The Weakness of Beatrice the Level Cap Holy Swordswoman -
Volume 6, Chapter 2: Head to Heaven if You Want to Live
Volume 6, Chapter 2: Head to Heaven if You Want to Live
Her equilibrium was shaken and psychedelic colors danced at the edge of her vision. Only after repeatedly suppressing an urge to vomit did Beatrice, the Holy Swordswoman in red armor and a white miniskirt, awaken with a start. She pressed her hands against the floor, tried and failed to get up, curled up in the fetal position with her long red and silver hair fanned out around her, and fought to suppress her trembling. It was her internal organs themselves moving, not her muscles or bones.
The experience of death and defeat was powerful.
The simulation had seemed all too real, so after awakening from that vivid dream, her memories were a mess and she was very confused.
...She had predicted it to an extent, but the “conclusion” she had seen had been far too tragic. The Reds – the Iberian Orcs afflicted with some kind of disease – had filled the world with their fierce attacks. But that memory could not be mechanically erased either. Nightmare or not, none of it was unnecessary. If she threw away the acquired information instead of accumulating it, it would all be meaningless.
Beatrice decided to remember it all piece by piece as she wiped the sweat from her brow.
This was Ground’s Nir.
It was nighttime and she was inside a small brick house in the mountains away from the human inn town.
It was Boo Boo’s house.
She was technically in the attic where Ultimate Weapon Abyss, who was missing an arm and whose neck was bent at an odd angle, was lying on her back. She looked like a silver-haired girl wearing a one-piece swimsuit with a large hole, but she was actually an artificial creation. However, she was equipped with digital thought circuits that surpassed the human brain.
Their current strategy was entirely reliant on Abyss who had two strands of mottled silver hair hanging down in front of her.
She had connected to Beatrice, Filinion, and Armelina’s minds, extracted the basic information as electrical signals, and constructed an accurate strategic VR simulation based on that so they could experience the coming tragedy in advance.
Abyss would be seeing Earth for the first time as the simulation host, so Beatrice felt kind of bad for sullying her first experience like this.
“Filinion...Armelina...? Are you okay too...?”
She was answered by groans that made her think of large frogs being slowly crushed underfoot. Those two did not have it in them to maintain the mask of a kind and beautiful young woman at the moment.
“Now I’m worried I looked this pathetic just a second ago. Pull yourselves together for my sake at least.”
“You really don’t show any mercy to anyone other than Boo Boo, do you?”
“You really don’t show any mercy to anyone other than Boo Boo, do you?”
While speaking in the cursed voice of someone climbing up from the pit of hangover hell, White Witch Filinion dragged along her witch’s hat and large cap and Fighter Priest Armelina gave no thought for the slit in the sides of her priest’s outfit as she finally managed to get up from the attic floor.
“S-so how did you two die? For me, the downpour started while I was moving from the armored truck to an attack helicopter, so I was caught in the flowing mud until the bottles of sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid in my duffel bag broke and dragged me into a hell of my own creation...”
“I stayed in the armored truck too long, so a Red smashed it with a blunt weapon. The entire vehicle was crushed flat and then roasted in a giant explosion. What about you, Beatrice?”
“..............................................................................I really don’t want to talk about it..............................................................................”
The dull look in her eyes was far greater than the other two’s.
The Holy Swordswoman’s glassy eyes were devoid of all light and that told the other two that something even worse had happened to her, so they gently lifted their feet from the gas.
“(W-was she devoured in the selection? But devoured in which way???)”
“(Shh! She’s a sensitive teenager. B-besides, it only happened in virtual reality, so it’s like being bit by a digital stray dog. Even if it was the worst case scenario, there’s nothing to worry about. Because it was only virtual. Bwa ha ha!!)”
Beatrice threw her hands in the air and screamed.
The pure teenager glared at the insensitive idiots who had lifted their feet from the gas but had not considered stepping on the brakes and she spoke out half in desperation.
“They rushed at me in all directions while in mating mode, but as soon as they tackled me with their fearsome strength, I was crushed to death!! And my final line was ‘nboh’. There, happy now!?”
“Crushed by a group of sweaty and horny fat men until your organs burst out of every hole? Yeah, that’s pretty tragic...”
“Crushed by a group of sweaty and horny fat men until your organs burst out of every hole? Yeah, that’s pretty tragic...”
“Don’t imagine it in such detail!! And you two were either dissolved to the bone with powerful acid or blown to charred bits, right? None of our fates were anywhere close to something we could let others see. How about I describe yours in detail too!? ...And Armelina, I’m never going to forget that joke you made. That was like something an old man would say. ...Come to think of it, you are reaching that age, aren’t you?”
“Ah!? You wanna fight, Beatrice!?”
While Beatrice and Armelina got into a scuffle that doubled as the beginnings of rehabilitation, Filinion just stood there and watched with no intent of healing any wounds this caused.
Fitting for the ultimate weapon, it seemed Abyss had left some horrifying data with them. If they could replay the file in VR format and send it into someone else’s brain (pain included), it could be used as a new form of projectile weapon.
They must have caused quite a commotion because a worried face poked up from the ladder leading down to the hallway. It was far too large to be human.
“Squeal. Beatrice, what happened? I know you were taking a nap, so did you have a bad dream?”
“Oh, Boo Boo. Wait just a moment. Armelina has entered her crazy mode, so don’t look! This might be something she will seriously regret later on!!”
“Shut up! It’s long since time I taught you to respect this clever, kind, nice-smelling, and perfect young woman. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve stripped your insolent ass bare and given you 100 spankings!!”
“...Spankings as punishment? How old are you?”
“...Spankings as punishment? How old are you?”
“Don’t say that in unison, little girls!! Filinion, now I’ve added you to the war crimes list too!!”
The girls went on to grab at each other and tug things out of place like they were mud wrestling, but their armor and miniskirts were meant for combat while exploring the harsh Labyrinth. They would not break so easily.
Meanwhile, Boo Boo was so unchanged that Beatrice thought she might cry tears of relief.
His skin had not turned red and he showed no sign of enacting that selection where the weak were eaten and the strong mated with. Yes, he alone was fine. He was not afflicted by the Red disease and that was why he alone had been allowed to escape when the village was attacked long ago.
She had known that.
She had known it, but the red armor and miniskirt girl was still so relieved that her heart trembled.
He held a hand to his mouth and spoke in a troubled voice.
“Boo. You shouldn’t fight. Abyss is sleeping, so keep it down! ...Keep this up and I might have to hit all of you as punishment.”
“That would physically crush me, so leave me out of it!!”
“That would physically crush me, so leave me out of it!!”
“That would physically crush me, so leave me out of it!!”
Even if it had been in VR, those three girls had just seen the threat of the Iberian Orcs. Boo Boo’s words led the two muscular morons to stop grappling and for some reason the White Witch joined them in sitting apologetically before him.
Boo Boo tilted his head like he did not really understand.
“So what did your nap say?”
“Ugh... The simulation only taught us that any direct attack is guaranteed to fail. We really do have to end this before the apocalyptic Reds break loose.”
“Squeal. Beatrice, you’re such a romanticist to rely on dream prophecies.”
He indeed did not understand. Beatrice was a little curious who had taught him the word “romanticist”. Had it been Succubus Tselika who had disguised herself as a Nun, had it been the Sage, or had it been Royal Elf Sibyl?
“There’s still some food left, so you can eat if you want. I made sure not to eat it all for your sakes. I can restrain myself if I try!”
“...W-well, I think I can handle some porridge. So what’s on the menu?”
“Meat. You can never go wrong with meat! Serve meat and there will be a smile on everyone’s face!!”
Beatrice and the others were concerned about that fairly vague response, but they still followed Boo Boo from the attic and to the ground floor. There must have been further additions built because there was a second floor in between.
The hand-sized Fairies had built his house with a fireplace and chimney, but it did not have a kitchen with a hand pump well or brick oven, so when eating, he generally built a campfire outside and had a barbecue.
They stepped outside to find Ground’s Nir’s peaceful blue sky.
It was not harshly divided between a dry season and rainy season, and everything would not be swept away by mud after a sudden downpour.
Also, it seemed Boo Boo had not made the food. The hand-sized Fairies named Meridiana, Alice, and Morgan were flying around while Fairy Queen Sutriona used both hands to deal with a (Boo Boo-sized) skewer of meat and Giant Onion like it was a barbell.
That Break News had a black ribbon dress wrapped around her skinny, undeveloped body, and the large floral decorations shook as she casually spoke.
“Oh, so you’re up. You didn’t have much luck, did you? Just making an estimate from the size of their skeleton and muscles, they’re far beyond what mere humans can handle. I know you’re disheartened, but eat some tasty food and cheer up.”
The food was a lot like skewers of grilled chicken, but each piece of meat rivaled a one-pound steak in size. If a pound does not mean much to you, you can convert that into about 450 grams. Each one would probably be too big to fit in a girl’s small bento box. A single skewer contained enough meat to shock a Westerner and Beatrice had to avert her gaze since her stomach was still squirming a little.
And an odd scene came into view.
There was red, red, red, and more red as far as the eye could see.
Those powerful and horrifying Iberian Orcs were curled up and arranged in neat rows.
The way they had crouched down, curled up, and come to a complete stop made them look like giant eggs laid on the ground. But these red eggs of slaughter would bring about the end of the world once they hatched.
They had not accepted their own rampage.
They had not accepted the Redness afflicting them as an excuse.
So they had used all their might to suppress their power and entered a dormant state. Then White Witch Filinion’s tranquilizer potions and Ice Waterfall Princess Wildefrau’s low-temperature treatment had externally reinforced that state.
Of course, this was only a temporary calm that came with a time limit. If that had solved everything, Beatrice’s Party would not have been continuing their trial and error tests.
White Witch Filinion poked at the side of her glasses and spoke.
“We can’t actually solve this with Gruagach’s Summon Hunter power like we were trying in the simulation, right?”
“Right. That requires both sides to accept the contract, so the Iberian Orcs have to be awake for it to work. Gruagach could easily get their consent using Tselika’s Charm, but there is no stopping the Reds’ rampage once they wake up, so we would be right back where we started.”
Huldra, a miniskirt cheerleader with pink twintails and pompoms whose behavior was so overly cutesy it felt fake, casually joined the conversation.
“Chief, I’ve learned how to administer the crucial tranquilizer potion, but it doesn’t look like I can Mix it. The White Witch threw in Sutriona’s blood wings and Ireana’s roots for some kind of unique potion that’s just too dangerous for me to copy.”
“Heh. What a pain. Sounds like no one can do anything without my peerless genius around. Grin, grin.”
“Wipe that smug grin off your face, cow. If no one but you can make it, it means we can’t get a stable supply, which leaves us in big trouble.”
After Armelina’s exasperated response, curly blue-haired Wildefrau approached while holding a skewer of only vegetables. She spoke while nearly nude except for the cross sword she wore.
“Either way, the low-temperature treatment is entirely reliant on me. Simply freezing them with a great enough power would be one thing, but safely guiding them to hibernation without harming them is something else entirely. Grin, grin, grin.”
“What is it with all of you and your smug grins!? We’re not here to brag about how powerful we are! Quite the opposite!! What we want is a generic ability, not a unique one!!”
If even one of the Reds surrounding them were to awaken, they would be attacked by the scenario seen in the strategic VR simulation put together by Abyss. Once that red apocalypse began, it was all over. It was human nature to want as many safeties in place as possible.
For now, the girls began a strategy meeting while accepting one of the Boo Boo-sized skewers and deciding to share it since it was too much for one person.
Beatrice let out a slow breath and started speaking.
“To be blunt, how long will this dormant state last?”
“Theoretically, about 10 hours, but the actual limit is fairly fluid. Who knows how much it could shrink based on external stimuli. Munch.”
“Wait, Wildefrau has a vegetable skewer, so if we’re going to share one, let’s go grab a meat one. Meat!”
“Eh heh heh. The fatty meat is so good. This really is the best. Munch, munch.”
“...Are you serious? I’m a guy and even I’m a little disturbed by how extreme an athletic festival this feels like. Well, if that’s what you like, I’ll leave it to you, glasses girl. Munch.”
The girls(?) held a hand to the side of their head to keep the dripping grease from their hair as they bit into the meat with their small mouths.
The red-armored and white miniskirted Holy Swordswoman struggled with the large meat as she continued the discussion.
“External stimuli? You mean – munch – you think there could be an attack?”
“Once the scope of the threat reaches them, I imagine some people will think this dormant state is the perfect time to attack. Munch, munch.”
“Even though Level Cappers like us couldn’t even dislocate a single joint in an attack, huh?”
It was cruel, but Beatrice’s Party had already considered preventing the Iberian Orcs from moving any of their limbs to prevent the disaster. In the end, those representative examples of the Level Cappers were unable to even scratch that copper skin and their only accomplishment was possibly hastening the time limit with the pain signals.
Their opponents were that untouchable even while asleep.
How much worse would it be once they woke up and their violence blossomed?
The simulation led by Abyss had provided the answer to that.
“But won’t a lot of people refuse to believe it until they try it for themselves? Offense isn’t my specialty, so it doesn’t really make sense to me. Mm, lick...”
“...Filinion, I know you don’t want that dripping meat juice to go to waste, but you really shouldn’t hold out your hands and catch it on your tongue.”
“I bet that glasses cow would catch the meat in her cleavage if it fell off the skewer. Then she’d close one eye and shout ‘hot...!’ ”
“Yeah, she is a glasses girl.”
“It’s like she’s just asking to get the grease all over the lenses. ...And, chief, don’t you wear glasses back in reality?”
“Attention, everyone!! Weren’t we holding a strategy meeting!!!???”
Perhaps thanks to the blessing of vegetables, Wildefrau remained relatively sane and steered them back on course. In a way, the fact that all their insults did not cause their friendships to break down was proof that their bonds were real.
“Mm. Hey, Filinion, you still don’t know what exactly the Redness is, right?”
“Their blood rusts over. It may be something like a hereditary disease that came about in the process of evolving in a more aggressive direction. Munch. But I’ve checked through their body tissue and I can’t find any abnormality like that. There’s no difference in the chromosomes between the elder’s group and healthy Boo Boo and there’s no sign of toxins, bacteria, or other foreign substances. And when compared to Boo Boo, I can’t find any nutrient they’re missing. On the physical front, they should be healthy as can be.”
No matter how much they bit and tore off pieces of the meat, it never seemed to grow smaller, but someone had made it for them. Armelina was an adult, so she refused to look displeased with it as she spoke up.
“But the Reds are definitely in an abnormal state, right? Munch, munch.”
“Yes. So that means there isn’t anything wrong with them as far as I can investigate. And if a recovery-specialty Level Capper like me can’t get to the bottom of it, it must be something really well hidden.”
“Well, the Sage has mastered all Magic with no gaps whatsoever, but not even she could cure them. I guess we didn’t need the cow to tell us it isn’t something so simple.”
“Did you...did you have to do that!? I went to the trouble of making a grim expression for that great line, so why would you bring up someone else to obliterate my own name value!? Beatrice! Look me in the eye! Dammit, you’re wearing armor, so you can’t read your palm no matter how hard you stare at it!! W-waaaaahhhhn!!”
Another girl used her small mouth to join the giant meat eating challenge. The long ears sticking out from her glossy blonde hair twitched as she spoke.
“Munch, munch. What the humans are going to do is obvious enough from observing their inn town. They’re all raising war cries and preparing for a hunt in the mountains. They sure have a lot of excess energy when they’re still rebuilding the town after the Underworld battle.”
Even though she wore a green miniskirt dress with the chest wide open and ate this overly sumptuous feast by brushing her fine hair back and tearing off pieces of meet with her small mouth, the Royal Elf looked somehow refined.
“People lose control more easily when acting out of fear than out of anger. From the look of things, I doubt you could stop them from making their attack if you tried to persuade them now. Of course, even if the humans join together and attack the dormant Reds, they cannot kill them. They will only shorten the time limit. But at the same time, there are so many of them. Preventing a single piece of Magic from hitting the Reds is unrealistic. We will have to assume a shortened time limit in whatever we do.”
“I get that, but is what you said before really true?”
