Four-thirty in the morning.
The cloudless spherical sky above his head was of the colors of the night, in which the stars were still shining brightly. The horizon at the far end was faintly glowing red from the sun's rays, indicating that it was close to dawn.
With the remnant of the cold air of the night lingering around his skin, he took a deep breath.
His lungs were filled with cold air. The comfortable chilliness was gradually causing his sleepy body to awaken. Sheltis had always love this feeling.
"...... Mmm...... phew......"
Neck, shoulders, arms. He slowly relaxed his whole body patiently before injecting strength and tensing up his muscle fibers which had loosened from his stay in the hospital.
He could feel a slight presence from behind him due to that person's steps on the grass.
"Has your body already recovered fully? Didn't you say you'll have to rest for a few more days before you can rejoin training?"
A bunch of eye-catching sakura-colored hair appeared beneath the cold sky.
With her hands holding onto a pair of crossed rods <Rosario>, the young girl in a set of spotlessly clean, pure-white ceremonial clothes was standing on the training ground filled with dew.
"Ah, morning, Monica. And also—"
Another girl was walking a few steps behind Monica.
Her body was small and frail. The ceremonial clothes which she wore were as ordinary as those of Monica's, but the mechanical helmet and visor which covered her head were especially striking.
"Eh? Kagura's here as well?"
"You sound like it is surprising for me to join the training. As one of the cadet guards, I must occasionally participate in the training as well...... Moreover, I was scolded by Instructor Yumelda yesterday. She instructed me to join in more often."
Can't be helped— the young girl put on a listless expression. It seemed like she was not too willing to participate in the training.
"You hate training?"
"I don't detest an adequate amount of exercise. I just find it a chore to remove my research clothes to put on my ceremonial ones. Also, the mechanical helmet is a hindrance during exercise."
*Ka*. She rapped the sides of her helmet once with her fingers.
...... So she won't remove it even during training?
"Are you curious?"
"Eh? Yeah, sorry. You noticed?"
"All thanks to my experience. I had been asked by many others before."
Kagura raised two of her fingers, perhaps to signify that there were two reasons for her wearing it.
"This visor is connected directly to the computer in the research laboratory and doubles as a screen, thus enabling me to monitor the programs even when I am out of the lab...... The second reason can be explained simply by this: I am a People of Nell. You should understand, right?"
"Mmm. I've seen a few of your kind in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>"
Compared to 'humans', the ears of People of Nell are long and pointy, and covered with fur like that of a cat's — this is due to the fact that the People of Nell live in the cold parts of the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>, which resulted in that evolutionary trait. Their long ears allow them to pick up sounds in a blizzard, while the warm fur helps to fight against the cold.
"My ears will be open for all to see once I remove my helmet. I hate being stared at just because I am one of the People of Nell. I hope you will not judge me based just on my appearances alone."
Kagura placed her hands at the sides of the helmet where her ears were located inside. Her lips were pursed into a straight line.
"...... That's quite a straightforward answer from you."
"Mmm, it's because you're in a situation similar to mine. Take for example this coat of mine."
He insisted on wearing the old black ceremonial clothes instead of the white ones issued to him by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. He had no option but to do so due to the mateki in his body. Even so, it was still difficult for him to get used to the strange stares from others. Since he can understand those feelings, he will not allow himself to judge others based on looks.
"...... You're right."
Kagura nodded her head as she said that bitterly.
"In that case, I guess the two of us are actually quite similar—"
Just as she was saying that.
"Ah, n-nothing of that sort! You haven't even gained the slightest bit of recognition from me! I am still treating you with a clear sense of wariness and animosity!"
"I know. Also, I'll only be practicing for a maximum of an hour before heading back to my room."
Just then— the silent Monica lifted her head. Her gaze was fixed on the twin swords placed on the bench.
"Since you've brought them here, it means you're planning to participate in the training?"
"The doctor told me it's okay to swing my swords for an hour or so."
He thought of his twin swords which were made of brilliantly shining purple crystals. He grabbed hold of the unsheathed swords to reaffirm their feel in his hands.
After much begging to his main doctor, he finally obtained permission to undergo training after many difficulties. Despite the fact that there was still a long way to go before he could join in the mock battles, he had at least obtained permission to swing his swords by himself.
The reason for doing that was because he could no longer do nothing after seeing Ymy's performance yesterday.
"It is quite a waste to use that precious hour to train under the dark skies as the sun will be out in about two to three hours time...... Then again, you will probably be found out by Instructor Yumelda if you do that. Should that happens, the length of your training will probably not be limited to just an hour."
"That's right. That's why I must stretch myself now."
He grabbed onto one of the swords with his left hand, and lifted the other horizontally with his right—
He slashed the right sword at the air at the exact same time as he breathed. The purplish glowing sword cleaved the emptiness before him in two as though it was parting the sea.
It was as precise as an accurate scale.
He could feel the weight of the molecules of air and the specks of dusts via the edge of the blade.
— That feels pretty good.
The 'restrain' and the 'release' of his strength were good enough to allow him to accurately sever a drop of water with his blade. The actualization of that was due to his well-trained nervous system as well as his mental state. Both of them were of no difference compared to their state two weeks ago when he was not yet hospitalized.
— What about moving?
His brain questioned his body.
Despite the slow responses of his muscles, which was purely due to a temporal slackness caused by a long period of rest. And once he knew his responses were dulled, he could come up with the correct countermeasures.
— No problem.
After realizing the problem, Sheltis stomped against the ground and flew towards the air. With three diagonal slashes from the right sword and two horizontal cleaves from the left, he cut out the ideal paths for the blades.
He swung the twin swords hard in the air.
Horizontal sweeps, cleaves, heavy slashes and uppercuts.
After sketching out the ideal paths in his mind, he began implementing the movements one by one. Scars of the air - vacuums resulting from the slashing of the emptiness - appeared before him, and before they could disappear completely, new vacuums were etched by the other sword. His movements were swift and sharp. The audience was rendered breathless from his swordplay which flashed past their eyes.
After swinging the final move, he leaped forward and landed at the ground faraway in front of him—
The pain and sounds of his body chapping reverberated in his mind.
...... So it's still too much for me to take?
He began to take in deep breaths as he pressed his hands against his temple so as to quell the burdens of his body.
"Are you okay?"
"Mmm...... looks like I have not recovered fully yet. I thought I had held myself back quite a lot already."
"You idiot, how's that holding yourself back!?"
The dumbfounded Monica crossed her arms and shot a meaningful look to the young girl beside her.
"What do you think?"
"...... I should have prepared video cameras in advance. His movements are abnormal. There is no way we can catch those high-speed motions with our naked eyes."
There was a rare enthusiasm to be heard from Kagura's voice.
"What were those moves just now? Were you practicing on a predefined set of moves?"
