Regarding the questions about the posting dates, I think blogspot has changed the system to such that it posts the date when I started on the chapter. Since I work and edit the translations on the blog itself, the initial date will be usually much earlier than the posting date.
Also, the chapter has already took up about a quarter of the book, and as such, I'll be swapping to Sayonara Piano Sonata.
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 machine crystal <Ilis>, 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, Ilis!"
"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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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 machine crystal <Ilis>, 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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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 machine crystal <Ilis>, 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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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 machine crystal <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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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 machine crystal <Ilis>, Sheltis originally thought that she was just joking.
"Mmm? What are you talking about, Ilis? That starts at nine in the morning, right?"
"Because Leon's here."
Just as the machine crystal <Ilis> 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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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.
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 machine crystal <Ilis>.
"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 machine crystal <Ilis>.
"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, Priestess-sama 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 Ilis. 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?"
"Ilis, 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 machine crystal <Ilis> 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...... Ilis, 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 Priestess-sama, right?"
Eyriey was the one to answer him. The machine crystal <Ilis> 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 Priestess-sama! 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.
The turfs were wet with morning dew and were gently giving off a comfortable fragrance of the grass.
The skies of dawn was gradually turning from red to white, and then to the color of deep blue. And on the grounds that were reflecting the colors of the skies—
"Eh? I'm lost?"
In the middle of a huge clearing of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, Sheltis looked around in a confused state.
"Strange, I remember that I took a left turn along this path yesterday."
"Shel—tis—? That's the reason I asked you to follow the directions stated in the electronic map."
"Ugh. I thought I didn't need to worry, since Ilis is here."
Ymy guided him to a shortcut yesterday before the enrollment ceremony, and Sheltis tried to take the path today. However, he was lost before he knew it.
"So, in which direction should I be going?"
"Sorry. I was sleeping then, therefore I did not record the route you had taken."
"Machines need to sleep too?"
"Because, the lack of sleep is the biggest nemesis for a woman's skin."
The machine crystal <Ilis> said with a sweet voice.
"The lack of sleep will actually affect the surface of an artificial crystal?"
"But of course. The lighting mechanisms of the crystal will be affected should my operating capabilities drop. As such, I'll conduct regular maintenance on myself to delete all unnecessary memories that are within me. That is my so called 'sleep', and it just so happens that it goes in line with the saying, 'beauty should start from within."
"...... Having heard your detailed and serious explanation, I really don't know how to reply to that."
What a headache. He could no longer remember the correct path due to that.
"I advise you to retrace your steps, and follow the correct route as shown on the digital map."
"Man, seems like that is my only option left."
He gave a shrug, and turned to face the direction he came from. Just then, he came into eye contact with the girl that was walking behind him.
"...... You are......"
Sheltis was rooted to the ground. His eyes widened.
The first thing that came to his sight, was the bright sakura-colored hair.
That hair was tied to the back in a ponytail, and was shimmering brilliantly under the rays of the sun. Her grey eyes were giving off a faint glow of blue. There was a mature air around her, and that was coupled with a calm voice and a sharp gaze.
— The girl who was staring at me yesterday?
"Ah...... Urm, well......"
Should I ask her about yesterday? Is it the right time to ask?
There was a chance that he may be misunderstanding things. Just as Sheltis was hesitating on how to raise the question, the girl raised her hand and pointed at the pathway,
"There is no need to go back. You can reach the training ground by going straight after the left turn along this path."
"You must be lost, right? It is common for the new cadet guards."
And with that, she walked along the route she had just mentioned. As the sight of her back got smaller and smaller—
"...... She's gone."
Sheltis watched her go with a confused gaze.
Who exactly is she? Though she doesn't seem like a bad person.
Close to twenty cadet guards were standing in a line on the outdoor training grounds.
The cadet guards ranged from girls who weren't even fifteen, to guys who were past their thirties. Everyone was wearing the pure white ceremonial clothing that was assigned to them not long ago.
Everyone was sweating buckets, as they bathed in the rays of the sun.
"...... There are generally four types of guards in the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. You guys are the cadet guards. The second group are the official guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the regular guards that carry out missions to protect the Priestesses. The third group are the elite guards - the leader or cadres ranked guards in charge of managing the regular guards. Finally, the exclusive guardians of the Priestesses with the special rank - 'Sennenshi'."
The only person who had a relaxed expression on her face, was Instructor Yumelda from yesterday.
Despite wearing the same dark blue suit with a tie she had on yesterday, she didn't even break a sweat, even under the merciless sun.
"Therefore, your top priority should be to become a regular guard. Though of course...... should you continue to remain a cadet guard, you will still be assigned missions, but not those that involve protecting the Priestesses, which is the most important of them all. That would be quite pointless for you guys, right?"
