Hundredth post of this blog.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, paved roads—
Sheltis sprinted through the neat turfs of grass, and yelled,
"Ahhhhh, I can't make it, I'm gonna be late!"
"Sheltis, you have three minutes till nine o'clock."
"Leon that bastard—!"
They originally agreed on just training on their swordplay for morning practice, but it somehow escalated into full-fledged mock combat. Their fight got more and more intense, and before he knew it, it was about time for the enrollment ceremony.
"There's a shortcut over here."
Came the familiar voice of a girl. He turned his head—
A girl with light golden hair was standing there in a pure white vestment. She had a pair of jade colored eyes, along with a cute face. Her overall appearance is a fine balance between prettiness and cuteness.
"Morning, Sheltis. You just enrolled in today, and you're going to be late for the ceremony already?"
She raised her slender shoulders, and gave a snicker.
Ymy Ele Soufflenictole - one of the five Priestesses who maintains the protective barrier of the floating continent. At the same time, she was Sheltis' childhood friend and had lived with him, before moving into Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
"And what is with that embarrassing look of yours?"
Ymy walked towards Sheltis, and her sight was fixed onto him the whole time.
"Your clothes are creased, and your face is full of dirt. This will not do, you know. They are taking a commemorative photo today, so you will have to dress yourself properly as well."
"...... Well, me being late, my clothes being creased, my face filled with dirt; and not to mention, my severe lack of sleep - Leon is the cause of all these things."
"Ah, I saw Leon just not long ago. He was saying 'nothing beats a good work out' with a satisfied expression on his face, so I had a premonition then. So you were dragged to train with him?"
"...... That training fanatic."
I'll have to install a booby trap on my door next time, so as to prevent him from barging into my room. For example, rigging a bomb that would explode if he opens the door - things like that.
"Speaking of which, why is Ymy here? It is extremely rare for a Priestess to come down from the top floors to the grounds of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
"Fufu, perhaps it is because we're both heading towards the same place."
Ymy nodded her head profoundly in response to the question raised by the crystal machine <Iris>.
"Meaning to say, Ymy is going to the training ground as well?"
"Mhmm. Today is the enrollment ceremony which is held once per month. As a Priestess, I will have to greet the people who will become guards in the future."
The speech made by the Priestesses is one of the events of the enrollment ceremony.
The Priestesses are the ones protecting the floating continent, while the guards are tasked with the job of protecting the Priestesses with their lives. Sheltis did remember the scene where the Priestess will address the newly-enrolled cadet guards with her speech.
"So let us head down to the training ground together."
"...... Is that fine? Won't people be suspicious of the fact that a Priestess and a cadet guard are walking together?"
"This is nothing. You worry too much. Moreover—"
Ymy walked to his side, and narrowed her eyes as though she was reminiscing something.
"I never had the chance to say this to you ever since you came back— Welcome back."
I'm back — Sheltis somehow felt really embarrassed as he said that while looking at Ymy's face. He subconsciously shifted his sight away.
"It somehow feels...... like this is all a dream."
He mumbled, and lifted his head to look at the blue sky above him.
— I am actually back.
Together with that fact that I am walking together with Ymy, and talking to her like this. He never thought that such things would be possible, ever since he was expelled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> two years ago.
She is someone holding an absolute position - the position of a 'Priestess' - in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, while he is just a cadet guard who is starting from the lowest position there. Despite knowing the staggering difference in their status since two years ago - to be given the opportunity to be with her like the way they are now, he felt like he had regained the courage in his heart to carry on.
"You are exaggerating too much."
The Priestess gave a laugh.
"However, I have really been waiting for you all this time. Though you are starting all over as a cadet guard, I believe that you will definitely become an official guard someday."
I'll do my best. Sheltis nodded his head with force with that thought in his mind.
It was then when he suddenly noticed something, and he stared at Ymy's face.
"Ymy...... are those dark circles under your eyes?"
"Ah, is...... is it obvious? I've already asked for Meimel's assistance to cover it with the help of make-up, but......"
