Also, I'll be grateful if anyone can get me the raws for vol 9 of Hyouketsu Kyoukai. It's out, but with all the retarded upload sites and stuff, plus the fact that my ISP uses dynamic IP, I did not manage to get it.
"Con~gra~tu~la~tiooooon on your discharge, Sheltis!"
Eleventh story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, dormitory of the cadet guards.
The grand sounds of the trumpets as well as a round of applause were waiting for him when he opened the door.
He froze for a good while with one of his feet stepping into the room—
The young man in his black jacket crossed his arms and blinked in confusion.
He's in his teenage years with a slender face and limbs, as well as a stern expression with a hint of childishness in them. And then there's the head of tea-red colored hair that easily stands out.
"Ah— geez, what a poor reaction, Sheltis! On the rare occasion where there's actually someone who's celebrating with you, it won't do if you don't use your entire body to express your joy. For example, you should yell out 'Banzai!'."
Eyriey lifted both of her arms up happily while holding onto a toy trumpet.
Fluffy orange hair and oil-stained overalls. Despite being in the prime age of sixteen, this girl here hardly needs to doll herself up or put on any make-up.
"Hey— you've been living in the hospital for the past two weeks, right? It will be a huge waste if you don't celebrate it with a more jovial mood!"
With one of her hands placed on her waist, she swung the other hand with the trumpet together in the air.
While facing the girl, the young man, Sheltis, sighed as he continued to hug onto his luggage from his time in the hospital.
"No...... what I'm more curious of is how Eyriey is here when I locked my room?"
Everything began two weeks ago.
After receiving the secret order from the Queen, Sheltis headed off to the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon> to carry out his mission. Not only did they discover the secret facility that is hidden there, he also fought with a cultured Yuugenshu, which lead to him suffering from serious injuries on his head. One full month was required for a complete recovery from his injuries.
And so, Sheltis had been staying in the tower's hospital located on the twenty-second story for the past two weeks......
"...... Could it be that Iris did something to allow you to get into my room?"
Eyriey blew on the trumpet yet again.
"It was Iris who got me here. She said, 'Sheltis is not around, and I am really lonely'."
The girl pointed towards the direction of the bed. The machine crystal <Iris>, which looked like the crystallization of lapis lazuli, was flashing repeatedly in short intervals on the white bed.
"That's right, Eyriey. That's the way to do it. Put in a few more words for me!"
"...... So it is indeed Iris."
"What do you mean by 'indeed'!? I was so bored, I have calculated pi all the way to it's forty seven quadrillion, two hundred and nineteen trillion, eighty four billion, two hundred million, forty two thousand and twenty seventh decimal digit!"
I am really angry right now — the machine crystal <Iris> was giving up a bright red brilliance, as though she was emphasizing that.
"That sounds very interesting."
"Not at all! Sheltis you big idiot! Even machines will die of boredom if there is no one by their side!"
"...... But you're the one who was chased out of the hospital because you were so noisy, no?"
Though she was initially staying in the hospital with Sheltis, she began to constantly complain about things like: "Hey Sheltis, I am about to die from boredom!" or "Hey hey, come play with me—". After the protests from the doctor who could no longer put a blind eye to what she was doing, he had no choice but to leave her alone in his room.
"Putting that aside, what are your thoughts about the hospitalization?"
"Incredibly painful. I spent nearly everyday sleeping. Even the doctor was stunned and asked me, 'Just what exactly did you do to get an injury like this?'."
"Geez...... Fractures to your skull coupled with bruises all over your body? Your head was bleeding profusely, and the fractured skull would have pierced its way into your brain if you had moved about carelessly. Just what were you doing?" — that was what the female doctor who was in charge of him said.
Special equipment and machines were used to administer various treatment cycles to his head, in tandem with medication to increase his rate of healing and to keep the inflammation under control.
He had undergone two consecutive weeks of the above mentioned treatment by the doctor who was in charge of him. Despite recommendations from the doctor to stay in the hospital for a week longer, he was discharged today as he insisted on recuperating in his own home.
"The doctor said that it's just a superficial recovery for now, so I am strictly barred from training temporarily. The wounds may crack open if I do any overly-strenuous exercise."
"As a machine, I think human beings are really fragile when it comes to this. If it is a machine, all that is needed is a replacement of its parts, and it will be good as new. Sheltis, why don't you try replacing your whole body with mechanical parts?"