"It's nothing as serious as what you've said. All I had done was to come up with a random set of moves in my mind before acting them out with my body."
"So those were done impromptu...... are you a freak?"
"It's not like that."
"That is the minimum standard required to be able to protect the Priestesses. Actually, I don't think that's enough. If you think I am incredible as compared to the rest of the people, that's because you are comparing me against the other cadet guards."
The regular guards are a level above the cadet guards. Going a step higher are the fifty elites named the cadres guards — and they are also the candidates for the Sennenshi.
...... It's the cadres guards who pose the real challenge.
Only five Sennenshi are chosen from within the fifty cadres guards. The competition is unimaginably intense. Even Leon was just a cadres guard two years ago as well. Also, Sheltis was once among the fifty. All the cadres guards are highly skilled, and thus the intense competition between them. Sheltis has had enough experience with this three years ago.
"I see. I am indeed looking at thing from the point-of-view of a cadet guard. That also means that your words are right where I wanted them to be......"
"Sheltis, you are indeed the person of three years ago—"
Just as Kagura was saying that with an expression of praise.
*Kacha*. The sound of the safety of a gun being disengaged came from far behind their back.
It's already too late to warn Kagura of what was going on. Having come to that conclusion within a split second, Sheltis turned his body around and swung the twin swords in midair.
The bullet was a silenced one. From the angle of the barrel that he could faintly see, he worked out the path of the bullet.
The bullet was deflected away along with the sound of clashing metal.
"...... W-What are you two doing!?"
Kagura was the first to shout.
One of them was a dual gunner wearing a large ceremonial coat, while the other was a young girl dressed in a skirt. The badges of the regular guards were clearly visible on their left arms.
Jin and I'sa. The two people whom he had seen just yesterday were walking towards them leisurely.
"You're really something to be able to respond just from the sound of the safety disengagement."
"...... What do you mean by 'you're really something'? Attacking from the back isn't something that should be coming from a regular guard."
Kagura berated them furiously as she suppressed her shock. Her sight was focused on the jet-black pistol in the hands of the dual gunner — the barrel was still emitting thin trails of white smoke.
"Please stop with these horrible jokes of yours. I'll be reporting to the instructor for what you have done earlier—"
"Hold on, Kagura. It's not like that. They were not aiming for us."
"...... Huh? What are you talking about, Sheltis?"
"What I mean is, we were not their target."
Using the blade that he had used earlier to parry the bullet, Sheltis pointed towards the direction of the ground. It was a black trail that streaked past the turf. Judging from its direction, it would have only grazed past Sheltis, Kagura and Monica and made its way towards the trunk of the tree.
"I had deflected the bullet out of reflex. The bullet would not have hit us anyway."
"It's great that you understand. It would be troublesome for us if you complain to Instructor Yumelda or the Boss without knowing the truth."
While combing her golden twintails, I'sa pointed her fingers in their direction,
"Mmm, you've passed. I shall permit you to join us. Follow me."
It's a pass? Join them?
Sheltis looked towards Monica and Kagura in confusion, but he was met with their gazes as well. All of them must be thinking of the same things right now.
"Sorry, but I do not get what you mean."
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
"There is a severe defect in your conversational capabilities. I can recommend you a really good doctor. You can try again once he has you fixed."
"What's with the attitudes of you all!? To think that I have specially made my way here to find you...... Umhhh?"
"Calm down, I'sa. You're not making any sense."
After covering the mouth of the girl, the dual gunner, Jin, placed his dual pistols back into the holsters at his waist.
"Sorry for frightening you guys with that sudden snipe of mine. That was me playing along with I'sa's silly plan of 'testing your capabilities by attacking you in secret', which had resulted in what happened earlier. However, the results were within our expectations."
"What's your motive?"
Monica asked without blinking an eye.
"It's just like what I'sa had said. We are here to invite the twin sword wielder to join a group of four regular guards, which includes me and I'sa, to take on a mission."
Both Jin and I'sa were looking at Sheltis,
"We've lost contact with a group of cadet guards who were patrolling the nature sector about twenty-nine hours ago. We have no idea if it was a malfunction of the communication devices, or if they had encountered any sort of mishap...... the headquarters deemed it as a mishap, and had thus dispatched a rescue team. That was something that happened yesterday morning, twenty-two hours ago."
"Mmm, I heard that from Instructor Yumelda already."
The members of the team consisted of a group of cadet guards selected under a set of strict criteria. Sheltis would have been recommended as well if not for his injuries.
"That rescue team suddenly stopped responding to our calls six hours ago."
Jin's tone became stern. As for I'sa who was standing by his side, her eyes showed nervousness which was never before seen from her.
"Six hours ago, the rescue team sent a SOS signal to us. Just as Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was about to ascertain the situation, there was a deafening roar from the other side of the speakers — and that was all we've got."
"...... Is it the Yuugenshu?"
Monica raised her head questioningly.
Despite not quite sounding like a roar, the mateki of the Yuugenshu do carry with them a strange sound. The rescue team may very well have encountered a strong Yuugenshu.
"No. The analysis team is currently analyzing the sound, but it seemed to be different from the mateki of the Yuugenshu. To add on, it does not sound like the cry of a harmful beast."
I'sa replied as she combed her cascading hair with her fingers.
"In other words, the cause of their mishap is unknown. The rescue headquarters has deemed the situation to be serious, and has thus decided to dispatch an official team which comprises of regular guards and apprentice-Priestesses for the rescue mission. I'sa and I are summoned to the team."
"...... I now understand what is going on, but why are you inviting me into an official team?"
For an official team which comprises of regular guards and above, there are cases where the cadet guards will be allowed to join the team to train and study under them. However, it is rare for that to happen when it comes to an important mission like this.
"This is a good opportunity for you to learn."
Jin continued calmly without any change in his expression.
"Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is in need of outstanding guards. Back during the two-man team battle...... I'sa and I could not understand why we had to fight against the cadet guards. However, we've finally understood the reason behind Instructor Yumelda's request. With your skills, you should be promoted to a regular guard in no time."
"If that's the case, then it will be good for you to amass some experience, isn't it so?"
On one side was the calm and collected Jin, and on the other was I'sa with her haughty smile. Despite the vast differences in their attitudes, Sheltis could not detect any malice coming from them.
"Did someone recommend me? People like Instructor Yumelda, for example."
"You must think it's strange, but the answer is no. Neither the instructors nor the Sennenshi have interfered in this. The team originally consisted of only the two of us, but I'sa mentioned you suddenly."
"J-Jin! You don't have to tell him that!"
The young girl hastily nudged the sides of the dual gunner with her elbow.
"...... Uhh, fine. Since Jin has revealed it already, I might as well as be honest about it."
I'sa stretched out her finger and pointed towards Sheltis with a lofty smile on her face.
