Interlude – 3
“It takes money to operate the Gate Tower, right?”
“I’ve heard that it is about three percent of the country’s yearly budget.”
“I understand why Dad and Shouko-san had to go, but Onii-chan is basically just going there for sightseeing, was it really okay to spend all that money on him? Of course, I understand that it is for Shouko-san’s sake, to make her feel more at ease. But since you are spending money from the country’s budget, I was just wondering, is it really okay to be so lenient? It comes from the taxes paid by the citizens, right? Won’t they find it troublesome?”
“Eh? It’s not? That’s what I heard from Diana-san, though.”
“Aah, I suppose that depends on how you put it. It’s true that it takes the equivalent of nearly three percent of the country’s annual budget to operate the Gate Tower. But it’s not like the country pays for each and every single trip.”
“For example, let us assume that Resteria’s annual budget is one hundred trillion yen. three percent of that would be three trillion yen, right? Who do you think has to pay that three trillion yen for it to be counted as 『three percent of the country’s annual budget』 ?”
“I am fairly certain that the Krone family is paying the entire expense for all three of them for this trip. In other words, the funds are from the personal assets of Her Excellency Erijina, Dianaze’s mother.”
“Haah!? Three trillion yen, from her personal assets!?”
“Well, the three trillion figure was just an example, and the currency conversion rates are also completely different, so I don’t think it is actually as expensive as it looks to a Japanese person like you.”
“I’ll need to lecture Onii-chan and Shouko-san when they get back.”
“They’re already getting to have fun and eat delicious things over there, as his little sister I can’t forgive him for doing all of that on someone else’s dime!”
“No, I doubt they are spending all their time only on having fun…”
“Even though I have more talent for sorcery!!”
“Aah… So you were feeling jealous.”
“Of course I’m jealous! I wanted to go and look around there as well! I mean, a trip to another world where your safety is guaranteed is bound to be fun, no matter what happens! Aarrrrgh! Why do I have to spend my time going to school while Onii-chan is going on dates with Diana-san and Shouko-san!!?”
Chapter 4 – A New Threat
Galedeite’s Central Market was surrounded by a fairly short wall.
The wall had a number of gates interspersed along it, where soldiers were standing guard. Catalina handed one of them some money and received what appeared to be a wooden token in return.
“Yasuo, can you please hold on to my bag for a bit?”
“Ah, sure. Do people need to pay to gain admission to the market?”
“That’s right. I am not a resident of Galedeite, so I need to pay a tax to buy or sell anything in this market. This wooden token serves as proof that I have paid the tax, and as long as I carry this, it also means that I do not have to pay any further taxes while inside the market that are levied on residents of the town.”
“So it’s something like a consumption tax?”
“I guess so. It’s probably something like foreigners being exempt from local taxes. Yasu-kun, do you want me to hold one of those?”
Seeing Yasuo carrying three large sacks all by himself, Shouko felt sorry for him and was about to take one of them from him, when both Catalina and the gate guard shot sharp looks in her direction.
“If you carry that, we’ll just have to pay even more money. Yasuo, I’m sorry, but please carry them by yourself from here on.”
“Eh? Ah, yes…”
The guard didn’t take his eyes off them while the three of them passed through the gate.
Shouko briefly wondered if the guard had seen the flames of the Shii in her eye, but after she saw Catalina give a small sigh of relief, she understood that that was not the case.
“Since there is only one person carrying the items that will be traded, we only have to pay the tax for one person — that is basically the rule here.”
“If you had taken one of those sacks, Shouko, it would have counted as two people in total who were looking to do business. If that happened, we would have needed to pay four times the tax. That is the rule.”
“W-What kind of rule is that? What’s the point of such a rule…”
“This is the most efficient method to collect taxes. I’m sure the two of you understand why I, a person who is not a resident of Galedeite, have to pay a tax in order to use the market, right?”
Yasuo and Shouko looked at each other when they were asked that question.
The people of Japan had a bad habit of attempting to evade taxes where possible because it was seen as money being taken away by the government, and talking a lot about the various methods to do so and their rate of success without really trying to understand them in more detail, but Yasuo, who studied about modern society as part of his third year social studies curriculum in high school, thought about the question seriously.
Before long, he arrived at an answer.
“Maybe it is for the protection of merchants who reside inside this town that is basically fortress? So the money paid to the guard at the entrance to the market was not an entry fee, but rather the minimum amount of import tax.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is.”
In preparation for a scenario where popular goods were brought in from outside to compete with the existing items in Galedeite’s market, they were levying a tax based on the quantity of the products being brought in from outside the town.
By doing that, they could ensure that the price of such items would not differ greatly from the items already being sold in the market.
Seeing as the tax would increase dramatically if two people carried the merchandise, they probably had a separate way of calculating the tax for when items were carried in on a wagon as well.
The import tax served to dissuade merchants from flooding the market with a large number of products from outside the city.
On the other hand, making it too hard to bring in items from outside would just cause a different set of problems, so the tax was specially reduced for small businesses that only traded an amount of products that could be carried by a single person.
The truth was that the large number of various street hawkers and people like Catalina who did not conduct trade as their main source of income also greatly supported the lives of the people living in Galedeite.
Even if they reduced the taxes for each individual, they could make up for it due to the large number of such small-time businesses.
Of course, they would properly take a large amount of tax money from merchants who brought in a large number of products.
While Yasuo was talking about that to himself, Shouko also understood and accepted what he said, but there was still one thing she had a question about.
“In that case, why didn’t they just collect the import tax at the town gates? The toll we paid to enter the town wasn’t all that high, right?”
“Probably because it is an important travel hub that is sandwiched between two large world powers. The fact that this country is a republic probably has a lot to do with it as well. Moreover, I guess that the method of collecting the taxes changes all the time depending on who holds power in the parliament.”
“You’re absolutely right.”
Catalina affirmed Yasuo’s hypothesis in a tone filled with admiration.
An important travel hub would usually have a toll checkpoint where they would thoroughly evaluate everything from bootlaces to every last nail on a wagon and collect the appropriate amount of tax in order to let the town prosper. However, the Gaz Commonwealth was on the verge of exhaustion after the war with Demon King Kaul, and they did not have the military resources to oppose the major world powers, Resteria and Baskelgarde.
Moreover, the Gaz Commonwealth was in a position wherein they would have to depend on either one of those countries for support in case of a crisis, and so they could not levy high taxes on them as that could lead to an increase in political pressure from both countries.
And besides, there was already a trend of reducing economic activity due to the threat from the Shii, and in such a scenario, continuing to collect the entire tax at the town gates could not really be considered to be a smart way of going about it.
This balance was particularly important for fortress towns that did not have any intention of increasing the amount of available land, unless they were willing to invest in large-scale building and improvement of their walls like Galedeite.
If they were too strict, they would run into shortages of products, which would lead to black market trading growing more rampant.
This method of tax collection would would most likely be flexibly tweaked in the future as well, based on factors such as protecting the interests of craftsmen who lived inside the city, maintaining public order, and maintaining a balance with nearby towns neighboring countries.
“In fact, there are opinions that the country should raise the taxes to a more standard level and in return open up the markets more for other industries and imported goods, and thereby boost the economy within country. Right now, neither the parliament of the country nor the governance in the fortress towns are able to settle matter. It is as if every time they decide on one thing, something else breaks down.”
“It was the same with the House of the Fireflies as well, but it all seems similar to the stuff you hear about on the news in Japan. It seems you can’t escape from taxes even in a world of swords and magic.”
Neither Yasuo nor Shouko had the slightest amount of interest in settling down permanently in Ante Lande, but they were once again forced to understand how harsh the world of adults could be, even if that was in fact in a different world.
Speaking of taxes, during the middle ages on Earth, there was apparently a large tax levied on people who lived in towns for water supply. Going by that, it was not hard to imagine that the House of the Fireflies, which had a well inside the property, must be burdened with that kind of tax as well.
Despite that, the reason why they did not abandon that property and that house was because even a single water pipe would make it easier for the children to stay clean, and because of the monetary support provided by Catalina and Feigreid.
“Oh well, nothing will change even if we stand around here talking about it amongst ourselves. Let’s put the weighty considerations aside and have lunch, although it’s a little early.”
Catalina said that to cheer the two of them up, and once again started walking ahead of them.
They walked to a corner of the market where there was a shop that looked like warehouse, and once they reached it, Catalina took the bags that Yasuo was carrying and handed them over to the middle-aged shop owner.
Yasuo and Shouko couldn’t tell whether the price fetched by the three sacks of tea beans was high or low, but Catalina looked fairly satisfied with the sale.
At that moment, the sound of gentle bells echoed throughout the market, and Catalina told them that the sound signified that it was noon.
“That sound was kind of strange, though.”
Shouko looked around restlessly.
“Rather than a bell, it sounded like the chimes used in school.”
After she said that, Yasuo also felt that the sound did not come directly from a bell tower somewhere, but instead, it somewhat resembled the sound of chimes that were played over speakers throughout a school.
It sounded like an electronic tone, although in this case, it may be more accurate to say it sounded like a Magitech tone.
“Ah, that’s probably the reason you’re looking for.”
Catalina was pointing at what looked like a round object affixed to the top of a utility pole.
“The sound of the bells comes from that round thing on top of the pole. This is related to the tax collection we were speaking of earlier as well, but this town is fairly strict about being on time. However, with all the crowded buildings around here, the sound from a regular bell tower won’t reach very far, so they use Magitech engineering to transmit the sound in that way.”
Hearing that, they understood that it was basically the same thing as a school chime, except for the fact that it used sorcery to work.
“It will ring loudly once more in the evening. Once that bell rings, the market and all business except for a select few will have to close for the day, and unless they have a special permit, people will no longer be allowed to enter or leave through the town gates.”
Perhaps it was similar to the five o’clock chime in Japan that urges children to return to their homes.
Apart from that fact that all the systems used mana as a power source, it looked like Ante Lande as a whole was blessed with a fairly rapid rate of technological development.
Yasuo remembered hearing from Diana that the comparatively more developed regions had escalators, and they also had the technology to record audio and video on 8mm tapes.
Thinking about it that way, perhaps the gap in technological development between Japan and Ante Lande was a lot smaller than Yasuo had originally imagined.
No, if you consider how the use of magic and sorcery had become commonplace to a certain extent, Ante Lande already surpassed Japan in some respects..
“Looking at this, I feel like I can understand how Diana-san and Khalija-san got used to living in Japan so quickly.”
Shouko said that in a low tone so that Catalina would not hear, and Yasuo agreed with her wholeheartedly.
“Right then, it’s time for lunch. The plaza over there has benches that we can use freely, so let’s secure a spot and go buy something.”
“Ah, please wait.”
Shouko stopped Catalina who seemed to be in high spirits.