Beatrice’s comment could have been seen as a challenge or a simple question, but Sibyl responded with a composed expression.
“...Munch. The Sage has lost her cool and is no help whatsoever since this has to do with the Iberian Orc elder. As a ruler, I have decided that the shortest route to regaining control of Ground’s Nir is to guide you and indirectly achieve my objective. Munch, munch.”
“Th-this princess sure can eat.”
“I kind of like this. I did run the meat-focused Girl’s Grill when we were in the inn town, if you recall. And as the proud ruler of the forest, my metabolism works differently from you humans. I need not blind myself with external looks, bind myself with an excessive aesthetic focus, and pathetically restrict my diet.”
“Is this elitist just saying she can eat whatever she wants without gaining weight? Y’know, that concept that might as well be picking a fight with the female half of the population! Do we have to start a war of the worlds against that unreasonably thin body!!!???”
Armelina was filled with dark hatred, but Royal Elf Sibyl ignored her and maintained her elegant image as she continued.
“To find a drastic solution to the Redness afflicting the Iberian Orcs, we need the hidden treasures guarded by the three royal families, which includes me. I believe that was what we had discussed.”
If they were going to share so much food, couldn’t they just remove it from the skewer? Beatrice’s Party eventually arrived at that most basic of questions, so they moved the humongous pieces of meat onto large plates, transforming the meeting into a party with the plates sitting on stumps instead of a table. ...Boo Boo and Sutriona were clearly abnormal for eating a seemingly endless number of those skewers.
“So what are the three royal families’ hidden treasures?”
Sibyl resumed speaking in her green dress with the chest wide open.
She used a knife to cut off a small piece of the giant meat.
“To be honest, there is a strong tradition saying we must protect them, but we don’t actually remember why. I admit it’s kind of pathetic. The breakthrough came from Demon Lord Tselika. Without her and Skull Wave, I never would have realized the true meaning of the three treasures.”
Sibyl, Tselika, the Sage, and Skull Wave... Those four stood quite near the peak, so they must not have wanted any connections between each other. Sibyl and the Sage had worked together and there was a connection between Tselika and Skull Wave, but that was all. They had been satisfied with their small groups and had never had a chance to exchange much information.
The strongest did not let the loneliness get the better of them. Instead, to avoid the annoyance of speaking with people of differing values, they had intentionally distanced the people who would never understand them – or that they had assumed would never understand them. That was a bitter experience that Beatrice herself had gone through in the past.
Boo Boo had changed all that.
Just as his actions had opened Beatrice’s lonely heart of the strongest, he had broken through so many people’s shells and given them a chance to connect with others. If he had only been strong, he would only have violently beaten them down and forced them to obey. If he had only been kind, he would have been killed in a counterattack. It was only by possessing both qualities that he had managed to open so many people’s hearts.
Sibyl breathed an emotional sigh.
“Demon Lord Tselika is a collector with her own treasure trove in the Cave of Tears and, according to her, if you gather those three treasures, you will have a tool for viewing and understanding the composition of all matter in this world. Because of the many possibilities and even greater risks that entails, it was split in three and each piece was left with the ruler of the land, sea, or air for safekeeping...no, to be sealed away. And if Skull Wave is to be believed, it could be used as a largescale observation device like an electron microscope or particle accelerator.”
“A-a particle accelerator? And since this has to do with Ground’s Nir, it could break through the limits of Earth technology...? Th-th-th-this doesn’t mean you could create as much as you wanted of curium, einsteinium, californium, and other dangerous things, does it? Chief, if you created enough of that to be visible to the naked eye, it would cause a nuclear revolution in this world of Magic, and people could create super hydrogen bombs the size of your little finger.”
“That was only a figure of speech...I hope.”
Huldra and Armelina grew pale and whispered to each other, but Beatrice was focused elsewhere.
...Healing Expert Filinion had only just said that she could not find the cause even though the effect was clearly there, so the cause had to be buried somewhere deeper than she could see. With better equipment, perhaps Filinion would be able to deal with the mysterious Redness.
A hereditary disease, an infectious disease, a toxin, an immunodeficiency, the lack of a nutrient, or the inability to synthesize an internal substance...
It was unclear what the issue was, so they could not imagine what the appropriate response was. If all you had was X+Y=Z, you could not find the answer. But if you had fixed values for two of the three variables, you could solve for the remaining one. Before using heating or cooling for distillation or mixing some chemicals, they needed to observe the cause. Just like a crossword puzzle, filling in one answer helped reveal the answers around it.
By identifying the cause, they could work out the technique needed to eradicate the disease.
That technique might be hidden somewhere in the Magic tree diagrams that Beatrice and the others viewed on a regular basis. The glutamic acid that was expected to work as an antidote to a certain toxin was easily acquired by boiling seaweed, and cutting edge labs used normal pig and cow blood to create serums. In older times, such things had been treated as suspicious good luck charms, but once you understood how it worked, the solution was surprisingly simple. It was like finding the right way to look at a piece of trick art.
“The hidden treasures of the three royal families, hm? So that’s how you secure your rule. By the way, you mentioned land, sea, and air, but we don’t have time for a great adventure across this entire world.”
“The land one is protected and preserved by the ruler of the forest, meaning me, so you don’t need to worry about that one.”
Royal Elf Sibyl tapped at the circlet on her forehead that carried a jewel reminiscent of hot blue fire.
That must have been one of the treasures.
“So what about sea and air?” continued Beatrice.
“The sea one belonged to Elder Mermaid Vivian, ruler of the ocean. I use the past tense because she is no longer among the living, but you would recognize her appearance. ...After all, her body was used by the Underworld Lord.”
At that point, Sibyl held her soft-looking palm out toward the others.
It held a ring with a bright jewel set in it.
It was colored a sapphire blue reminiscent of the most beautiful ice.
Ice Waterfall Princess Wildefrau wore the same color, so she spoke up in interest.
“Did you dig that up from the Underworld...that giant marine creature that had rotted away after all its nutrients were absorbed?”
“I was the one that cleaned up after the Underworld Lord in the end, so I collected it then.”
“So we only need the air treasure?”
Beatrice asked that with a frown and Sibyl quietly nodded.
“The ruler of the sky is Archangel Marinka. I do not know how much the limit will be shortened, but before the Iberian Orcs wake up, we need to acquire Marinka’s sky treasure and complete the largescale observation device that can reveal the identity of the Redness afflicting them.”
“W-we can probably manage if we only have to visit one place, right? Of course, we only have about half a day, so things might change if we have to go all the way to the edge of the world and back.”
Filinion oddly hedged her comment, but Sibyl shook her head. That was enough for her beautifully shining blonde hair to sway side to side.
“Not to worry. Marinka’s location is visible from this island. In fact, with the exception of some special cases like Vampires, it is a place anyone sees on a daily basis. However, it is also a somewhat unusual location.”
“Quit acting all mysterious. This obviously isn’t going to be as easy as heading out alone and coming back with a new souvenir. Where exactly is this Marinka located?”
The fair Royal Elf answered Armelina’s question by raising her index finger.
No, she was pointing.
Pointing straight up.
Had they misheard or was this a figure of speech? Beatrice had to ask about that entirely unexpected term, but Sibyl was not going to correct herself.
“The sun shining in the heavens beyond the sky territory. Archangel Marinka provides the world with light from there as she awaits visitors. And she wears the final treasure: an earring bearing the jewel of the azure sky.”
How were they supposed to reach the sun?
“Oh, I don’t know what you’re imagining, but I am not talking about Earth’s sun. The sun that shines on Ground’s Nir is perfectly reachable on foot. ...Why are all of your mouths gaping like that? Sigh, did that just confuse you further? Then let me tell you something to strip away your foolish assumptions. We are not going to visit Earth’s sun. We will visit the sun island that shines on all of Ground’s Nir from beyond the sky territory.”
Sibyl explained with a composed expression, but Boo Boo had trouble understanding since he had never tried going to either world’s sun.
“Boo... That was a flying island?”
That nearly-4m gray giant had arrived at a beach where small waves washed in and out in the warm sunlight. But these were not white waves. They were black. Rotten, discolored, and sticky dead flesh clung to the coastline.
If a human from Earth had been there, they might have been reminded of a tanker accident.
That ominous image may have been why there were no humans in the vicinity. No one wanted to hang around there when the black lumps were what remained of the Underworld’s giant marine creature that had attacked the island of Ground’s Nir. Because the Sage had used up all of its nutrients to save Beatrice’s Party and the elder’s group, it had fallen apart into partially liquefied rotten flesh. It was crawling with small Cleaner Crabs and Intruder Hermit Crabs. Life was powerful. At this rate, it would be entirely gone in less than a month.
Whatever the case, he was lucky.
If Royal Elf Sibyl was right, the humans were attempting to attack the dormant Iberian Orcs in order to protect their home world of Earth. The crisis would make them indiscriminate. Boo Boo would be in danger if they spotted him.
He wore a large basket on his back that the Fairies had woven for him.
But it was not to carry fish he caught.
In fact, Fairy Queen Sutriona sat inside the basket looking quite bored. She stuck her fingers inside the chest and hip of her black ribbon dress and made a snapping noise as she spoke in a drawn-out voice.
“Yawn... Have you still not found it?”
“Sniff, sniff. Sniff, sniff... I think it’s over here.”
Boo Boo moved his giant nose to search out some kind of scent as he walked along the beach. The crescent moon shape of what looked like a rib stuck out from the water. The Underworld’s bones had shined with the bluish-white light of crystal, but they had lost their shine and become a dull white now that it was no longer active.
Boo Boo sniffed in front of a small hill of black gunk and then stuck his hand inside.
He pulled out a hard object about the size of a rugby ball.
“Found it! It’s a big tree seed!!”
“Wah!? Wait, Boo Boo! Wash it off in the water before throwing it in the basket! You got that gunk all over me!! Ugh, it’s sticking to my hair! I can’t get it out!!”
Boo Boo continued the search while carrying angry Sutriona. He would collect any kind of plant seed he found.
Suddenly, the white sand swelled up nearby.
A humanoid form burst out from the beach’s sand. It was a bewitchingly beautiful woman with purple hair and brown skin. This person wearing something like a dress made of green vines and leaves was Ileana, peak of the plant Break News. Despite her strong allure that was reminiscent of sweet nectar, she was pouting her lips like a small child.
“Hmph. Hmph, hmph!”
“...Boo Boo, you and the perverted carrot both need to learn how to use actual words.”
As inadequate as it seemed, it apparently worked. Silver-haired Sutriona responded to the far-too-direct communication style with annoyance, so Ileana started speaking in an actual language.
“All of the plants on this island come from my All-Purpose Seeds, so they all belong to me.” Ileana puffed out her brown cheeks like dumplings. “But I don’t recognize those. They must be seeds from another island. Which means they’re invasive species! Growing those on this island would be too dangerous. They’ll take over my share!!”
After all, the Next Generation Embryo found deep inside the Underworld had been a giant towering tree. If more of those started growing on the island, the plants born of Ileana’s All-Purpose Seeds would be driven from the already limited land.
“But this is necessary.”
“Look over there, vegetable. There’s a big mountain, right?”
Boo Boo pointed toward the largest mountain on the island. Beyond the thick clouds, the peak was covered in perpetual snow.
When she saw that pure and unsullied white, Ileana held her skinny brown body and shivered.
“I have little to do with that land. Not even high-altitude plants would grow at that height.”
“Beatrice and the others need to go even higher than that.”
Boo Boo hopped up and down on the spot, sending an ominous tremor through the ground and rolling Sutriona around in the basket on his back.
“It’s called the sky territory. We went there when the Sage sent Disaster after us and we used those...floating islands, were they called? Squeal. I didn’t notice it then since we were sent there automatically, but it’s hard to get there normally.”
It was hard to see from this distance, but large rocks and clumps of dirt were positioned vertically up from the peak. According to Sibyl, they could reach the heavens using those floating islands.
Which meant they needed something else:
“Even from the mountain peak, the lowest part of the sky territory is floating around with no way to reach it, so we need these.”
“Ground’s Nir’s plants won’t help, but a seed from elsewhere might do the trick.”
While Boo Boo explained, Sutriona righted herself in the basket and held up a seed larger than her face.
“It’s a bit of a gamble, but there is a precedent: the Next Generation Embryo. ...That tall tree had almost certainly been artificially redesigned, but there had to be an original tree it was based on. If we gather as many foreign seeds as we can and plant them all on the summit, one of them should instantly sprout, reach the bottom of the islands floating in the sky territory, and provide a starting foothold.”
“Noooo! There has to be some other way! Wouldn’t it be faster to ride up there on the Thousand Dragon’s back!?”
“That wouldn’t work, vegetable. I’ve never heard of her eating the sun, so I don’t think she can fly that high.”
“And unlike me and my beautiful butterfly wings, she can fly quickly but she can’t stay in one spot...hovering, did they call it? Especially not with someone on her back. And the passengers couldn’t climb onto the islands since her giant body would knock them out of the sky.”
Sutriona gave a mischievous smile from the basket as she supplied that extra information.
“Boo. Besides, why do you not like this idea, vegetable?”
“Because...because...because there’s no guarantee it will stay on the top of the mountain. Are you sure it won’t scatter pollen and infect the entire area, or spread its roots below the ground to grow more trees? Hmph, hmph! This will never end well!!”
Boo Boo would not have considered any of that, but what about knowledgeable Sutriona?
The Fairy Queen was entirely nonchalant.
“It’s no skin off my nose if you suffer, perverted carrot. In fact, I’d probably hold my sides and laugh until I cried.”
Ileana grew pale and began tearfully tugging on Boo Boo’s large hand.
“Don’t do this! Don’t do this! This feels just as ominous as finding a mysterious egg below the thick ice! Besides, nothing good will ever come from listening to a bug that’s only good for her venom!”
“You’re so good at tending to the soil, so you only need to use that talent on me. I never want to see you tending to some invasive species from who-knows-where!! Why do I have to watch those rival plants grow while I’m stuck in an untended field full of weeds!? There’s no upside for me!!”
Just then, Sutriona’s slender shoulders shook inside the basket.
She was clearly laughing.
“Peh heh heh... I see. So that’s it.”
“Is the proud peak of the plants jealous? Ah hah hah! Are you that afraid of having a rival steal away your gardener, brown maiden!? Ee hee hee, ha haaa!!”
“Hmphwuh!!!?? Th-th-that-that’s not true!! You think I’m in love!? Don’t be ridiculous! I am the greatest of the plant Break News and the highest life form that creates the foundation of the food chain supporting all other life!! Just because I was having a little fun is no reason to think I am jealous or at all worried!!!!!”
“Well, normal plants don’t fall in love or get jealous, so I’m not sure what to say to that.”
While the two powerful Break News argued, Boo Boo tilted his giant head.
He waved his far-too-large hand toward the Mandragora who had started tearfully looking up at him.
“Don’t worry, vegetable. I won’t go anywhere. I can look after that big tree and the vegetables here.”
“Heh heh heh. That won’t be enough for her, Boo Boo. That love-struck perverted carrot won’t be satisfied unless she’s the only one you’re looking at. Ha ha!! It’s time you learned about love, learned what it means to be a woman, and blossomed into a giant shameless flower!!!!!”
“Give it a rest, you bug. Keep it up and I’ll suggest it’s love that brings you to Boo Boo’s place for dinner night after night when you could cook your own meat if you wanted to.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“You wanna bet?”
Giant sparks flew as the two of them glared at each other with such intensity that a Chimera would be too afraid to even run away, but Boo Boo still asked a question.
“Squeal. What is love?”
“That is the extremely immature feeling that causes someone to grow all flustered just seeing you carry the watering can to another garden and then suddenly insist on having you all to herself. Just like this perverted carrot here.”
“It is the meaningless force that leads someone pretend she’s incompetent so she can intrude on a guy’s home, have him take care of her, and act in a calculatedly cute way to stimulate a protective desire. Just like this bug here.”
“I warned you!”
“Kiss my ass!!”
The two of them shouted at each other and finally rushed at each other. Boo Boo kept his head tilted as he watched the two Break News grabbing at each other’s dresses and hair while rolling along the beach.