"Listen up. I really hate losing. Ever since our horrible defeat in that team battle, I have been dying to have a rematch with you. The reason for inviting you to the rescue team is so that you can see for yourself just how much I've improved — and you have to thank me for that. There's not much chance for a cadet guard to be part of a team that consists of regular guards."
"But, like I had said earlier, I am still recuperating."
"It sure doesn't look like it from the way you were swinging your swords earlier on...... Putting the jokes aside, the mission is practically done with with me and Jin in the team. All you need to do is to be in charge of the records and communications. If that's the case, then there's no need for you to be personally involved in it."
...... So she has planned out everything already.
Her proposal made Sheltis really happy. Having been ostracized by the other cadet guards and put in a situation where he could not join any squad, he had never expected the regular guards to invite him into their team.
"It's decided then. Go get yourself prepared, we'll be setting off in an hour."
"But forgive me for rejecting your offer this time."
I'sa blinked her jade-colored eyes.
"The doctor had specially instructed me not to take part in any training before my recovery...... Moreover, I've something urgent to attend to, which may take up a lot of my time."
And so, I'm sorry — Sheltis shrugged his shoulders slightly in apology.
"Looks like it is really not fated to be. Let's go, I'sa."
"It can't be helped. Whatever, we'll definitely defeat you in the next team battle so that you'll be convinced of our strength. Make sure your body is completely healed before that happens."
After flashing a meaningful wink at Sheltis, I'sa flipped her skirt as she made a half-turn and chased up to Jin in a light jog.
After watching their backs disappear from their sights—
"When you were talking about the urgent matter, were you referring to me analyzing the Yuugenshu?"
Kagura broke the silence with her question.
"That's one of the reasons. It's also because Monica had just invited me into her squad. Under these situations, it will be too selfish of me to join the team of others and leave Kagura to analyze the Yuugenshu by yourself."
"Of course. I will definitely not help someone as selfish as that."
Kagura turned her body away after saying that.
"Hmm? Where are you heading to, Kagura?"
"The research laboratory. Since the matter on the Yuugenshu is really urgent...... I'll not make you wait longer for it. Ahh, it's not like my opinion of you has improved due to what had just happened. It's simply me wanting to beat Eyriey, that's all. Please do not get the wrong idea."
Kagura left without looking back.
"...... So I still cannot win her trust after all?"
"At the very least, it is much better than when she first met you. But that's quite the problem. I have no idea if she will be joining the squad with the way things are going."
Monica was putting on a complicated expression as she crossed her arm. Sheltis has no idea if that was her feeling troubled or at ease.
"We'll have to think of a way for you to gain her trust.."
"...... You're right."
As he could not bring himself to look straight into Monica's face, Sheltis turned his head away lightly instead.
Telling her his past in order to obtain Kagura's trust...... is something that can never be done. He'll spark a huge uproar should the existence of a young man who possess mateki in his body due to falling into the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> come into light.
But on the other hand, they will not be able to get the minimum number of members required for the squad should he fail to obtain Kagura's trust. If that's the case, he will not gain access to the missions required to be promoted to a regular guard — he was at a loss of what to do.
"...... What should I do?"
Without any concrete ideas in his mind, the only thing Sheltis could do was to raise his head and stare at the sky blankly.
Rays of the sun shone through the stained glass. The rays were dyed with the colors of the glass, resulting in the pure white corridor being decorated by the multicolored lights.
The well-lit corridor was spacious and silent.
The two hundred and ninetieth story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Out of the two hundred and ninety one stories of the sky-scraping tower, it is the level which is located directly below the floor of <<Paradise>>. It is only accessible via an elevator that serves certain special floors, including those where the Priestesses live in.
"...... It's so quiet."
The silence was absolute and overbearing. The corridor was dead quiet, and the air was clear and transparent.
It was as if sound dreaded that solemn space.
"...... It's really quiet."
Ymy walked along the lengthy corridor as she listened to her murmurs echo in the passageway.
There is only a single named room on this vast floor.
Queen Salah's <<Atrium of Dreams>>.
It's the room that belongs to the Queen, the holder of the absolute position within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> — a private room where the Queen can rest herself sufficiently during the three day rest period after praying for Hyouketsu Kyoukai for nearly a month.
The place is rarely visited even by the Priestesses. Meimel claimed that she will visit the place occasionally due to 'private matters', but this was only the second time that Ymy was here.
...... My heart is beating so fast.
There may be some who may laugh at her if she as a Priestess was nervous about coming to this place. However, just like how the residents of the living sector see the Priestesses as the embodiments of holiness, the Priestesses revere the Queen from the bottom of their hearts. It is no easy task to pray for the barrier continuously for a month — and it is because that they know for themselves just how difficult and painful that was, that the Queen became the person whom the Priestesses yearn to emulate.
At the end of the corridor.
What stood before her was a giant metallic door that made her raise her head subconsciously to view it. Aside from being coated in a bright silver color like that of mercury, the door was decorated in the colors gold and sky-blue all over.
"Sorry for interrupting."
Ymy made a deep bow in front of the door and placed her hand on the lock.
"Authenticating...... connection to Shinryoku Authority Bureau normal...... checking...... match found of the wave pattern of shinryoku............ verifying......
Verified to be fifth Priestess - Ymy Ele Soufflenictole."
The only key that can open that door is the wave pattern of shinryoku. The door will not react to anyone other than the five Priestesses and their Sennenshi, as well as the few attendants.
*Gi......* The door opened from both sides along with a solemn sound.
On the other side of the door was a dazzling blue sky.
Three of the four sides of the room were surrounded by glass walls, and beyond those walls is the sky two thousand meters off the ground.
Even though the room was located in the center of the tower, Ymy could somehow see the skies through the walls. However, her inquiry was soon drowned by the majestic scene of the sky before her.
The room was paved with a pure white carpet.
The daily necessities are kept on a small table in a corner and in a wardrobe. That was nothing surprising, considering the fact that the room will only be used for three days every month. However, the room was a bit too empty in contrast with the solemn and magnificent image of the Queen.
There was only a large canopy bed in the middle of the room.
The canopy with drapes flowing down from above was made out of pale red lace. Next to it was a layer of translucent cloth with frills on the sides.
There was a silhouette of a person behind the sheer cloth.
"Good afternoon, Ymy. Sorry for making you wait."
"N-Not at all! I am the one who should be sorry...... for interrupting your rest!"
Ymy replied respectfully when she heard the voice of the Queen.
...... What to do what to do!?
She had cleanly forgotten the words that she had prepared earlier. All she could do was to squeeze out those awkward words from her mouth.
"There is no need for you to be prudish."
The silhouette of the Queen trembled slightly behind the lace canopy.
"Please take a seat. The chair is over there. Feel free to help yourself to the water in the teapot should you be thirsty."
"A-Alright. Thank you."
Ymy finally settled down after hearing the surprisingly easy-going speech from the Queen....... though it may be just the Queen acting in consideration of her. Still, it is hard for her to get used to pompous speech.