"That sounds too scary. No thanks."
"Eh— It's not bad being a machine, you know?"
After rejecting the machine crystal <Iris>'s suggestion, Sheltis placed the luggage on his bed.
"Right. How're things going on your side?"
"Very enjoyable. I have heard plenty of things from Iris for the past two to three days. Ah, though she's not here today, Yuto had always been together with us as well."
Eyriey hummed a tune as she poured some hot water from the teapot to a cup.
"Oh right, did you know this? Back when I was hacking into the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, it was actually Iris who helped me decode Daibo Shinsuu. At that time, I thought it was really strange that I had suddenly managed to decipher the encryption just like that."
"Is that so?"
That was the first time he heard about it. Then again, it is not like the machine crystal <Iris> will tell him anything if he does not take the initiative to ask.
"Mhmm. After chatting with Eyriey, the world suddenly feels much smaller."
And with a relaxed tone, the machine crystal <Iris> continued,
"Back then, I was purely interested in the technical abilities of the hacker. The person definitely must have possessed a certain level of relative knowledge as well as talent. He would be incredibly outstanding if he was in his thirties, and can be considered to be a genius in the floating continent if he was in his twenties. However, I never expected the hacker to be a girl as young as you."
"That's embarrassing. I was just fooling about."
"No, you are really outstanding. Sheltis should learn from her hardworking qualities as well— Mmm!"
The machine crystal <Iris> finally toned down after being stuffed into Sheltis' bag.
"...... Geez. To think I finally managed to return after much difficulty."
"She must have been really lonely. Also, while I did manage to bring Yuto to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> to play, Chef has been missing you as well. Though she could not make it down here due to work."
Eyriey said that as she brought the tea cup to her lips.
For the two years following his exile from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, it was the young female shopkeeper of The Two Swans <Albiero> who took him in while he was at the living sector, and allowed him to live in and help out at the shop.
It had been a month since he returned to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, so it was about time for him to visit.
"Did Chef say anything?"
"Mmm. She said, 'Sheltis has been working in the shop for two years, and the shop feels a little empty without him around'."
"...... Is that so."
With one less male, the work load of The Two Swans <Albiero> would definitely increase. Back when he said that he would be going to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, since she had sent him off with a smile, he never thought she would be that depressed about it.
"She will occasionally lean her face against the table and mumble to herself while looking at the ceiling."
"You mean Chef?"
It was hard for him to imagine that the listless person was incredibly cheerful and energetic Chef whom he knew.
"What did she talk about?"
"Things like 'What a problem I have here...... I really hope someone as strong as Sheltis will fall off from the sky, so that he can help me with the testing of poison' and etc."
"She's not depressed at all!"
"No no, she really was? And she also said, 'Ahh, I do really need a guy like Sheltis who can work for forty-eight hours straight without food or water. Where on earth do I find someone like that?'."
"...... Well, I am relieved to hear how well she's doing - help me tell her that. Also, no one will drop from the sky to the ground without rhyme or reason."
"Alright~ But you know, she does seem really lonely."
Maybe that was really the case.
Despite her relaxed voice, Eyriey's eyes were giving off a really serious look.
"Well I guess. I'll only need to rest at home for a week. After that, I'll have to take some time off to pay her a visit."
"Ah, you mean you can't move about yet? That's boring."
"I have a whole load of stuff that I need to settle."
He gave up his chair to Eyriey and sat on the edge of his bed. Sheltis heaved a sigh as he felt the repulsion from the springy properties of his bed.
"...... There's something that I need to think about."
"Hmm? Why are you suddenly being so serious?"
"That's right, that's not like Sheltis at all. Hurry up and get to the point—"
"It's regarding the Yuugenshu."
That sentence made Eyriey and the machine crystal <Iris> fall silent at the same time.
"I've been thinking about it during my stay at the hospital. There's something that just doesn't feel quite right...... No, rather, I am gradually beginning to feel like something's amiss."
The group of Yuugenshu that breached Hyouketsu Kyoukai and infiltrated Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and how they were led by a commanding presence.
And then two weeks ago, the thing that they saw on the unnamed floating island — the Yuugenshu which was being cultivated in the water tank.