“My bento will go bad if I don’t eat it by today, so I don’t need anything.”
“Yes, I prepared it before we came here… I-I mean, I prepared it to eat for lunch with him.”
Shouko nearly forgot that the two of them were supposed to be lovers, and they were supposed to have been on a date before coming to this other world.
As Shouko had picked the ingredients for the bento without considering that the food would have to stay fresh for a while, she thought that she should eat it as soon as possible.
“Eh? You mean that is food from Japan!? Really!?”
Catalina looked at Shouko’s bag with sparkling eyes.
“Ante Lande has Japanese-style food as well, you know.”
Not only Shouko, but even Yasuo had not heard about that before.
“Yes. The cooking techniques of the Great Sage Madoka Sugiura who came from the same world as the Hero Hideo have spread throughout the land.”
Yasuo unintentionally let out a snort of laughter.
Now that he thought about it, he remembered hearing on some occasion that his mother’s cooking had been inherited by Resteria’s Knights Division, and that it was still quite popular.
He had also heard that his mother had single-handedly taken up the job of cooking the meals during the time when she had traveled with Hideo, Erijina, and Alexei.
However, he had not imagined that it had spread throughout the world with the label of 『Japanese-style food』.
If he told this mother that, she might feel overcome by a sense of responsibility and start to mope.
Also, he would now have to properly say what he had not been able to say earlier.
“Umm, Catalina-san… I was curious about it earlier as well, but the Madoka Sugiura you mentioned…”
“Eh? Ah, she was one of your father’s comrades, and fought against Demon King Kaul by his side—”
“That’s my mother’s name.”
For some reason, Catalina’s expression suddenly stiffened.
No, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that her expression twisted.
Catalina, who usually had a clever and intelligent air about her, was furrowing her eyebrows so much that even the skin on her nose was wrinkled, and her mouth was set in a twisted expression. After seeing that, Yasuo feared that he had made some sort of a blunder.
“Ah… well… I suppose that makes sense.”
However, her twisted expression that looked like one of deep resentment faded along with her sigh, and she slumped her shoulders as if she was dejected.
“I see, so it’s like that after all. I guess that’s only obvious. Fufufu…”
“Oh, it’s nothing…”
It didn’t seem like it was nothing, no matter how you looked at it. However Catalina was giving off a vibe that implied that she would not entertain any more questions on the matter.
Yasuo had expected a more surprised reaction to the fact that the Hero Hideo and The Rainbow Sage were married, so her current reaction was not quite what he had expected. However, it might have just been the case that Catalina didn’t really care too much about such things.
In any case, he had managed to raise the subject of his mother in a very natural and calm manner, so he could put that matter to rest.
“Haa… Anyway, let’s focus on lunch for now. Haa…”
Shouko also was not able to hide her confusion at Catalina’s behaviour, who was quite obviously not concentrating on lunch at all. However, Shouko still held her bento box out towards Catalina and opened the lid.
“Shouko, if you’re okay with it, can I have a taste of what real Japanese-style food tastes like? In return, I’ll treat you to some food from this market that is famous for being the most delicious.”
“That’s fine. Although this doesn’t really count as proper Japanese-style food at all.”
As Shouko’s bento had been prepared yesterday, there was quite a bit of condensation inside the box and the contents looked wilted.
However, even Yasuo, who knew nothing about cooking, could tell that the food was prepared while taking the appearance and nutritional balance into account, and she had even taken into consideration the fact that she would be eating it on the move inside the Gate Tower, despite the fact that she had made that bento for herself.
The box was double-layered, and the top compartment contained the side dishes.
They consisted of fried chicken, cherry tomatoes, and what appeared to be frozen shumai.
It had already deviated quite a bit from traditional Japanese-style food by this point, but as for what came next, there was no way to put it but to say that it was as expected of the daughter from the Restaurant Saburo.
Thick slices of tamagoyaki that still looked like they had been perfectly fried despite the fact that they were cold and a lot of time had passed since they were made, and a kinpira made from carrots, burdock, lotus roots, and konjac. Radish that looked like it had been stewed in a fairly strong stock, and ganmodoki.
The contents that were a perfect amalgamation of these gave off a slight aroma that was characteristic of bento.
“I see, so this is Japan’s cooking!”
“The lower compartment has rice balls. And this is inari sushi.”
“You’re talking about rice that has been shaped like a ball, right? We have those here as well. What is this inari sushi?”
“It is a type of food where you stuff rice into pockets of properly simmered and deep-fried tofu. This brown-colored part is the deep-fried tofu. This is undoubtedly Japanese-style food, so please try some if you would like. Do you know how to use chopsticks?”
Catalina also looked like she was accustomed to using chopsticks just like Diana and Khalija, as she effortlessly used the disposable chopsticks that Shouko handed to her and ate a small-sized inari sushi in one bite.
“……Mmm, it’s delicious. This deep-fried tofu is very nice and sweet. Is this something that can be made at home in Japan?”
“It’s certainly possible to make it yourself, but I think it would be pretty difficult. Do you have a variety of beans called soybeans here?”
“Soybeans… I’ve never heard that name before. That’s what they are called in your world, right?”
“Yes. They are a little bigger than the tea beans you sold earlier, and they are often used to as an ingredient in making condiments in Japan as well. This soup powder was made using the same beans as one of the ingredients as well.”
Saying that, Shouko pulled out a sealed packet of miso soup stock.
The actual miso powder was not visible since it was sealed in an aluminium packet, but Shouko pointed to the image of miso soup on the packaging, and Catalina looked between the image and the deep-fried tofu several times.
As they could not boil water to prepare the soup, Shouko put the packet of miso soup powder back into her bag and continued her explanation.
“The deep-fried tofu is made by squeezing soy milk out of those soybeans, coagulating it into a white, jelly-like substance using nigari made from sea salt, and then frying it several times in oil of varying temperatures.”
“I know what salt is, but I’ve never heard of nigari. We have beans that have a lot of juice in them, but I have no idea if they are the same beans you are talking about, and I’ve never heard of them being used as ingredients to make condiments either. I can’t justify purchasing oil just for the purpose of making this either, so I don’t think I will be able to cook this. That’s unfortunate.”
It goes without saying that the method to prepare tofu and deep fry it is not something high school students study about for their exams, so this was yet another thing that was only possible due to Shouko’s position as the daughter of Restaurant Saburou.
After that, Catalina received several more portions of the bento from Shouko and she looked spoke while looking very satisfied.
“You must be very lucky to have a sweetheart who is so good at cooking.”
“Ah, umm, yeah.”
This was a setting that he had created himself, but when someone else started to talk about it, he couldn’t help but feel embarrassed.
“Oh, I’m still nowhere close to being a good cook.”
Shouko showed true humility, probably she knew just how good the real thing was.
“Even so… I think it’s still quite delicious.”
Yasuo gave his honest opinion, which caused Shouko to glare at him with a red face for some reason, and Catalina looked at him with a lukewarm gaze.
“……! Y-Yasu-kun, you’re so…”
Despite being confused, Yasuo realized that he had one again committed a verbal gaffe, and that he had said something that caused Catalina to take up a teasing tone.
Yasuo stuffed his cheeks with the sandwich Catalina had bought for him which had a lot of vegetables he had never seen before, and looked at the ground to preclude any further comments.
In contrast, Catalina, who was happily eating Shouko’s tamagoyaki, suddenly looked upwards and spoke in a soft voice.
“Aah… If I had gone along with them back then, would things be different now?”
“What are you talking about?”
“……It’s nothing. Yasuo, I’m sure this is something you wouldn’t like to hear about.”
“Haa… I don’t really get it…… but, the vegetables here are pretty tasty. The dressing is quite peculiar as well, it unexpectedly tastes like soy sauce.”
“Ah, I thought the same thing.”
Yasuo thought that Catalina’s reply to his question was quite strange, but he understood to some extent that she was thinking of something in the past that he might not be capable of understanding.
Perhaps Catalina had realized that Yasuo and Shouko were trying to change the subject, as she nodded slightly and then put on a mischievous smile.
“Soy sauce, huh? What if I told you that it is also something that Madoka left behind?”
“Huh!? This too!?”
Yasuo was shocked that details about his parents’ preferences had permeated so deeply even into the light meals sold in the middle of a town, but Catalina put her hand over her mouth and laughed.
“I was joking. I didn’t expect you to believe me so easily.”
Yasuo scowled when he realized that he was being teased by Catalina, but then he saw that Shouko was also laughing.
Looking at the two of them laughing like that, Yasuo felt that it would be okay to let it slide.
Despite that, Yasuo still left a reluctant comment for the sake of his meagre pride, and finished off the sandwich somewhat violently.
“Right then, now that we have finished eating, it’s time to go meet Second Lieutenant Feigreid. Have the two of you had enough to eat?”
Catalina clapped her hands once and spoke, as if to dispel the previous mood.
“If anything, the really important part for you two is going to begin now, so you should eat up and regain your strength…”
It was at that moment.
They heard a faint scream from the direction of the market.
At the same time the three of them had raised their heads, they started to hear intermittent sounds of things being destroyed.
“Pack up your belongings!”
Catalina’s voice had a sharp edge to it, and both Yasuo and Shouko obeyed her without making a fuss.
Even as they were doing that, the screams gradually started to get louder.
From the corner of their eyes, they saw a street stall get blown into the air as if there had been an explosion.
The fruits and vegetables that were being sold, the baskets and crates that held them, and even the stall itself went flying through the air, and a fruit that looked like an apple fell to the ground near Yasuo’s feet and broke apart.
“W-What’s going on…!?”
“Yasu-kun, over there!”
Shouko suddenly pointed towards upwards.
When Yasuo turned to see what she was pointing at, he saw that five people equipped with light armor had appeared on top of the wall that surrounded the market, and they flew off towards the direction in which the screams were coming from.
Those superhuman movements, and uniforms similar to the one Feigreid was wearing.
It was a squad of Magitech Knights from the Gaz Commonwealth.
At the same time, a large number of people who were dressed like guards rushed into the market and urged the people there to vacate the premises.
As Yasuo and the others were still confused, the reason for the disturbance suddenly appeared before them.
A pillar of rippling black flames appeared in front of the guards who were urging people to seek shelter.
“In such a crowded place!?”
Yasuo and Shouko shouted, and Catalina suddenly turned around to look at the wall where the Magitech Knights had appeared.
“I see, so that’s why the response was was so fast…! You two, it’s time to run away. If they find Shouko here, they might kill her!”
Shouko looked taken aback when she was told that she might be killed, but Yasuo suddenly realized something.
Catalina’s fear was not exaggerated at all.
The Shii had no place in human society as they were monsters that pierced and stole the hearts of people and were hence enemies of humanity through and through.