Speaking of which.
— Queen Salah's voice sounds surprisingly young?
Perhaps it is because Ymy was used to hearing her stately voice in official situations. Upon conversing with the Queen privately in a relaxed manner, the Queen sounds much younger than usual. No, actually, it is more accurate to say that she sounds more innocent. Probably around the age of twenty...... no, perhaps even younger——?
"Your speech was excellent. The event was really lively."
She exhaled the breath that she had held in her lungs due to her nervousness.
"W-Wha...... D-Did you see everything, Queen Salah!?"
"Mhmm. From this very room."
...... T-That's so embarrassing.
My cheeks are so hot, and my ears must be red as well.
"T-That...... was just me being too full of myself."
"Not at all. I thought it was a really important inspiration from you — but let's not talk about that for now." Behind the sheer cloth, the silhouette of the Queen was getting up slowly
"You have something that you want to discuss with me, don't you?"
Ymy was snapped back to reality in an instant. It was just as if the Queen had seen through her thoughts. She straightened her back on reflex.
"I am the only other person here, so feel free to speak your mind."
Ymy tried to calm herself down by grabbing onto the vestment in front of her chest. The questions that she wanted to ask and the things that she wanted to know. It would be a month before she can see the Queen again should she miss the chance to do so now. She had to clear her queries right away.
"If you may, please tell me everything about mateki."
"That's surprising. To think that you, a Priestess, would like to know more about the mateki. What do you wish to know about it?"
She could feel the gaze of the Queen through the translucent canopy.
"...... If someone is to possess mateki within his body, would there be anyway to purify it?"
"The baptism shinryoku arts that can purify mateki — is it not the art that you excel at the most?"
She stared at her fingers that were placed on her chest.
White fingers with sakura-colored nails. A month ago, those fingers were dyed with her own blood.
"Strange...... Why...... can't both of us...... do something as simple...... as holding hands......"
The boy that I was yearning for had finally returned. I wanted to hug him out of joy — however, despite reuniting after being apart for two years, the two of us could not even touch each other.
Elbert Resonance. The intense pain brought about by the sparks that injured both of us and what was close to driving me crazy — it is the result of the repulsion of my shinryoku and his mateki.
Two weeks ago, the machine crystal <Ilis> said this.
"...... There's only one explanation for that."
"Ymy, you are in possession of the strongest shinryoku out of the five Priestesses. The reason why you're the only person to repel Sheltis...... is because your shinryoku is too powerful."
The night before Sheltis headed off to the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>. I had finally realized the fact that Elbert Resonance will only occur between me and him.
...... Is just too cruel.
"It is mateki that I cannot purify given my current self."
The overly powerful mateki and shinryoku. Even my baptism spells were rejected by the repulsion of the two forces. After thinking over it for a long time, I realized that the Queen may be my only hope.
"If that's the case, then why don't you seek the help of the other Priestesses?"
"...... I've thought about that before as well."
I am the only one who is repulsed by Sheltis' mateki.
If Syun-rei is willing to spend the time to cast the baptism spells patiently, she may be able to do just that. However......
"I hope to do it myself."
That's right, I want to be the one to remove the mateki in him.
— Did Sheltis hear the speech that I gave yesterday?
The reason he wants to become a Sennenshi is because of me.
If so, then how should I go about to answer his feelings?
I hate waiting while doing nothing. I wish I can repay Sheltis' feelings myself.
And that is precisely why I must live up to my responsibilities...... I hope I can become a Priestess who Sheltis can be really proud of, and not just in name alone.
— To become a real Priestess of Baptism.
"I think there must be a way. Queen Salah may have the answer to it."
"How very intriguing. Let's set aside the possibility of me knowing the answer to your question for now. It seems like you are dead certain that a method to eradicate the mateki exists."
"— My confidence is based on Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code>."
She stared straight into the gaze of the Queen through the sheer cloths.
"I...... noticed it at the Grand Holy Hall. I have also personally experienced how shinryoku and mateki will repulse each other. However—
Despite being mateki as well, the Seventh True Rhythm <Eden Code> was not repulsed by the doors of the Grand Holy Hall."
She still could not forget that very moment.
Back when Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was under the assault of Yuugenshu, Syun-rei and herself were surrounded by them. The scene in which Sheltis' voice had opened the doors of the Grand Holy Hall, even though it was originally rejecting mateki.
"Mateki and shinryoku...... will repulse one another. However, I do not think that is all there is to it. It seems like there exist secrets of the mateki and shinryoku which even the Priestesses do not know."
"If that's the case, then the Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code> may possess certain special properties as well. Is that what you are thinking?"
After what felt like an eternity, the Queen behind the drapes spoke once more,
"Here's my conclusion: the possibility is almost zero. The reason is that the current Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code> is something that is 'rearranged' to become the exclusive shinryoku melody for Queen Salah, who is me."
"There is no need for you to think too hard into it. It will be difficult for me to explain everything to you clearly even if I have the whole night to do so. Moreover, there exists other possibilities within you."
It was something that is hard for her to comprehend. There should be no other methods to remove the mateki in Sheltis' body other than Seventh Heaven Rhythm <Sophia Code>.
"Is that true!? Then what—"
"Ymy, I know you are very anxious about it, but please do not forget your standing as a Priestess. As the fifth Priestess — as the Priestess of Baptism, you will have to be more adept at the baptism arts than anyone else...... do you understand what I am trying to say?"
Her emotions calmed down gradually.
...... As the Priestess of Baptism, you will have to discover the method yourself.
That was what the Queen was implying.
"...... I am very sorry."
"Fufu, it's nothing. It has been a year since you have became a Priestess. Meimel has been praising how hardworking you are. She is not one who praises others easily, you know?"
If she remembers right, Meimel frequents this floor......
"Speaking of which. I have a question for you, Ymy."
"S-Sure. May I know what it is?"
"Nothing of great importance— ah, I've said this earlier. Feel free to drink from the teapot. This room is a little dry."
"I will not hold myself back then."
...... Thank goodness. Ymy's throat and lips were parched from her nervousness.
Ymy took the swan-shaped glass teapot and poured the water into a glass on the table. She tipped the glass to her mouth as she enjoyed the cool touch of the glass.
"Ymy, what is your relationship with Sheltis Magna Yehle?"
She spat out the water in her mouth.
"Ku...... Ka...... Kha...... W-What do you mean by that?"
"He's the one who you want to treat, isn't that so? You wish to remove the mateki in his body. Are you harboring that thought as a Priestess? Or as a girl?"
"So...... you know about him?"
"It's another thing if we are talking about people who are infected by mateki. However, there is only one person on the floating continent who possesses mateki within him."
Indeed. The Queen knows everything. In another words, she had no option but to be clear about her stand.
"Both applies to me...... I think."