Ymy hurriedly covered her face with her hands.
"No, it's really well done. I just noticed it now."
The dark circles were small and not easily noticed. As her childhood friend, Sheltis could barely see it even at such a close distance, so perhaps it would go unnoticed at a further distance.
"I had my barrier training yesterday, and it ended too late. When I was finally done with drafting my speech for later, it was already morning before I realized it...... Ehehe, I'm not really good with such things."
She gave a smile. However, there was an obvious hint of exhaustion beneath that smile of hers—
"You must be really busy, right?"
"It's the same for today's speech as well. You don't have to go if you are really busy. Things like giving speeches, a Priestess would only need to do it if they are free."
Ymy did not agree with the opinions of Sheltis and the crystal machine <Iris>.
"No, I am doing this willingly. Those who are becoming cadet guards are all part of the group of people that are protecting the Priestesses. The speech today is my chance to offer them my thanks."
...... Looking at the way Ymy is behaving now, she does really act like a Priestess.
One year ago - while he was still expelled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and was living in the living sector.
Whenever there is an emergence of a new Priestess, the news will immediately spread to all corners of the floating continent. Sheltis heard about the news in the living sector as well, but he was feeling a sense of uneasiness along with the happiness in him. As her childhood friend, he knew Ymy's personality very well. She is no different from an ordinary girl, so is she really up to the task to be a Priestess that protects the whole floating continent?
Even after returning to the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, that feeling of uneasiness was still within Sheltis.
But having heard that from Ymy, he could clearly feel her consciousness and determination as a Priestess.
"You are quite the good example as a Priestess."
"Right? And also......"
The sincere look of hers changed. Ymy proclaimed strongly,
"Have a good look later, Sheltis. Ever since I became a Priestess, I've improved leaps and bounds in my abilities to deliver a speech!"
"Weird, I remember you being really shy back then, no?"
"No problem. I have nearly conquered that weakness of mine since I became a Priestess. Come, let us get moving."
As he looked at Ymy walking in confidence, Sheltis caught up to her side.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, outdoors training ground—
About twenty newly enrolled cadet guards had lined up properly.
"Urm...... urm...... therefore...... as one of the Priestesses, I am really happy that you guys...... no wait, I am really glad for everyone's enrollment into the palace! Ah, mmm, well then...... P-Please take care of your bodies, and continue doing your best!"
On the stage, was a Priestess that was making her speech with a blushing face.
"She's still the same as always."
"Yeah. After seeing Ymy being the girl whom I am familiar with, I feel strangely at ease."
She walked down the stage after she was done with her speech. A female instructor dressed in a dark blue suit went up to her.
"That's an impressive speech, Priestess Ymy."
"R-Really? Thank goodness!"
"Yes. You have improved by roughly forty percent, as compared to the one you gave previously. That...... the speech which was banned from being aired - that was quite honestly incomprehensible, but your performance this time is rather outstanding."
"T-that is just a slip of the tongue! How mean! Didn't we agree that we would no longer bring up that topic!"
Ymy tried to stop the instructor from continuing. The instructor just laughed while shaking her head.
"Ha ha ha, well, that is already a thing of the past."
....... Ymy, what exactly did you say during the last speech?
"Well then, I shall take my leave."
— Sheltis, do your best.
Ymy gave a mischievous smile, and left the place after winking at Sheltis.
"Alright, our dear Priestess is done with her speech. With that, the enrollment ceremony for today will come to an end."
The female instructor turned around with a dangerous smile on her face.
"I haven't introduced myself - my name's Yumelda, and I will be your instructor. Everyone's dismissed for the day. Starting tomorrow, I'll be drilling you all till you can't even stand. Be mentally prepared for that."
Despite being a female, her height is about the same as Sheltis'. She has a pair of long slender eyes and her jet black hair was trimmed neatly at the shoulders. In her mouth was a cigarette that was constantly giving off white smoke from its end. She is the instructor in charge of training the cadet guards, and is nicknamed the Devil Instructor, as she is famous for her ruthless 'teachings'.