If Shouko, who had the flames of the Shii in her left eye, was found by Magitech Knights who did not know her circumstances, there was no telling what they would do to her.
“It looks like we had better postpone our visit to the Headquarters. Due to the appearance of the Shii, it is likely that Second Lieutenant Feigreid will be at the scene of the incident as well. If we go around asking for him all of a sudden, we might put Shouko in danger.”
The two of them followed Catalina as she started to run away from the market area before they were caught up in the chaos that was gradually spreading.
“Catalina-san! In front of you!”
However, a pillar of black flame suddenly burst out of the ground directly ahead of Catalina, who was running while keeping an eye on their surroundings.
By the time Catalina looked to the front after hearing Yasuo’s warning, the Shii was brandishing a weapon that looked like a black longsword at her.
Yasuo was reflexively about to close his eyes to avoid looking at the tragic event he was sure must follow in the next second.
“Don’t close your eyes! Closing your eyes on the battlefield will get you killed!”
After hearing Catalina’s warning, Yasuo just barely managed to open his eyes again.
Catalina used her hand that was covered with light to alter the path of the sword that the Shii swung down, and the sword cut through the air and slammed into the ground.
“Oh ancient being, break through the human commandments!!”
The Shii was off balance, and when Catalina chanted that spell, a stake burst out of the ground that was paved with bricks and impaled the Shii.
“A-Are we just going to leave it like this?”
“In my current condition, I can’t defeat it with my magic! Let’s leave it to the Magitech Knights!”
After saying that, Catalina ran off with a force that precluded any objections from Yasuo and Shouko. They could only follow after her.
“W-Where are we running to!?”
“Haah… Haah… L-Looking at how quickly the Magitech Knights arrived, I honestly don’t know if there is a safe place where we can hide.”
“How quickly they arrived? What do you mean?”
“The Magitech Knights appeared far too quickly after we first heard the screams… The only explanation is that they were already in the field, dealing with Shii that had popped up throughout the town.”
“Throughout the town… Yasu-kun! The children at the House of the Fireflies!”
“This is bad! If the Shii appear there, Obaa-chan won’t be able to protect the children by herself!”
Yasuo’s legs were already shaking.
Looking at Catalina’s battle strength, if they were to believe her own assessment of her ability, then she was only a little stronger than Yasuo.
Should he leave it up to Shouko and her Shii power that had ripped through the wolves in the forest?
No, there were too many uncertain factors about it to truly call it 『Shouko’s power』, and moreover, using that power had a high chance of making the Magitech Knights turn against them.
On the other hand, he himself was only barely able to release a small jolt of electricity from the palm of his hand when he was touching his opponent, so what good was he in such a fight?
The people with overwhelming fighting strength, Diana, Khalija, his father, and his mother were not around.
If they went there, both he and Shouko might get killed.
If he went there, and ran into a Shii, there was nothing he could do.
But even so.
When he thought of the children who had sung out of tune with him and Shouko, he could not bring himself to run away.
Yasuo turned towards the street that they had walked out of just a short time ago, and rushed back without saying a word.
Shouko followed closely behind him.
“H-Hey, you two!!”
Catalina also followed them while looking flustered.
While running, Yasuo thought about the situation optimistically on purpose to calm himself down.
So far, he had not seen more than six Shii appear in a place at the same time.
Back then, Khalija had released roughly thirty Shii within Tokorozawa.
The Shii had appeared inside the town as if aiming for the time when he was inside, but in such a large town, there was no way that the Shii would bother with the House of the Fireflies which was located deep inside the alleys and had few people nearby.
Before such a thing could happen, that Magitech Knight called Feigreid would come running to save them for sure.
Their worries were unfounded.
However, Shouko’s scream cut through Yasuo’s optimism.
The three of them arrived in front of the courtyard of the House of the Fireflies at almost the same time when Director Kelly, who was standing protectively in front of the children, was slashed diagonally across her chest by a longsword-wielding Shii.
Catalina placed her hands on the ground, and the mana she released from the palms of her hands sped towards the Shii that had slashed Director Kelly while ripping up the flagstones.
However, the distance between them was too large.
The Shii easily jumped up high to avoid the stake the burst out of the ground, and landed in a composed manner on the roof of the House of Fireflies.
Judging from its equipment and the way it moved, there was no doubt that this Shii was originally someone who was greatly skilled at fighting.
“Catalina-san!! Please try to keep it distracted somehow!!”
Yasuo ran towards Director Kelly who had been slashed, while keeping a close eye on the distance between himself and the longsword-wielding Shii.
“Yasuo! W-Wait! …Ugh, fine!!”
The Shii turned its red eyes upon Yasuo who charged in recklessly, but Catalina barely managed to distract it by shooting a small fireball at it.
“Yasuo! What are you doing!? We can no longer do anything for her! Hurry up and run away…”
“It’s okay! Yasu-kun might be able to save her! Catalina-san, please continue to keep that guy distracted!”
“Eh? Shouko, even you’re saying things like that… Hey, wait up! ”
Before Catalina could finish speaking, Shouko also ran into the courtyard as if following after Yasuo.
Shouko’s motive was clear.
She wanted to somehow help the children who were still petrified from fright in a corner of the courtyard to escape into the alleys.
However, no matter how you thought about it, that was impossible.
Most likely, Catalina’s magic would not be enough to restrain the Shii that looked like it was specialized for battle.
The ground stake and fireball she had used earlier were both uncomparably weaker than what she had been capable of back in the day, and if the Shii judged that she was harmless, it would ignore her and attack Yasuo and Shouko instead.
“I definitely… won’t let that happen!!”
Catalina desperately forced her body that was far past its prime to keep shooting fireballs at the Shii that stood on the roof.
However, she had barely shot out five or six fireballs before the Shii stopped considering her a threat.
The Shii ignored the seventh fireball that she shot out, and fixed its sight squarely on Yasuo who was on the ground beneath its feet.
“Yasuo! Shouko! Run away! There’s nothing more we can do!!”
“Please wait! It’s almost done!”
“What are you talking about!? Just hurry up and run! You’ll get yourselves killed!”
Catalina’s voice was close to a scream.
However Yasuo stubbornly refused to move from Director Kelly’s side, and instead, Shouko spoke up.
“Yasu-kun! How much longer!?”
“Probably less than two minutes!!”
“I think I can hold out for a minute or so!”
“You’d better take responsibility for whatever happens, okay!!?”
“Hey! What are the two of you planning…!?”
Shouko’s gentle voice reached Catalina who was completely confused.
“Everyone, don’t be afraid. That Onii-chan, Catalina-san, and I will definitely protect you.”
She spoke in Japanese, a language that the children had no way of understanding.
However, strangely, the children stopped trembling.
The next instant, Catalina saw something that she could scarcely believe.
A shadow leaped up from the courtyard to the roof with an explosive sound.
The hood was blown back by the pressure of the wind, and Shouko, with black flames gushing out of her eyes, wrists, ankles, and waist closed in on the the longsword-wielding Shii with the speed of a bullet.
That was definitely Shouko.
At the same time, Catalina also realized something else.
The shape that the black flames took as they wrapped around Shouko looked familiar.
“Is that Baskelgarde’s… 『Destroyer of Armies』, Orion?”
“How dare you do that to Obaa-chaaaaaaaan!!”
Along with the force of her jump, Shouko raised her right leg.
Her abilities might have been superhuman, but her movements were too straightforward to fight against a Shii that was specialized for battle.
She was going to get killed. Catalina gulped as she thought that.
However, for some reason, the longsword-wielding Shii stopped moving.
Although the Shii’s red, dead eyes were still turned upon Shouko, it froze in place as thought it had been paralyzed, and Shouko kicked it in its side with every iota of strength she could muster.
The longsword-wielding Shii had no way of resisting the force of that kick, and it was sent flying into the wall of the neighboring building.
“You’re not going to go down just from that, right!? Bring it on! I will be your opponent! ”
Shouko, who had landed cleanly on the roof, shouted loudly at the Shii that was embedded in the wall.
Behind the flames that covered both her eyes, her pupils were glowing with the same red light as the Shii.
Catalina was shocked because she had no idea what had happened to turn Shouko into such a state, but there was something happening that was even more shocking.
“Catalina-san! I’ll leave the children to you! I’ll take care of Obaa-san…”
When Catalina looked towards Yasuo, she saw that Director Kelly, who was supposed to have been slashed by the Shii, was sitting up by herself with a dumbfounded expression on her face.
“W-What is going on…!?”
Catalina, who had finally entered the courtyard while keeping an eye on the Shii that was struggling while still stuck in the wall, looked between Director Kelly, Yasuo, Shouko, and the children many times. Director Kelly herself kept looking between her body and Yasuo.
“You… Just what did you…”
Yasuo spoke concisely to the two women who were confused.
“I’m sorry, Catalina-san. The two of us were lying to you… Tatewaki-san!!”
“Obaa-san is fine! Can you somehow get one more hit in!?”
Yasuo said that while pointing at the Shii that had almost finished extricating itself from the wall, and Shouko lightly scratched her head.
“Is that really something you would ask a person who is supposed to be your girlfriend to do? You’re the worst!”
Shouko said that as she kicked off from the roof of the House of the Fireflies with a loud sound, and once again got close to the Shii that she had sent flying earlier.
Shouko looked into those red eyes with her own, and gave a small smile.
“Sorry, but this is something my boyfriend asked me to do.”
After saying that, she hit it in the center of its chest with so much force that it felt like her fist might pierce through.
“Ugh, that sensation doesn’t feel good at all.”
To avoid getting hit with a counterattack, Shouko spun around and jumped down to stand beside Yasuo.
Yasuo wasn’t sure if the phrase “on death’s door” applied to the Shii, but its movements had noticeably become dull. Yasuo looked up at it and took a deep breath and started singing the requiem without any hesitation.
“Yasuo… That… That song is…!”
Once the words of the requiem reached the Shii, it became completely motionless and its body started to flake off into particles of soot and disappear.
“……I’m sorry, Catalina-san. We lied to you.”
Shouko’s flames disappeared, and she started to breathe heavily with a slightly pale face.
“We weren’t sure if you were really our ally or not, Catalina-san… So we were not able to tell you. We have a general idea about what’s going on. About Ante Lande, the Shii and the things they have done, magic, and sorcery….”
“The fact is, we came to Ante Lande on our own accord to unravel the secret of the Shii that is within me. We were planning on keeping that a secret until we met the Magitech Knights in this town and asked for their protection, but…”
“It’s not something we can keep a secret at the cost of people’s lives.”
The longsword-wielding Shii that had slashed Director Kelly had disappeared without a trace, and Yasuo said that after taking a deep breath.