"Both as a Priestess and as a girl?"
Ymy nodded her head in silence. The Queen should be able to see that clearly from behind the drapes.
...... I may be scolded by her.
...... However, I will never give up these feelings of mine, regardless of the situation.
As someone who cannot abandon my own personal feelings, I may be seen as an incompetent Priestess.
"Your feelings are nothing commendable, but it's not like it is something bad either."
"You thought you'd be scolded by me? Your thoughts are written clearly on your face."
On the other side of the translucent drapes, the Queen was smiling gently as she covered her mouth with her hand.
"What I cannot accept is someone who neglects the responsibilities of a Priestess due to the excessive concerns she has for someone. That is all. One does not have to abandon her own feelings just because she is a Priestess. The two are not the same."
The Queen was rather abstract with her words. She could not discern from the Queen's tone if she was lecturing, admonishing or praising her.
"Then again, it would be too cruel of me to leave you clueless. I shall grant you a key to unlock the possibility within you."
— The possibility in me?
— A key?
"Ymy, do you know about Syun-rei's art of <<Pupils>>?
"Ah...... I do. It is an art to see the 'forms' of a person's shinryoku."
"Mhmm. Just as you've already knew, each and every Priestess has different arts in which they excel in. Yours is the baptism-type which can purify mateki, while Meimel's the barrier-type which allows her to deploy her shinryoku over a large area. And as for territorial-type which includes far-sight and telepathy — in another words, extra-sensory systems, Syun-rei is the most capable out of you all."
The arts in which they excel in.
There are some Priestesses who can use some unique spells within their excelled systems.
Syun-rei, the youngest Priestess of them all, is one of them.
"Syun-rei's <<Pupils>> can see the 'forms' of our shinryoku in each and every one of us. The 'form' represents our nature. I believe you had gotten her to take a look at yours as well, did you not?"
"...... Meimel told me about it on the day I became a Priestess, so I had Syun-rei to take a look at it."
Shinryoku are waves of miracles granted to humans at birth, and closely related to their spirits.
Its shape will represent the image of a person — that was what Meimel had said.
"In any case— whenever she looks at the 'form', it is equivalent to her peeking at the heart of the person. Syun-rei uses that ability to determine who she can trusts.
...... Under the restraints and shackles of her anthropophobia, her gifted ability provides her with a way of survival.
And then she finally found it. Out of more than a thousand guards, she found the 'form' of shinryoku that can accept her warmly, and was as brilliant as the sun — the holder of the <<Solar Stone>>.
And that person is Leon.
That is the reason why Syun-rei chose Leon to be her Sennenshi."
"So, did Meimel reveal her 'form' to you as well?"
"Yes....... I remember it was the <<Flawless Crystal>>."
No one knows for sure the criteria for her judgement.
However, Syun-rei is not a girl who lies. That must be what Meimel's shinryoku looks like her eyes.
"So returning back to the topic, do you still remember your 'form'?"
"O-Of course I do! Meimel told me I must never forget it. And so, in my own spells......"
ele So Phi-a-s Arma-Riris
<Please accept all wishes that I can grant......>
In the opening sequence when she activates her shinryoku — the word 'Arma-Riris <Amaryllis>' was entrusted within them. [TLNote: Amaryllis is a species of flowers, wiki link here]
That is my image.
"It's a flower bud, isn't it?"
On the day when she got Syun-rei to look at her own 'form', Syun-rei was carrying with her a herbarium.
"............ Ymy's 'form' is a flower bud."
"............ It looks very much like the bud of this flower."
Amaryllis — a tiny flower with crimson petals.
Much brighter than roses, and much purer than flames. That is how authentic its redness is.
"Ah...... B-But Queen Salah, what does that have to do with me?"
"You will know in the future — when your spirit grows and your image blossoms."
The Queen sounded just like an encouraging mother.
"You will take a few detours along the way, but there is only one thing which I can say — Ymy, make the possibility which belong to you bloom. That is the only way for you to fulfill your wish."
"I will put it to heart."
...... So a method does exist?
It all sounds very abstract — however, it did not seem like Queen Salah was lying just to give her hope. If so, there must be other ways of purifying the mateki in Sheltis.
That knowledge itself was a huge gain in this visit. As long as she knew there is hope...... she will be able to hang on no matter how difficult the path would be in the future.
"Thank you very much. I feel much better now."
"It is great to be of help to you. I am looking forward to your performances in the future."
"Yes. I shall be taking my leave."
Ymy gave a deep bow before leaving the <<Atrium of Dreams>>.
After the Priestess with pale golden hair had left the room.
Queen Salah — the lady who was named as such heaved a loud sigh.
It was a voice which makes one think of the tender green leaves. Her voice was much more childish compared to the one used in official situations or when she was talking to Ymy earlier — it was the voice of a young girl.
"It's tough. It was really tough picking the right time to tell her."
She sighed as she stretched her arms to lift the sheer drapes of the canopy. Her eyes narrowed in response to the blinding rays of the sun. She then placed the drapes down again.
"It's still so bright outside...... I was thinking of going to the large bath, but I will probably garner lots of unwanted attention should I go at a time like this. Looks like I have no choice but to wait until the sky is dark."
In any case, she could hardly move her body due to the fatigue from praying for Hyouketsu Kyoukai for a month. She would have to rest a while longer.
"I'll rest until the night."
Salah laid herself back on the bed as she murmured that.
Eleventh story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, dormitory of the cadet guards.
"Next, question number thirty-two. Please answer this question by putting yourself in the shoes of a Yuugenshu. You are now a Yuugenshu that has just broken past the barrier and is now attacking the floating continent. What will your very first targets be: humans or buildings?"
"...... Probably not humans."
"Question number thirty-three. Your reason for that?"
"That's how most of the Yuugenshu I have seen acted."
"Which means to say you are speculating based on similar happenings? Well then, question number thirty-four—"
"W-Wait! Let me rest for a while. Also, there are questions that I want to ask you as well!"
While sitting on a chair, Sheltis raised his hands up to interrupt the young girl who was keying in data at high speed.
"If you wish to ask me things pertaining to my questions, then I am sorry to say that I cannot answer. Feel free to ask me anything else."
The young girl in front of him — Kagura, remained staring at the screen. She continued to type on the keyboards of the computers with her nimble fingers while conversing with him.
"Urm...... how much longer till it is over?"
"Just like I had said earlier on, I will have to amass a certain amount of data before I can use them as references to derive the patterns of the movements of Yuugenshu."
"I have already been answering your questions for one whole hour."
"It's because you are always hesitating with your answers. Monica only took half of the amount of time you used. Isn't that right, Monica?"
Kagura turned towards the direction of the girl with sakura-colored hair, who nodded her head in agreement.
"Yeah. Though my questions were different from yours. I answered them all with my gut feelings."