"Both Eyriey and Iris should have seen the cultivated Yuugenshu, right? I will have to confirm what that thing actually is. Also, back during the large-scale assault, it was the first time we saw the existence of a commanding Yuugenshu. Don't you two feel like there has been a lot of strange things going on recently?"
"I can understand your feelings, but the existence of the Yuugenshu have remained a mystery for the past thousand years. Even if you wish to investigate it, you must at least have direction for you to work towards. Do you have something in mind?"
"Mmm— for example, how about re-investigating the places where the Yuugenshu appeared?"
The person who replied was actually Eyriey, who had been sitting on the chair and being silent until just now.
"I am just an ordinary person, so I'm not too sure about the things regarding the Yuugenshu. If you ask me, I will probably start by consolidating data. Since we are dealing with monsters which we're uncertain about even after one thousand years, I'm holding doubts about the legitimacy of the current complied data."
"Same as what I am thinking. Therefore, I'm thinking of visiting the places where the Yuugenshu had appeared before. Well, one step at a time."
The Yuugenshu that came from the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> ten thousand meters beneath the floating continent, and squeezed through Hyouketsu Kyoukai to get here. Where exactly did those mist monsters land, and how did they launch their attacks? He hoped he could comb through the whole floating continent and try to see it for himself.
"I agree with your intentions. Should we be able to predict the appearance of the Yuugenshu, we can reduce the damage inflicted by them. However, this is a colossal task. Do you want to seek assistance from Ymy, so that she can mobilize the whole Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> with her authority as a Priestess?"
Ymy Ele Soufflenictole. The name mentioned by the machine crystal <Iris> is actually one of the Priestesses protecting the floating continent, as well as Sheltis' childhood friend.
...... I would love to do that, but—
"No. We'll have to keep it a secret from Ymy."
He stared at the brilliantly shining machine crystal <Iris>, which possessed high levels of artificial intelligence as well as judgement, and shook his head.
"It's best if Ymy doesn't know about this. I don't wish to make her worry."
"Because of what Monica said on the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>? The thing about how much pain the Priestesses go through to maintain the barrier?"
"Mmm. I was thinking about that during my stay at the hospital."
The only people who can maintain the shinryoku barrier that protects the floating continent are the Queen and her five Priestesses.
While they are always putting on a smile when facing the public, they have to undergo blood-curling pain and work hard on their disciplines when they are alone, so as to be able to maintain the barrier.
"I think...... it's best if I don't add on anymore burdens to the Queen or the Priestesses."
The reason for erecting Hyouketsu Kyoukai is because the biggest threat to mankind are the Yuugenshu and the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>.
Looking at it from another point of view, once the mysteries to Yuugenshu and Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> are solved, the burdens on the Priestesses should decrease. If they can look up on the recent abnormalities to the Yuugenshu, they would definitely be able to find a breakthrough.
"Therefore...... I wish Ymy to focus her attention on Hyouketsu Kyoukai, and not be distracted by the matters of the Yuugenshu. It's more than enough for me to crack my head on that myself...... What are you two laughing about, Eyriey and Iris?"
When he refocused his attention on the two, he was confused by their reactions.
"Eh— Because...... right?"
With her close to bursting out in laughter, Eyriey said to the machine crystal <Iris> with a meaningful smile on her face.
"That's right, Eyriey. Fufufu. I see. Here I was wondering why Sheltis has such a clear goal all of the sudden. So it is all for Ymy's sake."
"Mhmm. How to put it? It's really touching."
"...... Hey you two. I'm being serious here."
"There you go again— Right, Sheltis, why don't I just help you create a love potion or something? Make Ymy drink it, and let her confess to you. Then you can just go along with the flow and—"
"I don't need that! Get away from me! Shoo!"
Eyriey's eyes were giving off a shine, as though she was expecting something. Upon facing her bottom-up gaze, Sheltis pushed her away hard.
"Urm— ahem. Enough with the jokes, let us get back on topic. You'll be restricted by your rank somehow or another should you continue to remain as a cadet guard. It is fine for you to want to investigate the Yuugenshu, but you will have to accept more missions that allow you to get promoted to the ranks of a regular guard."
"I will. I won't be able to participate in the conferences if I'm not a regular guard. Moreover, it will be a huge inconvenience in many other areas."
