It was a view that was no less magnificent than that of the urban center of Tokyo City.
“I didn’t think it would be so bright.”
Yasuo was lost in admiration, leaning over the railing of the balcony and gazing at the sight of the streets of Holstro.
“Why is it so bright? It feels like it would be too bright to sleep unless you had really thick curtains.”
The view of Holstro at night was far too bright to really call it a ‘night view’. Seen at night from a distance, Japan or any other city on Earth would have gaps in between the sources of light that were steeped in shadow. However, that was not the case with Holstro.
It looked like the entire city of Holstro was directly underneath a single, massive source of light, as if the city was repelling the curtains of night that descended from the sky. The fact that most of the buildings were white or a light grey in color only served to add to that bizarre effect of brightness.
“It was only recently that the city at night became this bright.”
“Originally, many of the buildings were made from a light brown brick. However, after the Shii appeared, there was an excessive amount of effort put into eliminating shadows from the city as much as possible in order to better fight against them during a night battle. I heard that putting reflective tiles on top of the old buildings was also one such measure.”
“Looks like they were quite thorough. Even the roofs are white. The reflections during the height of summer must be something else.”
“I’ve heard that ever since Holstro turned out like this, the entire nation of Baskelgarde has been desperately researching how to manufacture sunscreen.”
“I’m not sure if you’re joking or being serious.”
Yasuo smiled and moved back from the balcony railing.
“……Thanks. I’ve calmed down quite a bit.”
“Really? It still feels like you’re standing farther away from me than usual.”
“Let me off, already.”
Diana held back her hair that was being blown by the night wind and smiled impishly. Although it looked like she did not do it on purpose, Yasuo’s heart rate sped up because he had never seen her make that expression before.
Diana came to stand fairly close to him without showing any signs of understanding how Yasuo felt. She stared at the lights of Holstro before she began to speak.
“To be honest, I wanted you to see the view of Resteria first and be impressed by it.”
“Is the ambiance of each city completely different, after all?”
“Holstro is built on the plains, but the capital of Resteria is close to the mountains. It’s a little similar to Tokorozawa in how you can catch a glimpse of bluish mountains in the distance while gazing upon the city.”
“The capital city reminds you of Tokorozawa? What the heck.”
Yasuo couldn’t suppress a wry smile when he thought of how far removed Tokorozawa was from looking like a capital city.
“It’s just a vague feeling. They are somewhat similar.”
Diana also picked up on Yasuo’s thoughts and returned a similar wry smile.
“……Thank you very much.” Diana said.
“Eh? For what?”
“What do you mean, for everything?”
“I mean for everything. Truly, for everything.”
There were a lot of things she wanted to say. However, when she tried to talk about everything that had happened, she found it difficult to put it into words.
“Until very recently, I had no idea what I was trying to achieve. I had no idea what I was fighting for.”
“Eh? Wasn’t it because you wanted to protect the people of Resteria and Ante Lande?”
“Yes, I suppose that’s true. That’s certainly the case. It’s just… That’s not what I’m talking about.”
However, she wasn’t standing here for just that reason alone.
She wanted to convey that to him. She wanted to…
“I want to fight against the Shii along with you, Yasuo.”
She wanted to convey that to him properly.
“What’s up with you, all of a sudden?”
However, it looked like Yasuo did not understand the true intention behind her words. There was no trace of understanding in his expression. However, that was only natural. Because…
“Hasn’t it been like that for a while now? Why bring it up again all of a sudden?”
Ever since Yasuo decided to stand upon the battlefield, he had always been fighting beside Diana. From his perspective, it probably felt like it was too late to bring this up.
However, for Dianaze Krone, the only child of braves and a Magitech Knight, it was a turning point in her life that would never come about ever again. At least, from her point of view, she felt like she was finally able to see what she wanted to achieve.
“Whether it was the case with your father, the fight against Khalija-san, or the fight against Balor, didn’t we always deal with it together in the end?”
“No matter what happened, I have always been completely relying on you, Diana. You haven’t forgotten, right? I made you fight even though you had a fracture, while I just hid behind you.”
“Oh yes, I remember that.”
“I haven’t changed at all since then. Before you appeared, the ones who fought against the Shii other than Balor were Tatewaki-san and Catalina-san… Thinking about it that way, I’m really the worst. I’m always making girls do the fighting.”
“That’s just a case of dividing the responsibilities. And besides, isn’t Second Lieutenant Feigreid with us now?”
“I’m not sure how to explain it, even that part is weird. Considering the situation we’re in, whether it the title of ‘Saint’ or ‘Son of the Hero Hideo’, I’m willing to use whatever is necessary to make our lives easier… But don’t you think that’s a bit like Sanzōhōshi?”
“Sanzohoshy? What’s that?”
“It the name of one of the characters from an old tale called ‘Journey to the West’ that originated in a country neighboring Japan. The character is based on a famous Buddhist monk who really existed. He goes on a journey accompanied by three ogres who are his disciples, during which he runs into various troubles.”