She wrote that info on the whiteboard with smooth handwriting, only to erase all of it a few seconds later. That was perhaps so that the cadet guards would be forced to remember it all in their heads.
"Also, aside from the term 'guards', the term 'members' will sometimes be used as a form of address. If so—"
The female instructor was lecturing non-stop, while the cadet guards were standing motionlessly and listening to her attentively. In the corner of the group of people, machine crystal <Ilis> spoke in a soft voice,
"Sheltis, do you need me to record this?"
"For the moment, no. I went through all of this three years ago."
He gave a slight shrug so as not to let the people around him notice. Just then—
"Oi, the newcomer from yesterday."
Without any warning, the instructor standing by the whiteboard suddenly pointed towards Sheltis' direction.
"Why don't you try explaining the difference between the two methods of addressing each other?"
"Eh...... Ehhh...... Who me?"
"Seems like she fancies you quite a bit."
Sheltis gave a flick at the snickering machine crystal <Ilis> so as to make her shut up.
"...... I think the term 'members' includes the apprentice-Priestesses."
"That's right. When the term 'members' is used, it refers to the regular guards, the elite guards and the apprentice-Priestesses. The Sennenshi and the Priestesses are all of a special rank, so they do not fall under this rule. Oi, what's with that expression of yours, as if you were already done with all of these? Next question."
"The ranks of apprentice-Priestesses and cadet guards, have the terms 'apprentice' and 'cadet' in their respective name. Explain the difference between the two."
...... Let's see.
All he could depend on was the knowledge he learned three years ago, but he was not sure if it was still applicable now.
"Well...... the cadet guards are not official staff here, while the apprentice-Priestesses are ranked equally to the regular guards, which means they fall under the official staff as well...... something like that?"
"Ho? Looks like you've studied quite a bit on your basic knowledge before coming here."
Instructor Yumelda showed an intimidating and seemingly malicious smile.
"All in all, you guys have to remember this! You are the cadet guards, or in other words, you all aren't even considered to be official members of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. And because of that, I'll be thoroughly training all of you starting today. Work on your physical strength for a year first. No one is allowed to touch their weapons prior to that!"
"..... It's one year in theory, but that's still really long."
One year is wasted on physical training. And with the combat training that follows, heaven knows how long it will take before one can rise to the ranks of a regular guard. At the rate things are going, he may not even reach the ranks of a Sennenshi even after ten years.
...... I can't make Ymy wait for that long.
"Ilis, do you have any good ideas?"
"As a cadet guard who has only been around for two days, it is best to assume that you have no right to speak. It will be safer to just go along with the flow for now. However, there may be a glimmer of good luck that appears in the midst of all these bad luck."
Sheltis was unsure of what the machine crystal <Ilis> was trying to say.
For the past few days - especially after his enrollment into the team - was there any incident that could be considered as lucky?
"Oi, the newcomer over there. Come here for a while."
Instructor Yumelda's holler shattered that thought of his immediately.
"Seeing as you are extremely talented, I have already created a special training regime for you. You should be crying your eyes out and thanking me for my care and concern towards you."
"See? Here's your good luck."
Just as I had said — the machine crystal <Ilis> said that triumphantly. Sheltis was too lazy to give a retort, and resorted to looking up at the sky.
"...... I know I'm not in the position to be complaining, but that's just way too 'lucky'."
A huge outdoor training ground where one can see the horizon. There's lots of different terrains within it.
Flat grasslands, a red wilderness filled with rubble, a hilly terrain, and even a torrential waterfall. All possible terrains in the floating continent had been faithfully replicated here via artificial means.
The sound of shoes sinking into the compact sand reverberated in the sand dunes.
The grains of sand, which consists of some metallic elements, were reflecting off the rays of the sun that shone onto them. Due to the heat radiation coming from all directions, the surrounding temperature is kept at a steady rate of above forty degrees Celsius. Depending on the weather conditions, it is said that the temperature can hit above fifty in some cases.
An endless run around the man-made desert. That was the so called 'warm-up' as instructed by Yumelda.
"It's so hot! Sheltis, I am about to go black."
"Nothing's wrong with a little tan...... As for me, I don't think I can hold on much longer."
The temperature was constantly sapping away his bodily fluids, while the heavy sands were causing a drag in his steps. He had probably ran for around two hours under those conditions.
"Hoo, seems like you are finally getting tired."
"...... Instructor Yumelda, can I ask something? Why do I have to carry Instructor on my back and run the full course, even though the terrain is already difficult to navigate as it is?"
Upon hearing the voice from his back, Sheltis asked the question without bothering to turn his head around.
"But it feels really enjoyable for me."
