The Weakness of Beatrice the Level Cap Holy Swordswoman -
Volume 6, Chapter 4: Challenging an Utterly Impossible Obstacle
Volume 6, Chapter 4: Challenging an Utterly Impossible Obstacle
As evening turned to night, the ground shook.
Upon learning the Reds were no longer active, the humans raised a battle cry of victory that shook the distant mountain where Boo Boo and the others were. The solid ground was shaken by nothing more than human voices and the emotion of excitement. Dry bursting sounds, cheers, and laughter blended together. They may have been having a celebration with special food and drink brought from the partially-repaired inn town.
Boo Boo did not have time to even look in the party’s direction.
Time was the enemy.
There was some variance between individuals, but a few days was the limit. And Beatrice had already used up a lot of that time on dealing with the Red Iberian Orcs. They did not have a single minute or second to spare. Their only option was to rack their brains and list out every idea they could think of.
Armelina looked overhead.
“The artificial atmospheric barrier has been silent ever since. Did that attack bring it to a stop, or was that an irregular situation even for it? But I guess that’s fine since we’d have bigger problems than treating Beatrice if it kept firing those.”
“Squeal. What is a Shining Weapon? Can’t she borrow one of the ones all of you are using?”
“Each Shining Weapon is limited to a single person, so you can’t borrow someone else’s. It would also be difficult to bring a new Shining Weapon from Earth to Ground’s Nir because the authentication work is generally done using machines on Earth. They really are your lifeline, so you’re screwed if you lose yours.”
“Ch-chief. Is there no way to repair a Shining Weapon?”
“...It is technically possible, but we’re talking about a collection of precision machinery. We would have to construct a handmade semiconductor factory with full sterilization. We only have a few days left, so there simply isn’t enough time.”
“What about the bottom of the Labyrinth? Ultimate Weapon Abyss is a mechanical doll, right?”
“That uses entirely different standards from what we use on Earth. It seems we can connect our Shining Weapons with Abyss using a cable, but that only works because Abyss is adjusting her registry to match. Her normal methods would not work.”
“I-if it comes to it, I could get Ileana’s help to create a powerful resurrection potion. We could always just resurrect her every few days...”
“Only you could do that, glasses freak. A normal human would go mad.”
With that, Armelina scratched at her hair.
Then she breathed a heavy sigh.
“No, we are not looking for solace through nice-sounding words. We need a realistic solution, so we cannot run from the severe hurdles.”
They were discussing it like this because Beatrice was unconscious.
Who could directly tell her that she could no longer Sign Out and she could only wait for death as her body and mind were slowly eaten away?
The man known as Omega, who had reigned at the top of the Western forces during the Cold War, had lost his life due to a plot abusing the inability to Sign Out. And even with Demon Lord Tselika by his side, he had been unable to alter his fate. That showed how dire the situation was.
This was not something that could be overcome with great historical deeds or cheap, dime-a-dozen miracles.
The battered girl’s chest quietly rose and fell in Boo Boo’s large hand.
After hearing what Ice Waterfall Princess Wildefrau had said, Gruagach hesitantly raised a hand.
“Tselika, you fought against this exactly problem before, didn’t you?”
“...I am not aware of any method to truly transfer a human-sized object between worlds.”
A translucent demon woman with an angel’s halo and large horns floated next to Gruagach.
She held her bewitching body in her arms like she did not know what to do with it.
“More importantly, if you have people with high-level potion and freezing skills, I would suggest using cold sleep. It will only delay the inevitable, but it will remove the time limit of a few days. If all you need to do is prepare a semiconductor factory, then you can build one even if it takes years.”
“That really is the last resort, isn’t it?” responded Armelina with a heavy sigh.
Rusalka, whose long blonde ponytail formed a gorgeous ringlet curl, spoke up while tugging on Gruagach’s leather outfit.
“Onee-sama, can’t we get help from the Sage? She seems familiar with Shining Weapons and she looks just like Beatrice. Um, couldn’t it be possible for them to use the same Shining Weapon?”
Everyone except for unconscious Beatrice glanced over at the Sage who was sitting with her back against a broken tree trunk.
That person, who looked a lot like Beatrice but was completely different, shook her head.
“It depends on the amount of damage, but from the look of things, it’s unrepairable. The internal structure being fried hurts a lot more than the blade breaking off. In fact, I’ve never seen one destroyed like that before. Also, Beatrice and I are similar but not identical. We cannot use the same Shining Weapon.”
“You hacked our Shining Weapons at the Underworld, right!? Surely there’s some kind of trick you can use!!”
“Simply remote controlling one is entirely different from altering the administrative permissions. In fact, you would have better luck asking Omega who increased the strength of his by having his men open up shared settings on theirs.”
“Huh? But what about Sibyl’s Shining Weapon?” asked Filinion. “And wasn’t your patchwork rapier made by rewriting the permissions of those stolen weapons?”
“Yes, that’s right. Miss Titties is exactly right. But doing that requires wiping the contents. Try to fix her broken Shining Weapon with a clean install and you’ll only wipe out all the files that survived. When you get down to it, what Omega did was just plain crazy.”
That must have reminded her of someone important to her because the translucent Demon Lord with an angel halo and large horns softly shut her eyes. Almost like she was offering a silent prayer.
Another insurmountable hurdle had been placed in their path.
Upon the annihilation of the Underworld Lord, the souls of the dead had been released. They could never again summon that veteran hero. The cowboy hat skeleton was technically only a simulation of his personality, so he would not necessarily have the same technical information as Omega.
“...So we’re finally stuck.”
“You should think about what options are available. Especially with such a short time limit.” The Sage sounded unconcerned. “One, you can run high-level VR experiments using Ultimate Weapon Abyss. Two, based on that bombing used in the battle against the elder, Sibyl must have acquired something. If she has the power to see everything, she might be able to use that to find a starting point.”
A certain possibility came to mind and Boo Boo worriedly asked about it.
“...What if that isn’t enough?”
“A perfect virtual reality and the power to see everything are cruel in their own ways, Boo Boo.”
The Sage remained callous even now.
It may have been her ability to provide cruel opinions at all times that allowed her to be the Sage.
“They may present us with the fact that nothing we can do will work.”
He knew all he could do at the moment was wait, but he could not just sit around.
Burning heat erupted inside his body and he could not sit still.
Boo Boo walked through the dark forest.
He scraped his large tusk against a nearby tree.
“Let Beatrice get better soon.”
With that statement, he moved to the next tree.
“Let Beatrice get better soon.”
Then to the next tree. And the next. And the next.
“Let Beatrice get better soon.”
He looked like he would mark every tree in the forest if left to his own devices.
And someone was watching him from a short distance away.
It was silver-haired Fairy Queen Sutriona and blonde-haired Vampire Kallikantzaros.
They were both Break News with incredible power.
“Anyway, Vampire, did you never notice the color of the sky before? Don’t you claim to control lunar eclipses?”
“Make no mistake. The moon was always shaped like that. In fact, the culprit may have based the false sky and sun on it.”
The skinny silver-haired girl in a black ribbon dress breathed an exasperated sigh.
“...More importantly, what is Boo Boo doing?”
“Probably an Iberian Orc good luck charm,” smoothly responded the Vampire who was connected to the Iberian Orcs in a different way from the Sage.
Kallikantzaros, who wore a red negligee over a body far too alluring for her childish appearance, continued.
“But if it actually worked, the Iberian Orcs would not have been afflicted by that Redness.”
“Hm.” Sutriona gave her old Vampire acquaintance a sidelong glance. “You sure have strange tastes to accompany him when you know it’s meaningless.”
“Night is the Vampire’s time. Although it seems I too was manipulated by that false sun. Still, there is not always something I can do. ...Besides, Fairies are active in the day and sleep at night, so it seems far more unusual for one of them to be wandering around at this hour.”
Sutriona coughed to avoid responding.
“You are even simpler than the Iberian Orcs,” sighed Kallikantzaros. “But I believe that good luck charm requires carving the mark into 1000 trees. Surely he doesn’t really plan to do that.”
“Oh, he’ll do it. Even if it’s just for peace of mind, he’ll still set up that defensive line.”
The Vampire in a red negligee and nightcap fell silent.
She watched the nearly-4m giant scraping his tusk against another tree, she crossed her arms such that they squished her large breasts, and she winked.
“...Is it that serious?”
“I had thought that young Iberian Orc was so fond of that human because she was convenient for him. The humans threw rocks at him, but she would actually speak with him. So to put it another way, it could have been anyone he could speak with. I thought that was all it was.”
A voice called her name.
The light in the Fairy Queen’s eyes had changed entirely at some point.
“Do you want me to punch you for real?”
“...I see. So there was a reason why it had to be that girl. Very well.”
“Life and the sunlight are your territory, but death and the shadows are mine. There is an option that opens up for me.”
Vampire Kallikantzaros turned her gaze toward the distance once more.
Most likely, that Iberian Orc would not stop until he really had completed it. And even if he did leave marks on 1000 trees, he could not shake the forlorn feeling of having his mother or someone even more important let go of his hand.
And the Vampire knew of an extremely quick solution that amounted to cheating.
The Fairy Queen sounded somewhat exasperated as her silver hair fluttered behind her.
“I thought you didn’t answer people’s prayers.”
“Only if they are seeking some kind of reward. I am not narrow-minded enough to abandon a child lost in the night.
White Witch Filinion’s Recovery Potion was perfectly made.
When Beatrice sat up and stretched her arms like normal, a strong foliage smell reached her nose. She looked around and found a somewhat nostalgic sight. It looked just like Boo Boo’s original house, the triangular tent made of large, folded leaves that he had used before the log and brick ones.
And she realized something.
When she got up and the blanket fell away, she found she was only wearing a single white cloth. It looked a lot like a swimsuit since the top and bottom were connected, but it was basically underwear. Think of it like a bodysuit that bared the midriff.
The armor covering her limbs and chest and the miniskirt around her hips were nowhere to be found.
(...Oh. So that’s what happened.)
The Holy Swordswoman jumped a bit when she belatedly noticed a slender form lying right next to her in the darkness. It was a girl with one arm entirely missing and her head tilted at a slightly odd angle. Two strands of mottled silver hair passed in front of her shoulders, so this was apparently Ultimate Weapon Abyss. Beatrice had not sensed her presence because she did not need to breathe or even stir.
And one other thing.
“Beatrice, are you okay? Do you hurt anywhere?”
“Wah, wah! B-Boo Boo?”
Beatrice frantically pulled the blanket up to her chest and blushed a little.
The air that snuck in was somewhat chilly and the darkness was swept away by the gentle light of a simple lamp made by filling a porcelain bowl with plant oil and adding a twisted scrap of cloth as a wick. The girl guessed it was nighttime.
It did not have the obvious shape of a bra and panties, but she was only wearing underwear. Beatrice restlessly held the blanket to her chest and looked around.
“Where are we?”
“My house was destroyed, so I made a new one.”
Those words alone brought a slight cloud to the Holy Swordswoman’s face. There had been more than exhaustion and pain from the intense battle. She was worried about the way Boo Boo thought it was only natural that his things were taken from him or destroyed.
Meanwhile, when looking at it from a different perspective...
...That made Boo Boo sad.
This was not the time for her to worry about others. She had always worried about him and helped him in every way she could, but he also understood that she had a tendency to neglect herself in the process.
He could not let it show on his face.
Worrying her here would not solve anything.
“Squeal. If you’re awake, you can eat something. Eat a bunch and get better! I saved the tastiest meat for you!!”
“Ah, ah ha ha. It’s always meat first thing after waking up with you...”
Filinion’s Recovery Potion had healed the direct injuries and burns, so she had no trouble moving around. She reached for her hip out of habit and then sighed.
“What happened with the elder and the others?”
“Gruagach stopped all of them, so it’ll be okay. They’re working with the Sage to remake the village right now. The effects of the Redness have left their bodies, but they said they wanted to work with someone on some strength-focused work and details-focused to make sure everything is in order. They all said it’s thanks to you destroying the...artificial atmospheric barrier? Or something like that.”
“Where are Filinion, Armelina, and the others?”
“They should be in the human inn town. After all the confusion, they said they needed to explain some things to everyone. They’re apparently having a festival there, so they might bring some tasty snacks back!”
The girl who had spent so much time with Boo Boo held a hand to her mouth and giggled at his excitement.