“I’ve fought against the Shii several times… no, that’s not quite right. I didn’t actually fight them. I was just present on the field of battle. Just like what you saw earlier, I let other people do the fighting, and the only things that I am capable of are healing magic and singing the requiem. Even so, I felt that I had to protect these children, no matter what, because there was something that I could do to help them.”
Saying that, Yasuo turned to properly face Director Kelly and Catalina.
“We are being targeted by someone who can control the Shii. There is a chance that we were the targets of this attack… even though it is strange for them to appear all over the town like this. In the beginning, I even suspected that the two of you were connected to the people who were targeting us. That’s why I felt compelled to lie… I’m sorry. However, now I understand that there is no point in suspecting you.”
The wound that Director Kelly received from the Shii was real.
If Catalina was in league with the Shii, she would not need to go to the trouble of pretending to help them escape or lend a hand in fighting against the Shii. She could have just disappeared after leaving the two of them behind at some place where the Shii would find them.
If all of this was according to the 『enemy’s』 plan, then Yasuo and Shouko already had no cards left to play.
That is why there was no point in suspecting the two of them anymore.
In that case, when faced with what had occured, the only thing he could do was to move according to his sense of justice that he had cultivated over his life so far.
“Have the two of you heard of anyone called Beatrice Heller or William Bareig?”
When Yasuo asked that question in a calm voice, Director Kelly and Catalina glanced at each other after hearing the name Beatrice.
“By Beatrice, do you mean the 『Foreman』?”
“You know her!?”
“Well, of course.”
Saying that, Catalina grimaced.
“I told you about them, didn’t I? The pro-independence faction in the Gaz Commonwealth with nationalistic views. Beatrice Heller is in essence the leader of that third faction, the 『Carnelian of the Coal Mine』, that gained prominence in the Gaz Commonwealth with the aim of achieving a more clear-cut independence.”
“She’s the one who has been sending the Shii to Japan!”
Shouko shouted that vigorously, and Director Kelly and Catalina looked even more confused.
“I did think that it was strange for Hideo’s son and his friend to not know about anything, but… just how much of the situation do the two of you already understand?”
“At the very least, I think we know a bunch of details that people who are living ordinary lives in Ante Lande wouldn’t know.”
Yasuo replied with a sombre expression on his face.
“It happened just recently. I received an 『official notice from the Foreman』 after many years.”
Saying that, Director Kelly hung her head with a mortified expression on her face.
“The message said to send over any information I came across regarding the Shii so that it could be used to negotiate for getting more support from the Gaz Commonwealth… so, that’s why I used the Magitech communication…”
“Wait, you told her about me…!?”
The only response Director Kelly gave in response to Shouko’s question was a groan of repentance.
However, that was enough to imagine what had happened.
After the case with Khalija, Yasuo and the others had roughly perceived that the 『Canelian of the Coal Mine』 was an organization that was tainted with evil, however the truth was that most of the people belonging to the organization were ignorant of the truth.
Just like what had happened today, Beatrice Heller was attempting sift through the information gathered from all the “clean” branches that were on the fringes of the organization to find more information about the 『Latch』, no matter how trivial it was.
Members of the organization who belonged to branches that had trouble keeping things running, such as the House of the Fireflies, would especially hand over any information without thinking too deeply about it for the sake of getting more support in the future.
To Director Kelly, the children who were dependent on the House of the Fireflies to survive were her primary concern, after all.
“……I’m sorry. If only we had properly told you about ourselves to begin with…”
“No, you don’t need to apologize. You were correct in being cautious.”
On hearing Shouko’s apology, Catalina firmly shook her head.
“In the current state of Ante Lande,『Hideo’s son』 and 『a human body in which a Shii resides』 are both sensitive topics that can cause an explosive reaction. No matter what the reason, hiding the information you knew was not the wrong decision. Well, neither of us thought that the name of the 『Foreman』 would come up directly… however, it was good that I made preparations, just in case.”
“It’s nothing. However, it looks like the two of you have more experience than us when it comes to fighting against the Shii. What should we do now?”
After looking at all the people gathered there, Yasuo spoke.
“It doesn’t matter whether they appeared spontaneously or someone is pulling the strings in the background. Now that so many Shii have appeared here, there is no such thing as a guaranteed safe place inside the town. Those things will easily appear indoors as well… however… that’s right.”
Yasuo looked surprised when he thought of something.
And despite coming up with the idea, he grimaced as if wondering if such a thing would actually be possible.
“Please wait for a while. Yasu-kun is really racking his brains at the moment.”
While silently wishing that Shouko wouldn’t say such unnecessary things, Yasuo considered the various things he had seen in Galedeite since he had arrived there.
“Did you think of something?”
“If we use those bells, I think we can make something of this situation. Catalina-san! Do you know where the sound of the bells that we heard before we had lunch is broadcasted from?”
“Are you talking about the sound we heard in the market? I’ve heard that they ring the bell in a watchtower that is jointly controlled by the Knights Division and the town council… but since it is important for the functioning of the whole town and maintaining public order, regular people are not told where that tower is located. That’s why, I don’t know either…”
Yasuo felt discouraged after hearing that answer from Catalina who looked perplexed.
“Everyone! Are you okay!?”
However, all the people gathered there were startled by the voice of the man who had suddenly appeared there, and they raised their heads.
On looking up, they saw Feigreid, who was white in the face, jump down from the roof of the House of the Fireflies. He confirmed that Director Kelly and the children were okay, and let out a small sigh of relief.
“Thank goodness, it looks like you’re all okay.”
“Catalina, this boy, and this girl came to protect us just in time.”
“I-I see…. Wait! That left eye is—!”
“P-Please wait! She isn’t a Shii…”
Yasuo panicked and tried to stop Feigreid who was startled after seeing the flames in Shouko’s left eye, but even before he could say anything, Catalina had moved to put herself in between Shouko and Feigreid.
“Second Lieutenant, there is something more important that I need to ask you to do for me.”
“Wha… Catalina-san, what is the meaning of this? Just who is that girl…”
“She a guest of mine from Japan who has come here from the other world. She is not a Shii. She is not someone your organization needs to be afraid of. More importantly, Shii have appeared within the town, correct? That’s why you came flying here, fearing that this place might have been attacked as well, right?”
“T-That’s true, but… Hang on!! From Japan!? What’s going on here!?”
“Due to the current situation, I’d like you to guide him to a certain place. He’s Yasuo Kenzaki, the son of the Hero Hideo.”
“……Eh? Huh!? The son of the Hero Hideo!?”
Feigreid opened his eyes wide in shock and spun around to see the young man who was standing behind him.
On the other hand, Yasuo too looked surprised as he had no idea what Catalina was talking about.
“It’s about time for that to happen, don’t you think?”
On that day, a certain notice had been circulated among the army personnel stationed at a checkpoint belonging to Resteria, located at the border between the Gaz Commonwealth and the Resteria Kingdom.
The commanding officer for that particular day sat in the checkpoint building, looking bored as he flipped through the reports and replied to his subordinate who had asked that question.
“One of the VIPs from the Capital is going to cross over to the Gaz side. I heard that their destination is Galedeite.”
“Yeah, about that ‘one person’ part. I don’t get why it’s just one VIP. I don’t know who they are, but you’d think they would have at least one Magitech Knight as an escort.”
“No, it really seems that they intend to come alone… Hmm?”
At that moment, an alarm went off indicating that a an object using mana to fly was approaching the checkpoint at high speed from the Resteria side of the border.
“Oi, is there really someone stupid enough to try and cross the border from the air without permission in this day and age!?”
“Anti-flight Sorcery Division! Prepare to intercept… Hey, hang on, that is…!”
The commanding officer who had been looking through a telescope out of the window of the checkpoint stood shocked with his mouth agape for a moment, and then hurriedly ordered for the alarm to be stopped.
“Open the border gates! Open the border gates!”
“What!? There’s no way that Gaz will allow someone to enter their territory through the air—”
“And I’m telling you, they have permission!”
The airship approached the checkpoint.
That flying object, which turned out to be a single Magitech Knight, approached at a high speed and crossed right over the gate on the ground meant to prevent people from crossing the border without permission.
Strangely enough, that person’s arrival coincided perfectly with the time mentioned in the notice sent to the border patrol, regarding the “VIP’s arrival.”
After the Magitech Knight flew past them, a single sheet of paper came fluttering down from the sky.
The Magitech Knight had realized that they were under observation through a telescope despite the great speed at which they was traveling, and immediately pulled out that paper. The commanding officer remembered that person’s face and gave a bitter smile.
“……Seriously, what a joke… Umm, let’s see. This is the first time I’ve seen one of these as well. It has the Royal Seal to authenticate that person as an emergency special envoy… The person who passed by is from the Kingdom’s Knights Division, from the army in the capital. Let’s see, the name is…”
At that moment, they heard the alarm from the checkpoint on the Gaz side that was a short distance away from the border on the other side, and the sound carried to them faintly over the wind.
Most likely there was an uproar on their side as well.
“It looks like we are going to get scolded for this, the permit notwithstanding.”
The commanding officer slumped his shoulders in resignation, and then turned to look up at the sky that the Magitech Knight had flown through.
“I wonder why she was in such a hurry on a peaceful day like this with good weather. Really, I’ll never understand what the VIPs are thinking.”
The tower to which Feigreid led Yasuo, Shouko, and Catalina looked almost identical to the tower that they had climbed earlier.
“There are other 『Bell Towers』 apart from this one as well, and we use a different one each day.”
Since the equipment was in charge of keeping time for the entire town, it was only natural that they went to that much trouble.
“Do all of them have broadcasting equipment?”
“Yes, they do. Each tower has its own Magitech Frameworks, and the person in charge just moves the bells each time we switch to a different tower.”
Apparently, the town council were responsible for the overseeing the bells, and the Knights Division were responsible for getting them to the assigned place safely.
“Still, is something like that really possible…?”
Feigreid asked that question uneasily, and Yasuo, whose expression looked even more uneasy, answered him.
“It’s not a matter of whether I can do it or not, we have no choice but to try. If there is someone who is overseeing this entire incident, then that person might do something to get in our way. Feigreid-san, you have to do your best to protect this tower.”
Although Feigreid had broken out into a cold sweat, he looked like he had prepared himself and led the way into the tower. Meanwhile, Yasuo looked like he was not prepared at all and his breathing was shallow.
“It’s over here…”
After Feigreid ordered the soldiers who were guarding the facility to stand down, Yasuo entered a room that had many strange looking machines installed in it and his anxiety reached the maximum level.
If his hypothesis didn’t work out after going to all this trouble, not only would it be embarrassing for him, it might reflect badly on Feigreid as well.
Since Catalina had mediated on Yasuo’s behalf to get them this far, she might not get out of it unscathed either.
“Ueeeh!? W-What is it…”
However, Shouko unexpectedly slapped him hard on his back as though she had seen through his worry, causing Yasuo to start coughing.