"So everything's over, and we can head back now?"
Sheltis heaved a sigh as he walked in between the group of cadet guards who were all heading back to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Though his dirty looks had invited strange looks around him during the photo-taking, he could finally be at ease for now. However, tomorrow marks the start of a series of tough training. He could tell from their faces, that the group of cadet guards that were returning to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> were feeling nervous.
"Eh— it's already over? How boring. I thought you would take the opportunity to showcase yourself to others."
"You sure know how to talk, Miss Iris. I was raided by Leon after working through the night, and was forced to undergo nearly five hours of morning practice—"
— Who's that?
He suddenly stopped talking halfway, and turned around to face the stare that was coming from behind him.
"What's wrong, Sheltis?"
"Iris, do you know who that girl is? The one standing beneath the tree."
He signaled towards the direction with his eyes. Deep within the training ground, at about ten plus meters away from him, a girl was standing beneath a tree.
Her bright sakura-colored hair was bundled behind her back. Her age seemed to be roughly the same as his, though she may be one or two years older. Her mature temperament and the penetrating gaze of hers left a deep impression on him.
"What's wrong with the girl?"
"She has been staring at me since just now."
As for now, the girl acted as if nothing had happened, and was doing warm-ups by herself. However, she had indeed made eye contact with him before turning away. She was wearing the white ritual clothing of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. All he knew was that she's a cadet guard just like him, since he couldn't see the badge of an official guard on her shoulder.
"Hmm...... I don't think she is someone whom you know. From my data, there is no records of you seeing her before either."
"Really? Then forget it."
...... But, what's with that strange feeling?
The girl who was currently doing her warm-ups silently. However, there was a strange feeling that lingered in his mind, even though all he did was exchange eye contact with her - something felt out of place.
..... That dignified look of hers - had I seen her somewhere before?
"Just who exactly is she? I don't have the expression of talking to her face to face before."
"Maybe you had passed by her by coincidence somewhere in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
Right, he felt it was exactly like what the crystal machine <Iris> had said. However, he was still very concerned about her gaze earlier - perhaps it was due to them staring straight into each others' eyes.
"Hmm...... whatever, I'm not that worried about it. It's just—"
Sheltis stood in the middle of the training ground with a complicated feeling within him.
However, he had no chance to sort out his thoughts.
"Oi, how long are you gonna stand there for?"
A crisp sound of footsteps suddenly rang, along with the kicking of dust. He turned around, and saw that Instructor Yumelda was crossing her arms and standing right before him.
"I had already declared for you guys to be dismissed. For you to be ignoring my instruction by standing here motionlessly - does that mean that you're not planning to follow my orders?"
The female instructor tossed her smoking cigarette next to her feet, and extinguished it by stomping onto it with the tip of her shoes. On her face was a dangerous smile, akin to a carnivorous predator that had found its prey.
"Eh...... N-No...... How should I explain this?"
Sheltis took a step back, but the instructor advanced two steps forward.
"I see. So you are a lad that does not follow the orders of his instructor. Seems like I'll have to shower you with the love of my iron fists."
"W-Wait! L-Listen to me...... Whoa!"
*Swash*— A fist that was as sharp as blades grazed past his cheeks. Sheltis quickly dodged the attack by shifting sideways. His fringes were lightly swayed by the gush of wind generated by the punch.
"...... Ho? You can actually dodge my fist?"
"Ku ku ku. Not bad. Not bad at all."
He originally thought he would be chewed out by the instructor. However, the instructor showed a gleeful expression, and cracked her knuckles.
"It's been years since I've seen a cadet guard capable of dodging my fist. Seems like I've met a newcomer whom I can put in my effort into training."
Before he could ask any questions, Sheltis was already being held by his neck.
After thinking about it, something similar had happened just like this earlier this morning. And the next thing that followed would be......
"S-Sorry, but I was about to go rest for now."
"Follow me. From today onward, I'll be training you under a special regime designed by me. Don't worry - you'll definitely become an official guard easily should you live through my training."