Was she simply happy to see the Iberian Orc celebrating, or was she happy to see him interested in the humans?
“Hey, Boo Boo.”
Beatrice gave a plain smile.
And she asked.
“...So have you heard how much time I have left?”
He had been careless.
Even though he knew little of Magic, he should have noticed.
Beatrice had reached for her hip out of habit. She had been checking for her Shining Weapon rapier. It was a casual movement of her fingers, but that had told her the truth: her Shining Weapon had been destroyed and she could not return to Earth.
She also lacked her equipment.
It was not that she was not producing the armor to cover her body. She could not produce it.
“It’s okay, Boo Boo. You don’t need to give me that look.”
Boo Boo gasped and patted his large face, but Beatrice shook her head. She was always the mature one. Hiding it from her may have been impossible from the get-go.
The girl in her underwear still held the blanket to her chest.
“I don’t have to explore the Labyrinth or save the world from a crisis. That gives me more time to simply spend with you. I feel like I never made time to just take it easy in Ground’s Nir. Looking at it that way, it’s not all bad.”
“And I’m not going to keel over right away. I still have time. So tell me, Boo Boo. I want to know the specifics if I’m going to face this. Will you help me find a way out of this situation?”
Boo Boo nodded again and again.
He seemed to be trying to convince himself more than anyone.
“I’ll help you. The elder and the others were only saved because of your efforts. I can’t just sit around and fret. There’s no time, so we have to do what we can. So I’ll work super hard for you this time!!”
“Right. According to Abyss and Sibyl, you have about 2 days left! There’s still time, so we’ll do everything we can and save you. And the first step is to eat!!”
The leaf house had no stove, so he was probably cooking the food at a campfire outside. He rushed out of the house.
For that brief moment, Beatrice was alone with only deactivated Abyss for company. She reached for her hip out of habit and then slowly sighed.
No one was listening, but the words softly spilled from her lips.
“...I guess this time there really is no hope.”
Beatrice and Boo Boo sat around the campfire for a late dinner.
She was still only in her underwear, so she had wrapped the blanket around herself before stepping outside.
When he cooked, you were lucky if you got a giant hunk of cooked mystery meat and he would not even add salt unless you asked. He did not focus much on the cooking, so there was always a chance of getting something half raw. ...But today there were also a few vegetables he had presumably taken from his garden. He may have been thinking about her health.
“Beatrice, this one and this one are the tastiest. You can have them.”
“Hm? You can have the tastiest ones. You’re the one that made it all.”
“No! You need to eat right now!!”
“Whoa, but all this fatty meat is a little much for a maiden like me...!!”
It had taken some doing to get to this point, but as long as he added some rock salt, his cooking was good in a plain sort of way. Salt and grease had a way of soaking into your body.
“I made some dessert today too.”
“Oh? That’s unusual for you.”
“I chilled it in the river, so I has to be good. Jewel Melons are rare and I know you’ll be surprised when you see it!”
Boo Boo left for the river where the fruit was chilling.
Once she was alone, Beatrice breathed a soft sigh with the blanket wrapped over her underwear.
And just then...
“I will be joining you.”
The Holy Swordswoman turned toward that soft voice and saw someone who looked completely at home in the night.
It was a childish blonde girl who wore a pitch black swimsuit visible through a bright red negligee. No, she was quite short, but her body may have been even curvier than Beatrice’s. ...Especially when it came to chest size.
She was a Vampire and a Break News.
It was Kallikantzaros.
She kept a set distance from the campfire as if she disliked non-natural lights.
“Sutriona told me what happened. I could not join the fight as it occurred while the sun was at its peak. The Iberian Orcs are special to me as well, so I thank you for risking your life to stop their rampage.”
“I see... Based on that, I take it I can trust what Boo Boo said about the other Iberian Orcs. I passed out before the end, you see.”
“So what will you do?”
The Vampire held a gray pig doll, spoke with a cunning voice, and gently looked the girl in the eye.
“Let us discuss the concept of life. The undead have no interest in unstable souls, but I am willing to make an exception since you used your one-and-only life to fight for the Iberian Orcs. You cannot return to Earth without your Shining Weapon. And you have no chance of survival without returning to Earth. Boo Boo and the others will of course forgo sleep as they spend the next two days attempting to find a solution, but there is no guarantee they will find one before the time limit arrives.”
“And you have approached me. So do you have a suggestion?”
“I am a Vampire.”
Kallikantzaros stuck the index finger of her empty hand between her lips. She bent the finger like a hook and tugged her small mouth to the side.
That might sound like a child’s teasing, but it held a very different meaning here.
She revealed a sinister weapon that was far sharper than a human canine tooth.
That fang was the symbol of her kind.
“Your human body cannot endure staying in this world for an extended period of time due to a slight margin of error in the atmospheric composition and the planetary rotation and revolution. Then you only need to become something other than a human of Earth. I try to only target Iberian Orcs since I dislike the flavor of human blood, but as I said, I am willing to make an exception here. I can bear with the flavor. If you ask for it, I will turn you into a Vampire right here and now.”
Beatrice thought about it for a while.
This gave her a backup plan. In her current state, she should have wanted that more than anything.
After taking her time, she slowly shook her head.
“...I have to reject your offer.”
“I apologize if this sounds like an insult, but the person who Boo Boo can rely on without worry isn’t ‘Vampire Beatrice’.”
Boo Boo’s worried look was burned into her mind’s eye.
She saw him telling those painfully obvious lies.
But that was exactly why.
She could not just compromise on this. If she rewrote it all with such a simple decision, there would be no going back. That was the way she saw it. Being a human born on Earth must have held more meaning for her than she thought.
Kallikantzaros smiled thinly.
And she showed respect for that resolve.
“This will not be easy.”
“I know that.”
“Very well. I will not force it upon you, but I have provided the temptation. Knowing and not knowing are two very different things. As you humans apparently say, a drowning man will grasp at straws. I will be watching from behind the scenes to see if your resolve wavers as you are slowly crushed beneath the pain and fear.”
A quiet sound followed.
By taking a single step back, Kallikantzaros truly withdrew into the shadows, but she did leave one last statement.
“...Even if you do break and pathetically cling to this option, I will not laugh at you. Because I definitely owe you one for the Iberian Orc incident. For this one time only, I will promise you that.”
That was all.
The Vampire faded into the pitch black shadows and Beatrice was alone once more.
“Squeal! Look, look, Beatrice! This is a Jewel Melon!!”
“Oh, Boo Boo?”
“Hm? What’s with you? Did something happen?”
“No, it’s nothing,” she answered with a smile and a shake of the head.
Because of her resolve, nothing had happened.
Of course, Boo Boo did not rest after putting Beatrice to bed in the leaf house. White Witch Filinion and Fighter Priest Armelina had set up a new base in the Cave of Tears opened in the coastal cliff face. Even with the celebration bringing everyone’s guard down, they could not bring Boo Boo to the human-filled inn town, but they also could not hold a planning meeting in front of Beatrice whose life was on the chopping block. Since neither of their usual meeting spots was usable, they had needed a new one.
...Boo Boo wondered how he had lived such an aimless life up until now.
He had built a house of large leaves, searched for food in the forest, and spent any extra time napping. Had he really been making the most of his life? If he had done other things and made more valuable use of his time, could he maybe have found an immediate solution when someone important to him was in a crisis?
He had grown complacent.
So much had happened in the past, so he should have known that his current environment was not guaranteed to last forever. Yet he had been satisfied with what he was given. He had been so happy on that day when he had been reunited with Beatrice and he had failed to keep working after that.
“Squeal... I need to do something.”
That ocean cave also contained Demon Lord Tselika’s collection of treasures. The entrance area received the full brunt of the advancing and receding waves and it could flood at any time, but there were more slopes further in and the seawater had almost no effect there. Since there was no way in from the Labyrinth, it was a rare blank spot where no one else on the small island could reach them.
The outside moonlight reflected off the seawater and rock walls, so the inside was filled with a faint bluish light. It gave the scene a strange shine different from a fire or luminous moss.
“So you’re here, Boo Boo.”
He was addressed by someone who looked an awful lot like the red-armored Holy Swordswoman. It was the Sage. Slender Royal Elf Sibyl stood alongside her.
“I was just explaining my investigation of the problems we face. No one else here is worth explaining things to, so this is perfect.”
The glasses White Witch and police officer Fighter Priest clearly grimaced at that, but it was unusual for these former enemies to be meeting together at all.
The red of embers was added to the bluish light of the Cave of Tears.
The Sage snapped her fingers and the cave scene changed. Even the clinging darkness and the pale blue light that blocked one’s view like a backlight functioned as a veil to hide the answer before one’s eyes.
The walls and ceiling were crammed full of geometric patterns drawn in black lines seemingly made with charcoal. Naturally, this was not just graffiti. Each point at the intersection of two lines was labeled with a symbol and it seemed to control some kind of “current”.
“Well, to put it simply, this is the circuit diagram of Beatrice’s Shining Weapon,” smoothly explained the Sage.
The handle of Beatrice’s rapier had contained the circuitry that filled every surface of the cave.
“Keihin Seibi’s Etranger D-508ex. Since she was confined to the impressive-sounding Detached Magic Palace, I was surprised to find she uses a customized version of a commercial product, but that may have been to ensure ease of replacing parts in case of a malfunction. She apparently has some capable maids, so its specs have been greatly improved from clocking up the software side of things.”
“...You’ve made that much progress? Then what were those two hours of cynicism and sarcasm for???”
The young glasses woman gave an exhausted comment, but it was not the time for that.
The Sage remained composed after having wasted so much time because she was not interested in starting until Boo Boo showed up.
“I retrieved the diagram from the manufacturer on Earth and Sibyl used her secret treasures to view the broken rapier. Comparing the two revealed what portions are missing. The worst damage is here.”
She breathed a gentle sigh and a few sparks spilled from her palm and circled around a certain point on the circuit diagram covering the cave’s surfaces. The college girl shrine maiden known as Filinion saw it like a laser pointer on a lecture room’s whiteboard.
“That’s the personal authentication area that manages administrative privileges...in other words, who the Shining Weapon belongs to. In cellphone terms, it’s something like the SIM card that contains all the profile settings. Unless we fix this, Beatrice cannot return to Earth.”
Boo Boo tilted his head with a large hand over his mouth, but that did not mean he had stopped thinking. Iberian Orcs used their supercomputer-like brains to control each individual muscle fiber so they did not destroy their own body with their overly powerful muscles. He might not understand it now, but he was sure to learn. He only had to reach that understanding before they ran out of time. The Sage had lived with the elder and the others, so she understood that and was trying to fill him with as much data as possible.
But was the Sage leading that brilliant brain to the answer?
Even though Boo Boo did not understand at all, clenched his teeth, and struggled to make up for how far behind he felt?
“Hey.” Armelina put a hand on her hip. “So you’re saying the transfer function survived?”
“If that was all we needed, we wouldn’t need to rely on her broken rapier. That blunt weapon hanging at Boo Boo’s hip is a Shining Weapon too, after all.”
But he could not save anyone by giving Beatrice his partner that resembled a log or a steel beam.
The management was not lax enough to let her just borrow one.
She could not just head home and be done with it. There was a reason they used terms like Sign In and Sign Out. The technology to move between worlds only qualified as a transfer system once a safe arrival was guaranteed. That meant there would naturally be powerful safeties to ensure who was being sent in addition to the origin point and destination point. Because they needed to transfer exactly 100% of a person, not 99% or 101%.
Boo Boo desperately worked his mind with his head still tilted.
“You mean Beatrice’s name is written inside her sword? And that was erased, so we have to write it in there again?”
“Exactly right, Boo Boo.”
The Sage applauded with a smile she would never give any of the others.
“Rewriting the settings profile from scratch would be difficult, so we’ll have to extract the damaged data and recover it. Of course, the data left inside the damaged rapier is incomplete, so we can’t just use that. But that means we only have to fill in the gaps.”
“I sometimes see ads for services that recover lost data from your cellphone or flash memory, but does it really work that well?”
“Since you had the courage to admit your own ignorance, I will explain. Even if there are pieces missing, it is possible to fill that in by estimating the contents using the strings of data preceding and following it. It might be simpler to think of it like the frames of a movie or cartoon. Ten minutes or a full hour missing would be one thing, but if it’s just a frame or two here and there, it isn’t a major problem. You can fill in the gaps.”
But on the other hand...