“Be more confident! I’m sure you can do it!!”
Shouko said that forcefully to Yasuo who had tears in his eyes.
“If it doesn’t work out, I’ll apologize to everyone along with you! Do your best! The kids from the House of the Fireflies are counting on you!”
“Are you trying to cheer me up or put more pressure on me? Make up your mind!”
Yasuo said that with a bitter smile and looked around the 『broadcasting room』.
Hanging from the ceiling were three bells that looked smaller than he had expected.
There were four trumpet-like things that looked like the speakers of a gramophone, surrounding those bells.
A magical pattern appeared to have been carved into the floor, and Yasuo had no way of understanding its purpose.
That pattern looked identical to the Magitech Frameworks that he had seen inside the Techno Weapon Castor in the past, and perhaps this entire room could be considered to be one large Techno Weapon.
Looking closely, he saw that the bells had characters and diagrams engraved into them as well, and it appeared that the system was not as simple as just hitting the bells to make them ring.
“Hey, this is pretty nice! It kind of looks like a recording studio!”
“Seriously, can you just stop talking for a while!?”
“Would you like for us to leave the room?”
“I honestly have no idea what will happen. You can wait where ever you want, just be ready to take action no matter what happens.”
“I understand. Leave it to me. I still have a little power left to spare.”
“……To be honest, I don’t like the idea of making you fight, Tatewaki-san.”
“It’s a little late for that.”
Shouko’s smile hinted at mixed feelings, and she spoke.
“Use whatever you have to. You can worry about the source of the problem and understanding the situation later. That said, it’s not like I’m not scared or anything, so the things you have to take responsibility for are rapidly growing, okay?”
“Yeah, I got it… wait, what!?”
Yasuo had still not resolved himself, but in order to trick himself into believing that he was ready, he took a large breath and shouted out in a loud voice on purpose.
“Feigreid-san, let’s start!”
“Understood… In that case…”
After Yasuo signalled that he was ready, Feigreid pressed his hand against a certain spot on the wall and activated the Magitech Frameworks.
At the same time, the four trumpets that surrounded Yasuo and the bells started to let out a humming sound.
Feigreid extended his hand to let Yasuo know that the requirements had already been set in motion.
Yasuo did his best to calm his pounding heart, coughed once to clear his throat, and opened his mouth.
The 『Requiem』 sung in Yasuo’s resonant voice was transmitted throughout the town via the Magitech Frameworks, the Magitech equipment, and speakers that were mounted on the utility poles in the town.
The speakers had been placed at calculated locations to ensure that the sound of the bells would reach all parts of the town, and now the sound of the requiem penetrated every single building, reached every single alley, no matter how small, and perhaps even extended beyond the walls of the town as well.
Feigreid, who was operating the 『broadcasting room』, spoke up in a shocked voice.
Light extended from under Yasuo’s feet, and that light spread across the floor, up the walls, and the bells that hung from the ceiling.
The three bells started to tremble in concert with Yasuo’s singing, and the trumpets that picked up his voice transmitted it all over the town without any loss.
Catalina, who had been standing near the door of the broadcasting room and looking outside the tower through a window, gestured for Shouko to come closer and look as well.
Shouko ran towards the window, and she immediately understood what was happening as well.
At first glance, it looked like fingers of black fire were extending upwards from all over the town.
However, on looking closely, it was apparent that they were actually comprised of the soot-like substance that appeared when the Shii were being sent off with the requiem.
In a short amount of time, the number of pillars of soot started to increase rapidly, from ten to twenty.
Of course, it meant that the number of Shii that had appeared in the town was just that high, but Catalina could not hide her shock on seeing that spectacle.
It was said that even higher-ranking clerics from the Church of the Divine King could send off no more than three Shii at once.
However, it was unheard of for one person’s song to send off ten or twenty Shii at once, even if that person was borrowing the massive power of large-scale Magitech Frameworks.
“Catalina-san! Over there!”
On the roof of a building a few dozen meters away from the tower, they could see a Shii that was falling over in a strange posture.
It was hard to tell as most of its body was hidden by the black soot that was rising up, but it looked like the body of the Shii was wracked with spasms.
As the Shii continued to convulse, a Magitech Knight appeared from somewhere and delivered the finishing blow.
As soon as it was struck, the Shii turned entirely into soot and vanished, and the Magitech Knight took a moment to listen closely to Yasuo’s requiem, and despite looking mystified about what was going on, he flew off in search of other Shii.
“Is he keeping the Shii from moving?”
“There’s no doubt about it. Yasu-kun did the same thing in Japan, after all.”
“H-How is he able to stay on his feet after doing that!? Something like this can’t be achieved with an ordinary amount of mana, you know!?”
“It seems he doesn’t know the reason either. Even the Magitech Knight who taught him how to use magic found it incomprehensible.”
“I wonder… if it due to his heritage after all.”
“I don’t think that’s it. It might sound bad to put it this way, but Yasu-kun’s uncles and aunts are apparently ordinary people.”
“You’re talking about how they are ordinary by the standards of Japan, right? Hideo and Madoka as well…”
“That doesn’t matter. Yasu-kun is just Yasu-kun. In the first place, Yasu-kun is terrible at the things that Oji-san and Oba-san are good at. I’m sure that this is unrelated to them.”
“But in that case, what is the explanation for this outrageous situation…?”
“It’s just like I said earlier. You can worry about causes and explanations later. However, if you absolutely must have an explanation for this, Catalina-san, I think I know the likely reason.”
“What is it?”
Shouko glanced back at the broadcasting room and spoke happily.
“Yasu-kun is gentle, loves to sing, and has put a lot of effort into it. I think that’s all there is to it.”
Catalina looked disappointed for just a moment, and then she glanced at the broadcasting room and let out a sigh.
“Just to make sure, what you told me about the two of you being lovers is…”
“It was a lie. Or rather, I am waiting for his reply.”
“……What a horrible man.”
At that moment, the two of them realized that the pillars of soot that they had seen through the window of the tower had largely disappeared.
Perhaps that meant that all the Shii that had appeared in the town had been defeated and sent off.
“Perhaps we should go and tell them.”
“That’s right. It might be putting a fair amount of strain on his body, after all…”
It happened the moment after the two of them turned away from the window to talk to Yasuo and Feigreid.
All of a sudden, the interior of the tower went pitch black.
It was as if something had eclipsed the sun.
And then, when they turned around, Shouko and Catalina saw something unbelievable.
It was a deep red in color, and was big enough to fill their entire field of vision outside the window.
It was impossible to immediately realize what that was.
The only thing Shouko and Catalina understood was that they were looking at something that could not possibly exist.
Yasuo had certainly said it before they had carried out this plan.
If the people who were working for Beatrice Heller had wormed their way into the deepest parts of the Gaz Commonwealth, they would easily be able to find out the location of the person who was using the town’s broadcasting facilities to send off all the Shii that had appeared.
It was possible that they might send an assassin to interfere with the requiem.
That is why he had told Feigreid, Shouko, and Catalina to not let down their guard and be ready to fight.
No one would have been able to predict that something like this would show up.
“Feigreid-san!! Take care of Yasu-kun!!”
Shouko’s scream coincided almost perfectly with the tower that housed the broadcasting system being broken in half by an enormous power.
The fact that she had been able to pick up Catalina and jump out of the window in time was nothing short of a miracle.
Ever since she had first landed in that forest after coming to Ante Lande, the black flames of the Shii had saved her repeatedly.
The flames that burned at her wrists, ankles, and waist granted Shouko superhuman strength, but just superhuman strength and stamina would not be enough for Shouko, who had no real experience when it came to martial arts or battle, to move in such a manner.
“W-What is that…!?”
Shouko whispered in a dazed manner while still carrying Catalina.
It was just way too massive.
It’s height was equal to that of the tower in which the broadcasting room was located.
Furthermore, it carried a spear that was even longer, so long in fact that trying to guess its length felt like an exercise in futility.
It had four legs that trampled on the town and left only rubble in their wake.
It had no features in common with any creature Shouko knew about, but was this also a Shii that was based on some creature that was already dead?
If it was a shii, then what kind of creature was it based on?
It was a mass of black flames that had destroyed a fifty meter tall tower with a single swing of its spear, and had trampled over one district of the town.
That massive creature that looked roughly like a centaur was most definitely not something that a person could fight against.
Shouko raised her voice until it was almost a scream, but due to the sound of the crumbling rubble, her voice did not even reach until the location where the tower had been standing.
If this Shii had appeared in the same fashion as the human-type Shii, that is, by bursting out from underground, just how much damage had it done on the surface just by appearing?
“T-That’s right, W-What about the House of the Fireflies….!?”
Catalina groaned while still being carried by Shouko and responded.
“It is in a district that just narrowly avoided being trampled under that thing’s feet… But when dealing with something that large, being one or two blocks away is meaningless… I can’t believe it, that is…”
“Do you know what that thing is!?”
“The Hideo Holy Sword river was created during the fight between that guy and Hideo’s group.”
Even that idiotic name couldn’t not help to soften the current atmosphere.
“Demon General Balor. The number of people he killed during the war against Demon King Kaul is among the highest… Aah… For the thing everyone in the world feared the most to happen at a time like this…”
Ever since the Shii appeared, most of them that had been spotted around the world were humanoid, although there had been reports that some of them had been shaped like animals as well.
From the testimonies of the soldiers who were originally from Torjesso, it was discovered that the Shii had basically the same features and level of ability that the people that they were based on had when they were still alive, and there had always been a concern that demons might be reborn as Shii as well.
However, this demon Balor=Shii posed far too big a threat to be the first example of such an occurrence.
If it was allowed to roam free for even as little as an hour, it would be able to reduce the whole of Galedeite to a plain, flat land.
No matter how the battle had progressed, judging by the fact that the Hideo Holy Sword River had been created as a result of that battle in the past, it was clear that it was a fierce fight that greatly damaged the surroundings.
It was a demon that had given the Hero Hideo such a hard time back when he was at his strongest, so even if it was a Shii now, just how were they supposed to defeat it?
“This… might be impossible…”
Judging by the time it had appeared, it must have also heard Yasuo’s requiem.
However, as far as Shouko could see, the requiem had no effect on Balor=Shii at all.
Its resistance to the requiem and the holy attribute must be incomparably more powerful compared to a humanoid Shii.
In any case, it was not an opponent that Shouko even dared to approach with her current level of strength.
It must have been the work of a truly evil god, or perhaps it was just something unavoidable.
Balor=Shii met Shouko’s gaze.
It was not a coincidence or a mistake.
Balor=Shii’s eye, which was larger than a person, was looking straight at Shouko.
And then, the demon pointed its massive spear directly at her.