"S-Someone save me————!"
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, eleventh story - cadet guards dormitory—
"We're finally back."
"Yeah, I feel drained...... I want to take a shower right now."
Sheltis walked through the passageway, his body drenched with sweat and his body covered in dirt.
He was finally able to escape from the training of that Devil Instructor not too long ago. Dinner time was long gone before he knew it, and most of the cadet guards were already preparing to sleep when he returned.
"Let's see, the third room after the junction...... Iris, this should be my room, right?"
He focused his eyes in the dark to look at the plate that says 'Sheltis Magna Yehle'.
"Right. Seems like you just can't remember where your room is."
"Since I had been living in the living sector for the past two years. This just somehow feels unreal."
"Oh right, I do want to hear about your life there. What I knew was that you survived by working in a cafe, but I had no idea you were that friendly with two girls. Fufu, I really can't underestimate the Sheltis who is a play-boy."
"We do get along well with one another, but we're just friends."
"Ara, is that so?"
"Yup. As long as I'm not working, regardless of day or night, it will—"
"Ah, I've found Shel-nii!"
"Right right. It would be something like that— Eh?"
A sound came from near his legs.
As he was thinking that, a small petite body suddenly hugged his legs.
"Wa, it's really Shel-nii! Yuto misses you so!"
The person hugging him is a black haired girl around five or six years old. The look of curiousity from her amber colored eyes, as well as the way her hair was tied into twintails flowing behind her body, made her look really cute.
"Eh...... is that really you, Yuto?"
"Ehehe. Yuto's here, and Eyri-nee too. Hurry up Eyri-nee, I've found Shel-nii!"
The little girl hugged his legs tightly while shouting excitedly.
A figure appeared in the passageway along with the sounds of light footsteps.
"Oh, it's true. Long time no see, Sheltis!"
The girl in her oil-stained overalls waved her arms in his direction.
She looked like fifteen or sixteen. Despite that, her orange hair was rather messy, and she did not wear any makeup on her face. But somehow, all that suited her style better for some unknown reason.
"Even Eyriey too...... Why are you two here?"
"Eh? Do I even have to explain why?"
Eyriey — the girl in overalls ran towards him and patted the head of the little girl.
"It's obviously because we were feeling bored without Sheltis around. Right, Yuto?"
"...... Strange? Didn't I promise you guys that I'd find some time to visit you both at the living sector?"
Sheltis couldn't help but to give a wry smile upon seeing the relaxed looks on their faces.
"But it has been a few days since we last met, so I guess it can be counted as 'long time no see'."
He was forced to live as a commoner in the living sector for two years after being expelled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Eyriey and Yuto are both girls whom he befriended during his time in the living sector. He knew Eyriey from his work at 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'. As for Yuto, she got close to him and gradually loved to stick around him due to her frequent visits to 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'.
Regardless, these two girls were his only few friends while he was in the living sector. As he was unwilling to break off from them just like that, on the day he returned to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, he promised them that he would find a time to visit them in the living sector soon.
"Shel-nii, come play with us! Yuto doesn't want to sleep till you have done so with me."
Yuto tugged the edge of his shirt coyly.
"I see. So that's the reason you girls came here...... But wait a second. How did you two get in here?"
As Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is the signature building of the floating continent, it receives a huge number of tourists from the living sector daily. However, the floor which they were on is specially reserved for guards like Sheltis, and is not opened to the public. The public elevators will not stop on this floor either.
"Fu fu fu, feast your eyes on this. Tada—!"
Eyriey fumbled around her chest, and pulled out a silver colored metallic card. Embedded on its edge, is a gold colored electronic key.
"Eh? That's the official badge of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>? Eyriey got into Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as well?"
As suggested by her oil-stained overalls, Eyriey's interest is in researching machines. Her knowledge in that field is already past the boundaries of those of a mere hobbyist - building an adult-sized robot from scratch was child's play to her, and she even hacked into the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> with a computer she made herself. As a machine technician, she is probably the talent that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is desperately looking for.