“To recover the data, we must first extract detailed information on how much of the data is left inside the broken rapier.”
“Squeal? But I thought we could see everything with Sibyl’s treasure?”
The long-eared slender girl sighed and answered Boo Boo’s question.
“I can see it, but I cannot explain it. If I draw out the miniscule grooves of the circuit diagram, the Sage can create a proper diagram using her own rules, but this concept of an...electronic program? That is something else entirely.”
“Well, yes. Long ago, there were apparently people with the shocking ability to read the do-re-mi scale by looking at the grooves on a record, but no matter how much they stared at the smooth surface of a smartphone, they could never learn anything about a song contained in a compressed file on the device. Poo hoo hoo.”
“...I have no idea what that means, but I can still tell you’re making fun of me...”
“Heh. Eh heh heh. Whatever gives you that-...owwwww!? This flat Amazon warrior elf just hit my boobs with her bowstring!”
“I hit my own long ears a lot when I was first learning to use it, so I know its power. ...And that insult has earned you another hit.”
The hunter pursued her fleeing prey and Armelina sounded somewhat exasperated as she watched.
“Are you saying we can’t directly check the software, so we have to start by reconnecting the fried hardware circuits to access it?”
“Precisely. So the ignorant have reached an understanding in their ignorance.”
The Sage nodded and brought a hand to her hip.
The patchwork rapier in the scabbard there had its processing power forcibly increased by connecting together the remains of multiple Shining Weapons, so she would know how to connect to the broken Shining Weapon.
The red-armored and white-miniskirted Sage twisted the corners of her mouth into a smile.
“There is no need to be so pessimistic. The area needing repairing is smaller than a postage stamp.”
“But like with microfilm, how much space does that fill when it’s expanded to a size visible to the human eye? ...You make it sound simple, but at the semiconductor level, it’s dozens of times smaller than a hair, right? Or maybe hundreds of times? Even if Sibyl’s treasure lets us cheat our way to the abilities of an electron microscope, the work won’t be that easy.”
“That is true, but I do have an idea.”
The Sage snapped her fingers and the sparks that burst out circled around above Boo Boo’s head.
“Boo Boo, you are friends with the palm-sized Fairies, aren’t you? Contact them immediately and ask for their help.”
“Squeal? Are you going to have them make a potion?”
“The contents of a Shining Weapon are a collection of wires made from pure gold thinner than a hair. A normal human cannot hope to work with them and, as your friend there said, the sensory boost from Sibyl’s treasure might not be enough to pull off the work. However. The Fairies are skilled at handicrafts. They can even weave a full ribbon dress out of Ground Spider silk, so they should not have difficulty working with something thinner than a hair. They may not like working with iron or silver, but they should not feel any revulsion toward gold.”
With that said, the Sage laughed.
“Boo Boo, you are the only one who can contact those cautious Fairies. For that matter, you are also the only person who can contact the Sage who works behind the scenes of history. This is the power you built up with the path you walked. Feel free to use those trump cards here.”
Armelina traced her fingertip along her slender chin and thought deeply.
And as negative as it was, she opened her mouth. She had known it would come down to this from the beginning, so there was no point in acting smug about the knowledge after the fact.
“We have a strict time limit. I mean, we don’t even have two days left. I’m fine with relying on the Fairies, but shouldn’t we be working on some insurance in parallel, just to be sure?”
“I suppose I’ll ask. What exactly do you propose?”
“The Fairies aren’t the only ones who are skilled with their hands. There are a lot of different people gathered in the inn town. How about we rely on them? With the excitement of solving the Red problem, the people with nothing better to do might help us pretty readily.”
Also, it was humans who used the Magic represented by the Shining Weapons. It made the most sense to use human hands to solve this.
But the Sage shook her head.
“I won’t stop you if you go try that on your own, but I’m not going to help you with your wasted effort. I am only here now out of respect for your efforts in revealing the cause of the Redness and freeing the elder and the others from it. Do not expect unlimited and bottomless assistance from me.”
“I have no issue with their technical skills and the manpower would be useful, but Beatrice is a Level Capper, which comes with its plusses and minuses. People will recognize her achievements when she is rising in the ranks, but once she starts to decline, they will focus only on the negative side and work against her. Ask for help and I doubt anyone will give it. In the worst case, they might pretend to help so they can poison her.”
Armelina had suggested the idea, but she fell silent.
The human inn town was ruled by the interests of organizations as much as by what individuals wanted. There were definitely nations and corporations that would benefit in the power balance if the striker of the Japanese government’s Detached Magic Palace was removed.
What would happen if her compromised state became widely known?
In the worst case, someone could even plan an attack on the leaf house where she slept. None of them wanted to think about the possibility of interference when the rescue attempt was a tightrope walk already.
Looking at it like that, it would indeed be more efficient to put together a team of Ground’s Nir Nonhumans who were tied by simple bonds of gratitude.
The Sage had seen a sickening amount of the desire that gathered around Magic, so she laughed scornfully before continuing.
“This isn’t about whether or not it will actually happen. The inability to eliminate doubt would consume some of our work costs. I said we have no time, didn’t I? I really don’t think we can afford to bother with secret plots.”
Armelina had no rebuttal, but she did not seem satisfied either.
Meanwhile, Boo Boo spoke up.
“So I need to ask the Fairies for help. But is that all I can do? Is there nothing else I can do?”
“Hm...” The Sage thought for a moment. “Even if it will be thinner than a hair, we will need a lot of pure gold to lay out the new wiring. Ground’s Nir is a small enough island to walk the perimeter in only three days and the greedy humans use gears taken from the Labyrinth’s Gimmicks as currency instead of gold. I don’t know how much is buried on the island, but unlike Earth, where you can buy it by the gram at an exchange, it will likely be difficult to procure. Boo Boo, can you take care of that?”
Beatrice might grow suspicious if she woke up and found he was not there.
He lacked the knowledge and the skill, but Boo Boo had to make up for that with what he could do. With so little time left, he could not just sit around without any ideas whatsoever.
When he left the Cave of Tears, the sun had already risen.
He parted ways with Filinion and Armelina who had to rest back on Earth and he hurried back to the leaf house partway up the mountain.
He grabbed some Full-Belly Apples and Filling Bananas he found growing on trees along the way and he found Beatrice outside the house with the blanket wrapped around her.
He had been too slow.
He was only a few seconds late, but he gently clenched his teeth at how worthless it made him feel.
“Good morning, Boo Boo. Where were you?”
“Squeal. I woke up hungry. So I went to gather some food for today.”
Boo Boo had always lived a life where half his day was spent procuring food. Even during an emergency like this, he still needed food and water to function. So this was a necessary thing, but a closer inspection would show that he mostly had fruits that grew on trees instead of animals that he had to hunt in an eat-or-be-eaten battle of wits.
He did not have time for that now.
Even the time spent procuring food felt wasted.
“What are you doing, Beatrice? If you woke up because you’re hungry, I’ll give you the biggest one.”
“...Girls need to take a bath on a daily basis. I can dig a hole by the river over there to produce a hot spring and use the river water to control the temperature, right?”
“Yes. You can go take a bath, Beatrice.”
“That dream was shattered when you showed up to stare at me like that.”
A fruit-only breakfast felt lacking to Boo Boo, but he had bigger things to worry about now. And he noticed that Beatrice seemed to enjoy the fruit a lot. That amount may have been about right for her.
“The letter, the letter...”
Beatrice watched in confusion as Boo Boo placed a thin piece of wood near the leaf house’s ceiling. He could barely write and the message was almost entirely communicated via illustration, but the palm-sized Fairies would read it when they showed up. The situation could hardly be worse, but the counterattack was beginning.
“Boo Boo. What are we going to do today?”
“Boo. Let’s go to the beach.”
He of course had a reason for this.
The two of them walked down the gentle slope of an unpaved mountain path. They discussed pointless things along the way: it would be neat to lay out mine cart rails along here, Ileana wouldn’t like that, and so on.
Once they left the forest and arrived on the beach, Boo Boo raised his voice without thinking.
“Ah! It was almost all washed away!!”
Beatrice gave him a curious look and he frantically covered his mouth with both hands.
The rotting corpse of the Underworld’s giant marine creature should have been on the beach. He had gathered large seeds from there to reach the sky, but there was almost no sign left of the black rotting flesh he had seen then. He doubted it had all been the work of the small lobsters and crabs cleaning up the beach, so the crashing waves must have grabbed them and swept them out to sea.
Beatrice brushed the hair off the side of her face and looked out to the sea that sparkled with the morning sun.
“This area has been cleaned up a lot, but it still doesn’t look like a great place to swim.”
“Squeal. It’ll have to be cleaned up bit by bit. The fish are an important food source too.”
With that, Boo Boo approached one hunk of rotting flesh that still remained on the beach.
He thought back to what the Sage had said in the Cave of Tears before dawn:
“There are always the mountains to the north. Sibyl’s treasure should be able to accurately locate any veins of gold, but we don’t have time to dig it out. ...The Underworld would be the better bet. The Underworld Lord forcibly reinforced that rotting marine creature to keep it alive. That means it must have had a mechanical side that included a lot of pure gold wiring. We need gold, but not a huge amount of it. It would probably be faster to gather some of that junk and extract it from there.”
The beach cleaners could not eat hard things like this.
It would have been nice if nothing but a lot of strange machine parts had remained on the beach, but he was not that lucky. He stuck his hands into the black pile and felt around for anything that felt out of place. Something like thick cables, thin computer chips, or connectors made of heavy metal. He did not know what would be usable, so he pulled out everything that seemed artificial and gathered it all together.
“Oh, honestly! I can’t bear it any longer!!”
He heard a flapping sound.
“B-Boo Boo? There’s no one else here, right? It’s just you, right!?”
It was the sound of Beatrice removing the blanket she had wrapped around herself. The girl now only wore the one-piece underwear, but she seemed to be enjoying herself as she kicked at the crashing and receding waves.
She laughed like a child and spoke to him.
“Boo Boo! There are seabirds flying awfully close by. There might be a school of fish nearby. Maybe that’s thanks to the Underworld too!!”
“Then you can use this.”
Boo Boo held out something like a small-holed net. It was something he had pulled out of a black pile. It may have originally surrounded and supported some kind of giant internal organ, but its purpose was unclear.
Beatrice had said it did not look like a great place to swim, but she held the net in both hands and moved solidly into the water. The waves must have placed more resistance on her feet than she had expected because she pitched forward, tripped, and threw the net while soaking wet.
And just then...
Boo Boo’s shoulders jumped when he heard a female voice from directly behind him.
When could someone have approached him on the wide-open beach? While hiding behind one of the black piles so that the Holy Swordswoman could not see her, the Sage held her index finger to her lips and winked.
“...This would get complicated if Beatrice found me, so stay as you are.”
“You seem to have collected a fair amount. We should be able to extract all the pure gold we need from this. I will take care of the rest and you can let me handle the fire.”
“Thank you, Sage.”
Those words caused the Beatrice lookalike to briefly lose her calm.
Her eyes widened and then she formed a smile anew.
“No, thank you. I thought I would never again hear those words from an Iberian Orc. I also appreciate what you did for the elder and the others.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“I will take this pile of junk away with me, but I do not want Beatrice to see me. Distract her and then find a good opportunity to take her away from the beach.”
“Simply put, I want you to play with Beatrice. Go on.”
The Sage pressed on his back and he was pushed out from behind the black pile with strength one would never expect based on her appearance.
Beatrice smiled at him while holding the net on the beach.
“Look, Boo Boo. There really is a school of fish gathered near the beach! This is going to be a big catch, so you chase them over to me from there. Hurry!!”
The term “big catch” reminded him of the day the village was attacked. That had been the day that Beatrice taught young Boo Boo how to fish and that had coincidentally saved him. If not for the attack, Beatrice may have been accepted by the villagers much sooner.
And to reiterate, procuring food was a constant requirement. The rules of nature cared not for your personal convenience and the icy fingertip of starvation and death would point at everyone the same.
If you had food, you did not have to worry.
And you could take the time usually spent on procuring food and spend it on something else.
“Squeal! Gather together, fish!!”
“Ah ha ha! Boo Boo, they’re escaping between your legs!!”
A single gram of pure gold could be pounded out to more than 3 kilos. That of course meant the length of kilometers, not the weight of kilograms. Because it was soft, metal fatigue was not a concern like it was for steel and silver. It would not rust in the room temperature air and it would not be harmed by most chemicals other than aqua regia or an amalgamator.