It moved in a very unhurried manner. However, there was no way that she could run away from it.
Even with the flames of the Shii activated, Shouko was still frozen in fear and unable to move.
While casting his shadow over her, Balor stabbed the spear towards her without even giving her time to scream.
However there was no destruction, impact, or death, and the strong wind she felt around her body raised a cloud of dust from the surrounding rubble.
When Shouko heard Catalina’s voice, she opened her eyes that she had inadvertently shut before.
The first thing she saw was the spear that was about as thick as a skyscraper held motionless in the air, and her gaze once again met that of Balor’s.
She had no idea what had happened.
She didn’t understand what was going on, but was this instinct coming from her, or the Shii that was hiding inside her body?
She instinctively understood that it was not a coincidence.
The same thing had happened with the longsword-wielding Shii at the House of the Fireflies as well.
For some reason, the Shii were unable to attack Shouko.
“Stop treating me like I’m one of you!”
There was no other explanation for it.
Not just Director Kelly, but a lot of people in Galedeite had been attacked by the Shii.
It was easy to imagine why she should be the only person who could not be attacked by them.
It must be because she was the 『Latch』, although she had no idea what that meant.
“Even so, I can still use this!”
Shouko put Catalina down on the ground, clenched her fist, and spoke in a loud voice.
“Catalina-san… Catalina-san, please go and help the people in the House of the Fireflies to evacuate. I’m going to save Yasu-kun!”
“Wait! What are you talking about!? In this sort of situation, if you recklessly charge out in front of him, there is nothing you can do!!”
“There is! You saw it too, right? The Shii can’t attack me!! Even that massive thing is holding back! It would be a waste not to use this!”
“If I go down there and run around his legs, he won’t be able to move because he might crush me if he does, and as long as I’m there, he can’t attack! I can take my time and rescue Yasu-kun easily, right before the enemy’s eyes!”
As Shouko spoke, she felt the flames around her ankles grow one size bigger.
“I’ll use anything that I can! Even if it happens to be a Shii!”
“Wait, stop right there!”
“I won’t wait! We’re running out of time…”
“That’s not what I’m saying! Even if the Shii won’t attack you, the crumbling rubble and fires are still dangerous. If you’re going to go anyway…”
Catalina stuck her hand inside her robe with an expression that said she had more or less given up.
“…then go after you’ve completed all possible preparations!!”
“You’re awake… ugh… Thank goodness.”
Yasuo’s vision was blurred and the only thing he heard was Feigreid’s voice. He used all his energy to sit up.
Yasuo eventually looked through the dust-laden air and spotted Feigreid lying on the ground near some rubble, but he was in no condition to rush over to Feigreid’s side.
When he tried to stand, a sharp pain ran through his right leg and he collapsed to the ground along with a cry.
“The tower… collapsed… I somehow managed… to save you… But I made a mistake.”
Without even knowing why his right leg was hurting, Yasuo looked over to where Feigreid was lying down and was shocked.
A blood-soaked piece of wood was sticking out of Feigreid’s abdomen.
Yasuo was not sure if he was pierced by some shrapnel when the tower collapsed or if there was some other reason for it, but it was obvious that Feigreid, whose whole body was covered in blood, had no strength left to move.
“P-Please wait! I’ll heal you right away…”
However, Yasuo had the ability to use healing magic.
As long as Feigreid hadn’t lost too much blood, it should be possible to save his life. That is what Yasuo thought.
When Yasuo looked closer, he saw that his right foot was bent at an impossible angle.
The moment he noticed that, he was assailed by a sense of pain strong enough almost knock him senseless.
At this rate, it would be impossible for him to heal Feigreid.
If he didn’t heal himself first, he wouldn’t even be able to move through the rubble to Feigreid’s location.
However, Yasuo noticed something else as well.
The surroundings were strangely dark.
The midday sun was being blocked out by something.
Yasuo forced himself to look away from his ankle that was screaming with pain and he looked up at the sky. What he saw there made him unconsciously hold his breath.
It was a giant monster.
That was the first description that ran through his mind.
Even though it was so massive, it was still moving in a coordinated fashion..
That alone was enough for fear to take hold of his entire body.
It was impossible.
There was no way that something like this could exist.
Moreover, those black flames. And that red eye.
Was this thing a Shii?
“It seems like… it was the one who destroyed the tower… Haha… You’ve got to be kidding me… How are we supposed to… Fight a monster like this……”
Feigreid’s voice had lost all traces of vitality.
He had been overcome with despair as well.
The giant creature that was staring down towards them only had to take one step forward, and they would be squished to a pulp.
Despite that, the two of them were not even able to run away from this place.
After that, Yasuo and Feigreid were cast even further into shadow by an object that suddenly appeared in their field of vision.
Yasuo, who was sitting near the creature’s feet was not able to immediately realize it, but this thing was carrying a weapon.
Looking at the absurd length of that weapon, Yasuo instinctively understood.
This was the creature that was truly responsible for creating the Hideo Holy Sword River.
……This is insane.
As this line of reasoning suddenly floated up in his mind, Yasuo felt like he was going mad and started to laugh.
And then, the giant lifted one foot as if to stomp on Yasuo and Feigreid.
However the two of them couldn’t move a single step, and all they could do was to struggle fruitlessly.
Despite the fact that death was closing in on him, perhaps his sense of danger had been numbed by the all too unrealistic sight in front of him, Yasuo did not feel as afraid as he had back when he was attacked by the Shii and William Bareig in Tokorozawa.
He could not use the holy sword summoning to summon his father here, and nobody would come to save them.
“……This is just insane.”
That phrase he muttered at the end were going to be his last words.
“I am… the one who nurtures the vast lands.”
Or at least, that was supposed to be the case.
“Grow, ye sprouts! Thaw, ye snow! Awaken, ye which sleeps in the depths of winter! Holy Bow of Water, Pomona! Answer my call and take form!”
There was no impact, and the only thing Yasuo saw was a large amount of light cutting through the sky.
Yasuo unintentionally closed his eyes against the light that seemed to be bright enough to sear his eyes.
When he opened his eyes again, he felt a spray of water against his face that felt like a light drizzle, and Yasuo let out a groan.
At the same time, he heard the sound of something massive falling to the ground and saw that the giant creature that had been moving towards him had fallen heavily on top of the rubble.
Even Feigreid, who had prepared himself for the worst, was completely taken aback, and the two of them looked up into the sky.
The sun was once again visible now that the giant had fallen over, and a dark speck swooped down towards Yasuo with the sun at its back.
Compared to the giant, that person was far too small, however they appeared in that place with a sound filled with vitality.
Golden hair that sparkled in that town filled with death and rubble.
The bow that she held in her hands was releasing a divine aura, and nobody who saw it could deny the overflowing amounts of vitality and mana that it gave off.
And more than anything else, that dignified voice that he had grown accustomed to over these past few months.
“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting!!”
As he looked up at her hair ornament that was shaped like a flower, glittering in the light of the sun, Yasuo called out her name with an unbelieving expression on his face.
It was Diana.
Dianaze Krone had arrived, wearing the uniform of Resteria’s Magitech Knights that Yasuo had grown used to seeing.
However, what she held in her hands were not the standard Techno Weapons of Resteria’s Knights Division, Castor and Pollux.
It was a weapon Yasuo had never seen before, and it looked like a flowering branch had been used as it is to make a bow and arrow.
“I guess the day we feared has finally come. Demon General Balor… The day when one of the demons from Demon King Kaul’s army was resurrected as a Shii!”
“Diana… Just what… why are you…”
“We can talk later. Yasuo, I will buy you some time. Please heal your leg and save that Magitech Knight from Gaz.”
“I-Impossible, there’s no way… you can face something that massive by yourself.”
No matter how superhuman Diana’s strength was, that was only in comparison to Yasuo’s own strength.
Feigreid notwithstanding, none of the Magitech Knights from Gaz had been able attack that giant, and Yasuo could not believe that Diana would be able to face it by herself.
However, there was no hint of doubt in Diana’s eyes.
“I have no choice but to do it. I am… I am also a Hero’s daughter, after all!!”
Diana drew the bow without nocking an arrow, and leaped into the air with a thunderous sound.
Before her was the massive spear that was held aloft.
The next instant, Diana gave a yell loud enough to overpower Yasuo who was on the ground, and the overwhelmingly powerful blast of magical energy that she fired from that empty bow forced the spear back along with its wielder.
“I’m not done yet!!”
Balor=Shii’s shoulder was wide open after its attack was repulsed, and Diana shot several arrows of light at it in quick succession.
Balor=Shii tried to intimidate Diana with a bloodcurdling scream, but perhaps it could not withstand the power of those arrows, as it no longer attempted to raise its spear.
However, the characteristic ability of the Shii was their power to steal the hearts of living creatures.
As Diana was struggling with inertial forces while flying through the air, a red beam of light was released towards her from Balor=Shii’s red eye that was easily larger than her height.
Yasuo, who had once had been exposed to that attack from a terrifying enemy, shouted in alarm, but it looked like timing with which the beam was fired made it impossible to evade.
However, miraculously, an even stronger power appeared to interfere with that attack.
“I’ve had enough of your rampaaaaaage!”
A frighteningly large object appeared between Diana and Balor=Shii with the speed of a bullet.
Shouko, clinging to the back of the scaled dragon, had appeared as if to protect Diana from that red light.
“Shouko!? Watch out!”
By the time Diana noticed Shouko, the red light was right in front of her..
A chill ran down Diana’s spine as she thought that they were both going to be swallowed up by that red light.
Balor=Shii closed its massive eye along with a roar, and the red light dispersed into the sky an instant before it hit Shouko and the scaled dragon.
“Diana-san, the Shii can’t attack me so don’t worry, more importantly if you have anything up your sleeve now is the time!!”
Shouko shouted that in a single breath from the back of the scaled dragon as it passed by Diana while maintaining the momentum of its arrival.
Diana felt that she had someone other than Shouko riding on the back of the scaled dragon as well, but she couldn’t spare the time to confirm that.
She could not afford to lose this opportunity where Balor=Shii stood with its eye closed and its spear was out of position.
Diana accurately made use of the momentary gap that Shouko had created by risking her life.
As Balor=Shii moved sluggishly trying to regain its stance, Diana poured every last drop of mana she had into her bow.
She fired the arrow directly into the center of Balor=Shii’s chest while it was off-balance.
Yasuo groaned when he was hit by a portion of that thunderous sound and shockwave, but when he opened his eyes again, what he saw was a sight that was even more unimaginable than Balor=Shii itself.
That giant body that had been strong enough to cleave the tower in two had been blasted into the air.
The force of Diana’s arrow of light had been strong enough to knock Balor=Shii of its feet and send it flying to the plains beyond the town walls.