That includes the intelligence gathered about the Yuugenshu, the things happening in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> as well as the weapons used by the guards. Since everything will be given priority to regular guards and the ranks above them, there will be times where they cannot cater to the demands of the cadet guards.
"Even if we set all those things aside for the moment, I still think Ymy will be very lonely if you continue to remain as a cadet guard."
"...... I'll do my best."
Eyriey suddenly nudged him on the side.
"Hey hey, what about me?"
"I mean— seeing as how you are deliberately talking about all these things in my presence, you should have some request for me, right? Just like how when you want me to hack into the Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s computers."
"Ah, so you noticed? Actually, I do have a favor to ask from you."
"Alright. Since I'm really bored, I guess it's not too bad to work on something?"
Eyriey puffed her chest with a gleeful expression on her face.
"I'm hoping you can help predict the areas where the Yuugenshu will appear. Though we already have information of where the Yuugenshu will appear, we still do not know if there are any patterns to that."
That may seem easy enough, but it is actually an extremely difficult task. For the past few decades, the analysis team of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> have been continuously attempting to tackle the problem, but up till now they still have not found any concrete answer.
"...... Predicting the appearance of the Yuugenshu? An old and yet innovative idea. There have been plenty who have tried to research that, but everyone gave up halfway into it — in other words, this is an area that has been abandoned since everyone is helpless about it."
The opinion of the machine crystal <Iris> was pretty much spot on. A long time ago, there were ideas of attempting to predict the appearance of the Yuugenshu based on the statistics gathered from their data, and the researchers had arrived at one conclusion.
It is totally unpredictable.
They could not find any correlation from the past data of the Yuugenshu.
Then again, back when he asked Eyriey to hack into the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. he had pretty much viewed it as nothing more than just an attempt at it. And perhaps like back then, she may be able to come up with something shocking.
"Hmm...... I don't know how I should say this."
Eyriey crossed her arms and pursed her lips into a straight line.
"All I can say is, if all you are asking from me is just the forecasts, then I can give you as many forecasts as you like, since I can just repeatedly analyze vast amounts of data gathered. However, if you want me to produce forecasts with good reproducibility and repeatability, then I can only know after I try. These sort of things require gut feeling and inspiration."
"But then, this may actually be really interesting."
Next to Eyriey who was crossing her arms, was the flashing machine crystal <Iris>.
"Eyriey, after chatting with you for the past few days, I realized you are filled with a totally different and innovative imagination and creativity that the researchers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and I lack. The ability to think and construct theories from an extremely unique view-point is something that the rest of us do not have, and it's a weapon that belongs only to you."
Should Eyriey be able to successfully establish a hypothesis that none of the researchers had ever thought of before, then perhaps they will be a step closer to understanding the secrets behind the Yuugenshu.
"Mmm, I'll give it a try. Oh right, is there a deadline? It would be better if I can come up with something by the time Sheltis' home recuperation comes to an end, right? Which means a week later?"
A week may be too much of a rush.
Since that means that he is expecting her to complete something within just a few days, when it took the researchers years to do research on it.
"There's no deadline, but try to be as soon as possible. Okay?"
"Okay. However, I have already received another request before this, and it may take up quite some time. Well, the requester is over there."
She pointed towards the table.
Following the direction in which she was pointing at, all Sheltis could see was the machine crystal <Iris> lying on the table.
"Isn't there only Iris?"
"Yes, that is right! The requester is me, the extremely cute Iris!"
"...... This is the first time I see a machine claiming itself as cute."
He took a look at the machine crystal <Iris> while letting out a sigh. He already knew this clearly since way back, but the words and actions of this machine crystal are very humane.
"Well, to put it in the context of human beings, this request is like a health check. She will be conducting checks on my thoughts program, processing program and stored data to see if there is any virus that modifies my data. Generally speaking, I have always been conducting checks on my own, but there is the possibility that my diagnosis program is damaged. Therefore, it is important for me to get someone to conduct a check on me."
"That's right. Therefore, I'll be the one in charge of conducting the check. Iris already told me the things to do, so what follows next is assembling the machines and writing out the program."
Eyriey raised her arm quickly.
"I have already booked Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s presidential suite located at the forty-seventh story that is reserved for VIP use for a whole week. This is to reward Eyriey for your services, so please do a good job on my diagnosis."
"Ohho, you really booked that room? Well done, Iris!"
