Anyway, here's the completed first chapter. I'll work on chapter two before hopping over to Sayonara Piano Sonata. Enjoy.
"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 when 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 was 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 Ilis did something to allow you to get into my room?"
Eyriey blew on the trumpet yet again.
"It was Ilis 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 <Ilis>, 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 Ilis."
"What do you mean by 'indeed'!? I was so bored, I have calculated pi all the way to its 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 <Ilis> 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 it need 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 <Ilis>'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 Ilis 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 Ilis 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 <Ilis> 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 <Ilis> 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 <Ilis> 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 has 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>, she had sent him off with a smile that he never thought she would be that depressed about it now.
"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 the 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 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 <Ilis> 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 Ilis 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 compiled 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 <Ilis> 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 <Ilis>, 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-curdling pain and intense 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 Ilis?"
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 <Ilis> 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 how you are deliberately talking about all these things in my presence, you should have some request for me, right? Just like 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 when 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 until 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 <Ilis> 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 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 <Ilis>.
"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 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 <Ilis> lying on the table.
"Isn't there only Ilis?"
"Yes, that is right! The requester is me, the extremely cute Ilis!"
"...... This is the first time I see a machine claiming itself as cute."
He took a look at the machine crystal <Ilis> 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. Ilis 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, Ilis!"
Eyriey hugged the machine crystal <Ilis> 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 <Ilis> 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 Ilis in your hands."
"Alright. Then I shall make my move."
Eyriey tied the necklace with the machine crystal <Ilis> 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 Ilis 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 <Ilis> 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 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.
The lights replicating the illumination of the sun were illuminating the corridor brightly.
The speakers installed in the ceiling were playing out the cries of the birds as well as the rustling of plants. The sounds were not artificially synthesized, but recorded straight from the nature sector on the floating continent.
The singing of the wild birds, the foams of the waterfall, the flowing water of the streams as well as the cries of the insects. All of them interwove together to form a majestic sound.
Two hundred and eighty seventh story of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> — the floor which was designated to the fourth and fifth Priestess was filled with the refreshing sounds of nature.
"............ Mm~~mm...... What should I do......"
Ymy Ele Soufflenictole — a girl with golden hair, jade-colored eyes and a pure white vestment. Her looks leave a deep impression to anyone who sees her.
Her left hand was holding onto a small notebook, while her right was holding a pencil. On her adorable face was an expression deep in thought. Ymy was writing and erasing on the notebook repeatedly.
"..... Let's see...... 'Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for gathering here despite your busy schedules'...... sounds a little too stiff. Then how about 'Everyone, thanks for gathering here today!'............ that is easy for me, but it sounds a little too casual............ Ah— geez! Someone please help me with this!"
Upon confirming that there was no one else in the corridor, she let out a cry.
"...... What a headache. It will be tomorrow soon."
The handover ceremony of Hyouketsu Kyoukai, an important monthly ceremony to the Priestesses, will be held tomorrow. The Priestesses will temporarily replace the Queen and shoulder the huge responsibility of maintaining Hyouketsu Kyoukai.
The person in charge of maintaining the barrier this time round is her senior, Priestess Meimel. Meimel is the second ranked Priestesses of the five, and is also the Priestess who is most well-versed in the arts of barrier-types shinryoku. Nothing will go wrong with the ceremony. Even if something happen, Ymy and Syun-rei will be around to assist immediately...... that's right, there was no need for her to worry.
— However, it was different for the residents in the living sector, as well as the guards of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
A large-scale invasion of the Yuugenshu occurred a month ago. The Yuugenshu set their sights at the instant when the Queen was about to handover the barrier to the Priestesses, and used the opportunity to break through Hyouketsu Kyoukai.
"That was our responsibility, so it is inevitable for the people to feel uneasy...... they are afraid that the barrier will be breached once more."
Of course, the Priestesses were not planning to repeat the same mistakes as well.
New rites had been added into the barrier spell, and the shinryoku waves of the barrier had been modified and strengthened as well. Even if the Yuugenshu were to try to break through the barrier yet again, it is highly unlikely that they will succeed with the same methods.
However, it is difficult for the residents of the living sector to understand such technical terms. They had to use some other methods to remove the uneasiness in the civilians.
"But still, to convey the message of 'please do not worry, everyone' via a speech...... that is just exaggerating."
She walked listlessly in the corridor.
She had no idea who was the person to suggest it, but it must surely be one of the directors of the tower. In order to stress the fact that the handover of Hyouketsu Kyoukai is successful, they had made a last-minute decision to have a Priestess announcing it to the public while doing so in front of everyone in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>.