After the Sage dissolved all the waste material and extracted just the pure gold, there was less than 10 grams in all. The world of semiconductors was a microscopic one, so that was hardly surprising.
However, the nature of gold worked in their favor.
It was not easily altered, so they did not have to worry about it being rendered useless and they could reuse the same gold to practice as many times as necessary before doing it for real.
A voice came from the Fairy village in the forest.
Palm-sized Meridiana was using her even smaller palms to apply pressure to the gold-glittering precious metal as if spinning it like a drill. Gold’s melting point was 1063 degrees Celsius, but it was already soft enough that there was no need to heat it.
With just one piece of gold thinner than a hair, it would blend into the background and even the small Fairies would lose sight of it if they were not careful. It caught the air like a wing, ignored gravity, and wandered aimlessly side to side in the air.
Her sister, Alice, grabbed the gold in her hands and wrapped it around her wrists. As the gold thread intersected like crisscrossing lines of sauce atop a luxurious meal of white flesh fish, its shine grew. It gained a board-shaped thickness it had not had as a single thread. And while this was delicate metalwork, they could not let the thread break. It all had to be connected together like a one-stroke drawing.
This produced a ring large enough for a human finger.
The breathtaking product had both the shine of pure gold and the beauty of a translucent insect wing, but as Elder Morgan flew around and inspected the ring as it dangled from a tree branch with Ground Spider silk...
“It’s broken in some places.”
“Don’t let it get you down, Alice. It isn’t entirely your fault. Look here. There was a lump when the gold thread was made. That makes it unusable. It needs an even thickness throughout.”
“U-uuuh!! Stop insulting Meridiana’s handiwork!!”
They of course had to redo it until they got it right.
And a single miraculous success was not good enough. They needed the reliable skill to repeat it thousands of times without a single mistake.
If the gold thread broke, the signal could not get through. If the thickness was not even, there would be a discrepancy in the electrical resistance and it could overheat or start a fire. Just like a sudden narrowing of a road would cause a traffic jam, the flow of electricity also required traffic control. The history of the semiconductors used in Shining Weapons was a competition to place as many “roads” and “traffic lights” as possible on a single chip to provide the greatest traffic control. Incidentally, a simple lighter made from a battery and aluminum foil took advantage of this by intentionally causing a traffic jam to start the fire.
The Fairies lived in the natural world and did not understand the detailed theories behind the semiconductors that controlled the flow of electricity to perform massive amounts of calculations, but they knew their skill was needed and being tested.
They threw the failed ring in a large coal pot over the fire to melt it down. Of course, the pot was only large at their sense of scale, so it was only about the size of a can of food.
They did not have time to wait for it to cool naturally, so they tossed the melted lump into a bucket of water. With a unique steaming sound, lots of water vapor rose from the bucket. One large advantage of pure gold was that, unlike glass, it would not be damaged on the microscopic level even when exposed to extreme temperature differences.
They had repeated this countless times already.
They had been given this task because of their products made from weaving Ground Spider silk, but the pure gold changed shape fare more easily than the thin but sturdy spider silk. If the thread breaking was the only issue, the work would only require extra care, but the even thickness seemed to get harder the more they focused on it. Just like with traditional craftsmen, getting a “feel” for it through repetition was more important than a simple theory.
“Meridiana, are your hands okay? You aren’t hurting them, are you?”
“I’m fine. More importantly, Alice, we need to stay focused. Once we get a feel for this, we’ll have made a major breakthrough. We can’t see them, but we’ve been stacking up the stones of progress. As long as we don’t let that stack collapse, we can do this. It has to be within reach now.”
“Uuh. If you say so, I guess I’ll work at it a little longer...”
In truth, the time spent waiting for the gold to melt and cool was far harder on their psyches than the time spent focusing on the work. It may have been like how you did not feel at all tired while leaning over your desk as you pulled an all-nighter, but as soon as you leaned back in your chair, you felt like you could never get back up again.
It was better to have no mountains or valleys.
Because there was a chance they could never crawl back up if they rolled down into a valley.
“Rub-rub-rub... Or is it more of a rub-rubbity-rub?”
So instead of just waiting, Meridiana continued practicing the drill-spinning movement with her empty hands.
And her sister had a thought about that diligent behavior.
“...Meridiana, you look kind of like a Leftovers Rainbow Fly.”
“Alice!! You shouldn’t have said that!!!!!”
The sun had set and night had arrived.
Beatrice had little time left since she had lost her Shining Weapon and could not return to Earth, but they could not perfectly fill their schedules with new tasks. Gathering materials, learning the proper techniques, and the other jobs took time to complete. And if they tried to do too much at once, they would only overwhelm themselves.
After crawling from her ghost ship coffin, short but curvy Vampire Kallikantzaros spoke within the mangrove-filled southern forest.
“So the humans of the inn town are not going to act. Even after she saved their world.”
“Well, the problem itself is being kept quiet,” replied Fairy Queen Sutriona.
The silver-haired girl was little different from a human when she kept her power contained, so she had a bad habit of sneaking into the inn town and swiping human toys and snacks. She had simply expanded on her usual route to observe the humans.
Filinion or Armelina could have monitored the festive inn town, but they were human themselves. Sutriona was confident they would fight back if a battle did unfold, but there would be some “hope” contaminating their observations. They would subconsciously overlook some of the malice because they did not want to believe it was there. If anyone was going to observe the inn town while it healed the wounds of the Underworld battle, it had to be someone with an outside perspective. A third party was the most effective option.
“For the time being, I have not caught wind of an attack plan to directly target Beatrice while she is helpless. But some of the more informed are beginning to realize no one can contact Beatrice on Earth or Ground’s Nir ever since the Iberian Orc battle. Of course, they will initially assume she returned to Earth to rest after that major battle. But there is no sign of her back at the Detached Magic Palace she calls home and she is not enjoying the festival at the inn town. And no one would think she was working hard at exploring the Labyrinth so soon. ...Someone may put those rumors together and notice something is off.”
Beatrice did have human acquaintances, but Filinion, Armelina, Wildefrau, Huldra, Gruagach, Rusalka, and any other humans that would be concerned for her had all fought on the front line in the battle against the elder.
If anyone was unaware what had happened at the end of that battle but was also persistently pursuing Beatrice’s whereabouts, an unfriendly motive had to be assumed.
It was the same way the humans treated the Break News.
They did not investigate them because they liked them. They feared and hated them, so they could not rest easy until they had as much information as possible. And if they showed any weakness, it was time to deliver a finishing blow. It was a familiar state of affairs for Sutriona and Kallikantzaros.
The Vampire in a red negligee lightly brushed back her long blonde hair.
“For better or for worse, the actions of the Level Cappers stand out. How is the work going?”
“The real work begins tonight.” Sutriona readily spoke words that carried great meaning. “There is still time left, but this will be the first and last chance. If it doesn’t work, I doubt there will be time to come up with another idea. The failure would cause the thread of tension to snap, so I doubt we could expect top performance from them afterwards.”
It was harder for a group to change plans than an individual.
Even if the Sage and Sibyl had a steely resolve, not everyone could keep up with their speed. And in a pressing situation where they had no spare personnel and every gear was necessary, they could not afford to lose a single person. The Sage and the others had stood at the peak for so long that it was unclear how they would handle a need to accommodate their weakest link.
So they had to succeed in this initial attempt when morale was high.
Beatrice’s rescue hinged on whether or not they could accomplish this before losing the assumption that they only needed to look to the peak and do what that person said.
Whether or not they could fix the Shining Weapon rapier and save Beatrice depended on the skill of those performing the work.
But that was not what the Break News could do.
“It is fortunate this is happening at night. Especially so soon after the Iberian Orc incident so inconsiderately occurred during the day.” In her night cap and negligee, Kallikantzaros stroked the gray pig doll in her arms and spoke expressionlessly. “So where will you place the breakwater? Since they only have one shot at this, you don’t want anyone interfering with their work, do you?”
“Fighting the entire inn town won’t be necessary. I said it was only some of the more informed that were catching on, didn’t I? We can suppress this by ensuring that information is not spread to the rest of them. Let’s head to the inn town. We can buy plenty of time by using the raucous partying to sneak up to each of those clever individuals and give them a warning.”
After making sure Beatrice was sound asleep in the leaf house, Boo Boo made his way to the coastal Cave of Tears. The ecosystem differed between day and night and he was afraid of ghosts, but he had to bear with it.
There was no reason to rush.
In fact, it was important to take their time to repair the rapier right.
“Squeal... Is everyone here?”
His searching voice was answered by something flying toward him from the depths of the bluish glowing cave. He caught it in his large hand to find it was a triangular flask containing a colorful bubbling liquid.
A busty young woman in glasses, White Witch Filinion, explained.
“I doubt you’re accustomed to pulling all-nighters, so use that energy drink. I couldn’t stand being told I couldn’t make one, so I had to prove her wrong.”
“What does that mean?”
“Um, an energy drink is, well...huh? It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s a strange drink that improves your brain efficiency with sugar and various nutrients, that uses artificial sweeteners, artificial flavoring, and carbonation to mask the flavor of the chemicals, and that really just lets caffeine do all the work.”
Doubt darkened Boo Boo’s face as the explanation continued.
It may have been the same as trying to describe the most popular carbonated drink to a Martian and making it sound more like a poison than anything: “It’s a dark, sweet, cold, and bubbly, it’s super popular yet no one really knows how to make it, and it’s strangely addictive.”
Next to the glasses girl, Armelina popped off the lid of an identical triangular flask and chugged the contents.
“It isn’t harmful, so drink up.”
After having given her lengthy description, Filinion rubbed her forehead against the cave wall, but sometimes actions spoke louder than words.
Boo Boo copied Armelina’s actions to tilt his head back and drink the contents of the triangular flask and then he blinked his eyes.
“Khh... Wh-what is this...?”
“Oh, she took advantage of being in another world when she Mixed it, so it might be a bit much for a beginner. Japan’s safety standards would never let you cram that much caffeine into a single drink.”
“Please stop implying I simply threw a bunch of caffeine into some sugar water. The perfect distribution just so happened to include a lot of it and I didn’t mention all the effort that went into the recipe because I wanted to maintain my image as a cool mature woman, but this really is something only a strongest Level Capper healer could have made. Besides, this is far better than those imported drinks that might as well be mild poisons!! I can’t believe you!!”
“You’re the one that said the caffeine does all the work.”
Those two continued arguing as they walked deeper into the Cave of Tears where they found the preparations well underway. The Sage, Sibyl, Meridiana, and Alice were all present. Beatrice’s broken rapier and its blade were lying on the ground and everyone stood in a circle around them. They had all brought their own “weapons”. The Sage drew her patchwork rapier, Sibyl put on the triple-jeweled circlet, and the palm-sized Fairies held pure gold in their hands.
The Sage turned toward the new arrivals.
“...Perfect timing. How about we get started?”
“What should we do?”
“The White Witch will keep this area clean from a sterilization and disinfection standpoint. The Fighter Priest will use a large obstacle to adjust the flow of air in the cave to adjust the temperature and humidity. Together, you should be able to construct a clean room for handling semiconductors.”
The Sage had mastered all Magic of all Elements, so she could do anything that Filinion or Armelina could. She did not because she had to focus on extracting and recovering the data on Beatrice’s broken rapier.
“Boo Boo, you can be our record keeper. Beatrice’s survival hinges on her ability to Sign Out and safely return to Earth. She can easily repair her Shining Weapon or get a new one once back on Earth, but I want to provide as much support as possible just in case. Learn all of the steps here so we are prepared in case something happens at a later date. If something does go wrong, you would be the first to notice since you are always by her side.”
It was not over once they rescued her.
So that she could keep going, they wanted to be prepared enough that they could easily handle the same situation again.
If she repaired her Shining Weapon and kept using it, they would have to monitor it afterwards. If she replaced it with a new one, it could always be destroyed in the same way again. If something had happened once, it could always happen again.
Human and Iberian Orc intelligence and brain capacity were fundamentally different. With the full use of his supercomputer-level brain, he would be able to respond to this situation on his own, even if he could not find the Sage or the Fairies. Creating that kind of insurance and leaving a possibility for the future removed some of the psychological pressure from Sibyl, Meridiana, and the others participating this time. It seemed like a simple thing, but it meant a lot. Just like with a tightrope walk, the greater the height and the more important the moment, the less of your normal skill you could draw out. Telling yourself to relax was not enough to actually relax. Including a guaranteed effect was like having a trump card.