"Eyriey, how did you get that badge......?"
However, she replied with her usual relaxed voice of hers,
"Actually, Yuto found this on the side of the road."
"Yuto's great, right?"
"This is undoubtedly a misuse of lost items! Return it to the owner quickly!"
How should I put it? It really fits their style.
"Well— But Yuto has forgotten where she picked it up."
"...... I am already lacking sleep, and right now, my head's starting to hurt too."
That was a typical example of the misuse of a lost badge. Then again, he was probably the only victim under that sort of misuse.
"No worries. Let's take this opportunity to play. We've been waiting for you."
"...... even so, I'm really tired right now."
"But Ymy is waiting for you too."
"Ah, hold on. I've just received a telepathy message...... It's from Ymy— Ah, hello? Yup. Mmm, Sheltis just returned. Right, then let's meet at the conference room on the two hundred and sixty-first story..... Eh, Ymy's coming here...... Mmm, there's totally no one in the passageway at night, aside from of us. Right then, we'll be waiting."
Eyriey looked into the ceiling and nodded her head constantly.
"So Ymy wants to come here by herself. Well, there's not many people at this time, so it should be fine for a Priestess to come down to the bottom floors."
"...... What's with this? The Ymy you are referring to is Priestess Ymy?"
"Yeah— she is Sheltis' childhood friend, right?"
"So she is...... Strange, how did you get to know Ymy?"
Eyriey lives in the living sector, while Ymy lives in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. There should be no point of connection between the two of them.
"I just met her today. Ah, here she is."
Eyriey pointed to the special elevator that connects the lower floors to the upper floors. The lights above the door were flashing, signalling that the door was about to open.
"Sorry for making you wait, Eyriey. Thanks for informing me."
Beneath the lights of the elevator, stood a girl who was wearing a pure white vestment.
She carefully surveyed the surroundings. Only after confirming that there was no one else around, did she smile and wave her hands at them.
"No problem. Speaking of which, telepathy is quite a convenient thing. Will I be able to use it if I practice hard on it?"
"Well...... I guess you may be able to do so if you persist with all the training while crying your eyes off for eight whole years?"
"...... I'll just stick to handphones."
Eyriey cringed. Upon seeing that, Ymy gave a pleasant wry smile.
— Strange? Why is this happening?
Sheltis looked at their interaction with surprise.
His childhood friend Ymy, together with Eyriey whom he got to know during his time at the living sector. Those two girls had somehow become rather close, as though they had been friends for years.
"Ehehe, surprised? I am already friends with Eyriey and Yuto."
Ymy said that shyly, as she hugged Yuto who had pounced into her.
"Sheltis said before that he would introduce me to our dear Priestess, right?"
Eyriey was the one to answer him. The crystal machine <Iris> then followed closely behind,
"Back when Hyouketsu Kyoukai was breached, you rushed down from the living sector to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> on the electric vehicle driven by Eyriey. As a token of appreciation, you said that you would introduce Ymy to her, so that they can be friends. Isn't that right, Sheltis?"
"Ah, now that you mention it......"
All the Priestesses, including Ymy, have few chances of making friends with people their age. The biggest reason is because typical people will be overly timid and respectful when they see the Priestesses. However, if it is the candid Eyriey, then perhaps she would be able to treat Ymy normally. I hope you can become friends with Ymy— he had indeed made that request to Eyriey before.
"Yup yup. This afternoon, we were on this floor looking for Sheltis, and by coincidence, Ymy was heading over via the elevator as well. Isn't that right, Ymy?"
"Yes, I was addressing the cadet guards in the morning. As I was making my speech from the stage back then, I had planned to greet them face to face, one at a time. And thus, I met Eyriey and Yuto when I got here. Since she saw me, Eyriey shouted, 'Ah, it's our dear Priestess! Have you heard from Sheltis? My name's Eyriey, can we be friends?' To be honest, I was quite surprised back then."
Ymy gave a slight giggle, perhaps due to her reminiscing the scene back then.