Since Meimel has to take part in the handover of the barrier, Ymy was the only one left to deliver the speech to the public. Also, it seemed like the upper brass were expecting a grand speech instead of something simple.
"..... My head hurts. I'm the weakest when it comes to this."
The speech will be held at the outdoor training grounds of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. Not only does she have to deliver the speech under the sight of over a thousand guards, it was said that the speech will be broadcast live to all the houses in the living sector through the official channels, so it's something incredibly important.
Her cheeks went red just from the thought.
She definitely will not be able to sleep tonight. Her nerves will keep her wide awake. Just as she was about to hug her head and let out a moan— Ymy suddenly stopped in her tracks.
Speaking of which.
...... I have to give a speech in front of the guards.
...... Meaning to say, that includes Sheltis as well? Will he be at the scene too?
Her childhood friend who was injured while fighting against the Yuugenshu at the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>.
She was worried about his condition, but considering her stance as a Priestess, it will be very difficult for her to visit a mere cadet guard who was hospitalized. Two weeks had passed by unknowingly while she was trying to find an excuse and a chance to visit him.
"...... I really want to see him."
She wondered if he was resting properly and not pushing himself to train. Is he eating his meals punctually everyday? Is the recovery of his injuries going well? Once she started thinking about all these things, she could not stop. Her line of thought became chaotic, and there was a terrible sensation in her chest.
...... He has done so much for me, and had even injured himself as a result.
...... And yet I cannot even visit him regularly.
One of them is a Priestess who wields absolute authority in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, while the other is just a cadet guard, the lowest position available in the tower. That is the vast difference between their ranks.
It won't be easy for them to even speak to each other openly in public.
"Just as I thought...... I've really burdened him, right?"
Since we are childhood friends, I may not have noticed it - however, upon thinking about it a little deeper, I must have caused a huge burden on him for the past month.
The reason he wanted to be a Sennenshi is because he promised to protect me.
He returned to her after being exiled to the living sector. Since then, he had received missions as a cadet guard, and was injured during his fight with the Yuugenshu......
Should I really not do anything for Sheltis, who is being that selfless?
Should I really do nothing but to wait for him at the peak of the tower till his arrival?
...... I don't like this at all.
She pressed her hands lightly against her chest.
"Please, do not put yourself in danger ever again."
At the very least, I hope you understand that you do not have to push yourself so hard. I know better than anyone else about the amount of effort you've put in. Therefore, there is no need for you to be so impatient for my sake and get yourself into danger as a result.
I really wish I can tell him that.
"....... What is this feeling...... in me?"
Even though she was just being concerned about her childhood friend, as per usual.
However, she could not understand the feelings that were growing in her heart. It encompassed the feelings of happiness, unrest and uneasiness. How should she describe that feeling?
A voice suddenly rang out, which caused her to break out of the dream-like state that she was in.
"There there— Syun-rei, you won't be able to run away. Don't be shy, there's no reason for you to be—"
At the other end of the corridor, came the slow voice of the senior Priestess.
"............ But should someone else see this......"
"Don't worry— this floor is for the Sennenshi and the Priestesses' exclusive use. The only other people who will come here are the clerks."
It seemed like the two Priestesses were talking about something.
One of the Priestesses has bright emerald-colored hair, a long and slender body, as well as an elegant air around her. The other was a Priestess wearing a red woven vestment with a tiny stature and a tender looks that were especially striking.
They were the second Priestess Meimel and the fourth Priestess Syun-rei respectively. At first glance, it seemed like Syun-rei was busy running away, while Meimel was chasing her from behind with a paper bag in her hands—
"Fufu, caught you— Why don't you just give up already, Syun-rei?"
"............ I-I do not want to wear these clothes."
"I don't think so— I think you will definitely look good in them."
While grabbing onto both of Syun-rei's arms tightly, Meimel took out the clothing from the bag.
It was a pale red one-piece dress, which looked to be rather chic. It was made out of lace that is slightly translucent and thin. From the intricate sewing, one can easily know that it is made from the hands of an incredibly skilled seamstress.
"............ It is transparent."
"This style is the latest rage in town— the clothes that you typically wear are kimono. Once in a while, you should try your hands on how girls your age dress up in the living sector."
"........... My shoulders will be seen."
Syun-rei stared hard at the one-piece dress which exposes the wearer's shoulders and refused to give in. To her, compared to the vestments that she usually wears, that dress might just be as revealing as underwear.
"Look, Syun-rei. Leon may actually like this, you know?"
Syun-rei was trying to break free, but she froze all of the sudden.