"That's not the case for me at all! How is this a 'warm-up'!?"
"Yeah, I've been waiting for you to say that."
A deep voice rang next to his ears.
"After an initial intensive and torturous training session on the very first day, it will be interesting to see how many people are able to hold on and continue with the morning practice on the second day. To be blunt, this is a sort of entry test created by yours truly."
She was creating a setback for everyone on the very first day, in order to test their mental strength to see if they can take it in stride. If they could not recover from the training, then they will not be able to endure the harsher training in the future. If that was the case, then it would be better to make them quit now, and walk another path instead.
That was her responsibility as the instructor of the cadet guards, and an act of goodwill as well.
"So you should burn away all your energy quickly, or else the test will not end."
"That's way too much!"
He re-positioned Yumelda on his back, and once again ran up the sand dune in front of him.
His views suddenly broadened. From above the sand dune, he could see the nostalgic greens of the turf.
"So are you done? Well, your body should be all warmed up with that, right?"
"It's not just warmed up. My body is totally burning......"
After placing the instructor down from his back, Sheltis wiped off the sweat on his neck.
"It's the same. Alright, continue your run till you have reached the initial gathering place. Speaking of which, since you are aspiring to be a guard, you should have learned some swordplay or martial arts before, right?"
The instructor crushed the empty cigarette box, then stuffed it into the pocket of her suit.
"...... Just a little in dual swords."
"I see. Well, the match-up is just about right."
He looked in the direction the instructor was pointing to - there was a young male swordsman, with a great sword in his hand.
He was wearing the ceremonial clothing of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. As there was no badge of the regular guards on it, he is most likely a cadet guard.
"That's a cadet who is in his third year. As of now, he has already learned just about all of the basics of swordplay. This may be demanding of you, but why don't you try pitting yourself against him."
A mock battle against Yuugenshu - regardless of whether you are a cadet guard, a regular guard or a cadres guard, all members of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will have to go through the most basic training at least once a week.
The swordsman grabbed onto the sword which was about as tall as his height, and positioned it parallel against the ground.
— The tip of the sword was not even a millimeter away from the optimal position, which showcased the fine strength and balance the swordsman possessed. Just from that alone, one can see the impressive skills that the opponent has.
However, such a well trained swordsman is still not good enough to be a regular guard of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
"Ilis, please construct the blades of the swords."
After nodding his head at the machine crystal <Ilis>, Sheltis drew out the blade-less hilts.
"Fixing a silver monad as the core. The blades will be constructed using high strength Elnie-silver alloy. In consideration that it will have to withstand the attacks of a great sword, the limit to destruction is set to be at eightfold — the settings for duelling against a human is complete."
Under the remote control of the machine crystal <Ilis>, a pair of silver blades was constructed from the tip of the hilts.
Sheltis grabbed the brilliantly shining swords in reverse in each of his hands, and came face to face with the opponent swordsman.
One second...... Two......
A minute had passed, and yet neither of them made their moves.
The representative great sword wielder no the continent is none other than Leon. That man is adept at working the length of the great sword to his advantage, and using it to launch a series of blazing attacks. However, the opponent before him did not even move an inch. Even though the both of them are great sword wielders, their temperaments are different. That is perhaps the most troublesome part about dueling.
From the tip of the swordsman's feet, came the faint sound of the pebbles shifting - here he comes!
He swung his great sword fiercely.
A silver flash of light cleaved through the air, and approached Sheltis with a piercing screech.
But before that, Sheltis had already made his move by pouncing towards the chest of the swordsman.
The opponent's expression changed as he realized that Sheltis had infiltrated his blind spot. He jumped backwards, but Sheltis pressed on by leaping forward.
Using the sword in his left hand, Sheltis gave a wicked strike at the opponent's right elbow. He then smashed the other sword into the left shoulder of the opponent.
The exchange lasted for only a few seconds.
With his right elbow and left shoulder struck by the swords, the swordsman lost his grip. The great sword slipped from his hands and fell to the ground.
"This ends here - seems like I've said too much."
An all serious Instructor Yumelda puffed out a cloud of white smoke from her mouth that was chewing onto a stick of cigarette.
"Hmm. Using the pebbles beneath the feet of your opponent to determine the shift in their center of gravity, and then leaping towards them without any hesitation...... It is a very risky way of combat, but your body possess enough techniques to carry out the action nicely. You may look clueless, but your judgement and decision-making isn't too shabby."
"That's right. Sheltis uses the clueless and cute face of his to make his opponents lower their guard against him."
"How very true."
"...... Urm, what are you both talking about?"
"Nothing. Newcomer, pass me your badge."
Instructor Yumelda suddenly beckoned him with her arms.
"What are you waiting for? Hurry."