Boo Boo understood that.
He did, but he still gently clenched his fists at not being any immediate use. He just wished his knowledge and skills could do something – anything – on the front line here. Armelina lightly elbowed him while changing her metal staff into a giant box and placing it in the cave passageway with a thud.
“I’ve captured the flow of air. I’ll alter the design to preserve the current stagnation and store air in the work area.”
“I’ve begun distribution as well. Sterilization and disinfection will take effect in 4, 3, 2, 1. Currently cleaning. Sterilization is holding at greater than 99.9%. You can begin at any time.”
The air seemed to cool down all of a sudden.
The Sage placed her patchwork rapier on the ground and reached for Beatrice’s rapier lying parallel to it. She removed a few special screws that looked like snow crystals, opened the cushioning that was shaped something like a crab shell, and revealed a few thin plastic panels within. The ends were discolored and melted with exposed gold wiring in places. It was tricky work, but the Sage’s fingertips moved with perfect precision. This task would require the same delicacy as defusing a bomb.
“...Found it. Sibyl.”
“Yes. I am looking.”
The Royal Elf replied with a calm voice, but she had already shut her eyelids which were decorated with thin eyelashes. The three jewels in her circlet could be seen glowing palely in the darkness. She was likely revealing a different circuit diagram from what was simply on the surface.
“Fairies, to ensure mutual understanding, I will use the numbers derived from the circuit diagram on the cave walls: Focus on #3 and #8 and on #12 and #19. Connect those with gold thread without allowing it to touch anything else.”
“I’m on it!”
Meridiana produced gold thread thinner than a hair and Alice followed Sibyl’s instructions to connect the damaged wiring sticking out from the breaks in the circuit boards. In semiconductor factories, the wiring was printed using something like a sewing machine, but Alice’s arms rivaled that in speed.
If the miniscule threads touched anything other than the terminal points in the air, it could cause a short and damage further data, but there was no hesitation in the movement of Alice’s fingers. She repaired the broken circuits by bridging the gaps according to Sibyl’s instructions.
There was nothing the Sage could do until the hardware was complete.
She would occasionally use a cotton swab to wipe sweat from the Fairies’ brows, but before too long, Sybil opened her eyes.
She looked to her companion and spoke.
“The preparations are complete, Sage. It is your turn now.”
With the wiring complete, the Fairies used their clear bug wings to flutter away as the Sage’s fingers traced across the patchwork rapier lying on the ground. Immediately, several rectangular frames appeared in the darkness.
During the Underworld battle, she had remotely accessed Beatrice and the others’ Shining Weapons without a wired connection in order to view the Screenshot photographs contained inside. The Holy Swordswoman had used a cable when connecting to Abyss, but the Sage had no such requirement.
She could access the data with a wireless connection.
If she could access it, she could boot up Beatrice’s broken rapier.
Alice tilted her head while viewing the strings of alphanumeric text scrolling rapidly through the rectangular frames.
“Hmm? So is it working?”
Her sister, Meridiana, placed a hand on her shoulder to pull her back.
At the same moment, the Sage’s eyebrows trembled slightly.
“...What is this?”
That might have been the expected response from a normal person.
But this did not bode well.
A question from the Sage’s mouth and a situation she had not expected were enough to predict the beginning of a catastrophe.
The alphanumeric text scrolling across the frames was unfamiliar to Boo Boo, Meridiana, and the others from Ground’s Nir. No, it may have been just as incomprehensible to Filinion and Armelina from Earth. But Boo Boo noticed something odd as he viewed it. These were definitely strings of alphanumeric text, but there were some areas that only contained dots. And the amount of non-numeric and non-alphabetic characters was increasing. There were meaningless gaps in the scrolling data.
The Sage clearly clicked her tongue.
There had been an unspoken understanding among them.
They only had one shot at this.
If they did not succeed while morale was high, it would break them and they could never recover.
The Sage had said they would try everything available to them.
But that implicitly said she did not know how to recover the lost data. 𝑖𝓷n𝘳ℯ𝐚𝐝. 𝒄om
They left the Cave of Tears without coming to any definitive conclusions.
Could they save Beatrice or not?
They had no guarantee.
“I-it’ll be okay, Boo Boo.”
Late at night, Filinion spoke gently to Boo Boo who was silently trudging back home below the cloudy sky.
“We’re not out of time yet. We have a whole day left, so we have plenty of chances to turn this around. So it’ll be okay. Please don’t let it get you down.”
He wanted to believe her.
Letting his negative thoughts trap him would be meaningless. It worried him endlessly that they had no actual plan. He knew that, but he could not stop the bad feeling growing inside him. He could tell he was being swallowed up by a large but invisible current. He sensed a coming loss. His spine tingled with that familiar sense that reminded him of when so much had been taken from him or destroyed.
His head felt heavy.
He felt a weight in his stomach.
His tear ducts threatened to loosen if he let his guard down. He wanted to yell at the top of his lungs and just run around aimlessly.
“The one thing we know is that we can’t fix this by doing nothing,” said Armelina. “This isn’t the time to feel down, Boo Boo. We need to pull ourselves together even more than before. We’re going to save Beatrice, right? So we don’t have time for shock. We can’t waste any time with the limit approaching.”
That was right.
No matter what happened, the limit would approach all the same. If they did not want to simply wait for the coming disaster, they had to keep struggling no matter the situation.
They were not fighting because they knew they could win. The burden on their shoulders was not so light that they could give up just because they were losing.
They had to count themselves lucky for learning this so early on. They had to force themselves onto the next plan.
They had not been faced with this information at the last second. They still had a day. Even if the end was guaranteed to arrive if they did nothing, they still had a whole day to work with. So it would be okay. Beatrice was not going to disappear immediately. If he returned to his leaf house, he would find Beatrice sleeping peacefully there. There was a definite existence there.
“...I’ll head home. Squeal, I need to refocus myself.”
“That’s right. We still have tomorrow, so we don’t need to waste that opportunity.”
“Ha ha. Seeing Beatrice’s face will rid you of your worries. When you’re afraid of some formless anxiety, nothing calms you like something with a definite form.”
The three of them discussed that on the way up the mountain to the leaf house. Boo Boo gradually regained his smile along the way.
“Then...then we still have a chance. Beatrice will still be okay. Squeal, I hope she gets better soon. I want to play with her. I’ll show her how good I’ve gotten at fishing!”
They were too naïve.
Beatrice was collapsed on the ground as if she had tried to drag herself out of the leaf house.
Her limbs were convulsing slightly as she suffocated on the blood she had coughed up.
The next thing he knew, the sun was in the sky.
Boo Boo could no longer remember what had happened in the meantime.
“Hey, what’s going on!? Can damage to the autonomic nerves really do this much!? She didn’t bite her tongue, did she? Beatrice, open your mouth. Hurry up and open it, you idiot!!”
“If she’s coughing up blood, does that mean she has internal bleeding? Did irregular movement of her diaphragm harm her lungs? No, is it a stress ulcer? Armelina, out of the way. I know what Recovery Potion she needs, so hold her jaw and keep her windpipe clear until I’m finished administering it! Just don’t let her suffocate!!”
Some fragmentary memories remained, but he was only really knew that he was glad Filinion and Armelina had been with him. He could not have done anything on his own. Without Filinion’s Recovery Potion and Armelina’s first-aid skills, Beatrice might have lost her life right there.
Why hadn’t he considered it?
If he left Beatrice on her own, who would look after her if her condition worsened? She could not rely on Abyss who could not move. If Boo Boo had been with her...or if he had asked Ileana, Wildefrau, or someone else to help, they could have prevented it from getting this bad in the first place.
It had only been a small hurdle that anyone could have cleared.
But foolish Boo Boo had not even considered it. He had been too naïve. He had not taken the threat seriously.
He hated it.
He hated his own hopeless ignorance.
It felt like the result of living such a carefree life. It was his punishment for wasting so much time and learning nothing. But if so, why wasn’t the punishment directed at him? It was always like this for him. Only he survived while everyone he cared for collapsed around him.
Why was the world like this?
It was like unrelated people were sent to hell so that he would suffer.
Deep in the forest, he shoved his forehead against a large boulder and shed large tears. It was not the time for this. They had less than a day left, so the time limit really was approaching. He knew that, but there was nothing else he could do.
Then he heard the rustling of underbrush from behind him.
“You sure are making a racket this morning, Boo Boo. Well, I suppose that girl must be satisfied if you care for her this much.”
“Anyone on the island could find you after you yelled like that. I’ve more or less figured everything out, so I’ll give you a report.”
That person who looked so much like Beatrice sat on a nearby stump and snapped her fingers. Sparks scattered like her fingers were made of flint and a rectangular frame of red light appeared in the air.
“After extracting the data from Beatrice’s Shining Weapon, I found that too much is damaged to recover it as-is. I told you that much in the cave last night.”
“Is there...is there some other way of saving Beatrice? If so, please tell me! I’ll do anything!!”
This was not the time for crying.
He did not care if it made him stupid or foolish. If there was anything he could learn, he would do so. He approached the Sage as if grabbing at her, but she only calmly shook her head.
“No. Repairing the Shining Weapon’s personal authentication section is the only way to return Beatrice to Earth and save her.”
“We will have to change our repair method. I had wanted to predict the contents of the blanks using the files immediately preceding and following them, but entire blocks are missing and that isn’t feasible.” The Sage raised a slender index finger covered in jointed metal. “Beatrice’s Shining Weapon has entire blocks of data missing, so we have to find a way to fill those gaps. Since we can’t rely on the surrounding data, we will need a different hint.”
“What is it? Is this leading in a good direction or a bad direction? Just tell me that up front!”
“That’s hard to say. There are a few different formats for a Shining Weapon’s contents, but Beatrice uses a customized version of a commercial model. That means it will be structured similar to the ones used by other people.”
The Sage opened a new frame and placed it behind the one filled with holes. That filled the holes in from behind.
“We compare Beatrice’s worm-eaten data with someone else’s full set of data and then fill in what is missing. That should let us easily repair the full blocks of missing data.”
“Th-then we can save Beatrice, right!? I don’t have to worry about anything, right!?”
The Sage cut him off.
The word filled his chest with an ominous feeling.
“...This would require samples from more than just five or ten people. We would need to gather as many samples as possible to average them out and dilute them down into plain and average data that is something like an artificial organ that is compatible with anyone. Yes, my guess is it would take the Shining Weapons of more than 1000 people. Just getting help from her friends will not be enough here.”
Boo Boo silently stared in a certain direction.
He did not need to check the map. He looked to the partially-repaired inn town where the humans gathered. It was a symbol of peace where celebrations continued now that the Red menace was gone.
With no knowledge or skills, that was the only candidate Boo Boo could think of.
“Boo Boo, that would not be easy.”
“This isn’t about what they think of Beatrice.”
The Sage must have predicted several things from the moment she had seen the new repair method, so she rejected his idea.
“As you can see from her state, Shining Weapons are the strongest weapon and final lifeline of the humans visiting this world. Lose it, and they will slowly die, no matter how high their Level. No one will just lend you theirs if you ask. Giving you their Shining Weapon is like leaving their life in your hands.”
Yet they needed to see 1000 people’s Shining Weapons. And only the inn town had that many humans.
...If he could not expect their cooperation, what else could he do?
Could he only sit around and wait for Beatrice to die? Could she not rely on anyone for help as she crawled along the ground and coughed up blood, even though a method had already been proposed?
“I will go to Earth,” said the Sage. “The corporations leisurely awaiting results on Earth may be more lax than the Level Cappers who feel at home on the front lines of this world and view their Shining Weapon as their partner. Since I don’t have time to make a gradual approach while applying pressure, it will require a fairly reckless cyber-attack, but if it succeeds, I might be able to steal enough plans directly from the manufacturer’s servers.”
If it succeeds.
...Not even the Sage could guarantee results. For the arrogant Sage, it was quite timid to consider the possibility that things would not go as planned.
Boo Boo had seen Beatrice coughing up blood on the ground.
He had to consider the possibility that it would not work.
“Boo Boo, I would like to make a suggestion. I wanted to leave this as a last resort, but we really are reaching that point. You know Wildefrau, that Water Element expert, right? I’ll take my time on Earth to make sure I succeed, so there is something I want you to do here.”
