Part 2 done. Later chapters are kinda long.
Outdoor cafe 'The Two Swans <Albireo>'.
As the front door was not opened, Sheltis entered into the kitchen via the back door.
"I'm back. Good morning."
"Welcome back, Sheltis. Morning."
Chef turned away from the pot to look at Sheltis.
"I have helped Eyriey to purchase the ingredients. Not sure if I get everything right."
He placed the towering ingredients that he was hugging in his chest down onto the table.
"Let me see. Peransa-grass, Garagara-fish, petrified-mushrooms...... Perfect, everything's there."
After arranging the strange ingredients in a straight line, Chef clasped her hands in satisfaction.
"A new combination again?"
"You mean new dishes. Interrogation-tortured Garagara-fish, and Stubborn Salad with Peransa-grass and petrified-mushrooms."
Despite the unappetizing names, Sheltis could not understand why they are always popular with the customers.
"Chef, such things are usually not used as ingredients right...... nearly all of them are poisonous."
"Ara, Sheltis does have quite a bit of knowledge. However, as long as they are cooked properly, they will be very delicious........................ and they are cheap too."
"That last line is probably what matters to you the most!"
"Fufu, that's a secret."
"I understand. I heard nothing. I shall go back to sleep."
He left the kitchen and walked towards the staff's corridor. Since the market opens in the wee hours, plus the fact that he had been working on the night shift, he had barely gotten any sleep.
"Ah, Sheltis, Eyriey's been looking for you. She asked you to stop by her room for a while when you return."
Chef's voice suddenly came from the kitchen at his back.
"Eyriey's looking for me?"
The first thing that came to his mind was the thing he talked about yesterday.
"So in the end, it is still difficult huh......"
Not only is it difficult to hack into the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, there is the danger of being arrested if they discover any traces left behind. Though Eyriey agreed readily, it would not be strange for her to change her mind within the night.
"Eyriey, can I enter?"
From the other side of the door, came the relaxed voice of Eyriey.
"Well then, I'll be entering...... Whoa! What...... What's this?"
At the instant he opened the door, stacks of papers came crashing down. He barely managed to maintain the balance of the stacks of papers that were about to fall on his head, by pressing them down with his hands.
Before his eyes was a stunning scene.
There were probably hundreds...... no, thousands of printed papers. They were stacked together pieces by pieces, and the tower of papers had even exceeded the heights of adults. Multiple towers were clustered together in several groups. The originally huge computer and its cables took up a huge portion of the room, and thus there was no longer any room for one to stand on.
"Be careful. I've printed these out in sequence."
Behind the forest of the paper towers, was Eyriey sitting on a chair with her back facing him. She was looking at the screen and tapping on the keyboard with amazing speed.
"...... What's with this?"
"I am already done with the stuff that Sheltis had requested me to do yesterday. Didn't you want the data from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>?"
She continued on typing without turning her head backwards.
—Seems like I have worried too much.
Sheltis gave a wry smile at the girl who was concentrating on the screen.
"Well, are you really ready with hacking into their system? That's great. I do hope it will be done as soon as possible too."
"Mmm, no no."
"What I meant is, I have already finished hacking. These printed papers are the data. They are printed on both sides, and there are a total of thirty-nine thousand six hundred and three pieces."
"Ugh, which means to say......"
After being stunned for a full ten seconds, Sheltis finally shouted,
"It can't be?"
"What can't be?"
"No...... It just feels impossible for you to complete it, since I've only requested you to do it yesterday. Or should I say, that I myself is half in doubt...... How did you hack into their system?"
There are no direct connection between the computers in the living sector and the main computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. To hack in, one will first have to tap into Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s reception terminals, before cracking into the control tower's terminals, main system, followed by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s integrated system.
However, all of them are independent systems. Not to mention, a firewall named 'Sanctuary Class' exists after the stages of the main system.
"Mmm- in principle, I took it heads on. Actually, up till the main system, you have that thing to give thanks to."
She pointed to the computer next to the screen.
"First, I picked a pay-to-use terminal at the cafe in the living sector, and tweaked it so that I can control it remotely. Next, I launched a series of intensive assaults with its amazing processing speed. While the initial system was overheating due to intercepting my attacks, I slipped a pre-written trojan into their systems. Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s integrated system and their main computers had something called 'Daibo Shinsuu' which is rather tough to crack, but I've managed to crack it after a series of tough battles. That's how it is." [TLNote: the 'Daibo Shinsuu' is actually 大母真数, but it does not really make sense to me, so I've just slipped in its pronunciation.]
Eyriey finally turned herself to face Sheltis, by giving a push to the rotating chair, which gave off a weird sound.
"I've downloaded the information straight after, and sent them over to four auxiliary-processors. However, I do not know when they will do a remote edit or delete. As such, I've chose to print them out physically, and they are the stuff that Sheltis sees before you."