“Ogres? What are those again?”
“Umm, in Ante Lande’s terms, they would probably be something like demons. But the three demons that accompanied Sanzōhōshi were friendly towards humans… anyways, it’s been a famous story since ages ago, so it became a template for a bunch of adaptations in modern times, but I didn’t really like this story back when I was a kid.”
In Japan, the tale of the Journey to the West was narrated in a way that placed emphasis on the exploits of the characters, making it seem like an adventure novel. In order to make the story more exciting, Sanzōhōshi, who was based on the real monk Genjō Sanzō, was more often than not depicted as a person who stirred up trouble as a plot device. This was in spite of him actually being the protagonist of the story.
In the version of the Journey to the West that was edited for children, Sanzōhōshi was always depicted as getting through difficult situations because of the exotic magic or fighting techniques used by Son Gokū, Cho Hakkai, and Sa Gojō. He was never shown to break out of a situation using his own strength. As a child, Yasuo had always been dissatisfied with the character of Sanzōhōshi depicted in the story who apparently couldn’t even protect himself from monsters using his holy powers despite being a distinguished monk.
“That’s exactly the same as how I am now. I just have an inflated sense of purpose and no real power to speak of. I keep causing trouble for my friends, and in spite of that, I am revered as the son of the Hero or the Saint.”
Diana, who was standing beside him, could clearly see that Yasuo was getting more and more depressed as he continued to talk. When Yasuo got like this, he would often hang his head and slump his shoulders.
“I don’t know that story so I can’t say anything for sure, but… there’s one thing that I can say. It’s about that person called Sanzō.”
Diana smiled softly and gave Yasuo a hard smack on his back.
Yasuo reflexively straightened his back after feeling the sting of the Magitech Knight’s open-handed slap. Seeing that, Diana continued to speak while keeping her hand on his back.
“The story would not have started if Sanzō had not gone on his journey. Don’t you think that is similar to you as well?”
“Umm… That’s…. Eh?”
“If you had not taken that first step, Yasuo, none of us would have decided to join the fight. The rest of us were able to move forward because you made the decision and pulled us along. I believe that Sanzō was that sort of existence to the other characters in the story as well. Just as you are to us, Yasuo.”
“……Is that really how it is?”
“Yes, it is. I couldn’t have done what you did. Of course, Shouko and Second Lieutenant Feigreid couldn’t have done it either. Hideo and Madoka aren’t here right now. We are able to endure the hardships and take a stand against the Shii only because you are here, Yasuo.”
Yasuo had mixed feelings about what Diana just said and replied with a troubled smile.
“I’m glad you feel that way… But still, I don’t like leaving everything up to everyone else.”
“I understand how you feel, but that’s just asking for the impossible. There’s nothing you can do about it in just two or three days. Just accept that and give up.”
That half-baked and sloppy side of Yasuo was also a part of him and made him who he was.
No matter how it turned out, the results were unimportant.
Of all the people in Ante Lande, Yasuo was the one who most earnestly desired to stand against the darkness that was encroaching upon the world. He was unreliable and weak, but he was still the most heroic person at heart.
Diana had always wanted to fight at the side of someone like that. That was what it meant to dream of standing in Madoka Sugiura’s shoes.
“I’m still far away from getting to where Shouko is right now, and I don’t want her to get the wrong idea either.”
“Hmm? Tatewaki-san? What do mean, getting the wrong idea?”
“……The fact that you give me special treatment… it makes me a little happy, Yasuo.”
Seeing Yasuo blink without understanding what she said, Diana closed her eyes and let out a little sigh. She had already reached her limit with what she just said.
“……We ended up talking for quite a while. We have an early day tomorrow, and we’ll catch a cold if we stay here any longer. We should go to sleep.”
“Diana? Hang on, what exactly did you mean by—”
Yasuo stretched his hand out towards Diana who had turned around to return to the room.
The next second, she had grabbed his arm and pulled him closer.
“This is just a rehearsal.”
Before he realized it, Yasuo had ended up in a position where he was embracing Diana.
“Shouko loves you the way you are right now, but you need to hug her firmly like this without hesitating when you need to, okay?”
Before Yasuo could do more than register the scent of Diana’s freshly-washed hair filling his nostrils, she had already moved away from him and returned to the room.
Hearing Yasuo’s strange groan from behind her as he was left standing out in the balcony, Diana revealed a happy and yet somewhat lonely smile as she looked around the room.
However, Shouko was nowhere to be seen. Diana hurriedly ran to the bathroom, and when she opened the door…
“Diana-san… I think I stayed in the bath too long, I’m a bit dizzy.”
Shouko was red in the face, stretched out in the bath.