“You can set up some definite insurance for Beatrice.”
He was unsteady on his feet.
Boo Boo had failed to meet the basic requirement of procuring food, so he staggered back to the leaf house while holding his stomach which still did not feel any hunger.
It was not enough. That was all he could think about: it was not enough.
So he should have celebrated the reply the Sage had given him. It had made up for what Boo Boo lacked.
The White Queen Filinion and Fighter Priest Armelina were gathered around the campfire doing something.
“Hey, glasses girl. Is this really edible? It looks like a giant booger.”
“How dare you challenge my knowledge of the human body. And it’s not a booger!! It’s just that including only the necessary nutrients isn’t very satisfying, so just like with diet foods, I made it swell out in your stomach so you feel full. And the chocolate, yogurt, and strawberry flavors have my seal of approval. All that’s missing is the patent submission.”
“Ehh? For this giant booger solidified at the bottom of a pot?”
“Fine, let’s take this out back!! Must you ruin all of my efforts because your poor body development makes you view everything in a negative light!?”
As the glasses girl got all heated up, the police officer sighed, raised the wooden spatula she was using to stir the pot on the fire, and whacked the White Witch lightly on the forehead. Filinion screamed and rolled around on the ground.
“...Squeal. What are you doing?”
“Oh. I asked Filinion for some breakfast and she gave me this mystery space food, so we’re discussing what to do with it.”
“I’m pretty sure your reaction was overkill just now! That went far beyond channeling a domineering husband who overturns the tea table! Right!?”
The tearful glasses girl had not learned her lesson, so the police officer treated her to another spatula hit. An infinite loop was setting in, but Boo Boo entered the leaf house because he did not have time to watch.
Beatrice was lying peacefully within.
Who appeared in worse shape: her or Abyss lying deactivated next to her?
He slowly bent his legs and sat by her pillow, intentionally suppressed the powerful emotion in his throat, and spoke in short sentences.
“It will be okay. We found a way to save you. So it will be okay. This time...this time for real. We really will save you.”
“There’s nothing to worry about. The pain and suffering will be gone soon. This time tomorrow, you’ll be running around just fine. So rest easy and get to sleep. Everything will be solved when you wake up...”
She was lying on the floor in only underwear and a blanket and she looked up at him with half-lidded eyes.
She breathed in and out and spoke in a scratchy voice.
“Did the Sage say something to you, Boo Boo?”
“That’s it. I’m going to punch her for putting that look on your face...”
The Holy Swordswoman seriously tried to get up, so he quickly kept her on the ground. The difference between human and Iberian Orc strength did not matter here. Beatrice was so weak he was afraid just touching her would break her.
After being almost forcibly knocked down, Beatrice looked up at Boo Boo’s face.
“You say it’ll be over if I go to sleep. So did she bring up Wildefrau?”
“I’m guessing the Sage suggested cold sleep. Well, it makes sense as a form of insurance in case you can’t solve this within the time limit. With years or even decades to work, you’re sure to find several solutions...”
“I’m sorry, Boo Boo. But I won’t use that method.”
“But...but! You can’t just reject it because it was the Sage’s idea! If we have something we know will work, then...!!”
“I’ve already rejected a form of insurance that is guaranteed to work, Boo Boo. It wasn’t cold sleep, though.” Beatrice smiled thinly. “Hey, Boo Boo. Cold sleep comes with its own risks. I assume the Sage explained those to you.”
“Yes, that’s the reason for the sad look in your eyes. ...I want to punch her so bad.”
“But...even so, I want to save you...”
The girl sighed.
She could barely move, but she released an oddly warm breath as she got to the crux of the issue.
“Even if it means remaking me so that you are my greatest enemy?”
A large tremor ran through his body.
He was unable to move for a while.
“Cold sleep sounds nice, but it requires a lot of adjustments. It’s a delicate process where the slightest mistake would cost me my life.” Beatrice looked this precious person in the eye. “And even if you can prepare my body so I will survive, what about the other life forms? I bet my germs, gut flora, and immune system would be wiped out and reset. Once I woke up from my long sleep, I wouldn’t be able to live in a normal environment. I wouldn’t be able to touch you since you live in the forest. My immune system might recover after spending a long time on Earth, but it also might never recover.”
“Ah ha ha. Is it confusing to talk about things that are too small to see? Regardless, I will not accept that. I feel chills at the mere thought of remaking myself so you’re a deadly enemy. I don’t know what the Sage told you with that thin smile on her face, but that isn’t a gamble I’m willing to make.”
Boo Boo had been told all that.
It would not happen tomorrow or the day after that. That risk would occur if it took them years or decades to find a solution.
Of course he was afraid.
He was no longer alone. But that red-and-silver-haired girl had always been pulling on his hand at the center of that circle of people. The thought of losing Beatrice was even more painful than having his heart torn to shreds. But being something that would kill her would also make him sad.
“But I still want you to live.”
“If you can’t be with the person you love, you can’t really call it living.”
“I just want you to be happy, no matter what form that takes...!!”
“If you really think that would be a happy fate, then you’ve let the Sage influence you. Maybe you need a harsh lecture...”
“It might not be possible to solve this without losing anything. It might be necessary to give up something!!”
The slender girl was unfazed by the monster’s shouting.
In fact, she narrowed her eyes like a mother watching her child throw a tantrum.
“Listen, Boo Boo. The memories of our time together aren’t yours alone.”
“If I have to give up something, then my life is of secondary importance. I will protect the time we spent together and the bonds we built. I will protect them and die. I don’t care if it’s the Sage or you; I will not let anyone take away the right to be with the person I love... That is my dignity and my pride. I will never distort the Beatrice you took such good care of. If I had to view you with fear, then I wouldn’t be me anymore...”
Then what were they supposed to do?
Was there any way to extend the time limit without the cold sleep trick?
“Let’s do what we can.”
“Let’s fight as hard as we can and accept the result. Let’s settle this fair and square. Whether it succeeds or fails. I will remain true to myself to the end, so don’t worry, Boo Boo. I won’t go anywhere.”
Persuading her with words was simply not happening.
She would never agree to give up on her current life and go elsewhere.
His vision blurred.
Crying in front of that suffering girl would only worry her more. It was like telling her he had given up before even trying. But no matter how tightly he clenched his teeth, he could not remain calm.
He was such a fool.
He was so stupid, stupid, stupid and he could not forgive himself for letting this happen.
Was he really so dumb that he did not realize he needed to learn as much as possible in the limited time remaining in the hopes of finding more cards to play?
“Ha ha. There’s no way I could leave behind a crybaby like you, Boo Boo...”
All the while, time was passing.
The true sun was already at its peak, indicating that half of the day had gone by.
Boo Boo stood atop a hill.
The humans who had come from the distant Earth had built up the inn town as a base for their Labyrinth exploration. Some scars remained from the Underworld battle, but it was still the most active part of the island.
Many humans were gathered there, which in turn meant many Shining Weapons.
Everything needed to save Beatrice would be there.
But as he stood there, a dry sound reached his ears.
A skeleton in a cowboy hat had walked up. It was Skull Wave who gathered the remains of the many people who had lost their lives in this world.
“You aren’t considering a very bad idea, are you?”
“Boo. ...Hey, Skull Wave.” Boo Boo continued staring into the distance. “How does it feel to die?”
“Couldn’t tell you. I’m really just an emulation of a dead person’s personality. I was constructed after death, but I haven’t actually passed the point of death myself. And if secondhand information is good enough, you could get it from anyone.”
“Were you going to accept her fate if I said it wasn’t that bad? To be clear, that’s not the real issue here. Boo Boo, this is your life. Instead of thinking about the person facing death, you should think about how you’ll feel being left behind.”
“Beatrice says she would rather die than live on without me.”
“She’s a strong girl. And you aren’t helping matters there, but that’s not what anyone was talking about.” The skeleton put his hands on his fleshless and skinless hips. “Listen, the Underworld is no more. That means I control all the humans who died in Ground’s Nir.”
“I’m not saying I’ll create an emulation of Beatrice’s personality. Look at it more simply. If she dies, her body will turn to bone and become a part of me. She’ll be drawn to me and be known as Skull Wave. Would you be able to bear that?”
Boo Boo said nothing.
But a clear pressure emanated from his giant body and that seemed to satisfy the cowboy hat skeleton.
“...So you do understand.”
“S-squeal? What do you mean?”
“You don’t want anything to take Beatrice from you, right? Even if that’s fate and it can’t be helped, you just can’t accept it, can you? You managed to recover after your village was attacked and your entire family was killed, but this alone you can’t bear. Even when you feel like having things taken from you is inevitable, there is a definite threshold when it’s just too much. So that feeling is real. And what in this world is more powerful than that? Even if the god in heaven has decreed it and even if she’s given up on herself, why do you have to stand aside in the life you were given? Be honest with yourself. Be honest and you’ll know what it is you have to do.”
It was a dark feeling.
It was muddy and unpleasant.
To eat and to live.
Boo Boo had rejected violence for any other purpose, so this feeling never should have existed in his heart.
“To hell with that,” said Skull Wave. “What’s wrong with this?”
The monster trembled in fear, thinking this was a result of the exhaustion that came rushing back now that he felt cornered, but Skull Wave laughed.
He held the cowboy hat down with one hand and said it clearly.
“What could be wrong with a man falling in love with a woman?”
The confusing thing boiling inside him had been named and categorized, so he could finally begin processing it accordingly. Unable to bear the uncomfortable silence, the feeling raged around Boo Boo’s entire body but had no outlet.
That was how love worked.
If you could control the feeling, it would never be called love in the first place.
“Good and bad and all those concerns don’t matter,” said the being who existed beyond death. “It doesn’t matter if you’re stupid, foolish, or lacking. As long as you have that inside you, you’re standing at the top of the world. You’re a winner. Even if someone else tries to deny it, nothing was wasted on the way to gaining that. Not one thing. After all, there’s no set path to reach it. Everyone has their own path and they’re all the most perfect answer for that person.”
I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I don’t understand.
Just a few seconds earlier, Boo Boo might have responded like that. Just as he had countless times before during his aimless days.
But that had changed.
He was no longer falling behind. He stood on the front line of the world.
“Are you afraid of losing her? Do you want to run wild when you even imagine the moment she’s taken from you? Then think about what it is you really need to do. I’m not talking about a haphazard rampage or emotional resignation. Everyone knows men are willing to throw away their own lives for love. So set aside what’s possible and impossible, line up all the cards you have, and think about what you can do for the person you love.”
“I’m not talking about figuring out which card to choose. Have you divided them between those you can choose and those you can’t? Then you already know some cards you couldn’t choose. If you could have helped with her suffering but you pulled back your hand before even trying because the walls of reality got in the way, you’ll never forgive yourself. Now, let’s shuffle them all together again. Let’s lay them all out and view them all. ...What will you choose? Whatever you reached for now that you’re feeling that anger is what you really want to do.”
Boo Boo sniffled his nose.
He rubbed his eyes and looked to the human-filled inn town once more.
“Have you found what you really, truly want to do?”
“Yes. Beatrice said to do what we can, but I know that isn’t the right answer. It wouldn’t satisfy anyone.”
He no longer had the look of a lost child.
The light in his eyes did not waver.
“...I’ll try doing what I can’t do. That has to be my right answer.”
A low tremor ran through the ground.
The people looked around in confusion and then spotted the abnormality.
It was a pig-faced giant who stood nearly four meters tall. The gray Iberian Orc with incredibly powerful muscles was walking straight toward the inn town.
The inn town acted as the humans’ base, but it was not surrounded by tall walls. There were exceptions like the Break News, but the humans trusted the firepower of their Magic enough to forego a wall. Instead of defending with shields, they eliminated threats with their weapons. That was the general policy concerning Nonhumans for the people who used and protected the inn town.
And that Iberian Orc was not just a wild beast. You could say he had a criminal record. Even if he had been fighting to save Beatrice, Filinion, and Armelina from Elkiad’s fierce attack, he had not been given a chance to explain the circumstances.
At the time, Fairy Queen Sutriona had used her disaster-level power to leave the result unclear, but if he went out of his way to pick at that old wound, the humans would have little trouble piecing the memories back together.
The festive mood vanished almost instantly.
The town was still scarred by the Underworld battle and a panic filled it like someone had poked a hornet’s nest.