"...... I'll try my best to look through everything."
"Well, that's fine with me, but there are just too many unnecessary information sandwiched in between. Thus, what I am doing now is-"
She lifted her finger, and touched the button on the screen.
At the same time, a printer by the side began to work. After a series of mechanical sounds, it threw out a single piece of paper.
"Take this. You have to thank me properly for it."
The craftily smiling girl was pinching on the printed paper.
"I had converted all the raw information into data, then sent them for processing, before detailing them onto the map of Orbie Clar. Simply put, all the information in these piles of paper have been condensed into that single sheet of paper."
"Eyriey...... For the first time ever, I think you are absolutely amazing!"
Sheltis blinked his eyes, and stared blankly at the piece of paper that he had received.
"The robots that you have made has always went out of control; the homemade rocket launcher that you used to kill cockroaches had wrecked half of the cafe; the automatic dishwasher which you repaired had broken all the plates due to the immense water pressure, and so on...... I have originally thought that you are just a troublesome girl who is good at inventing stuff that will ultimately fail...... Eyriey, how much you have grown!"
"Hmph, now you are finally looking at me in a different light huh?"
Eyriey said proudly with her arms crossed, while still sitting on the chair.
"That's right, human beings are a species that is constantly evolving. I have already left the failures and sufferings of the past, and is moving into the mechanized future at maximum speed-"
At the back of the girl who was speaking endlessly-
A *beep* sound rang.
"Maximum speed...... Eh......?"
The screens turned pitch black for an instant. White text then began to pour down from the top of the screen. That continued on for tens of seconds, before another *beep* followed. This time, the screen turned totally white.
"Ah...... Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh—! The...... The data which took me great pain to obtain, they are all gone!"
The teenage girl cried out loud in front of the screen.
"...... Fu...... Fufu...... If one does not key in a certain command within a specific time-frame, the data will be formatted along with the computer huh? I really did not think that such a sinister trap will be implemented on their secret data...... I've been had."
"That's more like the Eyriey who I know. I feel slightly more relieved now."
"What do you mean by that...... Forget it, since it has already happened. Thankfully, I had everything printed before they were wiped away. Right, Sheltis, do you find anything after looking through the data?"
"Uhhh- I've just glanced through it, without taking a close look at it."
Printed on the paper, were the places of appearances of Yuugenshu. The time and frequency of appearance were differentiated by different colors and symbols. Overlapping those things, were the defense lines of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> at the respective time, indicated by various colors as well. After putting all the information together with the map of Orbie Clar-
"Sheltis? Why did you stop speaking all of the sudden?"
"...... It does not feels right...... or rather, it seems too unnatural."
He passed the paper to Eyriey, and looked into the ceiling.
"The fact that Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>'s defenses are not perfect, has came under criticism multiple times in the past. That's because it is possible for Yuugenshu to break through the areas where the defenses are weak."
"Mhmm, everyone knows that."
"However, the Yuugenshu that bypassed the defense lines did not invade the living sector. Why is that so?"
The paper which Eyriey was holding.
It had indicated with a line, that the recent Yuugenshu breaches have all occurred close to the outskirts of the living sector. That was the first thing that Sheltis had noticed.
"Is that so? Think about it, there are barriers erected by a Priestess-sama along the living sector as well, right? By a person named Meimel, who specializes in barrier spells."
"Even so, it is not perfect. Back when I was at Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, I had battled with Yuugenshu that had infiltrated into the living sector. But according to the compiled recent data done by Eyriey, the Yuugenshu had actually got close to the living sector, and yet most of them just stuck to their positions and stopped advancing further in."
Could it be that they were afraid of Priestess Meimel's barriers?
No, her barriers are actually just there to act as a basic defense. In order to cover a huge land area, the force of the barriers cannot be maintained at a high output. Rather than preventing the invasions of the Yuugenshu, it is there to slow down their movements.
If so, why did the Yuugenshu not breaking past the barrier and assaulting the living sector, despite such a long time?
"I say, Sheltis is behaving strangely."
Eyriey cast her sight on Sheltis.
"This is the first time in two years since I have lived with you, that you have asked me to steal some data, no? Could it be that there is something that caused you to be suspicious about the movements of Yuugenshu?"
A question that is hard to answer. To put it bluntly, it was a gut feeling. However, if she wants to go into details-
"It is probably the thing that happened during the barbecue."
"When we had met the Yuugenshu?"
"Eyriey had said something like, 'why did the Yuugenshu appear near the city', right?"
"Yuugenshu? It can't be...... Why does it appear at a place so close to the city!"
That will be the first thing that most people from the living sector will think of, including Eyriey. On the other hand, if it was a guard from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, he would have been relieved that the Yuugenshu has been detected before it infiltrated into the living sector.
"At that time, a question appeared in my mind. Since it had already reached the nature park next to the Third Residential Sector, why didn't the Yuugenshu follow up by attacking the humans in the living sector?"
