isn't Leon part of this mess as well?"
In response to that question, the crystal machine <Iris> replied with a straightforward tone,
"Leon's job is to protect the Priestesses. Cleaning up is not part of his job scope."
"...... Damn, he's sly."
As he leaned onto the broom in his hands, Sheltis gave a low moan of protest.
The pure white structure was giving off a faint glow amid the pale black sky. The tall tower was named the 'Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>' due to the sight of it stretching into the skies. Sheltis was granted entry into the palace just three days ago.
"Sigh— So Leon's in the tower right now? I am so damn sleepy......"
"He is the guardian of the Priestesses, so he should be somewhere on the highest floors."
The Queen and her five Priestesses - thanks to protective barriers maintained through their prayers, the floating continent has survived till today. Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is a building that was constructed especially for the Queen and her Priestesses.
"It will be great if Sheltis can quickly obtain the same status as Leon's."
"You mean the status of a Sennenshi?"
The guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> are in charge of protecting the Priestesses. Everyone is skilled in a certain martial art of weapons - out of which, the strongest five guards will be granted the highest position, the 'Sennenshi', and become the personal guardians of the Priestesses.
"Yes, that's what I meant. Do your best."
"...... You made that sound really easy."
"You were just a step away from being a Sennenshi three years ago, no? You have risen to the rank of Cadres at the age of fourteen. Back then everyone was saying the speed of your promotion is something that rarely happens."
— That was then.
Upon hearing the casual tone of the crystal machine <Iris>, Sheltis shook his head.
"No one will believe all of that should I bring it up now. All of my past records have already been deleted."
"Right. Since everyone thought you had already died."
"...... There you go with your satirical speech again."
Everything started three years ago.
The accident in which he fell into the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, ten thousand meters beneath the floating continent. He miraculously survived, but was expelled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. After losing his right to be a guard, Sheltis began living in the living sector as a commoner.
"After being expelled for two years, you have finally returned to the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and yet your rival Leon has already reached the ranks of a Sennenshi, the highest position available for the guards. On the other hand, you have to start afresh from the bottom as a cadet guard. How should I put it? You are extremely unlucky to have faced such different treatment, compared to Leon."
He flicked the crystal machine <Iris> in front of his chest with his fingers, and grabbed onto the broom tightly.
"...... Still, this is strange. I am already back in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, so why am I here sweeping throughout the night, instead of going through the training of the guards?"
"Ah, speaking of which. The enrollment ceremony for the cadet guards is at nine o-clock this morning."
It had been three days since Sheltis had entered the palace as a guard - the protectors of the Priestesses. All he had done was go through the typical admin stuff like a series of health checkups, interviews and room allocations for the time being.
"You should be meeting the instructor and your fellow cadet guards at today's enrollment ceremony as well, right?"
"Yup yup...... Mmm, this can't go on. I'm getting out of here!"
He placed the broom against the tree trunk, and clenched his fist tightly.
"Ooh, that's some impressive enthusiasm coming from you! But are you done with cleaning up?"
"Yeah. I can't possibly attend the enrollment ceremony with my current sleepy state. It will be bad if I leave a bad impression on the others."
"I think it is just you not wanting to continue sweeping the grounds."
"Ah— Ah— I can't hear that. I heard not a single word of what you have said."
Sheltis turned his face away from the teasing of crystal machine <Iris>, and headed towards the main doors of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, eleventh story - dormitory of the cadet guards—
For the sky-scraping tower with two hundred and ninety-one floors, this is nearly the lowest story of the whole tower. Starting from this story and along with the next few floors, have all been designated as rooms for the cadet guards.
"Ah, as expected. The lights are out here as well."
Sheltis glanced around the dimly lit passageway.
After walking out of the lifts that operated around the clock, all Sheltis could see was a silent and dark passageway that extended endlessly.
"Of course. It's just four in the morning. Even the morning practice will not begin till an hour later."
"Ah, the term 'morning practice' sounds rather nostalgic."