After handing over his silver badge to her, Yumelda stared at it with a gaze as if she was burning a hole through it.
"Hmm. Sheltis huh? I remember there was a dual sword wielder with the exact same name a few years back."
That sentence caused Sheltis' back to be filled with a cold sweat.
"I-Is that so?"
"...... Well, whatever."
As she gave a profound smile, she dug out her own badge from the chest pocket of her dark blue suit, and pressed the two chips in the middle of each badge together.
"Here, don't go losing it."
The instructor tossed the badge high up into the sky. Sheltis caught it hurriedly. He then realized that his name on the badge was now showing a color of red instead of the original blue.
"With that, it is confirmed that Sheltis is promoted from cadet guard - first grade to cadet guard - second grade. From tomorrow onward, you'll be able to apply to the 'Merit System'."
He never came across that term three years ago.
"You'll know after a brief check by yourself. Just focus your attention on the training...... is what I would love to say, but according to the rules, you'll get to enjoy a thirty minute break."
"Eh? W-Wait a second......"
"I'll be off to buy some cigarettes. Should you have any question, save them for after the break."
Instructor Yumelda waved her arm casually in the air without even turning back. For quite a while, Sheltis stared at her as she slowly disappeared from his sight—
"As for the Merit System, I guess we'll just have to inquire on it later."
"...... I guess. Let's grab a drink."
Sheltis turned away from the instructor, and walked towards the water cooler. Having been forced to sprint around the man-made desert for a few hours since the early morning, his throat was already parched.
"Sheltis, continue walking while listening to what I have to say. I think you should have realized already."
He gave a nod at the machine crystal <Ilis>, who was talking to him in a low volume.
"There are people watching us."
He could feel the stares from his back, and it came from many people. Despite not knowing the exact figures, he could feel that the stares were especially intense during his mock battle against the great sword wielder.
"There's no point thinking about it for now. Here, this is the water cooler that you have been waiting for. A gentle reminder, do not ever let the water come into contact with the machine crystal <me>."
"Alright— Ah, the icy-cold water feels really comfortable."
"H-Hey! I just said it not too long ago, and here you are, makings things all wet already!"
He shielded the water spray, and soaked his burning palms and face in the cold waters.
...... What's happening? I can't seem to calm down for some reason.
Sheltis stared blankly at the water that was flowing through his palms.
The cold water was slowly removing the excess heat away from his body. Even then, there was a sense of irritation that continued to linger within his heart.
It was due to the countless stares from all around him just now.
The girl who was swinging her sword at the training ground; the gunner who was maintaining his pistols; the rest of the people who were resting under the tree. It felt as though everyone had their sight trained onto him.
Strictly speaking, those stares were not friendly at all. Rather, it was as if they were evaluating something.
"It's not just you."
— A voice came from the water spray next to him.
"All new cadet guards will be subjected to similar appraisal. This is to determine if they are worthy enough to be roped in."
The voice came from a girl with sakura-colored hair. She wrung the wet towel dry, and gently dabbed the sweat off her forehead. The sleeves of her ceremonial clothing was rolled upwards, revealing the porcelain white skin from within.
"You are the one from this morning......?"
The cadet guard who stared at him during yesterday's enrollment ceremony, as well as pointing out the path for him this morning. He never thought that she would engage in a conversation with him by her own will.
"Thank you for pointing out the path this morning."
"It's nothing. I was just passing by."
Her voice was not cold, but it was not friendly either. It fits her stern disposition to the point where she could just stop a conversation abruptly with her tone.
"Urm...... Can I ask you something?"
"What do you mean by 'rope in'?"
The girl was still wiping her sweat off with the towel, but her hands suddenly froze.
"...... Seems like the term I used is not that appropriate."
What seemed to be bitter and self-depreciating smile appeared on her face.
"Simply put, it is to try to talk the newcomers into joining their squads. As the results of the Merit System will determine if one gets to be promoted or not, it is a must for a squad to strengthen itself whenever possible."
Merit System. That term yet again. Since it was something that he had never heard of even after rising to the cadres rank, then it must be a new system that was implemented during the three years of his absence.
"Promotion...... In order to be promoted to a regular guard, doesn't one have to complete the missions given out by the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>? Either that, or it will be determined by the results of the simulated combat."
Having heard that question, the girl widened her eyes a little in surprise.
"I have no idea where you heard all those things from, but that's from the old outdated system of a few years ago. In recent years, the promotion system of the guards have undergone many changes."
"Ilis, do you know about this?"
"I have just checked the statutes of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. There seems to be a new system for the promotion of the cadet guards to the regular guards. Firstly, the cadets will have to form a squad consisting of three to five members."