“...Boo, can’t everyone just get along?”
And so the attack began.
Given the situation, they could not focus everyone on a single activity.
It was time to review their information.
“First of all, if the Red-afflicted Iberian Orcs wake up, it’s all over. So we need to settle this before that happens. For that, we need the three hidden treasures protected by the three royal families. Of those, we have the two of land and sea, so we need to acquire the treasure of air. We are sending one team to do that.”
Just outside Boo Boo’s house on the busy mountainside, Holy Swordswoman Beatrice raised one finger at a time.
“The Iberian Orcs placed themselves in a dormant state, but external tranquilizers and low-temperature treatment can help. We can’t have them waking up, so we can’t let our guard down there. Another team will work to keep them asleep and extend the time limit.”
She slowly drew out the frame that divided everyone up.
“Meanwhile, the humans are showing ominous signs in the inn town. They seem to think they can defeat the Reds by attacking them all at once before they wake up from their dormant state. However, not even a group effort from us Level Cappers could break their hard skin. That stimulus would only shrink the time limit, so another team will stop the humans.”
None of the teams could afford to fail, so they could not concentrate their personnel on any one of them.
Beatrice placed a hand on her hip, sighed, and began splitting up the personnel.
“Me, Boo Boo, Filinion, Armelina, and Sibyl as a guide will aim for the sky treasure guarded by Archangel Marinka. A mixed team led by Wildefrau and Huldra can work on keeping the Reds asleep while a mixed team led by Gruagach and Rusalka can set up a defensive line to stop the attack from the inn town. Don’t forget to manage the Break News as well. ...Does that sound good?”
“Well, I don’t mind, but it sounds like you will be climbing the tallest peak. Don’t forget that you will need to deal with the cold yourself.”
Wildefrau readily agreed, but Alchemist Cheerleader Huldra grew pale.
“Geh, geh. White Witch, you’re going with them!? I can administer the tranquilizer potion, but I can’t Mix it. If I run out, then that’s that.”
“Um, I will Mix up a bunch of the potion before I leave. More importantly, we don’t know what kind of resistance we will find with Marinka and the rest of the heavenly forces, so I understand why they would want to bring our best healer along.”
Now that the personnel assignment was complete, it was time to get to work.
Fighter Priest Armelina looked to the giant leather backpack Boo Boo was wearing.
“That sure is stuffed full. What’s inside?”
“Boo, the gunk from the Underworld. If there aren’t any nutrients on the mountain, I can spread this around and plant the seeds in it. And Filinion is carrying a lot too.”
They were talking about Ground Nir’s tallest mountain, but it did not take months to climb like with Mt. Everest back on Earth. That was largely due to the presence of Magic, but if they worked at it, they could manage in only about 6 hours. They already had the ability to challenge the underground Labyrinth with only the clothes on their back, so outside of the materials for the cow’s Mixing, they did not need to bring much in the way of outdoors equipment.
They stood at the base of the mountain.
Royal Elf Sibyl held a twisted Shining Weapon while she stretched her arms and back upwards, pushing her flat chest out a bit.
“Nnn. Now, let’s get going. I will try to choose an ascent that is climbable by humans, but please use Magic when that is not enough. I will not help.”
“Squeal. Sibyl, have you ever met Marinka?”
“Yes, the land, sea, and air used to get along quite well. It got awkward after Vivian died, though.”
Then Armelina began laughing creepily.
“Heh heh heh.”
“Heh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha ha!! Finally. Oh, finally, there’s a girl flatter than me! Sutriona was too short to count and Kallikantzaros was cheating by having that chest with her short height! But Sibyl is plenty tall but also the flattest of us all! Thank you, the day has finally come that someone can take that title away from me!!”
“Squeal? Beatrice, can you explain what that means?”
“Don’t worry, Boo Boo. It’s nothing worth thinking about.”
Beatrice smiled confidently, but then White Witch Filinion made a merciless comment while a certain part of her jiggled.
“C’mon, you niche-demand flat-chested girls, let’s get going. I’m the indoor type, but I’m keeping my motivation high here.”
“Did you just throw me into the same category as those two!? I’m a bit above average!!”
Enraged, Beatrice snapped back with fire erupting from the top of her head, but the glasses girl only jiggled the plentiful resources held tightly between her backpack’s shoulder straps.
Armelina remained unconcerned throughout, so she must have been fine with anything other than the very bottom spot.
“I can’t stop laughing... Anyway, you’re a mountain guide, huh? Are long-eared Elves the indoor type or the outdoor type?”
“Why are you looking at my chest with that victorious look on your face? And I would rather you did not look lightly upon the ruler of all forest-born life. The very idea that being the outdoor type signifies a lack of intelligence is an insult to all life of the forest.”
(Wait, wait. It does look like Armelina has the larger size, but isn’t that only because of the muscle? I feel like Sibyl might actually have more going by cup size.)
“...? What’s with you?”
“Why are you holding your hands behind your head and doing shoulder blade exercises?”
Driven by fear, Beatrice had started to become aware of her size, so the Royal Elf gave her a suspicious look.
Once they entered the mountain, Sibyl took the lead and maintained a composed expression no matter how root-covered and rocky the slope was.
Meanwhile, White Witch Filinion’s hips were already trembling.
“Pant, pant, pant...”
Beatrice could not help but mimic her earlier comment.
“Ahem. Ah, ahh... ‘Um, I will Mix up a bunch of the potion before I leave. More importantly, we don’t know what kind of resistance we will find with Marinka and the rest of the heavenly forces, so I understand why they would want to bring our best healer along.’ ”
“Ohhh!! I want to go back in time and punch my idiot self so hard it breaks my glasses!! I didn’t even think about being the only one with any luggage!!”
“Well, you do have all that extra fat to lug around. Hey, Filinion. As corrupt as you are, you’re still a White Witch, right? Then can’t you Mix an energy drink or something to recover from exhaustion?”
“!? That’s it!!!!!!”
“If a complete indoor type like you couldn’t figure out something like that, you clearly don’t have enough INT for the task. Besides, you build up a resistance to Recovery Potions when you keep using them, so they stop working. You’ll give up soon enough regardless.”
Beatrice’s annoyed comment put an end to that idea, but the glasses cow had still reached her limit.
And there was only one person she was going to rely on.
“Hm? I’m already carrying this big bag, so I can’t lend you my back.”
“W-wait,” said Armelina. “I know that was a shock, but don’t give me that look. I’m not climbing a mountain while carrying a backpack and two mounds of fat that aren’t mine!!”
“I’ll just turn you into a Fighter Priest who can’t say no☆”
“I absolutely refuse to accept that humiliating title! And that genre is way too narrow!!”
The backpack cow made a fuss and filled the others with enough fear of being weighed down that she was eventually given a spot directly on Boo Boo’s shoulders. His crammed-full leather backpack seemed to function as a seat.
The White Witch wrapped her arms around Boo Boo’s big head like a cushion, shifted the position of her butt on the backpack, and sighed like she was soaking in a hot spring.
“Ahhh... Being freed from physical labor is such bliss.”
“...I swear she’s turning into a god of pestilence who is the master of sticking to last place in the railroad game...”
Armelina groaned and Beatrice frowned and trembled. Her strength had cost her a chance to show off here.
“Squeal. Stop rubbing my ears, Filinion. It tickles.”
“Ow! Beatrice, don’t kick me!!”
Meanwhile, Sibyl turned back in the lead and gave an exasperated sigh.
“Sigh. What are you even doing?”
That was what she said.
Yes, she definitely said that.
But that super serious long-eared Royal Elf started acting strangely once the forest’s trees disappeared and they were surrounded by nothing but snow.
“Shiver, shiver, shiver...”
“I-I-I’m fine. I-I-I-I-I-I-I am the Royal Elf who rules over the forest. A-a-a-a-a-a-a mere lack of trees is n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-not enough to trouble my l-l-l-l-l-l-leg strength built up by traversing all of the land I rule. S-s-s-s-s-so tonight we will have soup curry.”
“Your logic is a mess and I think that last part is just wishful thinking! Miss Flattest, we need you to guide us, so what are we supposed to do if you collapse first!?”
“Hmm, maybe Miss Second Flattest has trouble with the cold because she has so little subcutaneous fat.”
“Hold it right there, Filinion! Did you just switch up the order!?”
“You damn cow. Don’t act victorious just because the journey is so much easier up on Boo Boo’s shoulders.”
“Beatrice, don’t you ignore this either! The fate of the world is riding on this crucial issue! C’mon, wake up, Sibyl! And tell them that you’re definitely the flattest!!”
Armelina grew pale and began shaking Sibyl by the shoulders, but the Royal Elf’s head flopped limply back and forth, her eyes stared into the distance, and nothing more than the name of a certain dish left her lovely lips.
Beatrice placed a hand on Armelina’s shoulder.
The Holy Swordswoman shook her head and spoke.
“Forcing her isn’t going to help. It looks like it’s time for the winter mountain cliché of warming ourselves with each other’s skin. And lucky for us, we have some lewd flesh right over there we didn’t have any use for. Go, Filinion! You’re our healer, so do your job!!”
She found an excuse to tear the White Witch from Boo Boo’s head and threw her at Sibyl, and it was dramatically effective. Lying in a heap with Filinion gave the Royal Elf enough warmth to come back to her senses.
“Wh-what was I just doing...? Mghh. And why are these two crude and irritating masses pressing down on my head with a size that rivals the Sage’s!?”
“Hyah? Someone please comfort me, I don’t care who... And did you just call my boobs crude?”
“Get away from me! Didn’t I say I wasn’t going to help?”
Sibyl shot to her feet when her long elvish ear was flicked in the cold air.
Filinion grinned behind her glasses.
“Heh. When the winter cold amplifies the pain signals, a flick to the ear is pretty bad for a human, so I wonder how bad it is for the pointy ear of an Elf. But if you promise to help me, I’ll geeeently warm your long ears. Ahm, ahm.”
“Ah, please don’t gently bite me there! You two! Quit watching and get this insolent slime monster off of me!!”
“Yeah, but dealing with that cow is a pain and it’s useful having found a way to discipline a certain Elf who keeps looking down on us despite being second flattest.”
“Okay, I didn’t mishear this time! You’re definitely calling me the flattest!! ...That’s it. Don’t expect me to hold back any longer. If that girl with the second least interesting character – yes, and thus the second flattest in that sense – starts hallucinating again, we’ll be stranded up here! We need her to guide us up the mountain!!”
Sibyl blushed and tried to shout back, but she shrieked limply from the ground and fell silent again. Filinion had apparently broken her with the forbidden technique known as blowing in the ear.
After many sacrifices, Boo Boo’s group finally arrived at the summit.
Sibyl gasped for breath in horse-and-carriage mode with two large masses on her small head and her shoulders at different heights. There was no light in her eyes as she spoke.
“Th-this was an excellent lesson on how painful it must have been for my fellow Elves who were bought as slaves and chained together. I’m starting to think the world would be better off if their entire species went extinct...”
After relying on other people’s help, Filinion was of course full of energy as she got down from Sibyl’s back. The bright look on her face suggested she felt not even a twinge of guilt for riding that small and slender girl up the mountain.
Armelina lightly elbowed Beatrice in the side and winked.
“(Come to think of it, Beatrice, couldn’t you have used your flames to heat up Sibyl who whose presence is so flat you’d barely notice her.?)”
“(Are you that bothered about this flatness thing? Well, I might have considered it if she bowed her head flat against the ground and flat-tered us a fair bit. I would have flat out refused otherwise.)”
“Would you stop saying ‘flat’ so much!?”
“Oh, you wanna fight!?”
While those two’s private conversation grew much less private, Boo Boo trudged across the thick perpetual snow of the summit. It was more like a thick layer of ice than snow. It was impossible to tell how thick it really was. Without soil, the seed would not sprout. They had been right to bring the leather backpack. Boo Boo set it down and scattered around the black sludge within. That rotten flesh was what remained of the Underworld’s giant marine creature.
Then he planted the various-sized plant seeds he had also brought with him. The smaller ones were the size of golf balls and the larger ones were the size of coconuts or rugby balls.
“Squeal, will these really sprout?”
“Beatrice, could you help with your flame Magic?”
“I could, but can’t you Mix some fertilizer or something, Filinion?”
“No, I can’t. What do you think I am? If I could make potions from plants and make plants grow from potions, I’d be a perpetual motion machine.”
They were already above the clouds. When they looked up, they saw the clear blue sky and the sun which sent down its light with nothing to get in the way. But even with that sun, it was chilly enough to see their breath.
When Beatrice drew her Shining Weapon and produced a fireball, the effect was dramatic.
The entire mountain peak undulated with cracking sounds.
Nutrients were absorbed from the black rotting flesh of the Underworld and green sprouts opened up. Each of the leaves was larger than Beatrice’s hand. Like watching a video on fast-forward, the new sprouts swelled out, grew taller than the girls, grew thicker and longer, wrapped around each other, and pushed ever higher. They seemed to have grabbed onto one of the hunks of stone circling like a bird far overhead.
In the end, they all formed a tree too thick for the girls to reach around even if they held hands and formed a circle.
They could not tell how tall it was by looking up.
Boo Boo touched the trunk with his sturdy hand and pushed.
“Nn. It won’t budge. Boo, I think we can climb it.”
“You spread that rotting flesh on top of the perpetual snow, but the roots must have made their way down to the actual ground as the tree grew.”
Sibyl held her thin shoulders as she shivered in the cold and she narrowed her eyes to look up at the great tree. She was the ruler of the forest, but she may have felt some instinctual caution about a plant not from the island.
Had that given her a pure desire to conquer it?
She eventually reached out and touched the thick, thick trunk and then placed her feet up on it.
She began to climb as the guide.
“Oh, Sibyl’s pretty good at that.”
“Hmph. This is nothing. Praising me for that feels like an insult to the ruler of all forest life.”
“Since she has so little fat in certain places, Miss Second Flattest may be able to just climb on up there with almost no resistance. Because she’s flat.”
While Beatrice and the others watched from below, they put their hands on their hips, exhaled white sighs, and began a discussion.
“Well, it looks like we need Boo Boo to take the lead.”
“Hmm, you’re right. This doesn’t give us much other choice.”
“I’m wearing shorts, but I still don’t think I would like it. ...Shorts can show the shape even more clearly, so it could be even more embarrassing than for you.”
Confused, Sibyl looked back down and saw the three girls were still looking up from the bottom. Since he was not part of the conversation, Boo Boo tilted his head and looked up at Sibyl in the same way Beatrice and the others were.
“Why are all of you just standing there? Are you even trying to take this seriously? I thought you understood that we need to reach Archangel Marinka.”
“Hey, how about we have Boo Boo take the lead?”
“Why? I am the guide here.”
“Because you’re spreading your legs like you’re doing the breaststroke to cling to the tree and that is one hell of a visual when you’re wearing an extremely short skirt. ...You Elf princesses sure wear some amazing royal underwear.”
Sibyl blushed, screamed, let go of the tree to hold down her skirt, and fell. Boo Boo frantically tried to catch her, but she slipped right between his giant arms.
But he did catch her after all.
By having the side of her very royal underwear catch on his right tusk.
“Wah, wah, wait, wah!!”
The Royal Elf blushed and shouted while dangling from a single point of support with her hips sticking straight up, but she was so close to Boo Boo that he apparently could not see anything. It may have been like having a bug on your face.
“What just happened?”
“I’m swaying... Please don’t tilt your head!! I-I’m being squeezed by my own underwear...”
“Hey, Sibyl, flail your arms and legs around too much and they’ll tear. Then you’ll have an even more notable trait than being second flattest.”
“Ehh? You mean she wouldn’t be wearing anything under that miniskirt dress? That takes a lot of courage even when you’re wearing a shrine maiden outfit that goes down to the ankles.”
“I don’t want that either!! Gently!! Gently crouch down to lower me to the ground!!”
“...If it turns out you started climbing as part of a seduction plan, I will never forgive you...”
They began climbing the giant tree once more but with the Iberian Orc in the lead.
Boo Boo’s reach and grip strength were fundamentally different than the girls’, so the route he chose was not always climbable for the others. The Holy Swordswoman and the others made sure they did not reach a dead end as they climbed up the bumpy surface of the tree trunk.