That person is her exclusive guardian and also a great sword user. As someone who is anthropophobic and afraid to walk out of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> alone, Leon is the only male whom Syun-rei gives her absolute trust.
"That's right— why don't you wear this dress and welcome him when he returns from his trip? His heart will definitely skip a beat if he sees you in a different style of clothes from usual."
"I know, you must be shy to be the only one wearing it, right? But don't you worry. That's because—"
Syun-rei's rationality was left hanging on a thread.
And as such, Meimel showed her brightest smile yet.
"I've prepared an even better dress for Ymy."
"............ Ymy too?"
"Mhmm. I know you'll be very embarrassed by yourself. Here, take a look."
Meimel then took out another one-piece dress.
It was totally different from Syun-rei's dress. At first look, it may not seem to be revealing. However, the slit by the side was opened all the way up to the thighs. It was also designed to be body-hugging, meaning that the curves will be exposed for all to see.
"............ T-This is?"
"I secretly ordered it to be custom made for Ymy. You see, the slit opens all the way up to the thighs here."
Syun-rei gulped. Meimel began to explain happily,
"And also, should you tighten this thing here, her beautiful curves will be made even more obvious. What do you think about her wearing this?"
"............ She is really daring."
"Right? Look at her bust and waist that doesn't match her age at all. Not only that, but according to the records of her measurements which I sneaked a peek at, it is shocking to know that she is actually still developing! Should she wear this, a whole bunch of guys will definitely be smitten by her charms. The strongest Priestess is about to be born."
"Seems like you finally understand. If so, then Syun-rei should be willing to change into this dress, right? There is no need to worry, since Ymy's dress is much more—"
And before Meimel could finish her sentence.
"W-Who will want to wear that sort of thing———!"
"— embarrassing than yours— Gyu!"
The notebook thrown by Ymy had landed accurately on the the temples of the senior Priestess.
"Y-Ymy...... you've indeed grown. That is a surprise attack that came out of the blue."
"Meimel! Will you stop teaching Syun-rei these strange things!?"
Ymy ran between the two of them and shielded Syun-rei from Meimel, who was putting on a strange smile.
"...... Geez. I was thinking what important things the two of you might be talking about, and I was listening to it so attentively."
Behind them was Ymy's room. Meaning to say, the two girls were putting on a farce right in front of her room.
"And Meimel! Tomorrow is the day where her Highness hands over the barrier to you, so how can you be so relaxed? D-Do you know that I haven't been sleeping well since yesterday, and was wrecking my brain the whole day to try to come up with a speech for tomorrow!?"
"...... Boohoo, I'm being lectured by Ymy."
The senior Priestess pretended to cry.
"Mei— mel—? Can you please be more serious—"
"You're right— well then, let's talk about something serious."
Meimel was originally feigning tears, but her expression changed immediately into that of a sneaky smile.
"I have something to say to you and Syun-rei — I found Syun-rei really quickly, but since you weren't in your room, I have no choice but to attract your attention by using this method. And since Ymy insists on talking about serious things, I guess we have no choice but to do so—"
This is way too suspicious.
I can feel my sweat sliding past my cheeks. To think that the series of mischief pulled off by Meimel was all just a trap to lure me here.
"U-Urm...... I suddenly remember that I have some urgent matters to attend to."
"Ara, don't even think of running away—?"
"T-That's just too sly! So that was all just a trap to lure me!"
"There there, calm down. This is something that has to do with the Government Sector— and it concerns Sheltis as well."
— It concerns Sheltis as well as the Government Sector?
With that said, she could not help but recall the incident that happened two weeks ago.
"Is it about the incident earlier? Regarding the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>."
"That's right. It's about the three man team with both Leon and Sheltis in it. The investigation team that was sent to the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon> in the airspace of the Government Sector under the orders of Queen Salah."
"...... I'll stick around."
She nodded hesitantly.
The Government Sector — in this world, it is a huge organization in charge of handling the politics.
For Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, the Queen and the Priestesses hold the highest rank, and are responsible for the rituals and protection of the floating continent.
Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> symbolizes mysteriousness, while the Government Sector symbolizes order.
Both parties have the same task of maintaining a reign over the floating continent...... Though in actual fact, it is the Queen and the Priestesses who are well adored by the citizens, and the Government Sector is quite unhappy about that.
The clash between the two sides intensified over time.
In fact, the Government Sector used to be stationed on the floating continent, but they moved their headquarters to the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon> instead, and declared it as their territory. According to rumors, they have been conducting research and development in their territory as well......
"You should have read Leon's report, right?"
There was no room for question or objection.
That was how authoritative Meimel's voice was despite her calm tone.
The things Leon and Sheltis witnessed on the Floating Archipelagos <Lagoon>.