"Wait, hold on. Wasn't we attacked by it?"
"That's what I initially thought. However, after thinking about it for the whole night, my take on it has changed. Somehow, it just feels like that Yuugenshu had no intention of attacking us."
Prior to the Yuugenshu's attack, Sheltis had seen the rotting tree among the forest of trees. They were attacked only after the Yuugenshu had left forest of trees.
"The Yuugenshu had been hiding among the trees. We were actually the ones who entered there first. In other words, we had probably provoked the Yuugenshu."
"............ And then? What are you trying to say?"
"The Yuugenshu at that time had 'something else to do', that was more important than attacking humans. Due to us closing in on it and provoking it, as a result, it attacked us. That's what I think."
Well then, the Yuugenshu that should be attacking humans, what exactly was it doing back then?
That thing is—
"Just as shown by the data, it had been loitering near the living sector, with its intentions unclear?"
"Sadly, up till now, all these are just my conjectures."
"From the way you put it...... it is as though you have a clear idea on what the Yuugenshu are up to."
"Not until that stage. It's just, based on the analysis of the data - the Yuugenshu that we saw at the nature park, as well as the recent Yuugenshu that appeared, their reason for breaking past Hyouketsu Kyoukai and into the floating continent, is not to attack humans."
"Then why did they do it?"
"It is so that they can observe the human world."
"To be more precise, they are observing the forces of human that are capable of repelling the Yuugenshu - the Queen, Priestesses, and Sennenshi. They are observing the situation and structure of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. If it is me, I'll be thinking along that line."
At that instant, the room became deadly quiet.
The only sounds to be heard was the exhaust from the computer. The girl slowly lifted her head.
"............ If that is really the case, then it is quite scary."
"That's normal. Any ordinary person will feel that way."
If his guess was real, then those mysterious beasts may be more crafty than what humans have imagined. They had no longer chose to enter by force, but instead, they picked a more reliable method of observing the floating continents.
However, the bad thing about his conjecture, was that there was not enough solid proof to substantiate.
"Mmm, if only Iris is around, we will have someone whom we can discuss this with."
"It was something bestowed to me by the Queen, when I had risen into the cadre level of the guards - she had said, 'I shall entrust this to you'. It was an observation unit, a crystal machine by the name of Iris."
Observation unit - artificial intelligence that are tasked with the job observing the mateki of Yuugenshu, and relaying their positions to its holder. Due to the huge mateki-observation machines that exist within Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, there are not much observation units for individual use. Iris was something that the Queen had bestowed to Sheltis personally.
"Are things like that rare?"
"Observation units by themselves are not rare, but Iris is different. Not only is her specs high, but she can freely connect to any other electrical devices as well. Though she is an artificial intelligence, but her personality is closer to that of a human's."
Even then, Sheltis had only owned Iris for a short time-span of a few months. On the day he was exiled from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> due to him falling into Garden of Corrupted Song <Eden>, all the things he owned, including his dual swords, were confiscated. He has absolutely no idea who the current holder of Iris is as well.
—Since Iris is not around, how shall I prove the validity of my conjecture?
"Eyriey, can you hack into the computers of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> for another time?"
"The time-span between the attacks is too short. That is way too dangerous. This time round, we may be tracked down by them."
Eyriey put her arms in a symbol of 'X', to show that she was against the idea.
"This time, you just need to bypass the initial firewall. Please."
"Mmm...... Ahhh, you are hopeless. With that, I shall not owe you anything anymore."
With that, the teenage girl in her overalls turned her head away rather embarrassingly.
"Didn't you save me and Yuto at the nature park?"
"That incident? It's nothing big-"
"You think that is something normal? Then you can't be anymore wrong."
With the opposite party being a step quicker in her retort, Sheltis had no choice but to close his mouth.
"It is something different if we are your relatives...... However, against such a disgusting Yuugenshu, how many people will actually put on their courage to save someone else? Especially when things were going so badly."
"...... Is that so?"
He entered into Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, with a determination to become a Sennenshi to protect Ymy. Till now, his beliefs has never wavered.
—It is his mission to fight against Yuugenshu.
"If you think that is to be expected, then I think you must have still treated yourself as someone from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>."
A smile appeared on Eyriey's face, though it was not clear if it was her smiling wryly, or her smiling out of sympathy at Sheltis.
"I...... am not hanging onto the past......"
"Forget it, since it does not really matter. In any case, let us get to work."
The computer in front of her lit up. The lights then extended into the terminals by both sides. Multiple screens in the room began to operate. For a while, the room was filled with the unsynchronized sounds of the machines.
"Alright - time to prepare to hack into the monitoring systems of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Round two, here we go."
Like a child who was challenged to solve the puzzles, the teenage girl stared at the screen with intense concentration, and a smile appeared on her face.