“Pant, pant, pant...”
“Those aren’t even proper words, but I can still tell it’s the glasses cow. But don’t expect anything from me, cow. You preserved your strength up the mountain by clinging to Boo Boo and Sibyl, so you can handle the tree climbing yourself.”
Beatrice gave that cold comment, but then she realized something.
They were higher up than the mountain summit, but the biting cold had vanished. She initially thought she had gotten used to it or her sense of cold had numbed over, but there was no white color to the breaths leaving the lovely lips of red-faced Sibyl who was fidgeting on a nearby branch (probably because she was worried her panties had stretched). That meant it was not just a subjective thing.
There was also no issue with the air thinning.
It was like the physical sky was being replaced by an occult heaven.
“Boo. I can see it.”
Boo Boo was looking up in the lead.
The great tree’s growth had suddenly stopped. The top had bumped into and grasped tightly to a floating mass of rock with an area of about 30 square meters.
This was the bottom edge of the small floating islands known as the sky territory.
Once Boo Boo, Beatrice, and the others had climbed on top of the large rock, they found an unusual scene.
The blue sky spread out around them.
Countless islands of varying sizes floated overhead.
And above those was the sun giving off its radiant light.
“Wait, wait. The path really does continue up from here. Can we make it all the way up there?”
The distribution was uneven, but it overall looked like the islands surrounded an invisible cylindrical tower. Or like an intense meteor shower had been frozen in time, providing footholds up to heaven.
“B-but isn’t there a lot of space between islands? The closest one looks more than 20 meters away.”
Just as Filinion made that hesitant observation, a dry cracking sound rang out.
A small rock broke off at Boo Boo’s feet and then floated up in violation of gravity. It circled at the girls’ eye level and then shot straight up.
Beatrice’s eyes widened.
“Can we break pieces off of the heavy islands to send them higher using the power keeping the islands afloat?”
As soon as they had that answer, a new shadow appeared as if to block the way.
Yes, a shadow.
Much like a solar eclipse obstructing the sun overhead, a humanoid shadow definitely flew down from heaven.
She had healthy brown skin and blonde hair that reached her shoulder blades.
And she had a pair of giant white wings that resembled swan wings.
A single large cloth that looked something like a pure white tablecloth was wrapped around the important parts of her slender, undeveloped body to take the form of a dress.
And as a finishing touch, she had what was clearly a halo above her head.
The overall image led Beatrice to speak a name.
“No, that is technically just her shadow.” Sibyl’s response was difficult to interpret. “You cannot communicate with Marinka when viewing only one of her. Just like a solar eclipse, both Marinkas must be combined. The ideal plan here is to continue to the top and have the two Marinkas meet.”
The Archangel with girlish curves flew through the empty air in a way the surface-bound humans could not and she spoke in a quiet but far-reaching voice.
“War**ng. The hi**** *reasure being prot***d here is not curr***ly av***** *** *iewing. Please leav* ***ediately and wait until another oppor***ity.”
It was a staticky voice that sounded like having fine sand poured in your ear.
“Marinka, we have no time. We need your hidden treasure to resolve a problem on the surface. We would like to borrow it. Otherwise, the damage will not be contained to this world you love. It will mean loss of life beyond the reach of our territories.”
“I **nnot make excep***ns over perso*** ***lings.”
A great pressure bore down on Beatrice and the others like a suspended ceiling.
They looked like will-o’-the-wisps the size of tennis balls.
But they were not. They were masses of Elements: red fire, blue water, green earth, and yellow wind. At the size of a girl’s fist, they did not look very powerful, but that was merely an issue of scale. They were actually a collection of thousands or tens of thousands of tiny will-o’-the-wisps compressed too tightly to maintain their lizard or maiden forms.
The four balls slowly circled in the sky one level above Beatrice’s group and they each would have been as large as a warship at their proper size.
While Beatrice’s group felt a biological revulsion like seeing a swarm of all-consuming locusts, the brown Archangel calmly spoke.
“If you do *** heed my warn*** and lea**, **ere is only one solu***n: forced removal.”
Sibyl knew she could not be contacted, but she cried out all the same.
However, the response was mechanical.
“This is an invio**ble free region **** must r**ain free of all worldly impu***ies. Guardians of the hea***ly t***itory, do your j*b.”
The halo above her head clearly glowed brighter.
And a moment later, formless red, blue, green, and yellow lights mercilessly rained down as if to crush all of the limited land floating in the sky.
Two palm-sized fairies flew at a height of about 100 meters near Boo Boo’s house. They were the sisters Meridiana and Alice.
Meridiana, the elder sister, flapped her clear, bug-like wings while staring into the distance. The sky was their territory, but the sun was simply too far. They had tried flying up that high once, but their wings would not give them the lift needed to stay afloat after passing a certain point.
The others had considered having the Thousand Dragon, who was a complicated person for the Fairies, carry them up on her head and stretch upwards from the mountain peak, but there must have been some reason the idea was abandoned. For one thing, it was hard to imagine her standing straight up, including the tail.
Then Alice, the younger sister, twitched her little ears.
“Mh. What does that smelly hunk of fat matter!?”
“I will not forget that you’re still insulting him like that, Alice. You need to be punished once we return to the surface.”
Alice gave a tearful yell, but then something cut across in front of their vision.
Fairies were at the bottom of the food chain. Even a giant seabird could kill them if it caught them. That was why the sisters tensed up, but then the motion stopped. They frowned and followed it with their eyes.
It was a ring with a diameter of about 30cm. It was made of a smooth inorganic substance that was neither glass nor metal. It had no evident wings, but it was perfectly stable in the air as it slid slowly to the side. What was it? The two Fairies were still utterly confused as they flew around the mystery object to observe it. Since it had no obvious fangs, claws, or talons, their suspicion was stronger than their fear.
“I hear something like air escaping a balloon. Is it floating by expelling air downwards?”
“Hm? But it has glass eyeballs.”
The ring indeed had two round pieces of clear glass on the sides. They were about the size of the Fairies’ heads. And a closer inspection showed that it was repeatedly but irregularly turning back and forth as it moved slowly to the side.
“Is it...watching the surface from above?”
The sisters exchanged a glance. That meant it served the same role as them. And what were the noncombat Fairies doing?
The Fairy sisters flew in a regular figure 8 and scattered scales from their wings to reflect the sunlight while they shouted at the top of their lungs.
“E-emergency!! If they’ve sent in a reconnaissance team, an attack is imminent!”
“The...the...the enemy is comiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!! Everyone to full alert!! The inn town humans are about to attack!!”
Meanwhile, down in the forest near Boo Boo’s house, Morgan, elder of the Fairy village, gave a quiet report while hovering near Sutriona’s shoulder.
“We have a report from above. It is about to begin.”
The cross-armed Fairy Queen did not even need to explain that the dormant Red Iberian Orcs were powerful. No matter how many Level Cappers were among the inn town humans, not even an all-out attack could kill the Red Iberian Orcs. It would only cause pain which would hasten their awakening.
A portion of the mountain slope was fenced off to form a simple house garden and Ileana pulled her legs out of that soft soil.
“The military textbooks change from generation to generation, but there is one basic theory all human strategy follows. They start with a small number of scouts, then they use their long-range artillery, and finally the main unit charges in to finish off the enemy. If we simply wait for the enemy to arrive, the Reds will unavoidably take some damage.”
Perhaps because she had once been made the guardian of a secret Soviet facility, brown-skinned Ileana had knowledge one would not expect of a Mandragora.
The human Ice Waterfall Princess Wildefrau and Alchemist Cheerleader Huldra were looking into the distance from the top of the tall conifer trees overhead. They had turned ice or a jewel into lenses to construct makeshift telescopes for checking on the enemy force.
“They number...somewhere between 5000 and 6000, I think,” said Wildefrau.
“We’re lucky the inn town’s forces were worn down so much by the Underworld battle,” said Huldra. “That said, I see Liderc, La Voisin, and...geh, is that Tlazolteotl!? They’ve got a bunch of veterans I’d really rather not have here!!”
“Maybe the battle with the Underworld Lord acted as a screening process that only left the nastiest ones here. And who are those people?”
“One is a field officer in the JSDF and one is a high-ranking member of a South American cartel. We had always worried that the organizations back on Earth would obstruct our activities here in this world.”
In other words, these fierce warriors were regularly a part of death and violence even outside this world of swords and Magic. The Cold War ghosts they had run into during the Underworld battle were proof enough of what a difference that could make. Also, the humans heading here now were the truly skilled who had endured an invasion by elite ghosts that could resurrect their single life as many times as necessary.
That was a trophy that Wildefrau and Huldra had not won since they had died at the end of the Underworld battle and been resurrected with a one-time-use trick.
The narrow vision of their telescopes showed a brown girl wearing many feathered decorations.
Huldra clicked her tongue and threw aside her telescope as the distant ground was covered by rapid flashing lights like at a press conference. All of those bright lights were Magic. Those fired seeds of destruction drew arcs through the air and soon dropped back down as a gapless downpour.
Twintailed Huldra shouted down below as the first wave arrived.
“Attention! Discharge now!!!!!!”
“You don’t have to yell. Perverted carrot, let’s do it like we planned.”
Sutriona sighed with her hands on her hips and glanced over at Boo Boo’s house. Summon Hunter Gruagach and Noble Dancer Rusalka were there in mourning clothes and an armored leotard respectively. They were holding up Ultimate Weapon Abyss who remained unconscious with her twin strands of mottled silver hair falling in front of her body.
“W-we are ready too.”
“You can get started!!”
The Fairy Queen then tapped her small heel on the ground. And she spoke casually to someone else.
“You heard them. Let’s get started, weakest!!”
Then the side of the mountain rose up.
The black soil was peeled away and the trees of the forest toppled without the dirt needed to support them. In their place, a sea of sinister reptilian scales, giant sail-like wings, and a brutal dragon’s maw appeared.
It was 1000 meters long.
The Thousand Dragon moved her wings while keeping just barely enough distance to not destroy Boo Boo’s house and she rolled the curled up and unmoving Red Iberian Orcs onto her back. With those red apocalyptic eggs on her back, that incarnation of violence finally flapped her massive wings.
She floated up.
Just as the target of attack escaped into the air, the colorful lights completed their arcing path and detonated on the side of the mountain.
Tons of dirt and dust fell from the dragon’s back like a landslide and twintailed Huldra struggled not to fall off with it.
“Eek, eek. Oh, no. Boo Boo’s house...”
“We got Abyss out, so that won’t be a problem. The Fairies can always make him a new one. Still, I do wish we could have sent this mass of lift with the sun expedition team. But the world is a complicated place and this was the ideal place for her.”
Of course, the attacking humans would not stop here.
A solid sound rang out.
There was movement on the surface.
Lots of rusted metal welled up. Battered helmets, breastplates, gauntlets, and other armor were brought together as if by magnetism. The masses of red rust erupted with the force of a volcano and rapidly grew large enough to rival the Thousand Dragon.
Was it the face of a clock, or was it a great sinister insect? Several twisted legs stood on the ground, tore into it, and began a forceful attack. It trampled both level ground and mountains in its intense pursuit of the fleeing dragon.
Curly blue-haired Wildefrau’s eyes widened.
“Is that human Magic? How could you even use that in the underground Labyrinth!?”
“...Criminal Queen Tlazolteotl...” groaned Huldra in her cheerleader uniform.
The people on that bizarre rusted form’s back were held there not by anger or hatred, but by bottomless fear. The extinction of the human race and the end of the world were at stake, so they felt no pangs of conscience in their actions here.
But at the same time, it was all for naught.
Not even their greatest efforts could kill the Reds. The defenders could not afford to have the time limit shortened before Boo Boo, Beatrice, and the others returned with the proper solution.
(I never expected to risk my life to protect Earth and its humans.)
Sutriona was a paradox with a soul, one of the Break News who created breaking news if they were merely sighted. She could not be bound by the standards of good and evil that another species had invented. Nevertheless, she was still acting on the side of the defenders. And she was not alone. Many others were there with her.
Why was this happening?
Was it evolution? Or was it regression?
After some thought, Fairy Queen Sutriona gave a fierce bark of laughter.
“Humans! Have you finished loading Tselika?”
“Y-yes. That Demon Lord is with me. We are ready when you are.”
“You said that girl can control the wind and air, right? Then follow me. The Sandstorm of Red Madness made by my toxic blood wings is powerful, but if I used it here, I would drive the weakest here – this dragon – mad. You control it with your Magic.”
“Hmph. Don’t forget that I’m only helping because Onee-sama agreed to it!”
This was why the Noble Dancer had stayed here instead of joining Beatrice’s group.
The silver-haired black ribbon dress girl put her hands on her hips and looked down at the pursuers covering the ground.
Gigantic red butterfly wings burst from her back.
“It is time to fight back. It is time you many side characters lamented the tragedy of not taking my side. I will throw you into utter disarray!!”
The white-winged Archangel had a small body and brown skin.
The intense Elements launched by Marinka poured down as an aerial bombing.
But there was a way out of it.
The floating islands had a special trait not shared by Boo Boo, Beatrice, and the others. They remained afloat because some kind of power was in perfect equilibrium with the weight of the stone. So if the stable islands were split and the weight altered, they would head upwards.
White Witch Filinion could not be expected to join the fight, so while she screamed and held her hands over her hat to protect her head, Boo Boo drew his Shining Weapon that looked like a log or steel beam.
Then he stabbed the flat tip into the center of the 30-square-meter mass of rock like it was a steel spike.
He split it.
Hard rock shot out like a splash and then flew through the air. It was almost like flipping over the mat someone stood on. The dirt rose above their heads and collided with the downpour of Salamander Fire Spirits, the red will-o’-the-wisps approaching them like fire arrows attempting to finish off a nearly fallen castle.
Several sticky flowers of fire blossomed like several Molotov cocktails had collided.
There was no need to dodge afterwards.
Since the entire island had crumbled like a cookie, the ground below their feet floated up on its own. Next, the blue Undine Water Spirits, which could not take their maiden forms, approached with the force of a warship’s size and grazed the spot Boo Boo’s group had just vacated. The top of the great tree was mercilessly sliced away by the ultra-high-pressure water.
Armelina used her Shining Weapon metal staff to summon a giant metal ball on a chain as she yelled to the others.
“This is worse than a mass of naphtha or an industrial cutter. I doubt directly touching these things will end well! Don’t forget to keep a projectile or shield between you and them!!”
Because the rock below their feet had split, Boo Boo and Beatrice were forced to cling to separate rocks. Filinion looked this way and that after sinking down to a sitting position.
“H-huh? Can we just guide these elevators to the goal at the top instead of making risky jumps between islands? Y-yahoo, looks like the humans win in the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeend!”
“Squeal. Are everyone’s rocks speeding up? We’ll be in trouble if we don’t jump to a new one soon. If there’s an island above us, we’ll be squished between them.”
Armelina gave a shout and Beatrice reluctantly launched a fire arrow straight overhead. Before the stone could become a shooting star, it exploded like a firework, so gravity took hold once more and Filinion began to fall.
While glancing over as Boo Boo caught the soft and fluffy blonde in both hands, Royal Elf Sibyl lightly jumped from her small, accelerating rock to a different island.
Brown-skinned and white-winged Archangel Marinka ignored the only floating footholds in the sky and hovered in empty space. Sibyl glared up at her former friend who repeatedly moved left and right in a gentle circle and she raised her twisted Shining Weapon that looked like both a bow and a staff.
She could not use the Magic created for humans.
The Skill of her species simply allowed her to materialize the residual thoughts residing in objects.
“If you sit in the ruler’s throne, you must carry out the ruler’s duties!! Archangel Marinkaaa!!”
Countless people had attempted to reach heaven.
Sibyl summoned the residual thoughts of those who had fallen along the way and sent a giant rotating blade toward the brown angel.
(But the number of residual thoughts is bound to shrink as we climb. The altitude and the number people who made it that far is bound to have an inverse relationship. I can’t rely on my Skill too much!)