“Stop! Stop right there!!”
“Trying to convince him his useless. Shouting will only get him worked up. Shield unit, to the front!! Once you stop him, we’ll fire. Just follow your training. And if it comes to it, we can always use Recovery Magic as long as you don’t die!!”
“That’s the Dragon Eater. He can move a lot faster than you would think. Do not let your guard down and always keep him in your sights. Don’t forget to use Curse homing!!”
He had yet to enter the inn town.
He had not done anything, but so many Shining Weapons were already aimed at him.
He needed as many of those as possible to protect someone he cared for.
“I want to save Beatrice...”
How much courage had it taken to force out those words?
He had always kept his distance even during the festivals that had looked like so much fun, but he had broken his own policy to approach these strangers and bow his head. Just how madly had that choice made his heart pound in his chest?
“Please help me!! It doesn’t have to be for long, but I need to see your Shining Weapons. That’s all I need to save someone important to me!!”
Naturally, there was no response.
Several lightning-like flashes of light approached from dead ahead. This was warning Magic that had no destructive power behind it. The intense light was only meant to blind the target and the real attack would come from the fully-equipped knights who held shields so large they could hide their entire body behind it.
The shield unit charged forward in a row to form a single wall.
They used the slight time available to approach their target.
Of course, blinding an Iberian Orc was not enough to stop him from fighting. With his ears and nose, he had plenty of other senses to use. If he swung around the thick Shining Weapon hanging from his hip, he could take out all of the approaching knights in a single blow.
But he did not.
He suppressed the fear and clenched his teeth while allowing the several large shields to charge straight toward him.
He ignored them and raised his voice.
“I was told how important Shining Weapons are for humans!! I was told giving them to someone is like giving that person your life. I was told no one would lend theirs to me if I asked!! So I won’t just ask. I’ll risk my life to earn your trust! I’ll show you it’s safe to let me see them and that I won’t take your lives!! So-...!!”
His words were cut off early.
Even large shields could be used for fierce attacks if the wielder hit the target with the corner. But the shield unit was only meant to hold him in place.
The real attack was a barrage from behind them.
With an explosive boom, a giant ball of flames slammed into Boo Boo between the eyes. Even the powerful muscles of an Iberian Orc could only do so much if he did not dodge at all. His head wobbled. He desperately tried to hold onto his consciousness and blood flowing from his split forehead covered his right eye.
He had lost half his field of vision, but he still shouted.
“Help her. Please help Beatrice!!!!!!”
A second and third attack mercilessly flew his way.
The shield unit gathered around him was blown away in some friendly fire as the major Magic techniques continually shook Boo Boo’s giant body. His thick skin was torn away and his blood sprayed out.
...Fighting and stealing the Shining Weapons may have been an option.
But Boo Boo had not chosen that route. Even if all those sacrifices saved Beatrice, she still had a life to live afterwards. He could not let her future be crushed by grudges and regret.
Beatrice had said her life was of secondary importance.
Boo Boo felt the same.
If he could give her a bright future, he was willing to sacrifice his own life.
The explosive roars continued on and on.
More and more major attacks were fired at him, the firing squad began to breathe heavily from the psychological burden, a rusty flavor spread through his mouth, and yet Boo Boo still got the words out.
“Lend me your Shining Weapons...just for a little while. I swear...I will bring them...back...”
There was a tremor.
He had finally reached his limit.
His words trailed off.
The monster’s giant body toppled forward.
Meanwhile, the palm-sized Fairy Meridiana grew pale and shouted while she watched from afar.
“L-Lady Sutriona!! Boo Boo is...hurry...do something...ahh...you only have to distract...just draw the humans attention elsewhere!!”
“Wait.” The Break News spoke that one word with an exasperated sigh. “While I do need to punch that bony bastard later, this is the obstacle Boo Boo set up for himself. So he has to overcome it himself. Reach out a helping hand here and it will only cause his heart to rot.”
“This isn’t about that psychological stuff!! None of that matters if he’s killed right here and now!!”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
Sutriona was right.
After the gray monster collapsed face down, the person who had fired that final shot actually looked confused while wiping sweat from their chin. The inexperienced rookies were celebrating, but the veteran Level Cappers could tell something was not right. If he was that tough, he could have charged straight through their barrage and reached them. Each of their powerful attacks took time to activate, so they were done for if he got close. And yet he had stayed in one place. He had wasted his opportunity. He had never drawn the Shining Weapon at his hip and he had continued rambling. It was said a drowning man would grasp at straws, but did this monster not have that biological instinct? It should not have been possible to not draw your weapon when faced with certain death, so everyone who had seen that impossible courage felt a tremor run down their spin, like they had seen someone commit suicide in only the water in a wash basin.
No one delivered a finishing blow.
It would be hard to find a part of him that was not wet with blood. They could not even tell if he was still breathing. But for some reason, no one approached even after he had collapsed defenseless onto the ground. No one thought about discarding his corpse in some more distant location. It was a small island, but the rules of survival of the fittest still applied outside the inn town. Since this animal could no longer stand under his own power, did they assume some other beast would take care of the cleanup for them?
Perhaps they simply did not want to end it.
Perhaps they wanted to see what would happen next.
One of the people who had formed the impromptu shield unit remained in place without speaking a word.
He was a man known as the Pure Knight.
He stood there a while staring at the bloody beast.
“What’s with you? It’s over, ain’t it?”
“Let’s get back and get drunk again.”
Even when some others wielding large shields called out to him, the Pure Knight did not move. He was of much lower rank. Even after a frank comment from someone with a clear position in the hierarchy, he ignored them and stayed put. He felt a slight prickle of guilt.
This monster had been faced by such hostility.
The Pure Knight wondered what the monster had been trying to accomplish. Unless it was a diversion of some kind, there was no good reason to suicidally take it all head on. And even if it had been a diversion, there would have been no reason not to use the Shining Weapon at his hip.
Could there really have been nothing more to it?
He had said he wanted to borrow everyone’s Shining Weapons to rescue Beatrice.
That made no sense whatsoever, but was that really all there was to it?
“What is it? Looking for some way to profit from this? Or do you want his head as a trophy?”
“This damn pig is wearing a Shining Weapon like he thinks he’s human. Heh heh heh. I wonder how many gears I’d get if I sold that thing at the pawn shop.”
There was a loud sound of metal on metal. Not even the Pure Knight knew why he had punched his friend in the face.
The Iberian Orc slowly opened his eyes when he heard his name.
His surroundings had already grown dark.
And with the unchanged moon behind her, Vampire Kallikantzaros peered down at his face with her short but curvy body dressed in a red negligee and night cap.
“...What a shame. If you had taken just a little longer to wake, I would have had an excuse to sink my fangs into you.”
It was unclear how serious she was about that.
For some reason, the small girl was seated on a simple cart made of wood.
When injured Boo Boo sat up, he realized he was in the location of the previous conflict.
And there was something odd there: swords, spears, axes, bows, clubs, hammers, whips, staffs, and shields.
All the different weapons and armor that humans used formed a pile larger than Boo Boo himself.
They were Shining Weapons.
Those were the control devices for the technological system known as Magic. Leaving these with someone in this foreign world should have been the same as leaving your life in their hands.
“Why are these here...?”
“I do not know what happened during the day,” said the blonde girl in a red negligee who sat on the cart presumably prepared to transport the Shining Weapons. “But it seems Demon Lord Tselika did something behind the scenes. That toxic woman is apparently worshiped like a god by a portion of a group on their Earth...Over the Wall, was it called? The power balance on Earth is directly linked to that of the inn town. If she is worshiped by a secret society that manipulates Earth from behind the scenes, then she can also control what is seen as right and wrong in the inn town. She laid the groundwork needed to control the majority.”
“...Still, that means she managed to get them to cooperate after they attacked you so much while you were defenseless. She gave an extra push to the ones she could trust after they were already shaken by what had happened. Almost like a psychological pincer attack. To the ones affected, it probably felt like a twinge of guilt. ...That toxic woman really is a Demon Lord to the core. A certain queen I know almost looks cute in comparison.”
“Squ-squeal... I’m not sure what you’re saying – cough – but you think Sutriona is cute?”
“Bfff!? Wh-wh-what would possess you to reach that conclusion!? Who would...who would ever like her!? Cough, cough!!”
The Vampire blushed bright red and shouted angrily, so Boo Boo ignored her and looked to the pile of Shining Weapons.
He had cleared the impossible task the Sage had left him with.
Now they could finally fix Beatrice’s Shining Weapon and get her back to Earth. Then Beatrice would not have to suffer any longer.
It was in sight.
It was coming down to the wire, but it was in sight.
“Now, a question concerning what comes next. Like I said, Tselika possesses great power on Earth by controlling a portion of Over the Wall. There was one thing she did not have the answer to when I contacted her, so I want your opinion too, Boo Boo. Given what I have heard, you were likely the last one to see her.”
“Where is the Sage?”
That symbol of death spoke clearly.
Boo Boo had finally started to see hope, but her words seemed to indicate a depthless darkness.
“Not even Tselika’s information network can find her. That may not be too surprising for the Sage, but where on Earth did she disappear to? And just to be sure, she will return before the time limit, won’t she?”
The wooden wheels groaned as they rolled up the mountain.
Boo Boo pulled the cart full of Shining Weapons back to his house on the slope.
The Cave of Tears was also Tselika’s treasure trove.
If that white Demon Lord did not know the answer, then the only other possibility was here.
But there was no sign of her.
There was no campfire lit and the tent-like leaf house was wrapped in silence.
It was hopeless now.
It had all crumbled around him.
...The Sage had left for Earth after suggesting they put Beatrice in cold sleep. She may have intended to ignore the time limit and take her time. If so, the misunderstanding was partially Boo Boo’s fault. He had failed to change the Sage’s mind or Beatrice’s mind, so he had ended up just wandering around meaninglessly.
If he had shown more courage then, this crucial branch may have occurred sooner.
Struggling against the current of destruction was useless after it already had you in its grasp.
He felt truly hopeless.
He could only sniffle and cry as he leaned on the handle used to pull the cart.
There was no invisible destiny. There was no cruel god. No matter how much he burned with regret and trembled, this was who he was. It had been the same with the attack on his village. It had all happened without his knowledge and it had been over by the time he noticed. The final decision had been made long, long before he realized what was happening. It was always like that. Was it simply his fate to have things taken from him and destroyed? It was his fault for not taking action to prevent it before it happened. He cursed how slow he was. He could not forgive his mind for never being able to keep up.
He could not come to a stop, but he had nowhere to go either.
He simply followed his homing instinct and trudged back to his tent-like home made from large leaves.
It remained the same.
Beatrice was sleeping in her underwear and a blanket as she waited for the time limit which was not provided as an obvious number.
There was no convenient change.
“What...is it, Boo Boo?”
He had no idea what look he had on his face.
He simply clung to her and failed to hide the shaking of his voice.
“It’ll be okay.”
He said it.
He had no choice but to say it.
“Look, I spoke with everyone at the inn town and they all lent me the Shining Weapons that are more important than their lives. So everything will be okay. The Sage will take care of it now. There’s nothing to worry about. You’ll definitely get better now.”
That solution was no longer viable.
Due to a tiny misunderstanding, they had no idea where the Sage was.
Boo Boo was scared.
He was known as the Dragon Eater, but he was utterly terrified.
There’s nothing I can do. I tried everything I could think of, but it wasn’t enough.
His entire body was wrapped in the vague terror that speaking those words would make them true.
Beatrice could not even sit up, but she smiled a bit while lying down.
“I’m really glad.”
“You’ve gained the courage to speak with other humans, haven’t you? Look how beat up you are. It couldn’t have been easy. But I’m really glad that you’ve made that kind of progress.”
“...This way you won’t be lonely without me. Boo...Boo...”
She was smiling.
Her head wobbled a bit with that fleeting smile on her face.
And then her brief period of consciousness faded.
Almost like this was her natural state.
“...Of course I will be.”
Boo Boo bit his lip and spoke.
“Of course I will be.”
Once he started, he could not stop.
Some kind of dam may have broken inside him.
“Of course I’ll be lonely!! I don’t want anyone else!! It has to be you, Beatrice! No one else can replace you!! I...I...”
There was no one to respond.
He had carved a symbol into 1000 trees, he had gathered all those people who were smarter than him, and he had convinced everyone from the inn town to leave their Shining Weapons with him.