“Yasuo!! Hurry up with the healing!!”
After shouting to Yasuo who was just blankly staring into the sky, Diana flew off in pursuit of the Shii that she had just sent flying.
It had been less than two days since Yasuo last saw her. Just what had happened to Diana in that time to enable her to easily blow away the giant Shii that was a symbol of despair beyond the town walls using some power that Yasuo had never seen before?
Along with that doubt, Yasuo’s body was suddenly overcome by the fact that he was still alive, and his broken leg sent a complaint in the form of a sharp pain.
“Dammit… This pain feels entirely different from having my stomach pierced through. Gaaaaah!”
Yasuo somehow managed to set his ankle back in the proper position, and less than a minute after applying healing magic to it, his ankle returned to normal.
Since he had used the requiem and healing magic continuously without taking a break, he felt dizzy due to lack of mana.
However, Feigreid was close by, on the verge of death.
In order to share what had happened here with the people of this world, the presence of Feigreid, who was a Magitech Knight of Gaz, was indispensable.
More importantly, for the sake of Director Kelly and the children of the House of the Fireflies who were waiting while being worried about him, Feigreid definitely could not be allowed to die.
“A-Are you still alive?”
“…Somehow. Yasuo… what just happened…?”
“Well, that is… Ah.”
Feigreid, who unexpectedly didn’t look too worse for wear, asked that question, and just as Yasuo was about to answer, they heard a dull sound from somewhere far away.
When they looked in that direction, they saw that the left hand of the giant shii had been ripped off and it landed on the bank of the Hideo Holy Sword River.
“Haha… I’m just as surprised as you are. I honestly have no idea what just happened… but I’m sure that……”
That chant, that had similar wording to the chants used to summon the Holy Sword of the Wind, Liutberga, and the Holy Staff of Fire, Marlowe.
“Perhaps… she is the true hero that the current Ante Lande needs. However, the truth is…”
Dianaze, daughter of Swordmaster Alexei Krone and the Great Sorceress, Erijina Radagast.
If you just looked at her lineage and ability, she was a thoroughbred who was on an entirely different level compared to Kenzaki Yasuo.
He didn’t know the reason or the circumstances behind it, but it looked like she had been granted a power that was on the same level as the Holy Sword.
“Some like me probably has no right to say such a thing, but I’m a little worried about her.”
Unable to slow down in time, the scaled dragon that had shot past Diana at a high speed landed with the same force and tumbled across the ground that was strewn with rubble.
Shouko, who was enveloped in the flames of the Shii, managed to catch Catalina who was thrown into the air, and somehow managed to land on the ground without any injuries while hearing the sound of the scaled dragon crashing into something and destroying it in the background.
“I-I thought I was going to die!”
“T-That’s my line!”
The two of them sank to the ground while shouting at each other.
“Catalina-san! Yasu-kun and Feigreid-san managed to survive! Let’s hurry back!”
“Wait! Are you just going to leave that scaled dragon in that sort of condition!?”
When Shouko looked in that direction, she saw that the scaled dragon had crashed into some rubble and was struggling pitifully to free itself.
It didn’t appear to be seriously injured, but it probably wouldn’t be able to fly again right away.
“Also, that Shii is no longer inside the town! Even if we hurry to their side, we have no means by which we can heal them. Thanks to that Magitech Knight, they should not be any danger of dying right away! Shouko! You’re not exactly in perfect condition either, so calm down!”
Hearing Catalina’s rebuke, Shouko took a single deep breath to try and calm herself down.
At that instant, they felt the tremors caused by some large object falling to the ground far away, and Shouko turned in that direction, and saw that Balor=Shii had been blown all the way to the edge of the forest.
“Diana-san is amazing… But how did she know that we were here?”
From what Shouko had heard about Diana’s battle strength from Yasuo and Khalija, she was certainly far more talented than average, but even so she should not have such an incredible amount of power.
Also, despite the fact that Shouko was ignorant of the details related to the military situation of Ante Lande, even she could tell that sending Balor=Shii flying to a location beyond the town walls was not something that could be achieved with a normal level of power.
And most importantly, she was not able to understand how Diana had arrived at this place, as if she had pinpointed Yasuo’s location.
Shouko’s question was soon answered by the person who was beside her.
“Just like how the two of you were on your guard with me, I too was scared of whatever brought the two of you here. Especially after I learned that Yasuo was Hideo’s son. That’s why, I contacted them last night.”
“Contacted them… Ah!”
Shouko remembered that Catalina had said something about making contact with someone when they were in front of the House of the Fireflies.
“You should have seen how worried she was when I contacted her and said, 『I’ve picked up a boy who looks exactly like Hideo, do you people have anything to do with that?』Despite how I look, I am still a famous painter, and I have had a long relationship with the people who saved this world along with Hideo.”
Catalina pointed at the light that was piercing Balor=Shii and continued to speak.
“That light is from the Holy Bow of Water, Pomona. It is the bow that the Great Sorceress Erijina Radagast used when she fought against Demon King Kaul. However, it looks like the person who is using it now is not Erize, although I only caught a glimpse of her from far away…”
“Diana-san is the daughter of that person called Erijina.”
“……I see, so that’s how it is. So it was Resteria that brought you two here after all.”
“You don’t need to worry about hiding things from me at this late hour. I can guess that all of you were traveling to Ante Lande in secret, but due to some trouble, just the two of you ended up landing in the Gaz Commonwealth. From what I can see, Erize’s daughter was the one who asked you to travel to Ante Lande. Am I right?”
“In any case, we can talk about that in length if that girl manages to defeat Balor=Shii. For now, we should get away from here and find some shelter. Shouko, could you scout around the surroundings, just in case? There might be some Magitech Knight who mistakes you for a threat, or a Shii that has not yet been sent off in the area.”
At that moment, the two of them heard the roar of an animal from behind them.
The scaled dragon had managed to crawl out of the rubble, and it was glaring down at them unhappily.
Catalina started to pacify it by playing on the pipe that she pulled out of her robe, and spoke to Shouko.
“As I thought, it won’t be able to fly again right away. We are pretty close to the House of the Fireflies, so let’ begin with guiding Director Kelly and the others to some place where the Magitech Knights will be able to protect them. After that, we can go search for Yasuo and Second Lieutenant Feigreid. Let us believe in Yasuo’s powers of healing. Is that okay?”
“……Yes, I understand.”
Frankly, Shouko wanted to go save Yasuo as soon as possible.
However, abandoning the people in the House of the Fireflies was also not an option.
“I should probably get used to this power a little more, anyway.”
The increase in her power caused by the Shii’s flames was still in effect, and Shouko could tell that the more she used that power, the longer she was able to maintain it.
When she thought that more humanoid Shii might appear in the town, she felt like testing the limits of that strength.
“Ahh… It looks like I’ve been completely influenced by this stuff as well.”
Had she always had such a combative mindset?
Despite the fact that it was a serious situation where people’s lives were on the line, Shouko felt it oddly amusing and couldn’t resist smiling.
“I wonder if Tatewaki-san and Catalina-san are okay. The went flying off at such a high speed, after all.”
“I’m not sure either… I had no idea scaled dragons could fly that fast, so I really can’t say for sure…”
Yasuo was doing his best to heal Feigreid after pulling out the piece of wood that had pierced through his abdomen and applying pressure to reduce the flow of blood.
As Yasuo healed him, he could feel that Feigreid’s overflowing vitality that probably came from his rigorous training as a Magitech Knight had already brought him out of a critical condition.
“Is that good enough…. I feel like I’m going to throw up….”
As soon as Yasuo judged that Feigreid was no longer in immediate danger, his entire body was assailed by a sense of fatigue.
As Yasuo was about to crumple to the floor, Feigreid hurriedly put his hand out to support Yasuo.
“……Thank you very much. My life was saved by the son of the Hero Hideo… This will be something I can take pride in for the rest of my life.”
“Haha, if you want to put it that way, then you are the one who saved me from the tower when it was destroyed, right? If anything, you should take pride in that instead….”
“No. In the end, I was not able to let you escape from that Shii. I’m sure a large number of people lost their lives as well… Despite being a Magitech Knight, I feel like I’ve only shown you such worthless things.”
Yasuo was not one to rashly say that that wasn’t the case, and Feigreid probably wasn’t expecting to hear that either.
“And besides, the one who saved you, Yasuo, was….”
Feigreid stood up while supporting Yasuo, and gazed at the light that shone far away from the town wall.
“…that beautiful Magitech Knight.”
“Please, call me Feig.”
“……Feig-san. Can you please take me to where she is… to where Diana is? I’m sure that the fight will be over soon.”
Pomona, The Holy Bow of Water that Diana had received from her mother, converted her mana into far more powerful attacks than a regular Techo Weapon could hope to achieve, and Diana used that power to repeatedly chip away at the body of the Shii which only had its size as a strong point.
However, Diana’s body started to feel the strain from the amount of mana that was consumed.
“I am still… far too weak!”
Diana shot out arrows of light from Pomona while thinking about what had happened during the past couple of days.
“My heart, body, and sorcery are still far too weak!!”
In a way, she was just venting her anger.
“Whether it is as a Magitech Knight… or as a regular person… At this rate, I won’t be able to protect the people who are dear to me!”
A portion of Balor=Shii’s body or flames were blown away every time Diana fired an arrow from Pomona, and finally, that massive spear fell to the ground and disappeared.
“If I… If we don’t get stronger, Ante Lande won’t….”
Diana’s eyes were filled with hatred as she looked straight into Balor=Shii’s massive red eye.
“…be able to protect Yasuo’s hometown!!”
The falling star that was created just above the ground pierced through Balor=Shii’s skull, and that massive body finally collapsed completely flat on the plains.
“Haa…. Haa…. Haa…”
Diana, who landed next to Balor=Shii while breathing roughly, glared hatefully at its corpse.
“Even after death you still appear to cause harm to people… Just exactly where do all of you come from…”
The only things that came from the giant mouth of the Shii that had once been a Demon General were groans and a foul smell.
Diana instinctively wrinkled her nose at the smell of rot, but when she looked at the red eye that was steadily growing dimmer, she made a twisted expression as though she was sad.
“Who would do something like this, and why……”
Even a demon from ancient times that she had only ever heard about in legends would not want to seek out another death after already dying once.
Why do they treat life so cruelly?
Who was responsible for this?
“It will take a fair amount of time to answer that question.”
It happened in an instant.
Balor=Shii, the sky, the ground, the river, the forest, the town, and everything else had their color stripped away and turned into just black and white.
When Diana saw that man who appeared as if welling up from the ground between Balor=Shii’s face and herself, Diana’s expression twisted with anger and she once again took a stance with Pomona.
“Hey! Spare me that. Your twin swords were of no concern to me, but getting hit by Pomona would hurt.”