Typically, the cadet guards will start their training from nine in the morning, under the supervision of the instructor.
However, the self-training in the early mornings is something of an unwritten rule among the cadet guards. If they do not have such burning passion, they will not be able to stand out from the rest among the intensive competition to graduate into an official guard.
"...... So I'll be training one hour later?"
"Since the enrollment ceremony is held today, it should be fine if you reach the training grounds by nine."
"Really? Yes! I'll rest till then!"
"Mhmm. There will be a bunch of training waiting for you tomorrow, so you better enjoy it while you can for today."
"Stop that, or I won't be able to sleep...... Right, where's my room again?"
He stopped walking, and looked at the doors of the rooms that had lined up along the passageway.
Since there is close to a thousand cadet guards, there has to be enough rooms to house all of them. As such, the sides of the passageway are nothing else but rooms after rooms.
"Let's see, it should be the third room after the junction...... Ah, here we are."
The cards given to all the cadet guards serves as their badges, as well as the keys to their rooms. The electronic authentication code is the electronic key that opens the room.
The lock to the door disengaged itself along with the mechanical tone, and the door slowly opened to the side.
Just the bed alone takes up about half of the single rooms used by the cadet guards. There was barely enough space left for a small desk and chair, and thus there was no need for them to fret about the arrangements of the furniture.
"...... I'm beat!"
Sheltis collapsed onto his bed after giving out a huge sigh.
"Ahhh— that's a little too slack of you, Sheltis."
Just then, the naggy crystal machine <Iris> began to give off flashes of light.
"Your jacket will get creased when you wake up if you do not remove it now. And don't forget to wash your hands and rinse your mouth, or else you will catch a cold. Ah, you have to place your shoes in their proper position. And most importantly, you shouldn't forget the skin care for the crystal machine <me>! You'll have to wipe the crystal surface with a piece of clean cloth. The pressure applied cannot be too hard or too weak. You should gently wipe it as if you were caressing it."
"Mmm, I'll do everything. Except for the last part."
"Ehhh? Hmph— That's just too mean!"
"...... I'll look into it after a snooze. Please help me switch off the lights."
Within seconds, the lighting on the ceiling was switched off.
It was as though the white lights of the sun had disappeared, and replacing that was the blue glows of the night.
That was no ordinary light - the source of light came from the thousands of stars that formed a sea on the ceiling. There was also the exceptionally visible moon which was giving off a hazy blue glow.
Planetarium. The crystal machine <Iris> had recorded the night skies of Orbie Clar, and projected the image onto the ceiling.
"...... It's beautiful. But sorry, I'm gonna sleep."
"That's fine. This is just to entertain myself. I mean, I am a machine <girl> who gazes at the stars - doesn't that sound really romantic?"
Sheltis gave a casual reply, and closed his eyes—
"Ah, Sheltis. It's a shame, but it's time for your training."
Having heard the words of the crystal machine <Iris>, Sheltis originally thought that she was just joking.
"Mmm? What are you talking about, Iris? That starts at nine in the morning, right?"
"Because Leon's here."
Just as the crystal machine <Iris> finished her sentence.
"Sheltis! It's time to train!"
The door to the room opened all of a sudden, and a silver-haired young man wearing a pure white coat shouted into the room.
"You...... you~~....... you......"
Sheltis immediately leap out of his blanket and off his bed.
"What the hell are you doing, Leon!?"
"What am I doing? It's time for practice. I'm just here to wake you up."
Leon crossed his arms with a calm expression.
His height is fitting of the long coat that he was wearing, which is coupled with the awe-inspiring, handsome and fair look of his. The young man is said to be the strongest great sword wielder of the whole floating continent, and is one of the Sennenshi as well.
At the same time, he has been the best friend of Sheltis for the past ten years, and even more so his rival and enemy.
Sheltis took a glance at the electronic clock which is embedded in the wall.
"It's just four-thirty, you know?"
"It's 'already' four-thirty. Just in time for morning practice."