Cruel reality still insisted on taking everything from him.
He could only shout and yell.
He could only gather all his strength to lament how unfair it was.
“I like you best. It has to be you smiling there!!”
He suddenly raised his head.
A faint light was flashing. It was inside the same leaf tent. And he was pretty sure it had not been there before. The red light was small, but it was unstable. It may have been a fire. Beatrice could not protect herself right now, so her life would be at risk if a lamp fell over and started a fire.
However, what he found was not at all what he had expected.
It was not a lamp full of oil.
The light came from Ultimate Weapon Abyss who had supposedly been deactivated next to Beatrice. A red triangular symbol was appearing and disappearing below her chest. It may have been some kind of warning. The lines on her black, skintight clothing also turned red.
It happened as soon as he spoke her name.
He could not take his eyes off of the flashing red light. It had the same rhythm as the beating of his heart. No, the light may not have actually existed. A voice reached his brain while he stared at the red warning triangle that seemed burned directly into the back of his mind.
Abyss// I must apologize. I had calculated this would happen from the beginning.
He could not fight it.
He could not move a single finger.
Boo Boo did not know that Beatrice, Filinion, and Armelina had once used a virtual reality to experience the end of the world in advance, so he did not know that Abyss was capable of linking directly to living brains.
Abyss// I had hoped I was wrong, but it seems I expected too much from the world’s kindness.
Abyss// This will be a difficult topic.
Abyss// Boo Boo, do you wish to save Beatrice?
“If there’s a way...”
A straining sound came from all the muscles in his body.
He was still being controlled in some way, but the pig-faced giant still slowly but surely nodded his large head.
“...If there’s a convenient way of doing that, then I’ll do anything!”
Abyss// It is a horrible and very cruel thing.
Abyss// You will be unable to see the world after she has been saved.
Abyss// Knowing that, do you still wish to save her?
That went without saying.
The ultimate weapon took his silence for an answer and continued on.
Abyss// If you cannot fix Beatrice’s Shining Weapon, you must provide her with a new one.
Abyss// You have always been able to do that.
Abyss// That weapon at your hip is a Shining Weapon.
Abyss// You will create a new settings profile for that free Shining Weapon that no one is using.
Boo Boo did not understand the details of the technology, but he had a question. He was pretty sure the Sage had said that was not possible.
But there was no hesitation in Abyss’s voice.
Abyss// The fact that you can hear me is proof that you are qualified.
Abyss// Normally, contacting me requires a high-level data terminal such as a Shining Weapon.
Abyss// However, you are accessing me with nothing of the sort.
Abyss// How did you determine I was attempting to commit suicide in the Labyrinth’s central shaft?
Abyss// How did you know the method of dueling Disaster who was created from dead flesh?
Abyss// How did you sense the sadness of the Underworld Lord who used artificial signals to control a vessel of flesh?
Abyss// No words were necessary.
Abyss// You possess the power to directly control faint electric currents.
Abyss// You are equipped with that function.
There was no way this explanation would feel real to him.
At any rate, Abyss was smarter than him and was giving him her guarantee.
That was all he understood.
Abyss// In the simulation, the other Iberian Orcs predicted a lightning strike.
Abyss// How did the souls in the Shining Weapon take control of your body?
Abyss// Did you sense an odd crackling feeling when the artificial atmospheric barrier was destroyed?
Abyss// Everything that happened was meaningful.
Boo Boo had no way of knowing, but the Red Iberian Orcs had attempted to use their supercomputer-level brains to perform calculations equivalent to a Shining Weapon so they could hack the Gates and invade Earth. But simply performing the calculations in their head was not enough. If they could not exchange actual signals, they could not control the Gates.
Abyss// This was probably originally part of their role as a secret weapon against me.
Abyss// The Iberian Orcs absorbed the strong points of many lifeforms in order to battle me.
Abyss// I can only assume one of those lifeforms was some kind of electric fish that could produce electricity.
Abyss// Although I do not know if it was meant to understand the electricity that controls me or if it was meant to directly destroy me.
Even after being told this, Boo Boo did not suddenly know how to control it.
It was possible no one knew.
Iberian Orcs controlled each of their own powerful muscle fibers to avoid destroying themselves, but this may have been the greatest of secret techniques even for them.
Abyss// You only need to hold that free Shining Weapon and strongly will it to be.
Abyss// You need to register Beatrice as its owner.
Abyss// You can solve this by taking the image of Beatrice in your head and sending it into the Shining Weapon.
Abyss// After observing her from close by for so long, you should be able to do this.
But that could not be all it was.
Abyss had said at the beginning that he would be unable to see the world after Beatrice had been saved.
Abyss// The electric fish is just one possibility that was ultimately rejected and faded away.
Abyss// You only possess the degenerated bud and your body is not specialized for its use.
Abyss// If you forcibly use that power, your body will be exposed to the electric current you yourself create.
Abyss// The fate of a High Voltage Eel with no way of allowing its electricity to escape is clear as day.
Abyss// Thus, this is a double-edged sword.
Abyss// You will destroy your own body.
Abyss// That sacrifice is the only way to save Beatrice.
There was a way to save her.
If Boo Boo made that decision.
Knowing and not knowing were two very different things.
A drowning man would grasp at straws.
He thought about what this meant.
But Boo Boo softly smiled.
Abyss// I am sorry.
For some reason, she apologized.
And a moment later, he was freed from her bonds.
There was no more light coming from Ultimate Weapon Abyss. Not even Boo Boo himself knew whether she had really been glowing or if it had been an illusion only he could see.
Her voice no longer filled his head.
This was all he said.
“You have nothing to apologize for. I am very grateful.”
He had no time.
Now was not the time to tremble and hesitate.
He had a way to save Beatrice.
He slowly breathed in and then drew the Shining Weapon which looked like a log or a steel beam.
He heard a voice.
He finally understood why Abyss had apologized. The girl’s consciousness had been rising and falling, and it had just risen once more. He did not know if Beatrice had heard the voice he had heard in his head, but Boo Boo’s words had been spoken aloud normally. That was only a fragment of the conversation, but she may have sensed something ominous about it.
“There’s nothing to worry about now.” He smiled. “This time I really will save you. So you don’t need to tremble in pain any longer...”
Beatrice slowly shook her head.
She may have gathered all of her remaining strength to tell him she did not want that.
He already knew that, but he did not listen.
He would remain true to himself to the end, just as she had. He would use his own strength to race to the finish line in order to protect something more important to him than his own life. He had made that decision.
Skull Wave had revealed that this feeling was love.
He started to say so, but he gulped and fell silent. It only mattered that he knew it. He had not embraced this feeling in order to indulge in something and worry over it. So he swallowed the words. He trampled and crushed the small feeling growing inside him and took the last step.
He would save her.
He would save the life of the person he cared for more than anyone else in the world.
Was this a small miracle?
Or was it an act of the devil?
With the giant Shining Weapon’s grip in both hands, Boo Boo held it vertically, pressed his forehead against the striking portion, and shouted from the bottom of his gut.
Once he started, it did not take long.
It seemed to pour down. Something shot from the top of his head to the bottom of his butt. Several strange bluish-white flashes filled the leaf house and he sensed the unpleasant smell of his own flesh frying.
He had no way of checking on his own condition. His entire vision had whited out. Each of his organs wriggled on its own and moved so violently he thought he was being torn apart from skin to core.
He felt no pain.
His muscles would not stop convulsing. He could not even tell if he was breathing. His heart pounded irregularly and his mind seemed to be falling apart. When a piece fell away, he could not remember what it was no matter how hard he tried. No, he may not have been able to even try to remember. What was being destroyed: his muscle fibers, his ganglia, his skeleton, his organs, his heart, his life? He felt so horribly impatient, but he still focused his mind so very strongly on the image of that most important person. That became the only pillar of his world. He was already on the verge of forgetting his initial goal. Before he lost sight of everything, he had to fill the giant Shining Weapon with that girl’s smile which remained in the core of his soul.
He heard some kind of phantom noise.
He felt a pressure like there was something on the other side of the raised Shining Weapon that resembled a log or steel beam. It was a quadrupedal beast, a giant scaly fish, and a monstrous bird that ruled the skies with its wings. It transformed again and again to show all the lifeforms the Iberian Orcs had incorporated into their genetic line and it spoke with a voiceless voice. The meaning of the words did not reach him, but the emotion contained within vividly pierced him.
That may have been the thick pillar that supported his life. All lifeforms literally were forms of life. Life came first and foremost. He could not overcome the will to use his own power to keep living. Being the strongest may have made that pressure to live even stronger. The drive that had served him well during his previous battles was now working against him.
But. Even so.
He sensed some faint presences outside the tent-like leaf house. There were more than a thousand presences there. Boo Boo quickly realized those were the Shining Weapons the humans at the inn town had lent him. They had listened to his request and lent him that power so that Beatrice could live.
He was currently connected to the Shining Weapon that resembled a log or steel beam.
So why would he be unable to connect to the others?
“I won’t stop...”
He tore apart the idea of being strongest as an individual.
He was no longer alone and he could continue on with everyone’s help!
“I will protect her. That’s the path I chose! This...this decision is the strongest thing I can think of!!”
He would die. He knew that. But that was why he wished so hard to fill the Shining Weapon with the image, smile, and wonders of the person he cared for most. If he did that, he could leave something behind. Just like a flower scattering to drop its fruit.
He would not become nothing. He was not afraid.
He filled it in.
He filled in that blank space.
After seeing beyond the strongest that supported him, there was nothing left inside Boo Boo. His head wobbled and it would never rise back up. His powerful bones and muscles were no help at all with supporting his weight. As he collapsed backwards, he could not even think of a reason why he needed to keep his balance.
His entire body had been fried.
It was over.
The shouting sounded different now. His throat had long since forgotten how to vibrate, so it probably now came from the girl lying on the floor. But he felt no fear. He did not understand why he was hearing that shrill cry.
If he collapsed, it would be over.
It would shatter the remaining shreds of his mind.
He knew that, but he did not fight it.
He no longer had the strength to fight it.
Just before he completely collapsed, he looked to the girl whose face was crumpled up like a bawling child and he smiled ever so slightly.
He could not remember why he was smiling.
But in the moment he truly vanished from the world, a string of sounds he did not understand spilled from his mouth:
It’ll be okay now.
It was a small enough island for humans to walk the perimeter in three days.
With the scenic land and sea, it was a calm but never boring place.
A single form walked there.
That Holy Swordswoman had distinctive red and silver hair, red armor, and a white miniskirt. However, she did not wear her usual rapier at her hip.
Instead, she carried something on her back that was large enough to mistake for a log or steel beam.
The blunt weapon was clearly too large for her, but there was no pain on her face.
...She had wondered what the best place would be.
She had looked at a number of different spots, but there had always been only one real answer.
It was a small hill partway up a mountain.
He had always stood in that spot that overlooked the inn town the humans used as a base.
There was a quiet sound there.
The girl had stabbed the tip of a large shovel into the ground.
“Oh, Beatrice? Should you really be out and about so soon?”
That question came from White Witch Filinion, the girl’s friend.
The Holy Swordswoman did not remove the tip of the shovel from the ground as she dragged it along the hill.
“I wanted to come to Ground’s Nir and see how much I had recovered.”
“...Not that. Are you okay?”
The Fighter Priest held another shovel and she had a strange mixture of worry and exasperation in her voice.
The girl’s movement nearly stopped, but in the end, the red-armored Holy Swordswoman drew the line to the very end.
“Of course I’m not okay.”
She looked back at the lines she had drawn in the ground.
It was a large, large rectangle capable of containing a nearly-4m form.
“...But I have to do this. I have to look after him and see him off.”
Once that was decided, the rest did not take long.
The sounds of digging continued for a while. Thanks to the Percentage-type Magic that took the form of the clothing they wore, they had the strength of construction equipment, so they quickly constructed a rectangle made of artificial straight lines not seen in nature.
“It doesn’t just end with death...”
She seemed to reflect on each word individually.
No one knew what was in that girl’s heart as she dug that large hole. Filinion and Armelina had stood by her side and fought back-to-back with her, but not even they could be certain.
At times, shaking your head and saying you did not know was the greatest form of compassion.
And Holy Swordswoman Beatrice said one last thing.
“Because Boo Boo told me to keep on living.”
This chapter upload first at Read Novel Daily
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