Eyriey hugged the machine crystal <Iris> at her chest and jumped up with a wide smile on her face.
"That's nothing. It is me who should be thanking you for agreeing to my unreasonable request— oh right. Sheltis, I originally planned to get someone to pass the message to you, but thankfully you got discharged early. Please take a look beneath your bed."
"Beneath my bed....... hmm?"
Deep in the darkness, are a pair of blades shimmering from the dim sources of light.
"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— you must be more familiar with it than anything else, since those are the twin swords specially constructed for anti-Yuugenshu use. Also, I constructed a black sheath made of chrome ceramic, and it is placed in the wardrobe. You'll be able to use them should there be any emergencies during the period when I'm not around."
The machine crystal <Iris> shall temporarily remove herself from the role of assisting him.
As he is normally dependent on her in various different aspects, he could not help but feel a little uneasy. However, there was no helping it this time round.
"I guess that's all you can do. Eyriey, I'll leave Iris in your hands."
"Alright. Then I shall make my move."
Eyriey tied the necklace with the machine crystal <Iris> on her neck.
"—Ah, right. Due to this, regarding the research on the regularity of the appearance of Yuugenshu that we were talking about earlier......"
"Mmm, but you're going to perform the diagnosis on Iris first, right?"
Just as he was done saying that, Eyriey showed a mischievous smile and crossed her arms to make a '×' shape.
"I was only half done with what I wanted to say. In regards to that request of yours, how about I introduce you to a friend of mine? She's a girl named Kagura. She has a slightly weird personality, but she is incredibly strong when it comes to analysis."
"Well— it's not like we are on really good terms with each other. We only got to know each other at the finals of the <<Homemade-Calculator Contest>> held by the Mechanical Bureau of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
"What competition is that?"
"Participants are the calculator-fanatics from all over the floating continent. There's a total of one thousand and five hundred participants."
"No wait, that's quite a strange amount of people! To think that it's actually more than the number of guards in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>!"
Then again, it was indeed very much like Eyriey's style of making new friends.
"Putting that aside, I initially didn't know that she was working in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. After that, I bumped into her not too long ago, and so I greeted her with 'Ah, long time no see' and such."
"Ahhh, I see. Which means that the girl works for the Mechanical Bureau?"
"No, I didn't ask her yet. It's not like I'm interested in which department she works in."
The girl shook her head very quickly.
"In any case, help me find her, Sheltis. I'll do a check on the electronic name list of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> later. Well then, that's all!"
With the necklace of the machine crystal <Iris> worn on her neck, Eyriey picked up a half-assembled machine with one of her arms and took off.
Sheltis looked at her tiny back as she left his room.
As he stood in the center of the silent room, Sheltis took a deep breath.
— I wonder how Ymy's doing.
As he thought about the face of the girl who is now taking on the role of a Priestess, Sheltis leaned his body against the chair.
The last time the both of them met was two weeks ago, during the night when he was sent to the tower's hospital. Since he knew about the hectic workloads of a Priestess, he could not help but worry if Ymy was pushing her body too hard despite her fatigue.
"So it's also the job of a Sennenshi to worry about things like that huh......"
Not only do they have to protect the Priestesses, they have to care about the Priestesses' body and mind as well.
And that was something that he learned after visiting the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon> with the Sennenshi Leon and the ex-apprentice-Priestess Monica.
Leaning against the back of the chair, he looked up into the ceiling and bit his lower lips in bitterness.
"Forget about the Sennenshi...... the entry to become a regular guard is already so difficult."
To become a regular guard, one must form a team consisting of at least three cadet guards, and take up missions issued by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. However, he has not joined any team yet.
Even though he had already made a promise with her, he was being rejected by the promotion system of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
— I can't make Ymy wait. I'll have to shake off my rank of a cadet guard as quickly as possible, so that she can be at ease.
Despite his desire to become a regular guard, there was nothing that he could focus his attention on. The only thing that had changed were his worries, which were gradually accumulating thicker and thicker, like snow.
"I know I can't act with undue haste, but time is still going by way too quickly."
The electronic calender on his desk was giving off a blue glow in the field where it was displaying the date.
— It's already time for that.
The handover ceremony for Hyouketsu Kyoukai.
It has been exactly a month since he entered Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, and it was getting closer and closer to the ceremony where the Queen hands over the barrier to the Priestesses.