Perhaps she was directly referring to the information found online - there was not a single pause to the voice of the machine crystal <Ilis>.
"After forming a squad, you execute missions. There are different bureaus in the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> - out of which, the more significant ones are the Law Enforcement Bureau, which is in charge of managing the guards, as well as the Environmental Bureau and the Mechanical Bureau, and so on. Each bureau will release missions that involve things like protecting VIPs, scouting dangerous and uncharted territories, or subjugating the dangerous creatures that appear near the Floating Archipelago <Lagoon> - the squads will then have to accept and complete the missions. After the completion of a mission, the squad will be rewarded with points as dictated by the Tower's Law, in accordance to the difficulty of the mission. Once the accumulated points have hit above a certain threshold, they will receive the rights to face the test to become a regular guard...... generally, that's about it."
In other words, it does not matter how skilled one is. He will not be able to become a guard if he does not accumulate enough points as required.
But why did they implement such a system?
"As for the fights against Yuugenshu, you can consider the hypothetical situation where the barrier of the Priestesses is breached yet again."
She placed the towel on her neck to cool herself down, and continued,
"When the Yuugenshu are attacking from the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, the most crucial factor is how the guards work as a team within their squads. Should anyone in the squad move by their own accord and cause the collapse of the line of defense, the floating continent may fall into a state of emergency."
"Then, this system is in place to force everyone to work on their teamwork?"
As the missions are assigned to squads and not individuals, the cadet guards will be able to improve on their teamwork, which will be essential in their future battles against the Yuugenshu. If they are not able to do so, then the missions will result in failure. And since they are not able to accumulate enough points, they will not receive the right to face the test and be promoted to the ranks of a regular guard.
"I see. They are not seeking for the highly-skilled, but instead, guards who can work together to fend off the Yuugenshu as a team - indeed, with such an impressive promoting system in place, Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will be able to develop their required talent."
"Even so, it is undeniable that this system has caused a situation of bottle-necking."
She lowered her voice, and gave a sigh that couldn't be heard by the people around her.
"Under this system, the cadet guards are given much freedom in the formation of their squads. Despite them restricting the members to be made up of cadet guards only, the squads can either change the number of members as they please, or settle on a core group of members. As far as the efficiency of the system goes......"
"It is still much better for the squad to settle on a group of core members. Since the members will be placing their lives in the hands of their teammates, it is much better to do so with a group of trustworthy teammates, rather than to work with a squad of members whose skills and personalities you are not familiar with."
The machine crystal <Ilis> finished her sentence.
No matter who, everyone will be thinking the same thing.
"..... It's as she said."
Sheltis could remember what happened three years ago. Back then, he had always worked on missions together with Leon. It is of utmost importance to be able to entrust your back to your partner, and that is even more so in dangerous missions where you are putting your lives on the line.
"Because of that, the majority of the cadet guards have already formed tens of squads, and are actively seeking out new outstanding members to be roped into their own squads. That is the situation as of now."
The girl shifted her sight away from the splashing waters, and lifted her face.
"I get it...... So that's the reason why everyone has been staring at me with those evaluating gazes."
"But to look at it from another angle, you can treat it as if you have already gained everyone's attention."
Sheltis had no idea if the girl was joking or being serious - there was no emotion in her voice.
"Not long after your enrollment, you have already defeated a cadet guard in a duel, despite him being here for many years already. With such an outstanding performance, I think it will not be long before the emergence of squads that will be convincing you to join them. I advise you to carefully select members whom you think you can work with."
After a moment of hesitation, Sheltis finally called out to the girl, who had her back facing him. He did not know if it was appropriate for him to do so, but that was the only thing he wanted to know.
"You were staring at me during the enrollment ceremony. Is that a sort of evaluation from you as well?"
"How can that be?"
What answered him was a self-depreciating laugh.
"For a failure like me...... I am different from the likes of you. There is absolutely no squad that would invite me to join them. Needless to say, I don't even have the right to evaluate others."
With the towel in her hand, she walked towards the training grounds.
A clear, cloudless sphere of the skies in the dark night.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was giving off a faint white glow in the dark. It extended up into the endless skies, as though it was trying to pierce through the heavens.
The material that the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is constructed of absorbs the rays of light from the sun in the day, and releases them at night. From a distance, the whole tower looks like a pillar of light.
"There's totally no need for the lights, right? Though it would be slightly darker without them, it's not like it will cause an inconvenience for those walking by."
"No matter how bright the glow from the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is, it probably won't reach the outdoor training grounds."
Beneath the faintly glowing Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, Sheltis was walking on the paved roads in the night, while looking at his shadow that stretched out from beneath his feet.
"Hmm— a stroll at night is a really romantic thing. It's a pity that there is only a guy walking by his lonesome on this path - what a painful reality this is. Do you want to head back to the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> to invite Ymy out for a walk?"