"That's right. You have yet to hypnotize yourself as a Yuugenshu, Sheltis. You have to integrate yourself into the role better."
"...... I'll try my best."
He took a deep breath and braced himself.
It all began when he was done with his dinner on the thirty-sixth story of the tower and had returned back to his room.
Kagura and Monica barged into his room at just the right time, and that was how the lengthy conversation started. Since it was something related to his request to Kagura, Sheltis was more than willing to help. However, it was a little draining to answer questions for an hour straight.
"Rest time's over. Question number thirty-four. Please answer this question by putting yourself in the shoes of a Yuugenshu. To your left is a fallen beauty, and to your right is a stout swordsman with a sword in his hand. Who will you attack?"
"...... That's a difficult one."
In the end—
It was two hours later when Kagura finally stopped her hands from keying in any more data.
"That should be roughly it. It's been hard on you."
"Yes. I am now doing the fine-tuning, so I no longer require any more assistance from the two of you. Thank you for your help too, Monica."
Kagura informed them simply before directing her attention back to the screen. Even though her eyes were hidden beneath the visors, it felt like she did not even blink her eyes once.
"That was really long."
"It's not my fault."
Sheltis sighed in response to Monica's pitying smile and sat on the bed.
Different from Kagura's laboratory which is of a decent size, his room was built specifically for the cadet guards' use. Not only was the place small, there were also not enough chairs for the three of them.
"Sorry for looking around...... but this room feels very neutral in terms of gender," said Monica as she scanned the room enthusiastically.
"Well, my room......"
"Actually, Monica's room is much emptier. Since she owns very little cosmetics or casual clothes, she does not need much space to store them."
Monica was rendered speechless momentarily from the words of the sharp-eared Kagura.
"K-Kagura! How about you focus on your analysis instead of wasting your time talking about other people's room? Didn't you boast that you will have the results ready by today?"
"I am done with it."
Thousands of lines of characters gushed on the screen like waves. When the characters vanished, what was left on the screen were the words 'Analysis Results'.
"— Simply put, it's 'an unexpected result that is within expectations'. I'll print it out."
The printer on the desk was activated immediately as Kagura touched the screen with her finger. Two sets of two-page data were printed within seconds.
"Here. Please take a look at it, Sheltis and Monica."
"Urm...... the first page is filled with mathematical formulas. Are those the calculation results?"
The whole paper was filled to the brim with formulas. It was not just filled with equal and unequal signs, but also with other mathematical symbols which Sheltis has never seen before.
"That's right. To explain it in laymen's terms, this is what I meant by 'an unexpected result that is within expectations'. One can understand how illogical the actions of Yuugenshu are after taking a look at this data. They have strayed far from human logic."
After printing a copy of the data for herself, Kagura pointed at the top of the sheet and continued,
"For example, what would the Yuugenshu attack first — humans or buildings? If it is humans, then would the priority be on the adults or the children? The males or the females? Also, who would have a higher chance of being attacked — those who wear red or those who wear yellow? As for the buildings, would the hotels be prioritized, or would it be the office buildings? I have asked both Sheltis and Monica questions like these earlier, and the conclusion that I've obtained is that they are 'totally undependable'."
"The answers from both of us?"
"Yes. I can see a certain trend from both answers. For example, Monica will give priority to the stronger opponents, while Sheltis will tend to choose foes that are easier to defeat. However, the Yuugenshu do not have any inclinations of that sort. It's like they are picking their targets by chance."
"Since they do not choose their targets, it means that they are attacking at random?"
"That's the most problematic part. We cannot assume that."
Beneath her visor, Kagura continued with a serious tone,
"How should I put it...... I feel that certain rules do exist among the Yuugenshu, although they are something unknown to us and cannot be converted to a mathematical model for now. Then again, that view has long been discussed to death in past researches."
"Meaning to say, there is nothing we can do until we discover their rules?"
Kagura's mysterious smile deepened.
It was as if she was waiting for him to say that all this time.
"In any case, I'll explain it later. Do not think about it for now. Let us go straight to the second page."
Both of them flipped to the second piece of paper as she urged.
Different from the earlier form of presentation, the next page was a diagram filled with lots of colorful symbols. There were plenty of red ▲ markings scattered all over the map of the floating continent. There were also blue lines connecting various parts of the floating continent together.
...... What an intriguing diagram.
The red ▲ and the blue lines. It was hard to locate areas where the red and blue intersect — perhaps it was because of the difference in the data used and represented.
"You should have already realized that this is the map of the floating continent. The red ▲ symbols represents areas where the Yuugenshu has appeared twice or more. And then...... based on those results, the blue lines show the possible areas where the Yuugenshu can show up in the future."
"Hold on, Kagura. I have a question. Since those red ▲ represents areas of high frequency, wouldn't it be more logical to view those areas as the possible places where the Yuugenshu will appear next?"
"Past data means nothing when we are dealing with the Yuugenshu."
Kagura's voice was filled with an absolute confidence in reply to Monica's question.
"The areas with two or more occurrences are probably nothing more than just pure coincidences. What I did was to go against the thought patterns of humans — first, I assumed that the choices made by Sheltis, Monica and I are good enough to represent those made by a majority of humans. I then keyed in totally opposite results into the database for analysis."
"...... And was it successful?"
"How could that be?"
Kagura was quick to dismiss her actions.
"Ultimately, the computer is designed to analyze, following rules set by human beings. God knows the number of times messages like 'formulation error' and 'error: calculations exceeded predefined settings' have occured — that's right, everything was within my expectations. It would be problematic if they weren't."
Her voice was filled with an enthusiasm and emotions previously unseen from her.
And a self-confidence which they never knew of.
"The trails of the blue lines represent the areas where the errors occurred. After hundreds and thousands of errors, a boundary is then formed by connecting all the unknown areas together."
Beyond the boundaries of human logic.
Beyond the settings of the man-made computers.
Forcing the occurrences of the illogical results and stringing them together to form an unknown boundary line. So that was what Kagura had came up with — was that her interpretation of the rules of the Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden> in which the Yuugenshu resides in?
"Along the blue line are a few areas marked by the symbol ●. They are places where it took the most effort to filter out — simply put, they are places with the highest 'illogical' ratio."
"...... There are five in total."
Two in the nature sector, and three in the ecosystem-conservation sector <biotope>.
Those are the possible places where the Yuugenshu may appear at.
"And that concludes my explanation. Despite the short amount of time, I did this with all of my sincerity. I will answer any queries which you may have."
"I know nothing about the technical aspects of the report."
Sheltis looked straight at Kagura as he grabbed onto the papers tightly.
"But thank you. I'll make sure the data is put to good use."
"Alright. But like I had said earlier, I will only help you once. I did it because of Eyriey and Monica. Please do not assume I will be providing you with any more assistance."
"...... You sure are strict."