A group of green Gnome Earth Spirits used their weight to deflect the rotating blade that looked a lot like a helicopter’s main rotor. It smashed a nearby island in two, but no one even looked in that direction. Then the group of Gnome Earth Spirits approached like a sharp right hook from a giant in order to blow away the slender Royal Elf and the island she stood on.
“Oh, no you don’t!!”
On a different island, Armelina threw her metal ball and chain.
Instead of the green lights or Archangel Marinka, she was targeting Sibyl’s island itself. The Royal Elf stepped on top of the metal ball that landed at her feet and she grabbed onto the thick chain just before Armelina pulled the chain back. The exciting fishing maneuver whisked Sibyl away from the island just before the many Gnome Earth Spirits smashed the island to pieces and the remaining clumps of dirt shot straight up in defiance of gravity.
Armelina transformed her blunt weapon into a hammer and broke up the rock below their feet to gain some buoyancy. She then noticed a gauntleted hand holding onto the edge of that rock.
Beatrice had apparently joined them with fire wings growing from her back.
“It’s so not fair you can do that!!”
“It doesn’t let me fly around all I want like that Archangel can. I can only make straight-line midair dashes, so if I’m not careful, I’ll launch myself out into empty air.”
With a loud boom, the Holy Swordswoman jumped. She used a broken-off clump of dirt as an elevator to reach the same island as Boo Boo (and Filinion).
But heading up was not enough to shake free of the brown Archangel.
The Archangel and the four-colored Elements did not need ground to stand on. While Boo Boo’s group was restricted in their movement, they could move in any direction they liked. Needless to say, the sky was Marinka’s territory.
“So what do we do about her? Actually, maybe this is lucky. We’ve met the big boss without having to climb all the way up to the sun.”
“Like I said, that is no more than Archangel Marinka’s shadow. To contact her, we must bring both Marinkas together.”
“I’m not really sure what that means, but are you saying that isn’t actually Marinka!?”
“There is no distinction. Simply put, there is a Marinka out here on the front line and there is a Marinka staying back at the sun. They need to be brought together to contact them, but you cannot say she is only a ‘whole’ being when together. It is more like she allows certain flaws in order to personify the entire phenomenon.”
“Well, I can see you have no intention of actually explaining it. So we just have to get to the goal then!?”
Armelina breathed a heavy sigh and pressed her palm against Sibyl’s wide-open (and less flat) chest. The Royal Elf toppled backwards and off of the island, but a moment later, a yellow-glowing Element shot between the two of them like sniper rifle bullet.
And it did not end at just the one shot. 𝙞𝓃𝙣r𝘦а𝘥. Co𝙢
Yellow dots of light surrounded the island like watching a water balloon popping in super slow motion. Then they were all rapidly fired inwards simultaneously. Armelina jumped off of the unstable platform before she was filled with holes.
She just barely slipped through the gaps in the sniping.
The flatness of a certain part of her anatomy may have saved her.
Smashing the rock would create an upwards-floating elevator, but the girls’ bodies were still bound by gravity. Without anything to stand on, they would fall and then die on impact.
Sibyl had destroyed the stone with a materialized residual thought and she was floating back up from a somewhat lower position. While passing that island by, Armelina transformed her metal staff into a large rake and caught the edge to climb aboard.
Boo Boo, Beatrice, and Filinion were on a platform further up.
The brown Archangel chose them as her top priority target and looked away from Sibyl and Armelina.
“That was a mistake, Marinka,” said the Royal Elf who ruled the land.
“You took your eyes off of me. Doing that for even a moment was a catastrophic mistake. Because I can materialize residual thoughts and use any projectile I like.” Sibyl lightly raised her Shining Weapon that looked like both a bow and a staff. “And your territory has a few defining traits. 1: There is a force here that keeps things afloat. 2: If that force is in equilibrium with the island’s weight, the island will remain in place. 3: The island descends if it is heavier and ascends if it is lighter. That still applies when the island is broken or split. 4: Once an island begins acceleration, its speed will gradually increase.”
Those rules alone may have not have indicated much of a risk.
“In other words.”
But that was fine.
In fact, it was for the best given Sibyl’s goal.
“If I surreptitiously destroyed the bottommost island with an arrow, the small rocks would continue accelerating all the while. And by the time they reached this height, they would become quite the dangerous weapon.”
It was a lot like an inverted version of scattering pachinko balls from the top of a high-rise building.
A storm of pebbles shot up all around Archangel Marinka. There were some sporadic noises reminiscent of firecrackers, so some of them may have broken the sound barrier.
Marinka covered her face with both hands and called the Elements over to form a shield, but could she really cleanly block every last one of them? And Sibyl and Armelina did not stay put. While the primary Elements were focused on protecting her, they had their island ascend toward heaven.
“H-hey. We’ve accelerated a fair amount too. Are we really going to stay on this one!? Hey!!”
“This is the only way to catch up to the leading group. Your Magic is quite convenient, so I’m counting on that. Make a wire or chain we can use to jump over and get ready to use it.”
They passed by more and more floating islands as they picked up speed.
It felt a lot like a vertical version of racing down the highway, but they did not have a steering wheel. If there was another island in their path, they could not dodge it and they would be crushed flat.
They saw flames not caused by the Salamander Fire Spirits flickering on one of the higher islands.
“That’s it. Beatrice is on that island.”
“What are we supposed to do?”
“Do it now. Judge the timing well.”
“So you’re leaving all the work with me, you naturally selfish princess!!!???”
Sibyl wrapped her slender arms around the Fighter Priest while Armelina yelled at her, threw the ball and chain, and somehow managed to hit the neighboring island. Guided by the taut chain, they flew from their island and soon passed it in height. The one they had left had collided with a different island, but they had managed to regroup with Boo Boo’s group in the lead.
“S-squeal! Are you okay, Armelina, Sibyl!?”
“Yes. Don’t worry about us. Because Sibyl somehow managed to get an attack in on Marinka...”
Boo Boo must have been relieved to see the Fighter Priest because he slumped into a sitting position. While clinging to his thick leg and squeezing her breasts between her backpack’s shoulder straps, Filinion gave an excited and tearful shout.
“Th-that was an incredible storm of rocks! It was like someone was firing a Vulcan cannon from below, but what was it? It didn’t seem like the Gnome Earth Spirits.”
“...Cough, cough. It must have been Marinka’s last resort. Now let’s stop thinking about that and work our way higher.”
The righteous police officer who would never look away from the truth tried to correct the Royal Elf, but Sibyl slipped her hand into the slit in the Fighter Priest’s clothes and silenced her with a pinch to the butt. Silencing people was a ruler’s specialty.
The island they were on was ascending too.
Marinka must have been having trouble back at the lower levels because the obstruction stopped for a moment. The acceleration accumulated by remaining on the same island helped bring them higher and higher.
That was when Beatrice finally realized something and opened her mouth.
“Hm? We’re on our way to the sun, but we aren’t going to fry in the heat, are we?”
“Gyahhh!? We aren’t going to end up a real version of mythical Icarus, are we!? The real sun uses nuclear fusion, so fire-obsessed Beatrice and her 100% Fire Resistance might be fine, but what about the rest of us!?”
Filinion grew pale and screamed, but the ascending island shot straight toward the center of the light.
The Holy Swordswoman reflexively covered her eyes with a hand, but then she frowned.
Once they passed the blinding wall of light, she found it was nothing more than a backlight. The sun was a giant disk that rivalled the island of Ground’s Nir in size. Their island passed right by it and the reverse side of the sun came into view.
There was a garden full of countless flowers that felt like a sign of spring and several white marble columns were lined up. As the rows of pillars continued, the amount of marble grew in relation to the flowers. In the very center was something like a giant pure white altar or temple.
“Is that it...?”
It looked like heaven.
But this was not the time to stare.
At this rate, they would pass by the sun and leave it behind.
“Really!? Am I turning into your convenient gofer!?”
They all jumped down to the reverse side of the sun in their own ways: Beatrice used her flame wings, Boo Boo used his leg strength, Filinion clung to one of those legs, Second Flattest Sibyl mostly clung to Armelina, and Flattest Armelina used her metal chain.
Once they had landed, Boo Boo heard some loud destruction overhead.
He looked up to see the island they had been riding breaking apart. That alone was hardly new, but the conditions were different this time.
It had not collided with another island.
It must have crashed into something, but that something was nowhere to be seen. It was as if the island had crashed into an invisible wall.
“Squeal. What was that...?”
“It’s a lot thinner than on Earth, but maybe that was the boundary of this world’s atmosphere,” suggested Beatrice.
Now that they had stable footing, Filinion and Sibyl no longer had to rely on others. They all stood on their own feet and looked around the strange sunlit flower garden. All the plants in Ground’s Nir came from Ileana’s All-Purpose Seed, but was the same true of these flowers growing on the reverse side of the sun so far above the highest snow-covered peak?
“Argh, I’m leaving this backpack here! If I run out of materials, I’ll head back here to recharge!”
Even on the reverse side of the sun, the sky was blue and the land was filled with light like normal.
It was a perfectly normal scene of spring. However, it felt like that was a perpetual state with no nighttime and no seasonal changes, so it actually felt highly unnatural.
Looking up showed a blue sky, but no clouds or sun. It was impossible to tell the scale without any impurities to judge distances by, so it felt like a screen for filming a composite video.
Armelina spoke while returning her Shining Weapon to its original metal staff form.
“We’ve arrived, but what now? You were saying something about that brown girl not being the only Marinka, right?” “You will understand once you actually meet her. The Marinka who guards the sky treasure should be in the central cathedral. It can be hard to tell when it’s buried in all this greenery, but if we start for the biggest building in the distance, we will arrive at a marble road that will take us the rest of the way.”
While white and yellow butterflies fluttered around with no concern for the passage of time, Boo Boo and the others followed Sibyl across heaven. As before, the air did not feel thin or cold.
Nothing obstructed their path along the way.
They saw a few shapes they thought were small animals or birds, but there was nothing concerning. They actually focused on not stepping on the small creatures running around underfoot.
The scenery changed and they were enveloped by a Western castle town made of white marble. However, there was no sign of life. No matter how beautiful it was, these were ruins.
When Sibyl viewed the lonely town, she breathed an exasperated sigh with her hands on her hips.
“I knew Marinka had grown more distant after Vivian’s death, but I didn’t realize her rejection had grown so strong. The only thing she will find here is complete loneliness. And if she is satisfied with that, I already feel sorry for her.”
They arrived at the center.
When Sibyl opened the heavy double doors, she was waiting in the center of the cathedral’s great hall.
The ceiling of that cathedral of eternal spring had partially collapsed, but was that coincidental or intentional? A single ray of light shined down on her.
A single white cloth was wrapped around a body that was slender but had bewitching curves reminiscent of dripping nectar. It was a tall beautiful woman with gorgeous blonde hair that fell to her shoulder blades and skin so white it reflected the light. However, the halo floating over her head was dulled like rusted metal and the wings on her back were the black of concentrated darkness. She seemed best described as a fallen angel.
An azure color shined at her right ear.
It was an earring bearing a jewel similar to the one in Sibyl’s circlet.
The Royal Elf whispered the same name she had called their attacker.
Just then, white feathers fluttered down from the large hole in the ceiling. The feathers fell like snow and they came from the other Archangel that had already caught up with them. The Marinka with brown skin, blonde hair, and white wings slowly descended.
When the small Archangel landed in the center, the tall and slender Archangel reached her alluring arms toward her from behind. But not to embrace her or rub her back.
She stuck her hands in the smaller Archangel’s shoulder blades.
Or did the brown girl’s back absorb the tall woman’s hands?
The tall woman’s arms entered the small girl more smoothly than liquid or jelly. There was no sign of pain on the brown girl’s face and they did it so readily that the onlookers simply watched it happen without thinking. The white wings vanished from the small brown girl’s back and new white wings burst from the tall angel’s back, giving her two pairs of wings. Light and shadow. Now that she had seen that pair combine, Beatrice finally felt like she understood what Sibyl had been saying.
“She isn’t the day or the night. And she isn’t the sun or the moon. ...She’s an eclipse. Does Archangel Marinka symbolize the partial sun?”
“To be more accurate, she contains all aspects of the sun, including the abnormal state of an eclipse,” explained Sibyl.
Archangel Marinka. That ruler of heaven could infinitely change her appearance depending on how the two combined. But while Boo Boo and Beatrice were strangers to her, why had she rejected an old friend like Sibyl? Was that also related to how the pair of angels combined? Or in human terms, was she just in a bad mood?
“Squeal. This might sound selfish, but we want to save the elder and the others now that we brought them back to life. And everyone says we need that final treasure of yours to do it. We want to borrow that earring. Is there no way you can do that?”
The tall woman did not respond to Boo Boo’s words.
The brown girl, who had two arms entering her from behind, raised her small hand straight up.
No, her index finger was extended and she was pointing past the cathedral’s broken ceiling, beyond the blue sky, and at the invisible barrier at the end of heaven.
The tall and glowing woman opened her lips just a bit as she rubbed cheeks with the brown girl.
“If y** *ollect the hi**en tre****es of *** three roy** ***ilies, you will be **** ** reveal the full compos***** of this world.”
Again, her voice was full of static like fine sand was pouring into their ear holes.
But the brown girl also opened her lips while her shoulder blades absorbed the two arms.
“** *ou c****** *** **dd** ***asur** ** the ***** ***al fam*****, *** **** ** able to ****** *** **** *****ition ** **** *****.”
Their words overlapped and created a single smooth, harmonious sound.
Just like an eclipse, the combination created its own meaning.
“If you collect the hidden treasures of the three royal families, you will be able to reveal the full composition of this world.”
They did not have time to grimace at that mystery.
Once the words began, they did not stop.
“I will not allow it. You must not be allowed to see what lies beyond that blue.”
The small brown girl and the slender white woman’s words combined to create a completed hostility.
Even though they stood before an enemy, Filinion looked up in the direction the brown girl pointed.
The only things there were the unnatural blue sky and the incredibly thin atmospheric barrier.
The Iberian Orc shook his head and spoke.
“We aren’t interested in the sky. We only want to learn about the Red afflicting the elder and the others. So you don’t have to worry. Once we’re done, we’ll give back the sky treasure.”
“The risk remains the same. If you gather the three royal treasures there is a chance you will discover its identity and that is bad enough. Thus, I will reject your choice to gather all of the treasures no matter what your reasons are.”
“...Marinka, is this really worth abandoning an old friend like me over?” Sibyl spoke quietly as if slowly approaching her. “I know Vivian’s death was a great shock to our souls. We have such long lives we might as well be immortal, but we were faced with the simple truth that we can be suddenly killed. But what is with you now? Are you holed up in heaven and pushing everyone away because the surface is filled with unreasonable death? You think you alone can remain happy if you shut your ears to the cries for help? To hell with that, Marinka! If that is all you learned from Vivian’s death, then your current state makes a mockery of her life!!”
The Royal Elf was blatantly provoking her, but the Archangel slowly shook her head.
Whoever they had originally belonged to, the tall woman standing behind the brown girl bewitchingly moved and spread the four monotone wings on her back.
“Vivian was interested in the end of the world beyond the sea. That is why she encountered the Underworld Lord and met such a tragic fate.”
“You rule the land which is only a limited space these days and does not connect to the beyond, so you cannot understand this fear. I do border the beyond. The beyond radiates a deadly curiosity. You know the knowledge will destroy your very existence, but you cannot resist the tempation to take a peek. That is why I must reject all that leads to the beyond. The Underworld and its direct methods of killing are a separate matter. The true issue lies elsewhere. The truth I learned from Vivian is the simple fact that we must never come into contact with the beyond.”
The “beyond” of the sky that the two Marinkas mentioned had to be something different than just the horizon.
It was the invisible wall that existed above them here.
It was the border of the atmosphere.
“You must not look beyond that. Even the slightest possibility of you doing so must be fully eliminated. Sibyl, if you had not asked for the three royal treasures, we could have remained friends. But from the moment you considered that method, you have become my enemy.”
It was a decisive rejection.
“Hm? Hmm??? Is there really something worth protecting beyond the atmosphere? Isn’t it just the starry sky of outer space?”
But the girl who wore glasses yet was dumb had to comment.