The machine crystal <Ilis> suddenly said those baffling words.
"I am just going for my night practice."
"Fufufu, even if the person is Ymy, she would definitely be wearing a thin piece of casual clothing at night as well. You wouldn't not know this, but Ymy's growth in the past two years is really impressive. What's more, she is still in the process of developing! Sheltis would probably faint on the spot if Ymy was to reveal just a bit of her skin."
...... Should Ymy hear those words, Ilis would probably be crushed alive by her hands.
"Ilis, could it be that you're really bored?"
"Ah, so you actually noticed? I was way too bored during the day, since most of my processing space was idle back then."
"...... I knew it."
A gust of wind that was carrying the remaining heat from the day breezed by Sheltis silently.
Pressing on to his jacket, Sheltis continued his walk on the turfs in the dark.
"Let's see. I should turn left here."
"Right. I've recorded it all down, so it will definitely be correct this time."
That was the shortcut shown to him by Ymy yesterday, and he was reminded of it again during the day. After walking straight through the grassy path that was not recorded in the digital map—
His view broadened instantly.
"...... Upon looking at it again, this place is indeed huge."
The outdoor training grounds.
The turfed areas only occupied about half of the whole area. The remaining area is made up of landscapes that are replicated in reference to those found on the floating continent, such as the sand dunes, the rocky areas, as well as the barren lands, and so on. There is no place to seek shelter should it rain - training will be converted to suit the wet conditions should that happen.
The training grounds extended endlessly into the darkness on the other side, where light cannot reach.
"Though it is only the cadet guards who will be using the outdoor training grounds, there is around nine hundred of them. I think such a huge place is necessary for everyone to train at the same time."
"Whoa, there's so many of us? I remembered there was only about eight hundred back when I was around."
The increase in the amount of guards is probably an indication that the threats posed by the invasion of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> is becoming greater than ever.
"On the other hand, the strength of the regular guards have decreased to below three hundred. Don't forget, the competition for a spot among the regular guards is intense each and every year."
"...... I know that. That's the reason I came here tonight."
Most of the guards sleep and wake up early - which means they are living a typical healthy lifestyle. As such, when the clock hits five in the morning, the training grounds will be filled with cadets who are there for their morning practice. At night however, it is just like what he was seeing - the place was quite empty.
"The regime set by the Instructor is not intense enough?"
"No...... I just feel like swinging my swords, so as to get back my touch from three years ago."
Just as the instructor had said, they will probably be working on their basics for a year. If so, practice for his dual swords could only be done at night. It sucks for Leon to be hitting the nail on its head, but no matter what, he will have to rediscover the touch he had back in the old days.
"Ilis, construct the blades."
"Switching to the anti-Yuugenshu settings. Fixing a silver monad as the core, and encasing its surrounding with a layer of azure crystals of Hyouketsu Kyoukai. Its limit to destruction is set to be at sevenfold."
A silver line began extending outwards from the blade-less hilt. Azure frozen crystals began to form over the line, and they gradually turned into the new blade of the sword - its the pair of swords that he is the most familiar and comfortable with.
...... Purple huh......
Upon seeing the blades, Sheltis heaved a heavy sigh.
The azure crystals were giving off a brilliant glow at night. As they were absorbing the mateki from within his body, the blades were gradually dyed violet.
"Ilis, it's still the same as before?"
"...... Unfortunately, there is no change to the waves of the mateki you emit."
Mateki — a strange wave that is unique to Yuugenshu.
The powers of Yuugenshu called 'mateki' is now currently in the body of Sheltis. Or rather, it is more accurate to say that his body is being 'forcibly occupied by mateki'. The strange thing is that the mateki in Sheltis' body has absolutely no effect against ordinary humans. Only when it comes into contact with shinryoku as strong as those of a Priestess, will repulsion occur.
Due to that, Sheltis is unable to touch even the fingertips of Ymy till now.
"...... The mateki of Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> huh......"
Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> — a world of Yuugenshu sealed by Hyouketsu Kyoukai, ten thousand meters beneath the floating continent. Three years ago, Sheltis fell off from the floating continent and into the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. As a result, Sheltis was infected by the mateki from the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>. Till now, they have not discovered any method to cure him.
His greatest wish is to be able to purify the mateki that exists in his body.
However, it is equally important for him to be able to regain the skills he possessed as a guard back then.
"...... I'll have to focus on my training."
He calmed himself down, and directed his focus onto the tip of his blades.
He lifted the sword in his right hand, and stabbed it downwards into a puddle of water beneath his feet.
There was no signs of ripples on the surface of the water.