"I can reconsider things if you are willing to answer 'that question'...... Putting that aside, what are you planning to do, Monica? Will you be accompanying Sheltis in his quest to verify my analysis results? I'll remind you now that this is not within the domains of missions. Not only will you not receive any reward points, there is also a high possibility that you will be doing it all in vain."
Kagura's doubts were harsh but reasonable.
It was Sheltis who had requested for the analysis, so Monica has no obligation to participate in the verification of the results. Rather than to waste her time on things like this, it would be much better for her to clear some missions and earn reward points.
...... Monica should be aiming to get herself promoted to the ranks of regular guard as quickly as possible.
He glanced at her quietly — Sheltis then held his breath due to his surprise from what he saw.
...... Monica was actually smiling?
"I'll follow Sheltis wherever he goes."
The girl nodded, and her long sakura-colored hair swayed along with her action.
A barely noticeable smile appeared on the edge of her lips.
"To the cadet guards, this may be something unrelated to the missions. However, I invited Sheltis into the squad because I want to be promoted to the regular guards together with him. I am willing to do it."
"...... Do you really believe in Sheltis?"
"Well, it is just like how Kagura believes in me."
The silence from Kagura was longer than any of her previous ones.
"...... I am very interested about my analysis results as well."
She crossed her arms in slight frustration.
"It is not like me to just provide you two with the data and leave the rest of the work in your hands. Sheltis, call me before heading out on the investigation. I will be coming along as well."
"Are you okay with that?"
"I would not come along if my friend <Monica> was not going. Moreover, I was planning to personally verify my research as well. And should the Yuugenshu appear in the predicted areas...... though I am not dying to see them, it would prove that my theory is right."
Kagura turned around.
"Well then, I'll be going off now. It's already late into the night...... oops......"
Her body suddenly leaned towards her side.
"I-It's alright, Monica. I'm just...... very tired from staying awake and focusing for thirty-three consecutive hours."
She stood up wobbly and pressed her hand against the table at her side to regulate her breathing.
"Geez, you've not changed a bit."
"Mmm. I'll take a snooze after a hot water bath."
Under the supervision of Monica who was putting on a wry smile, Kagura walked slowly through the corridor. Sheltis could not help but to knit his eyebrows as he looked the sight of her frail back.
"...... Somehow, I feel really apologetic when I see her like this."
Thirty-three hours. The time period mentioned by Kagura was the time difference from when he first met her until their separation not too long ago. In other words, Kagura was focused on the job of analysis without having taken a rest ever since she had accepted his request.
...... Though she seemed so unwilling to at the beginning.
"I am already used to it. That is just how she is. Speaking of which, what should we do with this?"
Monica shut the door quietly. Her hands was still holding onto the two pieces of paper given to her by Kagura.
"There is no need to hurry. But since we've already obtained the data, should we visit one of the spots?"
"Let's begin from the place closest to us."
The blue trail that was sketched on the map of the floating continent. The areas on it that were not marked by ▲ are the places predicted by Kagura to be where the Yuugenshu would be appearing next.
Two of those places are located in the nature sector, while three are in ecosystem-conservation sector <biotope>. And the place closest to them is—
"Sector four in the western area of the nature sector huh...... it's not close to us, but not far away either. Too close to travel to by aircraft, but it would take around five to six hours by the transport vehicles of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
"We can treat it as a sightseeing trip. It's a giant plain, which makes it perfect for an outing."
As Monica stared at the data, Sheltis booted up the terminal that was installed in his room for the guards' use. After keying in the ID on his badge and the password, he began applying for a four-seater transport vehicle through the Law Enforcement Bureau.
Monica watched from behind him as he was doing all that. She then suddenly pulled her face close to his.
"Oh, did Eyriey contact you or something? There is something I am quite concerned about."
"If you are talking about the same thing which I requested of Kagura, I have not received any notification yet. She said that the checks on the machine crystal <Ilis> were very time-consuming, so we may have to wait a while longer."
Did you just think of something— Monica stared hesitantly into blank space when Sheltis asked her that question.
"Well, what I am concerned about is...... it would be for the best if Eyriey and Kagura's analysis results were the same. However...... I apologize for saying this, but the possibility of that is extremely low."
It's not hard to see the reasoning behind Monica's words.
Since he had entrusted two person with the task at the same time, there should be some differences between their analysis. If that's the case, then whose result should they trust and act on?
"Who would you believe?"
"Both of them."
Sheltis shrugged his shoulders in response to the difficult question from the young girl, and continued with a relaxed voice,
"I will verify each and every area regardless of whether it came from Kagura or Eyriey. It would be our win if we discover something. If not, I'll just view it as a case of bad luck."
"If that is what you think, we may just really have to travel around the whole continent."
Monica could not help but laugh. She then turned her body away.
"Let's part for tonight. Please contact me once you have something from Eyriey."
"Understood. Well then, good night."
The girl left the room after nodding her head in acknowledgement. When he confirmed that the sounds of her footsteps have disappeared outside his door, Sheltis directed his sight back at the terminal.
...... There was something that he did not tell Monica earlier on.
"Is this just a coincidence? If that's the case......"
He began typing into the terminal while calming down his increased heart rate.
The registration page for transport vehicles appeared on the screen. One could see a list of people in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> who were using the transport vehicles.
"User: I'sa Isu Ishmeal
Purpose: Emergency orders (others)
Destination: Western area of the nature sector, sector four"
"It's exactly the same."
He was supporting his face with his arms. On the side of his elbow was the diagram made by Kagura, which showed patterns of where the Yuugenshu might appear next.
The five ● markings represent areas of the highest possibility. Out of which, the closest ● marking to Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> is sector four of western area of the nature sector.
In another words, the destination for the transport vehicle which he was about to apply for happened to be the same as that of the puppeteer <I'sa> and the dual gunner <Jin>.
"Do coincidences...... really exist?"
The mission of the two is to rescue the cadet guards whom they had lost contact with, and the destination is Kagura's predicted area where the Yuugenshu will appear.
"Six hours ago, the rescue team sent a SOS signal to us. Just as Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> was about to ascertain the situation, there was a deafening roar from the other side of the speakers — and that was all we've got."
"The cause of their mishap is unknown."
"...... Unknown cause of mishap huh?"
Contact was lost with the team of cadet guards who were investigating the nature sector. The whereabouts of the first rescue team was also unknown. And now, they were dispatching the second team of regular guards which includes I'sa and Jin.
There was a sense of unrest in his heart...... he had an ominous feeling about it.
The loss of contact did not seem to be caused by the malfunctioning of communication devices. If that's the case, then what could it be? If it's neither the Yuugenshu nor the violent beasts, then—
"Hopefully, they will not get themselves into trouble."
Sheltis leaned against the back of his chair and stared into the ceiling before closing his eyes.
Eyriey's sneezes echoed in the glamorously decorated room.