The floating island was uncharted on the maps, and on it was a hidden research facility. There was a secret passage in the facility which leads to the basement. Located deep within the grounds, was a giant water tank that was incubating a Yuugenshu.
"If I remember right, Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> has issued an official inquiry via the directors to the Government Sector last week. In the official inquiry, we asked only about the existence of the research facility, but we did not mention anything about the 'water tank'."
"That's right— We've received their reply this morning, but there exists a small problem. Firstly, they did not answer any of the queries that we had raised. Secondly, they are demanding an explanation and apology for Leon's team's aircraft infringing the Government Sector's airspace."
"...... That is quite brazen of them."
Not only were they ignoring all the questions about the facilities, they were actually demanding an apology from Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. A response as one-sided as that is not something that one will expect from an official reply.
"Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> had responded calmly to that. However, here lies the crux of the issue — they are claiming this: 'Taking into consideration the incidents that happened earlier, we are unable to tolerate the infringement of our airspace that has occurred over the past few years'."
Infringement of the airspace over the past few years?
Upon realizing Meimel's doubt, Ymy and Syun-rei looked at each other.
"That's strange. The only records of us trespassing the airspace of the Government Sector was just that sole incident. Of course, there were cases where the aircraft were forced to land there due to accidents, but such things typically do not happen more than once a year."
"I find this weird as well— there is an obvious discrepancy between the information of Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> and the Government Sector's, and out of which one of the sides must be wrong. However, both sides had issued official statements about this, and both are very confident about it. Just what is happening here?"
Since Ymy knew very well what was happening around Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>, she had no doubts on official statement issued by Tenketsu Palace <Sophia>. If that was the case, was it the Government Sector who had got it all wrong?
"What is your opinion on this, Meimel?"
She closed her mouth and placed her finger on her luscious lips. Ymy and Syun-rei held their breaths as they waited for her to speak—
"I guess I won't say it just yet. Now is not the time for me to reveal this."
However, Meimel put on a smile and turned her body around.
"Eh? H-How can you do that? That is just too sly of you to leave us hanging at a time like this!"
"Nope— this is a secret. There is still something I have yet to confirm with Queen Salah...... Speaking of which, there is something that I will like to ask you instead, Ymy."
In contrast with the gentle smile she had on earlier, the senior Priestess' smile had changed into a mischievous one.
"Ymy, you are to give a speech to everyone in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> tomorrow, right? In front of more than a thousand people."
"....... That is the arrangement."
"Mmm— since this is such an important task that has no room for failure, it is best that you practice it, right? As a senior Priestess, it is my duty to guide my juniors so that they will not embarrass themselves."
"...... H-How should we go about doing that?"
"To have a relaxing and delightful rehearsal, of course. Syun-rei and I shall be the audience, so just treat it as though you are giving a real speech, okay? Ah, don't forget to smile."
Meimel leaned over while trying her hardest to hold back her laughter.
Under her nervousness and shyness, the junior Priestess who was trying her hardest to say the scripted speech is definitely someone worth teasing — it was as though Meimel's sparkling eyes were telling Ymy that.
"I-I'm still coming up with the script."
"It's fine, it's fine. Just say what comes to your mind. Ah, right, I have a great idea here. Since we just so happen to have this thing here, why don't you change into this dress while you are doing your speech? I think all the males in Tenketsu Palace <Sophia> will definitely have their gaze fixed on your body!"
Meimel once again took out the custom-made one-piece dress.
....... How can that be possible?
She's asking me...... to wear that shameful dress while I give that embarrassing speech...... There is no way I can do that. And should Sheltis ever see me in this, I will not be able to face him for the rest of my life.
— It is best that I run away from this.
Right after Ymy made up her mind, she shook off Meimel's hands and ran away.
"I-I suddenly remember that I have something urgent to attend to!"
"Ah, Ymy, wait! Syun-rei, let's give chase!"
"............ Those two are really energetic."
Syun-rei sighed as she looked at the two Priestesses engaged in an intense game of cat and mouse...... there was nothing she could do about them. Since Leon was not around, she decided to return to her room to rest.
Just then, she noticed that the electrical lights on the wall were flickering continuously. Whenever the conference room is flashing, it means that the meeting is not the typical ones. That should be the signal that is calling for an emergency meeting.
"............ The two hundred and sixtieth story?"
It is the conference floor that is under the jurisdiction of the Law Enforcement Bureau. Meaning, they were holding an emergency meeting for the squad captains as well as the cadres guards.
— What is happening around here?
Since Leon was not by her side, Syun-rei could not understand the implications behind the flashing on the white wall.