What happened was, the blade had quietly pierced through the surface of the water. It did not tear through the surface roughly or cause a splash, but instead, it had just barely sliced through the surface tension and the molecules of the water surface.
"Hmm? Why is the female instructor of the day standing there?"
After Ilis had said that, there was an immediate tremble to the tip of the sword, resulting in a huge ring of ripples on the surface of the puddle.
"Sheltis, that will not do. You'll be creating ripples if your hand moves."
The machine crystal <Ilis> gave a snicker.
"Ah...... Damn you Ilis! I was finally able to concentrate, and yet you distracted me! How is it possible for Instructor to appear at a time like this!"
"Fufu, seems like it will be difficult for you to overcome your fear of the instructor within a short period of time."
"...... That's totally cheating."
He swung the sword to his side unhappily to fling away the water droplets on the blade.
"Oh right, since you are the only one here on the training ground, why don't you work on something that is more intense? Like cleaving the ground open with a single slash, or stirring up a tornado with a swing of your sword—"
"Ilis, pipe down for a moment."
"Hush— be quiet!"
Sheltis retracted the swords in his hands, and hid his presence within the shadows of the nearest tree.
— That is......
Beneath the faint glow of the light, a bunch of long sakura-colored hair appeared faintly in the distance.
The cascading hair was tied into a ponytail behind her neck, and the girl with a stern disposition was walking towards their direction with firm and sturdy footsteps.
"Oh, she's the girl from this morning. It is rare for a cadet guard to be coming to the training grounds at a time like this."
She walked past the tree without noticing their presence.
She was wearing the pure white ceremonial clothing during the day, but now, she had changed into a casual attire consisting of a white training shirt and a pair of dark blue shorts. In her hands were a pair of rods made of black metal. Their length were slightly shorter than that of his dual swords, and a unique hook extended from each of their sides.
"Jutte — so it's actually a pair of crossed rods <Rosario>. The black metal should be an alloy of chrome and ceramic. It's a very tough and light material, and its weakness towards heat is removed as well." [TLNote: 十手 (Jutte), a Japanese weapon. As for the 十字昆 <ロザリオ＞ (crossed rods <Rosario>), it's probably referring to weapons that form a cross when the two rods/sticks/whatever crisscrossed with each other. The kanji + furigana combination is probably a term coined up by the author]
"That's quite a rare weapon that she's using."
As for its characteristics - the weapon itself is of a simple shape, so it is very easy to pick up. Moreover, as it is a branch of martial arts related to stick fighting, plus it can be dual wielded, the wielder can easily execute an impregnable defense. Striking weapons like swords, spears or staffs are naturally out of the question - even for an experience gunner, it would be difficult to break through the perfect defense of the crossed rods <Rosario> as well.
Despite all that, there are very few people in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> who choose that as their choice of weapons.
"...... Since its offense is horribly weak."
Sheltis set his sight onto the weapons in the girl's hands.
They have no blades, and their weight is not comparable to that of a typical staff. Those weaknesses may not be much of a problem in a typical duel. However, in the most crucial battles, which is those against the Yuugenshu, the weaknesses will put its user at a severe disadvantage.
"And now we shall see her skills."
With a piercing sound of the winds, the girl began to move. Under the glare of the lights, she executed horizontal cleaves, lashes and stabs with the crossed rods <Rosario> in her hands. There was no hestiation in her actions.
She made a jump, and sliced horizontally with the crossed rod <Rosario> in her left, and followed up quickly with a vertical slash using the crossed rod <Rosario> in her right.
She manipulated the shiny black weapons nimbly, and it looked as though she was dancing.
"That's quite beautiful."
"Ah, Sheltis is all mesmerized."
No, that's not it — he shook his head silently.
"What I mean is, her actions are too perfect."
He carefully shifted his position in the shadows, and moved to a spot where he could see the girl clearly.
...... Just as I thought.
After his reassessment of her movements, Sheltis knitted his brows.
Her movements were really well polished. However, it was almost like she was just replicating the moves as written in the crossed rods <Rosario> manuals faithfully.
It does not matter if she is fighting against humans, beasts or even the Yuugenshu. She is far from capable of landing her hits on the opponents with those moves of hers. She can block the attacks of her opponents, but that is a far cry from being able to defeat them.
And that was the problem she was facing.
A pair of crossed rods <Rosario> which lacked offensive power, and her movements that were too faithful to those taught by the manuals. Either one of the two problems are enough to cause her not to be able to defeat the Yuugenshu. She should be well aware of those problems as well.
As he watched on, the girl suddenly stopped in her tracks. She slammed the bottom of the crossed rod <Rosario> in her left hand to that of the crossed rod <Rosario> in her right, and began to twist it.