Leon nodded calmly.
"Really? See you then, I'll continue with my sleep......"
He planned to lay back down on his bed.
"You are coming too, Sheltis."
"W...... Wait, don't pull my arm!"
Sheltis quickly shook off Leon's arms as he grabbed onto his wrists.
That's right. That young man is not only the strongest swordsman of the floating continent, he is also the craziest training fanatic.
He will shut himself in his private training floor to carry out the special training for his swordplay when he is free. He is known as a weirdo who enjoys training himself, more than his three meals a day. No, it would be alright if that was all there was to it. The problem is, as part of his training, he will definitely get me to be his spar—
"Hmm? What's wrong with you?"
"What else...... I spent the whole night sweeping, and I don't even have the time to shut my eyes even once."
"There may be the need for us to stay awake for three whole days during our missions."
"That's another case altogether if we were talking about that. Moreover, I have to attend the enrollment ceremony later at nine."
He directed his gaze at the schedule on the table, but Leon gave an expression that said 'I don't give a damn'.
"You just have to show your face and take a commemorative photo. No matter how tired you are, I don't think there is a problem as long as you have the strength to crawl to the gathering place."
"It's a photo-taking session, so is there a need for me to get all dirty?"
"Listen up, Sheltis. Calm down and think about the situation you are in."
Leon released his arms, and pointed at Sheltis.
"Even though you have finally returned to the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, you are starting anew as a cadet guard. Since you've been living in the living sector for the past two years, your skills haven't returned to their prime. Under such conditions, how long do you think it will take for you to become the Sennenshi of Ymy?"
"Arara, Leon has hit the spot that hurts most."
The crystal machine <Iris> gave a snicker, in agreement with what Leon said.
"B-But...... Ymy said she would be waiting for me!"
Ymy— prior to entering Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, she was his childhood friend.
About ten years ago, she entered Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as an apprentice-Priestess. After going through countless training and trials, she has finally became one of the five Priestesses of this world.
The reason for Sheltis's return to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, is because of the promise he made to her back then, that he will be her exclusive guardian, her Sennenshi.
"How very naive. There's no guarantee that Ymy will have the luxury of waiting for you forever. This is especially true due to the incident not too long ago, where Hyouketsu Kyoukai was breached. Since then, there have been calls that 'a Sennenshi must be assigned to each and every Priestesses'. Even if Ymy has no intention of choosing anyone else other than you, there is no guarantee that she won't succumb to those demands because of the pressure."
"I..... am well aware of that."
The final decision of the candidate of the Sennenshi still lies within the hands of the Priestesses. Due to that right, Ymy has not picked her Sennenshi till now...... However, there are already many within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> who are feeling uneasy in regards to the fact that Ymy has not chosen her Sennenshi after such a long time.
"I'm not wrong, am I? If so, the first thing that you have to do is regain your physical abilitiy and swordsmanship from the past. How else are you going to be a guardian of the Priestesses?"
"...... Leon, I never expected you to be that concerned about me."
"You've only realized it now? That's right, the reason for me making you train with me is because I am concerned about you."
"I understand, Leon. I was wrong this whole time!"
Even though he was his rival in swordsmanship this whole time, Sheltis was deeply touched by the concerns that Leon had for him, although Leon was not very good at expressing them.
"I used to think that the reason you took me to take part in your training was because you wanted to have a sparring partner. But that was not the case!"
"Yes. You have finally appreciated my actions."
Leon gave a nod of satisfaction, and a manly smile appeared on his face.
"Of course. That is my true intention, but how can I possibly say it out loud............ Oops."
"As expected, you've revealed your true colors!"
"Urm...... that's not important. In any case, let us move quickly. There is no one else like you whom I can test my skills on with my sword. It's really boring."
"You are graciously admitting to it after being exposed!?"
"Shut up, be quiet. You are bothering the rest of the cadets."
"Let— me— go——— Uwaaaa......!"
Leon grabbed onto Sheltis' neck, and dragged him into the dark passageway.