This world was different from Earth in just about every way. Even the shape of the sun was strange, but had she not realized the concepts of the atmosphere and outer space may have been entirely replaced with something else?
However, there were times when stupid questions would get things moving.
Archangel Marinka responded to Filinion with a slow shake of the head.
And she gave the prediction she most feared.
“There is nothing.”
Beatrice frowned and the tall woman opened her lips once more.
“That blue sky is empty. Most likely, there is nothing beyond it. But making predictions is not a problem. My biggest fear is for that nothingness to be observed as fact and for the definition to become fixed. No, I cannot allow it. Most likely, if the nothingness of the beyond is observed, this world will be unable to bear the contradiction and it will shatter. Will the flow of time stop, will all memories be erased, forcing everything to restart, or will we literally fall into the void? I do not know what will happen, but I cannot allow any of it to happen. I do not know what kind of ruin you face, but I will do whatever I can to prevent the ruin I see coming. No one can be allowed to enter that place that was never created in the first place.”
“Squeal, what does that mean?”
“This may be easier to imagine for the humans visiting from another world than for a soul born in Ground’s Nir in the first place. It may have been them that created this world.”
Boo Boo and Sibyl only grew more confused.
“The humans who visited from another world, learned how to use Magic through a unique method. Many other control methods had to have existed, but they chose this one because it was the closest match.”
The brown girl spoke mercilessly with the beautiful woman’s arms absorbed into her shoulder blades.
“That familiarity may signify a connection.”
A thought had occurred to Beatrice, but she could not say any more.
Of course she could not when she thought of Boo Boo who she had met in Ground’s Nir.
So it was White Witch Filinion who said it first.
“You mean Ground’s Nir itself might be a game someone created? So we can’t touch the ‘beyond’ on the other side of the wall because no one ever created what was there? If we go there, it could cause a crash and everything in this world could be destroyed?”
However, four-winged Marinka shook her head once again
And she spoke her truth.
“Your Earth is the game. Earth was created based on this world, so it does not know what lies in the beyond. If you were to view it, it could cause a fatal feedback error, which would cause the Earth itself to crash.”
A quiet clicking sound continued on and on.
It echoed in the darkness somewhere in the world.
The true core of a certain country filled a vast space that was cooled like a cold storage warehouse.
The giant box was simply known as The Simulator.
The terminology centered on those words could only refer to one thing. The terminology of Video Games were widely known even if it clearly referred to a false creation, and that was supposedly why they had been chosen to systemize and manage the extremely vague concept of magic where anything was possible. The terminology had simply fit the bill, so there was no actual Video Game magic.
But what if that was not actually true?
What if that had seemed like the easiest method because they were residents of just such a world?
For the residents of Ground’s Nir, such as Boo Boo or Sibyl, the concept of Video Game magic did not mean much.
And they had already experienced a created Earth. They had received Abyss’s help to get an advance look at the destruction of the Earth.
If that ultimate weapon could do it, could they really deny the possibility of someone or something else doing it?
Which was more difficult: moving a living human from Earth to this other world, or giving physical form to a collection of data?
The Game Server was here.
The alternate world of Earth had never existed.
The relics of the older age of humans seen in ultimate weapon Abyss and the underworld lord proved this world had extremely high-level processing devices. In fact, that technology might surpass that of the Earth they had believed existed.
Red-armored holy swordswoman Beatrice forced out a groan.
Her appearance was unrealistic, ignored all tradition and logical structure, and focused only on symbolism and design. It looked like she had intentionally put together an outfit that would let her forget all about reality.
There was a part of herself that felt most at home like this.
More so than in the clothing popular on the Earth she had always believed was reality.
When she looked down, she saw her fingers trembling. She had never known that her own self could make her feel this uneasy.
“That can’t be true. What about Tokyo? What about Iroka, Misoka, and Haruka waiting there!? No, not just them. 7 billion people live on our Earth!! We came all the way to the reverse side of the sun island to protect them from the threat of the reds!”
Even as she shouted, Beatrice understood that all of her past experience provided no basis for anything. She realized that. The Three Maid Sisters had performed perfectly in the post-apocalyptic Earth that Abyss had constructed. If everything she had seen and heard before was no different, she would have no material evidence to deny it.
“As I said, your Game is based on the real physical laws of this world. I believe the Gravity Calculations, Fluid Calculations, and other laws were included as Formulas and reproduced like that. Although the Scripts are not perfect, so there are slight discrepancies between gravity and atmospheric composition between the two worlds.”
The brown girl sighed with the tall woman’s arms inside her back.
There was a sorrowful look in her eyes.
“It would be a problem if you came here and encountered any unknown laws such as those in the beyond. Your world is mistaken, but it is built with a space where the missing parts are. If you forcibly fill in those gaps and complete it in its mistaken state, it will be embedded with Parameters that are impossible for a completed world. Whether the values are correct or not, the entire Game Server could come to a stop. I cannot predict what kind of damage this would cause. The people inside the Earth on the Server and all of you walking around Grand’s Nir while temporarily given physical form ultimately have your existences rooted to the Game Server. If a Fatal Error occurs and the system is rendered Unrecoverable, the 7 billion lives you mentioned could all be lost.”
Filinion and Armelina exchanged a glance.
None of it felt real. But that did not mean it was not true. The simulation they had run with Abyss meant a lot here. They had not been able to wake up even when they knew it all to be a dream. Faced with that level of Reality, how were they supposed to fight it now?
If they had been told that everything but themselves was false, they might have argued against it with all their might. They would have felt like everyone they cared for was being denied.
But if it was everything including themselves that was false, accepting it did not necessarily mean denying the people of Earth.
They were in it together.
For example, if someone was a victim of a major disaster, they would find it difficult to listen if an outsider told them to tough it out. But it would be much easier if the advice came from someone from the same area who had been through the same disaster. “I went through the same thing and I’m putting up with it, so don’t you cause trouble.” It sounded reasonable even if it was not always so and there were times when it was a useful statement. Breaking free of unnecessary bonds and speaking your mind could come in handy. There was no room for the usual sensibility, ethics, or self-control there.
...The other two could not help but wonder.
If it felt that real, did it even matter? Weren’t the feelings and thoughts born in that box worth protecting? This was not an unreasonable fate forced onto them by “someone else”. It was a path they chose for themselves. So even if it seemed silly to others, weren’t they free to choose however they liked?
“I do not know what is happening on the surface right now,” said the archangel that signified an eclipse with the intersection of light and shadow. “But the three royal treasures would allow you to view the beyond, so they could cause even greater destruction. Thus, I cannot assist you here. I will do everything in my power to protect the sky treasure. If my words cannot convince you to leave, then I must protect you by force.”
Their minds broke before their bodies.
They had lost the fundamental reason to fight with all their might.
Boo Boo and Sibyl may have been unaffected, but it would be difficult for just the two of them to drive away an archangel and acquire the sky treasure. The previous attack with the elements had been difficult to endure with all five of them fighting.
But despite that...
Or maybe because of that...
“Beatrice,” muttered the orc who stood nearly four meters tall. “I don’t get all this complicated stuff. I get all dizzy trying to think about all that beepy stuff using Abyss. But I just can’t understand this. You really are here, so how could you be anything else?”
This was nothing as mawkish as saying he did not care if she was real or fake as long as he had her warmth here.
He desperately worked his mind as he spoke.
“Marinka is looking at the Beatrice who is right here, but she has not seen the Beatrice who is not here. I don’t know what all this worrying is about, but we can’t leave it at this. She said adding something extra to an already completed world could cause it to fall apart. This might be the same thing. Even if the Beatrice who is here can’t argue against it, the same might not be true of the Beatrice who is not here. A single statement might overturn Marinka’s perfect argument.”
Beatrice’s shoulders jumped slightly.
That was right.
If everything born on Earth was virtual, anything Earth-born Beatrice said was no more than a detailed fake. She would never get anywhere arguing based on that starting point. She would be unable to rebut and defeat Marinka’s argument.
“I refuse to believe it,” he said through clenched teeth.
And he plainly shouted it.
“I refuse to believe the Beatrice who saved me when I was all alone isn’t real!!”
But was it possible to prove the existence of the Earth without using Beatrice or the other Humans? The Ground’s Nir nonhumans like Boo Boo and Sibyl had never visited Earth. They could not be expected to prove something they had never seen.
But was that really true?
That assumption might be wrong. Beatrice may have given up on them before trying to rely on them.
How far had they traveled together before arriving here?
Who had they met, who had they confronted, what conclusions had they found, and how had it all led to here?
Did the Beatrice that Marinka did not know contain some hint for a counterattack?
Someone here was worried for them.
Someone here was willing to question this for them.
So she had to think through it again.
Was the archangel’s argument really accurate?
Was there really no way of solving the problem she had presented?
The holy swordswoman slowly raised her head.
She was one of the level cappers who had passed level 99.
Thinking about it now, that title felt so very flimsy for something that had supported her for so long, so she spoke up to challenge it all once more.
“...What you’re saying can’t be true!!”
The Thousand Dragon fled through the sky and the collection of red rust pursued from the ground.
In this case, leaving the island and heading out to sea would successfully shake the inn town humans.
But the black dragon did not do that.
Once she arrived at the coast, she made a rapid turn and flapped her wings in search of a different route of escape that remained above the island.
Tossed about by the intense inertia, Rusalka dove head-first into the chest of Gruagach’s mourning clothes and gave a shout.
“Wh-what are you doing, you worthless dragon!? The ocean was right there!!”
Gruagach gently removed the other girl’s face from her chest, drew an arrow from the quiver at her waist, and nocked it to her stabilizer-equipped bow. Then she fired it into the empty air.
With the sound of a high-voltage current, something like a bluish-white wall appeared. The Thousand Dragon had made the rapid turn to avoid that.
“That is the special attack of Delaying Knight La Voisin! That stupid JSDF officer sets up walls along required paths in the Labyrinth so she can hog the Gimmick hunting grounds to herself!! Honestly, what is she doing out here instead of helping the inn town recover!?”
If Huldra was right, then their escape to the sea had been cut off. Worse, they were still being pursued by the collection of red rust presumably made by Tlazolteotl and that looked like a clock face or a giant sinister bug, yet they never knew when a barrier would appear right in front of them.
Sutriona gave a snort of laughter.
“Then we just have to eliminate those obstacles. It’s time I joined the fight. Girl, you handle the control!!”
“Will do!!” shouted Rusalka while still clinging to Gruagach and pressing her face to her chest.
The wind roared as it was whipped up. The red powder lost its butterfly wing shape and was stripped away from the Fairy Queen’s back. It became multi-segmented protrusions similar to spider legs and began a bombing attack of the surface targets from multiple angles.
A hit was guaranteed to drive the target mad, but most of them ruptured in midair. They were likely colliding with the countless barriers opened like an umbrella by the woman named La Voisin. The toxic wings themselves had the destructive power of a Break News, but they were only being controlled by a human like Rusalka.
Then Gruagach raised her stabilizer-equipped bow once more. Several magic circles appeared in front of her right eye.
This arrow was wrapped in a bright white light.
The Summon Hunter wearing mourning clothes moved her bewitching lips to whisper behind her veil.
“Tselika, take care of this.”
The single attack broke through the umbrella of barriers.
The collection of red rust on the surface even showed signs of frantically attempting to dodge.
But that evasive action failed.
With a great creaking sound, something like thick plant vines tangled around the thick legs that stuck out from it at irregular intervals. Needless to say, this was the work of Ileana who stood at the peak of plants.
Its great strength was snapping the vines, but it had still been stopped for a few seconds.
The aerial bombing arrived in that time.
It was more an explosion than a shattering or breaking. Once the white light penetrated the barrier set up between the sky and the surface, the Noble Dancer’s wind guided the red toxin through that large hole.
Huldra looked down at the destruction with a stiff smile.
“Ugh. Status Effects really are the worst. Although I have no idea if that qualifies as an upper or a downer.”
“They seem to be struggling more and more violently. Assuming it isn’t an insta-kill effect, we should probably keep our distance. Can you break open a path out to sea using that attack?”
“The holes made by Tselika are human-sized, so they would not be large enough for the Thousand Dragon to fly through...”
They could do definite damage, but they could not bring them down instantly.
They had to respond to those desperate foes.
An ominous sound reached them from the surface. That collection of red rust, which resembled a clock face or a giant sinister bug, kicked at the ground with its many twisted legs and began to move differently. What appeared to be giant mouths appeared all over it. With bursting sounds, heavy ship’s anchors were launched from there.
The thick chains extended like long, long tongues as the flying anchors passed right by the Thousand Dragon who twisted around in midair. No, they had forced her to take evasive action to limit her freedom of movement so that the anchors could pierce her side.
With a great roar, the Thousand Dragon raged about with movements far more irregular than before.
“A-a winch shot!?”
“Impossible. How could those be strong enough to tie down something as large as the Thousand Dragon?”
Just as Gruagach and Huldra paled and said that, the taut chains suddenly loosened.
At first, they thought the chains had snapped from the immense force, but that was not it.
Something had been launched from the surface.
The other end of the chains had been attached to objects shaped like boxy containers of rust. And they flew toward the Thousand Dragon with many people inside.
“Those junkies are going to board us soon! Prepare your projectiles and shoot them down!!”
Immediately after Ice Waterfall Princess Wildefrau’s command, Gruagach used her bow, Rusalka used her control of the wind and air, and Wildefrau dropped ice from their extreme altitude to intercept the approaching landing containers.
A new figure dropped lightly down.
It landed as softly as a feather on the Thousand Dragon’s back while she flew rapidly through the sky.
The figure had red and silver hair and wore crimson armor and a pure white miniskirt.
She looked like Beatrice but was someone else entirely.
“...The...Sage...?” muttered Huldra.
The Sage drew her Shining Weapon rapier with her left hand. No, it was a boosted Shining Weapon created by stealing her fallen enemies’ Shining Weapons, patching together the broken blades, and linking them in parallel for greater processing power. If a human’s Shining Weapon was taken in this world, they could not return to Earth. That strengthened blade of death and slaughter had that definite fate built into its design.
“I can’t bear to watch this. You call this the final line of defense for the elder and the others?”
With the roar of oxygen being consumed and flames erupting out, countless sparks flew.
No, they were each a piece of Magic. The sparks moved, became straight-line blades of light, intersected with each other, and created a net-like surface of destruction. And it followed the movements of the patchwork rapier in the Sage’s hand.
“If you claim to protect them with your lives, you need to take it at least this far.”
It was a fan of death.
The horizontal strike swept through the air with the surface of a net rather than the line of a slash.
The roaring blades of light extended endlessly. The one attack destroyed all of the thick containers and chains. And it did more than just bisect them. It diced them. The wholly merciless destruction was like passing thin wires through the base and sending heat through them to slice through the softened vegetables when the whole device was pressed down on them.
This was the Sage.
She had mastered human Magic, making her a different sort of peak from the Break News.
But the Fairy Queen noticed something and raised her voice.
“No! Don’t let your guard down!!”
A dull sound came from the Thousand Dragon’s back.
Something had flown in and finally landed in the same place as them.
Even though the Sage’s brutal attack had just swept everything away. The sexy woman wore a baggy jacket, hot pants, and an eyepatch over one eye. She held a Shining Weapon that looked like a thick machete and there were not a scratch on her.
“Hello, everyone. I’ve stopped by to play.”
“...Corpse Thief Liderc.”
Just as Huldra groaned that name, two other girls landed behind her.
One was an exotic girl with brown skin and countless feather decorations. The other had an expression colder than a sculpture and wore thick black metal armor.
These monsters had taken no apparent damage from the Sage’s attack. But even in the face of that, silver-haired Sutriona only cracked her neck and stepped forward to challenge them.
“That’s fine with me. If you want to see hell bad enough to walk into the land of death, this paradox with a soul will just have to grant your wish.”
The eyepatch woman giggled.
She did not care that her opponent was a Break News. The wholly insolent Corpse Thief even spoke back to her.
“You sound like a fool. No matter what kind of strongest you are, there’s no way you can defeat my power.”
The direct clash finally began on the giant dragon’s back.
Prove that Earth really does exist.