*Klang*— the two crossed rods <Rosario> combined together with a clear ringing sound.
"Ehh. So she actually combined the two shorter crossed rods <Rosario> into a long staff. Is such a thing possible?"
"It's probably modified."
But what was the reason for that?
Its overall length may be longer than that of a great sword, but that was nothing more than the simple action of combination, and its overall toughness will still be very fragile. Should she use that as a long staff, it will cause more trouble than its worth.
He had no way of understanding her actions.
The girl took a breath of air, and lifted the combined long staff.
In the next instant—
Sia Sec elis arc...... Is io Miel
<I hope to dream once again, the dreams of that day......>
The words of power began to weave from her mouth into a smooth uninterrupted flow.
...... That is?
"The opening prologue of shinryoku?"
Shinryoku — they are known as waves that are in anti-phase with mateki, a mysterious power that can produce miracles. However, learning how to control it is no easy task, and it is said that one will have to undergo a long period of training in a special organization in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> before they can use it.
But why was such a form of shinryoku appearing from her?
"— Prayers, are just an illusion.
The objects of desire, at a place out of reach.
Reality, exceeds all reasoning.
Thoughts, forgetting everything.
The waves of shinryoku overlapped with the chants of the girl. The miracle that permeates the world began to show its presence.
"Oh blessed metals...... the Third Stone...... Descend, the crystals of white silver!"
As though it was proving the truth to what Sheltis was seeing, faint snow-white particles of light began to glow all around the girl's body. The radiance flowed through her arms, and gradually gathered on the black metal staff.
"Under the guidance of the Priestess...... the twenty-second power of the second process shall form the world."
In the blink of an eye, the originally transparent and gentle white glow collected itself onto the staff, and they began to crystallize.
The lights of shinryoku turned into a brilliantly shining crystal at the tip of the staff - the staff looked like a spear with a white silver blade on its end.
"That is the materialization of shinryoku, that belongs to the advent-type spells. I see, so the reason for her choosing the offensively lacking crossed rods <Rosario>, is because she can enhance the powers of her weapon via the arts of shinryoku. By changing forms of the crossed rods <Rosario> to one that possesses shinryoku, she can weaken the mateki of the Yuugenshu. This is quite surprising."
The machine crystal <Ilis> exclaimed in praise.
"...... How is that possible?"
The scene of the girl had caused Sheltis to nearly forget to breathe.
There were two reasons for that. Firstly, the practitioners of shinryoku are extremely rare among the members of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. All guards who are adept at shinryoku will be granted positions above the rank of a regular guard unconditionally. If so, why is this girl still ranked as a cadet guard even now?
And the other reason, which is perhaps the most shocking one out of the two—
"Ilis, the activation arts which she just used is similar to that of a Priestess, right?"
"Yes. That includes the opening prologue, the prayers, the coefficient of the cycles and the manifestation. Despite the slight differences between the two arts, the procedures are similar in general."
The shinryoku-practitioner of the guards uses other techniques instead. For example, for simple things such as the enhancement of weapons via shinryoku or telekinesis, they can be activated through simpler procedures.
However, that is not the case for the activation arts of a Priestess. For a Priestess who exemplifies miracles and mysteriousness, her arts are especially complicated, and follows a strict ritual procedure.
That is especially so for the initial part.
The opening prologue sung using the Priestess-language is something incomprehensible to everyone else other than the Priestesses. If so, then this girl must have trained in the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as an apprentice-Priestess before.
"Since she wished to become a member of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, a typical person would have chosen to enroll into the tower as an apprentice-Priestess...... as the rank of an apprentice-Priestess is the same as that of a regular guard, no? Then why is she lowering her own rank to be a cadet guard?"
"If necessary, I can check on her past. Do you need me to obtain her records from the main computers of the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
"...... No, that's not necessary."
Sheltis gave a vague reply to the question of the machine crystal <Ilis>. He was indeed curious, but that is the girl's personal problems, and he was in no position to step in.
"Why don't you ask her directly then? There is no one else around if you are to approach her now."
"I'll leave it for next time. It's about time I focus on my own practice as well."
As he put on a small smile on his face, Sheltis grabbed his dual swords and made a turn. He slowly walked away from the girl in silent strides.
"Eh? You seem to be rather happy."
There was only one thing which he was certain of.
It was not the fact that she is a shinryoku-practitioner, nor was it the fact that she may have underwent the training of a Priestess - but something simpler, something that is more important—
"So Leon and I aren't the only freaks who come here by our own accord to train."
Sheltis gave a chuckle in his mind. He then lifted his head to look at the night skies.
"I think she must be someone who works really hard. Don't you think so, Ilis?"
"...... I do. But to be that happy just because you've found another person who is similar to you - you really are simple."