"Ah...... why the random sneezes? Is it because of the air-conditioning?"
She sniffed as she pressed her hands against her mouth.
"Or perhaps someone is talking about you."
The voice that was close to laughing came from the machine crystal <Ilis> besides Eyriey's arm. Its crystal part was connected to multiple wires where special equipment were used to measure her processing space.
"Hmm— who could that be? Yuto said she's going out, and Chef should be sleeping by now. Which leaves us Sheltis? Or perhaps Kagura's the unexpected winner?"
"There's an even more unexpected scenario: it may be both of them."
The machine crystal <Ilis> looked like she was flickering in happiness.
"Jeez. They will die of envy should they know that I am living in such a wonderful room."
She sat on the incredibly soft sofa and her body sank itself deeply into it. Her right hand was typing on the terminal. She picked up the teacup on the table with her left.
"Ah— speaking of which, this is really something. I never expect such a luxurious room to exist within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
Gentle rays of light were coming from the chandeliers above her head; on the carpets were the geometric images of the leaves and vines of plants. The living room is big enough for a game of hide and seek; the bathroom was built using cream-colored rocks that were polished to be as bright as crystals. The rest of the furniture were all extravagant, with examples including the velvet curtains at the windows.
The accommodation facilities located on two hundred and forty seventh story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
It's a high-end suite that is reserved only for the VIPs from organizations like the Government Sector and etc. However, the machine crystal <Ilis> had hacked into the systems in secret and booked the room under the name of someone else and not Eyriey.
"Mmm, I love these spacious places the most. I can go all out to make machines and pile them up. My legs would not be tripped by the wires, so the incidents of short-circuiting will be reduced greatly."
"Fufu, that is just like you."
"I originally wanted to bring Yuto here as well, but she just had to go out at a time like this...... hahhhhh. Oh crap. I've relaxed myself totally after the sneeze."
She shook her head in order to resist the urge to yawn.
She had already drunk countless cups of coffee, but it looked like forty hours without any sleep or rest had finally taken its toll on her body.
"Because you have been focusing on my checkup. I am really sorry."
"Not at all — I am enjoying myself as well."
The machines required were built from scratch under the instructions of the machine crystal <Ilis>. Unconventional theories were utilized in the machines, and they were built via methods and materials that would not be used typically — all that had pleased Eyriey greatly.
It could probably be seen as a impetus of her creativity.
Strokes of inspiration on ways to improve the machines appeared in her mind one after another, as though they were flowing out of an endless fountain.
"Ah— give me a second. Let me record down the idea which had just came to my mind."
She fished out a notebook which was as thick as a dictionary from the pocket of her overalls. Its original thickness was not even half of its current width, but it had become thicker and thicker as she kept adding in more pages in between the original ones.
She slipped a memo paper in between a heavily scribbled page before writing down her ideas quickly on the black spaces.
"Oh. That's surprising?"
"You mean the notebook?"
"Yes. I thought you would record it down in some storage devices, but little did I expect it to be a book. I never knew you belong to that camp."
From the increased pitch of the tone of the machine crystal <Ilis>, she did sound rather surprised.
"It's actually very inconvenient. Moreover, I've never organized its contents before, and my writing is not pretty."
"Hmm— perhaps it is due to the inconvenience it brings. The things stored in the storage devices can be copied very easily. Though you think you have already deleted the data, it is actually still stored inside the devices. If we are talking about notebooks, there will be no one but me who can decipher the contents, especially if it is something that cannot be seen by anyone else."
"Is that weird?"
"N-Not at all! I think it's a really great idea!"
The machine crystal <Ilis> flickered in a fluster.
"Ahaha, there is no need for you to be polite with me."
"T-That's not it...... You may laugh at me since I am saying this as a machine, but I can't help myself but to think of the past when I look at you just now...... So I wandered about in the vast sea of data for a while and was lost in sadness."
"Oh? Things of the past?"
"She's a girl who's very much like you. She too would always record things down on her notebook, and her explanation was: 'It will be really embarrassing if it is seen by others'. Urm, she is a mechanic like you as well."
What an interesting mechanic. Her reason for using the notebook was exactly the same.
"Is she really like me?"
"She was totally a carbon-copy of you, right down to the looks and personality— ah, however, she is quite a muddle-head. For example, she would definitely neglect something important when she was asked to come up with a design document. In comparison, you of the current era is more outstanding than her."
Despite the calm tone of the machine crystal <Ilis>, there was no hiding for her emotions within — it sounded like she was introducing someone who is very important to her.
"She must be someone very important to Ilis, is she not?"
After pondering on the machine crystal <Ilis>'s answer repeatedly.
—Ahh, so that's the reason why Ilis requested me to perform a check on her.
Eyriey quickly retracted the smile at the corner of her lips.
...... She must have overlapped that important person......
...... Overlapped her memories of that important person with me......
The machine crystal <Ilis> did not realize it. She might have done so unknowingly.
The reason she asked me over when Sheltis was in the hospital must have been because she was very lonely, and that made her subconsciously sought someone whom she yearns to rely on, isn't it? She looked for me since I am the person who is most similar to that person.
—She's such a hopelessly adorable machine, and yet is as fragile as a human at the very same time.
"There, there. Ilis is a good girl."
"Eh...... H-Hold on, Eyirey, don't touch me like that! I-It's ticklish!"
The response of the machine crystal <Ilis> was comical when her surface was caressed by Eyriey.
"Oh right, could that person be......"
"...... Yes. She is my—"
The machine crystal <Ilis> went silent all of the sudden. The crystal portion had lost its glow as well.
"E-Eh......? Ilis? Are you feeling uncomfortable?"
She thought something had gone wrong with the checkup. However, the wires were still connected to the crystal, and the screen of the computer had no problems on it as well. It looked like there was no abnormality.
"Hello— Ilis? Did you fall asleep?"
"......Ah, s-sorry. There was interesting information in the network of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, so I couldn't help but to get my hands on it."
"You went to retrieve data? You can't do that, Ilis. The checks will not be accurate if you continue to do things like that...... though that is what I wanted to say, but I guess you should have known that already."
In other words, the information is much more important than the current things in hand.
And it appeared deep into the night when everyone should be sound asleep?
"It seems like they are about to carry out an emergency meeting in the headquarters of the Guards Command that is established within the Law Enforcement Bureau...... The level of secrecy was actually determined by the royal decree of the Queen. It looks like the Priestesses and the Sennenshi will be participating in the meeting."
"That sounds very serious."
Even though a commoner like Eyriey has no idea about the detailed protocol, it should be no trivial matter if the Priestesses are summoned in the middle of the night — what exactly is going on here?
"Could it be the Yuugenshu?"
"Nope. They would have carried out some other special protocols should that be the case. Things are different this time round — the only thing for sure is something serious has happened. I will go and take a look."
With that, the machine crystal <Ilis> became silent once more.