After hearing Ymy recount their story, Eyriey heartily gave a pat on the Priestess' shoulder.
"Sorry! I thought Sheltis had already told you about us. Though she had no idea what was going on in the beginning, we finally smoothed things out after I mentioned Sheltis' name and explained everything to her."
— So that's how it is.
Before he could introduce them to each other, the two girls had already become friends.
"Right, they seem to have used some interesting fabric for the vestments of the Priestesses. What does it feel like when wearing it?"
"Mmm— it feels really uncomfortable in the beginning, but that differs from person to person. Is Eyriey interested in trying it?"
"Eh? Can I really?"
"Mmm. Come to my room next time. You can try it anytime."
Eyriey was touching Ymy's vestment enthusiastically, while Ymy was looking at Eyriey's overalls with a curious gaze - upon witnessing that scene, Sheltis was temporarily relived.
"Isn't that great, Sheltis. Rather than introducing them to each other deliberately, it may actually be much better for them to meet like this and let them get along with each other naturally."
...... It's really great that they can get along so well with each other.
"Oh right. It's already this late, so why did Ymy make the trip here?"
"Ah...... Well, Sheltis has successfully completed the enrollment ceremony, right?"
Ymy stood up while hugging Yuto in her arms.
"This may just be me meddling too much, but I had just finished chatting with Leon, and there was something he said that I am quite concerned with. Therefore, I wished to tell you about it as quickly as possible."
"Mhmm. He said...... 'While he's with the other cadet guards, Sheltis will have to be aware of the position he's in. Otherwise, he may be ostracized'."
— My position? Ostracized?
What does he mean?
"I am not too sure...... In any case, he said things like 'he'll be facing all sorts of troubles should he act like how he used to in the past', and that made me worry quite a bit."
...... So Leon had actually said things like that.
That man has never told any lies nor has he cracked a single joke before. That's probably what he really believes, and is quite certain it'll happen. Therefore, he told Ymy about it.
"Ah...... Sorry, seems like I have caused you to become uneasy."
Ymy hurriedly shook her head when she interpreted his silence as a display of his uneasiness.
"Don't worry, I am fine. Thanks for coming all the way here to inform me about it."
"Mmm. What I said may be confusing, so you can try asking Leon himself if you want to know more about it."
Ymy placed Yuto back down on the floor, and took a deep breathe.
"Ah, Ymy-nee is going back? Bye bye—"
"See you two again, Yuto and Eyriey. If it is convenient for you both, please come visit me in my room at the two hundred and eighty-seventh floor. I'll inform security beforehand so you don't trigger the security system by accident."
"Ohhh— Really? I'll definitely go!"
"Mmm, I'll be waiting."
After turning her head to wave goodbye, Ymy walked back to the elevator.
The automatic door closed quietly. Eyriey stared at the elevator as the orange lights lit up, which signaled that the elevator was going upwards, then she suddenly mumbled,
"I originally thought that the Priestesses were out of our reach."
"Then I realized that Ymy really is Sheltis' childhood friend. After the conversations we had, it felt like she was just an ordinary girl. Ah, I'm actually praising her."
"So you can be Ymy's friend?"
Eyriey raised one of her arms happily upon hearing that question,
"Of course! Or rather, we are already friends. Isn't that right, Yuto............ Eh?"
"............ Eyri-nee, Yuto can barely open her eyes."
Yuto leaned herself on Eyriey's body, and rubbed her nearly closed eyes.
"Arara, could it be that you relaxed yourself too much after finding Sheltis? Can't be helped, we'll be heading back then. Oh right, there should be a resting room on this floor, right?"
"There is, but it can only be used by the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
Having heard that, Eyriey took out a badge from her chest.
"Fufu, there's no problem with this around."
"...... The person who lost it must be worried sick. Go and make a lost-and-found report tomorrow."
"Alright. Well then, seeya tomorrow."
Sheltis looked on as Yuto and Eyriey waved goodbye to him, then he too returned the gesture.
— It was something so typical, but somehow it felt so nostalgic to him.