Prove that Beatrice and the others born there really do exist and have lives and souls of their own.
“It is not possible.”
Marinka, the archangel with a total of four wings when the woman and girl combined to signify an eclipse, began with a composed expression.
“We have never seen Earth. And the testimonies of you Humans are products of false beings, so they cannot be trusted. Thus, there is not a single testimony from a being known to exist. Therefore, Earth’s existence and the existence of you who were born there cannot be proven.”
“I’m not asking you to accept the testimony of those of us you have doubts about.”
Doing that would likely lead nowhere.
So Beatrice thought up a different approach.
“But you can’t deny the things that have happened here...in Ground’s Nir. So if Boo Boo or Sibyl said something, you would have to believe their testimony. You can guarantee me that, can’t you?”
“But unfortunately, none of them has ever gone to Earth. Thus their insistance that Earth exists is not worth believ-...”
“I have a question about that game you claim Earth is,” cut in Beatrice. “We wanted to stop the rampaging red Iberian orcs from running amok on Earth. That is why we are struggling. ...But why would they head to Earth? They have gone mad, so I seriously doubt they are calm enough to enjoy a Video Game.”
A lot about the reds was still a mystery, but they could predict that no verbal persuasion would get through to the elder and the others in their current state. They were being driven by the extremely primitive desires of hunger, lust, fighting instincts, and desire for destruction. The reds they had seen via Abyss would never hook up all the cables, complete the various preparations, enter their ID and password, and sit still until the Sign In process was complete. They would never have it in them to play a rational game that existed outside of their instincts.
“The reds wanted a hunting ground. Ground’s Nir is only a small island, so they wanted the vast Earth where 7 billion Humans live and where 6 continents of land are available if you include Antarctica.”
Marinka did not trust Beatrice’s memories or witness accounts.
But she could not ignore the actions of the Iberian orcs who were from Ground’s Nir.
“So they understand that the planet beyond the gates contains something that will fulfill their real desires.”
“...That is not enough. The Earth created by the Game Server may be detailed enough to fool their senses. The destination may simply have enough Reality to satisfy their hunger and fighting instincts.”
To be honest, she had expected this response. If she brought up Tselika or Skull Wave who had also crossed between worlds, those examples would also be rejected by saying the virtual reality was too realistic to distinguish from reality. If anything Beatrice could say would only receive “What if the virtual reality is even better than that?, then any argument would be crushed.
But knowing that sped things up.
She only had to place that statement on the chopping block and incorporate it into her strategy.
“Then what about the underworld lord?”
Beatrice played her next card.
She spoke to the small Marinka who looked quizzical.
“You might not know, but we were killed in the underworld battle and then the sage resurrected us using the next generation embryo. And the next generation embryo’s power is real. We know that because the exact same method resurrected the Iberian orcs born in Ground’s Nir.”
“...I see. Because you were resurrected using the underworld’s resurrection device, you claim that you must have a real soul, is that it?”
Earth could use its chemistry knowledge to accomplish just about anything, but proving the existence of the soul may have been difficult for them. But things were different in Ground’s Nir.
The tall and slender woman pressed her chin toward the top of the small brown girl’s head and seemingly kissed the halo there. Marinka giggled with both faces.
“But the resurrection device was operated by the sage who is a Human, and thus a false being. It would be difficult to say that proves much of anything.”
Oh, no, thought Beatrice as she clenched her teeth.
Marinka’s statement seemed to be rejecting her argument, but it was actually not. The underworld’s next generation embryo would function the same no matter who hit the switch. But if she snapped back, the argument would never get anywhere. She needed to make her verbal attack from a different direction.
She needed to leave Marinka at a loss for words.
She needed a decisive trump card that left no room for quibbling.
“Then I have something to say...”
It was the royal elf who spoke up from the side.
Sibyl crossed her arms with her bow or staff-like shining weapon held at her elbow.
“My skill can materialize residual thoughts. To put it another way, I cannot acquire weapons from inorganic objects and collections of data where no one’s will can be found. I worked with the sage to prepare quite a bit of firepower in order to defeat Abyss, the ultimate weapon at the bottom of the labyrinth. If I could have extracted residual thoughts from inorganic Abyss herself, I would have based my plan on that.”
“And during the underworld battle, I used Beatrice’s back tooth to materialize her residual thoughts. The sage repaired this broken shining weapon and lent it to me, but that has no bearing on my skill which is based on my species. And we are not talking about a chair or table that Beatrice held, so you cannot argue that someone else’s residual thoughts had gotten on it. I used her tooth.”
Sibyl had proven the existence of Beatrice’s mind.
And unlike the sage, she was a Ground’s Nir nonhuman. The archangel could not just reject that testimony.
It was not just the words of their allies that mattered.
Sibyl, the sage, and the red Iberian orcs. The words and actions of former and current enemies proved that the truth was the truth. Marinka might be able to deny the approximately a decade and a half that Beatrice had spent living on Earth, but she could not deny the much shorter time she had spent in Ground’s Nir. Even if there were scars of conflict and even if there had been clashes of hostility and malice, those things acted as proof that Beatrice and the others really had been there.
Marinka spread her four wings in a threatening manner while seemingly forcing out her words.
“You might be lying.”
“Why would I lie for people who aren’t even my friends?”
“The very fact that you came here with these Humans is proof enough that you are supporting them. I did not see the moment that you materialized the residual thoughts from Beatrice’s tooth. Thus, your testimony cannot be trusted. The Earth must not exist and the Humans are not really alive and have no soul.”
Sibyl giggled and uncrossed her arms.
She seemed to have been waiting for this moment.
She tapped her slender shoulder with her shining weapon that looked like both a bow and a staff and she made a suggestion.
“If I can summon Beatrice’s residual thoughts right here, you will be unable to deny it. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?”
A staticky voice suddenly burst out.
Confusion must have spread between the two who signified the eclipse.
The archangel then spoke in a harmonic voice once more.
“You lost from the moment you could not deny even a portion of what I have said, Marinka. You seem to know how forced your argument is. It sounded like you were trying to drown me out by shouting instead of arguing back with logic, but all you did was step up onto the ladder I had set up. I only have to wait until you have reached the roof and then I can pull the ladder down behind you.”
The archangel tried to say something, but no words came out.
There was no more need to hold back.
“If I exist, then so does the Earth I was born on.”
The red-armored holy swordswoman – no, Holy Swordswoman – only had to announce it once more.
“If you want to deny it, then just try it, Archangel Marinka!! I’ll offer up a tooth or bone if that’s what’s needed to prove what I must protect!!”
Two steps. Three steps.
Archangel Marinka had closed herself up in such a thick cell, but now she stepped backwards. No, the four-winged slender white woman slumped down to a sitting position with her arms still inside the brown girl’s shoulder blades. Her beliefs had been broken. She had lost her reason to fight. That was apparent from the look on her face.
And something was bothering Beatrice.
“Sibyl, can you materialize some residual thoughts?”
“I can, but you don’t need to pull out a tooth. I think Marinka has already been defeated.”
“Not what I meant, flat girl.” The red-armored Holy Swordswoman shook her head. “Earth really does exist. It isn’t just something inside a video game server. ...But Marinka has been alone up here on the reverse side of the sun island this entire time, so where did she get that information? It seemed like that false information led her to stop anyone from gathering the three royal treasures.”
“Are you suggesting someone intentionally gave her the false information to prevent the completion of those three treasures so our research of the Redness would fail?”
If so, then Archangel Marinka was not a villain.
She had been given false information, so she had been trying to do what was right based on a faulty premise.
“But even if that’s true, it wouldn’t have been the Iberian Orcs. They wouldn’t know anything about online games. More importantly, I can’t imagine why they would want to ensure their Red rampage would continue. And if it was someone like the Sage or Vampire Kallikantzaros who had a deep connection to the Iberian Orc village, they would have been trying to help remove the Redness. They would not try to promote the Red rampage. They would not take the Redness’s side.”
“Then who was it? Marinka!!”
That shout only led the small brown girl to tilt her head and the slender white woman to shake her head while using the slender girl as a shield. Was she not willing to say, or did she not know?
Whoever-it-was would not have had to directly meet her.
The sun island was a large place. They might have created the materials needed to guide Marinka to that conclusion and then scattered them around.
If the answer had been given to her all at once, she would have been more suspicious.
But if she had built up the theory based on fragmentary information found in various media and multiple sources – cave paintings, ancient books, sculptures, and inscriptions – that theory would hold great power. The more effort she put into running around collecting the information, the more she would want it to be true. Just like people would settle on an answer if they found it in multiple sources when searching on the internet.
“We can’t expect anything from Marinka since she’s been deceived this whole time. The magician only shows the audience her front side. She does not let them know what is going on behind the scenes. So we’ll have to cheat to fill in the gaps. Sibyl, if you use your residual thought materialization, couldn’t you reveal the identity of whoever gave Marinka this information? This place is ruins as far as the eye can see, so I doubt many people visit it.”
Sibyl’s power would work even if it was someone they had never seen before. If whoever-it-was was cheating, then they would have to cheat in return.
With a light tapping sound, the ephemerally beautiful Royal Elf pressed the bottom of her Shining Weapon against the cathedral floor.
A faint light appeared.
The materialization of the residual thoughts was beginning.
And that appeared before them all.
Atop the 1000m Thousand Dragon’s back, two forces clashed over the dormant Red Iberian Orcs.
“Sutriona, stop using your toxic wings for now! At this close range, we’ll be caught by them too!!”
Summon Hunter Gruagach shouted that while preparing her stabilizer-equipped bow, but that bow was not suited for close-quarters combat. The arrows that borrowed Demon Lord Tselika’s power were incredibly powerful, but it took time to nock an arrow to the bow. Fortunately, the mourning dress girl’s bow had close-range blades attached to the top and bottom ends. She would not have added those unless she was aware of the trouble she would have when the enemy approached.
Criminal Queen Tlazolteotl swung her body to the side so the light arrow shot right past her. The brown girl wore feather decorations, held a Shining Weapon that resembled a stone axe, and licked her lips as she approached.
“Hee hee hee. Eh heh heh. Hee hee hee hee...”
“No you don’t!!”
Noble Dancer Rusalka cut in from the side. She created a gust of wind and rode it in for a flying kick that sent her thick metal boot’s heel toward the side of that feather-decorated head.
A great roar burst out, but the blow did not feel right to her.
(La Voisin’s barrier? ...No!)
And she did not have time to think.
She felt an unpleasant sensation similar to packed sand crumbling.
Rusalka landed on the dragon’s back, jumped back to put some distance between them, and noticed something off about her heel. The leotard girl tapped it against the ground, looked down at her foot, and widened her eyes in shock.
It was surrounded by red rust.
Their equipment was Magic taking that form, so that armor technically was not metal.
“Parameter Destruction of our equipment!? Crushing the Magic people have acquired is like mocking a collector’s efforts...!!”
Then a horizontal storm of light rushed in.
The Sage had launched a great amount of Magic and blown Tlazolteotl away.
“This is fine.”
Or she tried to.
But the feather-decorated brown girl casually stepped forward as if splitting apart the cloud of dust.
“This is perfectly fine. Hee hee. I’m not interested in justice or good deeds, but I need an innocent population if I’m going to make any money. So to keep lining my pockets, even a cartel needs to protect the good people out there.”
There was no scratch on her.
Contact Tlazolteotl and the equipment reinforcing your body would deteriorate. And she also had something that neutralized their attacks. The more they fought her, the weaker they would become. Even the Level Cappers who had surpassed Level 99 had finite power. If they were tripped up too often, they would fall all the way to the bottom.
Elsewhere, Alchemist Cheerleader Huldra had brutal metal claws sticking out of her pink pompoms as she sent deadly attacks toward black-armored La Voisin from multiple angles. Instead of doing physical damage, her attacks had a set percentage chance of causing instant death. She also used various forms of probability support Magic to thoroughly increase the odds of success. And yet...
She was hitting.
But the attack was not getting through.
“Give up. I have your data. Did you really think a low-level NPA officer could defeat the will of the entire Ministry of Defense?”
“I will protect my nation from all foreign threats and I have learned everything necessary for that task. Thus, you all have no chance of victory now that you have become enemies of the state. None whatsoever.”
Her thick armor was probably her Shining Weapon and her hands approached while giving off a sinister glow. Huldra was immediately reminded of a judo-based suppression technique, so she kept her distance so her hair and clothing could not be grabbed. After moving back-to-back with Wildefrau, she reported on the situation and discussed what to do next.
“Nothing I do is working. And this isn’t Elemental Defense. I made a rush of attacks so she would waste her barriers and then sent my true attack through a gap, so I doubt she could have blocked it with that.”
The glowing magic circles at the Alchemist Cheerleader’s hands and the Ice Waterfall Princess’s chest felt so very hollow with zero strength.
“There must be some kind of trick,” said Wildefrau. “Tlazolteotl damages equipment with her red rust and La Voisin creates barriers. ...If it isn’t either of those, it must be Liderc.”
“Yes, we have very little data on her.”
“She is known as the Corpse Thief because she specializes in stealing Treasure from people collapsed in the Labyrinth. No one has ever seen her fight. She seems to hide down there for long periods of time, but she does not seem to have reached Level 99 yet.”
“...She isn’t a Level Capper?”
With the roar of the wind whipping up around her, La Voisin stepped toward them in her glistening black armor. Wildefrau used a giant ice hand to wield a large sword, but the ice weapon only shattered when it hit.
If Level alone determined everything, this would have ended the second the Sage showed up. But instead, Corpse Thief Liderc, who was not even a Level Capper, remained entirely unscathed after taking a hit from the horizontal storm of light controlled by the Sage’s patchwork rapier. It would be one thing if she had blocked or dodged it, but it was odd for her to be unharmed after actually being hit by the attack. Not even Break News like Sutriona or Ileana were guaranteed to avoid injury if they faced the Sage’s fierce attacks head on.
The Sage narrowed her eyes while spinning around her twisted blade.
She suddenly saw through to the answer.
“...I see. So you’ve intentionally kept your Level low.”
The Corpse Thief had seemed entirely unconcerned, but this sent a slight tremor through her eyebrows.
That red-and-silver-haired woman would not be known as the Sage if she were only strong. The Magic-related technology that allowed people to travel from Earth to Ground’s Nir had all been established and spread by her.
“There is Geographic Effect Magic that gives you an advantageous handicap in the form of Parameter Adjustments to fill the gap between your Level and the Level of your opponent. The lower your Level, the greater the effect. That would be the one and only way for a rookie to defeat a Level Capper.”
“So what if you know that?”
“I have mastered all Magic, so I could use that exact same technique back at you...but since we are already Level Cappers, that Magic would be meaningless for us to learn. Using it would only create a field that works against us.”
“Yes, that’s right. We are the weak who crawl along the bottom and that is why you strongests cannot raise a hand against us. It doesn’t matter if you are a Break News or an Iberian Orc! You will be helplessly tormented to death!!”
Liderc’s Shining Weapon was shaped like a thick machete and she raged as she approached the Sage.
Meanwhile, that person who resembled Beatrice breathed an exasperated sigh.
“I loathe people like you who show off their own weakness in an attempt to steal away all the rights they can get their hands on. And that’s why I can’t give up my position as strongest no matter how much I detest it. But my personal tastes are irrelevant here. I should bring an end to your boring riddle.”
Liderc could produce the strongest power because she was the weakest.
She swung her thick blade down toward the Sage, but the red-armored and white-miniskirted woman’s fingertips flew in an odd direction.
A short scream rang out.
And the Sage’s fingers lightly held the small body of the palm-sized Fairy named Morgan who had been flying around the area.
With the sound of something bursting, Liderc’s thick blade was deflected to the side. The Corpse Thief ignored the throbbing pain in her wrist and a disbelieving look entered her eyes.
“Your silly ‘power to the weak’ strategy only allows you to challenge the strongests like Level Cappers and Break News when you hold the weakest position.”
“So I only have to place an even weaker species in front of you. That is enough for the weaker individual to steal away the rights of the weak that you thought you had to yourself. A child with a cold will be nursed back to help with great care, but that can change if someone with severe heart disease shows up.”
Her face tensed.