He was wearing a soot-stained shirt, trousers with suspenders, and a black newsboy cap.
Also, he was holding a lantern.
Diana called the name of the person who was like an embodiment of death, with his left eye glowing in an ominous red color behind the flames of the Shii.
“What is your objective!? First you attack Yasuo and Nodoka, and then you plant a Shii inside Shouko… Is this uproar at Galedeite your doing as well!?”
“Hmm. You may not believe me, but I will state for the record that I am not to blame for this current incident or the case with Shouko Tatewaki. The culprit you’re looking for is Beatrice Heller. The same person who bewitched Khalija Welleger.”
Diana shuddered on feeling the malice of that person whom she had not even seen yet.
“They were probably among the ones that attacked Galedeite this time, the Shii that were once Magitech Knights of Resteria, wielding that Techo Weapon called Sinistra… hey!?”
Dian shot an arrow of light from Pomona without any warning.
Willam avoided that in a hurry, and patted his chest with exaggerated motions.
“Stop doing such scary things. Didn’t I just say that it would hurt if I got hit with that?”
“If killing you right here would help maintain the peace of the world, I would do that without hesitation!”
“Despite that pretty face, you speak just like any other soldier. Well, that’s how you should be. Descendent of Krone and Radagast. So you can use Pomona to such an extent even though you only received it recently. Don’t you think that you people don’t particularly need any help from the Kenzaki family?”
“……We should have done that from the beginning. But it is too late now. And besides… whether we reached out to the Kenzaki family or not, I am sure that you would have done something to hurt them eventually.”
“Hmm, well I can’t deny that… Oi!”
William let out an exaggerated shout at the arrow of light that almost grazed his face as it flew by, and then looked at Diana.
“……I won’t miss next time. Tell me what you know about the Shii and what your objective is.”
“It will only cause me some pain if you hit me with that, so if you want to do that then feel free… but sure. Since you seem to want to know so badly, I’ll tell you just one thing. It is regarding Shouko Tatewaki.”
“I am also a 『Latch』.”
“However, capturing me is beyond Beatrice Heller’s abilities. That is why she is searching for a 『Latch』 other than me. I don’t particularly care either way, but looking at it from your perspective of right and wrong, allowing her to capture a 『Latch』 would probably not be a good thing for all of you.”
“What exactly is a 『Latch』!? If you’re saying that you are one of them, then are you actually a human being!?”
“Saying it that way is a little mean, but no, you’re wrong. However, that woman is slightly mistaken. A 『Latch』 does not necessarily need to be a living human being. The only thing that matters is that they have a 『visible eye』.”
Saying that, William gestured towards his own left eye with the hand that was holding the lantern.
“From what I can see, Shouko Tatewaki was really just an average Japanese person. However, unfortunately for her, she seemed to have an extremely high compatibility with that particular Shii. It was only by coincidence that she became a 『Latch』 candidate. The Shii that possessed her is nothing special either. However, no matter how rare the coincidence was that created it, once that woman is aware of the existence of a『Latch』, she won’t just sit idly by and let it escape from her grasp. You should be very careful. If she releases a powerful Shii like this Balor in Japan, that will truly become a situation too gruesome to look at.”
Victims were victims, whether they belonged to Ante Lande or Japan.
However, if such a massive Shii were to appear in Japan, or rather, on Earth, what would happen?
It was not enough to just defeat it.
After such an attack, the nature of the world itself would definitely change.
That peaceful town and country that Yasuo and Shouko lived in would change.
“……I definitely won’t let such a thing happen!”
“There’s no point in telling me that. Well, I don’t particularly care who dies and where they die, but I don’t like the idea of letting Beatrice do as she likes. Besides, I would eventually like for the Kenzaki family to help me out, so I’ll take my leave for now. I feel like I will really be killed if I overstay my visit.”
“Wait! You still haven’t told me what your objective is…!”
“What good will it do for you to hear the objective of someone like me? Now that you have Pomona, I certainly have more interest in making you one of my comrades compared to the last time we met, but there’s no way you’ll agree to that, right?”
From the tone of William’s voice, it wasn’t apparent whether he was trying to taunt her or soothe her, but Diana frowned at the discomfort that she felt upon hearing the words that he had just uttered.
“Comrade? Did you just say comrade?”
“If possible, I would also like to make Yasuo Kenzaki and Nodoka Kenzaki my comrades as well. Yasuo is amazing, you know? Sure, he’s next to useless when it comes to battle, but he used the broadcasting facilities to single-handedly purify all the Shii that appeared inside Galedeite. If only he was at least able to fight at the level of an ordinary Magitech Knight, he would have no demerits.”
William said that with a wry smile while slumping his shoulders, and then adjusted the newsboy cap on his head and looked up at the pitch black sky.
“Oh, it looks like I’ve stayed here a little too long. Now it’s time for me to go back for real. Please send my regards to Yasuo and Erijina Radagast.”
Diana’s reply was in the form of an arrow of light.
“Seriously, despite that pretty face, you are one scary young lady.”
William took that arrow head on without bothering to avoid it.
Just as the arrows of light had broken Balor=Shii’s body into pieces, it also broke William’s body into particles of soot.
Or rather, it only appeared that way.
Diana put up her guard.
The soot spun around like a tornado, writhed in that monochrome space like giant snake, and rushed straight at Diana.
“…!! Take this!!”
Diana continuously fired arrows of light at it, but there was no feedback at all and it felt like she was shooting at mist.
And then, the first few particles of soot touched Diana.
It was cold, and yet hot.
It felt like each particle of soot transmitted every possible unpleasant sensation to her body as they passed by her.
Unable to bear that pressure, Diana could not remain standing and she sank down to the ground in an unsightly manner.
『Wielder of Pomona… should you wish to know the location of the Hero Hideo, you would do well to search at the boundary of life.』
Diana listened to the sound created by the unpleasant soot as it flew past her body.
『The Holy Bow Pomona, Holy Staff Marlowe, and Holy Sword Liutberga… the Holy Armaments belonging to the Heroes of Salvation are all connected to……』
“W-What… What are they connected to?”
Diana was not able to understand that sound.
Or rather, her mind refused to comprehend it.
The soot that was wrapping around her body disappeared after an instant that seemed to last for an eternity, and at the same time, the black and white space also crumbled away.
The only thing left behind was the plains that had been ravaged by her battle against Balor=Shii.
“Diana!! Are you okay!?”
When someone called her from behind her all of a sudden, Diana dazedly turned around while still sitting on the ground.
Yasuo was standing there, along with the Magitech Knight from the Gaz Commonwealth, and he was looking at Diana with concern in his eyes.
“Was William here just now?”
“You were able to see him?”
“Not really. It was the same kind of black space that appeared in Tokorozawa and I wasn’t able to see you anywhere, so I thought that he might be behind it… Did he do something to you?”
Yasuo asked Diana that when he saw that she was acting strangely, but Diana just shook her head and forced herself to stand on her legs that still had some of that unpleasant sensation remaining.
“I’m fine… We talked for quite a while, but he didn’t injure me in any way. It seems… that he has already left.”
Diana looked around to make sure that there were no remnants of the soot in her surroundings, and then she suddenly realized something.
“I don’t see Balor’s… the massive body of that Shii anywhere, did you send it off, Yasuo?”
“No, I tried, but it had absolutely no effect. I was also more worried about you and William’s barrier, so I didn’t have the time to think about that……”
“It was swallowed up by the ground and disappeared in front of our eyes, just like a regular Shii. If that Shii was based on Balor who went on a rampage during the war against Demon King Kaul, I feel a chill run down my spine when I think that we will have to fight against it again someday.”
After the Magitech Knight from the Gaz Commonwealth who was standing next to Yasuo said that, Diana hung her head a little.
“A-Anyway, that was incredible. You overwhelmed something so big…. Well, this is the first time I’ve seen you fighting on this world, Diana, is it that you find it easier to fight when you’re here?”
Perhaps Yasuo noticed Diana’s reaction, as he put on a forced cheery voice and said that.
Diana smiled while still looking down and shook her head.
“No. A lot of things happened. A lot of different things…. In the short period of the past two days….. This Holy Bow Pomona, the Holy Armament belonging to my mother, is something that I was allowed to borrow for just this one time. My mother cannot easily come to Gaz because of her position, so… However…”
Diana raised her head and looked directly at Yasuo.
“When we received a message from Catalina Yostern-sama that she had taken in someone who might have been you, Yasuo, I wasn’t able to sit still. The Gaz Commonwealth is a country where the influence of the Carnelian of the Coal Mine is especially strong. When I thought that something might happen to you or Shouko…. I……”
Yasuo panicked when he saw that Diana’s eyes were filled with tears.
“Ah, no, we went through a lot of stuff as well. We might have caused you to worry, but thanks to that Catalina-san both Tatewaki-san and I are perfectly fine, I am still alive thanks to Feigreid-san, and remember how Dad started shining in the Gate Tower when we were on our way here? That was what caused all the problems, right? It’s definitely not your fault or Resteria’s fault, so…”
Yasuo’s vehement argument was cut short by golden hair and a flower-shaped hair ornament that filled his vision.
“Thank goodness… It’s really you, isn’t it, Yasuo…. You’re alright…. Thank goodness….”
When Diana rushed straight at him from the front, Yasuo, who had run out of both mana and stamina, was knocked backwards onto the ground.
Since the ground was covered with soft grass, Feigreid did not attempt to help him, and Diana burst into tears while lying on top of him.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry for being late! I… I….!”
“D-Diana! I can’t breathe….”
“I was so worried. I was so scared! I was so scared that something might have happened to you because of me….!”
“L-Like I said, it wasn’t your fault. It was Dad’s fault, right!? Seriously,I’m begging you, please move away, this is embarrassing…”
“Should I give you two some privacy?”
“F-Feig-san, that would just make it even more embarrassing instead….”
Yasuo was hesitant to hold Diana, even if it was just move her aside. Comforting a girl who was crying because she was worried about him was a feat that was impossible for him, and just when he stretched out his hand with the intention of asking for help from Feig who was attempting to leave while smiling, he saw it.
A strangely round creature was descending from the sky while flapping its wings.
Without a doubt, that was the scaled dragon that Catalina had tamed.
Why did the scaled dragon have to come this way?
There was only one answer.
“D-Diana! Please, calm down! I’m safe! Although if you keep this up, I won’t be safe anymore….”
However Yasuo’s entreaty was in vain, and the scaled dragon touched down on the ground with unexpected grace.
And then, after a few seconds.
“……What are… the two of you doing……?”
Yasuo’s eyes met Shouko’s cold gaze that was apparent even through the flames of the Shii.
“I guess… This is it for me.”
Along with his lack of mana, Yasuo felt that his strength was also being drained away.