Diana was momentarily relieved that Raia had not appeared as she had feared, but then she frowned, considering what would be the best thing to do. She immediately returned to the balcony to find Yasuo still frozen in the same place where she had left him, and proceeded to draw the curtains closed right in front of his face.
“Yasuo! I’m sorry, but please stay in the balcony for a little while longer! Shouko got dizzy in the bath so I’m going to carry her to the bed!”
The thick curtains muffled Yasuo’s exclamation.
Diana immediately returned to the bathroom and rescued Shouko from the bathtub, dried her off roughly, and easily carried her to the bed. She then offered her a pitcher of water that had been left in the room.
“You must be dizzy because of staying in the bath for so long while you were already tired. Just go to sleep for today.”
“Yeah… I’ll do that. Sorry for making you carry me like this.”
“Let’s dry your body and hair off properly, or you’ll catch a cold.”
Diana quickly blow-dried Shouko’s hair with magic as she squirmed around on the bed and somehow managed to get her dressed in her sleepwear while supporting her back.
“Uuu… Yasu-kun you idiot…”
Shouko grumbled about Yasuo as if she was drunk, but she immediately fell asleep once Diana laid her down on the bed.
The flame in her left eye was small and wavered gently, and her breathing was regular. However, she had fallen asleep without even covering herself with a blanket.
“Yasuo’s special person, huh……” Diana whispered while stroking Shouko’s cheek.
“I want you to accept me as a person who can stand on his own feet, Diana.”
Yasuo, more than anyone else, respected Diana for just who she was. Diana blushed slightly when she recalled the expression on his face as he had declared that to her and apologized to Shouko who was fast asleep.
“I’m sorry… But I’ve started to feel like I don’t want to lose this sense of special treatment either.”
Diana felt herself going red as she said that and hurriedly moved away from Shouko, intending to jump under the covers of the other bed. However…
“……Diana, aren’t you done yet? It’s getting a little cold out here……”
She remembered that she had left Yasuo standing in the balcony and hurried to let him into the room. After quickly explaining to him how the fittings in the dressing room and the bath worked, Diana told him that she wanted to go to sleep and then jumped into bed for real this time.
She felt a little restless.
Her mind refused to regain its equilibrium.
It was because too many things had happened in a short span of time. Also, maybe she was still experiencing some after-effects from her battle against William Bareig who had appeared in Galedeite.
Yes, that must have been the cause. There was no doubt about it.
Diana continued to make excuses to herself in order to calm her mind that kept spinning in circles, but in the end, she also lost to the fatigue that she had accumulated and fell asleep almost instantly.
“Hey… You’ve got to be kidding me.”
After getting out of the bath, Yasuo stood in the dimly lit room, at a loss as to what to do.
The room had two beds. Shouko was sleeping in one bed, while Diana was sleeping in the other.
Diana should have understood that Yasuo was feeling nervous. Also, both beds were king-sized, with enough room for two people to easily sleep side by side on a single bed. That being the case…
“Why didn’t Diana just go to sleep in the same bed as Tatewaki-san…”
If Yasuo wanted to sleep in a bed, he would have to choose to get under the covers beside either one of them.
“Nope. Not happening. I’m sleeping on the sofa. As long as I’m in the same room, there shouldn’t be any problems…”
However, for some reason, the room only had armchairs.
When he thought about it, the reason was obvious. This was a bedroom, and it already had two king-size beds. There would be no reason to put another long sofa in here.
“……So I guess I’ll have to sleep here.”
The place Yasuo chose was in between the two beds.
He took out some spare sheets from the closet, appropriated a pillow from Shouko’s bed that had four of them for some reason, and then lay down on the carpet in between the two beds.
The space in between the king-size beds was also king-size. Thanks to the thick shag carpet on the floor, Yasuo felt like his current arrangements were even more comfortable than his own bed at home.
“…I don’t even know what’s going on anymore……”
As Yasuo lay there, feeling miserable and wondering what he was doing…
He heard the sounds of Shouko talking in her sleep and Diana’s gentle breathing. Just thinking about that made his heart rate skyrocket once more. And then, as if delivering the final blow, both Shouko and Diana rolled over in their sleep to face the direction that Yasuo was in.
Their sleepwear was slightly out of place because of their postures, and Yasuo’s heart wavered greatly once more when he caught a fleeting glimpse of that.
“……Hang on. If I’m here to deal with Raia in case something happens, does that mean I’m not allowed to sleep?”
Even in the dark room, Yasuo could see that the flame in Shouko’s left eye was small and stable. However, continuing to lie down in his current posture while staring at the rumpled collar of Shouko’s sleepwear was bad for his heart. However, if he turned around, Diana was in a similar state on the other side.
“Fuuu… Fuuu…. Nnnn…”
“……I might just die here, today.”
Yasuo softly muttered that to himself as his consciousness continued to fall deeper and deeper into chaos.
(On an unrelated note, the Discord server link in the main menu that was previously broken has been fixed. You can join the discord server here.)