She shook her head like a displeased child.
“...Don’t you understand what this battle means? What good is protecting those berserk monsters!?”
“Sorry, but I will not be moved by the sympathy of the weak. Not even the tiniest bit.”
The Sage was cold.
Her strength was the kind of strength that would trample a rain-soaked kitten underfoot if it was necessary.
“I don’t really expect much from Beatrice’s trip to heaven. What happens to the Earth is none of my concern and I have no interest in the fate of humanity. I already know how it is destroyed. Even if they overcome this, those 7 billion will be destroyed eventually. So I am only focused on one thing: whether or not you will bring harm to the Iberian Orcs I love. That is all.”
It was not hatred or killer intent in her voice. That woman had been tossed about by the term “strongest”, so she would not accept as her equal someone who intentionally showed off their weakness.
There was pity in her voice.
She felt pity, but she did not step on the brakes.
“I do not like them, but they are useful for the elder and the others. I do not like you, but you are not useful for the elder and the others. Now, what do you think that distinction means?”
Liderc had finally learned an important lesson.
Weakness could be used as a weapon, but it could not be used as a shield. While the guilt in their heart kept everyone else from attacking, what would she do if someone was willing to swing down their blade with no hesitation whatsoever?
She pleaded with trembling lips as her fate dawned on her.
“To hell with that. It’s time you died.”
Of course, the true culprit’s face did not appear at the very beginning.
At first, there was nothing.
No, there was nothing for quite a while.
White Witch Filinion gulped and watched with the others, but she finally grew impatient and spoke in a hesitant voice.
“...U-umm. Are you sure it worked? It doesn’t look like anything is happening.”
“Shh. If you don’t know and are thus aware of your ignorance, then shut up and watch. The residual thought materialization is working. I can definitely feel it in my grasp. And yet there is nothing here.”
Even if you lowered a weight into the water on a string, it would not reach the bottom right away if the water was extremely deep. It would take a very long time before the long, long string reached the bottom of the ocean. This was the same. Sibyl was reading in the residual thought with a fierce intensity, but nothing was moving even as she plunged deeper and deeper into the past of the timeline.
“Squeal? Does that mean there was no one here?”
“No. Since a residual thought exists, someone had to be here to leave behind the thought. It is even deeper. Much, much, much deeper. But that also means it was a powerful enough residual thought to stick around for so very long. A common belief held by a great number of people would be one thing, but it is unusual for a single individual’s emotional thoughts to remain for this long!”
This was from the distant past even from Royal Elf Sibyl’s perspective. That would make it an unthinkable amount of time from a human perspective.
Sibyl now held her Shining Weapon to the floor with both hands and she slowly closed her eyes. She brought her focus to the next level. She had grasped the residual thought that definitely existed, so she had to travel back in time to its origin point.
Finally, a quiet staticky sound was heard.
“Ah, what was that, fellow flat girl?”
Armelina asked without thinking.
There was something there. It was like a collection of rough silver sand. No, it was like a corrupted video file. A chisel-like device for carving wood or stone appeared in the air. The part where its bearer would be holding it was darker. It could not float on its own, so of course someone had to be holding it.
“...Quiet. And just because I am distracted does not mean you can get away with treating us as equal, flattest. Kh...”
They could not see the person.
The silver sand static was too strong. It was alternately gathering together and spreading apart, but the person’s appearance was never clear. The scattered distribution of static almost seemed to be obscuring the most crucial information, so they could only just barely make out a generally humanoid shape.
They heard something like a voice deep within the static. Or they thought they did.
“Did I just hear something...?”
“I can’t believe this. I had to go back more than 300 years to find something. That’s even farther back than the Sage who is said to be history’s first visitor...!”
Beatrice gave up on visually confirming who it was. She shut her eyes just like Sibyl and focused on the voice. It felt like parting the underbrush on a dark mountain to search for a lost ring, but she worked to make out a quiet and twisted voice that sounded masculine.
Her efforts must have paid off.
Finally, the Holy Swordswoman heard the following series of sounds.:
“...The Hero, hm? Even I...admit that...an ironic name...”
That unfamiliar sound reached Beatrice and the others’ ears.
Filinion toyed with the side of her glasses as she responded.
“Um...is that a Job or something? But from what category???”
“Shh! It’s weak, but it’s still going. Focus on the static.”
The red-armored Holy Swordswoman kept her eyes closed and strained her ears, but all she heard was loud static that reminded her of rain. The voice was fading. It felt like nearly grasping something only to have it slip from her fingers and she could feel the powerful impatience rising in her chest.
Just then, a snorting sound rudely interrupted.
“Squeal, what is this? They just keep talking about all kinds of confusing stuff.”
“!? Boo Boo, you can still hear it? Tell us everything you hear!!”
Beatrice widened her eyes and shouted to him.
Since human and Iberian Orc bodies were different, their senses were also different. Just as a cat could see in the dark and a dog could track someone by their scent, there may have been things only Boo Boo could pick up on.
He held a hand to his mouth and tilted his head.
“Hmm... Something about witches being unacceptable, but they’re tired of upholding justice...”
“The Hero must be someone who came to Ground’s Nir 300 years ago. A-and at that time, they would be talking about actual witches. Since they don’t claim to be a witch themselves, maybe they were on the side that punished them with the sword?”
The White Witch, who had full social acceptance, paled a bit as she said that. Armelina frowned in response.
“But then what exactly is the Hero?” I mean, if this was 300 years ago, I doubt they had the video game system we use.”
“Boo. They say all the functional calculations are done by slide rule...but research will eventually create a board that can do all those calculations for you. They say that would mean no more need to roll dice.”
“A board game...or a TRPG?”
Before the invention of vacuum tube computers, humanity had already calculated the orbits of the planets and built giant ships to circumnavigate the globe. Complex calculations did not require semiconductors.
But even so, in the Hero’s age of pen and paper, had someone really imagined the concept of the modern computer and even considered the possibility of the video games that would lead to? It was an astonishing thought to Beatrice and the others who let their Shining Weapons handle all the calculations.
Armelina sounded partially dumbfounded.
“But what did this Hero do after arriving in Ground’s Nir? At the very least, there doesn’t seem to be any trace of their presence here.”
“They say they successfully arrived in a new world, but they lost the ability to return.”
Beatrice and the others exchanged a glance at Boo Boo’s words.
Ground’s Nir was comfortable for Boo Boo who had been born there, but for the Holy Swordswoman and the others from Earth, they could only stay for a few days. The gravity, the atmospheric composition, and other miniscule aspects of the world were just different enough to affect their body’s rhythm – primarily their internal clock – if they stayed for long. And it was not something that improved with time. Omega, the Cold War hero who provided the personality base for Skull Wave, had lost his life to it.
If they had been unable to return, had the Hero suffered the same fate?
“Squeal. They say they immediately realized there was something wrong with this world. But there was nothing they could do.”
“So they were helpless to stop their gradual death? That sure is a tragic fate...”
“So they decided to change this world.”
“...What did you say?”
Beatrice frowned at what Boo Boo said.
And he continued.
“If Earth and this world are made differently, they only had to make this world the same as Earth. That would eliminate the margin of error and they would no longer suffer from the structure of this world. Squeal, I don’t really get what any of this means.”
“W-wait just a second.” Filinion restlessly rubbed the side of her glasses. “That sounds reasonable, but it isn’t really, right? I mean, that might work out for a human, but what would happen to the life in Ground’s Nir? Approaching Earth’s environment would only make them suffer, wouldn’t it!?”
Beatrice and the others could not just laugh this off. An unpleasant silence fell. Yes, they knew some people who were suffering from a mysterious disease.
It was not a chromosome abnormality, a pathogen, a chemical substance, or an overabundance or deficiency of a nutrient.
And yet they were clearly afflicted by some kind of abnormality.
“Does this mean the problem could be with the world and not them? This is all because they’re suffering from the same thing that happened to Omega...???”
“W-wait, Beatrice. If the Iberian Orcs are suffering from a distortion to the entire world, then why are they the only ones affected!? Meridiana, Sutriona, and everyone else are doing just fine!”
Armelina frantically argued back, so she may have wanted some way to reject the idea.
But Beatrice shook her head, flipping her red and silver hair behind her.
“...The Iberian Orcs have much sharper senses than normal lifeforms. We know that all too well from Abyss’s simulation. So even if the other species can’t tell, the Iberian Orcs might be able to sense it.”
“So like the mosquito alarm to keep delinquents from loitering at convenience stores at night, or like the low frequency damage caused by the rotation of wind turbines? But then why is Boo Boo fine when he’s an Iberian Orc too?”
“Boo Boo. You’ve grown a lot, but do you think you could beat the elder in a fight?”
“Squeal!? I don’t want to fight anyone. And the elder’s fist really hurts. That’s why I won’t misbehave. Not ever!”
There was a hierarchy among the Iberian Orcs. They all seemed extraordinary to humans, but since Boo Boo so feared the elder, the elder had a higher standing. Or rather, he may have been named the elder because he was the strongest of the strongest.
If so, it was possible.
It was possible the elder was suffering because he was at the top of the hierarchy and Boo Boo was fine because he was at the bottom of the hierarchy.
“B-but changing gravity and the atmosphere for the entire world would be a major task. Humans can only stay here for a few days, so do you really think they would have had enough time to complete it? I doubt the Hero could have done all that!!”
“Maybe that’s why they ultimately failed.”
“...Or it’s still underway. Just like a cathedral built over the course of centuries, the automated work has continued after the original planner’s death.”
“What, are you saying this world is crawling with invisible dwarf workers!?”
They more or less already had their answer.
What trap had the Hero set up? Why had they left multiple fragments of information around the sun island so the manager of the island would gather it all and reach the false conclusion? What had Archangel Marinka feared? She had viewed the world like a video game and assumed something bad would happen if someone crossed a line and entered a space that had not been created.
In other words, what was it the Hero had protected via Marinka?
The answer was obvious.
Beatrice looked up at the large hole in the cathedral ceiling. No, she was technically looking at the invisible something beyond the unnaturally blue sky.
There were some things that did not really occur to you until you were this high up.
For example, that the blue sky was within range of an attack.
(All of this was caused by the blue sky spread out above us all evenly.)
“In that case...!!”
She drew the Shining Weapon rapier from her hip and launched eight orange lines of heat. The Magic flew straight up, collided with the clear barrier, and sent cracks through it.
Electrical sparks scattered instead of fire.
With a violent zapping noise, the heavens blurred. Color vanished from the sky as if the monitor displaying it had been lost. The dark starry sky of outer space showed through. They had no way of knowing what had happened to the sky as seen from the surface, but at this high an altitude, this was the proper view. When viewed from so high up, they should have been seeing space rather than the blue sky.
The light of the artificial sun vanished and the real one lit the world.
Boo Boo looked puzzled as he watched the world turned inside out.
“Squeal. There’s a cracking sound...”
“A fake sky?” groaned Armelina. “This sun wasn’t the real one!?”
“If you could adjust the light and EM waves pouring down on the world, you might be able to remake the atmospheric composition like photochemical smog. No, the rainclouds are made from evaporated seawater and the land’s crust expands and contracts depending on how the land is heated. Light. Control that one thing and you might be able to control both the heavens and the earth.”
Of course, it would take far longer than a few days to complete an artificial atmospheric barrier that covered the entire world. The Hero must have left behind something that could complete the automated work. They knew their efforts were in vain, but they had not given up. He or she must not have been able to betray their own expectations, but the work had silently continued long after their death.
More and more clear panels had been set in place until they had fully covered up the truth of the world.
Royal Elf Sibyl gave up on maintaining the residual thought and groaned while her small head wobbled. Boo Boo supported her entire body with his large hand and she asked a question with a tremor in her voice.
“...So what happened?”
“There’s nothing we can’t know if we have all three royal treasures, right?” said Beatrice. “We’ve destroyed the cause, so can we check what’s happening on the surface?”
Sibyl wiped sweat from her brow and removed the circlet she wore there. She also pulled out the ring that had belonged to Vivian.
Marinka, who had both a woman’s and girl’s body, removed the earring on her right ear.
The circlet seemed to be the base.
When they attached the two jewels of the ring and earring to the gold circlet, a pale blue light surrounded the entire accessory. Sibyl placed it on her forehead once more. She took a deep breath and slowly closed her eyes. It may have been something like wearing goggles.
But Sibyl did not say anything for a while after that.
She kept her eyes closed and some slight wrinkles gathered in her supposedly calm brow.
“Odd. ...I am receiving the power to view the world, but...kh. It won’t focus on the Redness...?”
“Sibyl,” cut in Archangel Marinka.
The small brown girl tapped the right side of the circlet with her index finger and the tall slender woman, who had her arms in the girl’s shoulder blades, opened her lips.
“There is a deviation in the light. The sea jewel here is not reacting. Doesn’t it look clouded?”
“...So even with all the treasures, it won’t activate properly without authorization from the three rulers?”
Elder Mermaid Vivian who ruled the ocean was no longer among the living. This meant they could not activate the three royal treasures.
Sibyl scowled and removed the circlet, but White Witch Filinion tried to force the conclusion in a positive direction.
“B-but we don’t really need the three treasures now, right? Right? The Iberian Orcs’ affliction was caused by the atmospheric barrier the Hero set up and Beatrice just destroyed that. In that case-...”
She was not able to finish speaking.
She was cut off by a muffled explosion on the surface.
Even as high in the sky as Boo Boo, Beatrice, and the others were, the roar reached them loud and clear. Something horrible was happening on that island which could be walked around in three days. Even with no proof of that, a crawling impatience told them something abnormal was happening. They wanted to deny it, but they could not.
“Wh-why? Thanks to Beatrice, the atmospheric barrier affecting the elder and the others is no longer functioning, right!?”
“Or did we misread this somehow!?”
When she heard Filinion and Armelina’s reactions, Beatrice brought a hand to her slender chin and then slowly shook her head.
“...We were thinking about it correctly. And I definitely destroyed the source. But maybe the effects of that won’t manifest immediately.”
“Squeal. What does that mean, Beatrice?”
“A car won’t stop immediately...although I guess that doesn’t mean much to you, Boo Boo. Anyway, we should assume it might take some time before the problem ends. And if so...”
“Wait, Beatrice. Are you saying we need to forcibly stop the Red Iberian Orcs until they come back to their senses!? Y-you have got to be joking!!”
They had known it from the beginning.
This battle had a time limit. Even if the Iberian Orcs had entered a dormant state and had that reinforced with external tranquilizer potions and low-temperature treatment, it would not last forever. And if fear drove the humans to attack, the limit would shrink even further.
Wildefrau, Huldra, Gruagach, and Rusalka were fighting on the Thousand Dragon’s back, but in that chaotic melee, it was simply not possible to ensure not a single stray shot hit one of the Reds. Some hits were unavoidable and that drew them ever closer to the countdown to doom.
So they had predicted this from the beginning.
Once it crossed a line, that would happen.
The straining of thick muscles and bending of bone produced a disconcerting noise. The Reds, those apocalyptic eggs, moved. The Iberian Orcs had been curled up and motionless until now, but they slowly stood tall once more.
Between the Lines 2
All that matters is that I survive.
The fate of this island’s indigenous life is of no consequence.
I want to live.
I want to live.
I want to live.
I know my efforts are wasted. I know there is no way to complete this in time. Converting into human terms, the trick I have constructed will take at least 250 years before it is functioning. In the same terms, I have less than 2 days I can remain here. Since I have not left any descendants behind, ensuring the comfort of this world would be a meaningless act.
As meaningless as it might be...
Even if you know that a single scrap of bread will not fulfill your hunger and you will still collapse, can you just throw away the bread in your hand? Even if your fate will be the same either way, can you really let go of it yourself? The answer is no. You can never do that. Even if I already have the answer and even if I know I have failed, I will still struggle. I will swallow that scrap of bread and continue on. That is what it means to be human.
I want to dream of having a chance.
I want to own my fate by trying everything available to me.
Have I really struggled?
Have I really tried every thought in my head?
Is there nothing I can do?
The moment I stop thinking and the moment I stop working is the moment I let go of my life.
As long as I do not give up, I can still see myself as “alive”...
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